Ten years ago, in January of 2003, we published the first issue of the weekly Long Island Press after several months of experimenting with a bi-weekly music publication called the Island Ear. Transforming the Ear into an alternative newsweekly, something every major market except LI had, made sense on several levels. I’m offering this bit of history to answer a question I hear frequently: Why on earth would you willingly go into the newspaper business?
It’s a good question. These are the 2000s, after all.
At the time, our company owned and operated 92.7 WDRE/WLIR-FM, the heritage alternative rock station in New York, and the first of its kind in the nation. Complementing WLIR with an altweekly, particularly a strong, independent-minded paper that the Island sorely needed, made strategic sense. Moreover, we were running a music and event venue called the Vanderbilt in Plainview and a newspaper came in handy when promoting acts outside the format of the radio station.
These were hectic and exciting days. We were not without our foibles and gaffes (biker brawl, anyone?), but we had a lot of fun and, for a while, everything worked. Gradually, however, pieces of the company and people began to break away. The radio station was sold to Univision and the Vanderbilt was sold to Nassau OTB. Then my business partner and I went our separate ways; he stayed in radio, and I ran a restaurant inside our former facility and took the helm of the newspaper.
There are many more details, some sordid and bitter, some joyous and downright funny. But along with countless memories, they have washed away under the bridge. Throughout it all, without even realizing it, I was falling madly in love with the newspaper business. I was smitten with the Long Island Press. The staff, the words, everything. I fell in love with the work and remain hopelessly committed to it today. (Being a lousy restaurateur helped solidify my path.) To say that our industry has changed would be a gross understatement. Despite the public’s increased appetite for news and information, the splintering of interests and fragmentation of channels have presented a challenge to traditional media outlets. General interest publications such as news magazines and daily newspapers have suffered terribly during the digital revolution; alternative weeklies have declined in revenue and circulation during this period as well, though not nearly to the same extent. But it was enough to make me begin pondering a different relationship with my muse.
To be in love with your work is a gift, one that none of us takes for granted. And despite the Chicken Little prognostications for our industry, we had a good year, which has allowed me to make this decision from a position of strength instead of with my back to the wall. If anything, once we stopped resisting changes brought about by the Internet, it became a blessing instead of a curse; the growth of our digital platforms gave us the ability to disseminate information as quickly and accurately as Newsday. This eye-opening process has freed our minds from the mental constraints of the physical publishing world. Ultimately it has given us permission to ask ourselves what we want to write instead of racing to meet artificial deadlines with material we are forced to write.
On a business note, the two primary consequences of reducing the frequency of the Press is producing a bigger book and increasing its circulation. Essentially, going monthly means we are able to add news and features that satiate our artistic and journalistic desires, while staying true to our role in the marketplace.
What is our role, you may ask?
Our stated mission is to inform, entertain and educate the opinion leaders of Long Island. Our practical purpose is to make Newsday suck less. (Delicacy is not my specialty. Sorry.) Professionally, we establish a bridge between intelligent and discerning readers and the advertising community. We are essentially a vehicle for commerce and social engagement and the purveyors of truth on the Island. As the conscience of the local media and the only outlet courageous enough to challenge conventional wisdom, we take our responsibility very seriously.
The decision to transition from weekly to monthly didn’t happen in a vacuum. The success of our sister publication, Milieu magazine, and the growth of our small business program, the Bethpage Best of LI contest and App, have enabled us to grow as an organization. As we look forward to 2013, we see a jam-packed production schedule that includes 10 glossy issues of Milieu, several specialty publications, and a new project you will see on newsstands beginning this month. Our company is the custom engine behind Living Out, a new GLBT publication on LI, published by David Kilmnick and the staff of Long Island GLBT Services Network.
Since the days of WLIR and WDRE, breaking new ground is in our DNA. It’s who we are, so it’s what we do. So while it may look as though the Press is downshifting, in reality we are moving forward full throttle. It’s as though we have suffered from a multiple personality disorder all these years and are finally setting our personalities free. The Press as our professor in a corduroy jacket and leather elbow patches, Milieu as our stylish and confident feminine persona, Bethpage Best of LI as our inner entrepreneur and Living Out as our free-spirited, gay side. (Still working on a title for the foul-mouthed, neurotic Mets/Jets/Isles fan publication.) It’s been an honor to publish the Press for the past decade. Hopefully you’ll be as excited as we are about our next 10 years as a monthly. After that, we will probably just download directly into a chip surgically implanted in your skull.