The Russian revolution continues


By Miriam Shaviv
July 24, 2008
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A few weeks ago, The Jerusalem Post's Calev Ben-David reported that the brand-new editor of Ha'aretz, Dov Alfon, was making substantial changes at the paper, toning down or getting rid of many of the best-known voices on the far left and firing (and then rehiring) its social affairs reporter, who focused on the plight of the poor.

Ben-David explained at the time that:

 Like all print media nowadays, Haaretz is struggling to keep and attract readers and advertisers, and some of the editorial changes seem to clearly reflect an effort to make the paper a little less heavy, including reducing and putting less emphasis on its most radical voices. There is only so much space on a news page, and if you start focusing more on economic, consumer and lifestyle issues, it's going to come at the expense of other fields, including politics and social affairs.

What makes these changes particularly significant at Haaretz is that there has long been a seeming contradiction between the paper's progressive stance on peace and security issues and its editorial support for free-market capitalism... The more laissez-faire economics, long advocated by business editor Nehemia Strassler and exemplified by [business paper] The Marker's content, is now very much the outlook of the establishment, and given the increased editorial influence that publication is having on Haaretz as a whole, it seems inevitable it would bleed over to its news coverage and editorial line.

And now another change. Ha'aretz's US correspondent, Shmuel Rosner - author of the highly popular Rosner's Domain blog - announced a couple of months ago ago that he would be returning to Israel and leaving Ha'aretz. His replacement, notes the Tikun Olam blog - although this was already reported on Israeli sites a few weeks ago - will be 29-year-old Russian-Israeli journalist Natasha Mozgovoya, a former Yediot Achronot correspondent and news anchor on Channel 2 and on one of the Israeli-Russian television channels.

According to this profile from 2006 (Hebrew), she had problems being accepted by viewers on Israeli television because of her Russian accent  - though she made aliyah at age 11, and has lived more than half her life in Israel.

Tikun Olam calls her arrival in Washington "welcome news for the Jewish peace community". - presumably because he doesn't like Rosner.  But more to the point, if Tikun Olam is right, is the rise of the Russian community on the Israeli media scene. Not only is the Russian-language paper Vesti increasingly influential; Ma'ariv is part-owned by Russian-Israeli businessman Vladimir Gusinsky, and the paper, it was revealed just this week, is currently in talks with Russian-born American-British businessman Len Blavatnik, who wishes to acquire all or part of it. The Jerusalem Post is also owned by a company, Mirkaei Tikshoret, most of whose other holdings are Russian-language.

Now Ha'aretz - bastion of the old Ashkenazi establishment - appoints a talented young Russian-accented woman to one of its most coveted positions. Surely this could not, would not have happened a few years back. It's a great opportunity for her and I wish her luck.

However, in a way it is a shame that she will be "stuck" in Washington, out of the Israeli media hub. It would have been nice - and important - to continue hearing her Russian accent on the Israeli airwaves, and keep her in sight, in mind.

Then again, I guess she is only 29. Still time enough for all that.

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