What makes something worth writing about?

I’ve been thinking this morning about what it is that makes a subject worth writing about.

When I was a staff reporter at The Canadian Jewish News, it was easier to know what to write than it is as a blogger. For one thing, many stories were assigned to me, although I also initiated a good number on my own.

Some of the criteria were easy to recognize – if a subject fell into one of my beats, for example. It also had to be relevant to readers. The best stories were also important, compelling, engaging, thought-provoking, and/or entertaining when appropriate.

Some stories – my own and other writers’ too – had a bit of magic for me, when a subject I didn’t expect to be very interesting turned out to be exceptionally absorbing.

I used to tell student columnists to write about subjects they found compelling, and about things they found themselves discussing with their friends.

It always caught my attention when a subject arose two or three times in quick succession – either an issue people were talking about, or repeated stories that had significant points in common. Often, that was indicative of a trend or issue, and turned out to be the springboard to a story.

I was pleased to read CJN editor Yoni Goldstein’s column in this week’s newly redesigned paper about the “journey” to a new CJN, and the vision for the paper as it moves forward. I’m excited to have an article (about the Ontario Jewish Archives and its new website) in the first new paper.

Yoni’s references to asking tough questions and providing solutions to them – as well as including uplifting stories, and issues that have been swept under the rug – indicate there will be much in the paper that is worth reading.

 

Whoa! Big changes at The CJN

Ever since I was downsized six months ago, I’ve thought of myself as being in transition. The Canadian Jewish News, where I was a reporter for 22 years, has been in transition too – streamlining, moving to a new office, and searching for a new editor.

But at the same time as it’s been moving forward, it’s also been in a holding pattern, publishing a more-or-less familiar paper under the guidance of interim editor Joe Serge.

It looks like that’s about to change big-time.

The paper announced in a front-page article this week that former CJN columnist Yoni Goldstein, 33, will take over as editor January 6. As well, new CJN president Elizabeth Wolfe spoke of plans to change the look and format of the paper to something a bit “edgier.” The online component will continue to be upgraded too.

Goldstein’s initial editorial, which also ran this week, marked a new direction in both language and perspective for the paper. Whoa!

Not “Whoa!” in a negative way, but “Whoa!” as in “Wow, this is going to get people’s attention.”

The forthright column, titled “Netanyahu’s Lame Excuse,” dealt with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s absence from Nelson Mandela’s funeral. I hope that Goldstein’s fresh voice will spark lots of dialogue, helping to create a vital new CJN – both for readers who agree with his views, and those who don’t.

In the article about his appointment, Goldstein credited his predecessor Mordechai Ben-Dat for allowing him to develop his “voice,” and to develop as a journalist as well. He also said he intends to give voice to all sides.

When it looked like the paper was about to close – before a community outcry led to its rescue – it became apparent that one of its roles was to bring together different voices of the Jewish community.

Speaking personally, I missed Toronto’s Jewish diversity and resources during the year I spent in an American college town in the 1980s. But living in a place with only one synagogue – and a Jewish population of about 1,000, including students – taught me the benefits of being part of a more connected community.

Best of luck to Yoni and the CJN team. I look forward to reading upcoming issues and online posts.