Can't facts be manipulated? Isn't bias what we accuse our opponents of possessing?
I will answer that by way of a few revealing anecdotes.
In 1994-5, before MEMRI was formally established, I taped TV broadcasts of [Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser] Arafat calling for jihad [holy war].
The reaction to that tape was: "Kill the messenger."
Whose reaction was that?
Much of the Israeli media and politicians. And I protested by saying, "But it's not me [calling for jihad]; it's him [Arafat]." To which they replied, "That doesn't matter."
Then one day, I asked a very senior journalist with whom I was friendly, "Why are you criticizing our work? We're merely revealing the truth." His reply is one I'll never forget: "There is no such thing as truth," he said. "Every news item must be judged by the question of whom it serves. And you are serving the enemies of peace." Horrified, I retorted, "And you're the one who's considered the reliable journalist, while I'm seen as biased?"
So he said, "If you want to play naive, do it with someone else, not with me. You know I'm right." "No," I said. "I do not know that you're right. There is such a thing as truth, and it is impartial."
Subsequently, I encountered many expressions of his attitude. Journalist Dana Spector, for example. [Here he turns to a yellowed clipping from an old copy of the Hebrew daily, Yediot Aharonot, and reads it aloud]: "In fact, I didn't enter the field of journalism in order to report reality. Reality doesn't interest me at all."
Along the same lines, I once tried to show the Reuters bureau chief in Israel an item of interest. He was very personable and sympathetic, but said: "You don't have to show me the truth. There is no truth. There is only this side's version and that side's version."
Well, I believe that there is such a thing as truth. This is not to say that different sides don't have different versions of a story. Of course, it's important to note and recognize that. Nor do I underestimate or undervalue the significance of it. But I think that the academic approach is to strive to present the truth.