Celia Weintrob laid out her expectations for me in a single sentence that appeared in the March 23, 2017 edition of this paper: “I expect future issues of The Press — starting with this one — to be compelling reads.”
Normally, a story like this introducing a new editor includes some nice friendly, sometimes non-specific quotes from the higher-ups wishing someone the best of luck. But for the story announcing my arrival, our then-general manager made it clear to me that this wasn’t just going to be work to maintain the status quo.
No. This was The Riverdale Press. Its history was rich, but the impact it has had on this part of the Bronx was even greater. And there was absolutely no room for me to come in and mess things up.
Here we are, 200 issues later. If you feel that we have fallen short of those goals, blame me. That’s my responsibility. And as editor, the buck stops at my desk. However, if you feel that we have achieved those expectations — as we hear many readers tell us every day — then don’t credit me. Credit this team, from the bottom to the top. Because even running a community newspaper is not the job of a single person, but instead of a group of the most talented, the hardest working, and least motivated by money.
Before walking through the doors of The Press, I felt my career in journalism had run its course. I’d accomplished all that I wanted, and was very happy to start exploring something new. The election of Donald Trump in 2016 changed that. I was disgusted by how the media covered that election — allowing many untruths to go unchallenged. And while I had no inclination to work a national desk taking on Washington politics, I knew there had to be a community out there perfect for me. And I’ve found it here in the Bronx, never looking back.
While I expected four years under Donald Trump was not going to be pleasant, I never imagined — as I started my 30th year as a journalist — I would experience the disaster this president has wrought.
And it’s not just the coronavirus pandemic, although that’s right near the top. Just when you think you’ve seen the worst, Trump takes it a step further. We saw that on Jan. 6, when Capitol Hill was attacked for the first time since the War of 1812, and a bunch of idiots with Confederate battle flags and Trump paraphernalia actually tried to pull off a coup d’etat.
It’s surprising many of these buffoons who invaded the hallowed halls of Congress even knew where they were, but even the dumbest mobs are still mobs — and such a collection of people can be quite unpredictable. And dangerous.
At least five people died, including a law enforcement officer. But they didn’t succeed. Still a little shaken, Congress finished its Constitutionally mandated work of preparing Biden and Kamala Harris for Jan. 20.
Despite his complicity in inciting such a riot, Trump continued his completely debunked claims that the White House was stolen from him. Not a single state election official believed him. Not a single judge — even the ones he appointed — believed him. Not even a single U.S. Supreme Court justice believed him, and he installed three of them. Yet, these insurrectionists believed Trump, and made a very real effort to subvert the will of the people.
If all this doesn’t prove to you the importance of an independent media, then I don’t know what would. Imagine if we only relied on what the government told us with no checks or balances. Trump would be president for life, with his children ready to step in behind him to take over.
The last four years were also some of the most dangerous for journalists in American in history. We’ve been especially targeted by a number of groups, not just those led by an overhyped real estate developer. While community journalism is probably far safer than higher levels, our work here doesn’t always make us the most friends, especially in high places. But then it shouldn’t. If government officials love us, then it’s pretty clear we’re doing something wrong.
And we’ll keep doing it. I’ve put my heart and soul into each of the 200 issues I’ve led over the last four years, and I’ll do it for at least 200 more if you ask. And not just me, but everyone here at your community newspaper.
Just please keep supporting us. Make sure you’re subscribed, or that you’re picking up a copy each week when you visit a local store. As you spend money at local businesses, remind them you saw their ad in the newspaper — or ask why you didn’t see their ad in the paper.
And, if you are so compelled, don’t be afraid to give a little extra to help ensure community journalism remains alive and well here in this part of the Bronx at RiverdalePress.com/donate.
We’ll continue to do our part in making The Riverdale Press a compelling read each week. And we hope you’ll do your part to guarantee we can keep doing it.
The author is editor of The Riverdale Press.