I talk Thursday, July 8, 2004, with Israeli Ori Nir, the Washington correspondent for the Forward for almost two years. Before that, he spent a decade covering America for the Israeli paper Haaretz.

"How is it different covering the United States for Israeli papers and for an American one?"

"Covering it for an Israeli paper was like being a foreign correspondent. Haaretz considers it has a universalist approach. I wasn't looking at American through a Jewish prism. The big exception was on US-Israel relations, Middle East policy.

"I am now looking at things through the way the Forward views Jewish values."

"Anything surprise you about American Jewish journalism?"

"I was caught in the Israeli stereotype of American Jewry as parochial. The politics as not sophisticated and monolithic.

"With American Jewish journalism, I was surprised to see a high level of professionalism."

"What do you think of the work of James Besser?"

"I think he is very good. When I joined the Forward, I was told to read him every week. We even toyed with doing a column like his. Each segment of his column can be blown up into a full-fledged story. It's condensed, informative and well-written."

"How would you characterize Malcolm Hoenlein?"

"Malcolm Hoenlein is a hard-nosed hardball player. I think he understands the media. He had a bad experience with the Forward before my time.

"He's a bit reserved in his dealings with the Forward. I'm trying to have a warmer relationship with him and make him open up to the Forward more.

"The Forward is an independent newspaper that doesn't mind criticizing people in the Jewish establishment. The Jewish media don't do that much. I've had experiences with other people who were angry with the Forward and were less than enthusiastic to cooperate with me."

"Do you know anything about him diddling ....?"

"I have no idea."

Ori says American journalism is more professional, more responsible and less sensationalistic than Israeli journalism. "There isn't a real tradition in Israel of studying journalism and going to journalism school. Israeli news organizations do not hand out the style books and prescriptive manuals that American news organizations do."