One of the things that stands out most poignantly about my college days is my favorite professor, Mrs. Huff, dedicating an entire portion of the semester to the importance of community journalism. Since I was just a young, dumb undergrad, I distinctly remember wondering: who reads or even cares about community news?
Well, it turns out, I do. What started out as a freelance assignment covering a board of education meeting has turned into almost six years of deep-diving into the highs and lows of Long Island life. During my tenure, I’ve had the opportunity to interview some of my favorite celebrities, attend a presidential debate and eat a lot of good food. I’ve seen politicians rise to power while others face jail time and been an eyewitness to residents passionately fighting for their communities.
And while I am only slightly less young and less dumb than I was in my undergrad years, here are a few of the most poignant lessons I will take with me as I leave Anton Media Group to travel and pursue some creative ventures:
1. You people are crazy, but in the very best way.
I have stood in the freezing cold reporting on your protests and stayed up late with you as we wait for boards of education to come out of executive session. I have attended parent-organized fundraisers on Friday nights, pancake breakfasts on Saturday mornings and football games in the rain. I get paid to do that—you do not. I am continually amazed at the level of involvement residents have in their communities—you give up time, energy and money to make your neighborhoods a better place to live for yourselves and your families. Sometimes there is a pay-off—the casino doesn’t come to town, the team gets new uniforms, funding is allocated for new roads—but sometimes, there’s not. And yet you keep fighting. So keep fighting! It gives us something to write about and it makes your communities better.
2. Community journalism is vitally important.
It is scary to imagine a world without journalists. Good, quality reporting done by writers who know their community is irreplaceable. We hold elected officials accountable, expose the flaws in our society and provide a valuable resource for residents to know everything from what candidates stand for to what events they can take their family to that weekend. And though journalism is continually changing, readers should never lose sight of its significance, both on a national and local level.
3. Long Island is like Disney Land: expensive, but has so much to offer.
As someone who grew up on Long Island, it was only when I assumed my role at Anton that I learned just how special it is—the gorgeous beaches, amazing restaurants, charming boutique shops, beautiful parks, world-class libraries, the love affair we have with good bagels—it’s unrivaled.
It has been an exciting whirlwind of a tenure here and I am so incredibly thankful for every opportunity and to everyone I have worked with over the years—and that includes that crazy guy who keeps mailing me anonymous letters about his disdain for the “media.” Thanks for keeping my life interesting for the past six years.
Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear from you! Send a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.