Shalem College
July 16, 2014

Times of Israel Founding Editor David Horovitz talks journalism and democracy with Shalem students  

Times of Israel Founding Editor David Horovitz talks journalism and democracy with Shalem students
David Horovitz. Israelis can and do express the full range of political opinions in comfort and with confidence and criticism of those in power is never lacking. Yet in such a robust democracy, a plethora of parochial news outlets may merely serve to reinforce and entrench one’s worldview.

© Image copyright: Times of Israel staff

“The longer one lives in Israel, the less certain he can be about anything,” David Horovitz, founding editor of The Times of Israel, said only half jokingly during his dinner conversation with a packed room of students this past Monday night. Describing himself as a member of the “confused middle ground,” Horovitz, whose online newspaper is now the leading source for English-language news and features about Israel, discussed issues ranging from the complex interplay between journalism and democracy, the moral responsibilities of journalists when covering conflict, and the future of journalism in both the Jewish state and the world at large.

Insisting that Israeli democracy is “an amazing thing,” Horovitz, who previously served as the editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post and as editor of the award-winning newsmagazine The Jerusalem Report, expressed his satisfaction that Israelis can and do express the full range of political opinions in comfort and with confidence—an exceptional phenomenon in the region—and that criticism of those in power is never lacking. Yet he also cautioned students that, in such a robust democracy, “You get the media you want”: namely, a plethora of parochial news outlets that reinforce and entrench one’s worldview.

He also led students in an exercise aimed at demonstrating how the same numbers—the so called “bottom line” of any story—can be used to justify very different positions on a single issue. While conceding that the number game will always be played by journalists and editors with specific agendas, he nonetheless emphasized how critical it is for Israel to keep track of statistics arising from its conflicts, and to anticipate the need to explain them in ways that the world can understand.

As for whether Horovitz sees a future for print journalism, or even serious journalism, in the age of digital outlets and blogs, he pointed out that most of the students present still read books – whose death knell had been sounded long ago. He expressed cautious optimism that the good story and well-researched piece will always have an audience, as well as his belief that journalism is not only a noble profession, but also, in “a still-evolving state” such as Israel, an exciting profession, one with the potential to influence the national debate about issues essential to the nature and the future of the country.