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April 06, 2009

Another Mealy-Mouthed Apology

This non-apology apology is from JTA president Elisa Spungen Bildner. Who's she non-apologizing to? You.

Message from Elisa Spungen Bildner, JTA President
By Elisa Spungen Bildner

A fundraising email appeal JTA sent out Friday under my signature contained words I did not specifically approve, words that seemed to criticize bloggers and Twitterers.  Understandably, they ruffled a few feathers in the blogosphere.

I know that was not the intention of JTA's staff, nor mine. I am a strong supporter of new media  and JTA spends a considerable amount of staff resources producing three very popular blogs  Capital J, the Fundermentalist and The Telegraph. We are on Facebook and recently covered the Jewish Funders Network annual conference extensively on Twitter.

JTA's point was not to insult new media practitioners but to stress the importance of supporting in-depth reporting, too. Inartful words or not, the rationale behind JTA' s fundraising appeal remains: Quality journalism today is reeling from unprecedented financial pressure  and JTA is no exception. We are appealing to our readers to support us, so JTA can remain strong.

On behalf of my staff, I apologize if we have unintentionally offended anyone. But I am confident and proud of JTA’s commitment to pursuing both traditional journalism and the rich new forms of reporting that the Internet affords.

To those of you who choose to support us, I am deeply grateful. Best wishes to all for a lovely Passover holiday.

Elisa Spungen Bildner
JTA President

• The JTA often publishes news briefs on important issues days after the event took place.

• It has a clearly biased reporter, Sue Fishkoff, covering Chabad.

• And it regularly steals borrows from bloggers, taking their work, rewriting it, spiffing it up a bit and claiming it as its own, without even the courtesy of attribution or a link.

None of that should take away from the good the JTA does – however slight that good may sometimes be.

The points Elisa makes about the need for a viable JTA are all true – but those points should not conceal the fact that the JTA falls far below that level of news delivery. Some of this is clearly due to financial woes. But the rest is due to politics, bias and sloppiness.

A quick example: The JTA had the best Jewish coverage of the Agriprocessors raid and its aftermath, until Sue Fishkoff was put on the story. From that point onward, the JTA's coverage shriveled, and what it did publish was largely off base (and at least one story that wasn't was stolen borrowed from me).

A real news organization would have noticed this and corrected it, perhaps by sequestering Fishkoff, perhaps by firing her. The JTA did neither. In fact, the JTA did nothing.

That doesn't mean you should not support the JTA.

Again, I agree the JTA can and should play a vital role in American Jewish – and in American – life.

But no one, especially Elisa Spungen Bildner, should have any illusions about what the JTA currently is, or about what it could and should be.

Now here's the email Elisa sent but is now trying to claim she didn't actually write, send or approve. 

Please click to enlarge:

JTA email 4-3-09


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"Quality Journalism" is not suffering from a simple economic crisis, as JTA and other journalists would like the public to believe.

"Journalism" is suffering above all from the exponential ego trip that has characterised this one-way manner of communication nearly from the start.

Newspapers, News agencies and the individual journalists who are supposed to be on the lookout for important issues and perhaps even help the odd victim of unfair treatment have demonstrated that in most cases where it really counts, they are utterly worthless.

And the attitude of news organisations to their readers as well as the people who naively provide them with quality information for free is outrageous.

Perhaps the public is simply gaining enough self-respect and education to now realize that they are not stuck with the mass media anymore. Perhaps it is the fact that organizations like JTA, the AP and most of the large newspapers cannot simply stiffle discussion on serious topics that matter that is getting under the skin of lazy reporters, many who have a personal agenda from the very start.

Who wants it? Who needs it? Let them get real jobs! Maybe when the economy turns around they will have enough real life experience to begin writing mature narratives about the things in life that really matter!

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