50th Anniversary: "Stones"

By Marc S. Goldberg

I arrived to edit The Reporter in 1981, right out of journalism school, with fresh ideals and ideas on how to grow the newspaper.

Three milestones stand out when I think back over my 19 years editing The Reporter: changing the style and tone of the newspaper, creating a strong opinion page and building a regional publishing group. Each of them makes me think about stones: the articles submitted to the newspaper carved in stone, stones people threw at us (figuratively) and the stone age of typesetting and communication in which we began to build the newspaper group. 

Some ideas I was able to implement immediately while others took years of gradually nudging the paper in the right direction. The goal was to complete the evolution of the newspaper from its origins as the Jewish Community Center newsletter to a newspaper for the entire community, which was more inviting for readers who were not already active in the Jewish community. It then took ongoing community education throughout the time I was there to help contributors understand why we edited their prose. I used to joke that if Moses would come into my office with the two tablets asking me to publish them, I would reserve the right to edit them. Most people would then step aside, afraid the lightning bolt would strike too close.

On multiple occasions, an edition of the newspaper angered some segment in the community. Most often this was caused by what we chose to print – or not print – on our opinion page. In the early years, The Reporter did not have an opinion page. Creating the opinion page was the easy part; growing it into a forum reflecting the broad range of opinions of the community was the challenge. The goal was to strengthen the community by creating a place to discuss the issues we faced and to encourage people to look at issues in new ways. 

We gradually expanded the definition of what type of opinion was safe to publish. Milestones included publishing an opinion opposed to the view of the Israeli government, whoever happened to be in power at the time. “We” included the editorial board, which devoted countless hours over many meetings toward working out both the rules and boundaries of this forum. 

I began at The Reporter around the dawn of the personal computer age. Indeed, The Reporterwas at the leading edge of the move to desktop publishing in the mid-1980s. First, we had to endure the final years of the phototypesetting age. Perhaps someone could write an ode to that era, but not me. I am not nostalgic about it. Complicated equipment with more circuit boards than a modern computer set type at the end of every line; there was no going back to make changes. Changing a font meant turning off the machine and putting a different negative strip onto the wheel. The type came out in long strips, which first had to go into a different machine to be developed. If it jammed, there went your work for the past hour or so. Sort of like a computer crash, but there were no backups.

The Reporter’s early entry into desktop publishing was driven by our expansion as a regional newspaper group. We published newspapers for other communities in order to make it more affordable to publish The Reporterfor the Broome County Jewish community. 

There are no comparisons to the methods of communication we used in the early days of The Reporter’s newspaper group. FedEx was too expensive, fax machines were rare and e-mail was in its infancy. Articles were generally sent via mail. It was not called snail mail then, but sometimes it felt like it. If a writer really needed to get an article to us quickly, they put it on the bus and we picked it up at the Shortline terminal a few hours later. 

I always knew I was blessed with a talented and energetic staff. Still, when I think back to what we started with, it amazes me what we accomplished. 

My daughter, Malka, grew up at The Reporter. She was probably 6 years old when she wanted to take my camera at a community event and play with it. I said no, but said she could learn how to take pictures. Not long after that she was contributing pictures to the newspaper. On a snow day when she was 7, Malka got bored in my office so I brought her into the back and told her to proofread the pages of the current issue. She found her first typo that day. My family has warm memories of those days and of my entire tenure at The Reporter. Many thanks to the staff, board and community members who made The Reporter a great place to work and Binghamton a great place to live.

Marc S. Goldberg was the executive editor of The Reporter from 1981 to June 12, 2000.