October 11, 2017
The Forward doubles down on its commitment to exposing anti-Semitism in the Trump Era
by Alex Primiani
With the election of Donald Trump, one of America’s longest-running Jewish papers, the Forward, is refocusing its coverage to combat the anti-Semitism that has, until recently, predominantly lived in the darkest parts of the Internet.
According to Jaclyn Peiser of the New York Times, the Forward’s editorial board is shifting the 120-year-old paper’s attention to more investigative reporting, “covering the rise of public displays of anti-Semitism.”
Peiser interviewed several members of the staff, including editor-in-chief Jane Eisner. “There’s something different happening now,” Eisner said, “and here I’m speaking not just as a journalist, but as a close observer of the American Jewish scene. I feel it’s my responsibility as a writer and editor to illuminate that for people.”
Against the backdrop of a rising alt-right movement and this August’s protest in Charlottesville, where protesters carried torches through the streets chanting, “Jews will not replace us” and an attack by white nationalist left one woman dead, the Forward may have a vital investigative role in keeping the activities of hate groups, and those in the current administration who encourage them, in full view of the public. Last March, Forward writers Lili Bayer and Larry Cohler-Esses reported on then-Trump-advisor Sebastian Gorka’s membership in a Hungarian far-right group once associated with the Nazi Party.
Peiser also cites statistics from the Anti-Defamation League: “There was a 34 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2016 compared with the year before, and an 86 percent increase in the first quarter of 2017.”
The staff of the Forward have, unfortunately, also been exposed to this recent wave of anti-Semitism. Peiser writes that several staffers received death threats after conservative media reported on the paper’s investigations of the Trump administration and the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the US.
In response to these threats, Forward journalists intend to continue upholding the ethics of their profession. One way of doing that is by using extreme caution with using the word “Nazi” in their reporting. As Peiser writes, “‘We want to be accurate and fair and passionate in our journalism, but we don’t want to inflame,’ Ms. Eisner said. ‘We want to make sure that we are putting things into context, that we’re not contributing to this divisiveness.’”
With renewed journalistic commitment to investigating anti-Semitism in the US, and mainstream media focus on American anti-fascism—propelled by Mark Bray’s incisive Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook—it’s hopeful that people like David Duke, Richard Spencer, and Andrew Anglin will find fewer and fewer platforms to spew their hate.
Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.