• Gabriel Donio

The Gazette’s origins are a wonderful local story


2021

It was 1997, and I had an idea.


I wanted to build a minor league ballpark in Hammonton.


Then I had another idea: I wanted to have my own sports section. That led to another idea: I would have to start and own a newspaper. I was 23 years old at the time.


Back then, I thought starting my own newspaper would make a wonderful business story, or at least a wonderful news story.


No one gave us much of a chance. My parents, Frank and Angela Donio, were encouraging.


People said the ballpark would never happen. They were right.


People said the newspaper would last six months. They were wrong.


1983

I always loved writing, and I was always particularly passionate about newspaper journalism. If you follow the thread of the images pictured with this column, it’s clear that passion began at an early age. I was 10 years old when I was walking up and down Tilton Street in 1983 handing out The Tilton Street News. It was the street I grew up on and is now the home of The Gazette’s offices.





In high school I was the editor of the school paper, which I turned into a news magazine. That helped me receive a full academic scholarship to Boston University, where I worked on two newspapers during my undergraduate years. One was the independent student newspaper, The Daily Free Press. The other was The North Shore Times in Sydney, Australia, where I interned while spending a semester abroad. It was the first newspaper Rupert Murdoch owned.


In 1994 at Boston University, while taking two separate limited-seating classes that you had to apply to enter taught by two Nobel Prize winners, Elie Wiesel (for Peace) and Saul Bellow (for Literature) along with my other outstanding professors, I wrote a weekly sports column for The Daily Free Press. Bellow was a sports fan, particularly of the Chicago teams, and we would occasionally talk about the Bulls and the Celtics after class.


After BU I attended Georgetown University for graduate school in English. Although I did not obtain a master’s degree, I interned on Capitol Hill for then-Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (R-2nd). Later I went to work for LoBiondo full-time in Mays Landing. I learned a lot, about a lot.


Everything in my life has been a learning experience, and the experiences tend to connect with each other like passenger cars on a long train. I grew up around agriculture and learned a work ethic that way. Then I was fortunate enough to have excellent teachers at the Hammonton School District and in higher education. I learned a lot about business, government, politics and newspapers by being deeply involved with all of them at a young age.


The Gazette was the natural culmination of all that experience. In the last 24 years, a lot of new experiences have only increased the depth and the breadth of this newspaper. Some of those experiences were positive. Some of them, whether personal or professional, were negative. All of them helped shape what you see each week on the pages of this newspaper,

That’s because the most important element of this newspaper has always been, and will always be, the human element. Our staff members—particularly full-time staffers like Editor-in-Chief Gina Rullo, Sports Editor Dan Russoman, Lead Graphic Designer MarySusan Hoffman staff member Joseph F. Berenato and staff member Kristin Guglietti are committed deeply to the people they cover, as well as their fellow staff members, most of whom have been with the paper for many years. They are also deeply committed to our readers and advertisers, who make this newspaper possible.


One final note about this origin story (which are always the best stories of any long-running series): In May of 1997, I met Gina Rullo, and named her the editor of The Gazette. Other than a few short months early in The Gazette’s existence, she has been the only editor this newspaper has ever had. Her brilliant mind and warm heart—along with her laugh-out-loud sense of humor—have helped drive this newspaper higher and higher each year.


I had this idea. I wanted to start and own a newspaper.


Along the way, in 2005, I married Gina Rullo.


I thought starting and owning a newspaper would make a wonderful business story, or at least a wonderful news story.


What I didn’t count on—but am eternally grateful it worked out this way—is that the idea I had has become a wonderful love story.


Enjoy this week’s 24th anniversary edition of The Gazette.


We all put our hearts into it.


Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.