Arts & Culture

American Jewish Life Bites the Dust

American Jewish Life closed its doors for the last time this past week. Asked for a reason, editor (and, ultimately, the sole full-time employee) Benyamin Cohen told the Forward that "[u]nfortunately, this is just not the right economy for a … Read More

By / June 30, 2008

American Jewish Life closed its doors for the last time this past week. Asked for a reason, editor (and, ultimately, the sole full-time employee) Benyamin Cohen told the Forward that "[u]nfortunately, this is just not the right economy for a print publication," and that, effectively, print media is dead. I seem to remember Sir Salman Rushdie saying the same thing about the novel in the New Yorker. Only, when Rushdie said it, he was taking a dig at the folks who’d been saying that same thing ever since the novel was born.

Earlier this year at the Israeli President’s Conference, Jonathan Safran Foer spoke about how there’s already a projected date for the last home newspaper to be delivered. He ridiculed the idea of that — the idea of getting up-to-the-minute news from print media, he said, has long expired. But, said Foer, there will always be a place for the experience of a Sunday New York Times with coffee and a bagel. The same, I think, is true of magazines, whether Jewish, hip, or geeky. The big science-fiction magazines are hurting, too, but there’s a whole crop of new magazines that are positively leaping like lemmings to take up the slack, and soaking up the market's readership.

There might be several reasons why "Jewish Rolling Stone," as the Forward called it, ultimately failed. Lilit Marcus, who wrote the Forward article, notes that "two freelancers confided off the record that they were 'strongly urged' to resell pieces they had written for the July/August issue of AJL."

As a former AJL staffwriter herself, it's not hard to guess who one of the freelancers Marcus alluded to might have been. I know it sucks for writers to find out their papers are closing — I was certainly bummed to hear about AJL's demise, partly because they still haven't paid me for an article they ran months ago. I just got the obligatory End of Service letter, and guess what? They've offered to kindly pay a fraction of what they owe. It sucks, but I know it could be worse. At least they're offering.

With all due respect to the recently departed, it seems like there's still a space in this world for some Jewish magazines — the O-inspired Jewish Woman magazine is doing a fair job on that corner of the market, and Heeb and Guilt and Pleasure aren't showing any signs of going anywhere. Meanwhile, former editor Benyamin Cohen isn't moping around at the gravesite; he's already at work hyping his next project, the memoir My Jesus Year, will be released in October.