Publishers Society hears about paper’s progress

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

Members of the Jewish Light Publisher’s Society, a group of generous donors who support the newspaper’s efforts to better serve the community, heard updates on the progress the Jewish Light has made in recent months, at its second annual reception, attended by about 50 people in the home of Gianna Jacobson and Todd Siwak in Clayton.

Remarks were offered by Milton Movitz, president of the Jewish Light Board of Trustees and Larry Levin, Publisher/CEO of the Jewish Light. Jeremy Lang and Carol Iskiwitch, co-editors of Ohr Chadash (‘New Light’), the special teen section of the newspaper also offered remarks on the first two issues and future plans for the section.

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In his remarks, Movitz, who has been serving as president of the Jewish Light Board of Trustees for the past two years, said, “What a wonderful turnout on this beautiful autumn evening.” He welcomed Sheila Greenbaum, president of the Jewish Federation and Michael Staenberg, president of the Jewish Community Center, both members of the Jewish Light Publisher’s Society. Movitz gave special thanks to Gianna Jacobson and Todd Siwak serving as hosts for this event.

Movitz also thanked Judy Pass, chair of the Jewish Light Development Committee, event co-chairs Myrna Meyer and Sheri Sherman, along with Gary Kodner, the Light’s Marketing chair, for their impressive planning efforts for the event.

Movitz added that “we are very proud of the new Jewish Light Teen Section, Ohr Chadash, which we believe is unique nationally, a teen section written and edited by teens for teens with minimal oversight by our editors.” He introduced Carol Iskiwitch, a senior at Clayton High School, and Jeremy Lang, a junior at Parkway North High School, co-editors of Ohr Chadash. “In addition to Carol and Jeremy, 26 other terrific Jewish teens serve on the committee of Ohr Chadash, and the effort is chaired by Mimi Pultman and Jenny Wolkowitz, two dedicated members of the Jewish Light Board.”

Carol Iskiwitch said, “We are really excited to be working on the Ohr Chadash team. We started in May, and we feel it is awesome that we get our own voice in the Jewish Light. We really appreciate the opportunity that this project provides the Jewish teens of our community.”

Jeremy Lang added, “On behalf of all the teen staff of Ohr Chadash, we want to thank you for all of the support you have given to this project. It has been a long haul, and more challenging than we first thought, but we are pleased that we have published our first two issues and we have our own section on the Jewish Light Web site. We thank you and the Jewish Light staff for your support.”

Movitz next introduced Larry Levin, “our fantastic new CEO/Publisher who has been on board since June, and who literally hit the ground running. We could not be more pleased with the fantastic job Larry is doing.”

In his remarks, Levin said, “I am hunbled to be serving as the CEO and Publisher of the Jewish Light, the independent voice for Jewish news in St. Louis…I take in earnest the weighty responsibility of overseeing the publication of a 60-year-old institution, and I thank everyone for giving me such a warm and inviting reception into the Jewish Light family.”

Taking note of the widely reported financial difficulties being faced by newspapers generally, made worse by the current economic crisis, Levin said, “to borrow from that great Missourian Mark Twain, the reports of the industry’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

“Many community news organizations are alive and doing well…Not without challenges, of course, especially in this tough economic period. But there is a formula for success, and with your help, we are extremely confident about the future of our newspaper and our Web site.”

Levin added, “The three key elements of success for community newspaper and Web sites are connections, relevance and excellent demographics. The acronym for this formula is ‘CRED,’ which as you know is street slang for ‘credibility,’ and if you go to the online Urban Dictionary, the first definition is ‘an ability to inspire belief in others.’ This is what the Jewish Light can and must do to succeed.”

Regarding connections, Levin said, “everything starts with connections, and the Publisher’s Society is at the heart of this effort. It’s not enough to understand the community you serve as a news organization. You must know how to conect with that community in meaningful ways.

“And connection must be in ways that our readers want and appreciate,” Levin continued. “That’s why for many of our readers, a tangible newspaper, one that can be held and placed on a coffee table and passed on to family and friends, will remain a viable and necessary platform for many years to come. And in addition to the close to 12,000 copies we mail each week, we have plans to substantially increase the locations that the Light can be picked up around the community. For others, our Web site, which were are starting to grow with unique visual and video content unavailable in the newspaper, will be the best way to connect with us.”

“Relevance is the second component of community news success,” Levin said. “To succeed, we must provide news content that isn’t available elsewhere. That’s why simply repeating articles or content that one could get on a daily news Web site just won’t cut it in the instant news environment of today. We have to take that news and cover it more substantially, with different perspectives and more comprehensive analysis. Examples include our ongoing coverage during this political season; of the issues surrounding the Agriprocessors kashrut debate, and this week, and on an ongoing basis, our editorial coverage about the unfortunate ‘Hit a Jew’ incident (at Parkway West Middle School).

“Through articles, analysis, letters, opinion and commentary pieces, we must understand what’s important to the local Jewish community and engage a dialogue with our readers. And we must tap into the amazing number of local experts who have substantial knowledge about Jewish affairs here, nationally, and internationally,” Levin said.

“The third element is excellent demographics,” Levin added. “We must persistently reach out to businesses and insitutions, both inside and outside the Jewish community, and ensure they understand the value of associating their names and reputations with the Jewish Light. Placement in the Jewish Light creates instant access to an exceptionally high demographic with strong financial power to purchase goods and services. With scarce marketing dollars, advertisers are looking for targeted, pre-qualified customers, and we provide those in abundance.

“If we can execute on these three fronts — connections, relevance and excellent demographics — we will indeed continue to have immense street ‘CRED’ within our vibrant Jewish community. With your support as Publisher’s Society members, and with continued collaboration with our community, the Jewish Light can and will flourish for decades to come,” Levin concluded.