Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Email in sixth grade started a seven-year career at the Examiner. Lessons learned from putting out Pelham’s real newspaper.

An email appeared in my inbox almost seven years ago from Rich Zahradnik. He described the sad demise of the News of Pelham and asked, “What should we do next?” This question was not a simple one to answer, but many students were thinking the same thing: Start a newspaper run by us, the students who had just lost the only remaining print newspaper serving the Pelham community. As a sixth grader, I had no clue about the can of worms I would open or the true impact of what lay ahead. But what rose from the ashes was the Pelham Examiner, a newspaper that is reshaping journalism and became the most impactful job I’ve ever had. 

I say job because, unlike what some may think, the Pelham Examiner has been a 9-to-5 for me over the past seven years. Every day was spent with at least one thought about interviewing, editing, writing or publishing. Looking back on those years, I see how I matured and polished my journalism skills. Starting as a naive sixth grader who thought I knew it all and would get upset when reading edited versions of my articles, I have become a better writer and listener, more precise—and discovered the confidence to lead. 

Along with life skills, I gained a community of people who were always there to lend a hand or piece of good advice. Tips to help me through high school, like when fellow founder Ella Stern told me I should drop my language by senior year, or former Executive Editor Cristina Stefanizzi, who said I should become friends with kids outside my grade. Listening to George Freeman, one of our board members and the former chief First Amendment lawyer for the New York Times, explain the dangers of libel to a newspaper, or Sarah Trombley, who taught me how to create community guidelines for the Examiner. I would never have sparked my inner activist without working for New Voices in New York to fight for student press rights or learned podcasting from “The 803 Podcast.” These connections and all of the advice will last a lifetime. 

I couldn’t write this piece without mentioning Zahradnik, my mentor since fourth grade at Colonial School and the person who has pushed me to be the best journalist I could be with the help of some tough love and motivational words. Mr. Z, as I have called him since the beginning, has helped the staff of the Pelham Examiner build a platform in Pelham for true, unbiased news and a place where members of the community can turn to when they have questions. As I prepare to leave Pelham, I know I will always have his number in my back pocket when I need someone to proofread an article or find a connection. 

But while I have all these internal thank yous, my biggest thank you is to each of you reading this. The Pelham Examiner could not have reached the success it achieved without the readers. Despite this being an unconventional newspaper, you let us prove to you what we could become, and we exceeded many people’s expectations along the way, gaining respect and support. Favorites among the articles I have written are profiles of Pelhamites such as Barbara Klein, Bennett Wies, Leila Brady, Donald Otondi, Jordan Salama, Vito Pisano, the DeCiccos and Patricia Dwyer. Connecting with the Pelham community has let me find a place here. I walk down the street and see these familiar faces. 

As I say goodbye to this newspaper, I hope readers pick up on two things. The Examiner graduates a class of seniors every year, and every year we look for new journalists to fill many roles. We need writers, photographers, artists and anyone of any background and skill to help the paper cover the villages of Pelham and Pelham Manor. And to have a paper for future journalists to learn from, we need an audience. We need readers to keep their expectations high, subscribe to our email, wait on our website for election coverage or follow us on social media. The support of this community—whether it be the journalists who come through the paper or the readers who click on any article—keeps the Pelham Examiner alive and the future of journalism certain in this town.

Gabby Ahitow is a founder of the Pelham Examiner and served as its executive editor for the year through May 31. She is a member of the board of directors of the Hudson Valley Local News Lab Inc., publisher of the Examiner.

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About the Contributor
Gabby Ahitow, Senior Editor
Gabby Ahitow is a senior at Pelham Memorial High School. She has been with the paper since it first started in 2018. Gabby has written for the Colonial Times, News of Pelham, PMS Post, and The Pel Mel. Besides writing, she plays the violin, soccer, and lacrosse for the high school, and participates in various clubs. She sails competitively outside of school. The Pelham Examiner has taught her so much and she looks forward to growing with the paper.

Comments (11)

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  • J

    Jen RohrJun 12, 2024 at 5:53 pm

    Thank you, Gabby. I love that our town’s newspaper has sixth graders writing for it, and that it encourages and supports those sixth graders all the way through middle school and high school (and beyond – go alumni!). The newspaper has benefited from your leadership, and I know that a new generation of writers and editors is coming up behind you to continue the great work. So proud of our local journalists. Thank you!

  • K

    Kate PringleJun 3, 2024 at 2:07 pm

    Ms. Ahitow, you and your fellow editors and writers have made an enormous difference in Pelham. While so many small towns have lost independent newspapers, we in Pelham are fortunate to have the Examiner to keep us informed, spark conversation and thought, and build community. Congratulations on your fine work, and the best of luck to you in college and beyond. I know you will continue to make a difference in the communities you chose. With thanks, Kate Pringle

  • J

    Julie RocheJun 3, 2024 at 7:30 am

    Thank you for all you’ve done Gabby!

  • A

    Ann RendeJun 1, 2024 at 2:23 pm

    I wait for The Pelham Examiner to publish as I did with The Pelham Sun and The Pelham Weekly. When the Weekly folded I thought that would be the end of any news of the Pelham Community being disseminated. Thank Heavens for our fabulous Pelham student and Mr Z. You have become more impressive each year. Now we can’t imagine life without the Examiner!!!keep up the good work. You are necessary and appreciated!!!

  • B

    Bella CarusoMay 31, 2024 at 11:43 pm

    Love this, Gabby! You’ve been such a positive and impactful part of the Examiner, I’m so glad I had the chance to write with you:)

  • W

    Will CavanaghMay 31, 2024 at 6:56 pm

    Gabby, good luck in the next chapter. This experience has equipped you well!

  • M

    Marin ZielinskiMay 31, 2024 at 6:07 pm

    Thank you for the years of service Gabby! You’ve helped make the Examiner a local gem. Best wishes for continued success!

  • A

    Audrey LeungMay 31, 2024 at 6:06 pm

    Gabby! Always enjoyed reading your articles, can’t wait to see what comes next for you!!

  • L

    Leila BradyMay 31, 2024 at 3:37 pm

    Gabby you are a queen and an inspiration!

  • C

    Cristina StefanizziMay 31, 2024 at 1:27 pm

    Your dedication is inspiring, Gabby. I am forever grateful to the Examiner for bringing me to you. Congratulations and THANK YOU for your hard work giving Pelham the news it needs!

  • S

    Sophia LeungMay 31, 2024 at 1:17 pm

    Loved reading this, Gabby! It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. 🙂