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July 31, 1987 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-07-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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FRIDAY, JULY 31, 1987

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What Is The Role Of
A Jew In Journalism?

EQUAL tIOEISNG

OPPORTUNITY

ithin a few weeks,
this reporter will
mark the 58th anni-
versary of his entrance into
professional journalism as a
cub reporter on the legendary
New York World and the com-
mencement of his 59th year
as a Jew _in journalism — a
career that has straddled the
once sharply distinct worlds
of Jewish and general-interest
news.
I cannot say that the fact
of my Jewishness (scanty and
ill-formed as it was when I
went out into the world) did
not affect my outlook and
give it dimensions it may
otherwise not have had in my
reporting and interpretation
of news. I was always aware of
the fact that, being Jewish, I
could not detach myself per-
sonally and regard with com-
plete objectivity develop-
ments affecting the Jewish
wellbeing. I suspect that the
heightened sensitivity to
racism, religious bias and pre-
judice that lay in my Jewish
subconscious made me more
alert to discrimination in all
its forms against others
wherever it was manifested.
That I was a Jew had never
seemed particularly signifi-
cant to one whose contacts
with the Jewish world had
been limited. But my sense of
Jewish kinship flowered when
I moonlighted to assist the
overwhelmed staff at the
Jewish Iblegraphic Agency in
processing the cables from
Jerusalem on the 1929 Arab
riots. It came to fruition the
day four years later when
Adolf Hitler assumed power
in Germany and I forthwith
resigned from The New York
Herald Thibune to join the
JTA.
This sense of Jewishness
was something that never left
me. So much so that no
matter what the assignment
or for whom I was writing,
when I'd done the day's story
and gotten the cable off, I
went out looking for the local
Jews. It had become almost
an obsession, and when I ac-
companied the Allied Fifth
Army in the liberation of
southern France in 1944, if I
had no other lead, I would
check the names on the tomb-
stones in the local Jewish
cemetery and then seek the
survivors.
On every assignment I had,
I could try to be factual and
objective as every reporter
must, but in reporting a

vitriolic speech by a Father
Coughlin or a Nazi Bundist
spellbinder in a Yorkville
bierhalle in which the Jews
were the target, no reporter
with any sense of his Jewish-
ness could avoid feeling
himself attacked. I was no
exception.
Rare is the man who, on be-
ing assaulted, does not try to
defend himself. And so I will
freely admit that some of my
news reports lacked the
detachment and objectivity
that we are taught are the
hallmarks of good reporting.
And I am not ashamed to ad-
mit that I permitted personal
indignation and moral out-
rage to show when I reported
on man's inhumanity to man,
on persecution and discrim-

In the era when
Dan Schorr and I
were breaking in,
news of Jewish
concern rarely
appeared in the
general press.

ination, regardless of the race
or religion of the victim or its
locale.
I tried to be objective and
detached, as my tutors, tough
New York city editors, and,
later, exacting foreign editors,
demanded. It wasn't easy. I
learned that there was no
such thing as a detached ob-
jectivity; each man perceives
the scene through different
eyes. The best you can do is
to report, as honestly as you
can, exactly what you saw.
Neither when working in
the general press, or in the
Jewish press, did I consider
myself a defender of Jewish
causes nor their advocate. I
reported the facts as I
perceived them (through
Jewish lenses, perhaps) and
while I did not conceal my
personal reaction to anti-
Semitism and other forms of
racial or relgious intolerance,
I never suppressed a story
that was factually correct,
simply because it unfavorably
depicted individual Jews or a
Jewish organization.
I could not agree with the
hush-hush school that
wanted to suppress all news
that might depict Jews un-
favorably. Jews, like everyone
else, I believed, must be made
aware of their sins and errors
to be able to guard against
them. They had a right to be
stupid as well as smart — as
they were — to be thieves as

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