Laughs Aside, Junkets Raise Serious Issues

Congressman's Naked Swim Put Spotlight on Freebie Trips

LOL: Congressman Kevin Yoder, shown here with fellow lawmakers, drew plenty of guffaws with revelations that he went swimming in his birthday suit during a trip to Israel. The revelations shone a spotlight on the junkets taken by politicians and even some journalists.
getty images
LOL: Congressman Kevin Yoder, shown here with fellow lawmakers, drew plenty of guffaws with revelations that he went swimming in his birthday suit during a trip to Israel. The revelations shone a spotlight on the junkets taken by politicians and even some journalists.

By Nathan Guttman

Published August 23, 2012, issue of August 31, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

AIEF takes more than just members of Congress on trips to Israel; it takes journalists, too, on a regular basis. Discussing the latest Sea of Galilee events, Chris Matthews host of MSNBC’s“Hardball,” said on August 20: “I’ve been there a number of times, a trip sponsored by a pro-Israel group, Jewish group, very educational trips. They show you a lot about the geography of the land and the situation they’re facing with the Palestinians.”

MSNBC did not return several calls requesting comment on Matthews’ participation in these trips and the network’s policy on joining press junkets.

A spokesman for AIEF would not provide details on the number of reporters hosted by the group in Israel, but there are estimates based on reports of participants indicating that dozens of journalists have participated in pro-Israel junkets throughout the years.

“It’s a super-effective strategy,” said David Plotz, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Slate. Plotz attended an AIEF trip in 2007. He noted that while the junket was “incredible fun,” with business class travel and fancy hotels, organizers packed the agenda with informative tours and “amazing interesting people,” including Israeli President Shimon Peres, top officers of the Israel Defense Forces and a senior Palestinian representative. Participants were free to quiz their hosts and to pose tough questions, but still, Plotz said he left Israel with the impression that “Gaza is a mess, the [security] wall is serving its purpose and that — oh, my God —Iran is six months away from nuclear weapons.” Slate does not have a policy prohibiting participation in junkets as long as reporters clearly state where the funding came from.

Many other American publications do not prohibit trips paid for by businesses or interest groups, though it is common to require full disclosure when reporting on topics relating to the tour. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and all major TV networks insist on paying for their own expenses in all cases, as does the Forward.

“A responsible journalist has no business taking a free trip to Israel — or to any other country, or to a Hollywood film studio’s junket at a resort, or to any other destination that is involved in the subject matter that the journalist covers or is likely to cover in the future. Period,” said Samuel Freedman, a journalism professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and an expert on media ethics. Freedman stressed that even if the free trips do not create actual bias in the reporting, “they absolutely create the perception of bias, and that perception is just as corrosive to a journalist’s credibility.” Larry Lorenz, professor emeritus of journalism at Loyola University New Orleans, agreed that receiving free trips is wrong regardless of whether reporters write about the issue. “Journalism organizations should be concerned about giving the appearance of being bought.,” Lorenz said.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.