by Raphael Rothstein
Michal Seletsky is a young woman who says that in life she prefers things to be unambiguously black and white. Nevertheless, as a media researcher, she finds that color plays a decisive role in how newspapers appeal to readers.
Her Master's thesis at Bar-Ilan University was a study of how four major Israeli dailies - Ha'aretz, Ma'ariv, Yeditoth Ahronot and Globes Business News - coped with the stiff completion of cable television and the second channel between 1989 and 1994.
"They met the challenge," Michal says, "by impressive design and graphics, liberally using color and enhancing and increasing consumer supplements like food, fashion and leisure."
She found that the visual stimuli people responded to when watching television was what guided the publishers. Thus, she concludes, they were able to maintain and even increase their circulation. Now visiting New York, Michal is interested in a public relations or media career and is checking out American news coverage.
At a recent midtown panel on how the American media influences the public's perception of the Middle East, she asked how the Anglo-Jewish Press shapes American-Jewish understanding of Israel and her surroundings.
The media mavens in the audience explained to her that most Jews in North America get their information from the secular media - newspapers and television.
And when it comes to the media's influence, it seems it may be over estimated. Panelist Mort Zuckerman, publisher of the Daily News and U.S. News and World Report said that the Mideast story has been around so long the public's opinion does not shift because of media emphasis in one direction or another. He observed that most Americans are sympathetic to Israel's perception notwithstanding a discernible anti-Israel media bias.
"If you read newspapers and watch television," Zuckerman said, "you'd think Bibi Netanyahu's first name is 'Hard-line." "Yes," panelist Morley Safer of '60 Minutes' quipped, "and he made Sharon Foreign Minister to soften his image."
Turning to recent diplomatic developments Rajhid Dergham, the U.N. based correspondent of the Arabic Daily Al Hayat, (Published in London) said she regretted that the Oslo agreement focuses solely on Israel and the Palestinians, while the Madrid Conference in 1991 was aimed at a comprehensive peace settlement. "Now," she said, "the peace process is not concerned with Israel and Syria."
Asked recently about Dergham's comment, the head of Israel's delegation at Madrid, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, found himself in agreement. Although at home, Shamir has made no secret of his disapproval of Oslo and withdrawal from Judea and Samria, while here he scrupulously avoided criticizing Israel's present leadership in interviews and statements.
The 84 year old Shamir was in New York to attend the recent major Israel Bonds dinner honoring him and Mikhail Gorbachev on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Great Soviet Aliyah.
Shamir and Gorbachev first met in 1991 at the Madrid Conference. Some months later, in 1992, when he was no longer President of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev visited Israel. His host was the then Minister of tourism Gideon Patt, who as the current President and CEO of Israel Bonds conceived of the commemorative event. Welcoming the former Soviet Chief to New York, Patt mentioned the 1992 trip and Gorbachev responded enthusiastically, "Yes, I remember it well. It was a wonderful visit."
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