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Jewish World Review April 7, 2003 / 5 Nisan, 5763

Binyamin L. Jolkovsky

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Consumer Reports

Mike the mentsh | When word of Michael Kelly's death reached me, I was on the phone and in mid-sentence. The message was delivered electronically.

My response was a gasp and then: "Oh, no! It must be a mistake!"

"What's wrong?" the voice on the other end inquired. When I relayed the tragic news, there was a pause. "That's terrible," the voice finally said, adding "I don't want to sound insensitive, but he was, after all, just one of the many columnists you purchase from the syndicates."

After publishing JWR for more than a half-decade, I've come to realize something about columnists. There are two types: Those you just "purchase from the syndicates" and buy like a bottle of milk out of a refrigerator and those who actually care not only about what they write but where they appear. These opinionists write for passion and purpose more than for a paycheck.

Michael Kelly fell under the latter category.

It would be misleading for me to claim that I knew Michael Kelly well. I didn't. But he knew he was appearing in JWR and he appreciated it. ("I'm honored," he actually once wrote me.) Behind the scenes, he was always there to "talk shop," and offer an encouraging word when it was needed.

Michael Kelly read our readers' notes to him and often responded. And when a column of his didn't elicit the ordinary amount of mail, he noticed --- resulting in him sometimes second-guessing his work.

In this day and age of "celeb journalists," this sort of pride is, sadly, being replaced with another form: smug self-righteousness. You know exactly whom I mean.

I first began reading Michael Kelly's columns in The New Republic during the last Gulf War and was honored myself when I was finally granted permission to publish them in my own magazine. Whether you agreed with his positions or not, Michael Kelly believed in what he said and said -- without hesitation -- what he believed, no matter what the consequences of those actions would be.

Our nation was richer for it and poorer now that this is no longer the case.

He will be missed.

Actually, if the mail here over the weekend is any indication, he already is.

Binyamin L. Jolkovsky is JWR's editor in chief. Comment by clicking here.


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