The Tribune Anniversary Story: Thanx For The Memories
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
I’m not the father . . . but I raised the kid.
The father, Gary Ackerman, a guy who has been making news lately, gave birth to the Tribune 42 years ago – yes, the Congressman is a multi talented guy.
It was 1970, 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.
A year later, in May of 1971, the Tribune moved its offices to a more spacious storefront at 46-25 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing. And as 1971 became 1972, the Tribune launched the first of its regional editions in Forest Hills and announced that it was changing its name to the Queens Tribune, saying that “The second-largest county in New York State and the sixth largest in the nation needs its own paper.” And a college friend of Gary Ackerman by the name of Mike Schenkler began a series of Tribune contests. Although the contests are only very occasional now, I have been a fixture at the Trib for most of the past 40-plus years.
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.”
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.
MY JOURNEY BEGINS
|Schenkler and Ackerman.
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.
Three years later, this writer, the Tribune’s second Publisher, became Ackerman’s partner, and left the school system to run the Tribune full-time.
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.
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.
THE TRIB 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 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 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.
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.
Nineteen years ago we launched the Web’s first comprehensive community news site in the Metro area.
As the Tribune entered the new millennium, it welcomed a new partner in the news, as the PRESS of Southeast Queens made its debut – offering in-depth weekly coverage to a previously underserved area of our borough.
WE RETURN TO OUR 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 year 2006 began with a new and exciting acquisition for our Tribune publishing company.
In 1838, America’s poet, Walt Whitman was a journeyman printer whose addiction to the written word was only equaled by his passion for people. Whitman put the two together when, at age 19, he established a newspaper in the town of Huntington, The Long-Islander. Today, 174 years later, we have the privilege of publishing Whitman’s Long-Islander, the second oldest weekly in New York State.
HAPPY 42nd ANNIVERSARY
Today, as the Tribune celebrates its 42nd Anniversary, I look back with pride at its many scoops, victories and accomplishments. I also look back at its people -- scores of bright, creative, curious and talented journalists who received their start at the Queens Tribune.
And one of them, a guy named Ackerman, who gave birth to our paper, has decided to start another chapter in his remarkable life.
His legacy began on the pages of this paper and have now been writted on the pages of papers across the country and globe.
As we celebrate the 42nd Anniversary of the Queens Tribune, I celebrate its founder, his accomplishments, his vision, our friendship.
Gary, thanks for the memories . . . and those to come.