Queens Tribune 40th Anniversary Story:
Thanx For The Memories
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Follow me on Twitter @QueensTribune
I’m not the father . . . but I raised the kid.
The father, Gary Ackerman, gave birth to the Tribune 40 years ago – yes, the Congressman is a multi talented guy – he even sued the NYC Board of Education for a Paternity leave while birthing the Trib; but that’s a story for another time – it’s true, remember to ask me.
It was 1970 – 40 years ago — and as you’ll read on these pages, Gary and a handful of brave colleagues began the Flushing Tribune, a monthly newspaper from a single desk in the rear of a Main Street real estate office.
|Mayor John Lindsay stops by the first Tribune storefront to meet with Publisher Gary Ackerman.
|Ackerman celebrates his victory in a congressional special election with Gov. Mario Cuomo and Mayor Ed Koch.
|Mike Schenkler holds an editorial meeting with members of the News Communications editorial board.
In 1972, in an extensive Tribune exposé, reporter Hank Sheinkopf revealed the squalid living conditions in old houses on 137th Street in Flushing. Ramshackle, boarded-up and burned-out houses were the rule in what looked like a scene from the Ozarks during the Depression. Sheinkopf would go on to blaze trails as one of the nation’s leading media advisors serving an impressive list of clients including President Bill Clinton. He’s still spinning around.
The Tribune began 1973 by entering its third year as a weekly, rather than a bi-weekly paper.
The National Newspaper Association gave the Tribune a special award for its 1975 fifth anniversary, souvenir bicentennial edition — third place in the entire nation for bicentennial coverage. President Gerald Ford presented the award in Washington, D.C.
Robert Moses, New York’s master builder, wrote a full-page exclusive column for the Tribune on his concerns about the upcoming celebrations of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976.
“Cousin” Bruce Morrow of rock ‘n’ roll radio fame began a regular music column for the Tribune. A local weather column was started by a Queens teacher, Irving Gikovsky, who later went on to fame as television weatherman “Mr. G.”
Vice President Nelson Rockefeller came to Queens to speak before the county’s Republican Committee at a dinner at Antun’s restaurant. Tribune photographer Joe Ullman photographed the event, marking his 1,000th assignment for the paper. The year of the nation’s bicentennial started off with New York Magazine calling the Tribune’s special bicentennial supplements a “gold mine of information on old Queens.”
The Tribune endorsed Jimmy Carter for president in late October. Carter, standing with Governor Hugh Carey, Mayor Abraham Beame and Borough President Donald Manes, smilingly accepted the Trib’s endorsement from publisher Gary Ackerman at Antun’s restaurant in Queens Village.
In February 1977, Tribune founder and publisher Gary Ackerman put to rest months of speculation and formally announced his candidacy for the post of councilman-at-large for Queens.
Ackerman stepped down as editor of the paper in order to run for the Democratic nomination, and David Oats was named executive editor of the Tribune. I served as Ackerman’s campaign chairman.
In 1978, the Tribune became the first newspaper in the city to obtain a full one-on-one interview with the new mayor. Ed Koch sat down with Tribune editors and reporters for an extensive question-and-answer session in his still-bare office at City Hall on his fourth day in office.
MY 30 YEAR JOURNEY BEGINS
In 1979, Gary Ackerman stepped down as Tribune publisher and was sworn in as State Senator. That’s when I, a New York City school principal, took over running the paper, after school, part-time.
|Gary Ackerman, longtime editor David Oats and Mike Schenkler.
|Publisher Mike Schenkler greets newly elected President Bill Clinton.
And the long strange trip continued — a trip of community journalism based on the principle that all news is local and community advocacy is not only the right but obligation of those charged with bringing neighborhood news to the neighborhoods.
In 1981, a young musician who wanted to be a writer took his first job as a journalist with the Queens Tribune. This former Tribune managing editor would go on to set records on the NY Times Best Seller list. Mitch Albom, author of “Tuesdays With Morrie,” like so many others, got his start with this paper.
In 1983, Gary Ackerman won a special election to replace Ben Rosenthal in the Congress of the United States.
In 1985, Borough President Donald Manes proclaimed Queens Tribune Week in honor of this newspaper’s 15th birthday. Manes cited the “dedication, commitment and hard work of its publisher, editors and staff.”
In the same year, I married my wife Lillian, a former Tribune art director I had met at the paper.
In 1987, this columnist and this column’s predecessor, “QUIPS – Queens In Politics,” was recognized by the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in the “Best Column” category.
Next, was a time of growth for the Tribune. The East Coast saw its first four-color community newspaper page as the Tribune continued its tradition as industry innovator, introducing color to community journalism.
