16 May 2011
Writer's Note: For those of you who don't know, LH! Weekly newspaper, which covered Lake Hopatcong, Jefferson, Mount Arlington, Landing and Hopatcong, has suspended publication -- our last issue was April 22 -- after almost one year of existence. That decision was made May 4. Jessica Kitchin, editor of Lake Hopatcong News & Reviews, has kindly allowed me to publish this column looking back at my time at LH! Weekly, since I didn't have a chance to do so there before it folded. So, here it goes...
For about nine years, starting in June 2001, I had worked at daily newspapers, mostly on the copy desk. This is where all the pieces of the newspaper puzzle get put together -- the headlines and cutlines are written, the stories and photos are edited, the pages are designed. All this time, I worked pretty crazy hours, usually 4 p.m. to midnight-ish.
On April 7, 2010, I received a job offer to serve as editor of the yet-to-be-launched LH! Weekly, the week after Publishers David Slavin and Gene Petraglia interviewed me for the position in Morristown. At that time, I learned that the position would entail coming up with a content and design strategy for both print and online (www.lhweekly.com) -- in other words, what kinds of stories, photos and video would be included, as well as, what would the paper look like? The paper would cover not only events on Lake Hopatcong, but issues facing the communities around the lake. I would also become involved in the community. This job would be different. Very different from my previous ones. This would be a much more public role. I agreed -- after asking many questions -- to come on board.
My favorite part of the job was being out in the communities that LH! Weekly covered.
One of my best memories was attending the Mount Arlington mayoral debate between incumbent Arthur Ondish and Veronica Silkes, independent, on Monday, Oct. 18, at The Arlington Caterers. The newspaper was asked to solicit questions from its readers and to advertise the event. Many area residents attended, leaving standing room only, not something you always find at these kinds of events nowadays. The results of the election were even more interesting -- Ondish had won the election, but by only more than 100 votes. In addition, two Borough Council members resigned while LH! Weekly was published: William Doran and Nita Galate.
Also in October, LH! Weekly ran a series of inspirational articles in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, telling the stories of several survivors in the area. But we took it one step further -- we held a fundraiser ourselves, called "LH! for the Cure," to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Participants in the fundraiser attended a Jazzercise class -- in either Succasunna or Lake Hopatcong -- and received coupons from local businesses and a T-Shirt. We ended up raising $1,300.
I recently interviewed Hopatcong pacifist Judith Arnold. Ironically, I spoke to her only days before Osama bin Laden was killed. Arnold, who was a teacher for 25 years, recently retired and has decided to now dedicate her time to volunteering for New Jersey Peace Action as peace site coordinator. She first got involved in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War.
I had the privelege of sitting down twice with Ray Fernandez, owner of Bridge Marina, the first time to discuss The Lake Hopatcong Alliance, of which he is president, and the second time to discuss his winning of the 2010 Marina of the Year Award. It's obvious that Fernandez puts his heart and soul into the marina and that he loves what he does. These are the stories worth telling around Lake Hopatcong.
LH! Weekly also ran a series of articles on the Jefferson school board -- I attended many of these late-night meetings myself. Topics of controversy included pulling Scott Reid as high school varsity coach, and suspending English teacher Kirsten Smith after allegations surfaced. Also important to note is that voters passed the Jefferson, Roxbury and Mount Arlington school budgets this year. Jefferson will see no tax increase; however, both Roxbury and Mount Arlington will see 2 percent rises. Hopatcong's, however, was defeated yet again. Time will tell what the tax burden will be on the taxpayer after the Borough Council comes to its conclusion. In addition, I'd like to thank Superintendent Charles Maranzano Jr. for participating in almost-weekly videos for our website, LHweekly.com, from the beginning of the school year, discussing important issues in education. He is a fierce defender and advocate of public education, and I will miss our video shoots.
We also previewed and covered many fundraisers. LH! Weekly believed it was not only our mission to report, but to encourage our readers to take action to help others. One example is the Chris Anderson Festival. This event, which was held at the then-Hopatcong Civic Center in honor of former Hopatcong Warriors President Chris Anderson, who died during a rooftop fall in 2007, raised more than $3,000. Additionally, the Annual Wrobo Run 5K, held in Jefferson to honor 2nd Lt. John T. Wroblewski, who succumbed to injuries sustained while in battle in Iraq, raised funds for a variety of community projects. Those are only two fundraisers held in the area that we reported on. The amazing attendance at these area fundraisers really reflects the sense of community around Lake Hopatcong. Let it continue.
Another highlight of the year was Chris Christie holding a town-hall style meeting in Hopatcong. We "livestreamed" this event for you through our website, and we did the same public service for the Lake Hopatcong Commission hearing on the water levels management plan, which drew a more-than full house.
As a way of encouraging others to give around the holidays, we ran a cover story called "A Time to Give," which listed all the local food pantries that were available to local residents, and explained how one can give to the pantries, too.
LH! Weekly also highlighted many local businesses, such as The Jefferson Diner, 5 Bowling Green Parkway, Lake Hopatcong. The story of the Seretis brothers' success is amazing -- did you know that it all started with the winnig of a church raffle ticket? This popular diner, which has been featured on the Food Network, is in the process of expanding. Stay tuned to Lake Hopatcong News & Reviews for updates.
We also covered the Lake Hopatcong-area entertainment scene by featuring a "Band of the Week" and an entertainment calendar of all local venues. In addition, we attended many fundraisers held at local restaurants, such as Pavinci's Italian Grill on River Styx Road in Hopatcong, and we helped get the word out that Hopatcong band Goodbye Friday needed your votes in order to perform at a concert in New York City. Someone from LH! Weekly attended every one of the Jefferson Highlights concerts last summer -- from Beatlemania Again to Johnny Cash, and I strongly encourage you to attend these concerts again this summer at the amphitheater at Camp Jefferson, 81 Weldon Road, Lake Hopatcong, put on by Art Bonito and his volunteer crew.
The Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club also celebrated the 100-year anniversary of its clubhouse last summer with a variety of festivities, and LH! Weekly was there to chronicle that event as well.
These are only a few of the stories that LH! Weekly had the privilege of covering from June 4, 2010 to April 22, 2011.
I especially want to thank my wife, Joy, for her unconditional love and support. This job often required long, long hours -- sometimes waking up at 4 a.m. and not getting home until after midnight covering a school board or town council meeting. I have always wanted to own my own newspaper, and this was the closest I've come -- so far. I love you, dear!
I want to thank David Slavin, Gene Petraglia and Peter Best for hiring me as editor of LH! Weekly. Little did I know this would become my favorite job so far in journalism. I want to thank Gary Trella, art director, and the amazing graphic design and customer service crews. This publication would never have been possible without all of your hard work and dedication.
And I want to thank you, the residents of Lake Hopatcong, Mount Arlington, Landing and Hopatcong, for letting us chronicle the many important stories about your lives and the issues important to you. For now, LH! Weekly's website, LHweekly.com, is still up and running. Please check it out -- if you haven't already -- to read the in-depth stories written by my fabulous editorial team. This publication would have never been possible without them, especially Jennifer Jean Miller, George Leroy Hunter, Karen Fucito and Elsie Walker.
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