For over 30 years, the Jewish Journal opened the floodgates of information for the Jewish community. They published weekly print editions, and typically included a feature piece, an in-depth story, or occasionally profile, on a historic event or person on their front page. These editions flooded synagogues and temples, filling pews with thousands of copies, and providing the Jewish community with an alternative news source to bigger newspapers. I loved receiving print copies of the newspaper from my grandparents when they returned from my temple. Yet, due to the economic pressures the coronavirus presented, the gates have closed. The Journal’s editor-in-chief David Suissa announced in October that the publication will stop print editions while expanding online media until synagogues re-open.
The impact of the pandemic extends beyond the Jewish Journal. Independent, Jewish newspapers across the country are hurting due to the economic hardship COVID-19 caused. While readership tends to be higher than normal, revenues are decreasing, according to the Open Society Foundation. Dips in advertising caused many papers to move online. While independent newspapers faced hardship before the pandemic, the virus exacerbated these issues. For example, The Jewish Advocate, a 118 year-old paper based in the city of Boston, suspended publication in September due to economic strains.
“Please know that we have done everything in our power to continue for as long as possible, and it is with tears in our eyes that we concluded that our decision to suspend publication is a sad but necessary response to this crisis,” The Jewish Advocate said in a statement on Sep. 25.
Similarly, Canadian Jewish News (CJN) stopped both print and digital operations due to stresses caused by the pandemic despite publishing for 60 years.
“Unfortunately, we too have become a victim of Covid-19,” president of CJN Elizabeth Wolfe said in a statement released by the newspaper.
The editor of the New Jersey Jewish News (NJJN) published a farewell piece to his newspaper in July as the publication ceased operations following the end of print editions for The New York Jewish News. He states that while the newspaper survived “dangers” posed to journalism including drops in ad revenue, layoffs, and the preference to read on mobile devices, the effects of the virus were too overpowering.
“Somehow NJJN managed to avoid the surging waves that sunk larger vessels, never unscathed but always keeping afloat, our sails intact, our flag raised, and the bow pointing homeward. Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic is the storm we cannot weather,” editor Gabe Kahn said.
Despite the negative toll of the virus, not all Jewish publications are shutting down. Detroit’s Jewish Newspaper converted to a non-profit organization in October. This switch allowed the newspaper to maintain staff and a print edition with the help of donors and sponsors.
“The decision by the board helps assure that the Jewish News… can continue to meet the diverse information needs of the community for years to come,” the foundation’s vice president Larry Jackier said on the publication’s website.