Remember my post on How We Market Ourselves in Times of Crisis? You’re about to get an up front and personal look at one Jewish organization’s back pedaling after a major political gaffe.
On Friday, the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) sent out an e-mail to its constituents asking for $50 donations to support its service. No problem, right? We all get plenty of those these days. But this one was different. In an apparent need to separate themselves from others sources of news delivery, JTA President Elisa Spungen Bildner wrote:
“JTA tells the story, so that our community stays informed. At this moment, JTA’s ability to tell these stories is threatened by the realities of the economic downturn. And, in the chaos of the information age in which we live, it is even harder to find the trusted voices on which we rely for independence and accuracy.
Without a strong JTA, the storytelling will be left to bloggers, twitterers, and non-professionals. Is this the best way for our future Jewish stories to be told and recorded?“
The emphasis is their own.
The Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man– Or, Bloggers, Twitterers, and Non-Professionals
Come again? Bloggers, Twitterers, and non-professionals? First of all, to equate Twitterers and bloggers is an insult. Without belaboring what should be an obvious point, users of Twitter communicate in 140 character missives, while blogs are intended to be well-researched, interesting conduits for conveying information and opinions. This is especially true in the Israeli and Jewish blogospheres, where the quality is particularly high.
And non-professionals? If we are defining a professional as someone who works for money, then yes, the JBlogosphere is filled with non-professionals, but this doesn’t make them any less committed. I see plenty of my blogging colleagues churning out up-to-the-minute content of the highest caliber on a daily basis.
—– Read More About Jews, Blogging, and the JTA’s Social Media Connections —–
How Can a Mistake This Big Be Explained?
What’s behind this message that was likely sent to tens of thousands of recipients? It could be the ongoing stories about journalistic publications in crisis, like the Boston Globe’s threatened collapse, or it could be a Rupert Murdoch’s recent advice that online newspapers will need to charge readers or sink into the economic black hole. Or maybe, they’ve been reading the Forward‘s Liel Leibovitz, who’s been wrote “Communication Breakdown: Dispatches from the Virtual World.” With regard to blogging and micro-blogging, Leibovitz writes:
“Examining this thinning of language — these starved forms of communications that favor the quick and the inconsequential while remaining unsuited for thoughts that may take space to unfold and time to read — it is easy to succumb to a technologically deterministic depression and declare the end of intelligent civilization near.
But since Jews have been forever defined — even constituted — by our relationship with the book and, as a result, with the written word at large, we must pay special attention to these winds of change. Without being unduly alarmist, one can say that the Internet may be killing off the Jewish mind.”
Are Blogging & Micro-Blogging Responsible for a “Communication Breakdown”?
I tend to hate doomsday predictions like this one (“the Internet may be killing off the Jewish mind”), but a statement of such ignorance particularly raises my hackles at a time like this.
When I began blogging in August 2007, one of my goals was to bring together the global community of Jewish voices. At the time of The New Jew’s creation, there was a void of Jewish content on the internet. Jewish organizations were meeting their programming goals on the ground, but little existed for those not formally aligned with community organizations.
Now, a mere year and a half later, the virtual Jewish world is a ripe expanse of community building where Jews can share ideas and converse with each other on equal footing. Leibovitz’s assertion that blogging is a “starved form of communication that favors the quick and inconsequential” couldn’t be more off-base. Furthermore, it’s a particularly odd critique for a professional writer specializing in Jewish culture to make.
Lisa Colton, founder and president of Darim Online, gets it right when she responds to Leibovitz, saying:
“Throughout Jewish history, we have devised creative and innovative means to communicate with one another, to preserve our religion, heritage and identity, and to evolve new strategies to keep it alive, relevant and vibrant.We lit fires on mountaintops to transmit the declaration of a new month, and went so far as to write down an oral tradition in order to keep ourselves connected over time and distance.
Microblogging is hardly radical. While many use it frivolously, many are using it in valuable ways, far beyond “speculation and whim”. This is an opportunity to spread knowledge and insight, and to foster deeper connection.”
JTA’s Social Media Connection
Perhaps the most confusing part of the JTA’s message is that in the last year, and most particularly since Dan Sieradski became the Director of Digital Media, the site and its delivery method have undergone a huge change.
If you haven’t visited the JTA recently, take a look. What do you see? The content is newly streamlined and promoted most heavily are, yes, the blogs: the Telegraph, the Fundermentalist, and Capital J, as well the JBlogs, in which bloggers can add their own content to the JTA’s site.
Moreover, Jacob Berkman’s Fundermentalist blog focusing on Jewish giving is by Sieradski’s word, the #1 destination on the JTA site.
What’s the story here? Are the JTA’s own blogs showing them how truly powerful a medium blogging can be? Are they being hit so hard by the economy that they have to separate themselves from their closest competitors, self-identified as the blogs? Whatever it is, the message of the site, heavy with a new media blog-based design, and its blogging and twittering staff, do not align with the negative heavy handedness of its organizational message. Be on the look-out for some back pedaling in the near future.
To learn more about what others in the blogosphere are saying about this, follow these links:
- “I’m Sure It’s Only a Coincidence, But…” and “The Power of Blogs (Bloggers)“ by eJewishPhilanthropy– hat tip for the Rupert Murdoch link
- “Jewish Bloggers are Not the Enemy of Jewish Storytelling” by Esther Kustanowitz at MyUrbanKvetch
- “How to Make Bloggers Hate You Just by Hitting Send” by Leah Jones
- “Liel Leibovitz Wrong in Critique of the Twitter Revolution” by Rabbi Shai Gluskin at Every Day and Every Night
- English Language Blogs from Israel (blog aggregator by Hanan Cohen)
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