It was on an average Wednesday that a very serious Israeli newspaper conducted a very wild experiment. For one day, Haaretz editor-in-chief Dov Alfon sent most of his staff reporters home and sent 31 of Israel’s finest authors and poets to cover the day’s news.
The idea behind the paper’s June 10 special edition was to honor Israel’s annual Hebrew Book Week, which opened the same day, by inviting Israeli authors to get away from their forthcoming novels and letting them bear witness to the events of the day.
This wasn’t a Sabbath supplement, a chance to balance the news with extra color. This was a near complete replacement of the newspaper itself. Save for the sports section and a few other articles, all the reporters’ notebooks were handed over to poets and novelists, both bestselling and up-and-coming. Their articles filled the pages, from the leading headline to the weather report.
“We really tried to give a real newspaper,” Alon said.
For the liberal, Hebrew language Israeli daily — the country’s oldest — it was a bold but signature move. From its founding in 1918, Haaretz has distinguished its brand by highlighting Israeli cultural, literary and artistic life with a vigor unmatched by its competitors. That, along with its dense in-depth political and business reporting (achieved with smaller type and far fewer photos than Israel’s other dailies) has won it an elite audience, albeit one far smaller than its competitors. Its weekday circulation of some 50,000 compares with 400,000 for Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest daily, and 160,000 for Ma’ariv, the second largest.