PARTING SHOT: Requiem for ghosts

Photographer Brian Hendler died this week at the age of 63.

Brian Hendler  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Brian Hendler
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A newsroom, by definition, is full of ghosts – the barely remembered mirages of headlines and stories of days, years and decades past.
There are the ghosts of old typewriters and hulking Linotron photo-typesetting machines; the ghosts of whiskey bottles emptied to numb frustrations and cope with boredom, and of coffee mugs emptied in search of inspiration that sometimes only arrives with blood or sweat as a conduit.
And of course, there are the ghosts of people who come and go through the doors – staffers to be sure, more than anyone could remember by name or even by face. But also adjuncts without whose efforts there would never be a paper produced six days a week for 84 years – the PR pros plying press releases and touting their clients, freelance writers pitching story after story until one is accepted, and adventurous photographers going to the ends of country for a shot that will make it into the paper.
Photographers like Brian Hendler, who died this week at the age of 63.
Back in the days when The Jerusalem Post had a budget to pay for freelance photos, Hendler was a regular, getting regular assignments and bringing in his own ideas. Fearless of both people and rocks, he would spend much of his time in the Old City or the West Bank in a quest for action shots. And he more than once paid the price with wounds of his own.
When the work dried up, he, like many of the other fixtures of the past, stopped coming in. There’d be an occasional correspondence, but without anything to offer, that communication also slipped away.
Last we heard, Hendler wasn’t even taking photos anymore. Aside from some brief recollections, nervous comments about his relatively young age and anecdotal toasts from those who remembered him in the newsroom, there was little time to mourn.
With every day comes another paper, and those that aren’t contributing to it are swept aside, to join those ghostlike faces of people we thought we used to know. All we can do is try to stay on the crest of the wave and not drown in the bubbling tide of nonstop news, outlandish statements and breaking reports of terrorism.
Sometimes we do better than others.
This week we screwed up in a frontpage main headline by using the word “affect” instead of “effect.” You would have thought we had called Christmas a Jewish holiday – letter writers derided us and colleagues at other publications delighted in shaming social media posts.
As elementary as that error was, mistakes happen, and among the 50 or so stories that appeared in the paper that day without contention, it was unfortunate that this error appeared in such a prominent one. But the great thing is that there’s another paper the next day, another attempt to get it right. And in the general scheme of things, an “affect” instead of an “effect” between friends – which what we hope our readers are – can be understood in the heat of the deadline moment.
That’s no excuse, of course. And in the paper you’re reading, it might bear in mind to consider that any errors that you may come across were missed or overlooked not only by writers and editors, but by humans, with their own troubles and burdens, much like yourselves.
We strive for greatness, and even though we only occasionally achieve it, we’ll never stop in that quest. We owe it to you – and we owe it to all those ghosts.