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Making House Calls Print E-mail

By Jay Bushinsky
February 26, 2007

JERUSALEM -- A brilliant solution to the problem of declining newspaper circulation exists in Israel.  It is a lively and wide-ranging survey of the day's articles, columns and features broadcast by one of this country's most talented radio personalities, Yitzhak Noy.

Admittedly, he goes on the air at an ungodly hour (even for the Holy Land): 5:00 a.m. But thousands of Israelis get up to listen if only because of this unique opportunity to get a compressive update about topics at the top of the local and international agenda.

His Saturday morning review of science, technology and medicine in the overseas weeklies is a bit more merciful.  It comes on just after 7:00 a.m. and is on for an hour each time. Noy takes his job very seriously.  He leaves home at midnight, stops off at an agency where facsimile copies of the latest world newspapers are printed, brings them up to the radio studio in Jerusalem, checks them for interesting stories and then goes through the Hebrew press as well as the English-language Jerusalem Post.

This enables him to launch an hour-long monologue in which he never fluffs a line, always is lively and listenable and capsulizes the contents of dozens of publications.  The effect on his nationwide audience is a desire to read his material in the original and in full.

The closest anyone ever came to doing this in the United States occurred more than 60 years ago when New York's late and legendary Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia read the Sunday comics over its municipal station, WNYC, so that the children would not suffer from a prolonged newspaper strike.

But if American radio and TV would take a cue from the Israel Broadcasting Authority, they could give a constant boost to the printed word and prevent more American cities from turning into one-newspaper towns.  Noy does not like to blow his own horn, but he admits that
a local editor once told him, "Since you started your program there has been an increase in our circulation!"  Once, when the Jerusalem Post was not delivered with the rest of the day's press, Noy notified its circulation department and within minutes he had a copy.

Even former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was among Noy's most devoted fans.  An avid newspaper reader until a series of strokes brought him to the verge of clinical death, the wartime general and popular politician told Noy, "you make my day" -- meaning that Noy's non-stop coverage of the printed news media tells him what to anticipate and what requires further elucidation.

There is no denying that the conventional newspaper is faced by powerful competition in the Internet, not to mention the up-to-the-minute radio and TV news, but Noy, for one, contends that the on-line material cannot be compared to the original and that there is no substitute for the printed word.  "For example, if you pick up a copy of the Wall Street Journal you can see how much more there is to read than you can get on-line," he said.

Of course, there may be other ways to stop the erosion of newspaper readership (the current estimate is that Americans under 30 years of age simply do not stop at newsstands any more).  One of them would be to teach elementary and high school students how to read the daily paper -- where there the news originates, how news agencies function, why there must be local, national and foreign correspondents and above all, what freedom of the press really means.  It is not an over-statement to contend that newspapers are daily encyclopedias, often crammed with hitherto-unknown information, and that for the most part, they are a national heritage that must be preserved rather than allowed to fall victim to cold-blooded profit-and-loss calculations.

A few personal notes about Yitzhak Noy:  He is a native Israeli aged 65 who was born on a cooperative farming village south of Tel Aviv.  At age 64, he still tends his olive grove and considers himself an agriculturalist as well as a journalist.  His radio career began 47 year ago, but he took time out to earn a Ph.D. at Brandeis University and wrote a thesis about power struggles within the American Jewish community during its efforts to save European Jewry from the Nazi Holocaust. It was submitted and approved in 1976.  Since then, he often is introduced at the start of his shows as "Dr. Yitzhak Noy."  Indeed, for the ailing print media, he is a cure.

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