A lesson from the old school
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A lesson from the old school

On my first day as a full-time reporter – earlier I had worked for publishing companies and magazines and then got on the “mommy track” – my 5-year-old son was hit by a car as he was crossing the street from his camp bus.

I saw the ambulance in front of my house just as I drove home from work. It was terrifying. Both of my sons had been on the bus, and I knew that one of them had been hurt.

I called my boss, Florence Kooistra, from the hospital and told her I was quitting – that if I had been at home this would not have happened. (It should not have happened at all – I was paying a teenager to take them off the bus and stay with them till I got home, but she did not do her job.)

Luckily, he was not badly hurt. Florence was insistent that I stay on, so I agreed.

The next week I covered a meeting of my own town’s borough council. At the end of the meeting, when the mayor asked if anyone in the audience had something to say, I stood up and asked that a “Slow, Children at Play” sign be posted on my street.

The next day I read an account of my request in a rival newspaper. Florence was livid. She said, “You’re supposed to report the news, not be the news.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson – and began a recent editorial with it, with regard to the debate over Ethan Bronner.

It used to be that if you took part, say, in a pro-choice rally, you could not report on the rally. I think that makes sense, although not necessarily for Jewish newspapers. We advocate for Israel and for Jewish unity, as well as trying to tell the story straight. But it is sometimes hard to see it straight if you are within it.

Ethan Bronner, a fine journalist, will keep his post as Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times despite his son’s having signed up for a stint in the IDF. But everything that Bronner writes that is even a little bit pro-Israel will be discounted by the many who are against Israel as coming from someone with a bias. That’s too bad, i think for Bronner and for Israel both – but as Walter Cronkite used to say, “That’s the way it is.”

RKB

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