The XX Factor

If Writers Wrote the News

Earlier this month, an Israeli Newspaper, Haaretz , undertook an intriguing experiment. What would happen if, instead of traditional journalists, novelists and poets wrote the news? Forward recounts the results in ” Literary Lesson: Authors, Poets Write the News .”

Haaretz is a serious newspaper. In other words, this wasn’t like the time Tina Brown asked Roseanne Barr to guest-edit The New Yorker . In honor of Hebrew Book Week, Haaretz editor-in-chief Dov Alfon sent home most of his staff reporters and replaced them with 31 of Israel’s top writers and poets, among them: Avri Herling, David Grossman, Roni Somek, Yoram Kaniuk, and Eshkol Nevo.


The results were a meta-mix of odd news bites, first-person impressions, and lines of poetry:

Among those articles were gems like the stock market summary, by author Avri Herling. It went like this: “Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place … Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points … The guy from the shakshuka [an Israeli egg-and-tomato dish] shop raised his prices again….” The TV review by Eshkol Nevo opened with these words: “I didn’t watch TV yesterday.” And the weather report was a poem by Roni Somek, titled “Summer Sonnet.” (“Summer is the pencil/that is least sharp/in the seasons’ pencil case.”) News junkies might call this a postmodern farce, but considering that the stock market won’t be soaring anytime soon, and that “hot” is really the only weather forecast there is during Israeli summers, who’s to say these articles aren’t factual?

Haaretz is something like Israel’s version of the New York Times -although, of course, the New York Times would never do something like this. Which is too bad. As we all know, newspaper are the dinosaurs of 21st century media. Maybe if they opened their doors to the more literary-minded among us, they might win readers with news that can do more than inform us, and move us.