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Covering the Story of Stories

[additional-authors]
March 24, 2020
Photo by da-kuk/Getty Images

Remember the BDS movement? Remember the rise in anti-Semitism? Remember Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg? Remember the Iran deal?

The covers of the Jewish Journal from just a few weeks ago look ancient: the threat of automation, a New York Times initiative reframing American history, Bernie and Bibi, and so on.

A few weeks ago, Joe Biden clinching the Democratic presidential nomination would have been epic news. Now, it’s just swallowed up by the biggest news story of our lifetimes: a global pandemic, a nasty virus terrifying humanity.

When we think of major events that have influenced our lives in recent years, we think of 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. But as horrible as those were, the coronavirus crisis is on another level.

In a cover story titled, “Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently,” Politico magazine surveyed more than 30 macro thinkers in different categories to get a sense of our changing new world. Here is an excerpt:

“A global, novel virus that keeps us contained in our homes — maybe for months — is already reorienting our relationship to government, to the outside world, even to each other. Some changes these experts expect to see in the coming months or years might feel unfamiliar or unsettling: Will nations stay closed? Will touch become taboo? What will become of restaurants?”

A few weeks ago, Joe Biden clinching the Democratic presidential nomination would have been epic news. Now, it’s just swallowed up by the biggest news story of our lifetimes.

Of all the categories they surveyed, I took a particular interest in Community. A community, after all, lives on human contact. We feed off the energy of company we enjoy. We connect in real time. We hug. We dance. We pray. We share meals.

Now, suddenly, we must watch the company we keep.

“We know now that touching things, being with other people and breathing the air in an enclosed space can be risky,” Deborah Tannen writes. “How quickly that awareness recedes will be different for different people, but it can never vanish completely for anyone who lived through this year.”

Those few words stuck with me — “it can never vanish completely.”

At this moment, of course, vanishing is hardly on the horizon. We are just at the beginning of an unprecedented journey into an unknown future.

Being a journalist at times like these can be both exhilarating and depressing. It’s exhilarating because the news never stops. We’ve been working around the clock at JewishJournal.com to give you the story from every possible angle. And we’re always looking for new things to add.

Last week, we produced a video of rabbis from across the community sharing words of wisdom to help us get through these trying times. Every morning, I host a podcast titled “Pandemic Times,” to share the latest developments, good and bad.

We’re also expanding our coverage to give you useful, practical information, such as where to get help, where to volunteer, where to access services, and so on.

As much as we must cover the dark news, we’re grateful that there is also hopeful news. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been prouder of our entire community.

That’s the exhilarating part — serving the community. We’ve never felt more helpful. I’m getting many emails such as this one from a prominent local leader: “Kudos to you and your staff for the JJ issues during this unprecedented time in history!” Yes, it’s rewarding to feel valued.

But when I take the journalist hat off, it can get depressing. I see the fear, the isolation, the anxiety, and it’s sobering. I’m not just a journalist, I’m also a member of the community. I walk down Pico Boulevard on a Shabbat morning and it feels like a ghost town. That may be valuable news to cover, but it also stings.

It’s especially sad that just when we need each other most, we’re being told to stay away from each other. Is this a “Twilight Zone” episode?

But wait, there’s more.

Human beings don’t give up that easily. Our community, and all of humanity, is fighting back. That is the subject of my cover story this week, how “Despite all this darkness, despite all this fear of the unknown, I can’t recall a time when I have seen so much light and so much strength.”

As much as we must cover the dark news, we’re grateful that there is also hopeful news. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been prouder of our entire community. As I write: “My email inbox overflows with hundreds of initiatives from activists, spiritual leaders, organizations and individuals who have decided to combat this disease with love, creativity and light.”

Keep an eye out for these warriors of light. You’re probably one of them. You’ve decided that no matter how bad things get, you’ll still wake up every morning, wash your hands for 20 seconds and see what you can do to help.

And the Journal will be there to cover it.

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