J. has moved its technology into the 21st century — and it happened all of a sudden, when the coronavirus crisis pushed operational changes out of the planning stages and into action.
The credit goes to a generous donor, and to a staff ready to give up its past ways for new ones. J. traded its busy newsroom for working at home, substituted shouting across the room with shouting on the messaging app Slack, and gave up scrawling in red ink on paper for something much, much better.
A grant from Fred Isaac of the Frederick J. Isaac Philanthropic Fund, a donor-advised fund of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, paid for the purchase of the Adobe publishing software InCopy, a sophisticated tool that has enabled J. to continue producing biweekly print editions remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.
A rarity among grant-makers, Isaac prefers to give money toward improving organizations’ infrastructure. “I’m interested in efficiency,” the Oakland philanthropist said in a recent interview. “I believe in people having what they need to do what they already do, but better. That means asking them what they need, not telling them what they should have.”
Isaac has been donating to J. for several years. His grant this spring paid both for the new software and two days of staff training in early February. The timing was coincidental — J. had been taking bold steps toward a more modern, advanced publishing system for months — but it was serendipitous, coming mere weeks before the coronavirus shut everything down.
When shelter-in-place was declared in March, editors and writers were still learning and practicing on InCopy. With no time to strategize, they had to step up their game in order to continue putting out print editions remotely, while at the same time working harder than ever to report and write breaking stories at a furious pace.
J.’s production team already was using the Adobe publishing program InDesign to lay out pages and make paper printouts for proofreading. InCopy integrates with InDesign seamlessly, allowing editors and writers to see the layouts, read and correct stories on their computers. No paper waste, no ink spent.
“If we had not received the grant when we did, we would not have purchased or been trained in the InCopy software before the shelter-in-place order was issued,” said J. Editor Sue Fishkoff.
“And we certainly would not have been able to produce our print publication remotely. That would have meant either canceling the print editions altogether, or forcing the editorial and production staff to come to the office, thus exposing them to the virus on a daily basis.”
Isaac considers J. an essential part of Jewish life in the Bay Area.
“It has historically been the voice of the Jewish community, and an important voice within the Jewish community… In some ways, the importance is greater at times like this, but in some ways, J.’s work right now is just another demonstration of the importance it always had,” he said.
Added Fishkoff, “I can’t emphasize enough how fortuitous the timing was, nor how grateful we are for this grant.”