Jewish views: Tales of two newspapers

Carlin Romano writes in the Philadelphia Daily News:

Jewish newspapering remains alive and well.

As 2008 begins, the Exponent, which hasn’t missed an issue since debuting in 1887, comes off its 120th anniversary year in the black, with a circulation of about 50,000. The Manhattan-based Forward, having celebrated its own 110th anniversary as a Yiddish paper last year, continues as two weeklies: the Yiddish version, with a circulation "well under" 10,000, and the English-language version begun in 1990.

The latter enjoys a circulation of 33,380, a devoted following among opinion-makers, and a mission, quips Goldberg, 58, "to teach Americans how to be Jewish."

The Exponent, according to Tobin, didn’t have to teach its readers much of anything.

Sitting in his Arch Street office, Tobin, 53, explains that the Exponent, founded by Philadelphia businessmen, spoke to a community whose "leadership was already very much part of America, part of Philadelphia, sort of feeling its oats." Unlike the Forward, notes Tobin, executive editor of his paper for more than nine years, "the Exponent has always been in English."

Those early differences help explain enduring ones.

"This is the newspaper of record for the Jewish community of this region," continues Tobin, a native New Yorker. "Generations of people have had their births, engagements, weddings and obituaries published in our newspaper. . . . That’s important."

Regional Jewish newspapers in the Exponent’s league include the Baltimore Jewish Times. Chicago and Miami don’t support a comparable paper despite Jewish communities larger than Philadelphia’s, which numbers more than 200,000 as well as 100 synagogues and schools in its five-county area, according to Tobin.

Even other elite regionals, says Tobin, "are not as old, and don’t have as powerful a hold on their communities." Thanks to plentiful ads, the Exponent frequently runs more than 70 tabloid pages long.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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