Changes are ahead at The Jewish Chronicle.
The newspaper entered into a strategic partnership with the Maryland-based WJW Media Group that will see it outsource such back-office functions as accounting, finance, circulation and production. There will be some sharing of editorial resources, especially for news items that are not local to Pittsburgh. This partnership will enable The Chronicle to provide more local coverage, executives say.
With roots in the merger of two newspapers that dated back to the early part of the 20th century, The Jewish Chronicle has been published continuously since 1962. Over the past few years, the weekly publication, like most newspapers across the country, has experienced decreased subscriptions and revenue, forcing it to re-evaluate its cost structure.
“We touch more of the community and more often than really any other organization,” said Andy Schaer, treasurer of The Chronicle’s board. “We needed to find a way to carry it forward.”
More than a year ago, a task force was formed between the paper and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to address how The Chronicle could survive and prosper in the digital age.
“One of the things that we concluded was that we had a mission to provide a media service to the community,” said Schaer. “We needed, therefore, to generate enough efficiency in the operation to make it work.”
“One of the priorities was to position The Chronicle for the long-term so that it could continue to focus on the local community,” said Board President Rich Kitay, “letting The Chronicle be a voice for the community and letting people know what’s happening and why.”
The Chronicle will remain an independent multimedia Jewish news organization, but the partnership will allow for a pooling of resources, including centralized production and design based in WJW Media’s Baltimore-area office.
The paper’s focus on covering the local Jewish community will not change, but there will be major changes to many processes. A number of positions are being eliminated, for instance, and Lee Chottiner will depart at the end of the week after 13 years as the paper’s editor. Editorial oversight will instead be managed by Joshua Runyan, who will continue to serve as editor-in-chief at the Baltimore Jewish Times and acting editor at the Washington Jewish Week, both related WJW Media properties.
Local reporters and advertising representatives will continue to operate out of Pittsburgh.
“I’m energized,” Runyan said of his role. “Pittsburgh is a great city with an engaged Jewish community, and I think The Chronicle has a bright future.”
The organization will continue to be led by Jim Busis, who is the chief executive officer and publisher.
“Many changes have already been made to the paper and its corresponding website, including a renewed subscription to JTA material, said Busis, “but we are by no means finished and by no means satisfied with where we are.”
Part of the organization’s goal, said Busis, includes expanding its digital presence.
“Like many newspapers of all types across the country, there’s always been a mentality of print first and Web second, and so we’re in the process of transition — we’re not there today, but we intend to transform ourselves from thinking print first, Web second to Web first, print second,” he explained.
Busis is confident that the changes will benefit The Chronicle and its readers.
“This partnership will give us the opportunity to operate more efficiently and at a greater quality level,” he said. “This will ultimately free up resources to allow us to expand our local coverage, so it’s really going to be eventually more local coverage, not less [and] more responsive to local people, not less. Basically, the Pittsburgh Jewish community is going to be getting a better quality product running at a lower cost.”
Craig Burke, chief operating officer at WJW Media, said he is excited about the future of The Chronicle.
“The Jewish community of Pittsburgh deserves a Jewish newspaper that keeps its members connected but also challenges their minds with compelling content and an attractive presentation,” he said. “I’m proud that we are working with The Chronicle. We will be bringing passion, energy and talent to many facets of what is going to be a top-notch, high-quality community news vehicle for a vibrant Pittsburgh Jewish community. I’m confident they’re going to love what they see and read.”
Said Busis: “We are still Pittsburgh’s Jewish newspaper, still providing Pittsburgh’s Jewish news.”
(Heather Norris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)