The Backvertz

You Shmooze, You Lose
by David Kelsey
The Forward is by far the greatest Jewish newspaper in the U.S., and has been for over 100 years. Even that is an understatement, as it seems to suggest that there is a number two. The bleak reality is that secular American Jewish newspapers are generally controlled by their respective local Federations, and as such, are little more than public relations tools. When it comes to news, the Forward finds nuance when others find cliche. The Forward questions the premises behind the gathering of statistics when others simply declare trends. The Forward offers thoughtful analysis when others re-print press releases. It is critical that the Forward survives, and a terrible indictment on American Jewry that the Forward’s circulation is not ten times its current level.
But the Forward’s coverage of arts and culture is not helping its case.
The front page of its July 22 edition trumpets a new section, “a weekly romp through the lighter side of the news.” The Forward is about as able to “romp” as Der Yid was to hora. The new section, not even an entire half page, is a cut/paste job of secondary sources, a desperate attempt to appeal to the yiderati with a poor imitation of Page Six.
Although this new section, is in fact, not even an entire half page, it is appropriately framed with other sizzling hot, gossipy pieces such as “Looking Back: 100 Years Ago in the Forward” and the sure-to-interest-the-pop-culturally-obsessed: “For Yiddishists, Summer Is a Picnic – At the Cemetery.”
“The Shmooze” includes an article on Sacha Baron Cohen’s fiancee, Isla Fisher, of whom the page writes: “busy with publicity, Fisher wasn’t able to take the Forward’s call.” The page, however, does list the questions it would like to Fisher if she had taken their call, which she wouldn’t even if she wasn’t “busy with publicity.” (Come on, she wouldn’t take a call from the Forward if she were stranded on a sand dune outside of Beersheva, delirious from dehydration with a cell phone that could only receive calls.)
Who does the Forward think they are attracting with interviews that don’t take place, and conjecture on what her answers might be? Why would anyone care about imaginary interviews when they can get real ones form periodicals whose calls are returned?
This is beneath the editorial standards of JVIBE.
It reveals a desperation for circulation numbers and advertising dollars that is unsettling and upsetting, coming from the only great independent U.S. based Jewish newspaper.
David Kelsey is the ad manager of Heeb Magazine and the author of The Kvetcher.
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4 thoughts on “The Backvertz

  1. The Fowards is a dead paper.Jews who discard the Torah,their children discard them,You can see it all on my blog at heshys house.blogspot.com

  2. Sadly, I found Heshy’s comment more offensive than the original article. Jews who discard the Torah? I come to the office with my yarmulka and tzitzit on. I only eat kosher food and I keep Shabbos. If you’d like to become the judge for the Torah Judaism of the Forward Staff, I think there are a number of people who may take offense. That said, my comments on HEEB’s post are on Mimaamakim.

  3. I think The Forward has been inching in this direction for about a year now. I hope it’s not too late for the offended to sbuscribe for all of the good reasons. One can always write to the editors if one finds “the weekly romp” less rollicking than it purports to be. Or we can give it a month or two to hit its stride. No reason to panic….i think….

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