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September 06, 1991 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

OPINION

Objectivity Is Not An Endorsement

PHIL JACOBS

Managing Editor

O

ne of the keys of sur-
vival for those of us
who choose this voca-
tion of Jewish jom-nalism is
to be able to objectively
transcend the different
worlds that make up the
Jewish community.
During the course of a sin-
gle work day, a Jewish News
reporter can do an interview
over coffee at a McDonald's,
eat lunch with a source at a
kosher restaurant such as
Sara's and then spend the
evening with a politician in
Southfield. The goal is truth,
fairness and objectivity. And
while we and everyone else
in the media are accused of
slanting and distorting, at
least at this publication ob-
jectivity is for everyone.
So let's talk about
transcending the worlds of
Judaism and objectivity. To
do so, let me take you back
about four years to
Baltimore. There, I was ask-
ed to make a speech to a con-
ference of Jewish volunteers
and professionals specializ-
ing in anti-missionary work.
These people give tirelessly
of their own time and money
working against groups such
as Messianic Judaism or
Jews for Jesus. I was asked
to speak on how anti-
missionary workers could

better get their cause across
to the media.
Very quickly, I told them
to do what the Messianic
Jews were doing, build non-
confrontational relation-
ships with media people.
Whether or not the media
agrees with what you are do-
ing, if they are true profes-
sionals, they'll listen and
report objectively. Counter-
missionary people know
they have to walk on egg-
shells; they have to be
tender and tough at the
same time to convince some-

Did it inform the
readers so they
could make a
choice?

one to turn their back on the
group they've joined. Often,
misionary groups are more
loving and caring and spiri-
tual than anything Jewish
they've ever seen or experi-
enced before.
During the course of the
speech, I said that with ob-
jectivity in mind, it is the
Jewish journalist's goal to
interview figures who might
have a differing opinion of
Jews or of Israel than ours. I
told them of interviews that
I had had with members of
the Nation of Islam, the Rev.
Jesse Jackson and even with

the Rev. Jerry Falwell. I told
them at the time that if I
could, I'd love to meet with
PLO chairman Yassir
Arafat.
That statement served to
enrage several of those pre-
sent, including one man who
paced back and forth in the
back of the meeting room,
clipboard in hand, repeating
for everyone what I had just
said. "You, Mr. Phil
Jacobs," he said, "would
give Arafat audience in your
newspaper? That is not what
belongs in a Jewish news-
paper."
Yes, it does.
So do stories about the
Messianic Jewish move-
ment. If we hide from these
subjects, they don't go away;
they get even bigger. When I
wrote stories both in
Baltimore and here in
Detroit about how the local
Messianic groups are now
attracting well-educated
Jews at higher socio-
economic levels than ever
before, the criticism was
deep. "How could we place a
story like this in a Jewish
newspaper?" The ones who
welcomed the story,
however, were the profes-
sionals in the field who know
that Messianic Judaism isn't
going away.
But here's where my role
in all of this was challenged
in a different way. I received
a letter from a reader with a

e

C.550554 , 50 0 5 J•55.5.0, 05555:0515, it 5.50.1 i•—•es

flyer in it. The flyer was a
reprint of my Jewish News
story, complete with the logo
of the local Messianic Jewish
congregation on the top. On
the back of the flyer was a
paragraph saying that the
congregation had received
something like five inquiries
from interested people since
the article came out.
A phone call to the spiri-
tual leader of the group end-
ed with a promise that the
flyer would no longer be
distributed. We can be objec
tive, but we are not used for
promotion. Some will argue
that objectivity in this area
is promotion. That I can't
control because in a bal-
anced story, the positive as
well as the negative are

covered. That was the case
here.
What bothered me with all
of this was the role that the
local group placed me in
without bothering to ask.
I'm less upset with the five
inquires they received. It is
my belief that the five people
looking for something would
have found their way to
"Hebrew Christianity" with
or without me. I was more
upset that the group placed
me into subjectivity.
Again, a comparison.
Years ago, covering a polit-
ical race for county council
in Baltimore, I did a story on
a council candidate weeks
before the election. The story
had both positive and

Continued on Page 14

To Our Readers:

Needless to say, it's been quite a year.
From the rise and fall of Iraq and the Soviet Union to the glimmer of hope
that a meaningful process to achieve peace between Israel and its Arab
neighbors can be initiated. From the massive resettlement of Soviet and Eth-
iopian Jews in Israel to the terrible sights and sounds of Scud missiles
slamming into Tel Aviv. We are honored you have relied on The Jewish News
for its sensitive coverage and analyses of these international events.
And there were some pretty important local stories, too. With the economy
in a tailspin, the Jewish Federation still raised $40 million for Soviet reset-
tlement, United Jewish Appeal and support for community services. Addi-
tionally, dedication of the Teitel Federation Apartments, Charlotte Rothstein
Park spanning I-696, Yeshiva Beth Yehudah's renovated Sally Allan Alex-
ander School for Girls in the former B'nai Moshe building and the announced
expansion of the Jimmy Prentis Morris Jewish Community Center, coupled
with the Neighborhood Project's popular residential loan program, have
stabilized and enhanced the Jewish presence in north Oak Park.
However, most eyes continue to focus on West Bloomfield, where B'nai
Moshe, Shaarey Zedek/B'nai Israel and Temple Shin Shalom are planning
new or expanded facilities, the Lubavitch Foundation is planning a syn-
agogue campus, the Jewish Community Center and Temple Israel completed
major additions and the Home for Aged announced its intention to con-
solidate operations at its Maple-Drake location.
And torn between the stability of north Oak Park and the expansion of Jew-
ish population and facilities in West Bloomfield is Southfield, which is strug-
gling to retain its Jewish vitality.
It is at the community level — covering events which have an impact on
you at home, work and play — where our commitment is strongest. We have
added three talented staff members, Managing Editor Phil Jacobs and staff

writers Amy Mehler and Noam Neusner, to better serve you. They comple-
ment Assistant Editor Elizabeth Applebaum, Associate Editor Alan Hitsky
and Staff Writer Kimberly Lifton, who all received first-place awards this
year from the American Jewish Press Association for their reporting, writing
and coordinating of local news and feature stories.

This commitment transcends the news -columns of The Jewish News. We
have been partners with Jewish Experiences For Families in providing
hands-on educational programs and activities that are a model for Jewish
educators throughout the country. We have joined with the Jewish Commun-
ity Council, Jewish Vocational Service and Jewish Family Service to help
match volunteers with needy persons and organizations inside and outside
the Jewish community and to assist recent Soviet emigres in finding mean-
ingful work. We have actively supported programs to feed the hungry and, in
partnership with the Oakland County Library for the Blind and Physically
Handicapped and Hakol branch of the National Council of Jewish Women,
recently launched a "Jewish News on Tape" reading project for the visually
impaired.

As we head into the New Year, we pledge to make further improvements in
both editorial content and design and welcome the challenge and respon-
sibility of providing you, our valued readers, with a newspaper that reflects
the strength, diversity — and heart — of Detroit's Jewish community.

L'shana tova,

Charles A. Buerger, Publisher
Arthur M. Horwitz, Associate Publisher
Gary Rosenblatt, Editor

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

11

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