The Forward, one of the most beloved and distinguished institutions in American journalism, is moving beyond its traditional bounds of ink and paper to become a full-fledged citizen of the new digital world.
Whether you and your family have been readers and fans of the Forward for generations or you just discovered us when a Facebook friend sent you a link to one of our blog posts or videos, I’d like you to know about the changes we are making, and the tradition and values we’ll do our utmost to retain.
The fact is that we’ve taken giant leaps before. Just as we opened Jewish life to the world of modern journalism a century ago, just as we created a new medium of bold, comprehensive, fiercely honest Jewish reporting two decades ago, we are now setting out to define the Jewish journalism of the 21st century. And just as the immigrant community sustained the Yiddish Forward since after its founding, in 1897, we’re inviting our friends and readers to support us today.
It was obvious a decade ago that the Web was changing how people chose their news sources. We have one of the best Jewish news sites on the Web, www.forward.com. We’ve won a Webby Award (the Oscars of the Internet) in each of the past three years. We’ve continued to improve our site, to ensure that we provide fresh and often groundbreaking news every day, as well as not only video interviews, but also blogs on arts and culture, Jewish women, food (launching today) and other themes.
Today, the cutting edge has moved away from websites to the broader universe of digital media: mobile apps, iTunes podcasts, YouTube channels, Tweets and whatever will follow. Each offers a different functionality, a different value proposition for users. We’re already active in most of these channels, providing users with reporting, opinions and cultural criticism on all things Jewish. If you want to connect with issues and ideas about Yiddishkeit, Israel, re-emergent Eastern European Jewish culture and a 21st-century Jewish take on world affairs — plus get directions and reviews to some great happening in the East Village on a smartphone — the Forward is here to provide it.
But the most important transition is not technological. It’s generational. We have a chance — as strong a chance as any publication, new media or old — to build a community of readers that spans generations, defined not by age, but by a consistency of outlook and interest, of independent mind and critical stance, open to the myriad possibilities that Jewish life today puts before us.
We will continue to publish our print editions. We’re still publishing the Forverts, the Yiddish newspaper that’s made us a legend, now in its 114th year and still the definitive, iconic voice of an immortal world culture, and the Forward, the award-winning English-language weekly we launched 20 years ago, repeatedly honored for its innovative, intelligent and unblinking coverage of the Jewish community and the world it lives in. Because of our national scope and our independence, we are uniquely placed to explain the Jewish world to a larger audience.
Along the way, we’ve chosen and nurtured a staff of gifted editors and writers who earn, year after year, the recognition and awards given by their professional peers.
We’ve formed partnerships with other organizations — with the Israeli daily Haaretz, with Zeek Media, with Hazon — and others are yet to come. But the most important partnership we seek is with our readers.
Our newspapers have for decades operated as not-for-profit, a fact that has sustained us through the convulsions in journalism in the past few years. But the details of our tax status have made it difficult for enthusiastic fans of the Forward to contribute to our future.
Now they can, as the Forward takes its place alongside such respected journalistic entities as NPR and ProPublica in becoming a membership organization. We seek generous gifts from the many readers who have turned to the Forward throughout the years. Your support will help to ensure the vitality and vigor of the singular brand of free, independent, critical journalism that we provide, and to help us deliver this unparalleled journalism across a greater variety of platforms and media.
Please join us as a member of our newly established Forward community by making a tax-deductible contribution to the Forward. We urge you to visit our new website, www.ForwardAssociation.org, to learn more about the Forward Association, upcoming events — including our November 16 Leadership Reception and our March 8, 2011, Fundraising Gala — and how you can help secure the Forward’s future. And of course, we encourage you to share your thoughts with us at any time. Please feel free to call Julie Davidson, our new director of development, at 212-889-8200, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
The Forward itself has been an American Jewish story spanning generations. Each generation has found a way to keep that story going into the next. As we prepare for this New Year, we wish that our readers and community be inscribed in the Book of Life. The Forward, too.