Publisher’s farewell: The Light’s mission endures

Larry Levin has served as publisher/CEO of the Jewish Light since 2008. He is stepping down Dec. 31.

By Larry Levin

The first and most important thing I want to accomplish in this, my last column as publisher/CEO of the Jewish Light, is to thank everyone who has been so instrumental in our work — readers, subscribers, donors, foundations, advertisers, agencies, synagogues and, of course, our brilliant staff and dedicated board of trustees. You all have been highly supportive of the Light’s mission of informing, inspiring and connecting our St. Louis Jewish community.

Beyond that, I’d like to share my views on what is special and significant about having an independent, nonprofit, Jewish news organization for you, and why the Light can continue to serve in that capacity, and in more relevant and important ways than ever.

Rarely has a week gone by during my tenure when at least one person would comment to me about the Light’s content, and the opinions have been just as diverse as you might expect.Some love our features about local Jewish adults and kids, or our cultural coverage of the significant Jewish arts and entertainment scene.Others appreciate that we can keep the community up to speed on all the great events and happenings that our agencies, schools and synagogues plan for their constituents.

Still others, too busy to keep up with the endless streams of digital news, find the Light a way of catching up weekly with the goings on in the Jewish world, not only locally but across America, the world and, of course, in Israel. And there are those who appreciate that we offer our editorial stance on Jewish issues of the day and pair our voice with those who have opposing, or just different, takes on those issues.

The point is, everyone looks for something different in a newspaper (or website, or social media or our other products) that is charged with covering not just one branch of our community, but the whole tree of Jewish life.


Trying to strike the balance in what readers want is hardly an easy task.Our editor, Ellen Futterman, likes to point out that never did she hear more complaints when she was the features editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch than when readers’ favorite comic strips got eliminated from the paper. One reader’s political pundit is another reader’s Peanuts.

That’s the thing about the news business: It’s a mirror on the community because it is a reflection of what the community is, does, wants and needs. And there are as many perspectives on what’s in that mirror as there are people looking into it. This is not a one-size-fits-all business.

Moreover, we’ve entered a particularly perilous time in the news business in at least a couple of ways.So-called community journalism — stories prepared by those untrained in the news realm and sometimes unedited or unseen at all before publication — is prevalent. To the reader, it often is indistinguishable from work created in a true journalistic environment. As long as it’s overseen by professional journalists, such work has its place, but often cost and other factors negate this review.

The most recent iteration of this trend is in what you’ve read during the election cycle regarding “fake news,” or articles that are disseminated not only without fact-checking, but without fact at all, or with an intentional blend of fact and fiction designed to pass as real and reliable journalism. 

And now this concept is entering a new stage, as politically driven zealots are castigating longstanding, well-respected journalistic outlets as themselves “fake news” sources, alleging that biases or errors from these institutions render them incredible.

In my view, the Light can singularly accomplish the twin goals of keeping a balanced eye on the community’s diverse news interests while maintaining journalistic, fact-based integrity and excellence. I don’t believe any other agency can balance these news needs as well as an independent outlet can. And our nonprofit status adds yet another critical dimension, making us accountable first and foremost to the community.

That’s not to say that we’re even remotely perfect in doing so; we make mistakes and do our best to be honest about them when they occur. We reflect constantly on what we’ve done and how we’ve done it. We strive each time to be better the next time. That’s what professionals endeavor to do, and the news team at the Light comprises experienced, quality professionals of the highest order.

As I depart, I see the Light exhibiting our strengths in new and exciting ways. Sometimes, it’s through tackling new and important stories that had been left untold. Sometimes, it’s via our enhanced presence in social media and video (if you haven’t seen our recent latke-making video on our website or Facebook page, don’t miss it!).

Whatever the newest news might be, rest assured that it will continue to be presented to you with the utmost editorial forethought, scrutiny and high expectations. That’s what the Light owes to you, and as it enters its eighth decade of existence, the organization remains fully capable of fulfilling those commitments.

I wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy 2017, and I thank you so very much for the opportunity to serve these past eight and a half years.