Mid-Atlantic Media, publisher of Washington Jewish Week and Baltimore Jewish Times, and with whom The Jewish Chronicle has a partnership, recently announced a new affiliation with the Jewish Exponent, the 128-year-old community newspaper of the Philadelphia-area Jewish community.
The Philadelphia area news staple is the second-oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper in the United States with a presence in 21,000 households each week. Under the new partnership, announced June 3, Mid-Atlantic Media will take over the production and editorial responsibilities of the paper.
All reporting will remain local, as it has throughout the paper’s storied history. Ownership of the paper will remain with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia with Steven Rosenberg as the general manager and publisher’s representative.
The Jewish Chronicle, has a similar relationship with the Maryland-based media company, in what the Chronicle’s CEO and Publisher Jim Busis characterized as a “strategic partnership.”
Back office functions, including accounting, finance, circulation and production for The Jewish Chronicle are currently handled by Mid-Atlantic Media out of its Baltimore headquarters. With the sharing of editorial resources, particularly for news occurring beyond Pittsburgh, the Chronicle’s staff is able to devote more time to local coverage.
“When we were looking to revamp The Jewish Chronicle and we did our strategic project, we looked very closely at the larger landscape nationally, internationally, Jewish, secular,” said Busis. “[We] realized that … there was a real need for these papers in the Jewish community, but it was a hard time economically, so it was best if we could band together and pool resources.”
To that end, Busis said he was “thrilled with the deal.”
“In [Pittsburgh], it brings us two benefits,” he explained. “The first is it expands the pool of editors and reporters that are available to us, and, by adding the only other Jewish newspaper in the state it gives us much better availability to cover state-level news, whether it’s elections, actions in the state legislature in Harrisburg — the fact that Philadelphia and Pittsburgh can work together on these stories is only to the benefit of both of us.
“The one area where we will not be collaborating with Philadelphia is in which sports teams we root for,” he added.
Financial considerations prompted the Jewish Exponent deal, according to Rosenberg, a Pittsburgh native. The paper reportedly lost $300,000 annually and was only able to continue publishing through the support of the federation.
“Here at the Jewish Federation we’re exceedingly concerned with having a financially viable paper. We took action that would still allow us to own a local paper,” said Naomi L. Adler, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. She expressed her gratitude to the volunteers and staff that made sure the “best outcome [was] established with the new partnership.”
Added Rosenberg, “As stewards of our Jewish community, it is our responsibility to ensure the future viability of the Exponent, and enhance the Exponent’s increasingly popular digital platform including JewishExponent.com.”
Though production will go through Mid-Atlantic Media’s Baltimore office, Rosenberg stressed that editorial, circulation, marketing, accounting and sales will remain in Philadelphia. There will be no gap in coverage or newspaper delivery during the transition.
“Our reporters are still going to be living and working in the 19103 ZIP code,” said Rosenberg. “Our office is staying the same; we’re not going anywhere.”
To position the Jewish Exponent for future success, Rosenberg said, 15 of 27 positions were eliminated. Impacted staffers were given severance packages based on the length of their employment and their names were made available to Mid-Atlantic Media for potential rehire.
Joshua Runyan, editorial director for Mid-Atlantic Media, has been named editor-in-chief. Runyan, who spent four years as a reporter and news editor at the Jewish Exponent, said, “This is an incredible opportunity for the Jewish Exponent and for Mid-Atlantic Media. The Exponent will emerge a better publication with more writers covering the vibrant community that calls the Greater Philadelphia area home.
“At Mid-Atlantic Media, we believe in building and strengthening Jewish community and ensuring a home for our hometown Jewish publications is a key part of realizing that vision,” he added.
In keeping with Runyan’s increased responsibilities with respect to the growing company, a plan is in development to balance the needs of all the Jewish newspapers in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.
“Local, niche community news is still very important, but the news media industry faces challenges. News media must adjust to the changing times,” said Craig Burke, CEO of Mid-Atlantic Media.
“At Mid-Atlantic Media, we offer solutions that provide smart efficiencies so that companies such as the Jewish Exponent and The Jewish Chronicle can continue executing their mission without so much financial pressure. What makes this relationship so special is that we both share the mission of strengthening Jewish community. We’re going to make sure the paper looks and reads better than ever.”