A reader recently wrote asking why The Voice didn’t report on the five Jewish victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting on Feb. 14.
He was distressed that the Jews in this tragedy received no special mention in our Rhode Island community newspaper.
The answer involves timing and coverage that we often have no control over, whether in the Parkland tragedy or in just about any other important story in the paper – local, national or international.
The events in Florida unfolded after 2 p.m. on Feb. 14. Because of social media and the 24/7 news cycle, the world started hearing about the massacre almost immediately.
The Feb. 16 Jewish Voice went to the printer on Feb. 14, right around the time that news reports began. And since we do not generally cover national and international news unless there is a Jewish angle, we did not hold off on printing the paper because we didn’t yet know that Jewish students and staff were among the victims.
By the time the next edition was ready to be put together two weeks later, the names of those who had died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had been widely reported in the mainstream national media. Our assumption was that our readers knew the ins and outs of what had happened and who the victims were, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
We also rely on the JTA – the Jewish Telegraphic Agency – for our national and international coverage and commentary. This is a subscription service used by many Jewish newspapers. But the JTA doesn’t cover everything involving Jews, and some of its stories come in too late for our production cycle, or at a length that is too great for our limited space.
For those who want broader coverage of Jewish news, we have a section on our website called “The Jewish reader” that pulls in articles from several Israeli papers. It’s listed under both the News and Jewish Life tabs on our website (jvhri.org) or you can go there directly (jvhri.org/feeds). We plan to expand this section so you can easily find more national and international Jewish news, but the feed is automated, so we can’t control what appears there.
In a survey we conducted in 2016, readers told us that they do not look to The Jewish Voice for national and international news. And that’s as it should be.
Our focus is on bringing you news of our local community that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s not that adding our coverage on national or global stories wouldn’t be of value, but we just don’t have the resources or space to do so. So, we printed an article about a group of Parkland students who attended a Chabad conference, and the strength and comfort they got from that experience (http://bit.ly/2FwfW6J). This was news you probably didn’t see anywhere else.
This week, you’ll see an article about how “Never Again” is being used by these students and others on the issue of gun control, another story you probably haven’t seen anywhere else.
By moving beyond the breaking news of the actual incident, we hope we’re adding to your knowledge, rather than repeating what you already know. We try to publish reports that focus on Jewish angles that you don’t normally see. And we will always maintain our focus on the Rhode Island community.
Thank you to the reader who brought up the question and allowed me to explain how we produce your community newspaper.