After 18 years as partners, the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and the Jewish Federation are parting ways. The weekly's current issue announces — in what seems a carefully worded story — that as of January 1, the Federation will stop buying 20,000 subscriptions. Cost-cutting is blamed for ending the financial support, but the story also suggests that the paper will feel more able to report independently on the major organization in the local Jewish community.
The Journal will become one of only a handful of Jewish papers nationwide neither owned by nor selling thousands of subscriptions to federations, said Neil Rubin, senior editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and former president of the American Jewish Press Association. He estimated that about 85 percent of Jewish papers have formal financial ties with the philanthropic bodies...such arrangements help keep some publications afloat by guaranteeing paid circulation, he said.
However, Rubin said at the very least these relationships create the appearance of conflicts of interest. With federation papers, "youíre not really doing journalism. Youíre self-censoring or youíre being censured, which isnít healthy for the Jewish community," said Rubin, whose Baltimore Jewish Times is independent.
Relations between the Los Angeles Federation and Journal occasionally became frosty after stories critical of the organization ran in the paper. Both Federation President John Fishel and Journal Editor [Rob] Eshman deny these occasional conflicts played any role in the impending separation.
The paper will be distributed free throughout the region, with optional by-mail subscriptions. The story says that weekly circulation will be increased to 110,000 and notes that new writers and editions have been added in Orange County and Conejo Valley. Also, an in-house Web director is revamping the website.