In Israel, More and Better Media in English Than in Hebrew

This article by Amir Mizroch is cross-posted from Forecast Highs.

There is now more, and better, journalism out of Israel in English than there is in Hebrew. While the mainstream Hebrew press struggles with the same issues as much of the world’s press does, and many of its own extremely serious native issues, there is very little innovation and disruption happening in the local Hebrew media, in my opinion. On the English side however we are seeing a veritable explosion, not just of new and improving outlets, but, more significantly, of the quality, quantity, variety, and reach of the content they’re producing online. Leading the pack, in my opinion, is Haaretz’s English edition, which has recently launched a paid subscription model for its online version and its mobile apps.

The quality and frequency of the journalism and opinion its writers are producing in English is very high, with writers like Chemi Shalev making serious inroads into everything Israeli, Jewish and middle east foreign policy coming out of America. The Times of Israel comes in second, in sheer terms of quantity of content produced and their social media reach. While not breaking anywhere near the same amount of hard news as Haaretz does [a good amount of TOI content is curated], TOI nevertheless is increasingly reporting original material of a wider appeal, and is experimenting successfully with a super flexible site which allows their editorial to play around with positioning of stories, something they do with great skill. As far as I can see, TOI and Haaretz are the most widely referenced Israeli news sources [English and Hebrew] apart from Yediot Aharonot, which still breaks many big stories, but whose Ynetnews English version has not been elevated to anywhere near its full potential [it is still a player though and has a steady readership].

The Jerusalem Post, while having consistently lost altitude and attitude over the past several years is bouncing back nicely with a combination of smart, assertive reporting by the likes of Gil Hoffman, Lahav Harkov and others, content partnerships with its parent company’s Hebrew assets, and successful conferences in New York. Jpost still lags behind on mobile applications, and its homepage is still, yes still, horrendous. Haaretz is also planning a conference in America, and TOI has had several smaller meet-ups. Maariv and Makor Rishon’s UK-born publisher may not have launched English versions yet, but word has it that these outlets are planning specific English projects with a Diaspora Jewish target in mind.

After the main players in terms of traffic and clout, there are increasingly good moves by the always-steady Israel National News, which reports strongly from Judea and Samaria, has a great video presence, as well as strong editorials, and interacts effectively with its core readership. While the media outlet I’m in charge of, Israel Hayom English, is nominally still a daily newsletter, we are expanding our content and readership base at a steady clip and our visibility amongst international media and policy circles is growing. We are bringing new voices into the crucible and exposing an international audience to Israel’s most widely-read daily. On the left wing side of the political spectrum, +972 is doing strong on-the-ground reporting and expansive opinion, and is doing specifically well in long-form journalism, design, video and info graphics.

The Israel Project’s TowerDotOrg news blog is making a good entrance with some original reporting and insight as well as a growing social media presence. A strong new player on the field is Al-Monitor, which has original and translated material from some very heavy hitters. While very niched, Israel Defense is nevertheless a quality product with high-end reporting and analysis on security issues as well as a good focus on the business side of the military industries. Talking about the business side, while Globes in English at times looks like it’s getting its act together, there is still a very big gap in the market for a serious English business news site that can be of interest and value to a wider global audience.

Some non-Israeli, or non-Israeli-based news outlets are also doing impressive, quality reporting, analysis and opinion about Israel, Judaism, America and everything in between, and here I’m referring to Algemeiner, Open Zion, The Mideast Matrix,Tablet, the Forward, TIME Magazine’s man in Israel Karl Vick, The Jewish Chronicle, The Jewish Week, The Jewish Press, JTA, Commentary [its Israel stuff], and others. Meir Javendafar’s The Iran-Israel Observer is as strong as anything by the best reporters in the Hebrew press.

Summing up, to me it looks like there is a lot more activity, originality and innovation in the English media coming out of Israel [and the US about Israel] than there is in the Hebrew press.

Whether the English players manage to sustain and grow the financial aspects of their businesses remains to be seen – some of them might have a better shot than others. But for now, the world is spoiled for choice, especially coming at a time when most foreign news organisations are scaling down their foreign bureaus. Israeli readers of the Hebrew press might be well served by reading some of what’s going on in their own country written by their Anglo journalists.

An increasing global reach and direct communication with audiences is also why several prominent Israeli Hebrew journalists are increasingly tweeting in English. It is a positive and welcome sign to see the likes of Ayala Hasson from Channel 1 and Israel Radio tweeting in English, as well as Chico Menashe from the same stations as Hasson.

Please forgive me if I’ve left out/ missed anyone/ anything I must have had a good reason to.