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Z on TV
Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV
Entertainment TV & Media Z on TV

A few words of praise for some of the reporters covering Israeli-Palestinian violence

From the first days of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when I saw Ayman Mohyeldin and his NBC News crew under fire from police in Israel, I have been thinking how much we have come to take TV reporters for granted in places like the Middle East.

So, here are a few words of praise.

I wrote about Mohyeldin and his team holding up their camera and shouting "journalists" in three languages as stun grenades and rubber bullets were fired in their direction on July 2.

Al Jazeera America was the first to sense the importance of the story on June 30 when the bodies of three Israeli teens who had been kidnapped were found. It went wall-to-wall on the story that first night. Read about it here.

On July 1, Mohyeldin could still only get 73 seconds of airtime on Brian Williams' evening newscast. The former Al Jazeera correspondent got it up to two minutes on July 2 when he and his team put their lives on the line and managed to film themselves doing it. Read my full account posted on July 2 here.

They were not alone either in what they were risking to tell the story from the ground up.

Ben Wedeman, CNN's veteran foreign correspondent, was hit in the head with a rubber bullet. And once the bleeding stopped, he stood before the cameras answering questions from an anchor sitting in a nice, safe, stateside studio who was asking him, "how much did it hurt?"

"It hurt. It was a bit like getting hit by a rock. A lot of blood came out," he said with a clinical detachment.

On Monday, Wedeman did one of the finest reports I have seen anywhere on TV or the Internet during the past two weeks. He followed a family rushing out of Gaza after they had received a warning from the Israelis that their neighborhood was going to come under attack.

I have included video of it in this post because I want you to see the horror on the face of one of the little girls as an explosion rocks the ground on which they stand.

Those few seconds of her reaction told me more than all the "experts" in the talking-heads-TV world could about how psychologically and emotionally maimed the children "lucky" enough to survive this kind of warfare will be.

And you know what I couldn't stop thinking about as I watched the excellent work of correspondents like Mohyeldin and Wedeman? None of them makes as much as Chelsea Clinton, who was paid $600,000 a year at NBC News for a handful of reports and interviews that were distinguished only by the vast amount of production effort it took to almost disguise her utter lack of training, talent and journalistic effort.

I have written continuously about the journalistic bankruptcy of NBC News since the day it hired Clinton. And I reviewed every one of her pitiful reports.

I did that because the hypocritical hiring revealed how little journalism matters to an outfit like NBC News. The only way her hiring makes any sense is that NBC did it to curry favor with people in Washington who might have regulatory power over the stations it owns.

If that's true, then $600,000 a year is a bargain. But don't insult my intelligence as the then-president of NBC News, Steve Capus, did by saying, "it's as if" Clinton had been "preparing her whole life" to be a network correspondent.

The next time you look over at the next pod in the office and see a slacker whose making more money than you and doing half the work, think about Clinton versus Wedeman and Mohyeldin.

No, life is not fair. But at least you don't have to dodge bullets and bombs to make less than half of what the connected one makes for doing lollipop interviews in prime time. And she got a lot more of that prime real estate from Williams than Mohyeldin did.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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