Sunday, September 17, 2006

Scranton Times-Tribune: The Jews are coming!

Holy shit. Is the Scranton Times-Tribune anti-semitic or just stupid? Didn't anyone read these stories, these headlines before publication? The Times-Tribune ran a big Sunday package about, well, Jews. Allegedly with a news peg of a Brooklyn congregation moving as many as 1,000 (we'll see) families to a city of more than 70,000, the Times-Tribune tells its readers:

-- The Jews don't return our calls, therefore they are conspiring (why won't they explain their nutty religion?)
-- The Jews are taking over a nice township in New Jersey (implication = is Scranton next?)
-- The Jews will "keep to themselves," their Realtor promises (until Christmas!)
-- "Their tendency to collectively pursue their own agenda can lead to friction" (those pushy Jews!)
-- "What concerns Mr. Hobday is not the size of the community but how it wields its formidable clout." (the levers of power)

and the money line...
-- "Deep down, they are nice people." (except that they killed Jesus!)

OK. That line about killing Jesus a cheap shot. But this package has to be one of the worst pieces of journalism to be published in northeastern Pennsylvania in years. A story about a particular group (a congregation in NYC)... that doesn't include any interviews with that particular group? Can The Times-Tribune not read a road map? Is two hours too far to drive for an interview? And what was with the pointless sidebar about the Catskills? Those crazy Jews go on vacation too? Here's what was with the pointless sidebar: An editor must have had some Jews move in next to his regular summer vacation spot. Presto, it's a story.

Isn't anyone looking at these pages before publication? Are they ill? Are they mad? Headlines like "political takeover alleged?" I'm glad I'm not a rabbi in Scranton. I would have shit my pants this morning. I suspect the Lynetts shit theirs too.


Anonymous said...

I thought the same thing when I read those stories.Tasteless and crass.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that four of the five Jews in the Scranton Times newsroom have left in the past year.

Anonymous said...

Wan't this the story that about a dozen people here criticized them for not doing? I remember some people were saying Jews coming to town is no story, but others took them to task, claiming the TT was missing a major story.

So which is it?

Anonymous said...

Mazel Tov

The story is the large number of one group (regardless of dogma or other defining factors) coming to Scranton to establish a school. That's a rare circumstance

I grew up in that neighborhood and it was always heavily Jewish. This is my first exposure to those stories and I agree they are inflammatory

Anonymous said...

I agree with 7:29 AM, which is it?

The TT goshed royally bashed inthis space and on the message board for not running this story two weeks ago. Now they run it and the claim is they hate Jews? What gives?

Anonymous said...

- that's "got royally bashed," sorry.

John Mitchell said...

I believe I was the first one to pitch this as a story some weeks back (and got called anti-Semitic for my troubles). I still think it's a story, and I'm glad they did it.

Credit where credit is due: I would have done some things differently -- like gone to Brooklyn -- but overall I think it's pretty solid. I haven't read the sidebars yet.

Our NEPA Webmeister, I'm afraid, took some lines out of context to make the story sound silly/bigoted.

For example, the "deep down they're nice people" quote came from a rabbi.

There's no doubt that a close-knit group of 1,000 families coming to town will have a social, cultural, economic and possibly political impact, and this story is a start toward recognizing that.

Anonymous said...

Clearly you and the TT hate Jews.

Anonymous said...

Your hysteria over these stories is misplaced. The TT was clear that it had repeatedly requested interviews but was denied. There's no indication that the sect agreed to an interview if it was done on their turf but the TT balked.

This is cleary a story. If the focus was on a Catholic sect coming to the area, no one would have blinked.

Anonymous said...

Your hysteria over this package is misplaced.
The TT indicated clearly that it repeatedly requested interviews and was denied. There's no reason to believe the sect agreed to talk only on their turf and the TT declined.
This is an important story. If you subsitute "Catholics" for "Jews" in this story no one would bat an eye.

W.F. Call said...

sorry, I posted twice

Anonymous said...

I was one of the people originally arguing there's a story. I still think so. But this ain't it. Darkly hinting at conspiracies, it was lazy and poorly sourced. The fatal flaw is that there is no comment from the congregation that's moving to town - the whole point of the story! For a story like this, making a few phone calls and then publishing isn't good enough. You've got to -go- to Williamsburg and knock on doors. I give the effort an F on that basis alone, to say nothing of the bizarre Catskills sidebar, etc.

