Jodi Rudoren, Twitter, and the most contentious post in American journalism


It was merely a matter of hours before Jodi Rudoren, announced yesterday as the next Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times, found herself embroiled in controversy. Multiple controversies, really.

The main issue is a number of tweets that critics of various stripes are looking to as evidence of her bias. There’s a helpful roundup of the tweets in the Washington Free Beacon, but the two causing the biggest stir are her friendly message to Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah and her approving comment about Peter Beinart’s new book.

In interviews with Politico and Tablet’s The Scroll blog, Rudoren professes naivete about these newfangled social media tools. The message for Abunimah, she says, was intended to be a private message. Tablet’s Marc Tracy, for one, finds that defense credible and offers a dose of advice.

I see those tweets as evidence not of bias or slant but of somebody not understanding the power of this medium and the scrutiny she is now under. I would also humbly suggest, as someone perhaps no longer quite a novice, that she tweet and retweet from no sides of the conflict.

Meanwhile, everyone and their uncle is delving into Rudoren’s extensive paper trail (926 bylines in The New York Times as of 2006) in a search for clues about the woman soon to have an outsized influence in shaping public opinion about the Middle East. There’s been some tittering about her decision to combine her name with her husband’s after they were married (Rudoren is the reporter formerly known as Jodi Wilgoren) and an archaeological source for clues about her biases in a piece from December about whether to identify her children culturally as Jewish. She wrote:

Maybe we should make an American flag with six-pointed stars, signifying Jewish-American. Or would that feel like defacing the flag? Did I want them primarily identified as Jews? (I know, I already sent them to public school with Hebrew and Yiddish first names.)

About the only thing that can be said with certainty at this point is that Rudoren has provided plenty of red meat (arguably too much) for the critics that inevitably pounce on every percieved tilt in Mideast coverage by the newspaper of record.

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