36 Local Heroes

Dear readers,

Of all the measures of a newspaper’s quality—awards, scoops, readership—the most important one is need. Does a town need its paper?

As the drip, drip, drip of coronavirus news turned into a flood in early March, I could feel it. Pelham needed the Examiner. I sensed it in the urgency of people seeking to get news in the paper. As our audience numbers jumped across the board—website, email newsletter, social media. In my gut, a feeling from other big stories in other newsrooms.

Need is a two-sided equation. The newspaper’s staff needed to rise to meet history. The editors and reporters of the Examiner didn’t rise: They leapt, flew, soared. They did this as the bottom dropped out of their lives. No school. No prom. No sports. No concerts. No play. Maybe no graduation ceremony. No hanging out with friends. None of the many events that are as important to them—more important?— than going to class.

Facing all this, the staff of the Pelham Examiner went after the biggest story I’ve ever covered like journalists with years of experience. Please, meet my local heroes, the editorial team that is publishing the Pelham Examiner during the Covid-19 pandemic:

Charlotte Kohn, Charlotte Howard, Evan Kaplan, Delia Lavallee, Nick Lieggi, Zoe Winburn, Julia Findikyan, Margot Phillips, Jack Anderson, Ella Stern, Brett Bober, Lucy Cole, Tommy Roche, Gillian Ho, Michael Salama, Lucy Edmunds, Julia Rosenberg, Kiran Schwaderer and Jack Howard.

Kira Findikyan, Oliver Tam, Katja Fair, Ellianna Bryan, Sophia Leung, Gabby Ahitow, Eliza Bratone, Vikram Jallepalli, Violet Massie-Vereker, Sophia Shulzhenko, Ulysses Conrad, Jack Dougherty, Soren Bushong, Nevan Melwana, Ben Glickman, Ava Pursel and Sophia Jackson.

Need is a two-sided equation. The newspaper’s staff needed to rise to meet history.

They are not listed in age, grade, title, alphabetical or size order. They are listed as a team. The links will take you to their staff bios, where you can see what jobs they do on the paper and the stories and photos they’ve produced during the crisis, as well as everything that came before. Five are college freshman who contributed after being sent home from their campuses.

The paper has published 435 stories and announcements since March. The first piece related to coronavirus ran on March 3, and the site’s archive now contains 12 pages of stories from that date. Numbers are a gross measure. To really understand what the staff has accomplished, you need to read the stories—to see the quality.

I cannot list all of them, but here’s a brief sampling: An 11-year-old wrote about being on 14-day exposure quarantine in a calm, matter-of-fact way that belied her age. An editor managed publication of the paper’s chronicle of Pelham local heroes serving on the front lines in the battle against Covid. Three reporters spanning grades from elementary to high school reported and wrote a news feature taking readers inside the lives of teachers running their classes virtually and their homes in the real world. An editor continues to collect and publish our tribute to the Class of 2020: Pictures of each in front of their lawn signs. Editors interviewed and profiled two people appointed as principals of two of the school district’s schools. A staffer wrote about online mindfulness classes for the district’s students. Reporters and editors covered every meeting of the two village boards and the school board during the most fraught budget season in decades, when citizens couldn’t attend the meetings live.

Like I said, a sample. It leaves out other great stories those 36 journalists produced. Plus, the bread-and-butter news coverage a good local paper does every week, as well as all the press releases and announcements you needed your paper to run.

The work of a newspaper is not simply writing stories.

Of course, the work of a newspaper is not simply writing stories. Editors need to come up with ideas and assign reporters to cover those stories—and chase them when they blow deadlines. Reporters must do the reporting, which takes more time, energy and effort than the actual writing, especially during lockdown. Stories need to be copyedited, and headlines cast, pictures and slideshows selected, cropped and added. Every story must be slotted to the correct section and scheduled for publication. The editors at the top of the Examiner’s masthead have worked and are working daily to make sure all those things happen.


Two years ago, on June 1, 2018, the Pelham Examiner published a story headlined Sock n’ Buskin Cast Members Earn Recognition. It was hardly out of character for a community newspaper. High school actors winning awards, well, that’s more of that bread-and-butter news coverage. The story was special because it was the first published by the Examiner, sitting all by itself on an otherwise empty home page only those working on the project knew existed.

The homepage filled out as the staff worked toward their goal of revealing the paper to the world—or the Town of Pelham—on June 23, the Monday after high school graduation, the complete list of graduates slotted as the lead story. As a result, the paper celebrates the official anniversary of its start on that Monday after graduation. (We will have to figure that one out this year.)

Two years later, there are still founders on the staff from the executive editor to an assistant managing editor to a group of seventh graders. And many more who have joined in the effort to bring Pelham the news.

None of them signed on to cover a pandemic that would upend their lives and their town, state and country. No doubt they all would trade “the biggest story in Mr. Z’s life” for normal. So would I. A time machine we don’t have. The job had to be done. They are doing it with speed, accuracy and professionalism.

It’s been said, journalism is “the first rough draft of history.”

My local heroes, the editors and reporters of the Pelham Examiner, are writing it.

All the best,