Regarding our decision to close the Jewish Review
By MARC BLATTNER
article created on: 2011-10-15T00:00:00
Ouch! A “kick to the gut.” That may be how you felt reading about the federation decision to cease publication of the Jewish Review effective Jan. 1.
I know this decision caught you “by surprise.” The Jewish Review has been a trusted member of the Portland Jewish family for the past 52 years. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Why didn’t they ask me?
The Oct. 10 announcement was “news” to you and it hurt. I understand—and believe me, being a part of the decision made it no easier.
The past 48 hours since the announcement have been difficult, and I can tell you the weeks leading up to this decision were a challenge, as well.
Several themes/questions came out of the communications that I believe would be helpful for everyone to hear:
“Without the Jewish Review we will not have a cohesive Jewish community and we cannot reach the unaffiliated.”
Yes, the Jewish Review reaches 6,000 households and many more get picked up on newsstands. It is a way to share the breadth and joy of our Jewish community. This new magazine will have a similar reach. It too will be mailed free of charge and distributed around town. And, federation will provide quality local news coverage, including recaps and highlights of upcoming programs, every other week. We cannot emphasize this enough.
“Who are these people creating this magazine?”
The local publishing group, called MediaPort LLC, has three partners: Cindy Saltzman (Portland native), Bob Philip (long-time community leader), and Mody Gorsky (in southern California). The magazine is based on very successful models in both the Orange County (Cindy helped to launch that magazine in 2004) and San Diego, California Jewish communities.
NOTE—this magazine will be focused on Portland, the state of Oregon and southwest Washington. To get an idea of the potential content of the magazine and to see the type of website that will be created, please visit www.ocjewishlife.com. I want to reiterate that this is not a news magazine—it will be different—while federation is taking the responsibility of delivering community news.
“What is happening to the current employees at the Jewish Review?”
Let me say Paul Haist and Deborah Moon are incredible resources and special people in our community (I shared with each of them the warm sentiments and concern of so many). They deserve tremendous accolades! I cannot discuss personnel issues, but please know that federation recognizes the incredible service of all the people at the Jewish Review.
“Where was the process?”
I received an email from a community member who often responds to my “Marc’s Remarks” that said the following, “With all your rhetoric about bringing people together, etc. Marc, it seems to me that such an important decision was worthy of community dialogue, not just a closed meeting of the federation board.”
JFGP Board Chairman Michael Weiner and I have racked our brains about this before, during and after the decision. What could we have done differently?
Some people suggested a town hall forum. Others said it should come to a community vote. There may be alternatives we could have considered and we will learn from this.
What you should know is the federation board had a deliberate and respectful conversation about the Jewish Review and at the end of the day made a decision they felt was best for our Jewish community. I know there are those of you today who disagree with the outcome.
The paper has lost an average of $190,000 a year over the past six years. Perhaps that is a fair cost for a communications vehicle?
However, I am unsure if this is what you expect from your charitable dollars? How many times have I heard that non-profits must run more like a business?
Federation did its homework. We sought guidance and counsel from leaders in the publishing industry. We checked with other Jewish communities. We looked at the business model multiple times. We even inquired if other groups would be interested in taking over the newspaper.
Federation was not created to be in the publishing business. We just happened to be in it for many, many years.
Now, we have an opportunity for a new publishing group to highlight the vitality of our Jewish community at no cost to us while federation works hard to provide important communal news on a bi-weekly basis.
In the end, I am proud of the JFGP Governing Board. The easy thing to do was not to raise the topic. They made a thoughtful, difficult and dare I say, courageous decision. One that you will tell us was right or wrong in the months ahead.
Chag Sameach—enjoy the Sukkot holiday.
Marc Blattner is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.