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Meet Your New NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief

Journalism’s most controversial post gets a new steward

Marc Tracy
February 14, 2012
Jodi Rudoren.(NYT)
Jodi Rudoren.(NYT)

The New York Times has announced that come April its new Jerusalem bureau chief will be Jodi Rudoren, formerly a politics reporter at the paper. (Current chief Ethan Bronner will cover national legal affairs.) This feels like the World Cup or something, one of those seminal events that occurs far less frequently than annually and that is bound to send us into a tizzy, given the Kremlinological intricacy with which the paper of record’s coverage of Israel is examined, particularly by the Jewish community.

Rudoren—who used to be Jodi Wilgoren; she and her husband, Gary Ruderman, merged their names—is now the education editor of the Times. But the experience that likely best suited her to covering a fraught story packed with true believers on both sides was her tenure in 2003 as the newspaper’s beat reporter for the Howard Dean campaign. (For example, a “Wilgoren Watch” blog appointed itself a pro-Dean ombudsman of her coverage.)

In a 2007 Q&A, Rudoren remarked, “The folks who cover the Middle East get criticism for being hopelessly pro-Israel and shamelessly co-opted by the Palestinians.” And about a decade ago, she published two articles during the Second Intifada examining how arguments over the conflict were playing out stateside: She reported (presciently) on a Hillel-sponsored conference that trained students how to defend Israel on campuses; and she covered what she saw as shifting ways in which American Jews were viewing the conflict. “Public opinion and political statements abroad isolating United States support for Israel have made many here worry whether the tight alliance between the two countries will fray,” she wrote in 2002. “Not since the wars of 1967 and 1973, perhaps not since Israel’s founding in 1948, have American Jews been this united—or this unnerved.” Citing the march on the Mall in support of Israel that drew 100,000, she added, “While some Jews fear that any criticism of Israel’s military response will be read as disloyalty, and a few report being afraid to put Israeli flag stickers on their windshields, the current crisis has inspired more of a coming out than a run for cover.”

As for Bronner, he has come under scrutiny that may be unprecedented even by the standards of a Times Jerusalem bureau chief. It was alleged that he gave favorable coverage to fellow members of his speaker’s bureau, and the revelation that his son was serving in the Israel Defense Forces prompted calls—including from the Times’ public editor—for him to be moved. It’s notable that Bronner was accused of bias from both the left and the right. Which isn’t proof that both or even either side was always wrong.

The Times announcement made repeated reference to the special nature of Rudoren’s new gig. “We’re thrilled to have her take on the unusually demanding role of Jerusalem correspondent,” it said. According to her Twitter feed, so is she: “Looking forward to my new assignment,” she said; she also reported that she planned to be there “3-4 years.” So, we’ll get to this all over again soon enough.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.