Arthur Horwitz is now the publisher emeritus of the Jewish News.
A new era begins in Detroit Jewish journalism and community service. After 78 years as a for-profit entity, the Jewish News is now owned by the community through the independent, nonprofit Detroit Jewish News Foundation.
The Jewish News is the latest in an emerging trend of for-profit, community-focused print media companies transitioning to nonprofit ownership. Since 2004, more than 2,100 newspapers across the U.S. have ceased operations, leaving “news deserts” in many of the communities they served. The Foundation board’s action helps assure the Jewish News will not be one of them.
Concurrently, another era of Detroit Jewish journalism and community service — this one spanning 34 years — has drawn to a close. I am honored to now be the publisher emeritus of the Jewish News. The Foundation is the new publisher.
“Why do you want to move to Detroit?”
That was the startling question posed to me in November of 1985 as I toured the offices of the Baltimore Jewish Times.
At the time, I was working for the Baltimore Sun and its affiliates. Enjoyed my work. Enjoyed the community. My wife, Gina, and I chased after our toddling son, Daniel, in our free time. However, a friendship developed through volunteer Jewish community service that would forever change my life and that of our family.
Chuck Buerger, the publisher of the immensely successful Jewish Times, had purchased the Jewish News from Philip Slomovitz in 1984. Chuck was on the hunt for someone to grow the Jewish News. He thought I fit the bill — daily newsroom background, young “rising star” on the Baltimore Sun’s business side, advanced business degree and already an active volunteer in the Jewish community.
Chuck invited me to meet some of his work colleagues. The first question: “Why do you want to move to Detroit?” After subsequent conversations, I agreed to visit Detroit with Gina. And we haven’t looked back since.
“It reminds me of my grandmother’s apartment.”
The editorially interesting but visually bland Jewish News reminded me of my grandmother’s apartment. Aside from plastic slipcovers, her apartment had a coating of dust. But beneath the plastic and dust, it had “good bones.” The Jewish News had very good bones.
Also, it was clear the Jewish News had a strong relationship with the Detroit Jewish community, one deeply rooted in editorial independence, a love of Israel and community service.
The opportunity was too alluring. I departed the Baltimore Sun and, in May of 1986 — just shy of my 32nd birthday — assumed publishing responsibilities for the Jewish News.
“The Jewish News is in ruins”
Through most of the 1990s, the Jewish News enjoyed significant success. However, Chuck died unexpectedly in November of 1996. In February of 2000, I was joined by noted philanthropist and hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt in acquiring the Jewish News and affiliated media properties from the Buerger family.
Within two years, the Jewish News was in ruins … or appeared to be.
On Jan. 27, 2002, an electric spark triggered a fire that destroyed the Southfield office of the Jewish News, creating great visuals for the local television stations on the scene. One showed bound volumes of back issues engulfed in clouds of smoke and framed by charred roof beams.
In the inferno’s aftermath, the resilient Jewish News staff transformed a nearby hotel ballroom into a makeshift office and — miraculously — produced a 116-page edition of the Jewish News. It reached subscriber mailboxes just one day late. While we received memorable and heartfelt support from the community, what lingered were the television images of the vulnerable bound volumes.
“What are you going to do to protect our history?”
The creation of the independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit Jewish News Foundation in July of 2011 provided the answer. It’s been a career highlight to be its organizer and founding president.
By 2015, the Foundation raised sufficient funds to protect, digitize and make freely available more than 330,000 pages of content from the Jewish News and the predecessor Jewish Chronicle. The archive is known as the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History. A copy resides safely — and in perpetuity — at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library.
But the Foundation was created to be more. With the print media industry’s decline, the Foundation would eventually be well-positioned to bring the Jewish News under its nonprofit community umbrella.
“That day is today”
On Sept. 16, the Foundation voted to bring the Jewish News under that nonprofit umbrella. It takes effect Oct. 1.
So, my journey publishing the Jewish News concludes today. I’ll continue to have an active relationship with the Detroit Jewish News Foundation and assist it in its expanded role. I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful work colleagues, most significantly Kevin Browett, who joined me in July of 2002 and has been a valued colleague and business partner. Kevin continues as chief operating officer for the Jewish News and current staff remains in place. I am also grateful to Michael Steinhardt, who believed in my vision for Jewish media in Detroit and globally and, despite the increasingly difficult media landscape, remains a supportive friend.
And to you, the Detroit Jewish community … Thank you for embracing us, nurturing and educating our children, and providing us with an incredible village of support. We have been blessed to reach together this shehecheyanu moment — to express gratitude and celebrate this important moment in the history of our family, community and the Jewish News.
Wishing you a safe, sweet and healthy New Year.