Last newspaper people standing?

Salvatore Caputo displays the award he received from the Arizona Press Club on May 18 at the Duce.

Salvatore Caputo displays the award he received from the Arizona Press Club on May 18 at the Duce.

As an employee of Jewish News, I’m proud to promote our organization by mentioning that I won the first-place award for editorial writing in the nonmetro category (nonmetro essentially means “small newspaper”). And I’ve got to thank my publisher emeritus, Flo Eckstein, and my new publisher, Jaime Stern, for the opportunity to continue to do this work in an industry that can charitably be called troubled. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t thank my co-workers whose support helps me get it done week after week. Lastly, my long-suffering wife puts up with the ridiculously crazy hours I put in on this work, which has been by mission for so long.

What made the award particularly meaningful to me was that the judge was Peter Canellos, editorial page editor of the Boston Globe. There are few bigger papers in this country, and for him to say, “These editorials challenge the paper’s readers to rethink their assumptions” is a feather in the cap. Journalism is many things, and one of the things it is is something to which I’ve dedicated my entire professional life. I’ve tried to work ethically, report honestly and assess situations with clear eyes, while acknowledging that what I write does not come from an omniscient presence but from a human being, with all the flaws and foibles associated with that status. The award was given for three editorials — “The uncertainty principle,” “A time for grief” and “Cancer of hate” — published in 2012.

Keeping at it through the years and bearing the sacrifices it entails hasn’t diminished the sense of mission that brought me to the field in the first place, and to have that motivation recognized by a colleague from a major daily, one of the six or seven in this country that can still be called major dailies, is quite an honor.

The ceremony, held at the Duce downtown on Saturday, May 18, was pretty much some schmoozing with old colleagues from my previous jobs at The Arizona Republic and Independent Newspapers and the recitation of the winners list by master of ceremonies Brahm Reznik, political reporter and news anchor at Channel 12, KPNX-TV, and eating bar food (mac and cheese balls, sliders of brisket or meatballs, etc.) and enjoying reasonably priced beer. This was not a glitzy evening.

It was odd, though, to see the crowd so small. The newspaper business has been gutted by the economy and the digital age, and folks of a certain age in the business are somewhat justified in feeling that they are the last people standing.

Clearly, the choice of venue both reflects the fortunes of the business and engagement of the younger people in the business. There is little question that this business is cruel to older people. It takes time to develop the knowledge and the sources to get things right, but there is little room for upward career trajectory or for valuing their intellectual capital and institutional memory when a new pool of people fresh out of college will be eager, not demanding, nor as hard on the bottom line of financial compensation.

This was as true when I was 28 and came to Phoenix to work at the Republic as it is today. But in today’s perfect storm of recession recovery and declining newspaper readership (and correspondingly catastrophic declines in revenue), the reality is singularly harsh.

That’s why it was good that one segment of the evening, a separate set of awards presented by the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, focused on people who’d actually been in this profession in Arizona through the past 25 years. (The profession is highly transient because upward mobility as a reporter or editor usually comes by moving to a bigger newspaper elsewhere. It’s increasingly rare for a newspaper journalist to stay in the business a quarter-century,  let alone pursue there work in the same geographical area for that long.)

Jewish News has direct connections to two of this year’s inductees into the Order of the Silver Key Society.

The late Randi Weinstein was Randi Barocas when she worked as a Jewish News staff writer in 1997-1998 and she was managing editor of the Phoenix Business Journal when she died last year at age 40. She was honored posthumously with induction into the Silver Key Society for having been a mentor to the journalists who worked at the Business Journal during her tenure as managing editor. (Randi started as staff writer at Jewish News just as I completed a stint of about a month as a substitute copy editor and writer for the paper in 1997.)

Brett McKeand, who is president and publisher of Independent Newsmedia Inc., was my boss at my previous job as a news editor at the Chandler Independent. A division of his company, Valley Newspapers, actually prints and mails out the print edition of Jewish News each week. McKeand started as a reporter at the Sun City Independent in 1983 and has been with the company ever since.

I was touched that Reznik, when announcing my award, mentioned how much his mother kvelled over my article last year about his becoming a U.S. citizen.

