Thursday, September 2, 2004
I spent 90-minutes on the phone Thursday with Jason Maoz, editor of
The Jewish Press, for my book
News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism.
Jason and his publication struck me as isolated from the mainstream of
For two or three years, Jason submitted a bunch of articles to the AJPA
(American Jewish Press Association) awards process. Nothing even merited
an honorable mention. Sources say that that the AJPA is in Gary Rosenblatt's
thrall, and that it would never honor The Jewish Press in any form.
So I emailed Rob Eshman of the Jewish Journal, Gary Rosenblatt of The
Jewish Week and J.J. Goldberg of the Forward:
Jason Maoz, editor of The Jewish Press. Do you regard him as a peer?
It seems that few journalists for the mainstream Jewish weeklies accord
The Jewish Press any respect? He complained that The Jewish Press was
not taken seriously for AJPA awards. He regards the AJPA as in the thrall
of Gary Rosenblatt. Would prefer an on-the-record response but will
settle for anything.
Rob Eshman, editor of the Jewish Journal, replies:
I've read it all the way through maybe twice, so it wouldn't be fair
for me to offer an opinion. (Now, here comes my opinion): The times
I have flipped through it, my impression was it seems to cater to a
certain niche of American Jewry, and it seems to do that quite well.
I don't think anybody is in Gary's thrall, handsome and funny and brilliant
as he is-- uh oh, maybe I AM in his thrall. Seriously, Gary's a very
good editor and he puts out a very good paper. There are a lot worse
role models out there for editors of any paper, but he's not the boss
of anyone at AJPA. The Jewish Week serves its audience, and certainly
has taken on tough stories in a responsible way. No one editor or one
community Jewish paper is going to please all the Jews all the time.
Papers like The Jewish Week and The Jewish Journal have to appeal to
a large and broad Jewish audience to fulfill their missions and stay
solvent. We don't have big backers, endowment, niche Jewish markets
or relatively Jewish populations. We try to serve the needs of hundreds
of thousands of Jews in each issue: smart Jews, simple Jews, wise and
ignorant, right, left, rich, poor, traditional, freaky. The result can
be articles that are sometimes too safe and predictable and middle of
the road, but all of the good editors I know push beyond that as much
Joe Schick writes: "Maoz deserves a lot of credit for significantly
improving the JP. He thinks outside the box in seeking to improve the
paper's content. Who else would have taken 2500 words from Robert Avrech's
blog and devoted the front and back pages to it, and done the same with
Steven Weiss' piece about the Israel Policy Forum's pro-Geneva Accord
party? No other editor takes blogs seriously, either."
Jason Maoz, editor of The Jewish Press, responds to Protocols
The bit about Lubavitch advertising is typical. Are we supposed to
start turning down ads from certain groups within Orthodoxy? For better
or worse, Lubavitch is such a driving force in Jewish communities across
the country and around the world. Of course they're going to advertise
their activities in an Orthodox paper like The Jewish Press. And of
course we'll cover many of those activities. Look at the JTA's coverage
of Jewish life in foreign countries. Almost invariably when they quote
an Orthodox rabbi in south America, Europe, Asia, etc., that rabbi is
a Lubavitcher. You can't cover the Orthodox world without giving Lubavitch
an inordinate amount of ink. And by the way, contrary to some dumb rumor
posted by an ignorant twit on some blog recently, there is not one Lubavitcher
in any editorial decision-making capacity at The Jewish Press.
As for the "Kahanist rag" comment -- obviously a retort made by a retard.
There may be some columnists we feature who share some of Kahane's views,
but they're in a minority -- and certainly don't reflect the official
editorial positions taken by the paper in recent years.
As to the comment about our being heavily feature - and commentary-oriented
at the expense of hard news, of course that's true. A weekly publication
in the age of the Internet and 24-hour cable news must by necessity
focus more on background and features. Time and Newsweek realized this
years ago and began to go more in the direction of lifestyle-type features.
It would be presumptuous for us to think that most readers look to a
weekly of any kind as their primary news source. It's even more ludicrous
to expect a weekly newspaper -- one that goes to press Tuesday and that
most people don't read before Friday and Saturday -- to contain breaking
Ordinarily I wouldn't bother responding to the ladies of the fish market
who hang out at Protocols and try to sound as though they have anything
meaningful to say. But a few recent remarks warrant a response beyond
that which I offered on Friday.
I don't think I need to elaborate further on the Lubavitch issue other
than to ask the poster named Sidney if he would be kind enough to take
a few moments --from what I'm certain must be a busy and challenging
schedule of intellectual pursuit -- to explain what he means by "Lubavitch
slant." Yes, as I noted in my Friday comments, we take ads from Lubavitch
organizations. And we do have a few Lubavitcher columnists -- among
the dozens our regular columnists and contributors who cover the spectrum
of Orthodoxy from Modern to yeshivish to chassidish. (We also frequently
feature pieces by secular Jews and non-Jews; I suppose this means we
have a "secular slant" or a "Christian slant" to go along with that
alleged "Lubavitch slant.")
