2 Friday, November 4, 1977
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
An Historic Anniversary: Jewish Telegraphic
Agency, at 60, Occupies Significant Role
News Medium for World Jewish Communities
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency: World Jewry's News Gatherer
For this pioneer Jewish Telegraphic Agency associate and its veteran reporter and
feature writer, the 60th anniversary of the indispensable Jewish agency is an occasion to
define its immense services and historic values.
Fortunately for the Jewries of the world, JTA was on the scene to report the after-
effects of the First World War. the anti-Semitic trends that escalated in the Henry Ford
libel suits that were necessitated by the automobile magnate's anti-Semitism and the
anti-Jewish hate movements that were masterminded by the Catholic priest Charles E.
Coughlin, by Gerald L. K. Smith and hordes of other hatemongers. JTA kept the Jewish
newspaper readers informed about the Arab riots of 1920, 1929 and 1936 and the sub-
sequent struggles for statehood which were marked by the struggle between the freedom
fighters and the British Mandatory Power in Palestine.
It was thanks to JTAthat the tragedies occasioned by the Nazi terror during the horrors
of the Holocaust were recorded by professional journalists. It was the professionalism of
JTA's staffs in many areas of the world that chronicled accurately the era of statehood
reborn, Israel's struggles through four triumphant wars, the agonies of assaults on the
Israeli independence at the United Nations and the related events which marked both the
inner Israeli crises as well as the foreign involvements still threatening Israel at the UN,
in Washington and the capitals of the world.
These aspects of Jewish journalistic professionalism need elaborating because the avail-
ability of news prior to the creation of JTA was virtually nil and the emergence of a
modern news agency to serve Jewish needs was one of the most important developments
for the Jewish communities throughout the world. Prior to 1920 the Jewish newspapers in
many lands were dependent upon news borrowed from each other. A New York news-
paper often leaned upon a British contemporary for facts regarding Jews in remote parts
of the world. It had happened that a newspaper from whose columns another periodical in
another land had culled a news item would not recognize itself as the source and would
repeat its own not-completely-verified story.
Newspapers were dependent for news on cables from landsleit who reported to their
families about a fire or a pestilence or a period of virtual famine in the shtetel. Then
there would be a fund-raising campaign for relief, and the relief story became paramount
in Jewish experience.
JTA must be viewed as the historian of world Jewry, and as such should be respected
and honored in Jewish ranks. Sixty years of JTA files represent the chronicled history of
world Jewry, and the great news agency's 60th anniversary must be observed in this
spirit of recognition of a great accomplishment credited to founders and to those now
pursuing the indispensable news-gathering tasks.
JTA revolutionized the scene. It brought verified news to its client newspapers. The
small-scaled beginnings soon developed into a chain of correspondents and it became
possible to avoid borrowing and to become directly servicing for Jewish communities
with information on what was transpiring in Jewish communities, how uthe changing
scenes were affecting Jewish life, what democratization had begun to mean for Jews who
were commencing to enjoy the emancipations resulting from the erasing of anti-Jewish
laws and how assimilation was undermining certain aspects of Jewish life.
An agency had come into being that was bringing the truthfulness of Hitlerism and
Czarism to the world's knowledge and was eventually to erase secrecy about the environ-
mental effects of world conditions upon Jewry, whether it was in the process of an Israel
redeemed or a struggle for just rights for Jews everywhere.
This journalistic professionalism did more to unify the Jewries of the world than any
other factor. Because it was not parochial it was, as it is now, able to serve as the link
between all factions in Jewry. It negated factionalism by spreading knowledge and infor-
mation. It introduced the instrument for knowledgeability of what was occurring in Jew-
ish communities, and thus JTA became the unquestioned unifier of identified Jews.
JTA injected new life in the media through which it provided the Jews of the world with
the news it had gathered. The distribution of JTA news served as-a life preserver for
, Jewish newspapers everywhere. Jewish news media, whether the daily Yiddish news-
papers or the weekly periodicals, which had previously leaned upon fragmentary reports
from landsmanshaften, echoes in the daily press and letter writers from abroad, were
given a new lease on life by the news service that filled a void for world Jewry.
The Yiddish press is now reduced to a skeleton. From the mass circulation of 762,910
that was reported by the ,10 daily Yiddish newspapers in 1914, when American Jewry
numbered less than half the present population, the Yiddish press has been reduced to-
one major daily Yiddish newspaper with a circulation of less than 50,000 nationally. But
throughout its heyday the Yiddish press was served by the JTA Yiddish department. Now
JTA serves the needs of more than 70 weekly, bi-weekly and monthly English Jewish
newspapers in this country and a score or more in England, France, South Africa, Ger-
many, Rhodesia, Canada and other countries.
