'Tablet Magazine' launches in attempt to set Jewish life to multimedia

Publication envisions long journalistic pieces coupled with cultural criticism, blog posts, podcasts and slide shows.

tablet magazine 88 (photo credit: )
tablet magazine 88
(photo credit: )
Equal parts newspaper, magazine, Web site, radio and video, Tablet Magazine launched on Tuesday as a daily publication promising a "new read on Jewish life." Billed as the first integrated "multimedia Jewish journalistic enterprise," Tablet is a new take on the Jewish arts-and-culture Web site Nextbook.org, published from 2003 until earlier this year. The new magazine envisions long journalistic pieces coupled with cultural criticism, blog posts, podcasts and slide shows. "We have the personality of a magazine with the pioneering spirit of a newspaper and the innovation of other media like radio, video and slideshows," said Alana Newhouse, Tablet's editor-in-chief. "If there's a story about a new Jewish musician, there's no reason why that should be done via text. You should allow people to engage with the music, which is the heart of the story." Newhouse, the former culture editor of the Forward, joined Nextbook in 2008 and directed its redesign with Tablet's inaugural staffers, including executive editor Jesse Oxfeld, formerly of New York Magazine and Gawker, and deputy editor Gabriel Sanders, who worked at the Forward and Vanity Fair. To be sure, Tablet is being launched even as newspapers and other news outlets struggle to stay both afloat and relevant. "These are difficult times for journalism, uncertain times for the economy, and challenging times for Jews throughout the world," Newhouse wrote in an editor's note posted on the magazine's Web site. "Launching a new journalistic site devoted to Jewish life now is, in many ways, an act of audacity." But, she promised, "Tablet is not simply a read." The new magazine will see enhanced coverage of news, politics and religion, in addition to coverage of arts and culture. On its first day, the site featured senior editor Michael Weiss's critique of US President Barack Obama's Cairo speech; a piece by senior writer Allison Hoffman on entrepreneurial haredi housewives; and a review by critic Adam Kirsch of Gertrude Himmelfarb's book on Victorian novelist George Eliot. Newhouse has also attracted a stable of contributing editors and columnists that read like a who's-who of Jewish writers, including Daphne Merkin, Ruth Wisse, Leon Wieseltier and Jonathan Wilson. Regular columnists - including Jeffrey Goldberg, Seth Lipsky and Victor Navasky - will write on news and politics. The nonprofit Nextbook Inc. finances both Tablet and Nextbook Press, a Jewish book series published by Schocken and edited by Jonathan Rosen. Newhouse said that going forward, there would be a stronger connection between the online magazine and the book series. This fall, for example, she will commission authors and journalists to write about a Nextbook Press book, The Jewish Body by Melvin Konner. "I think what's happening now is the fullest expression of the original notion behind what Nextbook really was," said Rosen, who was culture editor of the Forward and helped conceive Nextbook. "The desire for information, for cultural information, is stronger than ever," he said. "So it's great that this is the next incarnation of what newspapers need to become. It's journalistically exciting as well as Jewishly exciting." The project's Web site is www.tabletmag.com.