Prayergate: Ma’ariv Denies Denial

An afterword on Ma’ariv publishing the note that Obama put in the Wall: McClatchy correspondent Dion Nissenbaum brings the newspaper’s most recent comment on the affair. It doesn’t improve the Ma’ariv’s journalistic rep:

Maariv received the note last Thursday and, after realizing it contained no personal or intimate content, decided to publish it.

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Journalism Lesson: Obama’s Note, The New Republic’s Goof

Gershom Gorenberg

“Is Anything Sacred?” was the title of a post a couple of days ago on the New Republic’s blog, The Plank. The subject: Publication of the note that Barack Obama placed in the Western Wall when he visited last week. The daily Ma’ariv ran that “scoop,” and immediately found itself under intense criticism – from rabbis, talk-show hosts, and a lawyer who began organizing a consumer boycott of the paper – for violating Obama’s privacy and Jewish religious sensibilities.

But the Plank’s Zvika Krieger wasn’t aiming his question at Ma’ariv. He was asking if Obama considered anything sacred. For in responding to the firestorm, a Ma’ariv spokesman had told various Israeli papers (English here, Hebrew here): “Barack Obama’s note was approved for publication in the international media even before he put [it] in the Kotel…” Krieger accepted that statement. A fairly early version of his post (via Google’s cache) said:

Obama may be above politicizing our troops, but if his campaign did approve the note for publication before he placed it, then I guess he isn’t above politicizing religion.

Clever: A snarky reference to Obama’s canceled visit to wounded U.S. soldiers, casting doubts on his reasons for canceling, as prelude to a statement that the candidate was willing to trash Jewish sensitivities for politics’ sakes. Truly, Obama had hit the trifecta: apostate Muslim with radical Christian preacher desecrates Jewish holy sites. But by writing the story this way, Krieger actually doubled down on Ma’ariv’s failed journalistic judgment. At least he has been doing a somewhat better job of backtracking.

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