Lest we forget: Bob Wiener

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.

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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.

 

“I am Spartacus!”

Wouldn’t it be great if not only one person came forward to identify as the author of The New York Times‘ notorious “I am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” but multiple people? After all, as the writer notes, there are a number who believe they are conducting themselves to to greater good when they try to “guide” #45 so he doesn’t either destroy America’s standing position on the world stage (which has already diminished) or get us into World War III.

Instead of focusing on improving the country he’s supposed to lead, Trump has taken a deep dive — Captain Queeg style — to find out who took the strawberries, that is, who wrote the essay, calling on the Attorney General to launch an investigation, claiming it is an issue of “national security.” In his warped mind he believes “l’etat, c’est moi,” forgetting that the people in government work are — or should be — tasked with serving in the best interests of the country, not Donald J. Trump. Plus he’s practically demanding loyalty oaths from his staffers and otherwise going deeper into his black hole.

Trump and many of his followers have branded the writer a “gutless coward.” Show them they’re wrong. While it may have consequences in the short run, you will be hailed as a hero.

A Voice silenced

I was never an avid reader of the Village Voice when I was living in New York. Once in a while I would pick up a copy if I wanted to see about entertainment or, even more rare, if there was a feature article about baseball. I wasn’t interested in local politics or arts and culture at the time.

On the other hand, my wife and I were able to enjoy a second wedding ceremony because I won a Valentine’s Day essay contest in the voice

But I appreciated it for what it was: a piece of alternative press that gave a, well, voice, to the underserved.

The Village Voice located at 36 Cooper Square in New York.The Village Voice ceases operations, New York, USA - 31 Aug 2018The Village Voice, which was founded in 1955 and left an indelible mark on New York’s cultural and political landscape for decades, has finally faced up to its daunting business reality and opted to cease editorial operations.

Last week, the new owner announced that the Voice — which had already ceased print publication — was shutting down completely. According to Peter Barbey

In recent years, the Voice has been subject to the increasingly harsh economic realities facing those creating journalism and written media. Like many others in publishing, we were continually optimistic that relief was around the next corner. Where stability for our business is, we do not know yet. The only thing that is clear now is that we have not reached that destination..

The final print edition came out last September, featuring an old photo of Bob Dylan on the cover. Since then, as per this story, there were only 18 staffers left. Most of those were dismissed, save for a few who are being kept on to digitize the paper.

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Of course, I blame the younger generation (#Sad) because they can’t be bothered with reading on anything bigger than a smart phone or iPad. Kidding, not kidding. As you know if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, I’m a victim of the downturn. I might consider returning to journalism, given the perfect situation, but realistically I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

In the meantime, a fond farewell to a New York institution.