Exponent Alums Make a Name for Themselves


The publisher of Jewish News Syndicate (JNS), the online news website and syndication service founded in 2011, announced Dec. 1 it was naming a new editor-in-chief: former Jewish Exponent Executive Editor Jonathan S. Tobin.

“We’re proud to have a journalist of Jonathan’s stature take the helm at JNS,” JNS Publisher Russel Pergament said. “His experience and skill as an editor, brilliance as a writer and the respect in which he is held in the field makes him an ideal fit for our organization.”

Jonathan S. Tobin | JNS.org

“It’s an interesting challenge,” Tobin said of his new position, adding that JNS plans to expand its reach with a website redesign that will incorporate added opinion writers and bloggers, making it more of an all-service Jewish news site. “There’s a lot to comment on and to report.”

Tobin is also glad, he said, to get back to doing Jewish journalism fulltime (he’ll continue to freelance for The National Review).

Tobin, who has been JNS’ opinion editor and columnist since March, was previously at Commentary magazine for eight-plus years, first as executive editor and then as senior online editor and chief political blogger. The New York native is also a contributing writer at The National Review, the New York Post and The Federalist, among other publications.

But before all that, he spent 10 years at the helm of the Exponent, from 1998 to 2008.

“I had a great time at the Exponent,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience and a great time in my career.”

Tobin is far from alone in going from a job at the Exponent to higher-profile jobs in Jewish media. Former Exponent News Editor Ami Eden, for instance, is now CEO of the nonprofit 70 Faces Media, the largest Jewish media organization in North America, which publishes My Jewish Learning, JTA, The Nosher, Jewniverse, Kveller and the recently launched Alma.

Former Exponent Executive Editor Lisa Hostein was editor-in-chief of JTA for almost 15 years, and is now executive editor of Hadassah Magazine — the first woman to hold that position.

Carin Smilk, a former Exponent managing editor, is now a writer and editor in the news division of Chabad.org, the family of websites read by millions worldwide.

Current Exponent Editor-in-Chief Joshua Runyan, former Exponent news editor, is senior editorial director of Mid-Atlantic Media, which publishes Washington Jewish Week, The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, The Baltimore Jewish Times and the Jewish Exponent.

Then there’s former Exponent reporter Wolf Blitzer, who went on to become, well, Wolf Blitzer, whose eponymous show runs daily on CNN along with The Situation Room, which he hosts.

And former Exponent reporter Geoffrey Melada heads communications at Hillel International in Washington, D.C.

“The American Jewish press has long filled an unheralded but important role as a training ground for leading American journalists,” said Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis. “Some worked for JTA or for its secret wartime affliliate, the Overseas News Agency. Others, such as Jeffrey Goldberg, cut their teeth at the Forward. Still others began their careers at local Jewish newspapers. The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent has played a particularly significant role in helping journalists master their craft. The roster of those mentored by its editors would do any American newsroom proud.”

“It is gratifying to see that a number of the people that I hired and worked under me have gone on to other things in journalism, great things,” Tobin said, pointing to Eden, Smilk and Runyan, as well as Bryan Schwartzman and Brian Mono, who both now work at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

“We had a commitment to doing outstanding journalism; that was my brief when I was there. We were able to hire some wonderful people and work with these talented people, not only to do good journalism, but set people up on the path to having careers in media. It was a great group, and a good time for the paper.”

Steve Rabinowitz, president and co-founder of Bluelight Strategies, said the Exponent has played a singular role, and the success of its alumni reflects that.

“It speaks to the rich history of the Exponent and what’s distinguished it from so many other run-of-the-mill local Jewish newspapers,” he said. “It’s also a testament to the vibrancy of Philadelphia as both a great Jewish city and a great newspaper town.”

That vibrancy continues to thrum today.

“The Exponent,” said Tobin, “still serves a very important purpose.”

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Liz Spikol is the Jewish Exponent's editor in chief; she has worked for the publication for four years. Prior to that she was at Philadelphia magazine, Curbed Philly and the before-its-time Tek Lado, a magazine for bilingual Latinx geeks. She is active in the American Jewish Press Association and contributes to the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Jewish Week and Phoenix Jewish News. A Philly native, Spikol got a bachelor's degree at Oberlin College and a master's at the University of Texas at Austin. She lives in Mt. Airy.


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