The launching of three editions of the new Western Queens Tribune completed the community picture and created the first and only boroughwide Queens newspaper chain.
COMMUNITY NEWS GOES PUBLIC
In 1989, Ackerman and I sold the Queens Tribune to a publicly traded media company News Communications with me continuing on as Publisher while both of us served on the Board of Directors of the public company.
For its 20th Anniversary Edition, the Trib bound itself inside of a glossy cover. This was the first time a community newspaper was stitched-trimmed and wrapped in a glossy – a practice that set the industry standard for special editions that endures 20 years later.
The Tribune moved its offices from Kissena Boulevard to 174-15 Horace Harding Expressway in Fresh Meadows — the building that serves as its home today.
I was named president of News Communications Inc., with overall responsibilities for the operations of it and its sister papers, Our Town, Manhattan Spirit and Dan’s Papers. The company moved its corporate offices from the west side of Manhattan to the Tribune Building on the service road of the LIE making it one of the top 10 Queens-based public companies.
Former Mayor Ed Koch began writing a movie review column for the Tribune and other papers of the News Communications group.
The Queens Tribune celebrated its 22nd anniversary with a record 116-page issue that proclaimed Queens County as the epitome of the classic Melting Pot, more than 100 nationalities calling this borough home, and filling its streets with the aromas, sounds and sights of the “old country,” wherever the old country may be.
|The Queens Tribune is read by decision makers across the city.
In 1994, the Queens Tribune, along with News Communications’ other publications, became the first New York City newspapers to be printed on 100 percent recycled paper. We challenged other city newspapers to follow suit.
Later that year, I won kudos from the Queens Chamber of Commerce when I was named their first Businessman of the Year.
Under my leadership, News Communications grew and by this time was publishing the nine-edition Queens Tribune, four papers in Manhattan, two papers in the Bronx, 11 titles on the south shore of Nassau County, and a weekly chain in southern Brooklyn. The Company was now preparing a most ambitious launch – The Hill, a weekly covering the Congress of the United States.
Yes, it was an exciting period of corporate growth, but the real memories were the news stories that were the heart of the Queens Tribune:
The Tribune exposed the dangerous friable asbestos at Terrace on the Park resulting in a clean-up of the building and dismissal of the franchisee.
The Tribune claimed victory in its 10-month, eight-part battle with the U.S. Postal Service to preserve the names of Queens neighborhoods in addresses.
Former Tribune reporter Kendra Webdale was killed by a schizophrenic who pushed her beneath the wheels of an oncoming Manhattan subway train – several years later, Kendra’s Law was named in her memory.
And there was Avery Mendez, a homeless man who told the Tribune that his Thanksgiving wish was for a warm place to sleep and a meal, only to be found the day after Thanksgiving on his Flushing streets dead . . . of well, homelessness.
The Tribune continued to innovate, and by the mid 90’s was publishing three annual glossy-bound specials: the Official Guide to Queens, the Best of Queens and an Anniversary Edition.
Almost 15 years ago we launched the Web’s first comprehensive community news site in the Metro area. The Trib Online at www.queenstribune.com thrives today with well over two million unique visits each year.
|After 40 years of the Tribune, college buddies Schenkler and Ackerman remain good friends.
THE TRIBUNE RETURNSTO ITS ROOTS
As 2002 drew to a close, the ownership of the largest weekly newspaper in Queens changed hands as the Queens Tribune was acquired by an investment group headed by myself and founder Congressman Gary Ackerman.
Committed to the same principles of community journalism which marked its growth, the new, old Tribune ownership remembered the past and blazed forward towards the future.
This writer was recognized for the second time by the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in the “Best Column” category.
The Tribune began a monthly glossy wrapped stitched and trimmed magazine issue one of which you hold in your hand – or view on screen.
The year 2006 began with a new and exciting acquisition for our Tribune publishing company.
|Walt Whitman founded the Long-Islander in 1838.
Today, 172 later, we have the privilege of publishing Whitman’s Long-Islander, the second oldest weekly in New York State, serving on the Board of Directors of the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association in Huntington and working in Queens and on Long Island to further the tradition of one of the greatest American chroniclers in our history. The acquisition and the legacy of Whitman, has given me new insight into publishing history and perspectives on the legacy of a newspaper.
Today, as the Tribune celebrates its 40th Anniversary, I look back with pride at its many scoops, victories and accomplishments.
And to me, an educator turned journalist, among the greatest reasons for pride are the scores of bright, creative, curious and talented journalists who received their training at the Queens Tribune.
