From Scratch: Founding & Running a Regional News Service

From late 2009 through late 2015, I founded and was publisher, collaborative designer, reporter, editor, photographer and advertising/subscription sales and marketing head for my own rolling local news publication, the Riverside Signal, which included probably as many formats, shapes and sizes as can be imagined.

A trial by fire every step of the way, the experience helped shape and sharpen all the above attributes, and here I focus on the writing aspect, that is, covering the council meetings, community and school events, historical and cultural curiosities and so on for the seven towns on our radar. At turns interesting, lifting, boring and exciting, they combine and offer a look at the Toms River and mid-Barnegat Bay area that is equal parts unique apart from and common along with every other town and region that exists in America and beyond today.

For those interested in writing samples, what follows is a short, clickable list of various articles and features created during this period representing a much larger body of work that extends up to the end of 2015 (available if desired):

Later Articles (2014/2015):

FIRST LOOK: 775-Acre County Open Land Buy at Berkeley/Beachwood Border
Playground Built, Dedicated in Memory of Ptl. Jay Marles
County Fair FLOP: Rides Closed on Camp Day
New Seaside Park Funtown Pier Plans Revealed
News Photography: In Autumn
In Photos: Seaside Park Lifeguard Tournament 2015
Downtown Beachwood Block Demolished for CVS Pharmacy
News Photography: Summertime Lighthouse Beach Bonfire
Beachwood Reverses Decision, Declares Trick or Treating on Oct. 30th
Former Beachwood Clerk Captured Iconic Photo Three Days Before Attacks
Downtown Partly Darkened by Utility Pole Crash on Water Street
Veteran Homecoming: Toms River Firefighter, Pfc. John D. Mount
Beauty by the Sea: Boro Group Turns Tragedy into Triumph
Toms River Fire Co. No. 1 Gathers in Spirit of 9/11

Earlier Articles (2010/2011):

Turbine Questions In Writing Only, Council Says – March 25th, 2010
Riverside Drive Remodel Work Approved – May 24th, 2010
Summer Camp Gears Up, Expands – June 4th, 2010
Boardwalk Replacement Underway – June 8th, 2010
Resident Seeks Cleanup, Reopening of Brookforest Beach Club – June 12th, 2010
Mel Winge, Prominant Community Volunteer, Dies at 69 – July 14th, 2010
The Blue Comet – Documentary of Famed, Doomed Train Makes Stops Along Shore – August 2nd, 2010
LaCrosse and Zakar Swept into Office with ‘Good Old Days’ Message – November 7th, 2010
Problems Persist at Summit/Bay Avenue Subdivision – November 11th, 2010
The Story of Officer Marles’ Candlelight Vigil – November 26th, 2011
Blizzard Bombs Boroughs with 28 Inches of Snow – January 1st, 2011
Outgoing Officials Recognized for Service – January 1st, 2011
Champagne on Haiti: Devastation and Life – January 10th, 2011
The Secret World of Iceboating – January 18th, 2011
Iceboating on the Toms River: A Wintertime Playground – January 18th, 2011

Below are some photos taken that sketch part of the journey that was the Riverside Signal, giving small insight into the amount of work involved in simply writing stories down and putting them out to the public, shown here as during the last burst of print before smartphones and tablets really became widespread in suburbia.

A quick shot of the first

A quick shot of the first “storyboard” I threw together to keep track of stories, sections and pages of the first print edition, published Christmas Eve Day 2010, distributed to homes and businesses then, and then promptly buried under two feet of snow, then another foot or so, and mostly discovered by surprised homeowners in the spring (though copies in the businesses did fly out the door during and after the holiday).

A 2011 view of the production office space.

A 2011 view of the production office space.

Phil Schmidt helps lay out one of the print editions.

Phil Schmidt helps lay out one of the print editions.

The end result was picked up late at night from our printer ten miles up the Garden State Parkway, then immediately bagged and distributed throughout the area along with a handful of friends and paid part-timers.

The end result was picked up late at night from our printer ten miles up the Garden State Parkway, then immediately bagged and distributed throughout the area along with a handful of friends and paid part-timers.

Another view of an early load of papers at the printer's warehouse, seen inside a borrowed SUV for the effort.

Another view of an early load of papers at the printer’s warehouse, seen inside a borrowed SUV for the effort.

Early on, as we figured out the best way to distribute, some guerrilla tactics were used, borrowing space from competitors during their 'off' time, before their next editions were released.

Early on, as we figured out the best way to distribute, some guerrilla tactics were used, borrowing space from competitors during their ‘off’ time, before their next editions were released.

In Summer 2011, we acted on a tip of a hoard of old newsboxes given to a charity in Asbury Park, which we then purchased for $10 a pop.

In Summer 2011, we acted on a tip of a hoard of old newsboxes given to a charity in Asbury Park, which we then purchased for $10 a pop.

A collaborative design of the newsbox logo from my sketches but expertly composed by Sally Dracikiewicz.

A collaborative design of the newsbox logo from my sketches but expertly composed by Sally Dracikiewicz.

Longtime friend Andrew Mauro affixes the decals to the newsbox fleet, which earlier was repainted by a local auto body shop in exchange for advertising.

Andrew Mauro affixes the decals to the newsbox fleet, which earlier was repainted by a local auto body shop in exchange for advertising.

The first newsbox hits the street in the local downtown business district. The 50 cent charge was quickly dropped, a sign of declining fortunes to come in the local industry as it became clearly evident that neither businesses nor readers were interested in spending any money.

The first newsbox hits the street in the local downtown business district for the March 2012 edition.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s