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Thursday, December 20, 2012

NY Times' Rudoren runs with the wrong crowd?

After the New York Times was forced to correct a story by Jodi Rudoren in which she repeated the Leftist mantra that construction in E-1 would cut off Ramallah from Bethlehem and make a 'two-state solution' 'impossible,' former National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams worries that Rudoren doesn't get out and about with a broad enough range of people.
By any standard that’s a remarkable correction. Let me rephrase it without the Times‘s defensive use of “imprecisely.”  A more honest correction would have said this: “The Times reported, not as opinion but as fact in a news story, that the new construction being planned by Israel would cut Ramallah and Bethlehem off from Jerusalem, divide the West Bank in two, and make a contiguous Palestinian state impossible. None of those assertions was true, so we have to withdraw all of them.”
Now how is it that three such glaring errors are made in one Times story? After all, a simple glance at the map would show for example that from Ma’ale Adumim to the Dead Sea is 15 kilometers, and that the proposed construction would not cut the West Bank in two or make contiguity impossible. It is just plain extraordinary that the Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times knows so little about the geography of the Jerusalem area that she could write such things. Here’s my theory: that just about everyone she knows –all her friends– believe these things, indeed know that they are true. Settlements are bad, the right-wing Israeli government is bad, new construction makes peace impossible and cuts the West Bank in half and destroys contiguity and means a Palestinian state is impossible. They just know it, it’s obvious, so why would you have to refer to a map, or talk to people who would tell you it’s all wrong? This was precisely what was feared when Ms. Rudoren was named the Times’s bureau chief: that she would move solely in a certain political and social milieu, the rough Israeli equivalent of the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
 Rudoren responds:
It's not correct that most of the people I associate with have a left wing perspective, or any particular perspective. In fact I have been widely praised for speaking to a broad variety of people for my stories.
The essence of what our E1 story said was correct: that building there is seen by palestinians, peace advocates and diplomats worldwide as the death knell of the two state solution, because it prevents meaningful contiguity in the West Bank and easy access to the heart of East Jerusalem. (The Israelis also understand this; it's precisely why this area was chosen at this time.)
On deadline, late at night and at the end of a very long couple of weeks, I used imprecise language and, yes, did not study the map carefully enough. I deeply regret that, but it does not betray any agenda or anything about who I know or consult in my reporting. 
So I did a little experiment.... I went through Rudoren's Twitter follows (she has over 800). It overwhelmingly leans Left (which may be inevitable when you work for the New York Times and follow many of its employees), but I managed to find 10 people whom I know (either personally or through email) among her followers that I would consider Center or Center-Right.  I sent them an email with the following questions:
Just curious:

Jodi Rudoren follows you (and me) on Twitter. Has she been in touch with you since she's been in Israel (other than following you on Twitter) in connection with a story or otherwise?

Emails? Phone calls? Meetings?

Thanks for any responses
Within an hour, seven of them had answered. Of those seven, five are in Israel and two are in the US. Of the two in the US, one, a leader in a major US Jewish organization, says that she has 'met, facebooked, tweeted, emailed' with him. The other, a major US right wing blogger, says no contact.

Of the five Israelis, one has met with her once and spoken to her on the phone a couple of times. Another, a reporter for an Israeli newspaper, has asked Rudoren questions, but says that Rudoren has never initiated contact. The other three say they have had no contact with her. One of those three, a longtime activist in the 'settlement movement,' expressed particular frustration, because he has reached out to her a number of times and has gotten no response.

To that you can add me. I would venture to guess that I have one of the better-read right wing blogs in Israel that is not affiliated with any newspaper or major blogging group. I've had some email contact with her, but nothing substantive (her parents were friends of my parents of blessed memory, so I do have a personal connection).

Maybe she reads all our blogs silently?

I have no idea how much contact Rudoren has with people on the Left. But when she writes, "It's not correct that most of the people I associate with have a left wing perspective, or any particular perspective," let's just say I have my doubts. If Rudoren wanted to meet on background with a representative group of Right wing Israeli bloggers, it would not take much effort to put such a meeting together. There's been no request that I know of (and I would likely know) for anything like that.

UPDATE 6:27 PM

Move one of the bloggers who has had no contact with Rudoren from Israel to the US.

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