“You see, Dr. Brown,” I began hesitantly, trying to keep my voice from quivering, “I’m not sure I want an internship on a regular newspaper.” I forced myself to make eye contact with this man who was the very soul of a hard-bitten journalist. “I’m interested in Christian journalism.”
“Ah,religious journalism!” I noted with an inward smile his nimble change in terminology, but I was not at all ready for his next statement. “I have just the assignment for you: the Buffalo Jewish Review.” He must have seen the utter shock on my face, because he added with a grin, “I’m sure it will be a real learning experience for you.”
I walked out of the office in a daze. And when I told my classmates about it, they thought it was a great joke — including those who were Jewish. Apparently theBuffalo Jewish Review was not exactly a plum assignment. Most of the students were vying for a spot on one of the daily papers, or maybe one of the larger suburban weeklies. A small regional weekly that specialized in the news of the local Jewish community appeared to be distasteful to skeptical college students.
Of course, I had a different concern over the internship: would the editor of a Jewish newspaper be willing to accept a born-again Christian on his staff? I need not have worried; Steve Lipman was a great guy to work for, and (as I later discovered) his best friend was active in a Baptist church!
My first assignment was to cover a protest by a group of college-age activists over a theatrical performance they felt was anti-Semitic. That ended in a few arrests and charges of police brutality. A photographer came with me and took some dramatic shots. The story ended up on the front page — with my by-line.
Many of the news events I wrote about were more run-of-the-mill, but my lack of knowledge of Judaism usually kept them from being dull. One lady I interviewed for an article about a Jewish cultural event was perturbed over the ignorant questions I was asking and said, “Your parents didn’t take you to temple very often, did they?” No, m’am, my Episcopalian parents did not take me to temple very often! But it was a unique opportunity to learn about Judaism.
And a few of the stories were — well, unusual to say the least. I was assigned to interview a Jewish woman who was active in the environmental movement, including protection of endangered species. Imagine my surprise when I was met at the door by a live wolf!
The culmination of the internship was staying up till four a.m. one night with Steve as we waited for election results from Israel. While my classmates were reporting on flower club meetings and waste-treatment plant renovations, I was able to get a by-line on an international news story. So I guess I had the last laugh!