I chat with lobbyist Matt Dorf Thursday, July 8, 2004. He served as Washington bureau chief for JTA for almost five years (1994-99).
"As I was graduating college in 1992 (George Washington University with a double major in Journalism and Political Science), I went to work as an editorial assistant at the Forward.
"After leaving JTA in 1999, I went to the American Jewish Congress and ran their show in Washington. Then I joined Steve Rabinowitz in Rabinowitz-Dorf."
"How could you go from journalist to lobbyist?"
"It's a logical place to go. I went from covering many of the issues that I passionately cared about to promoting them. It was a very easy transition. Some of my best sources have become my colleagues."
"What are the primary obstacles to doing good journalism on American Jewish topics?"
"The biggest one is resources. It's rare in journalism today to be able to dedicate the time and financial resources to pursue the larger, more in-depth and analytical investigative stories."
"What are more obstacles?"
"I don't think there are any."
"I'll give you one -- we the Jewish community need to stay united and by your reporting dissident voices, you're weakening the Jewish community and imperiling the state of Israel."
"You have those criticisms but I'm not sure they're an obstacle. I don't see the Jewish media holding their fire on those kind of stories. I'm sure Gary Rosenblatt talked to you about Baruch Lanner and the criticism he got, much of which he printed in his own paper. But hey, they printed the story.
"That issue exists on many levels. If you look at any community newspaper, you have that same pressure on the editors -- don't air our dirty laundry. If you look at the coverage of the Iraq War, you had folks, even yesterday, arguing that the American media over-reported prisoner abuses in a way that put American lives in danger. The American media should not have reported on Abu Ghraib in wartime. I don't believe that.
"I became close to many of the people I wrote about. There's very little turnover in Jewish lobbying in Washington D.C."
"Let's suppose a Jewish leader in Washington was having a sexual affair that was disrupting his work. How would you have reacted to that?"
"It's tough to answer a hypothetical like that."
"Well, how about [big Jewish leader] and [prominent Jewish socialite]?"
Laughter. "I don't want to talk to about that."
"Let's go to the hypothetical."
"I don't care what's going on in someone's bedroom. If it is disrupting their work, it could become a news story."
"Do you ever remember that becoming a news story?"
"Before I was there."
Matt describes The Jewish Week as a compelling read. "There's not a week that goes by without my learning something from the paper. Some people read newspapers for the arts section."
I crack up at the thought of some retard reading The Jewish Week for the Arts Section. That's like watching a porn film for the great dialogue and acting.
"I feel sorry for anyone who reads The Jewish Week for the Arts section," I say.
"Right," he replies. "Maybe there are people who read the Forward for the Arts section.
"I think the Forward has grown tremendously under JJ Goldberg. It's a smart well-edited paper. It's a must read for the Jewish intelligentsia."