Dec. 14, 2020
The Canadian Jewish News is returning, again, starting in January.
The CJN plans a comeback beginning next month, but with no weekly print edition in the works. A new direction is planned.
“It’s going to be a lot more multifaceted,” promised Bryan Borzykowski, the new president of the board of directors.
The flagship weekly newspaper and its website folded in April amid declining advertising revenues, with the COVID pandemic’s economic fallout providing the final nail in the coffin.
The CJN’s demise left Canada’s estimated 390,000 Jews – the fourth, possibly third largest Jewish community in the world – without a national voice.
The Canadian Jewish Record went online in May to serve as a national outlet for Jewish news and commentary during The CJN’s absence.
It was the second time The CJN went under. The paper folded in 2013 but revived after a groundswell of community support. Yoni Goldstein became editor in early 2014. He will continue in that role.
“Before the closure, we had been talking about revamping the website and e-newsletter, and Yoni was already doing some interesting things with podcasts,” said Borzykowski, a Winnipeg-based business journalist and consultant who wrote a campus column for The CJN when he was 19.
“But the fact that it went on hiatus allows us to speed a lot of the previous plans up. Now we can start with a clean slate.”
With the traditional media model increasingly a relic, content these days “is wide-ranging and you have to meet people where they are,” Borzykowski said.
That will translate into podcasts, electronic newsletters, a website, video, events, and even print – not a newspaper, but more in-depth, twice annual magazines at Passover and Rosh Hashanah.
There may even be forays into books. The CJN, working with the Lola Stein Institute, put out a coffee table book, Northern Lights, around the time the paper shut down.
Plans call for a new website in the next few months, though the old one may be used for content in the meantime, Borzykowski said.
It will be a slower, careful re-launch.
“While we have big plans, we’re also not busting out of the gate in the first week of January,” Borzykowski said. “We’re thinking of ourselves as a startup in a way, with a more nimble and entrepreneurial staff.”
There is a fresh board of directors and new donors; Borzykowski won’t say how much money is on the table. The publication is speaking to foundations for support, and a major breakthrough came when The CJN was granted charitable status, meaning donations will be tax-deductible.
Fundraising will be a bigger part of The CJN’s culture, Borzykowski said.
Another revenue generator will be advertising.
“We are looking forward to developing relationships with advertisers that grow as we do,” Goldstein told the CJR, “and to making the case for why advertising in The CJN is a sound business and community investment.”
The CJN will also explore creating sponsored content for various parts of the network, such as branded podcasts, video, and articles.
Apart from surviving financially, a vexing issue for any Jewish publication has been finding the balance between catering to loyal, often older readers, and appealing to younger ones and to those outside major urban centres.
The re-launched CJN will “definitely” want to reach a younger as well as more national audience, said Borzykowski, with focus beyond the Toronto-Montreal corridor.
“We want to talk to people in Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg and smaller towns where Jews may not have an opportunity to be as connected to Jewish culture as they would like to be, and may not even know they want to be,” he said. “We will reach younger readers through the content we create. This iteration will still report on serious issues, but we’ll be more fun, too.”
The founders of the CJR, publisher Bernie Farber and editor Ron Csillag, a former CJN reporter, never intended it to become permanent. The website was meant as a bridge to The CJN’s eventual return, and the two publications will likely work together in the future.
The CJR did not accept advertising, was free, and completely volunteer-driven.
“The CJR was a Canadian Jewish communal tzedakah experiment that demonstrated the love and longing that Jews have one another,” stated Farber. “All of us worked on behalf of community to keep us together during a very difficult time, and it was done from the heart and soul. We welcome back The CJN and look forward to a cooperation that will be a credit to the entire Jewish community.”
The eight months since The CJN’s shuttering “have shown just how much Canadian Jews miss The CJN,” Goldstein said. “I’m looking forward to reviving that connection, and building lots of new ones. And I’m determined to do so in a way that will be sustainable for the long run.”
The CJN “will once again be the go-to source for Canadian Jews when it comes to community news, diverse, insightful commentary from across the Jewish spectrum, arts, religion, food and culture. I expect there will be plenty of surprises along the way, too. That’s the fun part.”