Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mazel tov, Cindy

Today is a very important day in Cleveland. No, it has nothing to do with Juneteenth, although I am sure there are a number of people celebrating that holiday there. Instead, I am referring to today's private gathering at Cleveland Jewish News senior staff reporter Arlene Fine's home, where she held a surprise party for staffers and former staffers to honor Cynthia Dettelbach. The Brooklyn-born longtime editor of the CJN celebrates 30 years at the helm of the editorial department of the award winning publication. Dr. Dettelbach (she received her doctorate in English when she was 37) is affectionately known as "Cindy" by veteran staffers. She is the heart and the soul of the newspaper and still personally inspects every item that is inserted into the weekly Jewish paper and its custom publications like j-Style. In acknowledgment of her many years of service to the regional journalistic community at large, the Cleveland Press Club enrolled her as a member of their Hall of Fame Award in 2006. An award winning columnist for many decades, she admits that she has struggled with personal issues that might have defeated lesser-endowed individuals and discouraged even the bravest among us. Yet, throughout her career she has met all the challenges head on and persevered. Her writing is sterling and her expectations of her staff are very high. She keeps the bar very high for her stable of writers and associate editors because she knows of what they are capable. She is quick to send a hastily constructed article back to its author with a blunt reproval, demanding an immediate rewrite. She is tough, but she is not unfair. She is capable of understanding why something she has slashed from an article needs to be inserted. But pray you have done your homework. If not, she will shoot you down like a frog's tongue can pick off an airborne fly. I can honestly say that whenever an article was handed back to me it was improved immeasurably, the mark of an excellent editor. When I became a refugee in Cleveland right after Hurricane Katrina passed and the levees breached in New Orleans, it was Cindy who insisted that I consider coming on board as a staff reporter for the paper. She fought hard to get me and it was her keen interest in having me join her staff that helped shape my decision to accept my position there. A tireless fighter for the underdog, she can be a major benefactor to one looking for relief or redress. You really do want someone like Cindy in your corner. You positively don't want to be opposed to her unless you want to wage the fight of your life. While I don't agree with all of her political stances, I respect her positions. Through all of her 30 years as the editor-in-chief of the CJN, Cindy has done so with characteristic style and grace. After I left the paper to return to my home in New Orleans in April of 2007, I continued to maintain contact with her through e-mail and via phone calls and I hope to do so for as many of the next 30 years that she will have me. Mazel tov, Cindy! Today's get together was a well-deserved honor. Apparently, some of her "Cindy-isms," a special kind of Cindy-speak, were lovingly brought forth. It was all part of a special recognition from a staff that truly loves her. Just don't forget there's someone else who feels the same way, despite the fact he lives way down yonder in New Orleans!

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