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Jacob Riis’ loves — A video valentine

NYC’s most famous reporter, photo-journalist, reformer was motivated by love.

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Jacob Riis Loves



Jacob Riis says --

on compassion and heroism:

One half of the world does not know how the other half lives.

In the slum there is another story to tell. A story of thousands of devoted lives, of heroic men and women struggling patiently against fearful odds and coming out pure and undefiled.

How shall the love of God be understood by those who have been nurtured in sight only of the greed of man.

When the very name of home shall be as a bitter mockery, what will the harvest be?

The cutting loose from all sense of responsibility, with the old standards gone, simply means that we become creatures of the environment.

The czar of all the Russias is not more absolute upon his own soil than the New York landlord in his dealings with colored tenants.

on reporting:

How would you like to be a reporter, if you have got nothing better to do?

Every once in a while I am asked why I became a newspaper man. For one thing there were writers, who themselves comfortably lodged, have not red blood enough in their veins to feel for those to whom everything is denied.

I went poking among the foul alleys sounding the misery and the depravity of it to their depth. I wanted to shirk the task. Jonah was one of us sure enough. 

I read in the local newspaper one day when I had been lecturing that ‘a voluble German with a voice like a squeaky cellar-door’ had been in town.

What the world needs is consecrated pens.

In all the years of my reporting I have never omitted prayer when anything big was on foot. Perhaps the notion of a police reporter praying that he may write a good murder story may seem ludicrous... It is his task to catch the human drift of it, not merely the foulness and the reek of blood. His murder story may easily come to speak more eloquently to the minds of thousands than the sermon preached to a hundred in the church on Sunday.

on work:

When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stone-cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it.  Yet at a hundredth and first blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it  – but all that had gone before.

The chance of getting something for nothing is the greatest temptation one can hold out to frail human nature, whether in the slum or in Wall Street.

The question is whether a man would take seven per cent and save his soul, or twenty-five and lose it.

My boss was bad at pay. He was pretty much all bad, I guess.

You must first put the man where he can respect himself. You cannot expect to find a sound core in a rotten fruit. 

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