The State of Jewish Journalism

I returned from San Francisco today, where I attended the 2007 conference of the American Jewish Press Association, the professional association of Jewish publications and websites. This was the fourth conference I attended and the sessions tend to be similar from year to year. There’s always one or two on how to make your print publication work on the Internet, there’s always one where everybody bemoans their inability to reach young readers and there’s always one on media coverage of Israel. The irony in the perpetual inclusion of the first two sessions is that few significant Jewish websites are members of the AJPA and almost none of the few Jewish media outlets that have had some success reaching young Jews–Heeb, American Jewish Life, Jewcy or Jewschool, for starters–are members either. So the conversations about web presence and youthful audience occur in a vacuum, led by old media print editors.

There was a complete lack of official discussion of intermarriage, at least in the sessions I attended. This isn’t a flaw, but a reflection of the fact that Jewish journalists are quite comfortable with intermarriage being a fact of life in the communities they cover. Our recent survey of 21 non-Orthodox Jewish papers revealed only four publications that would not publish interfaith wedding announcements–although two of those four are the two largest Jewish papers in the country. With the newspaper industry in such miserable shape, editors and publishers of Jewish papers don’t have time to worry about defining the borders of the Jewish community–they’re more interested in reaching the widest possible audience, which most certainly includes intermarried couples and their children.

I had an interesting conversation with the Orthodox publisher of a Jewish paper. He said when he started the paper that he had no interest in giving press to intermarriage. But after reading a letter to the editor in The (New York) Jewish Week where an Orthodox writer argued that the Jewish community needs to be welcoming to the intermarried, he changed his tune. He says he’s still not sure exactly how he wants to cover intermarriage, but he knows he wants to give it more press than he has in the past.

We also unveiled a new syndication option to Jewish papers, where we will distribute a new article every two weeks to subscribing Jewish papers. We hope that means more exposure for our articles in the printed Jewish press.

Unlike their counterparts in many other Jewish institutions, Jewish journalists, for the most part, are quite open to welcoming interfaith couples and families into the Jewish community with open arms.

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