Friday, January 21, 2005

Please tone it down, Brad

I used to enjoy reading Bradley Burston's pieces for the online version of Haaretz. He's excellent at identifying the key issues of the day and putting them in their broader historical and political context.

But I wish he would tone down the melodramatic ledes. Here's the opeining in his latest piece:

Armed Islamists have long been the lethal wild card in the Dead Man's Hand of the Mideast peace table.

Dead Man's Hand of the Mideast peace table? What the hell is he talking about? It's damn entertaining writing, but for my taste way over the top.

Perhaps I've just grown tired of noisy journalism, but I also think such ledes detract from the quality of Burston's writing and skills as a journalist. I find it hard to take him seriously when it appears he's seeking the melodramatic angle of the story or he wants to transform the story of the day into a cliffhanger.

Here's the lede from a Burston piece entitled "The fight of Sharon's life: His place in history" dated May 27, 2003:

At the age of 75, with countless wars, near-fatal injuries, and half a century in public life behind him, Ariel Sharon only now faces the fight of his life - securing his place in history.

It seems to me the fight of Sharon's life were the wars and near-fatal injuries? But I guess that wouldn't make a good story.

It seems as if every time Burston writes there's some fight of someone's life or deadly card game. I get tired just reading his opening lines.

How about this piece (date unknown) entitled "The Abbas problem: Partner or Yasser Redux?":

No one doubts the courage of Mahmoud Abbas.

In the blood-soaked course of the Intifada, the professorially unglamorous Abbas, 69, gained sudden world stature as a lone voice for moderation in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and as the most likely partner for peacemaking in a post-Arafat epoch.

Now, however, an abrupt re-invention has vaulted Abbas onto the shoulders of gunmen and into the smiling public embrace of Marwan Barghouti's wife, in a campaign swing that has him lauding the legacy of Yasser Arafat, and vowing to protect the very men who head Israel's hit lists of most-wanted terrorists.

The only thing missing is the dramatic Hollywood music score playing in the background.

(For more examples, just do a Google search for Bradley Burston Haaretz.)

Do we really need to turn up the pressure on the reality here? I mean things are dramatic enough as it is. Can't we journalists put events in some kind of context and perspective?

This is Israel, our daily lives. Not entertainment for the English reading Jewish audience in America.

Or is it?