In short: The stories only said the Jews going to shake things up. Missing was the why and the how. I've never read a more poorly thought-out story about observant Jews and their collective role in a town, neighborhood or city.

John Mitchell said...

Now that I've read the sidebars;

"Political takeover" was pretty flimsy, hung almost exclusively on one guy who may or may not have had an ax to grind. No comment from the zoning board that rejected the Catholic college's plan. No comment from the college, for that matter.

The Who are they? sidebar probably needed some background stuff on what are Hasidim, what are their beliefs and practices and how do they differ from, I don't know, Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand? That's real basic info for New Yorkers, I guess, but hey, this is Scranton, you can't over-explain this stuff.
I mean, there are Jews and there are Jews. The point is not that the Jews are coming (they're already here) but a particularly exotic brand. And how does this type different from some of the better-known Hasidic sects, like the Lubavitchers? Probably not much, but I don't know.

And the Catskills sidebar, as somebody observed, just didn't seem that germane, aside from being tissue-thin.

And yeah, you gotta go to Brookyn

So B-minus for effort (a little slow), C-minus for content.

I've always thought Singleton's a good writer, but people have commented that the Times Tribune just doesn't have editors with the chops to work a reporter through a nuanced and tricky topic. A story like this seems to be over their heads, methinks.

Tom Carten said...

Somebody get a saw; I'm going out on a limb.

There is a group, not sure where, but it's above NYC somewhere, and I'm not sure which branch of Judaism they represent, but they tend to cluster, demand services and some measure of control while finding a way to avoid taxes.

I'd rather not identify my source, as he is a now-local person who lived right near them, but he is quite reliable and I'd put my faith in his word.

If this is part of the above group, there could be problems. If it's a group that wishes to practice its way of life together in our area, bless them.

Let's wait and see.

NEPAmedia said...

Tom, you're killing me. You've got an anonymous source somewhere in New York who doesn't like his Jewish neighbors because he thinks they are greedy and pushy. That's HUGE. Get me rewrite!

The story idea was great. The story execution was awful. All flavors of observant Jews are all thrown together, and almost no effort is made to represent their views. Absolutely no effort is made to explore their beliefs. What a disaster.

Tom Carten said...

nepamedia said: You've got an anonymous source somewhere in New York.

As I said: he is a now-local person who lived right near them. He's anonymous just as everyone else on this board, including you, are anonymous; I don't have his permission and I doubt he would give it -- perhaps for the same reasons most people here don't give their name.

...who doesn't like his Jewish neighbors because he thinks they are greedy and pushy.

He and everyone else there. Let me see what I can get and I'll be back later.

That's HUGE. Get me rewrite!

You might not need rewrite.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, the news here is about a large group of people moving to Scranton. The newspaper writes a story (actually a whole package) but interviews none of the people who will be moving here. Let me repeat: A couple hundred column inches were devoted to a very particular group of people (members of a specific religious congregation) but included input from none - nil, zip, zero - of those people.

That fatally flaws the whole package. Publishing it in its present form was a mistake.

Anonymous said...


Man, anytime anyone comes here by choice--someone not a drug dealer--that's big news!

Anonymous said...

"A couple hundred column inches"

I must have read a different story.Looked to me like the standard Sunday centerpeice with two sidebars.

No comment from the people in question. I'm sure that's part of how they operate. Can't stir up controversy keeping quiet. I'd do the same thing if I represented them.

Anonymous said...

This is driving me nuts. Maybe I'm the only insane person here, and it is completely normal to publish a sizable package about a small group without getting any comment from that group - or, frankly, any insight about that particular group. Maybe it became acceptable to make your Sunday centerpiece about a group even though it was too "hard" to get ahold of them. Maybe it became fashionable to deal in stereotype and second-hand scuttlebutt instead of the facts.

Whether returning calls is part of how "they" operate is immaterial. Publishing such a story without any comment from the SUBJECTS of the story, a flaw likely cured with an easy drive to Brooklyn, should not be how a reputable newspaper operates.

The editors of the Times should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

Here is how the story SHOULD have been written:

Anonymous said...

I guess the New York Times didn't find it hard to get ahold of them.

Anonymous said...

