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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jodi Rudoren tones down her Twitter account

After being taken to task by Jeffrey Goldberg and Shmuel Rosner - and presumably by her bosses at the Times - newly named New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren has toned down her Twitter account. There were a total of five tweets yesterday, four of which had no obvious connection to the Middle East. The other one thanked people for their advice and reading suggestions.

Rudoren also went for an interview with Politico's Dylan Byers.
What is your response to the suggestion that you’re showing anti-Zionist bias?

It’s wildly premature to assess my biases. I have written nothing, other than a few tweets. It is certainly possible, as some have suggested, that I was not careful enough in what I wrote in some tweets, and what exactly I tweeted. But I hardly think that the half-a-dozen or dozen tweets that I’ve sent out in the last 24 hours add up to anything. This is a fleeting medium, in which you react to what you see. So some of the retweets that I’ve done happened to be what I was reading at that moment. It was not a comprehensive review.

Let’s take the two things that people have criticized most in succession:

The first was what I wrote to Ali Abuminah [the editor of Electronic Intifada]. I meant to write him a Direct Message and I instead hit reply. That isn’t an excuse -- I don’t mind that people saw it -- but it wasn’t intended to be for the public, it was intended to be for him.

But yes, of course I will talk to him. And I will talk to extremists on both sides. And I will talk to moderates. I will talk to lots and lots of people from all sides of this conflict... I will not apologize for reaching out to Ali Abuminah; he seems to be an important person to me. Anyone who thinks that I shouldn’t talk to him doesn’t understand how we do our jobs.

But anyone who thinks I shouldn’t talk to him -- I want to talk to them, too. Adam Kredo [a reporter at Washington Free Beacon] said I didn’t respond to him, but I never heard from Adam. So I emailed him back, but I haven’t heard from him. But I would be eager to talk to him about anything.

In terms of Peter Beinart’s book, I will absolutely not apologize for thinking that this is a good book. Peter is someone I’ve known for 20 years, he’s a journalist, he’s written a really interesting book. I don’t agree with everything in the book, I don’t even have an opinion about the arguments in the book, but it’s really well written, it’s really provocative, there’s tons of reporting in it with things people don’t know. I think people should read it. I think hard-right Zionists should read it and Palestinian activists should read it. And young American Jews, who are really the audience for the book, should read it.
Read the whole thing.

So far Rudoren appears to be following Rosner's prescription:
Yesterday, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote and tweeted about Rudoren’s mistake. She has to stop acting as if she were a J Street official, he wrote, but later tweeted that she “can un-tag herself as a J Street-proxy pretty quickly by doing a good job reporting”.

No, she can’t.

She can write from Jerusalem of course, as I expect she might still do. She can write fine stories from Jerusalem, she can have sources and can gain more knowledge and can even break some news. What she will not be able to do is to pretend to be unbiased. What she will not be able to do is to have good sources at the very top – at the offices of government in which people are already quite suspicious of the Times and will now be even more suspicious. Wouldn’t you be? With these people she’s probably toast, and without them she can’t be as good as a NYT Jerusalem reporter could be.

So here’s what’s going to happen: Rudoren will be told by her superiors to lay low and restart her period of Israel education. The decision to send her to Israel will not be reversed – a matter of journalistic independence and pride. The watchdogs of such matters will be alerted, they will constantly heckle her, every word interpreted, every nuance parsed. Letters to the editor will be sent. Complaints will be filed. No one will ever give her any benefit of the doubt. If her stories are critical of Israel, it will be a sign that she really is biased. If her stories are more positive, people will start whispering that she’s pandering to win back the confidence of official Israel.

All this is probably unfair to Rudoren. She doesn’t seem like the archenemy of all things Israel, she doesn’t seem like someone deserving of all the animosity and the acrimony and resentment. She made one foolish mistake, and can’t take it back since people already know what she really thinks, how she really feels. And she will not be easily forgiven for being honest about it.

If she were to ask my advice (which I do not expect to happen even if she ever reads this post) I wouldn’t know what to tell her. Not to go? To go and do her best under these miserable circumstances? Once in a while a writer would like to be proven wrong – and this is one such case for me. I wish I could write again about Rudoren a year from now, and I hope I’d be able to apologize and take back my prediction about her.
I think a lot of us feel that way. I know that I do.

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At 4:06 PM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

Someone who's first words are "I am not a criminal" is probably a criminal.


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