Journalist Jonathan Alter urged support for local newspapers at the first-ever gathering of Friends of NJJN, a new effort to enlist philanthropic support for New Jersey Jewish News.
More than 40 people gathered Nov. 3 at the West Orange home of Thelma and Richard Florin, where Alter outlined the challenges facing traditional media, and NJJN staff and board members described the daunting finances of Jewish weekly newspapers in a digital age.
Offering a vivid example of how media businesses are struggling, Alter noted how The Boston Globe, purchased by The New York Times in 1993 for $1.1 billion, was recently sold for $70 million, or 6 percent of its 1993 value.
“When newspapers are struggling, it is bad for democracy and bad for community,” said Alter, a former senior editor at Newsweek and the author of, most recently, The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies.
He noted that many newspapers are looking to a philanthropic model for additional funding. “It is a question of finding individuals who understand not just what it means to support the Jewish News,” said Alter, who lives in Montclair, “but the larger idea of community.”
Friends of NJJN was launched this autumn to explore new revenue streams for the newspaper, which, as its board of trustees president, Phil Litwinoff, noted in his remarks, receives only 20 percent of its budget in subscriptions from the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and other federation partners. The rest must come from advertising revenue and other streams.
The goal, said editor-in-chief Andrew Silow-Carroll in his remarks, is to ensure the paper’s sustainability through “a mix of support systems,” including charitable giving. He and Litwinoff urged members of the community to consider NJJN in their long-term giving plans, or to support aspects of the newspaper that reflect their “passions,” including Israel reporting, coverage of local agencies and schools, or specific community issues like education or engaging teens.
“NJJN is not merely a newspaper; it is a central address for the entire Greater MetroWest community,” said Litwinoff. “Our goal, like our partner federation’s, is three-fold: continuity, community, and connection. We hope that Friends of NJJN will be the first step in assuring that we can meet all three goals for years to come.”
In addition to members of the NJJN board of trustees — many of whom have already contributed to Friends of NJJN — guests at the Nov. 3 event included Audrey Bartner and Morry Mulman, Sam Convissor, Audrey and Norbert Gaelen, Gail and Max Kleinman, Beth and Roger Kruvant, Judy Diamant Lentz and David Lentz, Dr. Michael Och, Alia Ramer, and Sylvia and David Steiner.