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Crafting a Newspaper That Engages Its Readers -- and Inspires Them
Who says you can't go home again?
As the new executive editor of the Jewish Exponent, I am thrilled to be returning to my journalistic roots, the very newspaper where I began my career 25 years ago.
The Exponent is where my passion for Jewish affairs and journalism converged; it's where I evolved from college intern to cub reporter to news editor; it's where I began to understand the importance of telling Jewish stories, of engaging in communal conversations, of finding connections between our lives and the lives of Jews around the world.
After 10 years at the paper, I became the editor at JTA, the global Jewish news agency that provides the Exponent -- and scores of other Jewish news outlets -- the bulk of its national and international coverage.
Although my work shifted to the national stage and JTA's Manhattan headquarters, the Philadelphia area continued to be my home as I joined the hundreds of other commuters making the regular trek to New York via Amtrak.
Now, I have come full circle, honored to take the helm of this venerable newspaper, which for so long has served such a central role in the local Jewish community.
Both the Jewish world and the world of journalism have undergone dramatic changes over the past 21/2 decades. But the guiding principle I have devoted my career to promoting is today more relevant than ever: A Jewish publication can and should be a powerful tool to help build community.
At its best, a Jewish newspaper should educate, inform, inspire, challenge and engage its readers. It should stimulate discussion through a civil and lively exchange of ideas, challenge complacency, and foster identity and a common sense of purpose. It should serve both as a touchstone for those already engaged in Jewish life and a gateway for those seeking a way in.
My goal is to work with the Exponent's talented staff to build upon the strengths of this publication, still considered one of the best in the business. I want the Exponent to speak to -- and engage -- you, the reader, wherever you stand along the religious, political, socioeconomic and demographic spectrums.
The Philadelphia area boasts an extraordinary blend of rich tradition and groundbreaking innovation -- organizations and individuals steeped in Jewish history living and operating alongside those who are blazing new paths in Jewish life and who serve as a model for the rest of the nation.
As this paper progresses, we will continue to provide extensive coverage of national and international issues, including a strong focus on Israel. At the same time, I intend to increase our local coverage, honing in on issues that shape our life, spotlighting the old and the new, the ingenuity and creativity that has always made this community special.
I want the Exponent, through its coverage and its op-ed pages, to provide a forum for local voices and to reflect the diversity that enriches our community.
At times, we will tackle complex and sensitive issues, operating on the premise that the better informed all of us are, the better choices each of us can make -- about how to strengthen our Jewish lives and our Jewish consciousness, about how to connect with other Jews and non-Jews, about which organizations speak to us and which public policies merit our support.
Today, we stand at the crossroads: As Americans, we are on the brink of inaugurating an historic presidency at a time of economic crisis and global conflict. As Jews, we rejoice in the wealth of choices and opportunities we have, even as we ponder what our children's Jewish future may look like.
We worry about where Israel is headed with its conflagration with Hamas and the threat of a nuclear Iran; we wonder how the global economic meltdown -- and the Bernard Madoff scandal -- will affect our Jewish philanthropies and the communities they serve.
With the myriad challenges facing our country, Israel and our local community, we now more than ever need a dynamic local publication to help us navigate the complexities that inform these issues. We need a place to turn for knowledge and for inspiration; we need a venue that will both challenge and comfort us.
Having been entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of leading this publication, I pledge that we will always strive for accuracy and fairness.
At a time when the newspaper industry is undergoing radical transformation, when even the publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer felt compelled to reassure his readers -- as he did with a banner headline in the Dec. 21 issue -- that he intends to keep his newspapers alive, I am confident that our community will continue to support and depend on the Exponent for years to come.
At the same time, we understand how critical it is to adapt to new realities. In addition to developing new features of the newspaper itself, we will be exploring new ways to deliver the news, in part through an enhanced Web site and other electronic products.
We cannot engage in this critical communal enterprise alone. We need you, our readers, to become active participants in the process.
In the coming weeks and months, I will be meeting with as many constituencies as possible to hear what they seek from the Exponent. I want to know what already speaks to readers and what you'd like to see different. I want to hear ideas about how we can better engage you, your children and your grandchildren. In future issues, I will outline specific ways that you can become involved in the Exponent.
As we grow together, I look forward to a meaningful partnership. Right now, it just feels good to be home.