History's second draft

Agron's baby, with its initial 1932 print-run of 1,200 copies, has not only maintained a devoted readership here in Israel, but is also now read minute-by-minute on the Internet by millions the world over.

By DAVID HOROVITZ
January 1, 2008 11:08
3 minute read.

 
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On December 2, the day after The Jerusalem Post marked the 75th anniversary of its first issue, I received a handwritten note from Esther Rubin, wife of the late, great Israeli artist Reuven Rubin. "Allow me to congratulate you on The Jerusalem Post's 75th birthday," she wrote. "The day cannot be started without my reading the Post." Rubin went on to recall that Gershon Agron, our founding editor, was a close friend of her husband, and that "when Gershon came to Tel Aviv he always stayed with us in our home in Bialik Street. Here they would discuss the birth of an English daily, worrying how many English readers they could count on in this country." Well, it's good they didn't worry so much as to abandon the project. For Agron's baby, with its initial 1932 print-run of 1,200 copies, has not only maintained a devoted readership here in Israel, but is also now read minute-by-minute on the Internet by millions upon millions of people the world over. The climate in which we seek to provide enlightenment for those readers here and worldwide, of course, has changed inordinately in the intervening years. The world of print journalism is unrecognizable. At the same time, the very process of instant globalized communication enabled by the Internet, and the ease with which narratives both fair and distorted can be widely promulgated, have reemphasized the importance of high-quality, dependable and fair-minded journalism - Jerusalem Post journalism - to convey the Israeli reality to that global audience. The Jerusalem Post's phenomenal reach presents immense challenges, and immense responsibilities. Every sentence we write resonates more widely than would have been conceivable a few short years ago. Content and accuracy matter as much as they ever have, but in the age of the Web, up-to-the-second immediacy matters too. And our readers can interact with us, in real time, responding to our content, challenging it. The daily newspaper is no longer the first draft of history. Our Web site is now our first draft of the unfolding Israeli drama, going out with dizzying rapidity to a vast, involved, responsive audience. Which makes the daily paper our second draft. Its content is polished further, and its choices of stories and headlines - and their prominence - constitute a permanent record, in contrast to the Web's constant flux, of our reporters' and editors' sense of priority. These are choices that must meet the immediate need to inform, entertain and galvanize our readers each morning, but must also - when viewed weeks and months and years later, and notably at historic milestones such as this - stand the test of time. Under Israeli ownership that purchased the newspaper three years ago from its previous Canadian owners, The Jerusalem Post has managed both to expand exponentially on the Web and to substantially increase its local print circulation, bucking the worldwide trend. Plainly, there's life in the print newspaper yet, not least (but not only) because many of our Israeli readers are Orthodox and won't use a computer on Shabbat. Chronicling this country's relentless battle not merely to survive but to thrive is itself endlessly complex and compelling. We do so with no fealty to this party or that politician, striving for accuracy in our news coverage, offering a wide range of opinion pieces and taking editorial positions on key issues that we believe best serve the well-being of Israel and the Jewish people. As Agron put it so eloquently 75 years ago: We "will not seek to promote personal ambitions or party advantage... The studied purpose will be the present and future welfare of the country and of its people." Uniquely, our staff is largely comprised of journalists who have come from overseas to build their lives in the revived Jewish state. Our stake in its fate could not be more personal. At the same time, our commitment to tell its story with wisdom and nuance and fair-mindedness could not be more complete. And our common hope, as we mark 75 years of The Jerusalem Post and 60 years of the State of Israel, is that the coming chapters in this gripping, vital reality we chronicle will be less bloody, less arduous and will afford us more truly uplifting news. Esther Rubin concluded her gracious note by asserting that Agron "would have been happy to witness how important and beautiful his greatest dream would be realized today." I hope so. We certainly strive to produce the finest newspaper we can. And we thank you, our readers, for sharing the journey with us. David Horovitz Editor-in-Chief

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