Defending the Jewish Media

Contrary to the cynicism often expressed towards JewglePerth, we have no desire as a bloggers to continually criticise the Jewish media, or to be continually negative.  As bloggers we do not attempt to compete with the Jewish media (whether commercial or not-for-profit) and ideally consider the function of a blog to complement debate through the alternative medium of real time expression.  This is a blog to communicate viewpoints and opinion, not to broadcast news.  The Jewish community needs good professional communications and news facilities of all types to raise awareness of events, to inform, and to stimulate discussion.

For many years the Maccabean has been published in Perth.  It is an important community icon.  Many people give of their time to ensure that it is produced, and for this it deserves support.  It is particularly valuable when it covers local news and events, although for the most part it is not a media which it prepares its own copy, rather a media that reproduces copy that is provided to it by the community.  This is the more traditional form of community publication, and there are too few examples of this type of media left.

I do not agree with all I read in the Maccabean, nor would I expect to.  For example, I was very disappointed with one recent occurrence.  At the start of the Olympics the social media was buzzing about a supposed incident whereby Lebanese Olympians refused to train nearby Israeli Olympians.  Within hours of this viral story media releases were published stating that this story was false.  In particular, the claim was categorically quashed by a media release from the Israel Olympic committee.  This story made it into the editorial of the Maccabean, possibly on the basis of the timetabling of publication.  Commendably the Maccabean made a correction in this week’s issue.  The only shortcoming was that the paper stopped short of apologising for the error.  Most op-ed publications, this blog included, will categorically apologise for inadvertently misleading its readers when we occasionally get it wrong.  Jewish media consumers expect this from mainstream newspapers, and no less from our own community paper.

There is much else that the Maccabean does well.  It provides news from community groups, and keeps the community aware of events, of which there are many that we would otherwise not know about.

Beyond Perth, there has also been a national media furore surrounding the Australian Jewish News (AJN).  Over several months the AJN has run articles about illegal immigration into Australia, with a range of Jewish perspectives.  One article, penned by Robert Maggid, the publisher of the AJN, has elicited a strong response.  This debate has spilled well beyond the publication itself, with the charge being led by the blogosphere and other Jewish media.   The subject itself deserves considered discussion and debate (I do not intend addressing it through this post), but the tone by which this debate has degenerated has now become the focus of discussion in its own right.

Bloggers have accused the AJN of allowing its owner to hijack the paper for his own means.  Some think that the opinion of Robert Magid may be seen and interpreted by some as representative of the community as a whole.  Although it is wrong to suggest that any Jewish community newspaper is a voice of communal consensus, some people strongly feel that redistributed content can be interpreted this way.

As the AJN publisher, some have questioned whether Robert Magid has the right to use his publication as a megaphone for his own political polemic.  There was a similar dissent expressed by those who felt Gina Reinhart should not be permitted to gain corporate control of media, as they felt that the journalistic independence and integrity of Fairfax would be influenced by instruction from above.  Even the Government threatened to regulate, fearing that if media influence can be bought by the highest bidder, then the objectivity of the media is at stake.

The AJN has hit back with an editorial which correctly notes that the publisher of the AJN has as much right to express his opinion as others do.  The AJN evidenced that they have provided a range of views on the topic, and explained that only the editorial reflects the corporate stance of the paper when it comes to expressing opinion.

It should be added that the AJN clearly published an article in the name of Robert Magid, and identified the author.  Had an article appeared incognito, with the publishers opinion being promulgated without his identity attached, then the ethical issues of the owner using the paper to promote a view would need to come under scrutiny.   However this was not the case.

Every media can be accused of having a bias from the ABC through to News Ltd.  This blog has a bias as a Modern Orthodox Jewish forum.  We make it clear who we are and what we stand for.  Some publications have a broader spectrum and some a limited perspective, even within the world of Jewish media.  That should be fine, so long as it is disclosed.

The tall poppy syndrome within the Australian Jewish community is alive and kicking.  People are jealous of those who have the means to keep our institutions, and our media, operating as a going concern.  So to, people are critical of those who give of their time to keep our media functioning, both voluntarily and professionally, without sparing a thought for the effort involved.

The Jewish media across Australia has an important function.  As a marketplace of ideas, a representation of pluralistic viewpoints within the Jewish community, and a connector, we need to have strong and robust Jewish media.  For the most part, we do.  Those who think otherwise are threatened by the notion of freedom of expression and myopic in the belief that the only opinions they want to hear are the ones that they agree with.  The world has changed, and the way in which we consume our media has also changed.  News and commentary about the news have become indistinguishable.  The good news is that you too have the opportunity to share your opinion.