The Demise of The News Tribune

I read today that The News Tribune of Woodbridge, New Jersey has closed its doors. I suppose it was inevitable. Small daily newspapers and large daily newspapers have been dying at an alarming rate all over the country. The writing has been on the wall for TNT for a while. It's been up against tough competition and has been sold twice in the last few years. But still... but still... this one, well, this one is kind of special.

I was 18, two years of college journalism under my belt, and an attitude -- big time. I wanted that summer news reporter internship, but I wanted it *my* way. Somewhere where I could be sure that I got the nod just because of what I could do, not because of who I was or who I might know. I was interviewed by then-editor Ken Michael in a dingy rundown building on Maple Avenue in Perth Amboy around Christmas of 1968. I showed him my clippings. He read them, looked up and smiled. "You have a writing style the most nearly identical to mine I've ever seen," he said. I had the job.

I worked for The News Tribune from June of 1969 to November 1970. (At the end of the summer internship, I asked Ken to meet me for lunch. I told him I wasn't ready to go back to college. He said he wasn't ready to have me go back either.) I survived riots in Perth Amboy, an angry mob in Carteret, a prison riot at Rahway, zoning boards, planning boards, town councils, boards of education, lying about my age so I could follow the local politicians to the local watering holes, the guy who came to every council meeting in Woodbridge and talked about the birds that sat on the utility wires, the 7 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. shifts, having the associate editor lecture me about all the e's in cemetery and then having him misspell my grandfather's name in an obit headline, watching men land on the moon on a flickering black-and-white television in the executive editor's office with everybody else on the night staff, going home as the sun was coming up, smelling hot lead and cold type, fresh ink on newsprint, the increase in crank calls around the full moon, police reports, interviewing parents of young kids killed in Vietnam only hours after the military had notified them. Knowing what was going to be the lead story in tomorrow's paper. Knowing I'd written my share of lead stories.

I left there when it was time for me to leave, to move on. But it was my first real job, in some ways a reality overdose, in other ways an introduction to a world of power and influence. It was a great place to be very young and very full of myself, and I am very sorry to see it go.

-- October 10, 1995

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