In My Own Words: The state of The Reporter by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Some of you may be aware that The Reporter Group will no longer be publishing two of our sister newspapers. Beginning in March, we will only have two papers: our weekly Binghamton paper and our sister paper in Scranton, PA, both of which are called The Reporter. Finding advertising has been difficult for all newspapers, profit and non-profit. You can see that in the local secular paper, which publishes far fewer pages each day than it used to. Many cities larger than Binghamton only have print newspapers several times a week, rather than daily. This is a far cry from when, in some cities, readers could buy two or more papers each day.
Even before losing these two papers, The Reporter’s Editorial Committee realized that we needed new ways to raise money if we want to have a weekly Binghamton paper. That’s the reason behind the trivia fund-raiser benefitting the paper. (For information on that event, see the article on page 1.) Readers may have noticed that there are more eight-page papers than ever before. When I began working here, almost every issue was at least 12 pages and many were 16 or 20. Our holiday issues were even larger and our special section issues (bar/bat mitzvahs and wedding) used to be 12 pages themselves. I don’t mind the eight-page papers since we can usually manage to publish all the local news we’re sent. Once in awhile photos of past events have to wait since upcoming events get first priority.
What has also changed is staffing. From a staff of seven full time and two part time employees in 2001, we now have one full time person (that’s me) and four part time. (As I write this, I am the only person still in the office. That has its good points: no one interrupts me when I finally get to some writing.) This makes sense because, with fewer papers, there’s less work. Unfortunately, with fewer people, the type of work we do changes. For example, I’m back to editing local material, in addition to my work as executive editor. Of course, we can’t really complain. This is actually comparable to what I’ve read about other newspapers, with half the staff being laid off at one time. Newspapers are not considered a growing industry.
Yet, we do need to consider what newspapers offer us. I call The Reporter the one-stop spot for news of interest to the local Jewish community. Not only do we publish what local Jewish organizations send us, we actively look for other events, talks, exhibits, etc. of Jewish interest. We do the search that you don’t have time to do. (And, by the way, we always welcome suggestions, which can be sent to with “article” in the subject line. Please, do note that we can’t publicize an event that takes place on Shabbat or a holiday unless it’s sponsored by a Jewish organization.)
The Reporter is working on a new website and hopes to increase its digital footprint. However, that doesn’t solve all our problems. Although some feel that everything online should be free, if you want people to produce content, then they have to be paid. Otherwise they’ll be looking for a different kind of work. This not only includes writers, but artists and musicians.
Right now, in our Jewish community, you still get your paper in the mail every week. That’s not something to take for granted. I admit that I still prefer to read hard copies of newspapers and books; there’s something about holding an actual object in my hand that speaks to me. I also read the material more closely. However, I realize that I will soon be in the minority – if I’m not already – that prefers hard copies. But even if we decide we want everything online, we still need to find ways to pay for that material – whether it’s paying for being allowed to read it or paying for support of the site that produces it. Nothing – even the content on the Internet – is truly free.