New group looks to inject new energy – and funds – into Israeli journalism

New group looks to inject new energy – and funds – into Israeli journalism

Center for Media and Democracy wants Israeli media to pursue deeply reported investigative journalism, and to push back against ‘fake news’

Illustrative photo of Israeli newspapers. November 15, 2015  (Photo by AFP Photo / Ahmad Gharabli)
Illustrative photo of Israeli newspapers. November 15, 2015 (Photo by AFP Photo / Ahmad Gharabli)

A well-heeled new Israeli nonprofit seeks to strengthen Israeli democracy by empowering journalists and media outlets to conduct wide-ranging investigative reporting of the sort few can now afford.

The new group has a double name, Shomrim, or “guardians” in Hebrew, and The Center for Media and Democracy.

It is led by CEO Alona Vinograd, the former head of the Movement for Freedom of Information, an Israeli transparency watchdog and advocacy group, and editor-in-chief Eyal Abrahami, former editor of G Magazine, published by the Globes business journal.

In an era when advertising revenue is shrinking and media outlets increasingly must cater to the demands of owners and business managers, the new organization plans to fund in-depth reportage on pressing issues that may be too costly, either financially or politically, for the mainstream media to handle.

“We will initiate the kind of projects most news organizations struggle to keep up in the day-to-day news grind, and will welcome collaboration with all media organizations,” Abrahami said in a Sunday statement announcing the launch.

Its Hebrew-language website explains that it “doesn’t intend to compete with existing media outlets, but to cooperate with them in order to improve their investigative capabilities and the journalistic tools they have at their disposal.”

It also “commits to publishing fact-based, reliable and disinterested investigations and projects to allow each of us to be a self-aware citizen in a transparent and egalitarian democratic society.”

The group brings together journalists, social scientists and activists from Israeli media and civil society, as well as the United States.

It lists as its founders “California-based philanthropists Laura and Gary Lauder; Bloomberg Senior Editor Ethan Bronner; venture capitalist and social activist Oded Hermoni; Prof. Moshe Zviran, Dean of the Coller School of Management at Tel Aviv University; Tamar Prizan-Litani, former deputy editor in chief at Haaretz; photojournalist Vardi Kahana; and Yoel Esteron, founder and publisher of Calcalist.”

Esteron will take a lead role as head of its executive committee, with Hermoni and Laura Lauder as fellow members.

The group’s goal is ambitious. It says it is “following with concern the growth of ‘fake news’ and the attacks on journalists and media outlets, and will work to stop the ongoing harm to them and to Israeli democracy” — via “the publication of deep investigations, comprehensive surveys and documentary projects” that offer “reliable and high-quality information on what is happening in Israeli society and in the institutions of power, and exposes corruption and pushes to correct injustices.”

It also brings together top Israeli journalists on its advisory committee, especially those known for their experience in long-form investigative work. They include Ilana Dayan, Raviv Drucker, Amos Harel, Guy Zohar, Ghada Zoabi and David Horovitz (the founding editor of The Times of Israel).

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