So please, Sid (you'll pardon the informality), ads and opinion columns
aside, tell me where exactly you detect that old-time Chabad religion
in our news stories or our editorials. I'm sure someone blessed with
your Alpine intellect knows the difference between reporting on a Lubavitch-affiliated
institution or event and, as you so strikingly phrased it (tell me you
write for Yated and I promise I won't doubt it for a second ), being
a paper "that allowed/s Lubavitch 'Christians' to still proclaim their
leader as the second coming [sic] messiah."
One more thing, Sid. Show me when and where we turned Baruch Goldstein
into a "Jewish saviour." (Shhh -- don't tell the Lubavitchers; we wouldn't
want them to think we practice a polytheistic form of messianism.) If
nothing else, your timing is exquisitely bad, since this very week in
our Letters to the Editor section, one of our frequent contributors,
Steven Plaut, strongly admonishes two readers who saw fit to defend
the actions of the same Baruch Goldstein you posit as one of our paper's
designated "Jewish saviours." Since I oversee the Letters section and
solicited Plaut's rejoinder to the aforementioned readers, I'm afraid
that makes me the house heretic. Stoning commences immediately after
Mincha tomorrow. (Bongs optional.)
Which brings me to the poster known as Mike Da Kike -- (my, the time
and thought that had to have gone into formulating such a sensitive
and literate moniker) -- and his story about "interviewing for a job"
Remember that marvelous scene in "Annie Hall" where Woody Allen (as
Alvy Singer) encounters a blowhard on line in a movie theater spouting
off about Marshall McLuhan? Woody/Alvy summons forth the real Marshall
McLuhan who shuts up the pretentious bore by telling him, "You know
nothing of my work." At which point Woody/Alvy turns to the camera and
says, "Boy, if life were only like this!"
Well, life is like that, at least in this instance, as I have the luxury
of summoning myself to question the claims of Mr. Kike, who, when he
made them early Friday, had no idea I would involve myself in this little
discussion. I happen to be in the unique position of knowing that we
have not had an editorial opening at The Jewish Press for at least five
years now. There was a spot open about five, maybe five and a half,
years ago, but we hired someone very quickly. Before that, there was
an editorial hire in 1997 -- me. So unless Mr. Kike was one of the four
or five interviewees who didn't get the job five and a half years ago(and
I believe all of them were women) -- or unless he interviewed before
1997, which would make his story irrelevant at best because The Jewish
Press was a far different paper from what it is today -- his story doesn't
(In reviewing Mr. Kike's post, I see he doesn't describe the position
for which he supposedly applied, and so perhaps I jumped the gun in
assuming it was related in any manner to editorial work. We have filled
a couple of custodial positions over the past few years, and perhaps
that is what he is referring to -- which, come to think of it, makes
perfect sense when one considers the quality of his prose.)
Finally, poster Benjy throws around some IQ figures. I'm thumbing through
the last few issues of The Jewish Press where I see such notorious exemplars
of low IQ as Jonathan Tobin, Joseph Schick, Phyllis Chesler, Victor
Davis Hanson, Dr. Yitzchok Levine, Ed Koch, Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser,
Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Rabbi Steven Riskin, Marvin Schick, Professor
Louis Rene Beres, and arts critic Richard McBee (none of them Lubavitch
and all of them, I'd wager, considerably more intelligent than Benjy).
Not a bad lineup at all, and one that definitely can do without the
services of Mike Da Kike. But do send us an updated resume, Mr. Kike
-- those custodial positions tend to have a high turnover rate, and
you never know when you'll get lucky.
Re Gershon Tannenbaum: I don't think I've ever spoken with him. He
doesn't work out of the offices of The Jewish Press and I don't handle
his "My Machberes" feature. What I do know is that anyone who's ever
spoken with me about him has had only nice things to say. And the "Machberes"
column, while not everyone's cup of tea, has an enormous following.
I have no familiarity with the issues brought up here and, frankly,
feel that vilifying someone over legal matters that are either years
or decades old offers little or no edification.
Maoz Has Never Been To The General
He replies to my inquiries:
Always thought of it as a convocation of self-important drones boring
each other to death with their fatuous presentations. A living nightmare
of Jewish Establishment worthies descending on one location in numbers
far too great to bear for anyone possessed of a sensitive and discerning
constitution. Establishment worthies who've never had an original thought,
who worship at the shrine of consensus, who think they're bravely flouting
liberal pieties in the rare instance they disagree ever so slightly
with a New York Times editorial, who think the sun of Judaism rises
and sets on Manhattan, who believe with all their hearts that Gary
Rosenblatt is a gifted and compelling prose stylist and Abraham
Foxman a Lion of Judah. I guess I'll have to reconsider.
Relations between the Orthodox and the Fed here in NY are somewhat
better than they were 10 or 20 years ago, but nowhere near ideal.