This sh*t must stop

“Dear Times of Israel: You’re a great newspaper, but this sort of shit has got to stop” pronounced Jeffrey Goldberg on twitter, including a link to Devora Mason’s largely inoffensive interview with the mayor of the town she lives in: Efrat.

Jeffrey Goldberg is no stranger to the newspaper business, currently a Bloomberg View Columnist and having written for many other publications including the Atlantic, New Yorker and Washington Post.

I asked Jeffrey what, specifically, gave offence in Devora’s unashamedly partisan opinion piece and he replied:

He later described Devora’s work as “shilling and hackery”. OK, some of these would be mildly valid complaints had this been a news article. But it isn’t. It’s a blog post. As I have carefully explained before, blogs in an online newspapers are new combination of unfiltered submissions to the Opinion Editor or letters to the Editor.

Some might say that Jeffrey’s own interview with Tzipi Livni in the Atlantic had some soft ball elements to it. But lets move on.

So it would appear that someone who’s been in the opinion writing business for quite some time doesn’t understand the layout here at The Times of Israel.

But it got me thinking: unless blog posts are featured by the Ops & Blogs editorial team, they are completely divorced from The Times of Israel’s staff. What kind of “shit”, and by what kind of people, have more conventional old newspapers published in the past?

In September the New York Times ran an Oped by the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. The Washington Post wasn’t convinced by the New York PR agency’s claim that Putin wrote it himself (though the style is bad enough to almost believe that). The substance of the piece was certainly contentious. Obviously the NYT were correct to run it, but does the quality of the information or writing style reflect upon the NYT?

If “hackery” means poorly written, Putin’s piece had that. And if “shilling” means giving a highly partisan account, well Putin certainly did that.

And what about the time when The New York Times ran a most bizarre oped. “Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’” by Sarah Schulman which opened with this:

After generations of sacrifice and organization, gay people in parts of the world have won protection from discrimination and relationship recognition. But these changes have given rise to a nefarious phenomenon: the co-opting of white gay people by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political forces in Western Europe and Israel.

Again, this was chosen by the editors of the New York Times to appear in the print version of their august organ. Does that, too, reflect on the news gathering side of the New York Times?

David G gives a list of more dubious oped’s just from the New York Times over at Elder of Zion.

The Washington Post has also published some “shit”. Like the time they let chief Hamas terrorist, Ismail Haniyeh, loose over their pages. They followed that with Hezbollah’s Amal Saad-Ghorayeb. One wouldn’t want to be seen favouring one terrorist over another, would one? Plenty to criticise in those pieces and again, did they affect the standing of the news side of the Washington Post?

Blogs are unedited submissions. They appear on The Times of Israel with plenty of warnings to highlight their provenance. You can read the biography of the author and decide: is this person credible on this subject. Some are lousy, nearly all are opinionated but many are tremendous. You take your chances. And if you criticise: expect a robust defence.

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Big thanks to Ben Waxman for giving me the Tzipi Livni piece.

About the Author
Brian of London made aliyah from the UK to Israel in 2009. For many years he has blogged and broadcast about Israel, technology and other subjects. Most recently he's focused on the experience of driving an electric car every day. Brian has a scientific PhD but today owns a business in Israel.