News, the National Obsession
Israel is a nation of news junkies. Everyone from
the street sweeper to the prime minister covets the news, current
and right up to the minute. Israelis want to be well-informed about
everything from the latest soccer game scores to the latest-breaking
“in the know” is extremely important because everyone has an opinion
to express, and everyone strives to support opinions with the freshest
facts from a favorite media source and journalist.
Israeli electronic and print media rise to this challenge, providing
news and feature stories not only in Hebrew and Arabic (the country’s
official languages) but in Russian, English, French, Spanish, Amharic,
Farsi, Ladino, and Yiddish as well. There is even an official listener:
Michael “Mickey” Gurdus and his staff monitor and summarize news
from regional and world radio and television stations for national
radio and television.
radio waves are crowded, and everyone tunes in. Israelis can choose
from everything from national, army, and independent radio stations
to the local pirate stations that occasionally crowd into the radio
bands reserved for air-traffic controllers.
newspapers are expensive by U.S. standards, costing an average of
just over a dollar at the newsstands. But Israel, a country with
a total population of just over 5 million (less than half the size
of Chicago), supports three mass-circulation Hebrew-language dailies,
dailies for several of the Jewish Orthodox communities, and Arabic,
Russian, and English-language dailies. There are weekly or monthly
newspapers and magazines in all the other languages and for special
interest groups–ranging from newspapers or magazines for schoolchildren
to local weeklies for various cities and farming areas.
two television channels (one national and one independent) devote
an average of three hours’ prime time to news or news analysis programming
every day. Additionally, large segments of the TV viewing population
are connected to cable service.
radio, TV (including cable), newspapers, magazines, and Internet
sources of news, Israelis in ever-greater numbers now turn to the
phone company, Bezek, which has a dial-in number linking to national
radio. And all three cell-phone providers also have dial-in numbers
that provide links to various radio stations as well as the Internet.
Clearly, getting news is Israel’s national obsession.
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