Sunday, September 18, 2005

Supply and demand in the Jerusalem Post newsroom

I've never worked for the Jerusalem Post, thank God, unless you count an occasional op-ed. But I've known Post employees off and on over the past fifteen years. It's hard to live in Israel as an English speaker without knowing someone who works for the Post. And, without exception, they have all attested to how awful a place it is to work.

It always takes outsiders by surprise, especially now that the Post has become (seriously) an excellent newspaper. Quality-wise, the Post has been good at times, barely adequate at others, but management's treatment of its employees has, at least according to the workers, ranged among various degrees of lousy.

When I was younger, I once contacted a friend who was then high up on the paper's editorial staff to ask about the possibility of an internship. He said he could probably arrange it, but I really, really didn't want to do that. Not if I had any self-respect.

Why should Israel's leading English language daily, seventy-plus years old, treat its staff like dirt? I explain it in economic terms: supply and demand. Israel has a constant stream of English-speaking immigrants, many with journalistic experience or aspirations, most of whom lack the language skills to work in the Hebrew media. There is a chronic surplus of Israelis desiring to earn a living writing in English relative to the number of jobs. (Unpaid amateur hacks like me surely don't make it any easier for them!)

As a prestigious international newspaper, the Post is especially attractive. However the Post treats its employees, however chintzy the holiday gifts and however often they cut their pay and however many they fire, there will always be newbies eager to fill their shoes.

So, while I don't begrudge them the right to kvetch, I don't have much sympathy for former Post staffers like Allison and Miriam as they gloat over the continuing Post-related legal disputes. The Post's working conditions were never much of a secret, certainly not to anyone in the business, and they could have made a point of finding out before signing on the dotted line.

They've had their time in the spotlight. Time to give some newbies a chance to be exploited.


Batya said...

True, and the people working there can be so snotty. That's why I blog and teach English. I contacted the op-ed guy who was so unenthusiastic, I figured it wasn't worth trying to get my musings in. they'd be "frozen" for 5 working days before rejection, and even if published, certainly not my 10 plus a month, it wouldn't even pay all that much. My fans deserve more. So surf over.

Zman Biur said...

It's just a shame.