Thursday, June 4, 2015


Yesterday was a sad day for Philadelphia journalism, for its Jewish community and for me. 

The nearly 130-year old Jewish Exponent, the second oldest newspaper of its kind in the country, decided to turn its editorial and production operations over  to Baltimore-based Mid-Atlantic Media, resulting in the layoff of 15 editorial and reporting staff at the paper and its companion magazine, INSIDE.

In an official statement on the Jewish Exponent's website, officials from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia,who published the Exponent and all of its companion publications, wrote:

We are proud to announce a new affiliation with Mid-Atlantic Media, a growing media company centered in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., corridor with which we have contracted for the Jewish Exponent’s editorial and production operations. Readers of Jewish newspapers in three large regional Jewish communities already benefit from the expertise of Mid-Atlantic Media, which today publishes the Baltimore Jewish Times, Washington Jewish Week and Pittsburgh’s Jewish Chronicle.
What can we in Philadelphia expect from Mid-Atlantic Media?
  • A commitment to more local content, with less reliance on wire services
  • A thriving, vibrant online presence that augments our print edition
  • A website optimized for viewing on smartphones and other mobile devices
  • A greater commitment to social media content by our journalists
  • A newspaper that remains for many years the voice of Philadelphia’s Jewish community

I wrote for INSIDE magazine and a couple of those companion publications  for the past 4 years, and I enjoyed every minute of those 4 years. The magazine was offically discontinued yesterday in the transition over to Mid-Atlantic, and I will dearly miss working with its terrific editor, Greg Salisbury. 

4 years ago this month, Greg asked me to fill in for one of his columnists, our mutual friend, Katie Loeb, at her suggestion, and write an article about beer. He had been the recipient of more than a handful  of press releases from me over the years, and knew I could write, and he knew of my beer pedigree from my years of running the Golden Age of Beer in Philadelphia Tours. But in truth I had never written an article on beer before.  Greg had the story angle ready for me: asking various restaurateurs and tavern owners where they would go to have a beer and who some of their favorite bartenders were. It was the easiest article I've ever written.

Two months later, he asked me to pen another article. "Explore the idea of Jews and baseball,"  he wrote.  At first, I was confused; I had been a food writer and editor in all of my journalistic pusuits, going back to high school. And, well, I thought, I'm not Jewish.

"You're a good writer, though," he said. "You'll figure it out."

He then directed me to request a copy of a relatively new video entitled "Jews and Baseball" from its Canadian producer, and to use the video as a springboard for the article, adding the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia as places I should contact. That was the kind of editor Greg was. Intensely creative, strategic and supportive.  I dove into the material and wrote a respectable piece for INSIDE. He was effusive in his praise of the piece, maybe a little too effusive, but he knew that I had been in unchartered territory. That's the kind of editor he was.

Months before I worked for INSIDE  I had written Greg about a friend of mine who had become something of an adventurer, mountain climber and  ice wall climber, who recently made the ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Greg suggested that I tackle that story myself for the magazine. "You already know most of the story anyway," he told me, and he gave me the name of another person, a local female tennis instructor, who had also recently made the climb. "Give me two articles, side  by side, about 1,000 words each," he instructed. "You can do that." 

And for the next three years, Greg gave me assignments that had barely anything to do with food or any subject with which I was familiar, a risky gambit for  any editor, but Greg plied me with confidence in my abilities as he plied me with unfamiliar subject matter to write about. I wrote about medical weight loss, superstitions (for which I was nominated for a journalism award), unusual wedding venues, Hurricane Sandy's aftermath at the Jersey shore, charitable giving, hard cider, re-purposed industrial buildings, beer cocktails, a Three Stooges museum (!), Kosher Spanish wines,  local craft distillers, eau de vies, a drink advice column, and lastly, for the magazine pictured above, the final issue of INSIDE, artisan coffee roasters in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Every article for INSIDE was an adventure, and every one of them, except for the coffee piece, was a Greg Salisbury idea. And for that I am very grateful. Greg expanded my journalistic bandwidth, helped me polish my writing style and gave me confidence to write outside of my foodie comfort zone, which helped me in a big way to tackle the articles I have written for The Trentonian.

This blog post sounds like an appreciation of Greg Salisbury, something you write after he passes or retires, but I am sure he is quite alive and no where near retirement (he's more than a bit younger than me actually). Greg WAS the magazine, and this  screed started out as an obituary for it, but this is what I should have been writing about all along.  He would probably have suggested that I not write about him at all.  But I chose this story all by myself.

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