Jewish Exponent Lays Off Editorial Staff
The Jewish Exponent laid off its editorial and production staff on Wednesday — a total of 15 people. The paper had been in serious financial trouble, losing $300,000 per year, said Steve Rosenberg, publisher for the Jewish Exponent and chief marketing officer for its owner, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Jewish Exponent editorial content will now be driven by Mid-Atlantic Media, which publishes the Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Jewish Week and other titles. Mid-Atlantic will hire a managing editor and four writers — all based in Philadelphia — and continue to publish the weekly print edition and its online content at jewishexponent.com.
“We had to do something because we were losing too much money,” said Rosenberg. He says the the new deal will save the publication a significant amount.
The Jewish Exponent has been publishing since 1887 and is the second-oldest Jewish newspaper in the country. Lisa Hostein had been executive editor since January 2009. Another editor, Michael Elkin had been there for more than 40 years. Advertising and sales employees were not affected by the layoffs.
“I’ve been in workforce for 30 years and hired and fired a lot of people, but today was probably the worst day I ever had in my professional life,” said Rosenberg. “These were loyal, talented, dedicated people. But you have to make tough decisions to carry on and ensure the future vitality of the Exponent.”
The paper has circulation of 24,000, but Rosenberg hopes renewed efforts will bring that number up to 30,000 in the next year. Mid-Atlantic Media has a similar arrangement with the Jewish Chronicle in Pittsburgh.
Josh Runyan, editorial director for Mid-Atlantic Media, said he’s excited about the future of the paper. He certainly knows the Philadelphia market, he served as news editor at the Jewish Exponent in the mid 2000s. (Full disclosure: I worked there as a staff writer from 2005-2008.)
“I’m bullish about the future of niche print publications in general and I’m bullish on the Jewish Exponent in particular,” said Runyan.
He hopes to change the paper’s editorial coverage with more focus on local stories and less wire copy. He also wants the new writers to be “fully engaged in social media.”
“There have been stories that have slipped through the cracks,” he said. “Elements of the community felt under-covered, and that’s going to change. The Greater Philadelphia Jewish community is a vibrant and diverse community. In the Exponent’s coverage, we will be emphasizing that vibrancy and that diversity.”
The publication may hire back some employees and Runyan said he’s “putting a premium on those who have had experience writing for the Exponent before.”