So imagine my surprise when, walking through the Miami airport, I spotted the front page of this Sunday’s New York Times and saw a familiar story. For ten days, my husband and I had been on vacation in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Ocean, and though it was lovely to be cut off from the daily media merry-go-round, I reflexively was drawn to the first real newspaper I saw.
The Man Behind the Anti-Sharia Movement, screamed the headline.
That’s our story!, screamed me, the editor.
I’m not accusing the Times of plagiarism, you understand. Andrea Elliott wrote a fine, long piece about David Yerushalmi, a little-known lawyer who has quietly led a national movement to persuade states to enact laws effectively outlawing Sharia, Islamic law.
It’s just that her story tracked very closely one published weeks earlier in the Forward, by Paul Berger. We couldn’t afford to send Paul all over the country tracing Yerushalmi’s path, but we presented a fair, complete picture of a man who has been remarkably adept at edging his radical ideas into mainstream America.
That was Sunday. Then today I opened my Times to a story by a wonderful reporter, Joseph Berger, on the disagreements among Conservative rabbis about whether or not to perform same-sex marriages. That, too, tracked closely a Forward story by Naomi Zeveloff pretty much saying the same thing, only more than a month earlier.
I suppose I should rejoice that the New York Times, still the gold standard of journalism, chooses to take its cues from the Forward. They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. A little credit where credit is due would be nice, too.
Jane Eisner, a pioneer in journalism, is writer-at-large at the Forward and the 2019 Koeppel Fellow in Journalism at Wesleyan University. For more than a decade, she was editor-in-chief of the Forward, the first woman to hold the position at the influential Jewish national news organization. Under her leadership, the Forward’s digital readership grew significantly, and won numerous regional and national awards for its original journalism, in print and online.