Without this service there could not be an effective and serviceable Jewish press, and
JTA, therefore. provides the life blood Of the news media that serves the Jewries of the
Prior to JTA—it was like an era of frustrated shortcomings for people desiring to know
what was happening in the world—most of the English Jewish newspapers were referred
to as "shmuss gazettes," as gossip sheets that dealt only with society and rumor stor
With JTA these newspapers emerged from the sham of usefulness into valuauie
spreaders of information about Jews, their needs, their problems and their aspirations.
The Jews of the world would not only be impoverished had there not been a JTA, they
would be Jewishly illiterate. If there had not been a JTA it would have to be created by
wise spokesmen who value knowledgeability for their people. Fortunately and thankfully
there is a Jewish Telegraphic Agency and its professionalism provides unifying links for
Jewish communities and the life blood for the Jewish press.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Jewish Telegraphic
Agency, a celebration to be inaugurated at the General Assembly of the
Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds in Dallas, Tex., on
Wednesday, this essay is published simultaneously with its appearance in
the Anniversary Volume of the JTA to be introduced at the CJFWF Gen-
IN THE PROFESSION OF
I BELIEVE THAT THE PUBLIC• JOURNAL IS A PUBLIC TRUST• THAT
ALL CONNECTED V•ITH IT ARE TO TI IE FULL :MEASURE. OF THEIR
RESPONSIBILITY. TRUSTEES FOR TI IL PUBLIC TI LAT ACCEPTANCE
OF A LESSER SERVICE THAN TILE PUBLIC SERVICE IS BETRAYAL OF
I BELIEVE THAT CLEAR THINKING AND CLEAR.STATEMENT. AC-
CURACY. AND FAIRNESS, ARE FUNDAMENT AL TO GOOD JOUR-
BELIEVE THAT A JOURNALIST SHOULD WRITE ONLY WHAT HE
HOLDS IN HIS HEART TO BE TRUE.
I RELIEVE THAT SUPPRESSION OF THE NEWS FOR ANY CONSIDER-
ATION OTHER TI I AN..THE WELFARE OF SOCIETY. IS INDEFENSIBLE.
I BELIEVE THAT NO ONE SHOULD WRITE AS A JOURNALIST WHAT
HE WOULD NOT S.AY AS A GENTLEMAN: THAT BRIBERY BY ONE'S
OWN POCKETBOOK IS AS MUCH TO BE AVOIDED QS BRIBERY BY
THE POCKETBOOK OF ANOTHER ; THAT INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBIL
ITY MAY NOT BE ESCAPED BY PLEADING ANOTHER'S INSTRUC-
TIONS OR ANOTHER'S DIVIDENDS.
I BELIEVE THAT ADVERTISING, NEWS AND EDITORIAL COLUMNS
SI null) ALIKE SERVE THE BEST INTERESTS OF READERS ; THAT A
SINGLE STANDARD OF HELPFUL TRUTH AND CLEANNESS SHOULD
PREVAIL FOR -ALL: THAT THE SUPREME TEST OF GOOD JOURNAL-
ISM IS TILE MEASURE OF ITS PUBLIC SERVICE.
JTA's Current Administrative Heads
I BELIEVE THAT THE IOURNALISM \X'HICH SUCCEEDS BEST—AND
BEST DESERVES SUCCESS — FEARS GOD AND HONORS MAN ; IS
STOUTLY INDEPENDENT UNMOVED BY PRIDE OF OPINION OR
GREED OF POWER CONSTRUCTIVE. TOLERANT BUT NEVER CARE-
LESS SELF-CON1 ROLLED PATIENT ALWAYS RESPECTFUL OF ITS
READERS BUT ALWAYS UNAFRAID IS QUICKLY INDIGNANT AT IN-
JUSTICE. IS UNSWAYED BY THE. APPEAL OF PRIVILEGE OR THE
CLAMOR OF -THE MOB SEEKS TO GIVE EVERY MAN A CHANCE,
AND AS FAR AS LAW AND f ioNusT WAGE AND RECOGNITION
OF 1 IIIMAN BROTI IERIIOODC.AN MAKE IT SO. AN EQUAL CHANCE ;
IS PROFOUNDLY PATRIOTIC WHILE SINCERELY PROMOTING !N-
I" RNATIONAL GOOD WILL AND CEMENTINC. WORLD-COMRADE-
SHIP IS A JOURNALISM OF HUMANITY OF AND FOR TODAY'S
Executive Vice President
JOURNALISM, UN, IRV, OP MISSOURI,