PITTSBURGH (JTA) — How many times should an alleged synagogue shooter’s name be mentioned in a news story about his trial, now beginning after more than four years?
For the Pittsburgh Union Press last month, the answer was seven. For the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, it was an uneasy five, in a departure from its usual answer of zero — a number chosen out of deference to a community devastated by the shooting.
The slight difference was the only discrepancy between one set of stories published by the two news organizations covering the trial of Robert Bowers, accused of murdering 11 Jews in their synagogue here in 2018.
The anomaly offers a window into an unusual partnership between the two publications — the city’s Jewish paper and the news site established by striking staffers for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — born in February when it became clear that the trial would last months.
Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle editor Toby Tabachnick was dreading the trial coverage, with a staff of just three on the editorial side: herself and two reporters, David Rullo and Adam Reinherz.
“I started getting really nervous. Like, how are we going to do this?” Tabachnick said on the eve of the trial, speaking at the federal courthouse where jury selection would soon begin. “Our regular reporters could have been here. But it would have been extremely taxing, difficult and emotional for us, because we’re so ingrained in the community too.”
Plus, she added, “In addition to this trial, which is going to be every day for three months, we’re covering the synagogues, events and the holidays, the lectures, we still have a regular community newspaper to put out.”
Tabachnick knew Andrew “Goldy” Goldstein, one of the Post-Gazette’s team that picked up a Pulitzer for their coverage of the massacre, from his time as a Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle intern. She also knew he was on strike and wondered whether he could use the extra freelance opportunity.
Instead, Goldstein immediately offered up a better idea: Join with the Pittsburgh Union Progress, the strike paper, in a joint reporting project, organized in part through the Pittsburgh Media Partnership, an incubator for local journalism. (The Jewish Telegraphic Agency is raising funds for the coverage.)
Working together just made sense, Goldstein said. The Chronicle was deeply resourced and credible in the Jewish community, and the Progress had on board Torsten Ove, a local legend.
“We have the all-star federal courts reporter in Torsten and we have a lot of really great journalists who love Pittsburgh, love this community, and we’ll do our best to cover it,” Goldstein said, noting that the Chronicle would also have access to the Progress’s photographers. “But the Chronicle brings something different entirely to the table, which is, they’re so deeply sourced in the Pittsburgh Jewish community, and they have such an interest in this trial in particular.”
Newsroom collaborations have become more frequent in recent years as publications realize they can expand their impact and audience by working together. But while there are a growing number of relationships between local and national publications and between daily and investigative outlets, ties between mainstream newsrooms and community or ethnic media are less common.
S. Mitra Kalita, the founder and director of URL Media, a network of Black and Brown community news outlets that share content and revenue, said the value in such partnerships was not just in delivering relief as media staffs shrink, but also in sensitizing mainstream media to minority sensibilities.
“Talking about who [the ethnic media outlet is] serving and why we’re doing it this way — the spirit of real collaboration is a bit of that give and take,” she said. “We make mainstream media way better because it starts to infuse mainstream media with aspects of community and thus redefine the mainstream.”
The residual trauma of the massacre in the Pittsburgh collaboration made it all the more important for the mainstream reporters to be sensitive to the nuances that the Jewish media was bringing, she said.
“Especially a story like this one, which was such an attack on a community — a community that was singled out for their sheer existence, the strategy cannot be ‘let’s just work in parallel,” Kalita said. “It’s not going to work. It has to be kind of a cross-pollination and a real collaboration.”
That’s exactly what is happening, according to the reporters and editors involved in the project, with communication easy between each publication’s editor and expertise flowing in both directions.
Ove a denizen of the Joseph F. Weis Jr. Courthouse for so long that he can tell stories about a sizable stretch of the portraits of judges that line its corridor walls; he may be the only court reporter to seek an interview with a judge after his death, to ask him why he was haunting the place. (The judge never showed, but his widow was less than surprised to hear that he was still working.)
He led a passel of Chronicle and Progress staffers through the warren-like courthouse on the Friday before the trial, handily impressing them with his intimacy with the building — he knew the provenance of the paintings in each courtroom — and its staff. Soo Song, the assistant U.S. attorney who is leading the prosecution team, smiled and nodded as she passed.
Ove showed the reporters how to access court records for free, and while they stood around him at one of the computer terminals, the teams’ different emphases emerged: Ove predicted that jury selection, which started last week and is expected to last as long as three weeks, would not be a news generator, because in his experience, it rarely has been.
Reinherz and Tabachnick, attuned to reporting on faith communities, were not so sure: Reinherz wondered whether believing Catholics, who reject the death penalty, would be eliminated, and Tabachnick wondered whether defense attorneys would seek to keep Jews off the jury — and how they would go about doing that.
Reinherz ended up covering the first day of jury selection. “Local and national reporters decided the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle should have one seat during the initial session of day one,” Reinherz explained in a story that appeared on both news sites. He noted that the first member of the public to enter the courtroom was Daniel Leger, one of two survivors of the attack.
Working together across platforms was odd, said Bob Batz Jr., the Progress’s interim editor, but he could get used to it.
“This is uncharted territory for someone like me, and I’ve been doing this for a long time, and we don’t, you know, we don’t collaborate,” he said.
“We compete!” Tabachnick interjected.
“What we’re doing is not common, and it’s not going to be easy,” Batz said. “Surely, we’re going to tick each other off about something or somebody is going to put the wrong word in or there’s a million things that can go wrong, but the breaking of ground where you’re actually working together, it just makes sense in so many ways on this story. We’re really trying to serve the community.”
Tabachnick said she saw added value in keeping journalists she admired in the limelight while they are on strike. Journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette went on strike back in October over wages and working conditions, in a crescendo of mounting tensions between the paper’s longtime owners and the staff that contributed to a newsroom exodus even in 2018, when the paper won a Pulitzer for its synagogue shooting coverage. The strike is now one of the longest in journalism history, and the staffers contributing to the Pittsburgh Union Progress are doing so despite earning well below than their regular salaries.
“I feel good about getting their names, their publication’s name out,” Tabachnick said.
Each story is running in essentially identical form on both publications’ websites, with a line crediting their collaboration. Tabachnick and Batz had a brief and friendly email exchange before each clicked “publish” on their story about debate among victims’ families about the appropriateness of the death penalty.
The Chronicle is minimizing appearances of the name of the accused killer, out of sensitivity to readers who may want to see their community members centered rather than their aggressor. Some researchers and law enforcement officials have also called on journalists not to print mass shooters’ names and photographs, citing evidence that doing so may contribute to their glorification and even copycat crimes.
Batz says he totally gets the Chronicle’s thinking, despite making a different choice in his newsroom.
“We’re still feeling our way, we’re still figuring this out,” Batz said. “They don’t name the defendant in their story, and they haven’t. And our guy Torsten who’s an all-star courts reporter, he’s going to use the guy’s name. And then in real time going back and forth on email and text we came up with his solution and that story was on both websites in minutes and it was really kind of cool.”
Tabachnick picked up the account of the previous night’s collaboration as if she’d been working across a desk from Batz for decades instead of online since February.
“The solution was that I realized that with the trial starting, it really didn’t make sense not to use his name at all anymore that we really needed to as a news organization,” she said. “But that didn’t mean we had to overuse his name. And I’m not saying Torsten overused his name. He used it as much as he needed to use it in terms of style, but I took out a few of them and replaced it with ‘the defendant’ and we were all happy.”
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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