I Will Miss You All
I was first asked whether I wanted to edit the Shawangunk Journal in late 2010, after two hyper-local community newspapers I was editing folded in Olive and Phoenicia. At the time I decided to try my lot with community radio, but a year later I realized that earning a living was helped immensely by the presence of a salary. So I finally took over the helm for this fine regional weekly on my birthday a little over five and a half years ago.
The first issue I edited focused on a chemical spill at the Watchtower Farms property on the Gardiner/Shawangunk border. The second featured a potential purchaser for the old Nevele property, promoting the idea of turning it into a casino in time for the state's as-yet-unannounced legalization of such gambling in the region. Over the coming months we covered hate crime charges against a Rondout Valley student, complaints against school budgets (and salaries), an old large-scale development's gradual emergence as a key issue in Bloomingburg and Mamakating, the return of homecoming events around the region, and internal battles about economic development and community optimism.
I've worked with other publications throughout my time focused on Ellenville and its surrounding communities in the Rondout Valley, Town of Crawford, Mamakating, and portions of the Wallkill Valley. But none had the depth and breadth of news covered in the Journal, which proved central to some mighty big stories these past years, from a huge lawsuit involving charges of anti-Semitism in Pine Bush to massive legal battles, including impending jail time for a noted developer, in Bloomingburg; from great hopes for the Nevele's gaming future to today's quiet belief that its current owners will finally come forth with good news regarding their latest plans to rebirth the old resort as a new regional sports center.
We followed the Williams Lake battles, the start of a Rochester constabulary, the Ellenville Million and birth of a new culinary destination street in the old village, renovations at the Stone Ridge Library, and new school district and college administrative heads around the region. There were murders, tragic passings, amazing feel good stories about local heroes and the quieter sorts who make our communities as great as they all are.
Throughout all this news, I've had the opportunity to work with dozens of dedicated reporters, columnists, and community letter writers, all giving their best... not for the money (no, this business does NOT pay well), but for the chance to get at what makes our lives click, and progress, beyond the screaming headlines that dominate our state and national news in magazines, on television, and more recently via social media. And I've been happy to help them find opportunities beyond here whenever possible; not to steal our area's thunder, but to expand it... to show everyone in our greater region what talent we have here.
Sure, these have been hard times to have ink in one's veins. It hurts to hear folks scream about "fake news" who know nothing about what goes into this business. Yes, we make mistakes — we don't cover some things as well as we should, and even get our facts wrong on occasion. But we're always quick to admit our mistakes and correct them.
This job is not about pride or profit, but about what it takes to record what community means, and help it achieve all that's possible.
But I'm digressing. Why am I moving on? It's hard to live away from a community one covers, and we're moving our family to Albany for our son's education. Plus, I'm doubling down on what I like to do most, which is write... and digress. I've got some fiction projects that need finishing, several longer non-fiction pieces that have stood around too long. Some of the other publications I work with need me more. I've got a radio project I want to get involved with (money or not). My life beckons.
More importantly, the Shawangunk Journal feels healthy enough to live a strong life without me. The communities we cover all seem to have leaped over difficult times... Instead of focusing on the bad around them, they've again got optimism, a sense of their own potential, their rising futures.
Will I miss all this? You bet! But you can also rest assured that from such feelings more writing will arise.
I thank you all for having allowed me the honor of serving you these years. I thank you for all you've given me.
– Paul Smart