A Third Of A Century And Still Beginning
could never have imagined it.
Gary Ackerman is a visionary; but when in 1970, the 25 year-old teacher
rented a desk in the back of a real estate office in Kew Gardens Hills,
and declared himself editor and publisher of the new monthly Tribune,
he couldn’t have possibly imagined the journalistic journey the Tribune
was going to take.
gave birth, steered it, prodded it and loved it until the late seventies
when he found his real calling. Gary had big ideas for himself — he was
committed to a life of public service — in elective office.
was 1979 and I was a NYC school principal and had just run the successful
campaign for Gary — my much older college buddy. I wound up managing —
on a part-time basis — his struggling newspaper business, while he
prepared for his new life in elective office. The Tribune
was localized in the Flushing area and was a 12 to 16 page weekly.
1982, the Tribune had grown; I left the school system,
became Gary’s partner and remember our understanding way back then. Gary
turned the reigns of the Trib over to me. He would go on and
run the country; I would run the business. As I’ve said many times
before when I’ve told the Trib story, just look around,
clearly I’ve done the better job. I also view that career change as one
of the most rewarding decisions I’ve ever made.
Trib wasn’t new to me, I’d dabbled with it since its
infancy: I was its volunteer contest editor. In the late 70’s, I renewed
my role as contest editor, borrowing the name of Harley Benson, a reporter
created by “All In The Family” genius Norman Lear, when the Tribune
was used on TV as the community newspaper covering Archie Bunker’s
neighborhood and grandson little Joey’s adventures entering the Trib’s
“Beautiful Baby Contest.”
1982 I also penned a column called “The Pub” which began my weekly
writing. By the late 80’s, my award winning column “QUIPs — Queens
In Politics,” provided me with a weekly outlet to unite my love of
wordsmithing with my passion for politics.
recently, in 1999, at the urging of Trib editor Tamara
Hartman, I again made the commitment to weekly, put word to paper and
“Not For Publication” was born and has not missed a week since.
between “Quips” and “Not 4 Pub,” the Trib and I had
another adventure. In 1989, Gary and I sold our little hometown Queens newspaper
to a public company, News Communications. I expanded the Tribune
into a nine edition borough-wide newspaper. Then News Communications gave
me added responsibility and at the end of 1991, I became president of the
grew the company, which at its peak published 23 weekly newspapers
including Dan’s Papers in the Hamptons, Our Town in
Manhattan, and The Hill in Washington, DC. With our network in the
Metro New York area, I began contributing to and editing a citywide
political and gossip page, “NYConfidential” — which ultimately gave
birth to the Trib’s weekly “QConfidential” page.
my business successes, my responsibilities changed, causing my computer
screen to be filled with spreadsheets and annual reports instead of
columns and contests. It was a marvelous learning and growing experience
but I missed the words and the news.
last year the opportunity presented itself and with Gary, Trib
Associate Publisher Mike Nussbaum and a new group of friends committed to
our vision of community journalism, we reacquired the Queens Tribune.
Now that little paper born at a single desk in the rear of the real estate
office was again back home in Queens, headquartered in our 8,000 square
foot building on the service road of the L. I. E. in Fresh Meadows.
publishing adventure has been historic. The idea of a free, large
circulation community newspaper was basically unheard of until we appeared
back in 1970. There were resort papers, and subscription papers but a free
community weekly, they said it would never last. Well, a third of a
century later, we’re going strong, growing and looking for more.
those 33 1/3 years we brought changes to our industry. In 1987 we were the
first community weekly on the east coast to begin using (process) full
color printing. Two years later in 1990, we celebrated our 20th
anniversary by wrapping the Trib
with a glossy cover — now an industry standard for special editions.
“Our Official Guide to Queens,” introduced sometime in the 80’s, has
been imitated but never equaled. The annual remains the most comprehensive
reference to our borough. The seven year-old Tribune Online
(www.QueensTribune.com), with some 5000 plus web pages, was the first such
effort on the part of a metro New York community newspaper. We entered the
world of e-commerce long before it was fashionable. We built our site
in-house and to this very day Tribune staffers have teamed
up to offer the most thorough online resource on Queens, which received an
impressive 117,000 visitors last month. In 2000, we launched a new
publication, the PRESS of Southeast Queens, to provide
quality community journalism to a previously underserved audience. That
project continues to grow, adding to the Tribune’s rich history
and contributing to its promising future.
borough coverage is complete. We are the largest and dominant community
weekly around. But we are still excited about the future challenges.
I’m a proud parent. There is a lot to be proud about with the Tribune:
with our commitment to advocacy journalism and our quality weekly in-depth
reporting, we’ve made a difference.
there are many too many to name, who share in the effort and deserve the
editors, reporters, artists, sales and office staffs that have shared in
the dream over the past 33 years have contributed to our baby’s growth.
The team we have today is clearly the most talented one we have yet to
assemble and we expect them to be making headlines of their own in the
wife Lil and our kids Lee and Allison, who tolerate my crazy schedule, my
endless hours online and a house full of newsprint, provide me with the
love and support one needs after a day in our business. Lee, first as
editor of his college newspaper and now pursuing graphic arts at an
advertising agency in the city serves as my occasional design consultant.
most importantly, are the people of Queens — our readers. The issues on
their minds are the same issues of concern to the people of our great city
and nation — and most likely even more global in commonality. This
borough, where we have served as a community sounding board for a third of
a century, represents the rich diverse life for which people all over the
world strive. And they come here in droves, reaching for their dreams.
Queens in many ways is the true center of our city, country and even the
world. The folks in Manhattan will never understand this, but it doesn’t
understand it in China; they understand it in South America and the
Caribbean; in Korea and India and Russia too. What really matters is it is
understood in Flushing where this paper was born; and in Forest Hills,
Astoria, Bayside, Howard Beach, St. Albans, Jackson Heights, Jamaica and
Sunnyside. The people of Queens are at the heart of what really matters.
They don’t necessarily lead in style or commerce. The world doesn’t
look to them as leaders in the arts — although that is beginning to
change. And while, the people of our borough contribute in all areas of
life, it is their values — social mores, interpersonal understanding —
the true concept of community, in which the borough of Queens has led the
world into this third millennium. And this world could do well to learn
from the harmony and peace of our Queens multicultural mosaic.
as the world changes, the community of the future will likely be defined
by the folks from Queens — not by study, but by life, by example. We
present an essential model if the people of this earth are to survive in
peace. And as we define life in the 21st
century, the Tribune
relishes the challenge of being there to cover the experience.
for the first 33 1/3.
spin on it: the best is yet to come.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@queenspress.com