Heather Smith gives up gems in return to community journalism

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The Riverdale Press is welcoming a touch of the south to its newsroom.

Heather J. Smith joins the staff as the new education and transportation reporter, replacing Simone Johnson, who has moved on to write for a Manhattan-based financial magazine.

Although born in Trinity, North Carolina — a community of more than 6,500 people about an hour away from Duke University — Smith has lived in New York City since 2016, working in the communications department of the Gemological Institute of America.

Before that, however, Smith spent nearly a decade as a reporter, beginning with the Reidsville Review in the northern part of North Carolina, before taking her talents first to The Dispatch in Lexington, and later the Enquirer Journal in Monroe.

“Even in the greatest and largest city in America, grassroots community journalism is more important than ever,” Riverdale Press editor Michael Hinman said. “And there’s really no better place to discover hyperlocal reporting than in our small towns and communities. Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Spuyten Duyvil, Fieldston, Marble Hill — these are not just communities in the Bronx. These are our communities, and sharing the stories involving and affecting each and every one of our neighbors is the backbone of what we do.”

Smith was drawn to journalism simply because she finds herself a naturally curious person. And while she’s written stories since she was old enough to hold a pencil, she actually first entered the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as a music major, before ultimately switching to an English degree.

During her time as a reporter, Smith has covered everything from murder trials to massive sewage spills to long hoped-for family reunions. She’s also covered miracle births, unexploded Civil War cannonballs, a winery in a treehouse, and even fist-fighting drag queens.

At The Press, Smith will be responsible for covering the public schools in the community, as well as the parochial, private and charter schools, not to mention institutions like Manhattan College, the College of Mount Saint Vincent, and Lehman College. She’ll also take on transportation — a beat that stretches from the struggling Metropolitan Transportation Authority to creating enough parking spaces on the streets.

In her spare time, Smith enjoys gem collecting, jewelry making, podcast-listening and travel. She also finds time to play violin a community orchestra, and aspires to compete in a roller derby league.

Smith’s mother lives at Kitty Senior Apartments in Fordham Manor.

The Riverdale Press was founded in 1950 by David and Celia Stein, and is currently published by Stuart and Clifford Richner.

Smith can be reached at (718) 543-6065, Ext. 323, or at hsmith@riverdalepress.com.

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