In her Emerging Gen column, Ilana Belfer explains why the Bulletin’s new web edition is crucial to her generation.
Some age-old questions: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If there’s content of interest to the emerging generation in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, but it’s not online, do young adults ever see it?
That’s why, after three years as a Bulletin columnist, intern and freelance reporter, I’m jumping for joy over the redesign, which includes an improved website and digital edition, as well as social media – Facebook and Twitter – presence. Prior to the redesign, there were only two or three articles available online per issue. I try to speak only for myself in my columns, but I think I’m safe in speaking for pretty well all 18- to-45-year-old members of the community when I say, ‘Hallelujah, finally, and welcome to our world!’ I mean it. My generation lives online. According to a 2011 Ipsos Media survey, affluent American millennials, aged 18 to 29, spend more than 40 hours per week online, essentially a full-time job. The figure is likely comparable in Canada, and that number has surely risen with time. Honestly, I spend most of my day in cyberspace, most days of the week. As my grandma likes to say, “You sure are glued to that thing, aren’t you?”
That “thing” is my computer. “What are you doing on there?” she asks me. To someone who grew up without the Internet, I can understand why it might seem incomprehensible that I am literally doing everything on there: banking, submitting school assignments, chatting with friends and looking at their photos, shopping, sending out or responding to event invitations, and even dating (JDate only, of course).
So are my peers.
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned radio-listening or TV-watching? We do that online, too.
So, it should come as no surprise that when, in every one of my journalism classes at Carleton University, the professors ask students about our primary source of news, all hands go up at the sound of “World Wide Web.”
What I’m trying to say is, in a time where people – or, at least, people my age – are getting their news, and other things, from exclusively digital sources, the Bulletin has (until now) remained exclusively in-print. That means, for the past few years, my parents’ friends have frequently given me feedback on my latest articles, while most of my friends don’t even know I write for the Bulletin. It means that when, in a previous column, I asked the emerging generation several questions and called out for answers, no one responded. How could I blame them? They probably never even caught wind of the piece. Because the Bulletin was inaccessible by way of the central place we turn to for sharing, spreading and discussing information. The Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the community-at-large have been making grand efforts and great strides over the past few years in trying to engage the emerging generation – a generation that, according to the recent Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Jews, decreasingly identifies as Jewish, and a generation with declining synagogue attendance.
The Federation hired a director of initiatives for the emerging generation, and implemented a micro-grant program to fund our initiatives. Institutions targeting people my age, like the Glebe Shul, have popped up. And now, finally, we are turning our attention to a valuable community resource: the Bulletin. What better way to connect community-wide than via the community newspaper? The newspaper has no denomination and does not belong to a certain shul or political party. The newspaper need not be read in the west end, east end or downtown – it can be read by anyone, anywhere.
The newspaper informs us of community issues and events, and acts as an ongoing forum in which we can dialogue about community concerns, whether current or gleaned from a glance back into the archives. It’s a non-physical space where we interact and check in with one another on a regular basis. Some older people complain that we younger people are not connected. Maybe no one’s been checking in with us in an environment we understand.
Thanks to the Internet, Gen Y has a terrible attention span, but an amazing ability to multitask. We have a penchant for speed and instant gratification. We expect our articles to come with multimedia content such as videos and hyperlinks to other pages. We expect to interact instantly and easily with the content, its author and other readers.
And if you think we’re not “connected,” think again. We are most definitely connected to Wi-Fi . And, if we can’t get it where we are, we’ll move. We are connected to iTunes, just look at those headphones sticking out of our ears. I am personally connected to thousands of Facebook friends and hundreds of Twitter followers. If you want to connect with us, follow us where we’re doing our connecting: online.
That the Bulletin has taken steps to do this will be critical to achieving the community’s goal of attracting and retaining the emerging generation. Now that the Bulletin has entered emerging gen territory, the least we can do is practise hachnasat orchim and welcome it into our homes with open arms and food for thought. First order of business: why not share this column?!
On behalf of the emerging generation, I wish the Bulletin Mazel Tov on this exciting new chapter.