But maybe just as good for me was getting to say hi to and cheer for friends and acquaintances.

As a teenager, Alia Rau was interested in journalism and her dad, whom I knew as a friend, asked if I would talk to her about the field. Today, she is a reporter with The Arizona Republic who took second place in immigration reporting with her story “SB 1070’s day in court.”

I had a chance to say hi to my old softball team’s battery, catcher Karina Bland and pitcher Scott Craven. They had a battle going in the human interest reporting category, with Scott taking first and third place, and Kari taking second. (Kari also took home a third place in column writing, a first place in personality profile writing for “Becoming Max,” a profile of a family trying to understand their transgender son’s journey, and during the Society of Professional Journalists’ segment received a First Amendment Award for her story “Domestic violence deaths in Arizona tragically consistent.”)

I was glad to see former colleagues like Richard Ruelas and Sylvia Cody take home awards as well.

It made me realize just how much of my life has been wrapped up in journalism and to wonder once again what challenges and rewards tomorrow will bring.

Salvatore Caputo, May 19, 2013

Phoenix represented in El Al Torah Scroll for the Unity of Israel

Right before the start of Shavuot, on May 14, Israel’s chief rabbis, the British ambassador to Israel, airline employees and others took part in an event to mark the completion of the writing of the El Al Torah Scroll for the Unity of Israel.

El Al CEO Elyezer Shkedy, who initiated the writing of the Torah Scroll, said the project was motivated by a desire to help strengthen ties between the Jewish population in Israel and around the world.

EL AL CEO Elyezer Shkedy, left, meets with members of the American Jewish Press Association, including Jewish News Managing Editor  Leisah Woldoff, right, during an American Jewish Press Association press tour. Photo courtesy of Marshall Weiss

EL AL CEO Elyezer Shkedy, left, meets with members of the American Jewish Press Association, including Jewish News Managing Editor Leisah Woldoff, right, during an American Jewish Press Association press tour. Photo courtesy of Marshall Weiss

Shkedy told a group of journalists about this Torah during the American Jewish Press Association’s press tour in January and I was fortunate enough to “write” a letter in this Torah (through a scribe, of course) during an El Al-sponsored dinner at a Tel Aviv restaurant. I feel like I was in very good company, as thousands of people have inscribed a letter in the Torah Scroll for the past three years — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s President Shimon Peres and Noble Prize winner Eli Weisel. In Washington, D.C., this past December, the sefer Torah was signed by several U.S. senators and members of Congress, including Joe Lieberman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Eric Cantor. At the United Nations, Israel’s Ambassador Ron Prosor added a letter to the Torah.

The Torah scroll, which contains 304,805 letters in 249 columns, will be kept in the synagogue on the El Al campus at Ben Gurion International Airport, according to a press release, and will accompany Israeli leaders on flights of national and historic significance.

‘Scandal,’ ‘Once Upon a Time’ cast members visit Israel

Photo courtesy of IMP Media

Dudi Roth, director and president of Meir Panim, Israel’s leading relief organization left, discusses poverty with actor Guillermo Diaz, center. Photo courtesy of IMP Media

The stars visit the Galil Mountain Winery, located on Kibbutz Yiron, near the Lebanese border. Photo by Pioter Fliter

Are you a fan of “Scandal” or “Once Upon a Time”?

Then you might be interested in hearing more about the cast members’ recent tour of Israel. Here’s a recap of their trip from IMP Media:


    A contingent of stars from the hit ABC-TV series of ‘Scandal’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’ visited Israel April 29-May 5 and were exposed to a whirlwind of Israeli medical and viticultural innovations. The stars, the guests of America’s Voices in Israel ( a division of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations), are being treated to a whistle-stop tour of the country while meeting with influential figures from Israel’s cultural, food, medical, organizational, religious and political spheres . The America’s Voices in Israel trip is led by the organization’s Director, Irwin Katsof and was partially sponsored by El Al and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Arriving at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa last week, the stars were greeted by Dr. Rafi Beyar, director of the bustling hospital. After introducing the celebrities, some of whom had guest-starred on medical dramas, to a wide range of cutting edge  innovations,  as well the hospital’s underground parking lot which transforms into a fortified, underground, emergency hospital in just 48 hours, the stars were positively awe-struck. “Everything we have seen here has all of us with our mouths wide open in astonishment,” joked Katie Lowes who plays Quinn Perkins on ‘Scandal.’

