The Jewish Journal got some favorable treatment in the Los Angeles Times yesterday:
If the experience holds lessons for other ethnic and religious-oriented publishers, it’s that you can do good by being good. But it’s just as important to have a business plan, friends in the right places and a target audience with a lot of disposable income.
The Journal, its related website and a nascent monthly magazine recently nailed down a critical $800,000 donation that should rejuvenate the organization and guarantee its viability for the foreseeable future.
Generally thorough and professional in tone, the Journal covers stories unlikely to pop up in other L.A. media—such as alleged financial fraud committed by a group of Iranian Jewish investment managers and the struggles of a couple who lost two grown children to violent deaths. (The latter story inspired donations from Journal readers, including one who ponied up two years of mortgage payments for the couple.)
But the Journal also, on occasion, does little to rock its audience from its comfort zone.
In a story last month on tensions between Muslim and Jewish students at UC Irvine, for example, the Muslim point of view was so muted as to be nearly inaudible. The first quote from anyone associated with Islam came about midway through the story.
Although the story explained that representatives of the Muslim Student Union had declined to comment, the tone suggested there wasn’t much determination for finding and representing that point of view.
Leaving aside the incidental Jews-with-money comment and one likely reason that Muslim student leaders don’t talk to the paper anymore (sorry), I couldn’t help but feel that media critic James Rainey lacked perspective on The Journal and its readership. I should disclaim that it was always a complaint of mine that many people around town, even many within the Jewish community, were oblivious to the great work regularly done by the Jewish journalists in Koreatown. And, to be sure, the LA Press Club’s best blog from 2007 got overlooked in Rainey’s piece. (No hard feelings.)
But The Journal is more than “generally thorough and professional in tone. On any given day, it publishes the most interesting story in town. (Jordan Farmar was my favorite.) It also does a lot, though not always, to “rock its audience from its comfort zone.” (Kevin MacDonald and Luke Ford are the two I remember best; as you might expect, I am partial.) There was also all that coverage in the aftermath of the Bernie Madoff scandal, for which there are still certain machers in the community who won’t talk to me. And did I mention that for two years the paper employed a Christian named Greenberg as its senior writer?
This may come off as a lot of self-aggrandizing. I don’t intend it as such but I’m most familiar with my own perspective. And I think my experience helps explain why the paper is a guilty pleasure in some corners of the community, a labor of love in others and an essential source of information in many. It’s why some derisively refer to it as the un-Jewish Journal or the “Jewish” Journal, while others appreciate that it doesn’t just cater to one constituency. None of this, though, is reflected in Rainey’s article. His offers a good foundation and is accurate as accurate can be, but it felt to this insider like a small-town story being reported by a big-city journalist who parachuted in for the weekend.
I know, I know: Leave it to the Christian to be the one kvetching ...