A message from new ‘Jewish Light’ editor

BY ELLEN FUTTERMAN, EDITOR

Hanukkah came a few days early last month when I learned I had been appointed editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light. I never thought this gift of returning to local journalism possible when, after 25 years as a reporter and editor, I left the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as part of a paper-wide buyout.

After departing from the Post in 2007, I joined a local public relations and marketing firm. The work was new and stimulating and the Central West End location meant dozens of great lunch places nearby. Frankly, it felt good to expand my skill set, do something very different, and satisfy my stomach all at once.

ADVERTISEMENT


But it wasn’t journalism. Not that journalism is the be all, or even what it was when I entered the field in the early ’80s. Still, the process of reporting, writing and editing has always excited and delighted me — formulating the questions, executing the interviews, structuring the story, writing, rewriting. And, of course, deadlines. As much as some people hate them, deadlines get me going like no alarm clock in the universe.

Then there is the lively banter of the newsroom. As a newbie reporter, I remember duking it out with an editor who had hacked the guts out of one of my stories. “You’re breaking the rhythm of my prose,” I barked, muttering a few expletives as I sulked away.

“Let me tell you something, girlie,” he replied, countering with a few well-chosen invectives of his own. “Your prose is anything but music to my ears.”

Being away from the grind of print journalism for over a year only reinforced how much I missed it. So when the Jewish Light offered me the editor job, I did indeed feel like the recipient of a tremendous gift.

Of course, as with many gifts, especially the ones my children have received over the years, this one comes with assembly required. And that’s where you come in.

You don’t need to be William Randolph Hearst to know that major American newspapers are in trouble. Circulation at most dailies has hemorrhaged over the past two decades as cable television, the Internet and 24-hour talk radio offer immediate connection to the news. Publications pour resources into beefing up their Web sites and “readership” is muscling out “circulation” as the new buzzword with advertisers. The print product, while not a dinosaur, is being treated by many publications as near extinction.

So then why, you may wonder, would anyone choose to work in newspapers anymore?

Because it’s not about which format you choose, paper or electronic; it’s about the relevance of the content. And in this regard, the way I see it, the Jewish Light has tremendous opportunities.

As a niche publication with a clear editorial mission and vision, the Light should be a must-read for every Jewish person living in the St. Louis area. Achieving this goal is hardly easy but with your help, I am confident we can appeal to as large a swath of the community as possible.

In the coming months, expect to see greater emphasis on food, books, entertainment, cultural happenings, health care, the environment, energy, politics and personalities. Profiles are rarely a bad way to go, and I am hoping your suggestions will help us find terrific features about unique people in the Jewish community doing interesting things.

Also expect to see more emphasis on photojournalism and visuals. Compelling photography and graphics complement good storytelling and serve as another draw to readers.

None of these additions means a diminished focus on the Light’s coverage of local, national and world events of high interest and concern to our Jewish readers. Thorough news reporting, along with thoughtful analysis and diverse commentary, are the foundation on which the Jewish Light is built each week, and that will not change. My goal is to take that strong foundation and build upon it so that readers will find more to interest them.

Like virtually every other publication in America, big and small, we at the Jewish Light strive to attract more readers and advertisers to our Web site, www.stljewishlight.com. But as we grow and add unique content to the online edition, we have no intention of turning our backs on the print version. We know that our paper product has formed a solid core of our community connection, and will continue to do so for years to come.

To all of you, please do not be sheepish about contacting me or my colleagues at the Jewish Light with your news tips, ideas and suggestions. The best way is by e-mail; all of us can be reached by the first initial of our first name followed by our last name @thejewishlight.com. In my case, that’s [email protected] If you don’t have e-mail, drop us a line or give us a call. If we’re busy, we’ll get back to you just as soon as we can.

In closing, I’d like to say thank you to the many readers who have been so generous, going out of your way to welcome me to the Jewish Light. Your support, your encouragement and your kind words make me sure that this gift I received is a keeper.