I saw a commercial for Match.com recently in which Satan goes on a date with a woman named 2-0-2-0 — and they sit and stare at the New York skyline, hoping the year will just go on forever. I am not one to cite TV spots in my writing (my high school English teacher would call it déclassé), but in this case I am making an exception. The ad is such a perfect encapsulation of what we’re all feeling — that 2020 just sucked, relentlessly.
But we survived. Bloody, battle-scarred, our forces depleted — but the Jewish Exponent is still here, unlike so many of our media brethren.
As other Jewish newspapers closed or shuttered their print editions, we have continued in print and online, even as we cut staff positions, including one reporter and our digital editor. (And this week we’re digital-only, but it’s the only time this year.)
Truth is, compared to most media outlets, we’ve been lucky. The pandemic has devastated newspapers, magazines and digital media products nationwide, with thousands of journalism jobs lost, many of them at local news outlets that can ill afford a smaller staff. In Pennsylvania, there were 18 media companies negatively affected by the coronavirus; our daily, The Philadelphia Inquirer, cut 505 jobs.
The Jewish Exponent’s survival is unquestionably owed to the passion and commitment of our readership. I have never worked at a publication with a more involved, invested audience.
If we do something you like, we hear about it. If we do something you don’t like, we hear about it. But we also get calls and letters just saying hello, reaching out, making contact, kvetching about life in the city. It’s a real community of readers and, like the Jewish communities we all belong to, it’s haimishe.
As grateful as I am for that support, I am just as thankful to the Exponent staff as there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into creating this paper every week. Our whole team, which switched from working in an office to working from home in a matter of days, has been strikingly resilient.
In fact, staff writer Sophie Panzer moved to Philadelphia and started at the Exponent just a few short weeks before the pandemic stuck us at home. In a new city with unprecedented challenges, she has excelled, bringing us new coverage areas and fantastic story ideas.
Jesse Bernstein also made the switch without missing a beat, expanding his role as staff writer and books editor, and taking on new tasks with sunny aplomb.
And Managing Editor Andy Gotlieb, who I call the Leatherman tool of our company — he can write, he can edit, he can probably juggle with oranges for all I know — kept our newsroom organized and on target with deadlines, even as all our procedures changed.
I couldn’t ask for a better crew, and I am grateful to them every day for all their hard work.
There are many other people who make this paper possible: Susan Baron, Steve Burke, Mike Costello, Nicole McNally, Taylor Orlin, Jennifer Perkins-Frantz, Sharon Schmuckler, Shari Seitz and Justin Tice.
I remember in February, when COVID still seemed distant, I read some first-person accounts of 1918 pandemic survivors. I wondered what would it be like to live through such universal hardship. How would we make it through?
Now, as the calendar turns to 2021, the answer is clear: We improvise. We get creative. We lead with kindness. We band together. We raise our voices. We fight.
Here’s to another year of feisty Jews making a difference. We promise to be here to cover it.