Friday, April 04, 2008

Bias in the Jewish Media

The accusation is often made with respect to Jewish media like Ha’aretz, the Jeruslam Post, or the Jewish Week that they are biased against Orthodoxy, especially Charedim.

There is a discussion like that going on right now on an e-mail list that I belong to. The current bone of contention is that the most recent Jewish Week article on sexual abuse, which I commented upon yesterday. It was cited as an example of that bias.

The whole issue about whether there is bias in the Jewish media is bogus, in my view. Of course there is bias. People are human. Bias is part of human nature. But is there an institutional policy of bias? Is it malicious or purposeful? Is there an an anti religious agenda? I doubt it. At least not on any regular basis. Of course there is an occasional piece that is blatantly biased, but it is the exception rather than the rule in my view. Most articles are seen as biased by the Frum because of their constant focus on Frum malfeasance.

It's all about selling newspapers - and 'man bites dog'. Of course Orthodox misdeeds are going to get the most coverage. That's because Orthodoxy sets itself up as the most fully representative of God's will. We're the ones who claim that our behavior is the most exemplary of God’s will. We are the arbiters of morality and right. We roar about the immorality so rampant in western culture and we disengage from much of it for that reason. If you are Charedi or Chasidic, the disengagement from western culture is almost total. We constantly thump our breasts about it... lamenting the loose morals of society while contrasting ourselves as the opposite of that by the way we dress, act, and speak -characterizing the best brightest among us as paragons of virtue.

So when one of our own falters... of course that's news, especially if he is in a leadership postion. The more religious one appears to be, the more newsworthy it is. If some morally loose male movie star has an affair with a married woman, that's not news. It's hardly a blip on the radar screen. But if a Rosh Yeshiva has an affair with a married woman... that's news!

Those who accuse the Jewish Week or any other periodical of focusing only on the misdeeds of the Orthodox world should realize that. It isn't about bias. It's about reporting the unusual.