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Editor's Letter

Thank you, Long Beach

Posted

After 10 fulfilling years with the Long Beach Herald and Richner Communications, it is with a heavy heart that I announce my last day, Jan. 9, as your local newspaper editor.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I’ve made close friends both at work and in town whom I care about deeply, and working in this community has been an absolute pleasure and privilege.

I will very much miss my colleagues and the many residents in town whom I look forward to speaking to on a daily basis. Without a doubt, working here has been a tremendous growth experience for me, not just professionally but personally, as I formed lifelong, life-enriching friendships. For that I am extremely grateful.

The Herald has truly felt like home for the past 10 years. However, I’m excited to embark on the next chapter of my life, challenge myself and continue to grow as a journalist and as a person.

Over the past decade, I’ve covered two major hurricanes, fiscal crises, at least three murders, payouts to politically connected employees, the iStar debacle and the arrest of a city councilman. I’m proud of all the community-based initiatives we’ve highlighted each year, whether it’s the Surfrider Foundation’s canal cleanups or Thanksgiving food drives at the MLK Center. I’ve also probably written way too much about surfing.

When I first heard there was an opening for an editor at the Long Beach Herald in June 2010, I was eager to take on the challenge. I had been the editor of the Oceanside/Island Park Herald for several months, and felt confident that I could do good work in a fun, thriving beach town.

I wasn’t the executive editor’s first choice for Long Beach; another Herald editor declined the job. “No way,” he later told me. “Long Beach is too crazy.”

I would soon realize just how busy Long Beach was: On my first day, I wrote about the drowning death of a 12-year-old girl who was on a school trip to the beach, and covered the indictment of an Oceanside man for his role in a road rage incident that resulted in the death of a local resident.

Weeks later, the community was shaken by the deaths of three Camp ANCHOR counselors in a crash on the Meadowbrook Parkway. And, of course, I quickly learned that Long Beach was a scrappy political town with longstanding beefs and party divisions.

In my first two years alone, we covered Long Beach at a pivotal time, whether it was the political upheaval on the City Council or the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Initially, I intended to stay at the Herald for a couple of years. At first it felt like just a job to me. But that sentiment began to change in 2011, when I met Billy Kupferman and Danny Bobis, of the Long Beach Surfer's Association, who were trying to raise awareness among city officials and residents of overcrowding and the positive benefits that surfing generated for the town, ahead of the Quiksilver Pro New York contest that year.

Bobis would go missing during a surfing trip abroad, a tragedy that made international headlines and brought the community together in a way I’d never seen, with two candlelight vigils on the boardwalk and a memorial paddle-out attended by hundreds. As a reporter who was just getting to know Danny, it had a profound impact on me. When Sandy hit a year later, I wasn’t surprised by how residents like Kupferman came together to help one another, and their city, rebuild.

It was soon clear that the work we were doing at the Herald after the storm had taken on added significance. I felt closer to the community than ever, and made a commitment to stay.

Working in Long Beach has been nothing but rewarding, and throughout my time here I’ve felt welcomed by everyone in town — it really feels like family. I will be forever grateful to publishers Cliff and Stuart Richner for giving me the chance to do what I consider the best work of my career. I feel that I’ve grown as a writer here, and it’s been an amazing experience to work in such a vibrant, active and devoted community.

And I had the pleasure to work with some great reporters in Long Beach, including my dear friends Chris Engelhardt, Alexandra Spychalsky, Matt Ern, Ben Strack, Bridget Downes and Darwin Yanes, who did an amazing job covering the community. We made sure to have some fun, whether it was playing beach volleyball or experiencing the thrill and power of the ocean through surfing sessions with the Skudins.

I thank our executive editor, Scott Brinton, for his confidence in me and for all his support over the years, particularly of our work on the payout scandal — which we are very proud of — and having my back whenever we got pushback from officials over sensitive stories we were working on. And I’d be nowhere without our copy editor, Jim Harmon, whom I will miss.

A reporter is nothing without his sources. I may have missed the mark at times over the years, and it was a real challenge competing with Newsday and Patch (at its peak) but I’d like to thank the residents who kept the pressure on me to work harder, dig deeper and put aside any fears of pursuing sensitive stories.

This was particularly true over the past few years, during our reporting on the payout scandal, and I’m grateful to the folks who had the courage to speak to us, demanded answers and called for accountability. Together, I truly believe we made a difference.