Opinion |

Solidarity Among Israeli Journalists, Especially Now

The only chance we have to rebuild the character of the Israeli media rests on our shared love of the profession, our shared fear for Israel's future and our desire to be upright citizens.

Ariana Melamed
Ariana Melamed
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Haaretz Daily Cartoon - January 9, 2017
Illustration: Netanyahu walks a tightrope between Israel Hayom and Yedioth Ahronoth, both Israeli newspapers. Credit: Amos Biderman
Ariana Melamed
Ariana Melamed

In the second week following the earthquake of scandals, the aftershocks threaten to bury not only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, but also the Israeli media as a whole.

Anyone who has been following the reactions to what was or was not said in their recorded conversations, which no one with the exception of the police investigators has heard in full, might conclude — in regret and in disgust — that a war of all against all has broken out here; a war characterized mainly by journalists lambasting other journalists, who in turn go on the defense and attack their assailants. Mud is hurled, almost gleefully, in the name of the need to expose “the truth,” and this mud sticks to all of us, journalists and ordinary citizens alike.

Beyond Netanyahu and Mozes hover questions that are bigger and more important than they, more important even than Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the free Hebrew daily Israel Hayom. These questions concern professional, moral and ethical standards in the battle for public awareness. They are certainly far more important than the popularity of any given media outlet in the fight over shaping this awareness.

Anyone calling themselves a journalist must be a party to these questions, but the answers won’t be obtained through brawling. The latter merely reveals the brawlers as people who are less interested in preserving democracy than in opportunities to disparage whomever it’s possible to disparage at the moment.

Especially in this terrible time, what the media needs is the exact opposite — solidarity among journalists, not leaping to the defense of any given publisher. Instead of automatically siding with our current workplace, or against the other’s workplace, we must realize that both the enfeebled workers of the republic of letters and headlines and those journalists with real power need to sit down together and draft a system of norms and standards that cross the lines of commercial and other interests, of political and other deceptive considerations. We need norms for fairness and integrity in reporting, for shaping the picture of a diverse reality, and red lines that must not be crossed, especially not in exchange for promotion, fame, money or job security.

Equally necessary is the understanding that we journalists, are responsible for promoting this interest, which is shared by all of us, regardless of the differences in our worldviews or our political agendas. Perhaps we’ve lost the public’s trust because of the behavior of our publishers, but neither they nor whoever replaces them is capable of rebuilding that public trust. This task falls on us, the journalists.

True, it isn’t easy. We don’t have powerful unions or alternative employment prospects in a small, combative market. And we do have too much cynicism, since we have banged ourselves time after time on the rocks of the media reality and sometimes forgotten why we chose this cursed, wonderful profession to begin with.

But cynicism will no longer protect us. Neither will factionalism and competition. And neither will the managing editor or publisher of whatever newspaper, website or station we work for.

The only possibility we have of succeeding in rehabilitating the character of the Israeli media rests on our shared love of the profession, our shared fear for the future of this country and our desire to be upright citizens. I insist on believing that this description applies to most of us, and that together, we’ll succeed at the task that has fallen to our lot.