Putting Jewish journalism into perspective

The Jewish Light earned a first place award for Outstanding Website from the American Jewish Press Association. The award was one of five Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism for 2011 received by the paper. 

BY LARRY LEVIN, Publisher/CEO

As noted scholar and Jewish historian Jonathan Sarna suggested at the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA) annual conference last week in Philedelphia, news organizations such as the Jewish Light provide the first draft of our community history. 

We’ve now been recording that history for 65 years in total and almost 50 as an independent nonprofit news organization.  And if you believe our colleagues in AJPA, we are doing it well, as the Jewish Light received five Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism for 2011:

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First Place, Outstanding Website

Second Place, Excellence in Commentary, for three of Editor Ellen Futterman’s News and Schmooze columns: “Son, Mom Share the Spotlight…,” “There‘s Something about Harriet,” and “Talking with KSDK‘s Leisa Zigman about Cancer and a Cause” 

Second Place, Excellence in Editorial Writing, for “Standing up to Fear Mongering”

Second Place, Excellence in Special Sections or Supplements for our Fall 2011 Arts Guide.

Second Place, Personal Essay, “During Hanukkah, a Light in the Darkness, by Gail Appleson.

Kudos to Light staffers and contributors Futterman, Mike Sherwin, Tom Wombacher, Aggie Gallagher, and Bob Cohn and freelancer Appleson for their various contributions that led to these awards for the Light

Producing quality Jewish journalism is many things, but three it isn’t — easy, predictable or cheap.

 It’s not easy because we have two hurdles: First, that of achieving quality in our reporting and commentary.  Second, we are not only covering the community but are part of it — within the tent rather than outside it, so to speak -— and so our perspective must be independent but respectful to our collective aspirations. As Sarna indicated in his comments, there have been times in the history of American Jewish journalism that detached, objective coverage was lacking due to necessary and substantial institutional support for newspapers that skewed them away from such a perspective. He believes the trend has once again shifted in a more independent direction. 

It isn’t predictable because we’re caught in the same net as print media in general. Sure, we’ve focused mightily on bringing you news wherever you want it — through newspapers, magazines, website with doubled traffic since 2010, social media, weekly e blasts -— but the truth is that no one knows which news delivery models will survive and which will wither. Very few media outlets make a significant portion of their revenue from online advertising, and only the most mighty, like the Wall Street Journal and now the New York Times, have proven that paywalls may work amidst the endless stream of free revenue. As we engage in strategic planning for the Light this year, our goal is to be prepared for whichever way the journalistic winds blow. 

And it isn’t cheap, not only due to the need for multiple delivery methods, but also because we strive to be exceptional in our coverage.  Your subscriptions have been of enormous value in doing so, as have our Publisher’s Society members and the generous foundations that have given us dedicated funding for such features as our “Can We Talk?” series, our Teen Page and hopefully, for our upcoming Israel Alive! feature that touts all the outstanding attributes of Israeli society that are overlooked by so many media outlets.

We trust that you consider this to be a symbiotic relationship — we need you as readers and supporters of our publication, and we sincerely believe that you need us to provide you with the news that informs, inspires and connects us as a Jewish community. It’s our duty to continually prove up to you that we’re fulfilling that mission, and our recent Rockower Awards demonstrate that our professional peers believe we are.  We sincerely hope you agree, and we’ll continue to strive for excellence in all that we do for you.