A farewell of sorts

Earlier this month, at the conclusion of a long-planned transition, I ended my role as executive director (and prior to that – editor-in-chief) of +972 Magazine and Local Call. I am succeeded by Sawsan Khalife’, a journalist and activist from Haifa.

I began working in journalism in 1998, right before the Internet came and changed everything. My first decade in media was marked by cuts, layoffs and journalists’ growing fear of their readers.

+972 Magazine was born in 2010 as an aggregate of seven blogs that approached Israeli politics and news from a progressive perspective. A year later we formed a non-profit to provide the organizational backing to the project. Our Hebrew site, Local Call, was launched in 2014 under a similar model of blogger-based writing and non-profit journalism.

Both sites, and the non-profit that operates them, have been the heart of my professional life for the past five years. During this time, we have grown from a modest group blog into a project that brings together dozens of volunteers, six employees and has hundreds of thousands of people reading it every month, worldwide.

For me, +972 Magazine and Local Call were an opportunity to return to a time of growth, innovation, and absolute independence in writing and editing. I have enjoyed writing and working on this project more than anywhere else in the past 17 years.

Things didn’t come without a price, of course. In its first years, +972 was a volunteer project, and even when we started raising money for editing, ensuring the necessary resources was a constant struggle: none of us made the kind of salaries we could have at more established news organizations. But I got to take part in a different kind of journalism, one that is run from the bottom up — from the writers to the editors — and not the other way around.

It is through the work of my fellow bloggers that I participated in the most important and gratifying stories: the battle of narratives regarding the killing of Jawahr Abu-Rahme in Bil’in; Lisa Goldman’s reportage from post-revolution Egypt (our first crowd-sourcing project!); the first interview Haggai Amir gave after his release from prison; the socially driven activism of Local Call writers; working with Samer Badawi, who reported for +972 from bombarded Gaza City last summer; Local Call’s exposé on the companies monitoring Israelis’ social media use for the IDF; Yuval Ben-Ami’s unique style of travel writing, and more. Much more.

Most of my writing in the past decade or so has been driven by the occupation, which was and remains at the heart of +972’s coverage. Local Call added other fields of progressive politics that draw from different sources – history, ideology, identity politics – but also tries to bring them to the next level, to re-examine itself, and create something new out of it all. It is crucial work, considering the fundamental crisis the Israeli Left – all sectors included – is going through.

It feels like a good time for me to go back to writing, both at +972 and elsewhere. Writing is the reason I joined the project in the first place, before I was drawn to fundraising, managing, and web design, etc.

I’d like to thank all the editors, writers, photographers, artists, designers, coders, grant-makers and advisers I have worked with. Thanks also to Just Vision, which partnered with us in launching and running Local Call.

Good luck to Sawsan, who I am confident will lead this project to the kinds of places I could never reach. And a warm and special thanks to all the readers who have, and continue to donate to both sites. Without you, this project could never have happened.