Taking a stand

Within 'The Jerusalem Post's' pages, we’re managing to present a balanced perspective on just about every debatable issue.

By ISRAEL KASNETT
September 2, 2011 16:58
4 minute read.
rick sanchez 311

rick sanchez 311. (photo credit: Creative Commons)

 
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As many readers know by now, The Jerusalem Post has let go one of its main columnists, Larry Derfner, for comments he made on his blog israelleft.com in the wake of the murder of eight Israelis near Eilat on August 18. Much has been said about it, but allow me to take this opportunity to voice what I think needs to be said.

In publishing a weekly magazine, I have been tasked with the necessity of working with writers on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between.

While Larry was mostly known for his “Rattling the Cage” column in the Post and his personal blog, he was often also the author, twice a month, of the cover story in this magazine. In his column, Larry left no room for doubt as to where he stood on the political spectrum, and numerous talkbacks and letters proved further that his readership was vast and either enamored of or incensed by his views. His magazine articles, however, have remained under the radar for the very simple reason that they were de-editorialized, and I thank Larry for his efforts to ensure that it stayed that way.

I imagine it was no easy task to write a neutral article, without infusing it with his own opinions about the subject matter and what he thought needed to be accomplished to fix whatever problem the article addressed. I appreciate that Larry honored the editorial decision to keep the magazine features un-opinionated.

Larry “the leftist” appears to have made many an enemy among the Post readership, but I will take a stand here and say that Larry the person is easy to work with and is always open to ideas and suggestions. Although I have only been at the helm of the Magazine a few short months, I have grown to appreciate him as a writer who has boundless energy and an insatiable desire to get to the bottom of stories, gather the facts, interview the right people and get it all into written format.

Anybody who is familiar with my writings will know that Larry and I stand at rather opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I have not allowed that to get in the way of our professional writer-editor relationship – something that, for me, remains valuable.

LARRY’S BLOG entry incensed many and while he did apologize and remove his post, it was already too late. His remarks were too damaging to the Post’s image.

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It is important to note that other news agencies have fired reporters for far less inflammatory remarks than Larry made in his blog. In October 2010, CNN host Rick Sanchez was fired after making controversial remarks the previous day on a satellite radio show.

Sanchez apparently referred to Daily Show host Jon Stewart as a “bigot,” and complained that Jews – like Stewart – didn’t face discrimination. He also suggested that CNN, and perhaps the media industry more broadly, was run by Jews and elitists who looked down on Hispanics like himself.

In July of that year, Atlanta-based CNN journalist Octavia Nasr, a 20-year veteran of the network and senior editor for Middle East affairs, was fired for a Twitter comment in which she expressed sadness at the death of Iraqiborn Lebanese grand ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah. In the post, the journalist stated that she was “sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah... One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

Every publisher must have clear policies regarding the journalistic freedom its staff writers can exercise, and the Post is no exception.

The Post is a Zionist newspaper. As such, it must disassociate itself completely from comments expressed by Larry on his personal blog last week, in which he appeared to have justified Palestinian terrorism against Israelis.

The egregious remarks were exceptionally offensive to all Israelis. While it is important to stress that the Post did not publish the piece, the paper objects in the strongest possible terms to it.

That said, in the wake of Larry’s blog post, I have received numerous letters from readers, and while a good bulk were complaints, many voiced support of and agreement with Larry. My point is that the Post has a vast readership – in the millions – and if we consistently receive letters from readers on both ends of the spectrum, it can mean only one thing: This paper is doing a good job of presenting a platform for varied opinions. Readers on the Left often complain we are too Right, and those on the Right complain we are too Left.

Clearly, within our pages, we’re managing to present a balanced perspective on just about every debatable issue.

It is our responsibility to ensure that our readers have access to a wide range of opinions – within reason – and we will continue to uphold the highest journalistic standards as possible.

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