JTA President Elisa Spungen Bildner Responds

I already wrote a post about the JTA’s fund raising letter, sent last Friday, that offended so many Jewish bloggers. Elisa Spungen Bildner, President of the JTA responded, stating that “A fundraising email appeal JTA sent out Friday under my signature contained words I did not specifically approve, words that seemed to criticize bloggers and Twitterers.” She continues:

JTA’s point was not to insult new media practitioners but to stress the importance of supporting in-depth reporting, too. Inartful words or not, the rationale behind JTA’ s fundraising appeal remains: Quality journalism today is reeling from unprecedented financial pressure and JTA is no exception. We are appealing to our readers to support us, so JTA can remain strong.

Noted blogger Dov Bear, writing before the release of Spungen Bildner’s response observed that:

…wouldn’t it be a bad thing if the old media were to fold up its tent and leave the business of investigating and reporting news to the blogosphere? … Many bloggers are excellent writers, and savvy commenters, but with the exception, perhaps, of Stephen I. Weiss, Shmarya Failed Messiah and some others, bloggers don’t do a whole lot of first-hand reporting. Our most popular Jewish news blogs are aggregators, trading openly on the work and reputation of newspapers, and television stations. The average blogger has neither the time nor the money nor the chops to pursue, source, and assemble a straight news story. Instead, we riff on the work of others, or spread the rumors that serious journalists later investigate, substantiate and turn into news… But, at the end of the day, JTA provides the essential service. Not us.

I don’t think anyone is saying that bloggers and, God help us, twitterers, are a suitable alternative to the type of reporting the JTA or any traditional news outlet does. What we took umbrage to was the implication that we were somehow something to be feared, that our voices were not a legitimate part of, as the email put it, “Jewish storytelling.” In any case, I hope we’re done with this. The JTA has apologized, the JBlogosphere has flexed its muscles and we can go back to our Passover cleaning.

As an addendum, I hope they don’t fire whoever it was that actually authored that fund raising email. Look at all the attention it got the JTA! Take note PR professionals, take note!

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