Results are in: Journalists in Jewish media tell it like it is

A new survey of journalists working in the Jewish media was released this week, and guess what? The reporters and editors who bring you your Jewish news know and care more about Israel than most American Jews, and have visited the Jewish state more often and for longer periods of time.

They are more religiously committed, attending synagogue more often; they go to more Jewish lectures and events; and the overwhelming majority (90 percent) say that being Jewish is very important to them, compared to just one-third of the general Jewish population.

We would be concerned if it were any other way. That’s why we went into the field, and that’s why we keep at it.

“Reporting Jewish: Do Journalists Have the Tools to Succeed?” ( was released June 25 by the iEngage Project of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. The

67-page report analyzes the responses of 113 Jewish media professionals in North America and Israel to questions about their Jewish background, beliefs and practices.

Overall, survey analysts found that Jewish media journalists “are a highly educated and experienced group with deep personal connections to Judaism and Israel.” But they also face a challenge other reporters do not: the need to balance reporting on Israel and the Jewish community with advocacy for those same causes, the twin and sometimes conflicting mandates with which we are charged.

How do we report on miscreants within our community? To what extent do we criticize Israel? Do we operate according to standard journalistic ethics of fairness and balance, or are our red lines different, as when we deal with vicious attacks on Israel or our fellow Jews?

Most survey respondents said that journalists should always adhere to codes of professional ethics, regardless of the situation. But only slightly more than half said that Jewish journalists should follow a code that takes Jewish values into account.

One relevant Jewish value is the prohibition on lashon hara, or gossip. It is always forbidden to repeat, or print, something negative about a person if it is not true. But even when it is true, the sages say it may only be repeated if the knowledge is already public, and if some benefit will be derived by doing so. Will it prevent other wrongdoings? Will it bring solace to victims?

The Jewish press cannot be guided solely by Jewish values. Sometimes we publish an item simply because it is news, as part of our duty to inform.

But we would do well to weigh our decisions carefully, always, in light of both of our ethical codes.