When I joined the NJ Jewish News in 2004 after being out of work for a couple of years, I had a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was nice to be getting a paycheck again. On the other hand, I was a bit overwhelmed. While I had done a little bit of freelancing, that was pretty much on my terms. I had no formal experience in journalism. Plus I was expected to come up with my own story ideas; it was tough enough working on assignments.
There was also the situation of being the new kid in class. The “bigger kids” could have made my life fairly uncomfortable. But then I met Bob Wiener.
Actually, I had “met” him a few days before I actually started. He was the first one to greet me, sending a note to my home email address.
Bob — an award-winning writer for NJJN — was a veteran media producer, having worked for Court TV, MSNBC, and WNBC-TV as a producer.
Shortly after I came on board, I brought my daughter, Rachel, to work. She must have been about 11 at the time and Bob made her feel welcome, too. When he learned during their chat that she loved photography, he asked her to take a picture for him for an article he was working on, something he normally would have done himself. It was just a simple exterior shot of the Whipanny JCC, but it made Rachel — now a professional photographer — feel grown-up and, again, welcome, a word that circles back to Bob. He was always up for lunch with a co-worker or to just to schmooze. He had an impact on all his colleagues at the paper, as can be seen through the tributes on the NJJN Alum facebook page.
Bob wasn’t perfect. He was known to doze off at his desk from time to time and his computer interactions were legendary. You could count on hearing shouts of “Bob!” from the managing editor’s office, just a few feet away, and their back-and-forth (rather than conducting business more quietly over the phone). But these were all loveable foibles.
He could have retired years ago but he loved the work, loved to be around people, despite the difficulties commuting from NYC.
So long, Bob. Thanks for making things so easy for me.