Twitterverse to New NYTimes Jerusalem Bureau Chief: Stop Tweeting!

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Jodi Rudoren, the Times editor just chosen to replace Ethan Bronner in as Jerusalem bureau chief (Bronner's four-year tour is up), finds herself in a pickle because of a series of tweets she issued yesterday. She shmoozed-up Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian activist who argues for Israel's destruction; she also praised Peter Beinart's upcoming book as, "terrific: provocative, readable, full of reporting and reflection." She also linked without comment to an article in a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper.

All of this is fine, of course, if she wasn't stepping into the most sensitive job in journalism. Reaching out to Abunimah is normal, of course: He's a player in extremist circles, and someone she might wind-up covering. But it would have been better if she had twinned this reach-out with one to a Kahanist or some sort of radical settler rabbi, for balance. Praising Peter's book is fine, if she weren't meant to be an objective reporter (I haven't read Peter's book, just a propagandistic missive about it, and for all I know I might like it). Imagine how the Left would feel if the new New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief called one of Benjamin Netanyahu's books "a terrific and provocative read, full of reporting and reflection." It's all excusable as beat-sweetening, I suppose, but still queasy-making.

I don't know Rudoren (who is better known to readers by her former name, Jodi Wilgoren). I do know her sister, from synagogue, mainly, and I don't think Jodi is some sort of anti-Israel activist, as she's going to be portrayed in some circles. But my advice to her (echoing Marc Tracy's) is to stop tweeting as if she's a J Street official and remember that she has to develop sources on all sides of the conflict. Here's Marc on ths subject:

I'm on record, today of all days, approving of Jews tweeting. But when you have just been named the Times Jerusalem bureau chief, that may be a good time to hold off: everyone on all sides is waiting to figure out where you stand and, having done so, to accuse you of being wrong; using Twitter to feint toward certain views--or even just to build a presence--is pretty much the worst thing you can do. Get to Jerusalem, settle in, start producing copy, and be judged on that--as you'd want to be anyway. We know Sam Sifton does it, but restaurants aren't quite as fraught as the Middle East, and anyway he also tweets more than he should.

On top of that, Rudoren's tweets in the past 24 hours haven't been innocuous. Tweeting at Ali Abuminah, the editor of the frankly anti-Israel Electronic Intifada Website, that she's "heard good things"--of someone who advocates boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel and a one-state solution--is rightly making supporters of Israel suspicious of her objectivity and of where she stands. Ditto retweeting an article titled "Palestine: Love in the Time of Apartheid." Even tweeting praise for Peter Beinart's forthcoming book suggests, at least, that she favors one narrative of the conflict over the others.

The most charitable reading says Rudoren possesses an astounding lack of sense of the profile of the post to which she has been appointed; of how she is going to be perceived; and of the fact that she is betraying her opinions before she has even started reporting. Only a fool would expect a reporter to have no opinions, but we expect them to zip their opinions up in favor of objectivity and to come to new stories with an open mind; Rudoren is already damaging her readers' trust. And it's a totally unforced error! Nobody's telling her to tweet! (Right?) She is voluntarily doing this.  

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/02/twitterverse-to-new-nytimes-jerusalem-bureau-chief-stop-tweeting/253137/