The Salon Fortress

Salon, an independent on-line media outlet which operates 10 Web sites ranging from politics and technology to arts, books, and sex, regards itself as the plucky and irreverent news source fighting to survive in a market saturated with corporate news giants.

Since its inception in 1995, founder and editor David Talbot has stayed with the endeavor despite its financial loss of $80 million because of a sense of mission. “There’s too much media concentration. It’s imperative that America has more voices. With the Internet we all thought there would be a 1,001 platforms to reach the public. That sadly, hasn’t come to be. Most of the usual corporate giants have gobbled up the Web. We feel a sense of mission here. There’s not much like Salon left out there. We’re doing something that’s important. Not just for ourselves, but for the nation and American journalism,” he enthused in an interview last year with the Los Angeles Times.

Talbot notes Salon’s “incorporate San Francisco irreverence, feistiness and sexiness” are characteristics that mesh well with those of Rolling Stone, whose founder Jann Wenner this year teamed up with Adobe Systems co-chairman John Warnock to infuse $180,000 into the financially struggling Internet project (San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 16, 2004).

When it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, however, Salon’s nonresponsiveness with regard to serious factual problems hardly squares with its anti-media giant image. While the so-called “corporate giants” like the New York Times and CNN usually have the courtesy and professional integrity to assign a human being to investigate and respond to factual complaints, Salon stonewalled for weeks about errors in an April 17, 2004 article by Michelle Goldberg — failing to respond to emails, voice mails and faxes.

Entitled “Rage and Despair,” Goldberg article’s most problematic factual problem was its misrepresentation of the status of the Green Line. She called it, for example, “the border that separated Israel and Palestine before the 1967 war.” In this reference, she is wrong on two counts. The Green Line, an armistice line, was established April 3, 1949 by Article III of the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement. It served as an armistice demarcation line – not a “border” – between Israel and Jordan from 1949 to 1967, not Israel and “Palestine,” as Goldberg erroneously states. Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, and no such place as Palestine existed in the West Bank during that time, nor does it exist today (despite the fact that Goldberg and other Salon writers constantly refer to Palestine as if it is an entity today.)

The site’s correction policy states: “Salon strives to publish accurate information at all times.” But given CAMERA’s unsuccessful attempts to seek redress on such a basic and critical factual error, such sunny pledges by the anti-establishment crusader sound like nothing more than empty corporate promises.

Unfortunately, other substantive errors appear which still require correction on Salon’s Web site. On April 16, 2004, Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, reported:

Israel’s right-wing Likud government, headed by Sharon, came into office in 2001 determined to undo the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, which required Israel to give back all or most of the Palestinian land it occupied in 1967.

In fact, the Oslo Accords made no such requirement. (Can the professor cite chapter and verse to substantiate his claim?) Borders was one of the issues left to final status negotiations (Article V of the Declaration of Principles).

In the same article, Cole rehashed the tired and false propaganda that Gaza “is the most densely populated place in the world.” According to the 2003 Statistical Abstract of the United States, the population density in the Gaza Strip in 2002 was 8,334 people per square mile. The same year in Macau, it was almost 10 times as high, at 70,868. In Gibraltar it was 11,963, and in Hong Kong it is more than twice as high as Gaza, at 19,126 people. And significantly, according to data available from the same source, the population density in San Francisco in 2000 (the statistic for 2002 is not available) – home to Salon – is 16,638, or double that of Gaza’s.

Concerned readers might want to write to editors at 22 Fourth St, 11th Floor, San Francisco, 94103, where Salon leases two floors in a new high-rise. However, they shouldn’t be fooled by the offices’ informal decor of bare concrete floors and exposed ducts and wiring. Though it may not have the trappings of a media fortress, it is one nonetheless.

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