I just received a fundraising appeal from JTA, the leading national Jewish news agency. In it, Mark Joffe, the publisher, boasts of the most important reporting achievement he can muster to inspire donors to open their pocketbooks. This tells you a lot about where JTA sees its core audience:
When federal agents raided the country’s largest kosher meat plant, arresting hundreds of workers and bringing the operation to a halt, JTA was quick to notify the Jewish world of both the alleged mistreatment of workers and the threat to the kosher meat supply.
JTA was the only Jewish news organization to fly a reporter to Iowa to cover the unfolding story on the ground.
That type of special coverage costs money. As an independent non-profit, JTA relies on donations from readers like you to make it possible. Our mission is to foster an ongoing conversation in the Jewish community and bring the Jewish world a little bit closer together.
I don’t want to demean meat-eating kosher Jews for whom such news is undoubtedly important. But this is the best that JTA can offer its readers in terms of its achievements? This is where it sinks its staff time and travel budget?
And note, highlighting a story that impacts at best a small minority of the Jewish community is designed to “foster an ongoing conversation in the Jewish community and bring the Jewish world a little bit closer together.” I’d say rather it’s an attempt to curry favor with the Orthodox community for whom kosher slaughterhouses may be big news.
JTA’s coverage of Israel does not foster a conversation or bring the Jewish world closer together. It merely reinforces the corporate Jewish message that we are supposedly one, one with Israel, one with each other. It’s Israel coverage challenges nothing, questions nothing, and informs hardly at all.
I truly wish JTA was the kind of journalistic organization I COULD support with a gift. I’d be delighted to do so. But until their reporting better reflects the diversity of Israeli and American Jewish opinion on the Israeli-Arab conflict, it’s too hard for me to justify such giving. I’d rather support organizations that are promoting peace in the Middle East.