Monday, December 05, 2005

Shana Liebman

Between two major Lubavitch events this month — the NYU conference and the now-concluding world emissaries conference — it's hard not to know what coverage is developing of the group.
Still, even by regular reporting standards, Heeb editorial-board member Shana Liebman's upcoming piece on Lubavitch is developing with all the subtlety of an atomic bomb. Besides for the fact that seemingly everyone around the press table knew something about her not only doing the piece, but what questions she was asking, Allan Dershowitz based his keynote speech last night around her reporting.
Dershowitz's speech, for which it appeared Liebman was no longer present, used her question to him — about why he supports a group that is chasidic when he is a misnaged — to launch into a disquisition on the thesis "What I have learned more than anything from Chabad is to emphasize points of agreement, not points of disagreement."
The seeming intent of Liebman's reporting is to touch on some elements of controversy and/or lines of striation when it comes to broader Jewish attitudes to Lubavitch, even when it's a bit strained: her question to Dershowitz is a stretch not only because the chasidic/misnagdic debate saw a burying of the hatchet some centuries ago, but perhaps moreso because Dershowitz himself doesn't really seem to have the kind of developed religious philosophy that'd strongly disagree with anyone or anything; she's probably interviewed David Berger; she asked me "what's interesting/controversial about this Lubavitch Emmissary conference coming up–or the movement in general."
Of course, none of this should be taken as a very strong indication of what she intends to do with her piece. I ask tons of questions that end up having little bearing on what my reporting looks like in the end, and plenty of other reporters do, too.
Liebman did a pretty good job with her critical take on the Alan Stadtmauer story, though she dropped the ball in her item on the Soho Synagogue.
As an article develops more over a longer period, it grows increasingly likely that the top brass at a publication will exercise some control and, frankly, we've seen how Adam Moss plays Judaism stories, and it isn't pretty.

Canonist is a religion blog authored by Steven I. Weiss.

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