Agenda setting is not achieved by a single article, not even by five articles on
a given topic. An agenda is set only dozens of repetitions. Our media know this
very well. Any advertiser knows that it is wasteful to pay for a one-time ad.
The ad has to be repeated multiple times, not only to assure that the vast
majority of the public knows about it, but also so it remains in the public
memory at least for a few days.
Agenda setting is a function of
journalism that not only highlights issues that are important while relegating
the less-important to an occasional mention, it can also downplay important
issues, driving the subject or the persons involved into near-oblivion. The
power of a news editor can be critical.
There are too many people in
Israel whose identity is known to but a few, who have not only excelled in their
profession and brought honor and dignity to the State of Israel, yet remain
obscure. That obscurity is a matter of media concern.
in music is known worldwide.
The former Israeli-turned-Israel basher
pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim is a household name. How many of us,
though, are familiar with 28-year-old pianist Boris Giltburg? He is a
Russian-born immigrant to Israel who most recently placed first in the Queen
Elisabeth Music Competition for piano, held in Brussels every three years and
named after Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.
Giltburg is the first-ever
Israeli to win this prestigious international competition, described by
Wikipedia as being “considered over the world to be one of the most prestigious
and most difficult.” In all the years of the competition, which started
regularly in 1952, only one Israeli pianist, Shai Wosner, achieved respectable
4th place, in 1999. Ynet
reported Giltburg’s success, but that’s
about it. This achievement of Giltburg’s, by the way, not a one-time affair. Two
years ago, Giltburg came in second in the prestigious Arthur Rubinstein
Hi-tech is something Israel is not only proud of, for
arguably it is one of the lifelines that keep our state functioning, and is
doing that task well. Hi-tech without excellence in physics is virtually
impossible and indeed, Israel has its share of excellent physicists.
of these is Dr. Zohar Komargodski, a young scientist at the Weizmann Institute.
The New Horizons in Physics Prize, awarded by the Fundamental Physics Prize
Foundation, is given to three promising young researchers.
Each of the
laureates receives $100,000. This year, one of the three was Dr.
The Russell Varian prize is named in the memory of the
pioneer behind the first commercial Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometers and
co-founder of Varian Associates.
NMR machines have evolved into magnetic
resonance imaging machines, which most know is a life-saving technology which
has aided many patients.
It so happens that some Israelis excel in the
field of MRI. One of them, Professor Lucio Frydman, also from the Weizmann
Institute, a member of one of our departments (EP), was awarded the 2013 Russell
Varian Prize. The prize is arguably the most prestigious one in this field; its
former recipients include Nobel Prize laureates and scientists who have made the
MRI dream come true.
Jiu-jitsu, a well-known martial art taught, for
example, to police officers, is not an Olympic sport, yet international
competitions take place, both on national, international and global levels. Dudi
Ben – Zaken, an Israeli, recently won the gold medal in the Jiu-jitsu European
championship which took place in early June in Germany.
These are but a
few examples, from various fields, which exemplify Israel’s
Besides ignoring such items, our media for some reason this
past week or so decided, in an agenda-setting act, that it was important to
revive the politically-motivated social demonstrations of two years
It has attempted to do this several times recently. Last Saturday
night, our TV stations had numerous live reports from Tel Aviv, with some
reporters virtually pleading with people to come out to increase the numbers.
This amounted to nothing of any importance and so we witness how prejudice can
dominate out screens, all for a pitifully small number of persons. This is a
case when some of our media, in an undemocratic campaign, decide for themselves
what is important for us to know. But reporting Israeli excellence is viewed
OUR MEDIA’S failings go much beyond the simple exclusion of
anything good about Israel. Headlines are made when Israel does not fare well in
international tests. The education minister and other politicians and
bureaucrats are put on the firing line, blamed for the results. But the media,
which could contribute so much more to making our state even stronger in its
innovativeness, are delinquent.
Consider Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or
MRI. How many of our readers know what really happens in such a machine? Are
they aware that there is an even more brilliant future in store for it?
Professor Frydman received his prize for his contributions to this important
task. Providing deep coverage of an event related to MRI might just raise
interest in the field and who knows, some of our brilliant youngsters might
prefer to enter it, instead of perhaps journalism.
In fact, science
programming is virtually nonexistent in our media. Even the Israel Broadcasting
Authority does not have a weekly science program (it did, however), neither on
TV nor radio. Have our media geniuses ever surveyed the public to find out
whether perhaps it just might be interested in receiving more science-related
programming, instead of the low-level reality shows which are fed to us? In
fact, during 2010 and 2011 the Calcalist website had a series of science
articles, some of which received extensive popular responses.
is their article entitled “What do mushrooms think about?” which had two million
views, and close to 10,000 “likes.”
The PEW Forum, an American research
center on issues of public life, published last week survey results which
indicate that public appreciation for journalists in the US has dropped the
most. Moreover, the decline is more pronounced among women than men and also
cuts across partisan leanings, age and education level. The problem, then, is
not only a local one.
We would suggest that an area in which Israel could
prove its excellence, in addition to the spheres ignored by our media, is in
journalism itself. That would be something to look forward to.
authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch