Comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable

Editor's Notes: If you're either afflicted or comforted by the views of Derfner or Caroline Glick, then we're doing a good journalistic job.

The Palestine Post 311 (photo credit: The Palestine Post)
The Palestine Post 311
(photo credit: The Palestine Post)
"The mission of a modern newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
My father, Hilyer Samuel Linde – who lives in Netanya – once wrote this quotation down for me, and I carry it around in my wallet.
Its apparent origin is the “Mr. Dooley” bartender character created by a Chicago writer, Finley Peter Dunne, more than a century ago.
The owner of an Irish pub on the South Side of Chicago, Mr. Dooley would eloquently and humorously opine on the burning issues of the day in his thick Irish accent.
“Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward,” he declared in 1902.
The saying was popularized by Sir Wilmott Lewis, the Washington correspondent of The Times of London, who in 1936 credited Dunne when he told an Associated Press luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria in New York: “We have been told that the duty of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.”
(Incidentally, The Jerusalem Post is planning a top-notch conference with some big names in the Big Apple early next year. Watch this space for more details!) In response to those readers who have asked what my philosophy of journalism is, Dunne’s aphorism sums it up beautifully. For me, it is the journalistic equivalent of Hillel’s famous golden rule: "What is hateful to you, do not do unto others."
I think our best reporters and columnists do comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. A perfect example was the recent cottage- cheese uprising in Israel, which understandably attracted massive public support and sympathetic coverage by the press.
On the other side of the coin, the anti-boycott law passed by the Knesset this week has not won Israel any friends and violates the very foundation of a free society and a free press – the freedom of expression.
AND NOW on to more mundane matters. Following my first column last Friday asking readers to send in their suggestions about how to make the paper better, our computers were bombarded with hundreds of e-mails, most of which I answered.
I thought it only fair, however, that I share some of the comments with our readers, uncensored but with my responses.
Maureen and Stanley Benjamin of Netanya were among the many who expressed dissatisfaction with our policy of “jumping” articles from Page 1 to an inside page or a different section, requesting that “if you must split the JP into 2 sections, at least put the continuation portion in the same section. I have checked this out with some of my Anglo friends and they all agree.”
My response: The business of jumping articles to another section is a common complaint by readers, but at this stage, we have no plans to change this policy.
I don’t want to turn the paper into a tabloid – that is, to follow Yediot Aharonot and Ma’ariv – by splashing huge headlines and photographs on the front page, and referring the reader to the inside pages for the full story.
Continuing stories from the front page to an inside page is a common practice employed by reputable newspapers around the world, and it allows us to start half a dozen or so articles on Page 1, while at the same time enticing the reader to continue reading the rest of the paper.
Regarding jumps to the second section of the paper, which rarely happens (except on Fridays, where we lack space in the first half due to high ads), we will do our utmost to limit this practice.
Cyril Atkins of Beit Shemesh wrote: “May I wish Steve Linde and David Brinn great success in their new positions as editors of The Jerusalem Post. They have a hard act to follow. Of course, by the same token, I also wish David Horovitz great success in whatever he decides to do in the future.
Under his stewardship, the Post has become a greater paper than it ever was in the past and I have no doubt that his leadership will be missed.
“I have been reading the Post for over 30 years since I first came on aliya and for much of that time I have been a subscriber. I therefore have a request to make.
As I can no longer bear to read the inciteful [sic] rantings of Larry Derfner or the bumbling pontifications of Gershon Baskin, can I have a reduction in my subscription?” My response: No, but nice try! As I said in my first column, we seek to present a broad and balanced spectrum of views. If you are either afflicted or comforted by the views of Derfner and Baskin, or the columns of Caroline Glick, Sarah Honig and Liat Collins, then we are doing a good journalistic job.
Perchiyah Ganz did not mince words: “I suppose that it’s not easy to take over such a senior position at Israel’s English newspaper, but your column is not a personal venue for you to gush about all the important and wonderful people who have wished you luck.
“The editor is expected to shed light and enlighten readers about the matzav [situation], whatever you decide that is for the week. Perhaps going through some of Mr. Horovitz’s old columns will help guide you in what you should be writing about. Hoping for better.”
My response: If what you say is true, and my first column was that bad, it can only get better. And not to worry, I will be addressing more substantive issues of the day in future columns.
Hilary Gatoff from Herzliya Pituah wrote: “I read your initial ‘Editor’s Notes’ with interest, especially the reference to Gershon Agron, because I have a copy of ‘The Palestine Post’ of Thursday, December 1, 1932...
“I also met Agron’s daughter, who was a neighbor of mine, and our sons were in the same class at school. In addition, I am always interested to see the readers’ letters from different countries.... Please keep our interest up, and we will continue to buy the paper.”
My response: Your 1932 copy of our front page is probably worth a small fortune! Next December, it will be 80 years old. And yes, every day we endeavor to make the paper as interesting as possible, so please do continue to buy it.
May it bring you more comfort than affliction!