In defense of the daily dinosaur
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Hebrew media review

In defense of the daily dinosaur

On a day when the limits of print journalism are on full display, there is still a case to be made for doing things the old way; and yes, we get the irony

An illustration of an illustration of a dinosaur surfing the world wide web. ( Dino computer
An illustration of an illustration of a dinosaur surfing the world wide web. ( Dino computer

Tuesday night wasn’t the first time editors put their newspapers to bed with headlines heralding all-night talks that ended up being resolved by the morning — thereby making their most prominent story nothing but fishwrap by the time it hit newsstands Wednesday morning — and it won’t be the last.

But even as a massive public service strike was averted in the middle of the night, laying bare the challenges of managing a print dinosaur in a digital age, the brontosauri, velociraptors and epidexipteryx of the media still prove their worth by offering an alternative to the hot takes, half-baked news items and plain wrong reports that make up so much of what ends up on the Internet of newsy things.

Thus, for example, while Internet readers were forced to piece together the various goings-on related to the crackdown on right-wing extremists in the wake of the Duma murders, including a price tag attack, protests against the Shin Bet security service and official condemnation of those condemning the Shin Bet’s holy work, newspaper readers get the whole story packaged with a neat little bow.

In a rare confluence, both righty tabloid Israel Hayom and lefty broadsheet Haaretz run identical headlines for the story, both leading with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that the attacks on the Shin Bet are unacceptable to him.

The similarities don’t end there. Both Israel Hayom’s Haim Shine and Haaretz’s Amos Harel pen commentaries extolling how much the public appreciates the Shin Bet’s work, even if a few extremists are trying to play party pooper.

Both Shine and Harel point to allegations of torture as the sparking point behind the protests, though Shine doesn’t buy that the interrogators would do such a thing.

“I have no doubt that the Shin Bet investigators are acting in accordance with the law. The methods the Shin Bet uses in interrogations have been okayed by laws and by courts. It’s hard to believe that after the Bus 300 affair, Shin Bet people would take the law into their own hands,” he writes, pointing to a case some 40 years ago in which Shin Bet agents were caught killing Palestinian terrorists they had in custody.

But it’s that same history of violence that Harel points to as lending credence to the claims, writing that if they are proven true, all the backing the organization is receiving now, even from right-wing politician Naftali Bennett, will wither away.

“[Shin Bet chief Yoram] Cohen, whose term is due to end in May unless it’s extended for a sixth year, is now receiving sweeping support from the politicians he’s subordinate to. But Cohen must also be aware that if things go wrong later, he’s the one who will be held responsible – and that the politicians will have no problem leaving him alone on the ice to face far harsher criticism from the right,” Harel writes.

Yedioth Ahronoth also covers the wall to wall backing given the Shin Bet, but calls Netanyahu’s support “late,” making much of the fact that it came only after Bennett, whose party ostensibly represents the ilk of those protesting right-wingers, also came out in favor of law and order, though the paper fails to note why that is significant.

In the paper’s op-ed section, Chen Sror Artzi gives a face to those Jewish extremists who are being rounded up, comparing them to street urchins who have gone to the dark side while left to their own devices on hilltops but who can still be saved from the brink with some hot soup and a hug.

“The Hilltop Youth don’t have purple hair or bottles of alcohol, but long and thick sidelocks and tents without running water or electricity in the middle of nowhere in the wild west between West Bank settlements. Patrols from [social services organization] Alam, searching for youth at risk, don’t come there. Sociologists with a softer view don’t come out there. They don’t open youth centers for the lost souls and give them hot soup and a chance to think about a different way out there,” she writes. “The suspects in the Duma murder aren’t enemies, but members of our nation, whom we allowed to end up with the blood of a baby on their hands, or as anarchists praying for the downfall of the state. We sinned in that there was no responsible adult to be a positive influence for them. With those who are being investigated by the Shin Bet there’s already nothing to do, they are lost … but there are also dozens more youths at risk of going to the real extreme. We need to catch them and hug them before they fall.”

Haaretz also proves what a print publication without a rolling deadline can do with an in-depth look at the case of Israel’s would-be ambassador to Brazil Dani Dayan, who is being rejected by Brasilia for being a West Bank settler. The story was first broken by The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren, and is now taken forward by correspondent Barak Ravid, who reports on the behind the scenes battle between Israeli and Palestinian officials over the appointment.

The paper reports that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon personally intervened to try and push the appointment through, but was thwarted by a “steady” Palestinian campaign led by Ramallah’s ambassador to Brazil, Ibrahim al-Zaben.

“Al-Zaben is the elder statesman of the Arab world’s diplomatic corps in Brazil. Senior officials in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem say that since Netanyahu announced the appointment, at the beginning of August, al-Zaben showed up almost every week at the foreign ministry in Brasilia. Most of the time he was accompanied by two or three ambassadors from other Arab countries. They emphasized their message against Dayan and ensured that Brazilians would not allow the appointment to go through,” Ravid reports.

Yedioth’s lead story, a curtain raiser for a verdict in a nine-year-old murder case, also doesn’t stand the test of time, with the verdict coming before noon.

But that doesn’t mean the paper doesn’t go all out with its double truck treatment of the labyrinthine journey of the case of Roman Zadorov, convicted twice of the murder of 13-year-old Tair Rada, complete with a timeline of old paper clippings and a guilty or not guilty presentation that sums up the complicated case and ups the drama while doing so.

Perhaps the strangest part of the case is the family’s insistence on the innocence of the man convicted of killing their daughter.

“Roman Zadorov is not the killer of my daughter – until somebody proves otherwise. I believe Zadorov’s casefile is fabricated,” Rada’s mother Ilana is quoted saying ahead of the Supreme Court verdict. “They undermined the best investigators, and destroyed the best experts so they wouldn’t have to hear the truth. On the night the police came out and said Zadorov is the killer, I told the investigators: You’re sewing together the case.”

Zadorov’s conviction was upheld, as you can read online. Or you can wait for the paper tomorrow.

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