Alex Brummer

Not the end of the retail world

By Alex Brummer, January 22, 2009

The new landscape of Britain’s high streets is becoming all too familiar.

Closing down sales, bill-littered doormats, boarded-up shops and other ugly manifestations of recession are in evidence as well-known chains from Woollies and MFI to other newer and less familiar names like Zavvi (an outgrowth of Virgin), children’s wear firm Adams and Officers Club have gone bust.

Even Marks & Spencer, once regarded as a rock of stability amid the organic mass on the high street, is closing 25 of its specialist Simply Food stores.

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Variety of views make a welcome change

By Alex Brummer, January 15, 2009

Much of the UK press has been strangely vacillating in its comment on Gaza. Columns friendly to Israel’s approach on the opinion pages are followed by hostile, sometimes factually incomplete material in other parts of the paper — or vice-versa. In striving for balance, the press appears to be at war with itself.

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Gaza war brings out Indy’s true colours

By Alex Brummer, January 8, 2009

There is something about Middle East conflagrations which causes newspapers and their experts to revert to type. So once again, despite my recent optimism on these pages that a new, more Israel-friendly Independent might emerge under the editorship of Roger Alton, there has been no trace of it: amid all the negative media coverage of Israel’s war against Hamas, the Indy wins the prize for the least balanced.

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News-hungry media laps up Gaza raids

By Alex Brummer, December 30, 2008

From a media viewpoint, Israel could not have picked a better moment for its offensive against Hamas in Gaza. The period between Christmas and New Year is normally a desperate time for real news, with publications forced to fill the space between ads with endless retail stories, quizzes and easily forgotten predictions by key columnists.

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Squeeze could benefit MidEast coverage

By Alex Brummer, December 23, 2008

Many of the same forces which are reshaping America’s media industry are impacting on Britain’s national newspapers.

The UK has 10 titles battling it out on the news-stands each day, as well as free-sheets and London’s Evening Standard. But industry analysts question whether this can continue in 2009 at a time of falling advertising revenues, competition from the internet and rising newsprint costs.

Indeed, given the intense competition, it is surprising that the UK industry has remained so durable.

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Analysis: The Bernie Madoff lesson

By Alex Brummer, December 18, 2008

The last year has been appalling for individuals and charities seeking to hang on to their hard-earned savings and precious endowments.
Sharply lower equity prices, collapsing residential and property values, shrinking pension and trust funds and falling interest rates (UK rates could well be down to near zero by spring 2009) have made it all but impossible for investors to keep their money intact.

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Citizen Zell finds life tough in the media

By Alex Brummer, December 18, 2008

It has not been the kindest of times for American Jewish entrepreneurs. Sam Zell, the Chicago-based tycoon who a year ago rescued the Tribune group, publishers of the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune and Newsday, has found that running newspapers in the era of the internet and 24/7 news channels is a very different game to buying up distressed property and selling it on for big profits in a rising market.

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Hillary the hawk or Mrs C the peacenik?

By Alex Brummer, December 11, 2008

Barack Obama’s choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State has been seen in the media as both brave and foolhardy. Brave, because Mrs Clinton’s approach to Iran and the Middle East was so radically different to Obama’s during the Democratic primaries. And foolhardy because she brings with her a great deal of political baggage, not least what The Sunday Telegraph described as a “coterie of controlling, defensive and at times paranoid circle of admirers and supporters at the heart of foreign policy”.

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Media blind to nature of Chabad horror

By Alex Brummer, December 4, 2008

The argument made in some quarters that a distinction can be drawn between anti-Zionism and antisemitism looks threadbare after the attack on the Chabad house in Mumbai. The Jewish centre may have provided a refuge to Israeli travellers passing through India’s commercial centre, but it was an outpost of traditional Judaism — not Israel.

As far as the terrorists are concerned, Jews and Zionists are one and the same. The inherent racism in what happened in Mumbai, where the targets were Westerners and Jews, was largely missed by the British media.

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Rare insight into the chaos that is Gaza

By Alex Brummer, November 27, 2008

A key reason for the poor perception of Israel in Britain is the way events in Gaza are reported. Israel is generally depicted as the nasty jailer responsible for what is often described as the "world's biggest prison".

