The Eyes and Ears of the Jewish World

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency began its 54th year in 1971 of world-wide news coverage of Jewish affairs and community activities with the announcement of the opening of a European Bureau with headquarters in Paris and a Middle East Bureau with headquarters in Jerusalem. Its birthday on Feb. 6 was marked by the launching of the French edition of the JTA Dally News Bulletin. The news agency, with correspondents, stringers, editorial and operative staffs and offices in major cities in Europe, Israel, the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia and South Africa, has been described through the years as the “Eyes and Ears” of the Jewish community and as a bridge linking the Jewish people throughout the world.

The various JTA publications with eye-witness, on-the-spot coverage of breaking and developing news, span the diverse activities of the Jewish people and governments of all nations. The overwhelming bulk of its news stories, features, interviews and analysis is exclusive to the JTA, not available to readers of the daily press. Its news dispatches are read daily and frequently quoted by leading Western, Soviet and Arab officials, Throughout the years, the JTA has scored numerous “firsts” with its “special to the JTA” reports.

In November 1917, nine months after the news agency was established in The Hague as the Joodsche Correspondentie Bureau-Jewish Correspondence Bureau-, it brought the Jews in Poland the electrifying news of the issuance by Britain of the Balfour Declaration promising the Jewish people a “national home” in Palestine. Between the two world wars, JTA correspondents were on the scene and the first to report Nazi atrocities against the Jewish people and the first to provide extensive coverage of the repression of Jews in the Soviet Union.

In Rumania, a military tribunal sentenced JTA correspondent Marcel Phone to 30 years imprisonment As a representative of JTA, he was charged with “espionage for Western powers.” In Poland, the JTA Warsaw correspondent fled the country only a few hours before the arrival of police sent to arrest him for the “crime” of reporting the situation of Polish Jewry. In Czechoslovakia, the authorities forbade the JTA to operate and refused to permit a JTA correspondent to work there. In Bulgaria, the Foreign Ministry ordered the Sofia correspondent to cease transmission of news to JTA. In recent months, the JTA has covered both intensively and extensively the plight and trials of Soviet Jews. JTA “broke” the story on U.S. Government wiretaps of the Jewish Defense League; exposed a fraudulent claim by the Syrian Red Crescent-(Red Cross)-that it had evidence from the World Council of Churches that Israel was maltreating Arabs in the occupied territories; provided in depth coverage of Jews in Arab countries, and followed through on the Mobil Oil Company’s ill-fated attempt to institute a boycott against Israel. Recently the JTA launched an international book review section. It plans to expand its scope of activities to deal with new and emerging Jewish life styles and cultural forms. Among its future plans is a bi-weekly roundup and analysis of editorial opinion of major newspapers around the world.

During the war years and before, the JTA also developed technical innovations in the field of news agencies, In 1937 it was the first of the small news agencies to obtain and use multiple broadcast facilities from London. Later, it was one of the first to shift from Morse code to the speedier radio-printer. The JTA was the first client on the split-time cable service opened between New York and London in 1864. It was the first to use facsimile in the daily distribution of news within the U.S. Within the past year, the JTA has also developed a new and far reaching program of training young people to become journalists in the field of Jewish news. It was also the first news agency in the U.S. to begin this year to provide news and features to a network of 40 Jewish student publications in the U.S. and Canada with a total readership of some 350,000.

The JTA is more, however, than an intricate, technical operation of transmissions to and from New York, London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Washington, Buenos Aires and Johannesburg where news is then distributed locally to daily and weekly Jewish newspapers, agencies, organizations and individuals. It was established 54 years ago with three major objectives: To keep Jewish communities informed on world affairs affecting their lives, fate and well-being; to serve as a bridge linking them together; and to provide an avenue, through its press, to world public opinion on such issues as national minority rights and the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in Israel.

The JTA’s international headquarters in New York receives some 20,000 words a day from its various bureaus and correspondents in addition to thousands of words from communiques, announcements and press releases from scores of organizations and agencies, Jewish and non-Jewish, communal and governmental. In turn, the New York office transmits some 5000-7000 words daily of news reports from the U.S. to its bureaus and subscribers. The U.S. Daily News Bulletin carries some 3900 words, the Weekly Digest some 2500 words, the Community Reporter some 3400 words. The dispatches have some 3900 and the features some 8000 words, The opening of the JTA’s European and Middle East News Bureaus. therefore, is a continuation and intensification by the JTA to provide news objectively, Independently and dispassionately when it happens and as it happens to its close to one million readers round the world.

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