A campus newspaper editor from the University of Pittsburgh is among 18 journalists from college news organizations currently visiting Israel.
Lindsay Carroll, assistant news editor of The Pitt News, is traveling in the Jewish state from Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 as part of an educational seminar organized by Project Interchange.
The group is expected to meet with Israeli government officials, foreign correspondents from major U.S. publications and members of the Israeli media. They will also participate in roundtable discussions with Israeli, Israeli-Arab and Palestinian students at several universities throughout the country.
Carroll and other participants were not selected for the trip because of any real or perceived anti-Israel slant in their papers’ coverage, according to Project Interchange spokesman Amit Katzir.
“We wouldn’t necessarily take one editor over another because a newspaper has been hostile to Israel in the past,” Katzir said. Although, “we certainly like to take those types of journalists because they can add balance to their papers once they return, but it’s not like we target only those students.”
In fact, Project Interchange contacts the leading campus newspapers each year seeking applicants for the trip. Members of these staffs who have not been to Israel before are more likely to be accepted.
“The idea behind this is so these journalists can develop a balanced foundation for understanding Israel’s complex realities,” he added. “That’s a foundation that a firsthand encounter with Israel and its diverse population provide.”
Besides wanting a “free trip to Israel,” Carroll freely admitted, she told The Chronicle in a phone interview that she saw the experience as a chance to learn more about regions in conflict.
“I’m really interested in the political dynamics of areas of conflict, she said, “and Israel is definitely an area that has to deal with many different types of conflict.”
A Pitt student and Israel activist reacted favorably to news that a Pitt News staff member is visiting the Jewish state.
“I think it’s great that Lindsay Carroll is participating in this program, and I hope that it has a positive effect on The Pitt News coverage of Israel,” said Samantha Vinokor, president of Panthers for Israel and a junior at Pitt.
Acknowledging that the paper was preoccupied with coverage of the G-20, Vinokor said, “I read The Pitt News daily, and did not see one mention of Israel throughout the Fall semester.
“While on the one hand this means that Israel wasn’t being given negative coverage, it also means that there is very little outlet on campus for a dialogue about the current status of Israel and the peace process.”
Carroll said there was some coverage, but she noted that Panthers for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine might want to see more coverage of the region than the rest of her paper’s readership.
“I’m not sure the entire student body is looking for coverage of Israel,” she said.
A nonprofit institute of the American Jewish Committee, Project Interchange organizes seminars in Israel for influential figures from around the world, the goal being to create a balanced perspective of Israel and the struggles it faces.
“We take anyone from journalists to parliamentarians to clergy to university presidents,” Katzir said, “as well as top experts in the fields of counterterrorism, energy and health care — people who drive policy and public opinion.”
More than 500 leaders, from over 60 countries since 1982, have traveled to Israel through Project Interchange. Its student media arm has brought more than 100 campus journalists to the Jewish state.
Carroll is believed to be the second Pitt journalist to travel to Israel with Project Interchange. Charlotte Tucker, also an assistant news editor at The Pitt News, made the trip in 2001.
The last group campus editor were in the country during Operation Cast Lead, the fighting in Gaza.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-687-1005.)