Mona Chalabi on Longform

This Longform episode with data journalist Mona Chalabi, who has written for The GuardianThe New York Times, and won a Pulitzer for her work, was so good I listened to it twice in one day.

In the podcast she speaks about the ongoing Israel and Palestine war and her feelings on it and the bad reporting that is happening on publications with good reporters.

Mona also spoke a lot about the disparity between white journalists and non-white journalists and pulled no punches when it came to pointing out the hypocrisy in news media today when it comes to overly scrutinizing non-white journalists when white journalists can get away with so much more without so much as a second glance.

Max (host): Do you think that you’re going to find a place in journalism where you feel like you belong?

Mona: I’m reading the editorial pieces right now from different organizations, right? Different newspapers, different press outlets. I find it astonishing that our independence and our, like, neutrality is called into question when we sign a letter in support of Palestinian human rights. But you can write an editorial that is about Israel’s right to defend itself and you’re still good to be editor in chief somewhere, right? Those editorials make it very, very clear for me that not only do your standards of journalism fall down when it comes to Israel and Palestine because you’re not representing the facts correctly, but also this is an institution that doesn’t really value Arab life in the same way that it values white life.

I want to say that there is a demand on so many people who are marginalized and who are working in newsrooms to be absolutely meticulous in our transparency of our experiences and how we got to here. And I actually think that the same thing should be demanded on the part of a lot of white journalists. There are so few Arab journalists, let alone Palestinian journalists, working for North American news organizations, UK news organizations, Western news organizations, period. And this is something I’ll say now that I would have never dared to say before in a place like the New York Times.

I would wager, I wish I could find data on this, I would wager there are fewer Arab journalists than there are journalists who have done birthright. And this is part of my question about protest right? Why is it that for you to sign a letter saying you support Palestinian human rights means you are no longer a credible journalist? Your neutrality is under question. But if you have gone on an all expenses paid trip to Israel by the Israeli government with the stated intention of fostering better relations, better sympathy for the state of Israel, your objectivity is not under question.

Max: What I hear you saying is there are [unequal] levels of transparency.

Mona: Yes. And that there are ways of equalizing it. I think that’s exactly right. In some ways, I don’t even resent the scrutiny that I’m being held to. In some ways, what I resent about it is that other people aren’t being held to the same standards.

And actually, if my white colleagues were held to the same standards, I think the whole industry gets better. So no, I don’t really see a natural place for myself anywhere right now. I really don’t.