Fledgling Jewish News Service Rocks Boat With Strident Pro-Israel Message

Challenges JTA for Slice of Jewish Newspaper Market

New Kid on Block: Russel Pergament says his Jewish News Service is growing fast because Jewish newspapers appreciate its stridently pro-Israel tone — and its lower cost.
courtesy of boston phoenix
New Kid on Block: Russel Pergament says his Jewish News Service is growing fast because Jewish newspapers appreciate its stridently pro-Israel tone — and its lower cost.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published June 28, 2013, issue of July 05, 2013.
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A new, right-leaning Jewish newswire is seeking to displace the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as the Associated Press of the Jewish media.

Nearly two years after its launch, Jewish News Service is growing fast by promoting its pro-Israel perspective, offering ad-friendly special sections — and by giving it all away cheap.

“Some papers choose to use us versus anybody else because they think we are more respectful of Israel’s challenges,” said Russel Pergament, publisher of JNS. “Other editors prefer us because we’re less expensive. And I’ll take either.”

The two Jewish newswires are competing to provide content to the shrinking number of regularly published local Jewish newspapers printed in the United States and Canada, and to the handful of international papers that cover Jewish issues.

The JTA, founded in 1917, insists that it is feeling no pressure from JNS.

“We are very satisfied that, even with the rise of multiple new Jewish media properties, the reach of our syndication network and our own online products has grown significantly over the past two years,” JTA editor-in-chief and CEO and publisher Ami Eden said in an emailed statement.

The JTA continues to have a far broader reach than JNS, with high-profile subscribers such as the Israeli newspapers Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. But at least some local Jewish newspapers have dropped the JTA since the new service’s launch.

“They offered us a good deal,” said Lee Chottiner, executive editor of The Jewish Chronicle, a Pittsburgh paper, explaining his decision to switch to JNS from the JTA. “They produce quite a bit of copy on Israel, which is important to us.”

Chottiner, who said he uses very few wire stories in his paper, said that he had no problem with the JTA’s content. “JTA does an excellent job,” Chottiner said. “We made a business decision.”

Pergament said that JNS offers its content free to about one-quarter of its subscribers, and that all subscribers get their first year free. Roughly 40 outlets use JNS stories, Pergament said, with paying outlets charged between $400 and $700 a month.

The JTA declined to disclose the amount it charges its subscribers, though that number is clearly higher than JNS’s fee. The organization lists 88 subscriber outlets on its website.

The Forward subscribes to the JTA. It does not subscribe to JNS.

Launched in September 2011, JNS first received attention for its exclusive U.S. distribution deal with Israel Hayom, the free Israeli daily owned by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and known for its support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Our founders believe that there is a bias against Israel… a media imbalance,” said Jacob Kamaras, JNS’s editor. “We seek to provide factual and fair content about the Middle East.”


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