Appreciation: 'Old-time' journalist, Ben Shuman, 84

He filled numerous positions at the 'Post' during his 20-plus years at the paper, including foreign editor, headline editor and layout editor.

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September 10, 2007 21:22
2 minute read.
Appreciation: 'Old-time' journalist, Ben Shuman, 84

shuman 88. (photo credit: )

 
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One of the last of the breed of "old-time" journalists left us last month when long-time Jerusalem Post staffer Ben Shuman passed away. A graduate of the University of Nebraska School of Journalism, Ben served three years fighting for the Allied forces in Europe during World War II. He moved to Israel with his wife, Miryom, and their three children in 1972 from Sioux City, Iowa, where he had worked as the state editor of The Sioux City Journal for 20 years. He began his tenure at the Post almost immediately and filled numerous positions during his 20-plus years at the paper, including foreign editor, headline editor and layout editor. Unlike other "old-school" journalists of his era, Ben eschewed the staples of whiskey, cigars and profanity in the newsroom, and instead got down to the business at hand - getting the facts right. In a country where everybody has an opinion about everything, Ben kept his largely to himself, and never engaged in the left-right debates through all the Post's editorial shifts of the '80s and '90s. It was superfluous to the task at hand: providing information to the readers. When the Post introduced a computerized editing and layout system in the late 1980s, Ben sat right next to the young staffers and gamely learned how to do on the computer what had come as second nature to him his whole life. He always said that computers were fine, but they were no match for a sharp eye that could estimate how long a headline should be, or how many words would fill that column. Even after he officially retired at the beginning of the 1990s, the Post, in deference to his experience and knowledge, kept him on as a per-shift editor. THAT'S WHEN I - a green, nervous layout person on the Post night desk - met Ben in 1991. His gruff, no-nonsense exterior was intimidating at first, but behind the crusty veneer beat the heart of a giving, tender soul, with a wry sense of humor, eager to share his expertise. Once he finally left the Post for good in the mid-'90s, Ben enjoyed the kind of retirement most people only dream of. With children and grandchildren an integral part of his life, he and Miryom managed to take several international trips, visiting parts of the world they had never seen, attending Ben's 65th high school reunion and visiting friends and family throughout the US. He and Miryom also began volunteering with the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, raising two puppies, and eventually taking in a retired guide dog, who filled their world with joy and purpose. I continued to see Ben regularly over the last 15 years at our synagogue, and he would always engage me in lively and insightful conversation about the goings-on at the Post: Whose was that new byline, who was responsible for that headline - and why, for God's sake, were the jumps from Page One still going into the second section? I'll miss his friendly inquisitions more than I can presently imagine. Ben would probably have been puzzled over having a story about him appear on the op-ed pages of the paper. He felt more comfortable in the first section, where the stories didn't raise questions, they answered them. Ben Shuman was a true newsman until the end.

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