Publisher’s Notebook: Staying Mission-Focused In Turbulent Times
As we enter the new year 5779 and the accompanying Days of Awe, we are compelled to reflect on our shortcomings, seek reconciliation with those we have wronged and commit to a path of self-improvement. This period of somber introspection is currently framed and besmirched by a loss of civil discourse, absence of empathy and inability to admit error.
Squaring these Days of Awe with the hyper-partisan, divisive, winner-take-all, mean-spiritedness that has infected Washington, D.C., Lansing, plus digital and traditional media platforms can feel like an exercise in futility. Families have become fractured and friendships shattered over an unwillingness to see issues in shades other than black and white.
At the Jewish News, we feel the sting of this polarization and nastiness on multiple levels.
President Trump’s incessant portrayal of the media as purveyors of fake news and the enemies of the people has a ripple effect. While his tweetstorms regularly single out CNN, NBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post for scorn, they cumulatively serve to erode the credibility and trust that you place in all forms of media — including the Jewish News.
In launching a trade war with our friendly neighbor to the north, the president recently included a large tariff on Canadian newsprint. Virtually all newsprint consumed in the U.S. — including by the Jewish News — comes from Canadian mills. Thankfully, the U.S. International Trade Commission terminated the duties on Wednesday, Aug. 29, after an industry-wide outcry. However, the uncertainty the tariff raised has led the Jewish News to reconfigure the dimensions of our weekly publication to ensure we can continue to meet the needs of the community. The change takes place next month.
The tone of our letters to the editor is increasingly strident, with some totally unprintable and others laced with personal attacks on members of the community. Communication via emails, text messages and phone calls demand the Jewish News be totally for — or totally against — a cause, a candidate for political office, a new rabbi in town, J Street, the Zionist Organization of America or a country club’s event-hosting policies. Some of these demands include threats of economic retaliation.
THE JN’S MISSION
In these turbulent times, our mission remains our north star. It has been a part of our DNA since Philip Slomovitz launched the Jewish News in 1942. We are focused on being the community’s independent, trusted, credible information source that “reflects the full range of diverse viewpoints in our community while also advocating positions that strengthen Jewish unity and continuity.”
Since ushering in the new year 5778, the Jewish News has undertaken several initiatives, collaborations and partnerships in fulfillment of its information- gathering and community-building role. These include:
- Significant expansion of our social media and digital presence. We’ve hired a full-time social media editor focusing every day on expanding our reach on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and providing content unique to those platforms.
- More frequent updating of our website with unique content (including video) and a growing lineup of insightful and fresh-voiced bloggers.
- A unique partnership in New Michigan Media. This collaboration of Metro Detroit’s five leading ethnic/minority media outlets has secured grants from the Ford Foundation and the Knight Foundation to further expand and support our digital and social media capabilities.
- Our partnership in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. This relationship enables us to share our content on several multimedia platforms, including the all-digital Bridge Magazine, PBS affiliate Detroit Public Television, and NPR affiliates Michigan Radio and WDET.
- A major editorial initiative on addiction, depression and suicide. Spearheaded by Managing Editor Jackie Headapohl, this Teen Mental Health series has produced 60 stories and counting (find them by going to the JN website and typing “Teen Mental Health” in search). We have joined hands with others, including Kadima, Friendship Circle, Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, to educate the community about this epidemic.
- Keeping almost 200 high school graduates connected to each other and the Detroit Jewish community while they are at college. Thanks to the generosity of Howard and Brenda Rosenberg, high school graduates showcased in our May Cap & Gown issue are receiving Jewish News digital subscriptions at colleges and universities throughout Michigan and the country. Included are custom social media features sought by the students themselves.
- The introduction of Blippar, an easy-to-download application for your smartphone or tablet. With one click on a page with the Blippar icon, you’ll be connected to related content, such as videos, photo galleries, a story from the independent nonprofit Detroit Jewish News Foundation’s William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History and more. Blippar can connect you to a restaurant’s menu and help you make a reservation. Blippar-connected ads can take you on a virtual tour of a house for sale or to a page where you can purchase tickets to a community event or make a donation. Look for the Blippar Index on the table of contents on page 3.
- Expanding partnership with The Well. Focused on building an inclusive Jewish community for young adults in Metro Detroit, The Well and the Jewish News introduced their second class of “36 Under 36,” young movers and shakers from across the Jewish community who are helping to transform our city and region.
- Successful conclusion of the Jewish News 75th anniversary year. With more than 800 people attending a May celebration at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, a cross-section of the Jewish and general communities celebrated the historic and continuing role of the Jewish News while recognizing the Davidson, Gerson, Wetsman and Saulson family as exemplars of multi-generational leadership.
- Myriad additional partnerships and collaborations, among them the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County, the University of Michigan and its Bentley Historical Library, the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, Jewish Family Service, JVS, Yad Ezra, Temple Israel, The Well, Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Michigan State University, Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University, Holocaust Memorial Center, Friendship Circle, Kids Kicking Cancer, Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, Congregation Beth Shalom, Congregation Shaarey Zedek, Congregation Beth Ahm, Hazon Detroit, Keter Torah, Kadima, NCJW, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Israel, Temple Kol Ami, Temple Shir Shalom, The Shul, Walk for Israel, Relay for Life, Yeshiva University and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
On behalf of the Jewish News staff and our close colleagues at Renaissance Media and Farago & Associates, we wish you and your families a healthy, pleasant and meaningful new year. May we emerge from these Days of Awe with a commitment to strengthen civil discourse, expand our capacity for empathy, champion our country’s core values — and hold our elected officials accountable to do the same.
In this era of fake news and alternative facts, we will never take for granted the continuing trust you place in your Jewish News.