Here's my two cents as someone who has had business relationships and reporter-source relationships with the Hasidim: Theirs is a very faith-based, inward-looking world. A goyim calling about a story for the Scranton newspaper? Fuggedabout it. If Dave Singleton is going to get the story, he's going to have to physically show up, use some sharp elbows and get some face time in Brooklyn with the rebbe.

A guy by the name of Stephen Bloom wrote a great book titled "Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America." It's about a small Iowa farm town and the changes it underwent when some Hasidic Jews bought an abandoned slaughterhouse and turned it into the biggest glatt kosher slaughterhouse in the world. It's a great book.

The beginning of Chapter Two is instructive. It starts: "Even though I am a Jew, I had no automatic entree to the Postville Hasidim. The macher (leader) of the community was Sholom Rubashkin, a 35-year-old Brooklyn-born Lubavitcher whose father had started the Postville slaughterhouse. When I called Sholom at the packinghouse called Agriprocessors, a harried-sounding secretary said she'd leave word for him to call me back. But Sholom never called. Over the next week, I phoned again, then again, six, seven, eight times, leaving more messages. I called the Postville synagogue, the shul. No one answered. I called Sholom's home and left a message with his wife. But Sholom never called back. I tried to contact other Jews in Postville, leaving messages on their answering machines, but none returned my calls."

Bloom eventually figures out he's just going to have to show up at the plant if he wants to learn anything.

"Despite the hour, the place was humming. [...] Even after I gave my name to the secretary, no one paid me any attention. No one said anything to me. With the secretary busy... I poked my head into Sholom Rubashkin's office, but he shooed me away with the back of his right hand. "Too busy," he said in English. "Wait outside."

"Finally, at ten, Sholom called me into his office. He motioned for me to take a seat as he continued talking on the phone. [...] Sholom pulled out a Marlboro Gold cigarette, lit it, and started sucking and then exhaling, all the while still talking on the phone in a mishmash of rapid-fire Hebrew and Yiddish. Cradling the phone between his right ear and shoulder, he was balancing his checkbook on an old-model computer. After he finished with the computer, he started making wild hand and arm gestures in response to what the caller on the phone was saying. [...]

"Sholom, line two, Sholom, line three," the secretary squawked through an office intercom.

"Who is it?" Sholom yelled out the door.

Through the intercom box came two names.

"Who's that?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders, now looking at me, leaning forward. "You know anyone with a name like that?"

"He wants to talk about the truckload. He's somewhere in Missouri," the secretary said.

"He's meshugge. Tell him to forget it. Sheesh!

That is the environment into Dave Singleton's messages disappeared into.

Bloom got a bestselling book for his persistence. The Scranton Times got a flawed, badly sourced story for its laziness.

Anonymous said...

O God, ease our suffering in this, our moment of great dispair.

Yea, admit this kind and decent woman into thy arms of thine heavenly area, up there.

And Moab, he lay us upon the band of the Canaanites, and yea, though the Hindus speak of karma, I implore you: give her a break.

Anonymous said...

There was nothing wrong with the stories. Much of the mainstream media is just so fucking worried about offending someone; in this case Jews.
It's OK to attack fundamentalist Christians, but leave the Jews alone.

Anonymous said...

Let my children go; in this case to Scranton.
The latest exodue of God's chosen people is going to cause all kinds of problem in the Electric City. No good is going to come to this. If I lived on the Hill, I'd drive a hard bargain and sell my house. Thank God it's happening in Scranton and not here in Wilkes-Barre. The drug dealers will be easier to deal with than the new arrivals who will demand all kinds of services from the city.

Anonymous said...

If you think there's nothing wrong with writing a lengthy story about a particular congregation without comment from anyone in that congregation, you may have a future editing the Scranton Times.

Anonymous said...

If you have any bitches with the stories call Larry Beaupre, Times Tribune managing editor.
He thinks he's a very intelligent fellow. Give him a call and complain to him. He's been known to fuck up a thing or two, right Banana Boat?

Anonymous said...

I agree with 7:29 a.m. The story is just outlining the facts. Why is the fact that the paper says "The leaders of this group wouldn't call us back" all of a sudden fraught with meaning, but if Mayor Doherty or DA Jarbola doesn't call the reporter back, it just means they didn't want to call the paper back.

Anonymous said...

Because everyone who posts here is very smart. My hunch is between asking "would you like me to super-size that" and manning the fryer they're posting here.