Five years ago, when I was 15 years old, Babaganewz Magazine interviewed me for their “emet–truth” themed issue. They asked what we at YALDAH do to ensure that our reporting is correct and truthful. I replied that, of course, we fact-check, but didn’t think much more of it. After-all, we are a magazine featuring fiction, crafts, summer boredom busters, holiday highlights, mitzvah profiles, and girl-to-girl advice. I wasn’t too worried about dishonest or biased reporting.

Since then, I’ve given numerous media interviews–all incredibly positive experiences. Yes, as expected, there are always some misquotes and incorrect facts, but in general, each media outlet–from the Boston Globe to Discovery Girls Magazine to Lifetime TV and CEO Kids–has presented my entrepreneurial journey and magazine without injecting their strong personal bias.

This week that changed for me. Earlier this month, Irin Carmon of Tablet Magazine interviewed me. We spoke in my home for over an hour. I felt I really gave her a complete picture of YALDAH – my background and accomplishments, the girls who write for the magazine, our book imprint, Jewish Girls Retreats, our target audience, what the response has been. I felt like it was a good conversation, although I did notice that Ms. Carmon seemed overly interested in finding out if we had covered “controversial” topics in the past and what the reaction had been to them. For those of you who are YALDAH readers, you know that our content is fun, upbeat, and inspiring. The articles are written by by Jewish girls ages 8-17. Like American Girl, we aren’t about controversy. Ms. Carmon left with a sample magazine in hand, and contact information for numerous YALDAH staff members to interview in order to get a variety of perspectives on the magazine and its related projects.

However, it seems that Ms. Carmon’s agenda was to present YALDAH as an orthodox-only girls magazine which is concerned exclusively with modesty and tradition. I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt (as is required by Jewish tradition) that she perhaps misunderstood much of our interview, or, felt that her job as a journalist is to create a controversial piece. Whatever the motivation, the article that appeared in Tablet Magazine yesterday (8/17/11) gave a warped view of what YALDAH is about, and certainly didn’t convey my personal ambitions and dreams for YALDAH Media, Inc.

I cringed just reading the blurb on the article itself:

“What is an Orthodox teenage girl to do when confronted with magazines that cannot possibly resonate with her more modest, traditional outlook? Since 2004, she has been able to turn to Yaldah, which places a premium on tznius and a woman’s place in the home. Yet Yaldah is the work of just such a girl, Leah Caras,profiled today in Tablet Magazine by Irin Carmon, who would seem to have ambitions beyond what is expected of her. Does she buy what her magazine is selling?”

Expected of me? No one ever expected me to become a teen entrepreneur, to run a book publishing company at seventeen, to homeschool for 2 years, to win a host of contests and awards, or start a graphic design business on the side. Hmm. Have you noticed any article in YALDAH lately about a woman’s place in the home? But we did have an interview with a pediatrician, a children’s book author, a famous cookbook writer, a singer, a comedian, and a balloon artist. Of course we value tznius, but is that the only thing we’re about? Do I buy what YALDAH is selling? Sure I do – I buy that Jewish girls have an immense power to change the world for the better.

I learned yesterday, from the Tablet, that it’s possible to report all the correct facts, yet still not report the truth. Quotes, taken out of context, can deceive. Omitting the whole picture is also a form of dishonesty. In fact, unlike other reporters, Ms. Carmon would not let me see the article before it went online. She agreed to fact-check, but as I’ve learned, facts are all about the context they are placed in.

YALDAH fans will recognize that the picture painted in the article is not the magazine they love. While YALDAH is published from a traditional Jewish perspective, it is not exclusively read by Orthodox girls, as many of our loyal readers commented. The suggestion about dressing modestly in an article about eating disorders was one of seven tips given to help develop a positive self-image in spite of conflicting messages from the media. It was clearly not advice to help cure an eating disorder! And of course, modesty is just one minor topic that we address among many others such as getting along with friends, travel, health, careers, and Jewish holidays.

After seven years of over thirty interviews, including many secular media outlets, the Tablet article is the first to present, what in my opinion, is a skewed article. I realize that not every reporter is going to be in line with YALDAH’s traditional Jewish views. I realize that reporters may want to push boundaries and to be more critical, but I still expect professionalism.

So, YALDAH readers, I share with you this lesson: remember not to believe every news article you read. The whole picture is rarely filled in. You need to do a bit of investigating yourself. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and any experiences you’ve encountered with biased reporting.

I’m looking forward to many years of continuing our mission of inspiring and uniting all Jewish girls to express themselves creatively and change the world for the better!