Forget about Iran’s nukes and Hamas’s rockets! Instead of spotlighting the existential threats posed by Israel’s external enemies, the local media are firing salvoes at each other.

In one corner are the daily tabloid Ma’ariv, and Channel 10 television, which are both fighting possible closure, and in the other, the left-leaning Haaretz and TheMarker (both owned by the Schocken family), also seeking to stay afloat in the drowning world of print journalism.

Ma’ariv, the third-largest newspaper in Israel after Israel HaYom (the freebie owned by US businessman Sheldon Adelson) and Yediot Aharonot (owned by the Mozes family), announced on Sunday that it planned to halt its daily print edition and continue only with Internet news. The announcement was made by the financially strapped IDB Holding Corp., owned by Nochi Danker, who also has the controlling shares in Ma’ariv.

The first shot in the new media war was fired on Sunday by TheMarker’s Eytan Avriel, in an op-ed titled, “Everything you need to know about the Ma’ariv crisis and didn’t know who to ask.”

Here are excerpts from the article, which cleverly hides a highly opinionated article in an apparently neutral question- and-answer format:

How did Ma’ariv get into enough trouble to bring it to the brink of closure?

Ma’ariv’s financial situation has been going downhill for many years, and accumulated losses on its balance sheet have now reached NIS 1 billion. Unlike Yediot Aharonot, Ma’ariv wasn’t particularly profitable even as far back as the late 1990s. Over the past decade it suffered heavy losses under Ofer Nimrodi’s poor management and due to not claiming any particularly substantial niche in the news industry.

What brought on
Ma’ariv’s severe decline over the past few months? Perhaps it was Israel HaYom’s appearance on the scene?

In fact, it wasn’t due to anything in particular. Ma’ariv already began suffering annual operating losses of NIS 70 million to NIS 100m. five years ago. Well before Israel HaYom became the leading player in the newspaper market, Ma’ariv was already operating without a solid business model, dependent on fund-raising and loans for its survival.

Didn’t Nochi Dankner, chairman of IDB, understand this when he bought it in June of last year?


Dankner wasn’t interested in the paper’s business model. He just wanted to buy power and influence. His implicit influence over Yediot Aharonot – from the advertising budgets of IDB Holding Corp. companies – apparently didn’t satisfy him. He wanted the entire economy, especially the regulators, government and press, to know he owns a newspaper and can thereby influence their fate.

Perhaps he also believed what he read in the media about himself and his managerial talents, thinking he could make something of Ma’ariv where Nimrodi and others had failed.

Ma’ariv’s Ben Caspit fired back at Haaretz in an article on Monday titled, “The prosecutor, judge and hangman.”

“So long as Haaretz continues its attempt to destroy media in Israel to save itself, it is losing its own right of existence,” Caspit wrote in the underline.

Here are excerpts from his piece.

At
Haaretz, they say that Ma’ariv mustn’t be saved. They have been saying this for some time. They say it in the air, at sea and on land, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Today I went over some of the articles in
Haaretz about Ma’ariv, and the penny suddenly dropped. If Haaretz were to give Ma’ariv the amount of paper it is using to bring down Ma’ariv, we would have been rescued some time ago. But our friends in Haaretz have no desire to save Ma’ariv. Their goal is quite the opposite.

They want to kill
Ma’ariv and they are investing all their energies to make this happen.

It is an orchestrated, evil, bullyish and charlatanic campaign by one newspaper in Israel to cause the closure of another newspaper.

There are those who maintain that
Haaretz is not even an Israeli newspaper, but I am not one of them. I want Haaretz to continue to exist. Even though the newspaper sometimes causes Israel heavy damage (Haaretz has an Internet site in English that contains essential reading for any anti-Israel delegitimization campaign). Even though you ask yourself many times whether Haaretz has lost its faith in the Zionist dream and the idea of a Jewish state.

Still,
Haaretz is an important newspaper with gifted and talented journalists, and it would be a disaster for democracy, for freedom of expression and for the media and our society if it closed. I don’t want Israel without Haaretz. I ask myself why Haaretz wants Israel without Ma’ariv?

Amid the crisis facing the Israeli media today, Caspit cites a column last week by Haaretz’s Ari Shavit, arguing that what is needed now is for the local media to band together in the struggle to stay alive.

Israel has become well-known for its varied, thriving and boisterous media. For the sake of their future and the country’s, they might consider calling a truce in their internal war, and concentrate instead on addressing the really pressing problems confronting us.

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