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Dark days for Israel’s media

JERUSALEM — The mainstream newspaper Maariv is on the verge of closing, apparently having lost a fierce 64-year contest against the populist Hebrew tabloid Yediot Aharonot. On Thursday, Haaretz, the flagship broadsheet of Israel’s left-wing intelligentsia, was not published for the first time in three decades; the newsroom held a one-day strike to protest the planned layoff of scores of employees.

Israel’s print media are in crisis, squeezed by both the global pressures of the digital age and a small, crowded Hebrew-language market that is undergoing convulsions of its own. Channel 10, one of Israel’s two commercial television stations, also hangs precariously, waiting to be salvaged either by the government or by investment from abroad.

Media experts here speak of an ominous trend: a once-diverse news bazaar that is becoming more concentrated and prone to political influence. In particular, they say, the economics of the print media have been skewed by the arrival five years ago of Israel Hayom, a free national newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson, a conservative U.S. billionaire who is a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel Hayom, viewed as pro-Netanyahu, now claims the widest distribution of any Hebrew newspaper on weekdays. Public television and radio have also come under tighter state control.

—Isabel Kershner, The New York Times

Facebook tops one

Facebook on Thursday announced that it had topped one

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive and founder, made the announcement in a blog post on the company’s website.

“If you’re reading this: thank you for giving me and my little team the honor of serving you,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life.”

Facebook shared some information on what its billion users have been doing on the site. People have used the “Like” button more than 1.1 trillion times since it was added in February 2009. There have been more than 140 billion friend connections.

—Nick Bilton, The New York Times

South Dakota tribe considers lifting alcohol ban

The Oglala Sioux Tribe will propose lifting an alcohol ban on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota as a way to regulate the flow of alcohol onto the reservation, which has been plagued by alcohol problems for years, officials said Thursday.

Pine Ridge is a dry reservation where tribal members can be arrested if the police even suspect drunkenness, like slurred speech or a wobbly gait. The reservation has disproportionately high rates of health and crime problems related to drinking.

This week, a federal court judge in Nebraska dismissed the tribe’s $500 million lawsuit against beer dealers in the neighboring town of Whiteclay, Neb., where four stores sell some 13,000 cans of beer and malt liquor each day, almost all of it to residents of Pine Ridge. Whiteclay has a population of about 10 people, while Pine Ridge has 45,000.

James Big Boy, chairman of the Oglala Sioux’s Law and Order Committee, said he planned to submit a proposal to the tribal council during the next few weeks calling for a public vote on whether to permit alcohol sales on Pine Ridge. It is unlikely, however, that a referendum could be held before scheduled tribal elections in November.

—Timothy Williams, The New York Times