Look I don’t mind that the JC under Stephen Pollard has become markedly more right-wing. It’s an independent publication and can take any stance it wants. Even if it’s right-wing, Pollard has the sense to attract occasional contrary views and apparently on a personal basis he’s quite a pleasant chap. Right-wingers can be good writers and journalists. Even Melanie Phillips is a diligent researcher.
The problem with the JC since Pollard took over last December is that its standards of journalism have deteriorated. First of all, it’s quite clear that Pollard is totally uninterested in anything that isn’t related to Israel or anti-semitism. It’s a rare week that doesn’t feature a cover story about these themes. We’re in the middle of a terrible recession and Jewish communal institutions are cutting staff left right and centre, yet coverage of this is usually shunted to the community section. Such issues effect Jewish life just as much as anti-semitism does but you’d never know it from the brave new JC.
Pollard’s JC can also be frankly lazy in its approach to stories. Take Leon Symon’s recent cover story on Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ discussions on whether to institute a boycott of Israel. The story was taken in its entirity from an e-mail to signatories that JFJFP had sent out. There was no solicitation of a follow up comment from JFJFP. There was a reaction comment from Jeremy Newmark from the Jewish Leadership Council. And that was it. Must have taken all of 10 minutes to write. The ‘research’ was simply reading an e-mail that either someone had sent them (it was sent to all of JFJFP’s signatories of which there are hundreds and anyone can join under a false name).
What the JC missed was a genuinely interesting story. JFJFP is clearly split between proponents of wildly different views on boycotts and much else besides. A decent journalist would have done some digging around, interviewed some of the competing parties and tried to stir up some kind of debate. Symon did none of these things and Pollard clearly didn’t push him. Symon is the kind of mediocrity that thrives in the current JC regime. It’s no surprise that one of the paper’s most dynamic and interesting writers, foreign editor Daniella Peled, has been suspended for the last few months for insubordination.
Ultimately, Stephen Pollard is a commentator and a blogger. Nothing wrong with that but he’s now editing a publication that, like it or not, plays a crucial part in Anglo-Jewish life. He has very little experience as a news journalist or an editor and his approach to the JC reveals this lack of investigative nous. He’s good at getting comment pieces to fill the paper, but he doesn’t understand that what makes a good blog post doesn’t neccessarily make a good piece of investigative journalism. A blogger would produce a story like the recent JFJFP piece, a journalist would go deeper.