Joshua Runyan explains how in an industry where naysayers have been sounding the death knell for almost 20 years, he is an anomaly.
In an industry where naysayers have been sounding the death knell for almost 20 years — and, really, ever since the first broadsheets were published — I’m an anomaly. Who else but a crazy person, you might ask, would wager his professional reputation (and the tuitions of his kids) on the future of print journalism? And since when did newspapers become a thing worth saving, anyway?
These are questions I answered for myself a long time ago, back when I was covering the 2000 presidential election from the Gore campaign headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., on behalf of my university’s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. What I concluded then, admittedly a bit high from the experience of writing in the moment about the election that was too close to call, was that while the medium of journalism may change from time to time, the awesome task of those who take on the mantle of being the eyes and ears of society never changes.
That night, I acknowledged the written word as my calling, as my responsibility to share the better and worse sides of ourselves, as my duty to inspire all of us to achieve perfection, be that in politics or in matters financial, physical or spiritual. In short, to be a journalist, I surmised, is to take the imperfection of the world and reflect it back through a prism of optimism. To ply away at this trade is not a nihilistic enterprise; it is instead a manifestation of the highest of pursuits — to give people hope.
Divine providence would propel me headfirst into the fulltime business of telling the news — I had gotten a taste of journalism years before as an assistant news producer at USA Radio Network and then later as an intern at The Jerusalem Post — here at the Jewish Exponent. I began in 2002 as a general assignment reporter and quickly moved up through the ranks as a campus life correspondent, religion editor and, finally, as a news editor. During that time, I got to know many of you — your synagogues, institutions and businesses — both as a newsman and as a resident, finally appreciating the rich tapestry of Jewish life in the city where I was born.
In 2006, my wife and I decided to move our growing household — we had three children at the time — to Israel, where I launched Chabad.org News and studied in a yeshiva. Five years later, we moved to Florida, and two years after that, I thought I had left journalism for good. For two years, I punched holes in the sky above the Sunshine State as a commercial pilot and flight instructor, but the pull of current events and the ability to report them proved too great.
After responding to an ad on a lark, I was appointed as editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Jewish Times in December 2013. In April 2014 came the addition of The Jewish Chronicle in Pittsburgh as one of our custom media clients. As many of you know by now, the company I work for, Mid-Atlantic Media, assumed editorial responsibility for the Exponent last week. You could say I’ve come full circle.
No doubt, you’ve read of the circumstances surrounding my appointment as the editor-in-chief of your community newspaper, whether in outside sources or on our own website, jewishexponent.com. And a dry recitation of the facts might lead you to conclude that Jewish journalism in general and the Exponent in particular face turbulent waters ahead. If you do, you’re wrong.
What I’ll say here and will continue to say at every synagogue and community gathering I speak at — and you’ll be seeing me around in the days, weeks and months ahead — is that the Exponent has a bright future. I know this, not only because of my passion for the work, but because of the passion of the team that backs me up at Mid-Atlantic Media, the passion of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia for building and strengthening Jewish community and the passion of the journalists who will be working for me right here in the City of Brotherly Love.
My commitment to you is that you will be proud of your Exponent, as I have been for many years. Whether as a reader or a letter writer, I urge you to be an active part of it.