Editors from four different Jewish media platforms shared their hopes and fears for their papers and websites in a one-off virtual panel session on Monday evening.
The unique event, convened by the Jewish News, featured JN editor Richard Ferrer, his immediate predecessor Zeddy Lawrence, who now edits the Australian Jewish News, Kaylene Ladinsky, editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times, and David Horovitz, founder-editor of the Times of Israel. All three diaspora media are partners of the Times of Israel.
Navigating the event through four different time zones, Times of Israel new media editor Sarah Tuttle Singer asked each editor to speak about the history of their paper or website and the community they serve.
All four agreed that the global pandemic has had a massively disruptive effect on their publications, first and foremost being that they are now all working remotely. But while Richard Ferrer predicted a rapid shift from print to a digital product over the next couple of years, his Australian counterpart, Zeddy Lawrence, believed that his readers still wanted a print newspaper on Friday nights. Kaylene Ladinsky, whose paper has gone from a weekly publication to twice monthly in recent times, agreed, and all the editors backed Richard Ferrer’s declaration that “the need for quality journalism has never been greater”.
David Horovitz, for his part, though praising his staff for the way in which they had consistently produced the ToI website throughout the corona virus crisis, confessed that he missed having a newsroom hub for editors to bounce ideas off each other, and was keen to return to that as soon as it was safe. He also said he took great pride in “the original reporting” which the ToI staff produced — although he made clear that Israeli journalists have, throughout the pandemic, been able to go out and report directly, unlike their diaspora counterparts.
Each editor has faced different problems in the last several months: Zeddy Lawrence spoke of the bush fires which ravaged Australia, the untimely death of the chief executive of the Australian Jewish News in February, which had shocked the community, and the visit of Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin to Australia just as world lockdown began — making it questionable whether President Rivlin would be able to return home.
Kaylene Ladinsky said her community’s biggest challenge was the potential cancellation of Jewish summer camps, a rite of passage for Jewish teens in America and something which tied young Jews into future community involvement.
Richard Ferrer spoke of the disproportionately high number of deaths in the Jewish community, and how to reflect stories around the virus in the pages of the Jewish News. He praised Jewish community response to Covid-19, saying “Jewish life is vibrant and has found a way to express itself.” But he also noted what he called “a huge divide between left and right” in British Jewry in relation to Israel, and spoke of concern about potential disengagement with Israel by younger people.
Nevertheless, he said, editing the Jewish News was “not just a job, but a mission”.