After 25 years at the same location, The Jewish Chronicle is pulling up stakes.
Western Pennsylvania’s only Jewish news organization recently sold its building at 5600 Baum Blvd., on the Shadyside-East Liberty corridor, and announced it is moving to space in the Halpern Education Wing of Congregation Beth Shalom, Squirrel Hill.
The Chronicle’s staff of 14 is expected to complete the move by mid-January.
“The board decided that it was time for the Chronicle to concentrate more on the publishing business than the real estate business,” said its chief executive officer, Barbara Befferman. “Because of technology, we don’t need the space we once did, and we’re looking to consolidate. Our staff is smaller and our equipment needs are fewer.”
The Chronicle move is part of a larger trend of space consolidation of congregations and organizations in Jewish Pittsburgh. Many entities have chosen to share space to save money, bolster revenue and maximize efficiency.
Already in Pittsburgh, Beth Shalom houses the Jewish National Fund; Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha houses Congregation Dor Hadash; and Rodef Shalom Congregation houses Jewish Residential Services and the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee, to name just some examples.
“It’s a win-win when Jewish organizations can cooperate like this,” said Davida Fromm, president of the board of trustees of the Pittsburgh Jewish Publication and Education Foundation, which owns the Chronicle. “That’s happening in this community and communities all over the country where organizations are sharing space or renting space.
“We’re certainly not trendsetters,” Fromm added. “We’re hopping on the bandwagon.”
The newspaper business is very different since the Chronicle made its last move from the old YM-YWHA on South Bellefield Avenue in June 1985. At that time, the staff still physically produced its own pages, cut and pasting its own proofs, turning them into negatives using a massive camera that took up much of a single room, then sending those negatives by courier to Indiana, Pa., where The Indiana Gazette, under contract with the Chronicle, printed the paper.
Today, the Chronicle is written, edited and produced entirely on computers. Instead of a courier, digital images of each page are sent by e-mail to the Gazette.
All of which makes production of the Chronicle less labor intensive and more mobile; the paper can be produced virtually from anywhere.
Perhaps the most significant change, though, is in the delivery of the news. The Chronicle is no longer just a newspaper, but a multimedia news organization. In addition to the newspaper, the Chronicle maintains a multifunctional website, which permits it to publish up-to-the-minute news. It produces its own videos, which are viewable at the website and on YouTube. It maintains its own social networks on Facebook and Twitter. And it recently debuted its new quarterly magazine, J: Jewish Pittsburgh Living, which provides a different perspective on Jewish life in western Pennsylvania.
Expect even more changes in 2011.
While the Chronicle has moved several times in its 48-year history, this is the first time it will be based in Squirrel Hill.
But that doesn’t mean the paper will be Squirrel Hill-centric. According to Befferman, the move will enable the paper to cover Pittsburgh and suburban news more efficiently.
“We have to recognize the community is not solely in Squirrel Hill,” she said. “But Squirrel Hill is more accessible to our suburban readers than East Liberty is. There is more direct access from the parkway, and many of our community organizations are centered in Squirrel Hill.”
Fromm believes the new location will improve the paper’s interaction with the community, and vice versa.
“It will go both ways,” she said. “Other people will be more aware of us. … When you’re parking your car, walking through the building (Beth Shalom) or walking somewhere to do some shopping you’re going to be near the Jewish community. And that’s good. We’ll see more people and more people will see us.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)