Saturday, June 27, 2009

AJPA Conference

Former AJPA president Rob Certner with a former CJN reporter at left.

Like everyone else, the members of the American Jewish Press Association (AJPA) have been hit hard by the economic crisis. Moreover, the newspaper industry in general and niche publishing in particular have been severely bleeding red ink due to lack of advertising and shrinking readership. The advent of the Internet as a main source of news for young readership has cast a pall over the future of the newspaper industry. Nevertheless, the AJPA, an organization representing 250 Jewish organizations, publishers, advertising sales directors and writers decided to meet this week in Evanston, Illinois (just north of Chicago). It's hard to encapsulate three days of mostly round-the-clock work, but I will endeavor to do so. Frankly, the demeanor of the attendees was somber, but hopeful. Much of the sessions employed by the AJPA gave members opportunities to evaluate where their institutions could make cuts and use their abilities to maintain the course during the turbulent financial times ahead. The American Press Institute's Andrew Davis representing its Newspaper Next project led several SWOTs exercises to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to each member's organization. This took over two days of concentrated introspection and evaluation. It was very revealing and, hopefully, provided members some insight into where they can apply first or second aid once they return to their respective publications. Aside from the work there were opportunities to network and to glean from respected longtime members how they are weathering this current crisis. Thursday night the Rockower Awards for excellence in Jewish journalism were acknowledged in short ceremonies at the Spertus Museum on Michigan Avenue across from historic Grant Park at Lake Michigan. The comraderie among AJPA members was palpable, but genuine. I got to catch up with retiring Cleveland Jewish News (CJN) CEO Rob Certner as well as present CJN advertising director Jennifer Woomer and publisher/editor-in-chief Michael Bennett. It was great to see them as well as to see others whose previous stewardship in the AJPA have made them respected veterans. It was the first time in three decades that my former editor, Cynthia Dettelbach, who just retired from the CJN at the end of last month, had failed to attend the AJPA conference. Hats off to AJPA executive director Toby Dershowitz and associate director Natasha Nadel, whose hard work made the conference a glittering success. Although a decision hasn't been made yet on next year's conference, I am hoping to attend that as well. The future of Jewish journalism may be less sure than it has in the past, but the AJPA is working to guarantee that those who survive will be better prepared to meet the challenge head on.

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