#MediaMonday – Leisah Woldoff
Niche publications are a powerful tool to connect directly with a target demographic. The publication may be focused on a specific zip code, topic area and in the case of the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, faith. The Jewish News has been a staple in our community since its founding in 1948. Cecil and Pearl Newmark purchased the publication in 1961. It stayed in the family when their daughter, Florence Eckstein, took over the paper in 1981. Eckstein later sold the publication to Jaime and Jeffrey Stern, who acquired the paper in 2013. The paper changed hands again in mid-2016 when the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix acquired it from Jaime Stern.
JCF, acting as the publisher, has contracted with Mid-Atlantic Media, to manage the day-to-day operations of the newspaper, including local and national editorial content, advertising and the paper’s digital assets. The editorial content of the paper is news of interest to the Jewish community but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all sources and topics must be Jewish. I, along with several other community volunteers, am serving on an advisory committee for the paper offering support during this transition.
As tonight starts the Jewish holiday of Passover, the holiday that involves asking a lot of questions. So it is appropriate that today’s #MediaMonday comes from Leisah Woldoff, managing editor for the paper. So Leisah, a few questions for you… please tell us a little bit about yourself, your editorial philosophy and what readers of the Jewish News can expect in the months ahead.
Thank you for the opportunity to be featured on #MediaMonday!
I’ve been covering Phoenix’s Jewish community at the Phoenix Jewish News since January 2000. But my history with the newspaper starts earlier because I grew up in Mesa and my parents subscribed to the newspaper when I was younger. (In fact, my bat mitzvah photo from the early 1980s – with me sporting a perm and braces – is in our archives).
After earning a degree in journalism from California State University Long Beach and living in Los Angeles for several years, I moved back to Phoenix in 1999 and started at the paper as a staff writer in 2000. I’ve served as the paper’s managing editor since 2002.
The technology has changed a lot: When I started, we were still sending stories through a wax machine during the layout process, receiving most of our press releases in the mail or via fax and running to a photo shop each week to get film developed. It was a major milestone to shift to a digital process and we’ve gone through a few redesigns through the years.
This past year, we’ve gone through a number of changes as well, moving from being an independent newspaper owned by a local family to being a nonprofit owned by the Jewish Community Foundation and managed by Mid-Atlantic Media. But all these years – from the paper’s inception in 1948 until now – our mission has remained the same: to cover the Jewish community in Greater Phoenix (and Northern Arizona), and to provide a source of connection for the Valley’s diverse Jewish community.
In addition to our weekly newspaper, we regularly update our website, www.jewishaz.com, and we publish an annual community directory (this year’s will be the 29th edition) and an annual magazine with different themes each year (last year was Best of Jewish Women and this year’s will feature Best of Jewish Philanthropy).
We also welcome submissions – both articles and photographs – from members of the Valley’s Jewish community. Our Out and About photo page includes a Where’s Your Jewish News? feature that shows our readers with a copy of their newspaper they brought on their travels. We’ve received photos taken throughout the United States, as well as countries such as Cuba, South Africa, Russia, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Hungary, Iceland, Jordan, Singapore, Italy, India, Peru and, of course, Israel.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some many wonderful people throughout the years – both fellow staff members and individuals at the many organizations we cover. Some former editorial staff members, such as Salvatore Caputo and Marilyn Hawkes, who have continued as contributors, and Debra Gelbart, another contributor, who used to write a teen column for the paper.
Writing has been my passion since I was in third grade, from poetry, journaling and reporting to songwriting, and I am grateful that I have been a part of documenting the story of the Valley’s Jewish community.
Thanks for reading! Find out what’s happening in the local Jewish community by visiting www.jewishaz.com and by following us on Facebook (facebook.com/JewishAZ) and Twitter (twitter.com/phxjnews).