November 16, 2018

Jewish Journal at 30

This is a rhetorical question: Has there ever, in recent history, been a more important time for a professional, fearless and independent Jewish press?

Of course not.

This week’s issue celebrates our 30th birthday. And if the past few weeks, or years, have convinced me of anything, it’s that a media company rooted in the values of Judaism, anchored to an exceptional community, and willing and able to reach out as widely as it can, matters more than ever.

When I started at the Journal 22 years ago, as a reporter, I sensed that the issues we wrote about were big, but the newspaper was small. It was a good community paper but limited in circulation to local Jewish Federation donors — as too many Jewish community papers still are.

In 2000, the Journal ended its distribution relationship with the Federation. That began a process of getting our content in front of Jews (and everyone else), wherever they might be. We did this through free print distribution — the first community Jewish weekly in the world to do so — and with aggressive use of the internet, social media and live events. What began as a little community paper now has millions of readers each month around the globe.

As our scope expanded, two momentous changes spurred the Journal’s growth. First, the world changed. The kinds of stories that were always important to our readers — religious extremism, terrorism, the Middle East, the role of faith in civic life, science and entertainment — became important to everyone. If you didn’t have to be Jewish to eat Levy’s rye, as the commercial said, you certainly didn’t need to be Jewish to read the Jewish Journal.

At the same time, in a world glutted with fake news, Facebook rants, one-sided “journalism,” and PR and puffery disguised as news, the value of professional journalism to inform, educate and inspire community is even more valuable.

Last year, we extended our reach by adding JewishInsider.com, with full-time reporters and editors in Washington, D.C., and New York, and a morning newsletter read by diplomats, activists, philanthropists and journalists globally.

Also in 2016, we began to expand our real, non-virtual presence in the community through live events. At a time when it is so easy to retreat to our computer screens to talk only to those with whom we agree, TRIBE Media Corp. (the parent of the Journal) is embarking on a series of events that will bring our diverse community members to face challenging issues — together.

And this week, we roll out our new jewishjournal.com website with even more features, including mobile-friendly compatibility, that will make it easier than ever to access news of the Los Angeles Jewish community and beyond.

As a nonprofit, we also have embarked on community fundraising. Our advertisers have been our lifeblood for years, and we are forever grateful for their support. But as the reality of the media market has changed, we have reached out to foundations and you, our readers, to sustain our nonprofit mission.

None of this has happened, or can happen, without you. It is your stories that we are here to tell. If there is a single reason the Journal has survived, and thrived, through incredibly challenging times, it is that you trust us to tell your stories.

Our ability to do that is a direct result of the people whose talent and dedication got us here. Founding editor Gene Lichtenstein set the standards high from the very beginning for quality writing and editorial independence. Previous publishers, from Richard Volpert to Irwin Field, have dedicated themselves to creating a sustainable enterprise.

TRIBE Media staff works constantly to put out not just a weekly newspaper but ever-changing websites, videos and events — all under the demands of pressing deadlines and breaking news. This enterprise has been blessed with editors, reporters, columnists, contributing writers, graphic designers, digital directors, administrators and advertising reps who have shared its sense of mission and given ceaselessly of their talents. Take a moment to read the masthead and give credit where it’s due.

Our board, led by our chair, Peter Lowy, has backed us in the most difficult times and allowed us the freedom to do our jobs to the best of our ability. Peter stepped in exactly when he was most needed and has been an astute, steadfast and indispensable supporter.

My partner in crime here, Journal President David Suissa, has deepened and broadened the organization‘s impact. If anything embodies the spirit of TRIBE Media and the Jewish Journal, it is that David and I — despite our very different backgrounds, practices and political opinions — never question each other’s love for this community, country or Israel.

No matter what side of our country’s — and our people’s — divides you are on, you no doubt see the danger of these times and the precarious place where American Jewry and Israel stand. But please know that your voice and your story will continue to be reflected and honored in the pages of this newspaper. We will strive to be the place where strong community begins.

Thank you for helping us get to 30, and thank you even more for helping us go forward — to 120.