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September 3, 2015 / 19 Elul, 5775
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Some would say he was a man of many, even gross, contradictions. As a family we lived in Israel during the two years that saw the “hitnatkut” (Gaza withdrawal) proposed and then implemented, with all the national convulsions it wrought. That failed effort, intended to preserve the Jewish nature of the county and avoid a demographic threat, will haunt his legacy.

But one cannot have met this man and heard his message without feeling his unwavering, visceral commitment to the preservation of the Land and People, their safety and security.

Rabbi Lawrence S. Zierler
Teaneck, NJ

Journalism As Religion

Re the op-ed article “A Shameful Post” and the accompanying editorial in the Jan. 10 Jewish Press:

There is no question that the New York Post headline about the Stark murder was reprehensible. But I think it is important to understand how newspapers and journalists work.

For starters, the New York Post is in deep financial difficulty and lurid headlines sell newspapers. Several other people got killed in the city the same day as Stark. If they didn’t stand out in some way – famous or infamous, rich, slumlords, politicians, child abuse victims, or a chassid in a shtreimel – they didn’t make the headlines, or the paper at all.

Second, reporters and headline writers are typically two separate people who have different skills. A top-notch headline writer is a more valuable commodity to a paper like the Post than a good reporter.

Third, if you get past the tragedy of a brutal murder, the headline was, to a certain extent, true. As a former teacher, I’m comfortable saying that, in some sense, on given days lots of students wanted me dead – students I failed, or even those assigned a heavy dose of homework. Did they really consider taking a gun? I’m sure not. There are also thousands who have said they want the president of the United States dead. Again, not people with guns – just people who in some sense of the word want to see the president disappear.

That’s all the Post actually said. There may be many people who possibly wanted him dead – and the police need to check them out. I’ve yet to see anybody disagree with that claim.

Finally and most importantly, I think one needs to understand that to many practitioners, journalism is, in some sense, a religion. For many journalists, publishing the facts is (lehavdil) their version of halacha. If someone suffers, so be it. Look at stories written years after the fact about secret Washington fights to suppress certain news out of national security concerns. Journalists don’t give into those concerns very easily.

A nice-sized section of most secular newspapers is devoted to reviews – book reviews, theatre reviews, restaurant reviews. And the reviewer/journalist considers it his job to write an honest review. If the food wasn’t good or the service was slow, it’s part of the review. If the critic didn’t enjoy the Broadway show, it’s in the next day’s review.

The Broadway show will close and investors will lose tens of millions of dollars; that’s irrelevant to journalists. The restaurant will close and the waiters will be unemployed; that’s also irrelevant. Nobody will buy the book that an author spent three years of his life researching and writing; that too is irrelevant. The critic’s job is to separate good shows, restaurants, and books from bad ones – to tell the potential consumer what to see or read and where to eat. Let the chips fall where they may.

Contrast that with principles of lashon hara – which is why you typically don’t see reviews, let alone bad reviews, in most Orthodox newspapers.

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