As Sinatra might say, we did what we had to do, faced it all and stood tall, and most of all … we did it our way.
As I sat with a cadre of believers in Minsky’s Bar on Remsen Street back in 1978, envisioning a new kind of Brooklyn newspaper with the simplest of monikers, we strategized for the future — but certainly not for 30 years. We were young and somewhat reckless, and 30 years was a lifetime.
Each of us was determined to stick it out through the storms to come, but we did not really know just how difficult those storms would be.
We’ve had a great staff over these 30 years, and most shared the vision. Our ability to stay afloat, our success, is their achievement.
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The Brooklyn Paper was founded as a free newspaper at a time when the concept was at best a novelty, so it’s understandable that competitors might have been overly confident that our venture would be short-lived; instead, we outlived most of them along with numerous new entries, some of which were slick and well-financed.
The Brooklyn Paper began as a feature-driven bi-weekly covering Downtown and Brooklyn Heights — but as we stumbled upon story after story that no one else was covering, The Paper evolved into a hard-news weekly that would break countless big stories and report on its communities with integrity.
We established a high standard for quality community journalism in Brooklyn, and challenged our competitors to rise to our standard.
By popular demand, business necessity and ambition, we expanded from our original neighborhoods to cover all of Brownstone Brooklyn, then east to Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, for a time south to Midwood, and finally north to Williamsburg and Greenpoint. We packaged coverage of Brooklyn’s eclectic arts scene in our award-winning GO Brooklyn section, and published a smorgasbord of special editions.
As technology evolved, The Brooklyn Paper was among the early adopters and leaders of community newspapers nationally — both in print and online.
With all this in mind, please excuse us as we take a moment to pat ourselves on the back, and as we thank each of you — our readers, our advertisers and our friends of all stripes — who contributed to our success and who are joining us in our celebration.
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The other day, Beverly Cheuvront, who edited The Brooklyn Paper in its earliest years, recalled the first time we spoke.
Before she applied for the editor’s job, I told her — I warned her, is the way she recalls it — that The Brooklyn Paper would be, in the parlance of 2009, a hyperlocal venture. I was all Brooklyn, all the time — born here, schooled here, lived here … leaving only to visit other towns named Brooklyn.
My spiel was somewhat of an exaggeration, but to useful effect. Beverly knew that she was signing on for an excursion in local journalism where, as I’d tell our police reporters, a purse-snatching from a Court Street office worker was more newsworthy than a multiple murder in a part of the precinct we didn’t cover. “Brownstone Brooklyn” was a new reality, and its geography was tight; Red Hook was as relevant to our Brooklyn Heights readers as Chicago’s South Side might be — not very. Think local.
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While I might have been self-assured in my knowledge of Brooklyn and journalism at age 27, when The Paper was born, The Paper could not have launched or flowered on my energies alone.
Bernard Edelman, one of the best community newspaper editors ever, pitched in after leaving Courier-Life, a job that had followed his tour of duty in Vietnam. For us, he provided a steadying hand, great news judgement, and sage advice.
Beverly Cheuvront, who edited The Paper for four years, helped me establish the high editorial standards I sought, standards which carried on.
Laurie Sue Brockway, our first features editor, brought a light touch to The Paper in the earlier years and broadened our reach.
Ann V. Bollinger, following Beverly at the editor’s desk, left an indelible mark; she was at the helm during key challenges and expansions.
Every participant in the early years — our first photographers, artists, reporters, sales staff, production staff and office manager — set a very high bar.
Without exception the editors who followed — Paul Toomey, Margaret Daly, Tracy Connor, Karen O’Shea, Howard Altschiller, Diane Webber, Neil Sloane, Lisa Curtis, current Senior Editor Vince DiMiceli and current Editor Gersh Kuntzman — along with General Manager Alison Tocci and most of our staff, passed the test.
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While today’s space doesn’t allow for an enumeration of everyone’s contribution, I’d like to acknowledge The Brooklyn Paper’s long-running employees who every day continue to make The Paper special:
• Lisa Malwitz: indispensable assistant, office manager, finance department, right hand and backbone of the operation since 1988.
• Vince DiMiceli: He came onboard as a Bay Ridge reporter in 1996 and emerged as the go-to guy for pretty much everything, exceeding even the broadest definitions of his two positions — production manager and senior editor. Today, he is a leading voice for innovation in our entire industry (though he still lays out our front page every week).
• Leah Mitch: The art director since 1999, she created the GO Brooklyn logo and section’s award-winning design, took our arts coverage online, and has steadily kept the creative juices flowing each week in design of all kinds.
• Gersh Kuntzman: The editor since 2005, Kuntzman is the only winner of the “Triple Crown” of community journalism — winning the Suburban Newspapers of America awards for editor of the year, columnist of the year, and newspaper of the year all in the same 12-month period; Kuntzman is a true believer in The Brooklyn Paper’s mission and in the value of promotion, re-energizing The Paper for a new era.
• Eric Ross: account executive since 2004, Ross has lent his humor and talent to his Brooklyn territory despite hailing from, and loving, New Jersey.
• Sylvan Migdal: Our Webmaster since joining us in 2006, Migdal rebuilt BrooklynPaper.com from the ground up, earning multiple awards for Best Web site in our class. His logos and sketches enhance our pages (a logo for our “Cleaning the Gowanus” series sets the standard — a guy in a Hazmat suit holding a toilet brush).
• And most importantly, The Brooklyn Paper’s publisher, Celia Weintrob, who joined The Paper in 1985. Celia’s shared not just The Paper, but my entire life; we married in 1989.
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When I sold The Brooklyn Paper last March to a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, it was with the satisfaction of knowing that The Paper’s future was in the hands of a media company that understood the importance of community journalism and had a broad vision of its future possibilities — along with the means to get there.
The six months following the sale have been good ones for The Paper, and the future is promising.
With the obvious ferment in all media, only a fool would attempt to predict the future. Just as I didn’t try to predict it 30 years ago, I won’t try now.
But so long as our communities need a reliable source of information, and so long as businesses need a trustworthy avenue through which to communicate with their customers, there should be a place for The Brooklyn Paper — in whatever form technology may provide.