Queens Tribune 35th Anniversary Story
The Tribune two: Mike Schenkler and Gary Ackerman in the early Tribune days in the 1970s
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
I’m not the father . . . but I raised the kid.
The father, Gary Ackerman, gave birth to the Tribune 35 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.
The first Trib, 1970.
It was 1970 – 35 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.
A year later, in May of 1971, the Tribune moved its offices to a more spacious storefront at 46-25 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing. Within a year it would expand to another storefront next door, which it shared with its new printing and typesetting arm, Multi-Media, Inc. 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 which has continued on and off to this very day.
Trib Publisher Gary Ackerman and reporter Hank Sheinkopf in 1972.
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
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 and visited the Tribune’s offices to kick it off. A local weather column was started by a Queens teacher, Irving Gikovsky, who later went on to fame as television weatherman “Mr. G.”...
Trib founder Gary Ackerman, long-time Trib editor David Oats and Trib Publisher Michael Schenkler in a recent photo.
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. Ackerman’s friend Mike Schenkler, served as Ackerman’s campaign chairman.
Ackerman’s Congressional victory celebration with Mayor Ed Koch and Governor Mario Cuomo in 1983.
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.
In 1979, Gary Ackerman stepped down as Tribune publisher and was sworn in as State Senator. Michael Schenkler, a New York City school principal took over running the paper, after school, part-time.
In 1987, the Tribune introduced process four color printing with this Norman Rockwell holiday special.
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 selling 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, this writer married his wife Lillian, a former Tribune art director he 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.
The Tribune’s 20th Anniversary Special in 1990 introduced the concept of a glossy bound
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.
In 1989, Ackerman and Schenkler sold the Queens Tribune to a publicly traded media company News Communications with Schenkler continuing on as Publisher while both 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 standard for special editions that endures 15 years later.
The Tribune moved its offices from Kissena Blvd. to 174-15 Horace Harding Expressway in Fresh Meadows -- the building that serves as its home today.
Tribune Publisher Michael Schenkler – you know him — 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.
Introducing the family to Queens news - (Left): A 1987 photo of a young Lee Katzman, son of Trib Publisher Mike Schenkler, with Borough President Claire Shulman and her daughter astroronaut Ellen Shulman Baker who had recently returned from outer space where she travelled with a copy of the Tribune. (Right): In 2000, Schenkler’s wife Lil and daughter Allison accompanied him to meet first lady Hillary Clinton.
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, with over 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.
In 1993 former Tribune advertising salesman John DiGiovanni was among the five people killed by the first terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, reminding us just how personal the news really is.
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. NCI President Michael Schenkler challenged other city newspapers to follow suit.
Later that year, Schenkler won kudos from the Queens Chamber of Commerce when he was named their first Businessman of the Year.
In 1992 the Tribune declared Queens as the3 world’s multi-cultural capital with this special edition
Under Schenkler’s 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 expose into 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.
News Communications President Michael Schenkler with the Trib mangement team in a photo that appeared in the New York Times in 1992 with a story of about successful community newspaper publishing.
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 exposure.
The Tribune Goes Glossy By the mid 90’s the Tribune was publishing three glossy bound annuals: The Official Guide to Queens (top left from 1999), the Best of Queens (above 1997) and a Special Anniversary Issue (left 2000).
The stories were many, and as you read the pages which follow, we offer a review of each year in brief. We recount history, jog memories and chronicle the story of our home, Queens, New York.
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.
Close to a decade 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 100,000 unique visits each and every month.
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.
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 its longtime publisher Michael Schenkler, and it founder, Congressman Gary Ackerman.
In 1992, Trib Publisher Michael Schenkler meets a newly elected President Bill Clinton.
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.
Today, as it celebrates its 35th Anniversary, the Queens Tribune publishes a glossy wrapped, stitched and bound special edition every month and looks 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 alumnmi -- who were spread far and wide and invited former Tribbies – one for each of our 35 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.