Outsourcing The Jewish Exponent: Whose Fault Is this?

Yesterday it was announced that The Jewish Exponent, Philadelphia’s communal Jewish The_Jewish_Exponent_frontpagepublication since 1887, cut most of its staff and outsourced its production to Mid-Atlantic Media, based out of Maryland. Whose fault is this? Social media is already abuzz with finger pointing.

Many commenters are blaming The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Federation is being accused of mismanagement and a desire not to invest the necessary funds to keep The Jewish Exponent going locally. Some members of the Jewish community have complained for a long time that they did not feel that their voices were being included in the Exponent’s pages.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice was founded ten years ago to address the last complaint. People who felt excluded from the communal conversation taking place in The Jewish Exponent were invited to submit their articles to The Philadelphia Jewish Voice. Unlike The Exponent’s paper editions, The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is issued exclusively online. It has only one paid staffer. The rest of the contributors are volunteers.

The Jewish Exponent and The Philadelphia Jewish Voice have complemented each other these past ten years. Each offered something that the other did not, thus meeting the needs of different segments of the Jewish community. I am The Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s immediate past president. Lisa Hostein, The Exponent’s editor, is a dear friend of mine. I have published articles in the Exponent. We coexisted in a spirit of collegiality and mutual respect.

It is not Federation’s fault that The Jewish Exponent is being outsourced. It is not The Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s fault that fifteen of our friends and colleagues were laid off. It is the whole community’s fault. A communal publication cannot exist without the community’s support. In the past, every Jewish family in the area would get The Jewish Exponent to stay on top of the news of the community. It was very important to people to announce engagements, marriages, births, and deaths in The Exponent.

Over the past 25 years, I have observed a change in our community. People are so busy fighting each other that our institutions are collapsing. Federation is no longer getting the communal support it used to command. Jews no longer feel that they need to belong to a synagogue in order to be members of the community. Many of the younger Jews do not feel a connection to Israel or Zionism. Many Jews don’t bother reading about news in the community at all. The Jewish Exponent’s sales plummeted from 80,000 to 24,000 per week.

It has been reported that The Jewish Exponent’s annual deficit grew to $300,000. The Jewish Federation made the difficult but fiscally unavoidable decision for The Jewish Exponent. The status quo was unsustainable. Let this be a wake up call to everyone! We cannot take our institutions and our sense of communal identity for granted. We need to invest more of ourselves, including our financial resources, in our communal infrastructure.

 

 

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Comments

  1. babaganouj says

    Your points are well taken. An additional cause is the migration of advertising from deadtree media to the internet. The JX used to be a source for all kinds of services, stores, restaurants and social notices. Now we go to Yelp for restaurants and Facebook for social announcements.

    I am surprised that circulation has dropped to 24,000. In the 1970’s, I remember circulation at 50,000. People who donated to the Jewish Federation got a free subscription to the JX. Does the drop mean that fewer people are contributing?

  2. Stanton Mitrany says

    Dear Ronit,

    I’m sorry that neither of the articles I’ve read reveal who the “outsourcing in Maryland” is. Is it a Jewish news group in Baltimore? Does it represent all of the spectrum of Jewish religious affiliations within it reportage?

    My own impression is that the Exponent, during the nine years I’ve perused its news pages, seems almost devoid of the news and viewpoints of the traditional Jewish population among us. By traditional, I’m referencing right-leaning conservative “conservadox” and orthodox Jews, who tend to be deeply committed to Judaism, Jewish causes, and to the State of Israel. In the Philadelphia area, they are a large and active population. A reader of The Jewish Exponent might hardly relize they exist in this region.

    It would seem as if no attention has been paid by anyone of the Exponent’s outgoing editorial staff to pursuing those organizations and synagogues to elicit information regarding what is newsworthy and might be of interest to various individual Jews across the entire spectrum of observance.

    It has felt to me as if the Exponent, in a way, is a lobby for non-traditional patterns of Judaic relatedness, rather than acting as an umbrella, a service which solicits and presents all news of interest to the Jewish community as a whole.

    Regarding Israel, it would be refreshing to not find that the editorial content seems to contain a bias against Israel determining its own policies, and many of the policies it follows. In other words, I feel the news of Israel is not reported dispassionately. This reportage also seems to assume that to its readership, the non-impartial view of Israel and Israeli politics presented is consistent with the opinions of its readers. That is neither respectful of its readers, nor reflects positively on the editorial fairness of its reportage.

    Stanton Mitrany

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