“Closing time, every new beginning/Comes from some other beginning’s end”
—From “Closing Time” by Semisonic
Earlier this week, as I was preparing to write this column about beginnings, change and where they both lead, I pulled out a hard copy of the first edition of The Gazette from July 2, 1997, just a year before Semisonic’s song “Closing Time” was released.
This past Sunday, I reread the first column I ever wrote for the paper, which had the title, “A guide to The Hammonton Gazette,” and was published in that edition from the late ‘90s.
I’ve had a column in the Opinion section, including the one in your hands right now, in every edition, including the first. If you’re wondering how many editions of The Gazette that is, simply multiply 52 times 24 years, and that’s about the number of papers, and the number of my columns.
These words are from an excerpt from my first column in our first paper, back in 1997:
“The Hammonton Gazette debuts in a town that wants to read about what goes on here in Hammonton—the people, events, sports and news that make up the fabric of the community. There’s a lot going on in town, but not everyone has the time to find out when, where, who and why.
“That’s what a local newspaper is supposed to do. Find out what is happening in the community, and report back to the readers.
“It’s called keeping people informed. It’s what The Hammonton Gazette plans to do on a weekly basis,” I wrote in 1997.
It’s 2021, and we’re still keeping people informed today. Much has grown and changed. We were only a 24-page newspaper back then. Thanks to our readers and advertisers, the paper has grown, and we added a Digital Edition, a website, social media and YouTube shows to help us spread the word.
If you’re not growing in business—or in life—you’re going backwards. Our readers—the majority of them are from Hammonton, whether in town, throughout the state, or throughout the nation—deserve our best effort. And they receive that best effort, every week. That’s led to our growth.
Change-fueled beginnings happen all the time. The town is in the midst of one now, and it will be a significant one. If you don’t see it, you’re not looking. Maybe some won’t see it, or will turn a blind eye to it.
“Your sons and your daughters/Are beyond your command/Your old road is rapidly fading,” Bob Dylan wrote in 1963 in the song “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
Nearly 60 years later, he was right, then and now.
Growing up on Sundays at the shore, we’d go to St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Stone Harbor. The monsignor would always say the following phrase at the end of Mass: “God does not love you because you are important. You are important because God loves you.” I never forgot it.
Later, when we started working on the paper, there was a phrase we used—and still use today that was inspired by the one I heard the monsignor use years ago.
“It’s not accurate because we print it. We print it because it’s accurate,” we often say.
That’s why we’ve always used the slogan “The Paper of Record.”
For years, I have had a framed copy of the first column the late Grayce Pitera wrote for this paper up on a bookshelf in my office. It was published on August 6, 1997 just a month after my first column ran.
It was titled, “Hammonton is experiencing a new beginning.” In it she wrote:
“Why don’t we all make it a point to perform one positive act, no matter how small? In that way we may each become an integral part of the machinery, bashing out the old and dilapidated while ushering in the positive and motivated. This writer feels we have reasons to revel and rejoice and maverick as she may be, she is proud to be among the ranks of the movers and doers. Have you yet to figure out why?
“It’s only because this feeling is really too good to miss,” Pitera wrote.
She was right, then and now.
The Gazette has a long history, but we embrace change, every day.
Hammonton isn’t a museum. It’s a living, breathing place.
If you want to know what really happens in town, including our coverage of what this newest “new beginning” or (using a term of the moment) this “reboot” for the town is all about, read The Gazette.
As I wrote in our first edition in 1997, it’s our job to keep you informed.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.