Grasping for truth within a cacophonous sea is arduous, as the Internet is flooded by fake news and cat videos. Although the wreckage of a broken fourth estate is evident, Bar Gissin, executive director of the Movement for Public Journalism, said her organization can buoy the remains.
The organization’s mission is to promote Israeli journalism that is “for the public,” “of the public,” “funded by the public” and “with the public.” Such are similar aims undertaken by global entities, including The Correspondent, ProPublica and City Bureau, and reflect a public desire for more truthful storytelling, Gissin noted during a “Knowledge and Nosh” event at The Center for Women last week.
Where the Israeli-based nonprofit seeks to differentiate itself is in its positioning. The organization is not a news outlet and its leader is not a journalist. Instead, the two-year-old group is a facilitator and has an organizer at its helm. That allows it to float a possible pathway forward, said Gissin.
“We want to be the dash between journalism and the public,” she explained. “We want them to work together. … If we want to see a strong civil society, we have to do it together.”
Gissin, 29, is familiar with activism and articulating change. In November 2017, as national chairperson for Young Meretz, a division of the Meretz political party for those aged 18-35, Gissin traveled to Pittsburgh and described her involvement with Mekomi, an Israeli organization striving to “build the next generation of progressive Israeli officials.”
At the time, Gissin said, Mekomi was trying to “change the equation” by empowering those at the bottom. She applied similar imagery last week when describing the Movement for Public Journalism.
“The knowledge we produce and publish should be completed together,” she said. “I think it should be done from the bottom up.” What this means is not more Facebook users staging posts as surrogate news sites, but rather a return to the gathering, processing and publishing of “information for the benefit of the public.”
Gissin would like to see journalists and news consumers, especially in local settings, cooperate on those processes.
“The two sides each have an opinion, or more than one opinion, but both [sides] have something to contribute,” she said.
Gissin pointed to results in news deserts like Beersheba, where her organization worked with residents and journalists to highlight issues overlooked in the southern Israeli city.
Cooperation between the parties is encouraging, and may necessitate a new means of dissemination everywhere, she explained.
“Maybe print is not what we need,” she said, softening the statement by adding, “It’s not scary, it’s just different.”
At points throughout her remarks, Gissen cast parallels between Israeli and American media. She mentioned a coziness between politicians and publishers, and highlighted two investigations involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gissin’s comments bring “an awareness to various women and bring perspectives to Jewish women,” said Christina Ruggiero, executive director of National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh Section, one of the co-sponsors.
Dodie Roskies, co-chair of the “Knowledge and Nosh” program, agreed.
“It is refreshing to see intelligent passionate people, in this case a woman, trying to solve a big problem,” she said.
The afternoon program, which was known formerly as “ladies who lunch,” is one of about “four to five programs per year” where NCJW, Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the Jewish Women’s Foundation are able to meet for a “one off, one of a kind” event, said Rachel Lipkin, Federation’s director of women’s philanthropy.
At the program’s conclusion, local historian Barbara Burstin spoke of the urgency in welcoming such speakers.
Said Burstin, “There is a real disconnect between Israeli women and American women, and bringing Israeli women here is very important.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.