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The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

The Delaware Valley's Progressive Alternative

Volume 1 - Number 1 - July 2005

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Exponent Watchpost


Our group started as a protest to the right-wing bias in The Jewish Exponent. We feel that we are in a moral dilemma. On the one hand, we want to support our local Jewish community. On the other hand, we want to remain faithful to our principles of social justice that we feel are absent in the Republican ideology espoused by The Jewish Exponent. Since the bylaws of the Federation directs them to fund the Exponent with the first $36 of our donations, our support for the community is working at cross-purposes to our principles.

We have decided to continue to support the various Federation agencies (schools, synagogues, social work, ...) which do good work, but to continue to monitor the bias in the Exponent. That is the purpose of The Philadelphia Jewish Voice's Exponent Watchpost. By pointing out bias, we hope to provide balance their coverage. 

In the long term, by keeping pressure on the Federation and The Jewish Exponent, we hope to encourage The Jewish Exponent to resume its place as a newspaper that meets the needs of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish Community.

- Dan Loeb, publisher


The Jewish Expoennt just introduced a new highly publicized makeover. Does this feel like a fundamental shift in direction, or are the changes merely cosmetic? A recent Jewish Exponent editorial raised questions about Bush, but how would they have handled it if it had been Kerry doing the same things? Is the Jewish Exponent trying to address their demographic losses in the younger audience?

Chime in on the ExponentWatch blog with your thoughts, or write the editor of the Exponent Watchpost: Alan Tuttle alantuttle@pjvoice.com. Representative comments will be printed in the next issue.

Getting Tough With the Wrong Guy

Re: A Matter of Opinion: Getting Tough with the Wrong Guy
 Jewish Exponent, May 19, 2005, p. 33

Jonathan Tobin wonders why the Senate is tearing apart John Bolton instead of focusing on Kofi Annan. It’s simple. John Bolton has been nominated as a representative of our government. Kofi Annan has not. The Constitution requires the Senate to deliberate and provide advice and consent before confirming executive appointments. It is not Bolton's radical opinions alone that are in question, but his manipulation of intelligence, and his highly undiplomatic handling of people and situations. At the current time, the United Nations has not conferred authority to the United States Senate to confirm its Secretary General. Kofi Annan may not be to the liking of most Americans, but our belief in democratic process ought to allow for Ghanaians and the U.N. to choose their representatives, too.

Who Took the Cookie from the Cookie Jar

Letter to the Editor of the Jewish Exponent (Re: Local Politics: Looking for More Hands in the Cookie Jar, May 19, 2005, p. 7)

Thanks for writing an article focusing on the close financial relationship between my U.S. Rep., Jim Gerlach (R-PA), and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). However, it is instructive to look at the language you used. In contrast to previous articles where wild claims against Democrats are presented as if they were facts (for example, the claim on Sep.16 that Dennis Ross was Kerry's Middle East spokesman), here the financial ties between DeLay and Gerlach are presented as if they were mere allegations by "Democrats on the prowl". In fact, the financial ties were reported by in Gerlach campaign filings. 

Context Needed in Student Controversy

Recently, the Jewish Exponent had a news story and an editorial, both of which missed a big piece of the story. The news story was about the April 5th speech by W. Shoebat, an ex-PLO member. What the story left out was how this event, and its pre-event publicity, soured relations between the Arab-American Community and the Jewish community here in Philadelphia and was a significant cause of distress to Arabs here in the city. It was also hugely embarrassing to some Jews who do interfaith work.

The second story was the editorial on Columbia University and its pro-Palestinian professors/pro-Israel Jewish students controversy. Here, it was really rich.They trounced the NY times for not interviewing the Columbia students themselves but just printing the university's report, which they claim to be a whitewash. But the Exponent did not interview any students either!!! The fact of the matter is, my daughter is a Middle East Language and Culture major at Columbia, knows a lot about Israel and has studied with the individuals who are under attack. The Exponent might have interviewed Philadelphia natives who are actually students at Columbia to get their view on the report....

Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer

What is He Saying?

