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Australian Jewish media – where to from here?

June 24, 2009 – 9:15 am15 Comments

By Parrogan

I. Aligning oneself with the AJN

Are you well-served by our national Jewish newspaper, one of the oldest continuously published rags in the history of Australian newspapers, miraculously plodding forth into an age where print and paper are ultimately to be as obsolete as horse and cart? Do you appreciate a direct line to and into the Australian Jewish community, and an opportunity to communicate with and advertise directly to this niche audience?

The Australian Jewish News, what do you think about it? Are you frustrated with syndicated news content you’ve already read on Jpost, Haaretz or Ynet? Is it like transcribed Shabbos-table banter mixed in with the sort of society gossip you might overhear half in Yiddish in what passes for a queue at Haymishe?

II. A tree falls in the forest, and there’s no-one to hear it fall

Whatever you think of the AJN, you might want to consider that it is the sum total of our Australian Jewish media. As much as it’s attacked or defended, the AJN should be recognised as the singularity it represents – everything we do, say or think somehow ends up there, even if it’s distorted, rewritten, inflated or conflated, it’s still representative of what’s going on in the community at large.

The AJN is no different to any other newspaper running in a vacuum – there’s nothing else to compete with, and it can print what it likes – how can anyone blame them for sensationalising everything within an inch of its life, when the only backlash is on its own letters pages?

When The Age screws up, The Australian is the first on the scene, and vice-versa. That, we take for granted. It’s not quite the same situation, but it begs one more question – if the AJN is so insufficient (and I’m not convinced that it is), why hasn’t anyone done anything about it?

III. Working towards environmental sustainability

The obvious answer is the small market and huge amount of money involved – nobody has the cash for a risky, advertising-driven media venture in this day and age – but that’s not where the buck stops.

The real reason no-one has successfully established an enduring communal mouthpiece, in any form, is because we can’t handle it – all the accusations with which we tar and feather the AJN are reflections of our own headspaces.

My theory is that we’re so used to reading about ourselves in black and white, and paying cursory, syndicated attention to the rest of the Jewish world, we couldn’t possibly conceptualise, let alone sustain a alternate (read: not ‘alternative’) media outlet.

Still, I’d like to be proven wrong, and here are a few thoughts to that end.

IV. Breakin’ out of da ghetto

In order to broaden the Australian Jewish media landscape – not raze and replace the AJN – we need to think outside the shtetl, look to foreign lands, and do something new. Some cool things have been happening in the US, as far as Jewish media goes, since the first run of the Forward.

Over the past few years, Heeb magazine has long offered an alternative, secularist perspective, laced with humour, sex and irreverence. Meanwhile, those seeking something more highbrow could check out Nextbook, which evolved into something more highbrow again, Nextbook’s latest incarnation, Tabletmag.

In South Africa, someone thought a more conservative approach need be taken, and so the rather heimische Jewish Life magazine was born, full of potted Hassidus, soul-feeding recipes and inspirational tales; all glossy, with top-notch advertising, of course. This doesn’t seem to take away from the firm ground held by the staid, Joburg-based, South African Jewish Report.

In other communities, the media revolution has taken the form of a blog – in Argentina, they have STAM!; in Hungary, they have Judapest.

Now in Australia, we have the Sensible Jew.

Where it all goes from here depends on where you, the people who have been paying attention to the Sensible Jew beyond its initial blow-up, want it to go. Or maybe you don’t think there’s room, or a need for anything more than what you’re reading right now.

Speak up! I’m all ears.

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