Friday, October 5, 2012

No Tears for Maariv or Haaretz

The New York Times finally woke up to the imminent demise of two of Israel's leaning newspapers, Ma'ariv - whose staffers have been angling for the government to step in and save the paper (I really doubt that will happen) and Ha'aretz, which didn't print a newspaper this week after workers struck for a day over something or other. (Did anyone notice?) I've also noticed that Ha'aretz recently erected a pay wall on its English language website, which is a great thing, in that it will both hasten its demise (the New York Times it is not), and also prevent more readers from reading its radical, left-wing screed. (Thanks!)
A couple of lines in the paper caught my attention:
“Israel without Haaretz would be like Israel without the Supreme Court,” said Uzi Benziman, a former Haaretz columnist and now editor of The Seventh Eye, an online journal dealing with Israeli media issues. 
A truer line has never been uttered, but must be properly explained: "Israel without a [radical left-wing propaganda machine like] Ha'aretz would be like Israel without a [similarly radically left-wing] Supreme Court [which makes up the rules as it goes along, trying to forge Israel in the image of the radically left-wing judges and journalists that make up the left wing elite].
Secondly, it's important to note that Ma'ariv, if it's sold at all, will be bought by,
Shlomo Ben-Zvi, an Israeli who publishes a right-leaning newspaper called Makor Rishon.
While true, that's only half of the story. Makor Rishon is the successor to the now defunct Hatzofeh, the former newspaper of the Mafdal, the former Religious Zionist party in Israel (which is now called Habayit Hayehudi - or at least half of it is, but that's an entirely different post). The reason Makor Rishon is thriving isn't just because it's right-wing; Rather, it's thriving because it's a religious paper catering to the religious market. Why is this important? Religious people don't go online on Shabbat, so the paper enjoys a rather robust subscriber base. In fact, the paper's website is notoriously weak, offering only old issues, and no current content.  And, while it publishes daily, the daily edition is only about 16 pages, more a pamphlet than a paper. The only "proper" newspaper comes out on Fridays, with inserts, glossy magazines, and some very thoughtful Torah as well.
Rather than embrace the digital generation, Mekor Rishon actually is eschewing it, not only surviving but thriving with the only possible base - people who won't use electricity. In fact Mekor Rishon recently expanded (last year) publishing a magazine called Motzash (מוצ"ש  - which is short for "Motzei Shabbat) that's specifically geared towards twenty-to-thirty-somethings, and is quite popular.
So to Ma'ariv and (hopefully) Ha'aretz, I bid you tzeitchem l'shalom - farewell and good luck. I doubt they would have survived had they been less left-wing, but who knows? Perhaps your left-wing paper would have survived had you catered more to the only people still reading real newspapers: the religious communities you derided.
Then again, I doubt that too.