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Israeli poets and Stephen Colbert

What do they have in common, you ask? Well, last week, a group of Israeli scribes and the host of The Colbert Report took the helm of respected news organs as guest editors and content providers.

On Wednesday, June 10 “ the first day of Hebrew Book Week “ Dov Alfon, the editor-in-chief of Israel’s Haaretz newspaper turned over the reins to Israel’s novelists and poets, giving them carte blanche to cover the news.

From Forward.com:

This wasn’t a Sabbath supplement, a chance to balance the news with extra color. This was a near complete replacement of the newspaper itself. Save for the sports section and a few other articles, all the reporters’ notebooks were handed over to poets and novelists, both bestselling and up-and-coming. Their articles filled the pages, from the leading headline to the weather report.

The results were interesting, to say the least. The weather report appeared as a sonnet, penned by Roni Somek, and Eshkol Nevo’s television review began, “I didn’t watch TV yesterday.” Other articles were more sober, including novelist David Grossman’s account of a night spent at a drug rehab centre for children.

Meanwhile, one of America’s most venerable weekly newsmagazines, Newsweek, gave Stephen Colbert the opportunity to edit a special Iraq-themed issue, to coincide with his week spent in Iraq, where he was “Bob Hoping it up” for the troops.

The issue, dated June 15, begins with an editor’s letter from Colbert, titled “Why I Took This Crummy Job.” It reads, in part:

[D]espite our continued victories, Americans have many lingering questions about Iraq. For example: where is Iraq? My guess is somewhere near Paraguay.

I wanted to find the answers. So when Jon Meacham asked me to guest-edit Newsweek, I jumped at the chance, particularly because my guest editorship at Mature Honeys fell through. I guess my photo essay of sexy housewives reenacting the Battle of Fallujah was too “real” for them.

Colbert then drops the satirical veil (more or less) to describe the issue’s very serious intent:

Thanks to my editorial diligence, you’ll read about the people who’ve been touched by this war, from the citizens of Iraq to the cadets at West Point; from soldiers who actively seek out multiple deployments to deserters living in Canada; and from the Iraqi prime minister to the children of our own deployed soldiers.

Quillblog wonders if this may be the start of a new trend. Will we soon see Anne Michaels covering ultimate fighting for The Globe and Mail or George Bowering writing villanelles about the new Transformers movie? One can but dream …