Editor's Notes: We love you, too!

It’s been thrilling to take up the mantle of editor – and I invite you to join me on this journalistic journey.

July 8, 2011 16:22
Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief-to-be Steve Linde

Steve Linde 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

I have been overwhelmed by good wishes, encouraging messages, words of wisdom and unadulterated affection since the announcement last month that I would be taking over as editor-in-chief in place of my exceptional predecessor, David Horovitz.

But while it has been a flattering ego boost, I soon realized that the outpouring of love was not really for me personally, it was for my new position at The Jerusalem Post.

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As the most popular Jewish publication in the world, it’s a paper people here in Israel and all over the globe have grown to love. Our subscribers like to wake up in the morning and find it delivered to their doorstep.

Others, including many tourists, prefer to buy it at a local kiosk and read it with their coffee and croissant at a nearby cafe.

Then there are the millions who read us regularly on our website – Jpost.com – many of whom have it as their home page.

How far we have come since Gershon Agron established the tiny but important paper, then called The Palestine Post, in 1932! As we approach our 80th birthday next year, the newspaper has transmuted into a myriad of publications bunched together to form The Jerusalem Post family.

Archivist Alexander Zvielli, who at 90 is our most veteran employee (he will be marking his 66th anniversary at the Post in December), believes Agron would like what we produce today.

“I think Agron would be positively impressed by the paper,” Zvielli says. “Of course, politically, he may have been a bit to the left of where it is today – as you know, he was a member of the Labor Party and the Histadrut – but he would approve of the balanced coverage and all the products we offer.”

Besides the daily English language paper and the website, we have The Jerusalem Report magazine, a daily Hebrew edition (Israel Post), a weekly to improve Israelis’ English (The Jerusalem Post Lite), a selection of youth magazines, an easy Hebrew monthly with English and French translations (The Jerusalem Post Ivrit), a weekly French edition, a weekly international edition and a monthly Christian edition.

Perhaps the most interesting item of furniture in my new office in Romema is a chair on which the legendary Agron sat as editor from December 1, 1932, until 1955, when he won the race for mayor of Jerusalem. He served in that position until his death four years later.

There is also a painting of Agron on the wall.

“Agron sat on that chair every day, even before we moved from downtown to Romema,” says Zvielli. “He had a lot of energy. He would walk to work, go over every word in the paper, and hardly sleep. And on Friday afternoons, he used to throw parties at his house.”

Agron also had a sense of humor essential for the job.

“My pregnant wife and I once went to one of his parties,” Zvielli recalls, smiling.

“And Agron asked her, ‘Who did this to you?!” David Horovitz tells me that his oldest son, by some extraordinary coincidence, has just spent his pre-army mechina year with Agron’s great-grandson.

In the first edition of the Post, the Ukrainian-born, Philadelphia-raised Agron published a mission statement in which he noted that the paper was being “published in Jerusalem in the interests of the entire population of the country.”

“Its reports will be as objective as is humanly possible, and its criticism informed, legitimate and helpful,” he wrote. “In criticism and in reports, the studied purpose will be the present and future welfare of the country and of its people...”

Toward the end of the mission statement, Agron invited readers to cooperate in the attempt to make it “the type of newspaper they would like to see produced in this country.”

“All suggestions and assistance will be gratefully received and carefully considered,” he added.

I fully endorse Agron’s mission statement and his personal appeal to readers. I am all too aware that what’s on the minds of many readers is not necessarily the latest flotilla to Gaza or the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN, but far more mundane matters – the daily crossword puzzle, for example (“Why is it so small?”), and the pop-up ads on our website (“Please nix the annoying pop-ups. It’s so 20th century...”).

Both David Horovitz and I have received an enormous number of e-mails and letters wishing us success – and in my case, advice – for the future.

I particularly liked one written by Anna in Canada in a talkback on our website: “The great Canadian journalist Peter Newman once said that ‘good writing is clear thinking made visible.’ I have always appreciated Mr.

Horovitz’s clear thinking and will miss it. Looking forward to what comes next...”

I was touched by the flood of messages of goodwill that I received from near and far.

