The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles has published a print newspaper almost every Friday for the past 34 years. But today, readers will not be able to get their hands on a fresh copy. The independent nonprofit community newspaper, with a circulation that at one time exceeded 50,000 copies, announced last week that it would cease print publication for the foreseeable future due to challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have decided it makes sense to take a hiatus from the print edition until our main distribution outlets — synagogues — reopen. After this week’s edition, we will provide our fresh content exclusively online,” editor-in-chief, David Suissa, wrote in an article for the Journal on Oct. 7.
The Journal, which was founded in 1987 by lay leaders of the Jewish community, is the largest weekly Jewish newspaper in the United States, according to its website. Its print edition was offered for free at over 800 locations including libraries, temples, bakeries and stores.
But COVID-19 lockdowns and the closure of many small businesses has made print distribution nearly impossible, as the newspapers depended on these physical spaces being open.
The Jewish Journal will expand its website and digital offerings, continue to make podcasts, and launch a “Jewish Streaming Guide” to curate streaming content in the Jewish world, according to Suissa.
The announcement follows similar ones made over the last few months. The Jewish Week, the largest Jewish community newspaper in New York City, announced in July it would take a print hiatus and move completely online, while The Jewish Advocate, a Jewish newspaper in Boston, MA, suspended publication in September after 118 years of operation. Many journalists and media professionals have faced layoffs as a result.
The status of Jewish journalism, and particularly local Jewish journalism, has become a major topic of conversation during the pandemic, as both Jewish and non-Jewish newsrooms have been hard-hit by national economic instability and other pandemic-related challenges.
Moment Magazine, an independent online Jewish magazine, hosted a panel of key Jewish media figures over Zoom on Tuesday to discuss major questions and concerns regarding the Jewish media landscape.
One panelist, Andres Spokoiny, President and CEO of Jewish Funders Network, called attention to how the pandemic has changed the access people have to Jewish content.
“Local reporting is going to have to compete with what people have gotten used to with webinars… via Zoom,” he said. “So the question of quality of content is going to be critical.”
Sarah Breger, Deputy editor at Moment Magazine, said she was optimistic about the ways publications like the Jewish Journal were adapting to the new challenges presented by the pandemic.
“COVID-19 obviously decimated a lot of newsrooms but it also showed us how quick on their feet outlets can be,” Breger said. “Changing models to Zoominars, podcasts — we’ve seen how new models can grow because of a crisis.”
Suissa does not make it clear in his article when exactly the Journal will resume print operations or how the change is affecting newsroom staffing, and declined to comment when asked by the Forward. However, he wrote in his article that the publication will continue to build its online presence and provide more diverse content for a wider Jewish audience.
“We’ve all been forced to ditch old habits and adopt new ones,” Suissa wrote. “The question is: Can we come out ahead?”