“Make sure you say I’m a very forgiving editor,” says Joel Magalnick as we sit down to talk near his home in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood.
I’ve wondered for years when I could turn my keyboard on the man who says “yea” or “nay” to my story ideas. Now 39, this paper’s editor has been nominated (not by himself) as one of our 10 under 40, giving me my opportunity.
As editor for the past eight years of our state’s only Jewish newspaper, Joel works “very hard to promote our community,” to let readers know what’s going on and to give “as many people as possible a voice.”
Joel also hopes the JTNews is “shining light where there needs to be light shined,” exposing problems and issues in the community. “I try to do that the best that I can given the size and politics within our community.”
Fortunately, there’s not “a whole lot that’s scandalous that’s going on,” he says, but concerns do need to be aired. “Sometimes it has to be uncomfortable.”
Of course, being in journalism means being the target of some vitriol. He most often hears the JTNews is “either too left wing or too right wing” — often considered a mark of balance. Israel, though, is one subject that keeps him up at night, especially if the invective is directed at JTNews.
“I find it patently ridiculous that someone would call the paper or me anti-Israel,” he says. “We have to reflect the opinions of everyone in the community.”
Joel sees an increasing division and hostility between some local organizations on the subject. He also worries about “the rise of delegitimization” of Israel around the world and an increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
Joel and his wife Jenn, an early childhood specialist for the Union for Reform Judaism, met in Israel while doing a year abroad at Hebrew University. After Joel graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in journalism, the couple moved around the country before settling in Seattle. He had been working in web design and moved here for a dot-com job, just in time for the bubble to burst. He started freelancing and eventually landed in his current job.
Joel — and print editors everywhere — are preoccupied with moving profitably into the 21st century. Actually, “we’re here in the 21st century,” he says of the former Transcript, with more online readers than print subscribers and an iPad app coming. A companion site developed by Joel for younger adults, Jew-ish.com, is gaining traction, and both publications are active on Twitter and Facebook.
The 21st-century challenge is in making a profit. The traditional print advertising model doesn’t work on screen, but advertisers are shying away from print media, which is why publications have shrunk. There’s not less news, just less advertising.
Electronic publishing could work well by “making publications more efficient,” focusing “more on gathering the news and less on distribution,” Joel says.
The Jewish publishing world can take advantage of being “small and nimble,” to test ideas like the various guides that come with the JTNews: The Guide to Jewish Washington, the Professional Directory and Northwest Jewish Family.
Joel jokes that he’s been called a “model of Jewish continuity,” with the requisite years of Hebrew school (Denver’s Rodef Shalom) and camp (Ramah in California). Living in Ravenna with Jenn and their two young sons, Joel observes that he is at “the crossroads of rabbis taking walks.”
At Third Place Books, his local bookstore and hangout, rabbis and Jewish community members he runs into might not pitch him stories, but “they’ll often tell me stuff that’s going on.”