Change is good
Recognizing that The Jewish Chronicle is a community trust as well as a community newspaper, the governing board of the Pittsburgh Jewish Publication and Education Foundation (PJPEF), which publishes the Chronicle, filed for and was granted federal 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status earlier this year.
The benefits of this new status are many, but the underlying reason for the board’s decision to seek the change was to help the Chronicle in a time when many newspapers are facing difficult times.
Immediate Past PJPEF President Davida Fromm considered the action long overdue.
“This is something the board had talked about for many years,” said Fromm, a driving force behind the new status. “Given the recent economic- and industry-related realities, we decided to get serious about it.
“[Former Chronicle CEO] Barbara Befferman, [board member] Tom Hollander, and I met with Gregg Kander of the legal firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, who offered to provide the guidance and support necessary to complete the application process,” Fromm added. “We are enormously grateful to all those who worked to make this happen, and we feel optimistic that the change in status will benefit the Chronicle by enabling us to apply for grants and accept tax deductible donations from our community of loyal readers.”
New foundation President Rich Kitay, a certified public accountant, took an understandably pragmatic view of the change.
“The 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status offers the Pittsburgh area Jewish community a powerful way to support The Jewish Chronicle’s various platforms over and above the payment of annual subscriptions,” Kitay said. “The grants from various private foundations along with corporate and individual tax-deductible donations will help to ensure that the Chronicle will continue to be an informative and strong voice of the Jewish community.”
Still, reality is reality. The perfect storm of the Internet effect, the advent of mobile media, and the economic downturn has resulted in new challenges for newspapers. Of course, challenges were predicted for radio with the coming of commercial television, for television with the coming of subscriber cable, for cable with the coming of the Internet, and for the Internet with the coming of mobile media. Obviously, all of these media are alive and well; only their priorities have changed with audiences.
As noted, the change to 501 (c) (3) status (along with the implementation of a multimedia platform comprised of the Chronicle, thejewishchronicle.net and J Magazine) has added the potential for another revenue stream: charitable contributions to the Chronicle. While many publishers are trying (with little success) to implement “pay walls” to fill revenue holes created by the erosion effect of the flow of free information on the Internet, donations do more than pay for content; they support the institution.
With the coming of the Chronicle’s 50th anniversary, the board and staff are looking forward to supporting the Jewish community of Greater Pittsburgh, western Pennsylvania and adjacent states for another 50 years. One way they plan to do this is through heightened emphasis on community news, events and members.
International news is plentiful, easily accessible and relatively inexpensive thanks to wire services such as Associated Press and Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA); however, with the minute-by-minute reporting capabilities of the Internet and mobile media, weekly coverage of international (even national and state) events is dated at best. Unfortunately, local coverage requires additional local reporting, and that requires additional expense.
“Jewish Pittsburgh is a varied and eclectic community,” said Executive Editor Lee Chottiner. “To cover all the news of this community — good and bad, happy and sad — requires, as one of my colleagues once said, ‘pens on the ground’ — and lots of them.”
Necessity being the mother of invention, the board and staff of The Jewish Chronicle look forward to turning these challenges into opportunities to not only continue serving the community, but doing so in continually newer and better ways.
(David Caoin can be reached at email@example.com.)