Alan Tuttle "Who Can I Turn To?" was a pop song years ago, posing a question that has often been asked over the years. If that question comes to Jonathan Tobin's mind when he is seeking media quotes for his weekly Jewish Exponent section "What They Are Saying,", the answer appears to be a strange one for a paper representing a predominantly liberal, educated population. In surveying the sources for his quotes this past month (Volume 218, issues 5 - 8), the top two 2 cited sources are: #1: National Review, #2: The New York Daily News., For those of you unfamiliar with these publications, they are, in order: #1) the long-time flagship journal of the ultra-conservative intelligentsia, #2) a knee-jerk conservative tabloid from New York City. The other journals cited include The New York Post, which is the other NYC tabloid, owned by arch-conservative media magnate Rupert Murdoch; JewishWorldReview.com --a self-proclaimed non-partisan website, but featuring only politically conservative columnists (including Jonathan Tobin); townhall.com, the subtitle byline of which is "Conservative News and Information" . . . and the list goes on.

But the sources from which Jonathan gets his material isn't the only issue. We are sure Jonathan could find conservative opinions to quote on various issues of concern to the Jewish community in The New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine, or other mainstream publications. Sadly, it appears he is not interested in presenting a balance of viewpoints. But if he were, he is looking in all the wrong places.

We would suggest that he start by going to a greater variety of sources: if he is quoting from the National Review, how about also citing The Nation? If he is keen on daily newspapers, how about Philadelphia's own Daily News, which tends to be more balanced in its reporting and editorials than its sister New York City  papers. Other mass media like Time and Newsweek also are more center-of-the-road, with a mix of opinions included. Jewish content journals could include Hadassah magazine or Tikkun magazines to name two.

When it comes to a feature section in the Jewish Exponent, we deserve to hear from a higher caliber of media, and those that present a greater variety of viewpoints.

Alan Tuttle, Exponent Watchpost Editor

Lapses of Ethics in Journalism

This letter Re: Yuk It Up, All Right, Jewish Exponent, March 10, 2005, p. 7, was published in the March 17, 2005 issue of the Jewish Exponent with the exception of those sections in bold which were edited out by the Jewish Exponent:

The March 10 "Media Clippings" concerning the retirement of Dan Rather, ignores his long and brilliant career in journalism. Instead, it dwells on the scandal surrounding the report on President Bush's military service. 

I wonder what makes this news worthy? Is there some Jewish or local angle that I do not perceive? Perhaps Robert Leiter feels that this issue was not adequate covered during the media saturation last September. While this was not a stellar moment for Dan Rather, CBS or journalism as a whole, it pays to have some perspective. The controversy concerned the authenticity of a printed document from an anonymous source. It was well understood that all credible witnesses agreed that the contents of the document were consistent with the thinking of Bush's commanding officer and the events at that time. 

The truthfulness of the contents of the document blinded CBS to the flaws of the typography of the document itself. It is hard to see how this document could have improved the Democratic prospects even had it been accepted which leads many people to suspect that Karl Rove was behind the document in the first place.

I sympathize with the Exponent's desire to point out media bias. However, if we wish to speak of media bias, there are more serious and more timely examples. For example, 

(1) Journalist Armstrong William who was paid over $250,000 to peddle "No Child Left Behind". 

(2) Journalists Maggie Gallagher and Mike McManus who got $21,500 and $10,000 respectively to advance Bush's ideas on marriage. 

(3) White House operative Jeff Guckert who infiltrated the Press Corps under the identity Jeff Gannon. 

(4) Considering the Jewish Exponent's charge to discuss issues of interest to the Jewish community, perhaps we should have seen a discussion of how a balanced piece from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency could be edited to remove all the pro-Democratic content while adding additional pro-Republican content without including any indication that the resulting piece no longer reflected the view of the supposed author

Open Letter to the Federation

Using the JTA as Cover to Attack Dean

Dear Sirs,

I would like to thank you again for your warm reception on February 9. We appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues with you, and were happy to see how much you valued our comments. We are looking forward to hearing back from you regarding our recommendations and your ideas on how to make the Jewish Exponent a stronger newspaper and more representative of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish Community. 

That said, I am writing to you now with grave concern as to the likelihood that our dialog will bear fruit. The reason for my concern is the article Dean Takes More Flak Over Israel Issue which appeared in last weeks' edition of The Jewish Exponent with which we have already taken exception to  

I want you to know that I am calling a meeting of Exponent Watch to discuss this article and what steps we should take to address it. It would be most helpful if I were to hold this meeting in the context of your response to our recommendations. 

