Without the JN and JC, we’ll all feel less connected
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Analysis

Without the JN and JC, we’ll all feel less connected

Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer reflects on the rich history and legacy of his newspaper as it, along with the 179-year-old Jewish Chronicle, goes into liquidation.

Richard Ferrer

Richard Ferrer has been editor of Jewish News since 2009. As one of Britain's leading Jewish voices he writes for The Times, Independent, New Statesman and many other titles. Richard previously worked at the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, edited the Boston Jewish Advocate and created the Channel 4 TV series Jewish Mum Of The Year.

Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle,  hours from merging in 2020, have since taken different paths.
Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle, hours from merging in 2020, have since taken different paths.

Wednesday was an emotional day for current and former employees of the Jewish News. The announcement that the newspaper – a beloved fixture in Shabbat shopping bags for 23 years – along with the Jewish Chronicle, the world’s oldest Jewish newspaper, had been put into liquidation shocked the community and trended on social media. Had the synagogues been open it would have been the only kiddush conversation this Shabbat.

Like most newspapers, Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle have struggled to remain viable in the face of high costs, low advertising and online news. Jewish News was only able to give the community a newspaper, website and events thanks to its owner Leo Noe’s support. Some months we broke even, at Pesach and Rosh Hashanah we even made a profit, but relied on Leo to keep the presses rolling year round. Event advertising was our matzah and butter, so the virus lockdown has pushed us and the JC over the edge.

Three Jewish News front pages, featuring Prince William’s Israel visit, and interviews with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell!

Of course, in these digital days a newspaper shutting isn’t news. Indeed, the 60-year-old Canadian Jewish News also closed its doors this week. Newsprint is at the mercy of market forces like any other business. But newspapers, especially communal ones, aren’t like any other business – they are immeasurably more than profit and loss. They are the heartbeat of those who read them. They are where lives are charted, good times celebrated and bad times shared. When a newspaper dies part of the community it served, often for a century or more, dies too.

My first newspaper article appeared in the esteemed Viewpoint section of the Wembley & Harrow Independent in 1988. I still have the letter local MP Rhodes Boyson wrote congratulating a 17-year-old for his powerful polemic on counterfeit t-shirt sellers at a T’Pau concert at Wembley Arena. I put my heart and soul into that piece. Thirty years on I still recall the sinking feeling when the Wembley & Harrow Independent folded. It felt like I’d been silenced.

Dermot O’Leary, Rio Woolf, Zak Cohen, Stacey Solomon, Lucy Ronson Allalouf and David Williams at JN’s Night of Heroes event.

If next week’s Jewish News is to be the last, sincere and heartfelt thanks are due. To journalist Matthew Kalman and businessman Michael Sinclair for founding the then London Jewish News in 1997. To the editors who came before: Matthew Kalman, Stuart Brodkin, David Garfinkel, Charles Golding and Zeddy Lawrence.

When a newspaper dies part of the community it served, often for a century or more, dies too.

To all the loyal and talented professionals I’ve toiled alongside in my 11 years in the editor’s chair. And, especially, to news editor Justin Cohen, who merits an MBE, if not a knighthood, for dedicating 18 years to the community and publication, starting as an intern.

Humanitarians honoured with a stamp, including Sir Nicholas Winton (top left), after a staggering 105,000 people signed a Jewish News petition.

The JN’s achievements are numerous and unique. Proudest among them are the Duchess of Cambridge’s photographic tribute to Holocaust survivors, getting Sir Nicholas Winton on a Royal Mail stamp, our Jewish Schools Awards, dazzling Night of Heroes and 12 joyous annual simcha shows.

Newsprint is at the mercy of market forces like any other business, but newspapers are immeasurably more than profit and loss.

For all of us, producing a weekly Jewish newspaper has truly been a labour of love. So many memories. So many stories (and press night kosher takeaways) shared.

I am pleased to say there are positive efforts to fund a future title, one hopefully as free from vested interest as the JN and JC proudly were. Our community dearly needs a vibrant, independent and secure newspaper. Like a synagogue, it’s where we turn to feel part of something bigger.

Without one, we’ll all feel less connected.

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Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

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