Sunday, February 06, 2005

Worst Writing On Wendy

Wendy Shalit's essay on Orthodox fiction in The New York Times has sparked a ton of good writing and bad writing (sharp thinking and fuzzy thinking). The worst? Sandee Brawarsky at The Jewish Week and Esther D. Kustanowitz at MyUrbanKvetch, who also writes for The Jewish Week. Editor Gary Rosenblatt has written some startling stuff in the past, but I fear he has gone to sleep on the job. With the exception of Jonathan Mark, Gary specializes in publishing plodding prose. You can't get fired for that in Jewish journalism.
Esther writes:

As a result, when I write today, I grapple with authenticity, education, power, authority, authenticity, empowerment, tradition, feminism, modernity, identity and everything under the sun.

The most demerits in this controversy must go to the prestigious publication that published Wendy Shalit's essay without fact-checking it - The New York Times. I sent emails to the Books section and to the ombudsman Daniel Okrent asking if the Times fact-checked essays written for its book section. Judging by Shalit's piece (which alleges that Nathan Englander and Tova Mirvis, among other authors, were ignorant of Orthodox Judaism, a completely fact-checkable charge easily refuted by the facts), the Times obviously does not fact-check many if not all of the essays published in the Books section, and when asked about it, they don't reply. So the biggest black eye in all this belongs to Times book editor Sam Tanenhaus who is too big of a weenie to admit how much he and The Times fell down on the job here (and judging by this debacle, many other times as well).