Sunday, May 13, 2012

I've Got a New Journalistic Gig

This business of writing for the web and using other new and social media is an intriguing one: one makes new contacts (even friends) and wins new readers in ways that one cannot anticipate.

At the start of the year, I was therefore delighted to be invited to participate in the launching one of the most exciting new journalistic enterprises in the Middle East, The Times of Israel.

Why yet another publication in that region, print or digital?

As founding editor David Horovitz, late of the Jerusalem Post, explains, the ideal was to create a born-digital paper that would be lively but non-partisan in its politics, comprehensive in its coverage of the broader cultural realm, and technologically and graphically absolutely up-to-date and user-friendly (and free of obnoxiously intrusive advertising):
Fair-minded journalism, based in Israel, and read both here in Israel and among those who care for the Jewish nation around the world, has a vital, even noble role to play in enabling informed debate over the challenges and the choices that face the Jewish state. Informing that debate is one of the prime goals of The Times of Israel.

In support of this goal, our reporters, including many of the most respected names in the field, will be writing rich and enthralling original content. Our “breaking news” editors will be keeping readers up to speed on latest developments. We’ll constantly draw our readers’ attention to other compelling material elsewhere on the web. We’ll also be carrying a daily Hebrew media review and a daily Arabic media review – a guided tour around the headlines and most interesting content in the Hebrew and Arabic press. The aim again, quite simply, is to contribute to a well-rounded picture of our fast-changing, unpredictable regional environment.

Our Ops & Blogs section – our “marketplace of ideas” – is already attracting a colorful cast of writers on a remarkable range of themes – from flip to existential. Diversity is the key. Access to a diverse range of argument is critical to the understanding of Israel’s challenges and choices. And given our aim of fostering constructive debate, we will not host anonymous reader comments that can reduce discussion to toxic lows. We absolutely want our readers to debate the content on our site, but they – you — can post comments only via your Facebook identity, in your own name.

The Times of Israel will also showcase a richer, livelier mix of content than the traditional default focus on the politi, medini, bit’honi – politics, diplomacy and security. Obviously, often, those issues must dominate our headlines. But often, indeed always, there are extraordinary stories to be told from other spheres — of the people, the brainpower, the culture and lifestyle of this land. And we’ll tell them – high on the site, too, not relegated deep in inside pages.
(read the full manifesto)
The offer was enticing in all regards.

Since the paper launched this winter, it has more than fulfilled those expectations. I regularly happen across stories that I would not have encountered anywhere else or that were not covered as thoroughly elsewhere, and I find myself bookmarking and sharing them. To me, that is the clearest evidence of success in the necessary filling of a gap.

And the born-digital technological and graphic modernism are no little attraction either. One need simply compare the cluttered look of the Jerusalem Post with the clean new look and interface of the Times of Israel.

I was recruited for the Ops and Blogs section and I've been given a free hand to write about pretty much whatever I choose (hoping I'm "colorful"; still trying to decide whether the posts will be "flip" or "existential"). I will probably focus on cultural and historical issues. I have no particular interest in writing about politics, as such (others can do it better, anyway), except to the extent that it intersects with the preceding.

Because of the various obligations of the proverbial day job, town business, and other distractions, I wasn't able to contribute to the inaugural issue. I have now begun to write for the paper, it feels good to be underway, and I'm excited at the prospects.

More to come. L'hitra'ot, as we say: I'll be seeing you.

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