The context of the article Dean Takes More Flak Over Israel Issue is a full-page advertisement by the Republican Jewish Coalition http://www.rjchq.org/media/pdf/DeanAd021005b.pdf which appeared in The Jewish Exponent and other Jewish newspapers. I expect that you already received a number of complaints regarding this advertisement which juxtaposed newly elected DNC Chair Gov. Howard Dean with horrifying graphics of  Palestinian terrorists. 

Many Jewish newspapers sought to balance the misconceptions in the advertisement by reporting on the reaction to the article. In brief, they indicated that Dean made the mistake of using language which could be misinterpreted as a "code word for being less supportive of Israel", and that the Democrats who pointed out Dean's mistake, at the time competitors for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, were satisfied with Dean's apology and subsequent strong statements in support of Israel. It should be noted that the Chairman of the DNC is traditionally a fund-raiser and organizer, but does not set policy. (On the other hand, the President has called for international investigations into the events of Jenin, allowed anti-Israel resolutions to be passed by the security council at the UN, financially penalized Israel for constructing a security wall while backing down on its promises not to financially support the Palestinian Authority while Arafat was chairman, all of which many Democrats interpret as being less supportive of Israel.)

As it is The Jewish Exponent's official policy is to correct errors in the same part of the paper in which they originally occurred, to provide a forum where political candidates can speak to us about issues of concern the Jewish community, and to be representative of the Jewish community, it could be expected that The Jewish Exponent would have provided a similar piece in the interest of balance, perhaps eliciting some sort of guest editorial from Gov. Dean, the DNC, the NJDC, or Exponent Watch.

In my view the response of The Jewish Exponent to the paid piece of propaganda which appeared in its own pages was to provide additional free advertising to the conservative point of view. The published piece  Dean Takes More Flak Over Israel Issue ran with the by-line of Matthew E. Berger of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, but is in fact substantially different from Berger's work, so different as to present a substantially different perspective than the original. So you may judge for yourselves, see the original text of this article as provided by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) and the edited version published in The Jewish Exponent.

I must admit that I noted some conservative tendencies already in the choice of  the original article even before editing. For example, the term "Democratic operatives" loaded with negative connotations is used twice, and the article includes two brief quotes from Ira Forman of the NJDC. These quotes are very much out of the context of a thirty-minute interview with Forman, and can be construed by the reader as being at least mildly supportive of the RJC advertisement. This is an error of fact, as Forman's extensive writings on the subject, posted on the NJDC website and elsewhere, clearly denounce the RJC advertisement in the strongest terms. That said, Mr. Forman's quote is followed by quotes of other Democrats making good points in favor of Dean and against the RJC advertisement. This gives the article a reasonable measure of balance.

Unfortunately, the version of article published in the Exponent was edited to buttress the conservative message and eliminate the original article's balance. The editor eliminated the article's reference to the non-partisan ADL's opposition to the advertisement. 

Instead, the editor added language describing Dean's remarks as "unsavory off-the-cuff ... remarks regarding Israel's fight against terrorism". The reader is drawn in wondering what sort of unsavory remarks were made. "Unsavory remarks" to me brings to mind the French ambassador's quip about a "petit pays de merde" (shitty little country), not a suggestion (quickly retracted) that the United States remain "evenhanded". 

Worse still is the complete elimination of the seven paragraphs following and providing balance to the Forman misquote. The resulting article is left completely unbalanced and misleading. By editing the article in this manner, it no longer reflects the intentions of the author Matthew Berger, and it ceases to be suitable for publication as a piece of news. By presenting what is now an op/ed piece as news, and presenting the editor's opinions as those coming from a respected national writer, the editor may be seeking to validate his views in the eyes of the remaining readership of The Jewish Exponent.

After our meeting earlier this month, I had hoped that the editor would be more sensitive to these issues. However, this article and the editor's characterization of his participation in the Gratz debate suggest to me that this is not the case. If he refuses to characterize himself as a Republican and to recognize the conservative bias in our newspaper, how can we hope for him to address this issue of his own accord?

I hope that steps can be taken to assuage my concern and I look forward to hearing from you soon, both in regards to our February 9th meeting as well as this more recent matter.

Respectfully yours,  Dr. Daniel E. Loeb

(See Exponent Watch's dossier for more information.)

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