In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” which translates to a phrase most of us are familiar with: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Yes, I know it’s a cliché. But as one of my favorite college professors once told me, the reason why most phrases become cliché is because they are true.
On March 8, 1962, a message to the Jewish community of Pittsburgh appeared on Page 8 of the new Jewish Chronicle. It is unclear whether the message came from the paper’s editor, its publisher or its board. What is clear is the message’s sincerity as Chronicle leadership addressed its readers for the first time with a pledge that the paper would “cover the news within its sphere without fear and without favor.”
“The new Chronicle may not always be right in the long view of the future historian — or even in the view of the Monday morning quarterback of today,” the message continued. Its team, though, would “make no excuses for our shortcomings, but we shall always be ready to apologize for our errors.”
The voice representing the nascent newspaper expressed pride in serving an “alert and literate community,” and urged the Chronicle’s readers not to hesitate “to disagree vigorously, but be brief.”
“We want this to be a provocative newspaper — your newspaper,” the message read. “The editorial staff has been assured full news and editorial freedom at all times in the highest sense of American press freedom. This we shall exercise as responsibly and as forcefully as we can.”
Despite the passage of 60 years, those same words — or at least those same sentiments — could have been written by me, today.
Since its beginning, the Chronicle has had one mission: to be a source of unbiased information, connecting its readers through a provocative forum that stimulates and inspires conversation, action and new ideas. It was, and is, a community newspaper in the truest sense of the phrase.
Have we always gotten everything right? Of course not. But, as the paper’s earliest leaders wrote, we are quick to apologize for any errors. Do our readers sometimes disagree with what we print, or what we choose not to print? Definitely — and often. We continue to invite that feedback, which we always take seriously.
Like our predecessors, our staff persists in covering the stories of importance to our community “without fear and without favor.” That doesn’t always make us popular with everyone, but we remain committed to serving you with the journalistic integrity essential to convey the news you need.
In some ways, the world was very different back in 1962. In preparing for this special anniversary section, I perused countless issues of the Chronicle published throughout the decades. A lot of them made me smile. Of course, the prices of the products advertised in our pages were sometimes hysterically low, and some of the items would not find a place in our pages today (cigarettes, anyone?). Engagement and wedding announcements were plentiful, and often included a list of out-of-town guests and a detailed description of the bride’s gown. There were briefs announcing the meetings of the many family clubs active in the area. It was a different time.
Yet, the similarities between then and now are striking as well. Throughout the decades, the Chronicle has covered community events and the people who make them happen. There have been features on local artists, food columns and opinion pieces. Our readers’ letters to the editor have been a constant. And, of course, news of Jewish interest from around the country and around the world has filled our pages.
What struck me most as I scanned those old papers — which are digitized and available at digitalcollections.library.cmu.edu — is the fact that, all these years later, the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle remains true to the mission set forth 60 years ago.
As we move into our seventh decade, we humbly renew the pledge we made to our community back in 1962. We will strive to perform in accordance with our tagline — Connecting Jewish Pittsburgh — as we continue to report fairly and accurately, always with the best interest of Jewish Pittsburgh in mind.
Happy anniversary to us, and to you, the community which we are proud to serve. PJC
Toby Tabachnick is editor of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.