I’m often surprised when people express an interest in how newspapers work, from the inside. How stories get assigned and edited, Letters to the Editor chosen, editorial decisions made, etc.
For those of us in the business, I guess we take that all for granted, and seem more focused these days on how newspapers can survive at a time of economic trauma and free content online.
On Sunday night, to my surprise, despite a hard, cold rain (and a Jets game in the fourth quarter), about 150 people turned out for a panel discussion at the Teaneck (NJ) Jewish Center on “What Is All The Jewish News That Is Fit To Print?”
The panelists were Sam Norich, the publisher of The Forward; Andrew Silow Carroll, editor of the New Jersey Jewish News; Rebecca Boroson, editor of the New Jersey Jewish Standard; and me.
The program’s initiator and moderator, Rabbi Lawrence Zierler of the Center, noted at the outset that he was motivated by the recent communal outburst over a decision by The Jewish Standard to publish a same-sex announcement on its social page – with strong opinions both for and against.
The dispute highlighted the issue of how a community Jewish newspaper strives to be inclusive while recognizing the sensitivities of its many different constituencies.
Curiously, though, the questions put to us by the rabbi did not speak directly to the same-sex announcement dispute. We spoke about the pressures we face from Jewish organizations and others, and the point was made that there are some very good Federation-subsidized Jewish papers and some not so good independent ones.
The consensus was that the goal is to be professional and credible, while always pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable to report on, combining courage and common sense.
We shared some of our successes and failures along the way, and our efforts to offset the trend, especially among younger people, of foregoing newspapers to get their news online. For us to reach them will take more than finding the right apps. It will mean raising a generation that feels Jewish identity, heritage and culture are vital and meaningful to their lives.
And it will mean a stronger effort on our part to write about issues and causes they care about.
In the meantime, we’re grateful for the commitment and passion of those who do read Jewish newspapers and websites, and who hold our feet to the fire at times, as they should. May their numbers increase.