By BERNIE BELLAN
This story is one that I had been dreading to see. The Canadian Jewish News has been a hallmark of superior journalism for years. It was the model for all other Jewish newspapers in Canada.
April 3, 2020
MONTREAL (JTA) — Canada’s flagship national Jewish newspaper, the Canadian Jewish News, became a coronavirus casualty after it announced that its April 9 issue would be its last after 60 years in business.
“Unfortunately, we too have become a victim of Covid-19,” president Elizabeth Wolfe said in an official statement Thursday on the Canadian Jewish News website. “Already struggling, we are not able to sustain the enterprise in an environment of almost complete economic shutdown.”
Canadian Jewish News will cease both its print and online editions.
The weekly, launched January 1, 1960 under the editorship of Myer Nurenberger, fell victim to the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic after struggling to stay afloat since coming to the brink of closure once before, in 2013. It revived after a groundswell of community support.
At the time, the newspaper let go of about 50 staffers in Montreal and Toronto and relaunched with new editorial leadership, a fresh look and layout, and a trendier variety of content. But losses continued to mount and the paper succumbed to the economic woes brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, said Wolfe. (Wolfe is a member of the board of directors of 70 Faces Media, JTA’s parent company.)
The staff was informed of the newspaper’s demise via video-conference call. Its circulation at its demise was about 32,000.
Following are excerpts from the statement posted to the CJN website by Elizabeth Wolfe, president of the Canadian Jewish News (and daughter of the late Ray Wolfe, who was driving force behind the CJN for years):
f Everywhere we have seen the devastating impact of COVID-19. It has attacked every aspect of life as we know it, and we are all struggling to cope with the upheaval. We had hoped that The CJN could play some small role to inform, console and distract our readers as we all isolate at home, worried about our families, our friends, our medical caregivers, all those risking their lives to provide essential services, our businesses and livelihood, our community, our country, our world.
It is with great regret that we have realized that we will be unable to do so. Unfortunately, we too have become a victim of COVID-19. Already struggling, we are not able to sustain the enterprise in an environment of almost complete economic shut down. It is with deep sadness that we announce the closure of our beloved CJN, both in print and online.
In the spring and summer of 2013 we saved The CJN from its announced demise. At that time, I consulted with a number of community leaders, including my mother, Rose Wolfe, a longtime board member of The CJN and community leader. Her response at the time surprised me. She said: “It had a good run. Everything has its season. It is time.”
That response did not sit well with me, as I was not satisfied that we had done everything possible to save The CJN, especially given our family’s 40 year association with the paper. I was not willing to give up without another try. With the support of the board of directors, we re-organized, restructured and created a new version of the paper and website to serve the Canadian Jewish community. Against all odds, our friends, advertisers and readers recognized how important it was to maintain The CJN as a platform to inform and engage Canadian Jewry.
The outcry at the time encouraged our efforts. It did not, however, translate into widespread support for The CJN, although our dedicated subscribers, advertisers and friends kept us afloat. Despite the challenges facing print journalism everywhere, we managed to survive, printing 100 editions (50 each in Toronto and Montreal) annually as well as supplements and periodic magazines, and providing digital access through our website.
We have not been immune to the decline of the industry, although our decline has been slower than most. Our bottom line showed small profits early on, to start to rebuild our lost reserves, became barely break-even shortly thereafter, and then recently succumbed to increasing losses. The economic devastation striking our community has also affected The CJN. The CJN suffered from a pre-existing condition and has been felled by COVID-19.
Our board of directors and management agree that, while we are committed to our community and our readers, our first obligation is to our staff, many of whom have been with The CJN throughout their careers. On behalf of all our readers, I want to extend an enormous thank you to all of The CJN staff who have provided Canadian Jewry with a much needed connection to community.
I have no doubt that there will be another outcry from the community, particularly from those readers who rely on the print edition as their source of information, and perhaps, their connection to the Canadian Jewish community. It is my hope that members of our community will recognize the need for a national platform and that a new CJN will emerge.
Please know that we have done everything in our power to continue The CJN for as long as possible. It is with tears in my eyes that I conclude: It had a good run. Everything has its season. It is time.
President, Canadian Jewish News