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Thursday, August 21, 2014

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Deeply heartening

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I had intended to use this space to call to readers’ attention what I believe to be one of the most important books of the last many years: Moynihan’s Moment, by Gil Troy. That discussion will be temporarily deferred.

In light of the announcement last week concerning The CJN, it would seem an odd omission, and rightly so, were I to avoid the subject.

There is no sugarcoating the announcement in any way. The atmosphere in the Toronto and Montreal offices last week was one of shivah.

The respective staffs in Toronto and Montreal were assembled last Monday morning. The president of The CJN, Don Carr, personally delivered the shocking news to the Toronto staff. Typical of Mr. Carr, it was the menschlich, honourable, courageous way to impart such bitter news. After he spoke with the Toronto staff, he spoke by telephone with the Montreal employees. One of the senior Toronto managers was with the Montreal team to answer their questions. It was a very difficult assignment for her, too.

Members of the board of directors made their melancholy decision based upon what they perceived to be compelling evidence that there was no financially viable way to sustain a print edition of The CJN. Thus, before all the assets were dissipated in vain efforts to make the paper financially viable, they decided to use the remaining assets to provide severance to the staff and wind up business affairs properly. This decision stands to the great credit of the directors. They acted in consort with hakarat hatov, acknowledging the good that others have done for you, one of the high values of our tradition.

But once the decision was made public, it quickly became apparent that the directors might not have had all the evidence before them.

Like a small fire carried by wind across parched timber, a veritable conflagration of distress and concern erupted across the territory of the paper’s readership. 

Telephones rang unceasingly each day of the week. Emails zipped through cyberspace with seemingly only one address: The CJN. It was impossible to quit the office each day without leaving behind a backlog of unopened emails.

Thousands of people communicated their upset and, it must be said, even their anger at the decision.

Each day, the swell of reaction combining lament and indignation rose to a higher level.

The reaction of our readers was deeply heartening and humbling. Especially gratifying, especially moving, was the response of younger readers. It had always been assumed that The CJN counted for very little among young adult readers.

Studies have shown that the under-40 age group is unwilling to pay for news. Thus, the logic flowed, they would also be unwilling to pay for The CJN. And thus, it was further assumed, this cohort of young adults cares very little for The CJN.

It appears, however, that the leap of logic connecting young adults’ news buying habits to their news reading habits is flawed, at least as they relate to The CJN.

Of their own initiative, a group of young adults has gathered together and, using the instruments of their generation, i.e., social media, started a campaign to save The CJN.

They created the website: savethecjn.com

The words they posted on the site brought fresh, happier tears to the eyes of many of us at the paper.

“We refuse to give up on Canada's largest national Jewish independent news source. SAVE THE CJN is a grassroots young adult effort to save the Canadian Jewish News… We believe in this media brand and know in our hearts that a viable, multi-platform and kick-ass solution exists.”

As of this writing, nearly 2,000 individuals had joined their campaign.

Some influential individuals in the community have doubted and even derided the reach and impact of The CJN. The grassroots and “ordinary” folk of Canadian Jewry, however, seem to hold a different view.

DJ Schneeweis, Israel’s consul general for Toronto and Western Canada, has referred to The CJN as the “communal town square.

“The CJN,” Schneeweis wrote, “has always served as a shared space for the Jewish community of Canada to express and enrich itself and also to express and enrich its ties and connections to Israel.”

With young adults in the vanguard, an appeal by CJN readers of all generations from places across Canada, and even from across the Jewish world, appears to have caught the ear and the heart of the directors. (See Don Carr’s statement on page 1.)

There is a case to be made, our readers are clearly saying, for the continued presence of the print edition of The CJN that far outweighs the financial one alone. It emphasizes the importance of the paper in helping create, nurture and maintain a feeling of community. Our readers’ outcry is truly compelling evidence of that, evidence that might have been missed before.

And we are so very moved and heartened by them.

Thank you. 

 

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