Guillermo Diaz (Huck on ‘Scandal’), who also portrayed nurse Angel Garcia in the medical drama ‘Mercy’, was particularly impressed with  PillCam, a futuristic device developed at Rambam ,which is swallowed by a patient like a pill and then transmits images of the small intestine to gastroenterologists. PillCam, which is manufactured and marketed by Given Imaging (NASDAQ), has helped prevent the spread of colon cancer in many countries, including North America, EU and Asia.

The stars also visited the hospital’s laboratories, where they were introduced to Professor LiorGepstein, who showed the stars beating heart cells, which he had developed with advanced stem cell technology.

“I’ve played a doctor on ‘ Miami Medical’ and toured many trauma rooms but I’ve never in my life seen anything like this,” exclaimed Lana Parilla who plays Regina Mills on the Emmy Award winning series, ‘Once Upon a Time’. “It’s unreal!”

The group also visited Meir Panim, Israel’s leading relief organization in Jerusalem.

 During the course of their visit, the stars heard about Israel’s recent social “cottage cheese” revolution and about Israel’s working poor, but, despite it all, were amazed to realize what a happy, vibrant country Israel is.

“You can see by your expressions how completely engaged you are in this organization,” enthused Lowes.   “It’s an honor to be shown this very special part of Israeli society.”

 After another adrenalin-charged visit to an Israeli air force base in Northern Israel and wandering around the mystical town of Safed, the stars’ packed day ended with a visit to the Galil Mountain Winery, located in Kibbutz Yiron, near the Lebanese border. Greeted by CEO, Uri Tyroler who fielded questions about his pride and joy, Israeli wine, the stars toured the unique visitors center which offers unparalleled access to the wine making facilities via a raised platform. They tasted a range of wines from the winery and were impressed by the quality and uniqueness of the wines presented.

“I’m blown away by the red wines here, such as the Meron and the Yiron (both unique blends of the winery),” remarked Lowes.

“When I think of Israel, I would never have thought of wine,” said Lana Parilla. “I had no idea that the wine we would be tasting, would be as delicious and rich as it is. I absolutely loved the wine.”

The stars were given a history of how the Israeli wine industry has developed in recent times and then tasted wines from the award-winning Golan Heights Winery which has been credited with revolutionizing the field.“I was also blown over by the Chardonnay Odem (Yarden) which is absolutely delicious,” continued Lowes. “We’ve travelled all over California, Italy and France, but Israel’s wine industry is incredibly exciting.” Lowes and her husband, actor Adam Shapiro, say that they plan to source Israeli wines upon their return to Hollywood, and are determined to spread the world about the extremely high quality of Israel’s wine industry.

For these thespians, whose views about Israel have been formed by what they see on the local TV news , this was a unique opportunity to relax, meeting and getting to know real Israelis, while sampling award-winning, Israeli wine.

Music thoughts from Bela Fleck

You can’t get them excited 12 times in a row in a year, so if I have something that I’m really passionate about, I want to record it beautifully, get a version of it that is highly representative not only of what it is, but of what I want it to become. — Bela Fleck

Given the space issues that crop up when we do arts features in Jewish News, we tend to focus on a single angle, but many times the interviews with musicians and authors and the like are far ranging affairs that offer some interesting ideas that don’t fit into the piece.

If you’ve already read the preview article I wrote on Bela Fleck’s show coming up next Wednesday evening (if you haven’t, check out Fleck trek: To boldly go where no banjo has gone before when you’re done here), you might be interested to know his thinking on the value of making albums as opposed to performing live, especially in the age of streaming music and music downloads.

Jewish News: I know that it’s affected people who are primarily recording artists and you’re more of a live performer who documents some of what he does, but has the change in the delivery of recorded music affected much of your thinking about how you approach that?