There have been calls and emails from government ministries, diplomats, Diaspora Jewish leaders, friends, family – and complete strangers! Issy Fisher, my brilliant Hebrew teacher at Carmel College day school in Durban, South Africa, wrote: “We were delighted to hear of your appointment as editor of The Jerusalem Post and wish you a very hearty mazel tov. We are truly proud of you and remember you with much affection.”

Issy and his wife, Judy, led me and 50 other Jewish South African 15-year-olds on a four month ulpan experience based at Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moriah in 1975, which cemented my love of Israel forever.

David Kaplan, the editor of the Telfed (South African Zionist Federation) magazine, wrote: “Kol hakavod and wish you the very best in this challenging position. Good to have a former South African at the helm there... you may be the first.”

Hirsh Goodman, the South African immigrant who was founding editor of the Report and a former vice president of the Post, called to wish me well and offer his support whenever I needed it.

Eliot Zimelman, who taught me my first job as night editor at the Post 14 years ago, wrote: “Congratulations on your new appointment. Who would have thunk it 14 years ago when you sat in the night editor’s office with me on that first night of training as the ’copter crash unfolded before our eyes?” (On my first shift as night editor, on February 4, 1997, we received the tragic news that 73 soldiers had been killed in the collision of two helicopters over She’ar Yashuv.) Asher Schapiro, the charismatic chairman of the board of The Jerusalem Great Synagogue, paid a special visit to the Post on Sunday to bid David farewell and welcome me to my new position. It felt like he was giving us both his blessing.

“I look forward to continuing the close relationship of the past... as both organizations grow,” he later told me in an e-mail.

David Geffen, a frequent contributor to the Post, gave me an oil lamp dug up from Second Temple ruins, “to light your way as editor as each day gives you a new challenge,” and a dreidel cast by his late grandfather in the US in the 1920s.

“All of the luck of the dreidel should be yours,” he wrote in a note left on my desk.

Paddy Monaghan, the secretary of the Irish Christian Friends of Israel, sent me the following message: “Congratulations on your appointment as editor. We think the JP is super. May the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob abundantly bless you and make you a blessing in your new post.”

Danny Handler, whose father, Arieh – the last survivor of those present at the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948 – passed away in May at the age of 95, wrote from the UK: “You may recall that we met at my late father’s flat in Kiryat Moshe. Please accept my congratulations and sincerest best wishes on this appointment to head this well-known publication which is widely circulated and read in the English-speaking Jewish and non-Jewish world.”

Khaled Abu Toameh, our heroic Palestinian affairs reporter, wrote: “Wishing you good luck and a lot of energy and patience in the new job.

It’s a tough job, but I’m sure you will be successful.”

“You’re the top dog now,” PR guru Charley Levine told me. “You now have instant credibility, instant authority.

Anyone in Israel will answer your phone calls. Now what are you going to do with that power?” Psychologist Batya Ludman, a frequent columnist in the Post’s Magazine, wrote: “Wow, what wonderful news. We are thrilled for you. Are you crazy?! Just kidding. Anytime you need any free psychological counseling, just let me know!” So how do I see my “crazy” new job as editor of the Post? Well, I intend to continue in Horovitz’s path and make every effort to ensure that our coverage of Israel, the Middle East, the Jewish world and the world at large is broad, balanced and intelligent.

“We are still fighting the same wars as we were in the early days of the paper, and the issues are more or less the same,” says the wise Zvielli, who started his career in the printing press. “The main thing is to keep covering the news and keep printing the newspaper every day.”

Our website is currently the most popular English-language news site in Israel, and we are devoting much time and thought to improving it with new technology, including videos and photographs from reporters’ smartphones.

But the devil is in the details, and I’ll be spending most of my time ensuring that we are a top website and paper of record, containing as few errors as possible.

If we do, unfortunately, make mistakes, we will be sure to publish a correction, and when necessary, an apology.

Finally, a note to our readers: Please do not hesitate to e-mail me with your suggestions and comments. I am, from now on, your editor.

And as any good Jewish editor will tell you, if you don’t say anything, how will it ever get better?

[email protected]

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