Thursday, August 02, 2012

My Letter to the Washington Jewish Week

I wrote a letter to the Washington Jewish Week after its fawning coverage of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington's decision to buy a building last week. It wasn't published this week, and I suspect it won't be published. It's the second consecutive letter I've written criticizing the paper's coverage of the federation that has been ignored for no reason other than that it criticizes the paper and the federation--which is extremely disappointing from an alleged community newspaper. Anyway, here's the letter: The Washington Jewish Week reported on its website on July 20 (“Federation Board of Directors Unanimously Approves Purchase of New Headquarters”) that the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington had decided to buy a new building for a price of more than $15 million. Considering that the purchase comes not only in a tough economic environment, but at a time when fundraising for the federation’s annual campaign has declined by more than 25 percent in the last three years – from more than $25 million in 2008 to $17.6 million in 2011 -- and allocations to member agencies have been slashed by close to $2 million, this seemed like a somewhat controversial decision. Yet the WJW’s article on the decision featured no discussion of this important issue – just praise, from both the article’s author and federation officials, for the generosity of the donors and the work of the federation. The only mention of the controversial economic issues involved were in a lengthy question and answer section – which is not an actual interview but simply the federation’s talking points for explaining the deal. Is the WJW now just a federation mouthpiece and press agent, or is the WJW a newspaper? The federation is a very important organization in the Jewish community – one in which thousands of people put their trust in every year by giving it their charitable contributions. And it should be covered like an important organization, one whose decisions deserve scrutiny and examination. Why won’t the WJW do its job and provide that scrutiny, instead of the cheerleading we have been getting in the last two years? Eric Fingerhut Washington, D.C.


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