Full disclosure: I sometimes write for The New York Times, and whether I did or not, I would still agree with many who say that it is perhaps the finest newspaper in the world.
But newspapers less fine than the Times that still carry their weight would rarely, if ever, take an op-ed from another newspaper and make its contents front-page news on their own. You don’t wrap gift-wrap in more wrapping paper, or something like that. Journalistically speaking, it just isn’t done.
I guess Haaretz, which is referred to in this month’s Vanity Fair as the newspaper of Israel’s “intelligentsia” (whatever that means) views things otherwise. At a point in the day when The Times of Israel leads its homepage with news of Syrian rebels capturing a town on the Israeli border (uh, yikes!), the smart folks’ rag leads with the “news” of an editorial in The New York Times that’s critical of Netanyahu. Wow.
Whether the piece in question is right, wrong or neither isn’t relevant. It just isn’t news. And the argument that the Times’ assessment of the political situation in Israel simply represents a predictably ultra-liberal, West-Side point of view of the Middle East isn’t really relevant either — unless you happen to be reading the piece in the Times itself and choose to take issue with that editorial viewpoint.
Several months back, the Times published an op-ed by some professor of dubious distinction from (egads!) Staten Island, which ridiculously put forward that Tel Aviv’s repositioning of itself as a gay-friendly metropolis for travel marketing purposes was simply a smokescreen to obfuscate the Palestinian conflict. Anyone who has reported on tourism in Tel Aviv, as I have extensively (notably, for the Times), knows that that’s hogwash. It’s also not front-page news. There’s a reason opinion pieces are on the last page — not the front page — of a newspaper. Journalism 101.
These days, however, in the age of Facebook “likes” and cyber-popularity contests, there’s a rush by some, if not all, to reach for the opinions of others so that their own opinions are instantly, if erroneously, validated. Let Tom, Dick and Harry enter that fray, but when newspapers of ostensible national repute do the same, that’s cause for concern.
No newspaper, however great its reputation, represents the only answer. And though some easily forget it, newspapers are businesses like any other, even if they have a few industry-specific quirks.
An opinion of some doesn’t need to be repackaged for the public by others who, for their own reasons and self-interests, see it as the only truth.
Perhaps Haaretz ought to have made front page news of a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed that questioned Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state, as a function of the wobbly (at best) foreign policy prowess of her boss, President Obama. That article is more on the ball than the Times piece in question.
But guess what? Neither is front-page news. News is front-page news, and a newspaper that considers itself world-class ought to know better than to make a mountain out of a molehill, and then place it center stage.