News in a New Era

Remember the images of newsboys hawking papers on city streets? Well, those guys are grown-up; they're old men. And their customers? They're not even around anymore. As for their medium, that's now a source of news itself these days.

A month doesn't go by without someone sounding the death knell of newspapers. We hear it in the form of Chapter 11 filings or the folding of a publication. Even before the fiscal crash last fall, the writing was on the wall: Papers were facing an uphill battle.

The reasons why are straightforward. Advertising is down, and the cost of printing is up. Moreover, the Internet has proved to be a relentless competitor — one that runs 24/7, can provide story updates as they happen, and that's also "green" by nature.

But what analysts are really talking up is readership — or a lack thereof. They say that men and women age 65 and up are the ones who for the most part purchase newspapers. The youngest adults — those in their 20s — get their daily dose of reality online. The only thing they subscribe to is a good cell-phone plan.

Jews, however, are supposed to be the "People of the Book," and as such, nearly every major city in the United States and Canada has a publication dedicated to Jewish issues. So where do they fall in the competition among the ink-strapped?

In the last few weeks, stories have been printed in The Jerusalem Post ("North American Jewish Press Battered, Not Beaten," Aug. 10) and The Philadelphia Inquirer ("Some Religious Papers Struggle With Hard Times," Aug. 17) analyzing the state of Jewish newspapers. Both articles noted that because these are niche publications, they are faring better than much of the national press. They still reflect their individual communities and the people who live in them, and they include local advertisers who don't need to go farther than their immediate counties for business.

While it's true that the nearby South Jersey Jewish Community Voice is struggling to stay afloat, the Jewish Exponent is holding its own. It has no plans to write its obituary any time soon.

And yet, market competition is real. The push for inclusivity, the race to cover issues in a timely manner, and the pressures from other media are also real. If television gave dailies a run for their money in the 1960s, and video killed the radio star in the 1980s, then there's the chance that right now — in the first decade of the 21st century — newspapers can be trumped by a hand-held device.

What you can do to help prevent that is to stay connected: meaning read — and advertise. While the Exponent is working on an improved Web site, as well as other ways of becoming interactive, it's content that matters more than the bells and whistles of any electronic delivery system. It's the desire to link to one another, to hold fast to our local community and its varied concerns that should remain a priority, especially as we look ahead to a new year.

In 5770, let's keep alive the mantra pushed by journalists: No news is bad news.



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