In the Times: Reflecting on our own history

From left, Times columnists and contributors Erika Gradecki, who writes Lighten Up; Erica Moser, Day business writer; Robert Welt, Remembrance of Things Past; Maria Proulx, Teen Talk; John Steward, Tossing Lines, Suzanne Thompson, alumnus; Lee Howard, editor; Lee White, Lee’s Kitchen; Jill Whitney, Personal Connections; Kathy Connolly, Green & Growing; Lee Edwards, Safer Driving, and Jim Streeter, History Revisited.
From left, Times columnists and contributors Erika Gradecki, who writes Lighten Up; Erica Moser, Day business writer; Robert Welt, Remembrance of Things Past; Maria Proulx, Teen Talk; John Steward, Tossing Lines, Suzanne Thompson, alumnus; Lee Howard, editor; Lee White, Lee’s Kitchen; Jill Whitney, Personal Connections; Kathy Connolly, Green & Growing; Lee Edwards, Safer Driving, and Jim Streeter, History Revisited.

For a newspaper that prides itself on telling the stories of local people, we’ve pretty much ignored our own story.

The Times, as you may be aware, burst onto the local scene about 15 years ago when The Day’s immediate past publisher, Gary Farrugia, and then managing editor Lance Johnson asked me to take over two broadsheet weeklies bought from two young entrepreneurs. I was given three weeks to hire about a dozen new writers and editors to expand the weeklies into four new towns, and a year later we added another three towns, making nine newspapers in all and a staff, at its height, of 21.

We withstood a couple floods and lots of turmoil in the newspaper industry to publish some first-rate journalism, winning four national prizes and more than four dozen regional awards in the three years I served as the Times’ managing editor.

But the times were changing, and The Day decided to change course, first ending publication of the Westerly Times, then downsizing the staff of the weeklies and turning to a new format to grab more eyeballs online. It was time for me to move on as well, and a succession of dedicated editors followed.

When Kathleen Edgecomb decided to retire, I was named to replace her, and one of the first things I did was to start reaching out to the community, knowing our small staff here at the Times couldn’t do it all. We sought out new voices, and were lucky to get a lot of great responses from freelance writers interested in health, nature, teen issues and history, among other subjects.

But over history, freelancers had never come together to meet one another. So earlier this month Libby Friedman and I hosted a party at our house to say thank you for bringing local information, opinion and stories to life.

It was great to see everyone getting to know one another, including a few alumni from our previous incarnation as a broadsheet. We will undoubtedly do it again next year, on our Sweet 16 birthday, because we are not only writing about history at the Times, we are now making it as well.

Lee Howard, The Day’s community editor, can be reached at l.howard@theday.com or (860) 701-4356.

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