Bela Fleck: Well, yes and no. I don’t expect the records to sell as much as they once did, but I still think the idea of being really clear and not offering too many things all at once is wise. It fits the public perception. Because of the way people’s minds work, you can wear people out. I remember that this one year [when] Wynton Marsalis put out 12 records in one year — and I think that it was artistically an amazing thing to do — but I think it was hard for people. Some of them [the recordings] didn’t move at all and a few of them did, but I know the promotion team, I don’t want to talk in terms of marketing and stuff like that, but the truth is that it’s confusing. It’s hard on people.

You can’t get them Bela Fleckexcited 12 times in a row in a year, so if I have something that I’m really passionate about, I want to record it beautifully, get a version of it that is highly representative not only of what it is, but of what I want it to become. In other words, I worked so hard on that recording that it’s better than what I can do at the moment, and then I grow into it, and by the end of that year, I can play that music way better than the recording and I’ve stood behind it and grown in the process, had the growth to perform it, and taught the audience about it too.

So there’s that, but also the fact that I’m performing in a lot of different settings could be confusing as well, but it’s just sort of working out that way, because the Flecktones, when we perform, is a full-time occupation, and so when we stop all of these other projects that have been sitting waiting kind of come forward and beg for attention, and it makes me a better musician to be this diverse, to be playing with a lot of different musicians. So while it’s good for the general public for you to stick to one thing that they can understand and build a relationship with it, it’s actually good for musicians to do a lot of things and stay fresh. I’m trying to balance all of those things at the same time.

JN: Well, it sounds like you have it really well thought out. I hadn’t thought about how you put out something like a record and it be better than what you can actually do live at that time and then growing into it – I’d never thought about that before.

BF: Well, that’s the main reason to make records for me.

JN: I see.

BF: Otherwise, just play live. You can put out a live recording of what you’re playing it like today and that could be quite good or it could suck, one or the other or somewhere in between, graded by your perspective obviously, or you can go in the studio and practice like crazy and record like crazy and work on it till you’ve created basically an artifact. You know, that’s an optimum idea of what you wish you could play it like, and the odd thing about that is that after you’ve lived with that document for a little while, you can play it that way. But you couldn’t play it that way unless you went through that process. So I use recordings both as a way to create an optimum version of the music that I can grow into — really most of what the audience hears is an idealization of what you wished it would sound like — but even more so, so that I will eventually sound like that, so that every record can be a growth process that forces me to really learn this music and not slough it off or, you know, let things slide.

Luxury vacation apartments at Herzliya

The Ritz-Carlton decided to make its way to Israel for the first time and is opening luxury vacation apartments — The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton — on the Mediterranean shore of Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv.  The 12-story hotel will be comprise 110 guest rooms and 85 whole-ownership luxury vacation residences.  The mixed-use property was designed by architect Ranni Ziss, while Studio Gaia of New York did the interior design.

The 12-story Ritz-Carlton project at night.

The 12-story Ritz-Carlton property in Herzliya.

Although the residences come in a variety of sizes, every room was inspired by a luxurious marina lifestyle and the designers have made the terraces with beautiful views of the Mediterranean Sea a major focus.

“All in all we are offering a superior lifestyle to be delivered by a well-known brand associated with sublime hospitality,” said Miri Azouri, the project director of marketing and sales for The Residences.

A poolside view of the Mediterranean

The Residences’ rooftop swimming pool offers a panoramic view of the Mediterranean.

Just as the outside view of the hotel has an oceanic theme, the interior color scheme complements the views of the Mediterranean. The designers used colors such as beiges, taupes and blues inspired by the sand, sky and sea. Natural woods, stone and leather tiles are being used to create a warm vibe, combined with luxury and comfort.

Guests will be able to enjoy all of the hotel amenities, whether they are a hotel guest or a resident owner. This includes service from the hotel concierge, access to the rooftop swimming pool with a fantastic view of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the option to in-residence dining. As a part of the hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Spa offers a fully equipped gym, a business center and banquet halls to be used for events.

The interior design uses colors that complement the exterior views

The interior design uses colors that complement the exterior views.


— Posted by scaputo215 for Melissa Rauch, editorial intern