It’s been a grim time for Jewish journalism. Our paper, The Jewish Week, was forced to go all-digital this summer. The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles announced that it was suspending print publication, a few weeks after Boston’s Jewish Advocate made a similar announcement. Two major British Jewish papers were on the brink of insolvency earlier this year, although they held on after a rush of community support.
The business model for print journalism has been busted for a while now. Like everyone else, Jewish appetites for news are changing along with the demographics of the community and the ways people consume news in general.
The good news is that there are still young people who want to pursue careers in journalism, and even write for and edit Jewish publications and websites. I had a heartening Zoom call last Thursday with a dozen or so of these budding journalists, all of whom are involved in our high school writing program, Fresh Ink for Teens. After a meeting of the Fresh Ink editorial board, I offered some tips on a journalism career and writing and editing in general. When I asked who wanted to be a journalist, at least half the boys and girls raised their hands. I told them that people might discourage them – and by people, I meant their parents – but that there would always be media eager to hire young people with passion and drive and a diverse set of skills.
The Fresh Ink kids, who come from New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, are already demonstrating all three. A bunch of new articles have gone up on the site, ably shepherded by student editor Rebecca Massel, a high school senior from New York. There’s a helpful preview of the presidential election, an essay on gratitude during the pandemic, and even a history of the Häagen-Dazs ice cream brand.
As I told the students, my journalism career started in high school, when I worked for Bellmore Life, our local weekly. My first by-line was a story about a gardener who had grown a huge zucchini. In terms of deep investigative dives into giant vegetable growing, I think I nailed it. I kept it up through college, spending more time at the student newspaper than actually studying, and lucked into a series of jobs at some of the country’s best Jewish news outlets.
My own path into the field is probably closed, but new ones open all the time. I hope our Fresh Inkers stick with it. The Jewish world has important stories to tell and needs talented people to tell them.
You can meet the Fresh Ink editorial team here. And if you or a teen you know are interested in the program, email Thea Wieseltier, our director of strategic projects and director of Fresh Ink for Teens, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Fresh Ink for Teens is a project of The Jewish Week, made possible through the generosity of Gail A. Binderman/The Norman E. Alexander Family G Foundation, Inc.)