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Thursday, December 18, 2014

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The journey to a new CJN

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This week we debut a new look and new features, while many of your old favourites remain.

Almost exactly one year ago, the staff of The Canadian Jewish News was informed the paper would be closing shop, and in the days that followed, the news filtered out to the Jewish community. This week, The CJN is debuting a brand new design and embarking on an audacious plan to reshape and rethink what this newspaper means to Canadian Jewry.

How did that happen?

Clearly, you, our readers, were unsatisfied with the product we were producing – frankly, you felt The CJN wasn’t delivering the goods. So you started to tune us out. And yet, when it was announced the paper would be folding, your reaction was immediate: Save The CJN!

Your support came through loud and clear. The CJN’s board of directors, led by Elizabeth Wolfe, worked behind the scenes with Canadian media veteran Robert Attala to establish a business model that would rescue the newspaper, while grassroots organizers extended the conversation online. Within days, the #SaveTheCJN campaign gathered 3,000 signatures and 45,000 page views. After a few weeks, hope was already emerging The CJN might be preserved. It took a few more months to get things fully back on track, but here we are.

But enough about the past, let’s talk about the here and now. What you are holding in your hands is in many ways a brand new publication. The paper stock is brighter; the images are bigger and bolder; the lines are clean and modern; and the logo directly acknowledges the colloquial name by which this newspaper is almost always referred to: The CJN.

But this redesign is about more than looks. This week, we debut a number of new features, including our history page, called “Back Story,” and “Rabbi2Rabbi,” which presents conversations between two rabbis on a wide range of topics.

You will also find a bevy of new writers that reflect the myriad of opinions in the Jewish community. We have added more than 15 new regular columnists who will debut over the next month, and many more talented essayists and thinkers will contribute periodically.

At the same time, many of your old favourites remain, including a host of columnists you’ve come to expect in The CJN. And there’s one more important thing we haven’t changed: The font and size of the text (if you want to get specific, it’s called “Utopia 9.5”).

In other words, the new CJN emphasizes modernity on the one hand and tradition on the other.

It’s a delicate balancing act, but that’s what Judaism is really about, isn’t it?

 

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When we set about how to reinvigorate the CJN in January, we had two initial goals. The first was to re-structure this paper as a newsmagazine – meaning, a hybrid publication that provides you with the news you need to know and also analyzes what that news means. The CJN remains committed to reporting on the Jewish community in the comprehensive manner, but in the future, we will be equally devoted to commentary, analysis and opinions.

It is our belief that a thinking community is a healthy community, and a community that challenges itself can only gain from the experience. You may not always agree with what our columnists or religious experts have to say, but our hope is you’ll learn something new in every issue of The CJN.

Our second goal was to talk about issues of concern in the Jewish community that for too long have been swept under the rug – issues such as poverty, addiction, abuse and women’s rights. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the new CJN, we have already started down this path, and we intend to continue.

We strongly believe it is our duty to ask the tough questions, even if they are sometimes hard to hear. And when we do so, it is our intention to also provide solutions – anyone can be a critic, but if there is no follow-up, ultimately there’s not much point.

But we don’t want you think it’s all going to be gloom and doom. The Jewish community of Canada is strong and vibrant. There is an abundance of uplifting stories to tell, and we will do just that. We want to celebrate Canadian Jewry.

I’d like to conclude by thanking the staff of The CJN, the board of directors and the many community leaders and philanthropists who have helped us arrive at this point. I appreciate your tireless efforts over the last year to revive and refresh The Canadian Jewish News.

We are tremendously excited about the future of The CJN, and hope you are, too. We invite you to engage and communicate with us – and to keep challenging us to improve. And if you like what you see, we hope you’ll consider supporting us by subscribing and spreading the word that The CJN is back, and better than ever. 

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