Admittedly, Israel's tough policy towards Gaza does not help. It was only in the past week that Jerusalem relaxed a 19-day blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory to admit humanitarian assistance.

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Kosher ‘Rahmbo’ triggers a press storm

By Alex Brummer, November 13, 2008

The politically safest White House chiefs of staff have tended to be those who manage to stay out of the headlines. That will prove extraordinarily difficult for Rahm "Rahmbo" Emanuel, the first anointed member of the Barack Obama administration. He already has attracted press attention on both sides of the Atlantic - and not all of it favourable.

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Will BBC now tighten Mid-East reporting?

By Alex Brummer, November 6, 2008

It is possible that the Ross-Brand affair may come to be seen as a tipping point for the BBC. It provided a sharp reminder that despite its "public service" remit and £3 billion-a-year subvention from the taxpayer, the corporation is a behemoth that has become extremely difficult to control.

The director-general, Mark Thompson, may glorify in the title of editor-in-chief, but he now runs a media organisation where it is almost impossible for Reithian standards to be upheld across all platforms.

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Obama and Livni are cast as saviours

By Alex Brummer, October 30, 2008

As the American presidential election reaches its climax, US politics dominate the media. The only other foreign story to get much of a look-in has been the failure of the Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni to forge a governing coalition in Israel after boldly refusing to give in to what The Times called the "blackmail" of the small, strictly Orthodox parties.

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Akko riots get buried by credit crunch

By Alex Brummer, October 23, 2008

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Critics lap up the Tom Hurndall film…

By Alex Brummer, October 17, 2008

The IDF's shooting of 21-year-old Tom Hurndall, a volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement, in April 2003 was a tragic mistake for which its reputation has suffered dearly. As a result of the tenacious campaign by the Hurndall family, the soldier responsible, Taysir Hayb, is serving eight years for manslaughter. A British inquest found that Hurndall had been "intentionally killed" and delivered a verdict of "unlawful killing".

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Comment is free, but it can go too far

By Alex Brummer, October 10, 2008

Media websites have a duty to make sure they do not turn into forums for hate


One of the great challenges for newspapers with widely used websites is how to police the comments by readers. Each publication has its own rules. The Guardian's Comment is Free website aims to take down unacceptable material as soon as possible after it is posted. The Jerusalem Post has a policy of pre-vetting material using a team of monitors.

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Papers are too quick to accept NGO reports

By Alex Brummer, October 3, 2008

Why do the media back claims by non-governmental organisations with their own agendas?

Few regions in the world are as closely monitored by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as Israel and the Palestinian territories. Almost every aspect of Israel's behaviour comes under scrutiny, from the medical care for Palestinians seeking treatment in Israel to food supplies in Gaza and the peace process.
The presence of so many such groups in the region is a compliment to the pluralism of Israeli democracy.

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Livni, the ‘spy’ who seduced the press

By Alex Brummer, September 26, 2008

The new Kadima leader has received plenty of positive coverage, thanks to her gender and Mossad past


Amid headlines dominated by the meltdown of global banking, few other international stories have caught the imagination of Britain's notoriously fickle press in recent days. Among the small band of exceptions was the story of the narrow victory of Tzipi Livni in the Kadima leadership election, which is likely to result in her becoming Israel's second female prime minister.

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Fine journalism as a paper hunts for Shalit

By Alex Brummer, September 19, 2008

The Sunday Times goes to Gaza to ‘find' Israel's kidnapped soldier


The kidnapping of 19-year-old Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on June 25, 2006 at the Israel-Gaza border was one of the seminal events in recent Middle East history, marking a new stage of the conflict between
Israel and Islamic-backed militias.

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London Review of Books looks anti-Israel

By Alex Brummer, September 12, 2008

The LRB dropped a Middle East-related review at the last minute. Why?

 

The London Review of Books is no stranger to controversy. Two years ago the paper's editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, found herself at the centre of a firestorm when it published a searing article by the academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt claiming that the Israel lobby in the United States holds a disproportionate sway over America's foreign policy.

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