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iEngage Project Research Report Finds Jewish Media Journalists Struggling to Succeed

The survey found Jewish media journalists to be dedicated yet conflicted

Jewish media journalists are a dedicated group that believe in their mission of informing and comforting the Jewish community, yet according to the findings of a new study by the iEngage Project of the Shalom Hartman Institute their journalistic values and community connections often conflict.
The study, “Reporting Jewish: Do Journalists Have the Tools to Succeed?” was released at the annual American Jewish Press Association conference in Seattle, Wash., in a keynote address (video) on June 25, 2013, by report author, Alan D. Abbey, Director of Media and Internet Services at the Shalom Hartman Institute. The complete report is available for free download online from the iEngage Project website or by contacting the Shalom Hartman Institute.
“Journalists for Jewish media want to do the right thing, yet sometimes what’s right for their journalistic souls can trouble their Jewish souls,” said report author Alan D. Abbey , Director of Media and Internet Services at the Shalom Hartman Institute. “As journalists, they bring values such as objectivity and full disclosure to their work, yet that can put them in conflict with Jewish tradition and their personal desires to be connected to their community.”
The purpose of the study was to identify needs of and challenges facing Jewish media journalists and use this information to help journalists to succeed in presenting a picture of Israel and Judaism that they feel is accurate and reliable. The results of the responses of more than 100 Jewish media journalists were compared with findings from recent surveys of the U.S. Jewish community and journalists from 18 countries worldwide.
Key Findings of the Report
  • Survey respondents have a high degree of knowledge about Israel and care deeply about it, yet their views may not conform to those of their audiences.
  • Nearly 90% percent said they believe that caring about Israel is an important part of their Jewish identity, compared to only two-thirds of American Jews.
  • The percentage of survey respondents who have visited Israel three or more times – 64% – equals the percentage of American Jews who have never been to Israel.
  • Nearly one-quarter of survey respondents identify themselves as Orthodox Jews, compared to less than 10% of the U.S. Jewish population as a whole.
  • Survey respondents are less likely to view themselves as "detached observers" who keep themselves apart from their community than mainstream U.S. journalists.
  • Survey respondents are more willing to advocate for social change and influence public opinion than mainstream American journalists.
  • Survey respondents are less likely to view themselves as "watchdogs" of government and business and are less willing to be critical of their community than mainstream American journalists.
  • Survey respondents are more willing than mainstream American journalists to apply situational ethics and somewhat less willing to accept absolute ethical standards.
  • Survey respondents are optimistic about the future of Jewish journalism and they believe it has a significant and important role to play.  
Key Recommendations of the Report  
  • Education, dialogue, and resources are needed to help journalists for the Jewish media thrive in the changing media environment.
  • Existing journalism codes of ethics need to be updated and adapt for Jewish journalism by taking classic Jewish ethical thought into consideration, along with current journalism practices and challenges.
  • Jewish community leaders need education about the need for a vigorous and independent Jewish media. To reduce tensions and misunderstandings between them, Jewish community leaders and journalists should be brought together in neutral settings, such as sessions to study Jewish and Israeli texts and history.
Alan Abbey, the report’s author, is available for interviews. Contact him at [email protected] or at +972-50-658-3105 .

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