Bad news for Jewish journalism, but an interesting issue nonetheless: A few advertisers in the now bankrupt Baltimore Jewish Times say they would stop giving the paper their business if, under a joint ownership proposal, majority control went to non-Jewish management.
William Yerman, the CEO of the Strata Group, a real estate company, and broker of record for Yerman, Witman, Gaines & Conklin Realty, said he has held leadership roles in local Jewish charities and reads the Jewish Times every week.
“There’s no rival, clearly, in our market, and I believe it’s very important,” Yerman said.
The broker said that Andrew Buerger and his family were important members of the Jewish community in Baltimore. Because of his relationship with Buerger, he has been advertising with the Jewish Times regularly and remains happy with its advertising services, he said.
Yerman said that aside from advertising in the Jewish Times, his company has focused efforts almost exclusively on social media, including blogs.
“If the Buerger family was not in control, it may convince me to finally stop,” he said. “it would feel like a different publication.”
He was not aware of any Jewish publications in other cities that were not owned by Jewish people. “They would have a better understanding of the needs of Jews than someone who isn’t Jewish,” Yerman said.
Neil Meltzer, president and CEO of Sinai Hospital and senior vice president of Lifebridge Health, called the publication “the glue, the fabric” that connects Jewish residents in the area.
“The Jewish Times, under the Buerger leadership, has been embraced wholeheartedly,” Meltzer said. “It strikes to represent a broad array of Jewish viewpoints.”
Meltzer described the Buergers as “one of the cornerstones” of Baltimore’s Jewish community.
“It’s tough to separate the Buergers from the Jewish Times. They’re kind of one and the same,” he said.
The leader of the paper must be “somebody who is integrated well and understands the gestalt of the Jewish community, if you will,” Meltzer said.
But he feared that there might be a “backlash” if the Buergers were to separate from the Jewish Times. He said such a reaction might prompt Lifebridge to stop advertising in it.
“I will react based on metrics,” he said. “If the newspaper weren’t read, it wouldn’t make sense for us to be advertising.”
I suspect there is more to this than meets the eye, and the advertisers are at some level just being loyal to the (Jewish) Buerger family, which has owned and operated the paper for decades (and perhaps that loyalty convinced them to keep advertising even when, on a purely business level, it made sense to advertise elsewhere).
The BJT was a great paper, and it achieved its greatness by hiring excellent staff. That’s the challenge of a new owner. Its feel for the ”gestalt of the Jewish community” will come from the editor or publisher responsible for day-to-day operations, not the corporate office.
(h/t Larry Yudelson)