Takes one to know one, Doni Kandel

Doni Kandel is sad. In a blog post today entitled “The Times (of Israel), they are a changin'” (Editor’s note: The post has since been removed from the Jerusalem Post website) he moans that The Times of Israel, a new current events website founded by former Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief David Horovitz, has – in his opinion – failed to live up to its potential.

Kandel backs up his claim by citing a number of TOI blog posts, including my own much-maligned “Why can’t the Anglos learn to speak?” Apparently, the Times of Israel bloggers have descended into the realm of “tabloid” journalism.

As much as I hate to spoil a good burst of outrage, I’d like to make two points. My dear Mr. Kandel, ALL blogs are intrinsically worthless, and judging a news site by its blogs is like judging a news program by its hosts’ hairstyles.

My first point: Blogs are mental vomit. With rare exceptions, they are poorly researched, poorly argued, and poorly written. They are not subject to editing, either for content or style, and if I operated a website I doubt I’d sleep at night for fear of a lawsuit. Not that the bloggers mean to libel anyone, but most have no idea what they are doing and let their rage and active imaginations guide them.

Why, then, publish blogs at all? For the traffic. Many blogs go ignored, but occasionally – and I speak from experience – a blogger will strike a nerve. If that happens, stand back. The piece will cause readers to froth at the mouth and spawn hundreds of responses as the talkbackers grab torches and pitchforks and take to the Internet. The blog gets posted and re-posted, and – if the author has really managed to piss people off – generates counter-blogs, which are published with links to the original masterpiece, generating even more hits.

Blogging has always been about quantity, not quality. Anyone interested in the real value of a news site should be analyzing its articles. How much original content is published vs. material from wire sources? Are writers asking tough questions, or throwing softballs at interviewees? Is the site doing any investigative journalism, and if so – of what caliber? How is the writing? Can the reporters construct a coherent sentence, or do the pieces read like they were written by special-needs junior high school pupils?

Doni Kandel, in lamenting what he perceives to be the early disintegration of the TOI, asked none of these questions, choosing only to look at the site’s blog section, which is filled with as much nonsense (from the bloggers) and vitriol (from the readers) as any reader-produced content anywhere.

Kandel might want to look around at the JPost’s glass house before throwing stones at the TOI. The front page of the Post’s blog section features an entry titled “Israeli women and their bodies,” which appears to be an overly long rumination about bikinis and breast implants. Who cares?

Goodness knows, journalism standards are plummeting all over the world. Sad to say, blogs and other free content have played a part in that. If you want to critique blogs, critique blogs – many do (so very meta). It makes no difference. If you want to critique a site’s news content, please do – it could make a lot of difference. But never confuse the two – blogs aren’t journalism and never will be.

About the Author
Noga Martin has worked for The Jerusalem Post, Jpost.com, and Ynetnews and is now an editor at a publishing company. She lives in south Tel Aviv and has been blogging for the Times of Israel on a myriad of topics since July 2012.