Jewish Journal

JTA editor thinks NYT Magazine has a ‘Jewish problem’

by Brad A. Greenberg

November 5, 2007 | 12:53 pm

Ami Eden, the managing editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency—the AP of Jewish journalism—wants to know if The New York Times Magazine has a Jewish problem.

I wouldn’t normally put it that way, but the first troublesome item to catch my attention was the January 14 profile by James Traub titled “Does Abe Foxman Have an Anti-Anti-Semite Problem?”

Next was Ian Buruma’s February 4 “Tariq Ramadan Has an Identity Issue.” And, finally, “Orthodox Paradox,” Noah Feldman’s much-discussed July 22 lament about being cut like a foreskin from his high school alumni newsletter on account of his marriage to a non-Jew.

All three articles contained a Jews-should-get-over-it-already bias: Traub’s piece was a critique of Abe Foxman’s crying “gevalt” over anti-Semitism, with the underlying message that the Jewish community in general needs to stop stifling debate on Israel. Buruma basically told American Jewish organizations to stop picking on Tariq Ramadan, a controversial Muslim scholar whose chance to teach at Notre Dame fell through because the State Department would not give him a visa. Feldman portrayed any effort by Orthodox institutions to uphold a communal taboo against intermarriage as a primitive obstacle to “reconciling the vastly disparate values of tradition and modernity.”

Of course, harping on bias in the NYT Magazine is like complaining about chocolate chips in a Toll House cookie. If you expect straight cookie, then stick to the newspaper — the magazine is a place for writers to open up, both in terms of space and voice.

Still, creative freedom doesn’t mean creative license. Each of these stories either danced up to or crossed the line on pertinent facts — in a way that served to bolster the writer’s agenda. In at least one case, the journalistic misdeed was serious enough for the public editor to urge one Jewish organization to write a letter to the editor — which the magazine then failed to print.

The magazine is, of course, owned by the New York Times Co, which is led by the most famous dynasty in American newspaper publishing, the Sulzbergers. They are, mind you, Jewish, something anti-Semites love to point out in their argument of a Jewish world conspiracy and a heritage many Jews think Punch and the gang were always uncomfortable displaying. (See “Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper.”)

I wouldn’t agree with Eden at first blush, but he makes some decent points, even regarding the Foxman profile, which was one of the more entertaining articles I had read in a long time.

(Hat tip: Seraphic Secret)

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