Remember the good old days? March 8, 1962, was the date of the first issue of The Jewish Chronicle, the product of a merger between the Jewish Criterion and The American Jewish Outlook, an event you can read more about in this week’s special 60th anniversary section.
You remember ’62, don’t you? Cable television was in its infancy; it had an A/B box you had to get up off the couch to switch in order to get all of the channels you paid for. If you watched broadcast TV, the top dial had to be set to UHF so you could turn the bottom dial to any channel higher than 14. (Our beloved WQED was on channel 13; the bottom dial didn’t get much exercise at our house.) And maybe you even had to turn the antenna on the roof to point in the direction of your broadcast to get a better signal (or put some aluminum foil on the rabbit ears — the oldest trick in the book).
I don’t remember any of this; I was born two decades after.
I do remember the paperboy (forgive the use of the gendered noun; such was the term at the time) knocking on our front door without fail every week to collect his cash and tear off our square receipt: “Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Press, week ending….”
The hands of time turned more slowly then. There was an end to the news day. Reporters filed their pieces on deadline — then went home for dinner — and newspapers were printed overnight. The barrier to entry for journalists was substantial, and publishers’ reputations were built on the quality of the reporting that came out of their newsrooms. The infrastructure required to generate a daily, or even a weekly, paper was substantial enough that only serious publishers could survive. We agreed on the issues and debated their merits. There was order in the chaos.
Today, with our precious freedom of speech firmly in the grasp of every amateur reporter or aspiring journalist, Facebook and Twitter have become the digital town squares where gossip — never mind “news” — spreads at lightning speed to a massive following. Anyone with an internet connection can spin up their very own WordPress blog, or TikTok vlog (short for “video log,” in case you’re still living in the ‘60s). Everyone who wants one has a digital platform to share their whims with no concern for accuracy, accountability or journalistic integrity. Antisemitism runs rampant, fake news abounds, and alternate facts are the norm. Chaos.
This is why the work that the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle is doing is so vital to our understanding of the world around us. How you consume our news isn’t of issue — whether from our printed paper, through our website, our social media platforms or an RSS reader. What’s important is that the words our trusted reporters write make it in front of you; that the perspectives and observations of our award-winning journalists are read by you. And that you’re engaged enough with good journalism to consider and digest the news, and make informed decisions for yourselves.
We have been, and continue to invest in our digital offerings, making sure that our fair newsroom isn’t left behind by the digital revolution. After all, aren’t we already 23% of the way through the 21st century?
In the months and years to come you may discover more ways to access Chronicle content through our digital distribution channels. While we are committed to keep printing our paper each week and delivering it free of charge to Jewish Pittsburghers, we invite you to explore our website at pittsburghjewishchronicle.com. Read the digital representation of our printed paper on issuu.com. Browse our Facebook feed. Tweet at us, and retweet our tweets. And if you really like what you’re reading and are so inclined, forward this article to a friend via text message or email. The good old days are of blessed memory. Welcome to the 21st century! PJC
Evan H. Stein is board chair of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.