And so for this edition, we reached out to our graduates — our alumni — who were spread far and wide and invited former Tribbies – one for each of our 40 years — to share their memories of covering the news of Queens for the Queens Tribune.
Our legacy can be found in brief on the pages that follow. Our commitment will continue to be found each and every week on the pages of the Queens Tribune.
Thanks for the memories . . . and those to come.
Please send your comments to me at:
Governor Catches a Break, Cuomo Names Kaye
By HENRY STERN
Governor Paterson has at least temporarily escaped from the drumbeat of criticism and demands for his resignation that followed his intrusion in a domestic violence case and his efforts to cadge World Series tickets.
Other stories on State government issues, the Ravitch report which recommends billions of dollars in additional state borrowing in exchange for limiting future appropriations through a financial control board, and the guilty plea by David Loglisci, chief investment officer of the NYS Comptroller’s office under former Comptroller Alan Hevesi (which tightens the prosecutorial noose around Hevesi’s neck), have taken the place of the gubernatorial death watch, now indefinitely deferred.
Attorney General Cuomo, who undertook the investigation Feb. 24 at Governor Paterson’s telephoned request, announced that he was recusing himself from the case and appointing retired Chief Judge Judith Kaye to take over the inquiry.
What happened here is that, in response to Paterson’s request, Cuomo initiated the investigation and his staff worked on it for several weeks. They discovered what they believed was inappropriate behavior by the governor, but they had not yet come to a conclusion as to what do about it, and there were further potential witnesses who could be requested or subpoenaed to testify. Whether the governor’s phone call to the victim and the unsolicited contacts with the State Police rose to the level of criminality was a judgment call, and whatever decision was made would be subject to criticism. This is particularly true because of the racial aspect of the case, and because by the time the decision was made, the Attorney General was likely to be a candidate for governor, and whatever he did would be seen through a political prism. Also, Cuomo’s poll number started falling, not because of anything he did wrong, but because he had become involved in an unpleasant controversy. The bottom line is that you cannot be a competitor and a prosecutor in the same game; people don’t think it is fair.
The choice of Judge Kaye also raises issues which are inevitable when judges enter the political thicket, no matter how gingerly. First, she was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1983 and made Chief Judge in 1993, both by Governor Mario M. Cuomo, a party related to the current Attorney General. Second, she was retained by the Working Families Party in November 2009, when the WFP was under fire for intricate financial transactions with paper subsidiaries which may have been used to evade campaign finance laws. Third, as a relentlessly progressive and merciful judge, she is not likely to find too much fault with Governor Paterson. She could be considered the polar opposite of Ken Starr. On the other hand, Judge Kaye is widely regarded as honorable, and the fact that she is a woman may give her some sympathy for the complainant who was first beaten up by D.J. and then harassed by the State Police, before the governor personally assured her that he would support her, the day before she failed to show up in court, at which time the charges were dropped.
As far as the World Series allegations are concerned, they are relatively penny-ante. The Yankees should invite the governor to the World Series out of courtesy, and if codes of ethics prohibit that, they should be modified to conform to common sense. If the tickets cost $50 or thereabouts, it would be reasonable for the governor to pay for them himself to make a point, but to pay $850 for two seats is an unreasonable burden. It would look foolish for the governor to have to sit in the upper deck because of the price the Yankees charge for series tickets.
The governor was foolish to submit a check D.J. signed for him with a backdated signature, and even more so if he did not tell the truth about it. But if the lie is about his intention to pay, that is a very weak case for perjury. Who knows his state of mind? He probably intended to pay for the ticket if he was dunned for the money. In any event, it became an issue. The Yankees should have asked him to be their guest. It is likely that there were other invited guests on opening night of the World Series. At any rate, this is a reasonable use of campaign funds: intended to help the governor politically by presenting him at large public occasions, even if he is widely booed.
These side shows distract public attention from the budget abyss the state continues to face as time proceeds and the treasury empties. We suspect that the governor and legislators are so far behind schedule that they will not be able to make meaningful decisions by March 31, the date required by law for the adoption of the spending plan for next year. For 19 years out of the last 23 the state has failed to meet that deadline. The earth will not shatter (hopefully, not in New York) if the deadline is missed again.
What is particularly lamentable is the snail’s pace at which work is being done. With the Senate hopelessly divided, with neither party having the votes to pass anything, at least until the Monserrate vacancy is filled, it is highly unlikely that a majority can be assembled to make difficult decisions on the budget or any other subject. The longer the delay, the less money will be left in the coffers, and the deeper the cuts will have to be.
Unless the Ravitch plan postpones the day of reckoning to 2011.
La commedia non e finita.