NEW YORK (Aug. 12)
After serving 11 years with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Mark Seal is stepping down from his position of executive vice president to become chief operating officer at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
Seal joined JTA as business manager in October 1982 and became the agency director one year later. In addition to overseeing the agency’s finances and personnel, he has been responsible for maintaining JTA’s relations with the Jewish organizational world, Jewish newspapers throughout the country and abroad, and JTA’s own board of directors.
He has also worked with JTA Editor Mark Joffe to redefine the agency’s editorial direction.
“JTA is fundamentally different since when I took over,” Seal said, pointing out that the staff is now more professional and has a stronger Jewish background.
He said the agency’s editorial product has also changed greatly. “We used to put out one Daily Bulletin that was produced on a typewriter, which had to serve all of JTA’s constituencies. We couldn’t tailor our product to meet the special needs of our member publications.”
JTA’s editorial focus, he said, used to be on coverage of events, “but it is now on issues, trends and developments.”
He also noted how JTA has integrated all the latest technologies for receiving, editing and disseminating stories for its readers.
Reflecting on all the progress that has been made since he first arrived, Seal gave credit to JTA’s board of directors, “who have been supportive and encouraging throughout.”
CONCERN ABOUT FUNDING
Seal said that JTA in recent years has undergone a period of cutbacks caused by the recession and by the need of Jewish community federations to direct major portions of their funds to cover the mass emigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.
“We’ve never been funded sufficiently, never had any financial reserves,” he said. “Frankly, we’re now worried about our ability to maintain our current level of editorial operation.”
Seal described the changes in the American Jewish press over the past decade in similar terms to those he used for JTA itself. “They have journalists who are now better trained. There’s better writing, better editing and better graphics.”
Seal, 42, a native of Montreal, is a graduate of McGill University, where he was a Zionist activist. He lived in Israel from 1974 to 1978, when he was responsible for the business and financial operations of Kibbutz Gezer.
He became an American citizen in October 1992 — “just in time to vote in the presidential election.”
He will be the associate executive vice president at HIAS, reporting to Executive Vice President Martin Wenick.
“HIAS is an institution I’ve long admired,” said Seal. “While I’m sorry to leave JTA, I look forward to joining the HIAS staff, where I’m eager to help develop the agency’s policies and future direction.”
Seal will be leaving JTA in the fall. Among his final duties, he will be working with the search committee to help find his replacement.