Thirty-One Years Of Jewish Journalism


phil_jacobs_smallIn March 1981, 52 Americans held hostage by Iran returned home via Andrews Air Force Base. I stood on a street in Prince George’s County, covering the event.

Every tree, every pole had a yellow ribbon tied around it. At the time, I was working for the Prince George’s Journal, based in College Park. My assignment was to get local color and comment from county residents on this emotional day. It was a Tuesday, a deadline day. Time enough to get back to College Park, type up the story and get it in for Friday’s publication.

I got into my Honda Civic, drove onto the Beltway and within minutes my car lost power. I frantically pumped the gas pedal — nothing. So I pulled over onto the shoulder, directly in front of the former Capital Centre.

Remember 1981? No cellphones, no laptops. Just put up the hood and hope that someone stops for you.

After waiting a relatively short time, I looked in my rearview mirror to see a Prince George’s County police car. The officer, though, was not in uniform. He asked me if he could call a tow truck. I told him that I was a reporter on deadline with an editor who wouldn’t care that my car broke down on what was the biggest story at the time. The officer said, “Get in,” and he then drove me all the way to the Executive Building on Route 1. I made the deadline; the story appeared three days later.

Another story: In June 1982, Israel sent its forces into Lebanon in what was called Operation Peace for Galilee. The movement was meant to stop the buildup of Palestinian irregulars and their weapons on Israel’s border with Lebanon.

Again, on a deadline day, my editor, Gary Rosenblatt, at the JT sent me to a speech being given nearby by Lawrence Eagleburger, then the under secretary of state for political affairs for President Ronald Reagan. After the session, I raced back to my downtown Baltimore office, put the yellow newsprint paper in the typewriter and banged out the story. Then, I relaxed. I had been the only reporter there. I’d have the rest of the area media scooped.

Today, the returning hostages and the Eagleburger speech would have been uploaded, online and viral before I even got back to my office.

Photographs from either event would have turned your next-door neighbor into a photojournalist.

And I remember going to my editors at the JT and pleading for desktop computers, a network and modem. We jokingly had to “wrestle” the Smith Coronas away from some of our colleagues.

This is my final Editor’s Notebook. I leave the position of executive editor of Clipper City Media/WJW Group on Sept. 13.

I spent the first half of my career covering mostly issues that were imp-ortant to the generation of Jews who witnessed the Holocaust and then the creation of the State of Israel. Since then, the Nov. 4, 1995 assassination of Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Sept. 11, 2001 have become the dates branded on the minds of younger Jewish adults. Israel, synagogue and even Judaism are being reinvented for our younger generations. And so are Jewish newspapers.

Now, I’m going to work on the future of Judaism, which for me involves a great game of cars and trains with my 3 1/2 year-old grandson, Nani.

Thanks to Craig Burke, our Washington investment partners, to Gary Rosenblatt and to the Buerger family. With Meredith Jacobs and Maayan Jaffe, the WJW and JT are in great hands.

And now I am going to be a reader.

After 31 years of reporting on Jewish issues, Phil Jacobs is retiring as executive editor of Clipper City Media/WJW group.

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