Israel and the Fall of Dictatorial Journalism
by Dovid Efune
A disturbing trend is developing, according to the Israel Defense Forces official blog, whereby terror attacks against Israel routinely go unreported. “Though they’re very significant,” writes the IDF blogger, “A lot of incidents are never published.” The site goes on to list 12 notable incidents of thwarted terror attempts all of which took place this year.
This notable omission is no small travesty, especially as the power of media influence in shaping minds and policy is well known. An astute reader recently shared with me a saying that he had heard in Hebrew, which translated into English reads, “nowadays, kingship has been transposed by journalism.” How true, whereas in imperial days of old, the status of all subjects and members of the court as well as national priorities, sentiment and campaigns were determined by the monarch; today they are largely influenced by powerful media voices and trends rallying behind individuals and causes, then just as quickly, banishing them as they see fit.
The comparison becomes even more concise when one considers the role that editors play in most mainstream media outlets today. When it comes to setting the priority agenda in their own personal fiefdoms, in most cases, the editor calls the shots.
A rare public glimpse into this process was made available with the release last year of Page One: Inside the New York Times, a documentary film by Andrew Rossi, which depicts a page one editorial meeting, in which Editor Bill Keller, after fielding pitches from his senior editorial staff literally sets the daily news priority items for millions of readers, by assigning them to the paper’s front page. A similar process was captured in a video featuring Bill O’Reilly posted on gawker.com by the now infamous Fox News mole.
Most of the major news media organizations today are essentially run as editorial dictatorships.
The implications of this truth as far as Israel and Jews around the world are concerned can be very troubling as per the concern expressed by the IDF, and is largely the result of the editorial totalitarianism concept. If terror attacks against the Jewish state are under-reported, one could mistakenly be led to believe that security threats faced by Israel’s citizens are diminishing and as such concessions to Arab demands may be more justified, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
As I write, on the home page of the BBC’s international news website, there is a report about Arab terrorists held in Israeli jails who conducted a hunger strike. No such attention was accorded to the May 7th and May 10th attempted terror attacks against Israelis noted by the IDF blog, and other such relevant components of the Israel Arab narrative.
Even the story about the recent Toulouse killings was relegated to the bottom of the Huffington Post’s homepage, until the nail-biting siege on the killer’s residence compelled the editors to reconsider.
However, recent developments in the news media industry mark the dawn of an era of unparalleled opportunity for Jews and Israel in ensuring that our voice is heard. The ‘media spring’ of the last decade is increasingly sidelining the prominence of dictatorial journalism through the rise of democratized content models. Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a myriad of lesser known platforms allow for every individual to determine and broadcast their own perceived global priorities.
The challenge at this point, in the decentralization of the various voices, is that in most cases their reach, audience and impact are limited. But as alternative news media mechanisms emerge that are designed to draw together and amplify these voices such as our own publication, The Algemeiner, the influence of old media icons will become increasingly diminished.
On Sunday, Israeli daily Haaretz became the first Jewish focused news outlet to implement a pay-wall in an effort to offset its deficit. The paper follows the lead of the New York Times with which it has established a formal circulation partnership.
Although this move may serve to lessen red ink prominence on the company’s balance sheet, it also signifies a retreat into an ivory tower that comes with the inevitable diminished audience and thus declining influence that the pay-wall will bring about.
This and similar withdrawals coupled with the rise of real representative journalism presents an era of great fortuity for the dissemination of Jewish ideas. It is up to our nation’s entrepreneurial idealists to rise to this task.