Yesterday, I posted my letter to the editor of the New Jersey Jewish Standard, chastising them for what I believe I said was pusillanimous journalism. If you haven’t been following this, they printed an announcement of a gay wedding last week. This week, under pressure from a cabal of Orthodox rabbis, they apologized to the Orthodox for community for the “pain and consternation” it caused them.
We ran the wedding announcement because we felt, as a community newspaper, that it was our job to serve the entire community — something we have been doing for 80 years. We did not expect the heated response we got, and — in truth — we believe now that we may have acted too quickly in issuing the follow-up statement, responding only to one segment of the community.We are now having meetings with local rabbis and community leaders. We will also be printing, in the paper and online, many of the letters that have been pouring in since our statement was published.The issue clearly demands debate and serious consideration, which we will do our best to encourage.
James Janoff, Publisher
NJ Jewish Standard
Good. In keeping with journalistic angle on this story, here’s what they should do next: For better or for worse, in this story, NJJS isn’t reporting on the news, it’s making the news. Because of that, they’ll need to report on this. It’s a hard thing to do right, but sometimes, especially in a small community, you have to report on yourself. When I was Editor in Chief of The Acorn here at Drew University last year, we had to do just that.
NJJS will have to do the same and they’ll be better off for it. They’ve stumbled into a great story here, actually. The follow-up articles in the coming weeks, if they pull this off right, can be examples of journalism of the highest order.
A deaf, dumb and blind person living on Mars could’ve seen how both sides of this issue would explode in outrage. They did not have a coherent policy when publishing the announcement or deciding to publish their “retraction” of sorts. They went into this without thinking of a coherent policy and are acting surprised that people made their opinions known, loudly. It’s poor judgment that they didn’t think of a policy before bumbling into the snakepit.
But the time for that is over now. They made their mistake and they’re going to correct it.
And here’s a follow-up thought for the Orthodox bullies who initiated this balagan: Stick you heads in the sand if you want, but here in NJ, we have civil unions for gay couples. If you don’t like it, you can either ignore it or move. What you can’t do is force the newspaper, whose job it is to report on the things that are happening here in reality, to stick their heads in the sand. You don’t have to like everything in the paper, but you do have recognize that their job is to show you the reality of your community. And in Bergen County, as in the rest of NJ, gay civil unions are the reality.
In the end, kol hakavod to NJJS for recognizing their mistake and rectifying it. And kol hakavod to NJJS for stopping the apologies in their tracks. Journalists don’t apologize, but they do correct.