Jewish News group seeks to expand

March 05, 1995|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writer

Continuing to expand beyond its Baltimore origins, a partnership headed by the publisher of the Baltimore Jewish Times is negotiating to buy the Jewish Western Bulletin, a weekly in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"We're always looking for opportunities," said Charles A. Buerger, co-publisher of the Baltimore Jewish Times and general partner of Detroit Jewish News Limited Partnership, the venture seeking the Vancouver paper.

"It's sort of like a snowball," he said. "We're developing a competent and aggressive management team."

Mr. Buerger said the partnership was attracted by a growing Jewish population in the Canadian city and hoped to double the weekly's 2,500 circulation. Company officials that they expect to complete the sale in the next two months.

The partnership also is considering starting a second weekly in Palm Beach County, Fla., where it launched a paper last fall with a $1 million investment.

A new publication would concentrate on the southern part of the large Florida county, Mr. Buerger said.

"It's the size of Rhode Island," he said about the county, adding that a second weekly could come as early as this fall.

Springboard for the expansion is the 75-year-old Baltimore Jewish Times, a well-regarded, glossy-covered, ad-fat publication that Mr. Buerger co-owns with his sister, Susan A. Patchen.

Its sister weeklies, the Detroit Jewish News and the Atlanta Jewish Times, are owned by Mr. Buerger and other partners that include family members and company employees.

"I think we have a real special niche," he said. "We have an upscale audience that people want to reach."

Besides the weeklies, the two companies publish Style, a glossy lifestyle magazine aimed at a broader, affluent market in each of the three cities.

The Palm Beach paper had its genesis in a solicitation from officials of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, according to Michael Davis, editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times and the executive editor of the Palm Beach Jewish Times. "What pTC it came down to was they asked us if we could do a Baltimore Jewish Times in Florida."

"We saw an opportunity to create a newspaper in the fastest-growing Jewish county in America," he said. The Palm Beach Jewish Times, Mr. Davis said, targets the northern part of the county, which has a Jewish community of 95,000; the entire county has a Jewish population of about 225,000.

Another enticement was that the Jewish Federation guaranteed a 17,000-subscriber base through its membership, according to Arthur M. Horwitz, associate publisher of the Detroit and Palm Beach papers.

"That's one reason we went down there," he said.

Since its start Nov. 25, Palm Beach Jewish Times has been averaging about 64 pages a week -- about half the size of the Baltimore Jewish Times. About half of the pages are advertising, bringing in revenues of about $40,000 a week, Mr. Horwitz said.

Mr. Davis said the company hopes to turn a profit on the Palm Beach paper in the next three years.

The Palm Beach paper last week hired Howard J. Lalli as the new managing editor, replacing Mr. Davis, who had been going back and forth to Palm Beach to manage the day-to-day operation.

Mr. Lalli, 26, who takes the position at the end of the month, has been an assistant managing editor of the New Yorker for the last two years. Prior to that he worked at Vanity Fair.

"There's a lot of things that attracted me to the company," Mr. Lalli said. "The biggest thing is it combines my passion for journalism and my passion for Judaism and the Jewish community."

The expansion comes as the Detroit and Atlanta publications are prospering while the Baltimore weekly is holding its own.

The Detroit paper, bought in 1984, and the Atlanta publication, purchased six years ago, had double-digit increases in ad sales last year, and circulation expanded about 2.5 percent at each paper, Mr. Horwitz said.

With circulations of 11,000 in Atlanta and 20,000 in Detroit, sales for the two publications, including Style magazine, were about $8 million last year, he said.

In Baltimore, where sales were about $5.5 million last year, circulation was flat at about 20,000 while advertising revenue was up "a little bit," Mr. Buerger said. But the small boost in revenue was offset by increases in newsprint costs, he said.

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