J. The Jewish News of Northern California has been chosen to participate in the inaugural Jewish Journalism Fellowship, a yearlong program designed to help local Jewish media outlets thrive.
The program’s overarching goal is to expand J.’s capacity to reach and serve readers in more sustainable and impactful ways and to strengthen the fabric of the Bay Area Jewish community.
The fellowship will support a cohort of five independent local Jewish news organizations: J., Cleveland Jewish News, Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, St. Louis Jewish Light and Minneapolis-based TCJewfolk.
It is a project of Maimonides Fund, a private grantmaking organization in North America and Israel that seeks to “help the Jewish people grasp our common past, and encourage them to play a role in shaping our shared future.”
The idea for the fellowship came out of a desire to stem the tide of closures of Jewish community newspapers, according to Maimonides Fund president Mark Charendoff.
“We recognize the important role that these publications play in keeping their local communities informed and connected, particularly in times of crisis such as during the current pandemic,” he said. “We hope that this program will help each publication confront its own challenges, in a supportive, peer-driven cohort, while also beginning a conversation on how to move the field of local Jewish journalism forward.”
The fellowship will draw from cutting-edge work being done in mainstream journalism, employing a model known as Table Stakes, which has been used by more than 100 newsrooms across the U.S. and Europe to advance their work and impact. “Table stakes” is a poker term, and in this context it refers to the seven ways an organization needs to perform better in order to even get into the game — in this case, the game of digital news. The program was developed by the Knight Foundation.
Maimonides Fund has brought in Table Stakes co-founder Douglas K. Smith to facilitate the program, working alongside Blue Engine Collaborative, a consortium of consultants and advisers with deep experience in guiding and supporting news organizations as they transform digitally and financially.
The Blue Engine team includes its founder and CEO, Tim Griggs, a former strategy and product executive at the New York Times and former publisher of the Texas Tribune; Ryan Tuck, a former editor at Bloomberg and audience development and product lead at McClatchy, EducationNC; and Joanne Heyman, an experienced executive coach and strategic adviser. The Jewish Journalism Fellowship will infuse the trademarked Table Stakes format with programming specific to the concerns of local Jewish media professionals and Jewish communities.
Over the next 12 months, the fellowship will help J. launch new initiatives designed to serve our community better and enhance our own sustainability.
“What happens locally has never felt more momentous, and a thriving and dynamic Jewish community relies on the experiences, knowledge and dialogue provided by its local journalism,” said J. publisher Steve Gellman. “Publications like J. and our colleagues in this fellowship must work together to innovate how we connect with each of our communities so we can continue to bring essential stories to light.”