Lashon hara and The CJN

In his essay on last week’s Torah reading, Parsha Tazria, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks presented a history of lashon hara – evil speech – and a handy reminder of the consequences of this wicked sin. It particularly caught my attention because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about lashon hara. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about this new job I have and how the prohibition against evil speech impacts it. I’d like to tell you now what I’ve come up with, because it informs where The Canadian Jewish News is going.

I suppose I could start by defining what I mean by lashon hara, but I think you all know: the stories we tell each other about each other. Sometimes we do it to hurt those of whom we speak, but mostly I don’t think it’s really insidious at all. We’re just passing the time, looking for something –  anything  – to talk about, to keep us occupied. Even so, deep down, I’d like to think we all know it’s wrong.

I’ve been hearing a lot more lashon hara in the three months since I became editor of this newspaper – I guess that’s not a surprise, but it disturbs me nonetheless, and I’d like to do my part to stop it. Now, I won’t tell you how to live your lives, but what I can tell you is how I intend to operate The CJN: there will be no gossip here. So if that’s what you thought our new, “edgier” direction was all about (notwithstanding my Purim column), I’m afraid you’ve been mistaken.

At the same time, you deserve to know what’s going on when it comes to issues that affect you and your community, and we believe it’s our duty to tell you about them. You can expect that we will, and in a more vigorous way than you may be used to from The CJN (there’s the “edgier”). But it will always be with the mindset to serve and improve the Jewish community, and mindful not to reduce the conversation to lashon hara.

It’s an auspicious time of year on the Jewish calendar (though when isn’t it an auspicious time?). This month we celebrate the birth of the Jewish People on Passover –  it’s a time for beginnings, and in that spirit we are preparing to present to you a brand new CJN. Next week, we reveal our redesigned paper and a new era in the history of The Canadian Jewish News.

In many ways, the April 10 edition of The CJN will appear to be a radical departure from what you’ve been accustomed to for so many years. There will be new voices, new opinions and a new energy. But we’ve left some traditional things in place. I’d like to think that first and foremost among them is a recognition that the purpose of The CJN is to serve as an independent voice for the Jewish community. That hasn’t changed at all.

Nor has the understanding that we must tread the fine line between lashon hara and essential information carefully. I guess we all, in our own ways, have to deal with that.