Review’s last editor continued paper’s traditions
'The Jewish Review was one of the good ones’
By POLINA OLSEN, Special to the Jewish Review
article created on: 2012-01-01T00:00:00
When Paul Haist arrived at the Jewish Review in 1992, the paper announced he would “continue to serve the Jewish community with high quality journalism.”
A Portland State University graduate, he had previously worked as an editor for the Pacific Tribune (a remote Washington weekly), The Oregonian, Oregon Journal and Seattle Post Intelligencer, as well as an in-house writer for the Bechtel Corporation and First Interstate Bank (now Wells Fargo). Haist told readers to expect changes in coverage, writing, editing and graphics.
In this last issue, we asked Haist to reflect on those years:
JR: What events led up to your working for the Jewish Review?
Haist: I had been living aboard my sailboat, mostly in Astoria, and sailing in the Northwest and Canada in the summers. I did this for about eight years, taking two years near the end of that time to work for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
JR: Describe the Jewish Review in 1992.
Haist: The editor who immediately preceded me was Mara Woloshin, who, at that time, was a brand new mother. I inherited from Woloshin a staff that included a young reporter/staff editor, a graphic designer, an office manager and two or three advertising sales staff. The Review at the time was typical of small-market, niche newspapers. It was apparent from looking over earlier editions of the paper that the editors who preceded me clearly brought professional-level skills and dedication to the job, The focus then, as now, was on local Jewish news, with a small amount of national and international Jewish news. This was at a time when all Jewish Telegraph Agency stories still arrived by mail and were, therefore, already old news.
JR: What were your hopes for the paper?
Haist: I wanted the paper to conform more closely to the standards I was schooled in over much of the first half of my adult life at three large daily newspapers. To that end, I made sure the writing conformed to the Associated Press Stylebook, and I altered the basic layout to conform with the modular layout approach I had learned on the job elsewhere. In time, I changed the appearance of the nameplate atop page one, opting for a more formal look. Somewhat later, I changed the paper’s basic grid from five to four columns to give it a more open and modern look.
JR: What do you remember most about the first year?
Haist: Mostly I remember being very busy after seven or eight years of a laid-back life on my boat. I went to work on Jan. 15, 1992, at about the same moment that the annual Plenum of what is now called the Jewish Council for Public Affairs opened at the Hilton Hotel, a great distinction for Portland’s Jewish community and a tribute to JCPA’s then national chairman, Portland attorney Arden Shenker. Being dropped into the middle of the American Jewish community’s foremost annual debate on nationally and internationally critical Jewish issues was a huge eye-opener.
When I started at the Jewish Review, my longtime friend, Carol Newman of Astoria, cautioned me that the job would be “very political.” She was right, and in ways that I had yet to fully comprehend and that went rather beyond the obviously political issues before the Plenum. I coped then and in the ensuing years by keeping my own council on anything I thought might be very sensitive—which was almost everything. I am passionately devoted to a few ideals especially involving the First Amendment, so it took some discipline not to share my views, in the interest of not alienating anyone in the community, each of whom I wanted, then as now, to consider the Jewish Review their friend—or at least certainly never their enemy.
JR: Has the paper changed over the years?
Haist: A number of things have changed. The focus has always remained on local news, but that has fluctuated as world news—especially from the Middle East—has moved up and down stage a number of times. The print quality of the paper has improved consistently with the evolution of pre-press and press technologies.
Perhaps the most important change, from my point of view, was being enabled to hire a second full-time editor. No one has contributed more to the Jewish Review than City Editor Deborah Moon, who I hired about a year after I started. The two of us have essentially identical professional values—and almost identical professional backgrounds. She made it possible for the Review to grow, flourish and pioneer. The Jewish Review was, for example, the first Jewish newspaper in the world to also publish on the Internet. That was 1995. That wouldn’t have been possible without Deborah here to free-up the time it took to figure out how to put the paper online and keep it current.
JR: Do you have any favorite stories about your time with the paper?
Haist: During the great influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union, I began publishing a Russian-language page in the Review. Intended for the newcomers, it was written by the late Dr. Moise Wolf, a distinguished physician, scholar, writer and Yiddishist from the Soviet Union—originally from Poland. Two or three letters in the Russian font I used for Dr. Wolf’s articles did not reproduce reliably.
One day, a delegation of about five Russian newcomers marched into my office, in the basement of the Leather Furniture Company on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, to announce that they were offended that I would not go to the trouble to remedy the font problem. They were rather loud; I felt a little intimidated. I explained that I didn’t have the budget to buy more fonts, nor was I sure that would solve the problem. One sturdy woman stepped forward with her hands on hips and demanded I fix the problem. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t know what came over me. I paused, and then I stuck my tongue out at her and made a face like a child might. That’s very unlike me. Everyone stopped talking. There were several beats of silence, and then all the Russians started laughing. I laughed with them, and then I found the money and fixed the problem.
Another visitor once left his false teeth on a side table in my office. The interesting part was having to telephone him to ask him if he was missing anything. You don’t often get to make a phone call like that.
JR: Has anything surprised you about working for the paper?
Haist: Mostly I am surprised that I stayed on this job for 19 years, 11 months and 15 days. That’s not like me either, or it wasn’t like me. The phrase “itinerant newspaperman” always appealed to me. Attach “and sailor” to it and it seems idyllic.
JR: What will you do next?
Haist: Isabelle and I will visit her children and grandchildren and our friends in
Switzerland and France for about a month. Then we will settle back into our home in Astoria and get back to work.
JR: How do you feel about the paper closing?
Haist: This will be the fourth paper I have worked for that has closed: Pacific Tribune, the Oregon Journal and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer came before. I was there when the Journal closed and I went on to The Oregonian.
The loss of a distinguished paper—and the Jewish Review distinguished itself with many awards—is sad. A voice goes silent. Treasured relationships within the newspaper wither away and the readers’ often treasured bond with their newspaper disappears like smoke. A voice you know is no longer there.
JR: What would you like people to remember about your time the Jewish Review?
Haist: In spite of the fact—in my view—that newspaper publishing and fundraising are not entirely compatible activities, the Jewish Review for the nearly 20 years that Deborah and I ran it, and, in fact, for all of its 53 years, has been a newspaper that its publisher, staff and readers could take pride in. People came to town and said, “What a good newspaper.”
The Jewish Review, z’l, was one of the good ones.