Looking Near or Far?

Looking Near or Far?

By Michael Jacobs | mjacobs@atljewishtimes.com

An interesting message about the Atlanta Jewish Times arrived in my email inbox Feb. 27. A Marietta resident expressed dismay that the AJT had not done more to wake up our readership to the threat of a U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.

“Shocking omission — inexcusable,” the man wrote.

I replied that there hadn’t been much actual news regarding Iran’s nuclear program and the negotiations (I don’t count speculation and huffing and puffing about Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress and the presumed terms of a deal that could be reached by the deadline at the end of March). We had mentioned the issue in some opinion pieces.

That didn’t sit well with my correspondent.

“Why even call yourself a newspaper that represents the Jewish population of Atlanta when you pretend not to know what is going on!” he wrote. “Our very existence is being threatened, and the best you can do is say our editorial department handles it on occasion. It should be cover news and the only thing on the cover.”

(He also asked whether I take myself seriously. He had me there: While I take this job seriously, I don’t take myself seriously.)

I take issue with this critic’s tone, but I can’t complain about his overriding point, which is that any Jewish publication must focus first on threats to Israel and to the Jewish people in general because any other news by definition is secondary. That’s a reasonable view of the mission of a Jewish news organization.

But it’s not the mission Publisher Michael A. Morris and I have sketched out for the AJT.

It’s my belief that the AJT can survive only if we provide a unique mixture of news and views. Generally, that means original reporting on the stories and people close to home and original opinion pieces from members of our community about issues they care about anywhere in the world.

We can provide interesting, original stories about people and events outside Georgia, especially in Israel. You saw it last month when we wrote about efforts to expand the population in the Negev, and you can see it in this issue with articles about Denmark, France and, yes, Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

If a nuclear deal is reached with Iran, we’ll combine the agreement’s details with local reaction to provide something you won’t find elsewhere. But during the negotiations we can’t offer anything you can’t find on hundreds of websites.

Still, this is your newspaper, not mine, and its survival depends on meeting your expectations. Sharing on Facebook, at least, indicates more interest in national and international news than community stories.

We do have a broader view of what we should offer online because we can be immediate and don’t have to worry about limited space. In the coming months, we plan to develop our website into a continually updated portal to the full world of Jewish news.

The current vision is that the printed weekly will remain focused on the Jewish Atlanta community, but it’s up to you. Let us know what you want to read each week, and show us what you care about by sharing those stories on Twitter and Facebook. Eventually, you’ll get the AJT most of you want.

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