New Texts Out Now: Amahl Bishara, Back Stories: US News Production and Palestinian Politics
Amahl A. Bishara, Back Stories: US News Production and Palestinian Politics. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2012.
Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?
Amahl Bishara (AB): Back Stories is an ethnography of the production of US news during the second Palestinian Intifada. I started this project in New York City around the beginning of the uprising. I would wake up every morning, and my first step would be to reach for the news. But obviously the news represented only a narrow slice of Palestinian ideas about and experiences of national struggle. I wanted to explore the multiple, complex factors that make it difficult for diverse Palestinian perspectives to be heard in the United States. As an ethnographer, I felt this required that I go beyond an argument about media “bias” to study the practices of journalism.
Looking at those Intifada photographs on the front page of my morning paper, I also realized how much I depended on the journalists who produced this news. I started to think more and more about the people capturing the images—especially since many of these journalists were Palestinians, and since they worked in conditions of grave danger. I knew that Palestinians also worked as fixers and producers for US foreign correspondents, arranging interviews, translating, and helping with reporting. They did this even though they did not control the final narratives of the stories they helped produce. I wanted to learn more about why and how these Palestinian journalists did what they did in such dangerous circumstances. What special skills did this work require? How did their concepts of news values differ from those common in news institutions in the United States?