The Interplay of News Production and Journalistic Self-Branding: Coverage of the Mixed Marriage of Lucy Aharish and Zachi Halevi


On October 10, 2018, Lucy Aharish, an Arab-Muslim Israeli woman journalist, and Zachi Halevi, a Jewish Israeli actor, were married. For years, the Israeli journalistic community had kept their mixed relationship a secret. Once made public, however, their marriage was enthusiastically covered by Israeli and international media. In the Israeli context, the mixed marriage of Jews and non-Jews, especially Muslims, challenges a variety of social borders. Despite the fact that mixed marriages are becoming more popular around the world and in Israel, little research has been done on the related cultural and media discourse. The media attention focused on the marriage of Britain’s Prince Harry and Megan Merkel demonstrates the role of celebrities in creating public discourse around complex categories of identity, including national, racial, class, and gender.

The news coverage of Aharish and Halevi's mixed marriage was based in part on materials provided by the couple itself: the wedding video (released the night of the wedding), honeymoon pictures, and media interviews. Therefore, this case study enables us to study the interplay between news media production and the self-branding of journalists. Self-branding, especially in network media environments, increases visibility and is now integral to journalists' work. The current study analyzes the coverage of the mixed marriage of Aharish and Halevi and offers explanations based on the current trend of journalists’ self-branding as micro-celebrities and the phenomenon of mixed marriage in both the global and the Israeli ethno-national contexts.

The study is based on 149 news items published on digital news sites of a variety of types (e.g., short informative pieces, opinion columns, magazine articles) published in the four months following the wedding. Media framing analysis is fitting for the purpose of the study, which strives not only to characterize the strategies of news coverage, but also to explain them in the context of the power relations that designed them. To identify the different frames, I conducted a systematic content analysis, which yielded three main media frames.

The most dominant frame is 'love conquers all.' It celebrates romantic love, positions the couple in the center, gives a prominent voice to their arguments, and supports mixed marriage. This frame promotes Aharish’s public identity as a civil-rights and justice warrior. The second frame is 'fighting against racism.' It completes the first frame, positioning liberal politicians and media people in the center and arguing for the right of free people to marry who they want. The third frame is 'fighting against assimilation.' It positions right-wing politicians and religious figures in the center and argues that mixed marriages threaten Israeli-Jewish identity. The overall supporting coverage of mixed marriage reflects sociological processes in Israel, such as the individualization of the family institution in sectors of Israeli-Jewish and Israeli-Arab societies and the creation of the infrastructure of Palestinian-Jewish co-existence.