Understand what the Montclair Dispatch is all about!
The New York Times. The Wall Street Journal. USA Today. The Star Ledger. Chances are you’ve heard of the aforementioned publications. You’ve likely purchased one of them before, and may even pay for a regular subscription. Why? The news is necessary. 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Events take place constantly, and there needs to be tangible information for the public to consume in order to make an informed opinion.
Though the Montclair Dispatch is a member of the New Jersey Press Association, it would not likely be high on the list of well-known weeklies. A small publication, the Montclair Dispatch seeks to present local businesses, politics, events, and topics of general interest to its visitors and investors. However, the publishers of the Montclair Dispatch had a more specific goal in mind upon the establishment of the publication.
“I am very concerned with the collapse of the industry and the bias big money has over the news spectrum,” says Scott Kennedy, publisher of the Montclair Dispatch. “Thanks to the support of my clients we are able to underwrite the paper and create opportunities [for young people interested in journalism].”
The collapse to which Kennedy refers is one that poses a problem for young journalists currently entering the field. While print journalism flourished in the United States up until the mid-20th century, with the advancements made in media outlets, particularly that of radio and television, there quickly became less of a desire for newspapers as the main source of information. With the widespread accessibility of the internet in the 21st century, the general public’s need for print journalism declined further. Taking into account the economic recession of the early 2000s, the bleeding print media industry took a further hit. There were few jobs to be had, and little money with which to compensate reporters. While the country’s economic stability appears to be on the mend currently, print journalism still suffers as a medium and profession.
In 2012, Kennedy saw the need and desire young journalists had for experience, but major publications had no jobs to offer. Eager to provide an entryway to the professional world for talented young people, Kennedy decided create a newspaper. Although unfamiliar with the field, Kennedy decided to use his 35 years of experience in the professional world and resources from his own company, Studio042, to establish the Montclair Dispatch.
“I can’t count on Washington to create the environment that fosters business growth,” says Kennedy. “Business owners [like me] must take it upon ourselves to create the on-ramp opportunities for individuals…through their first few critical years.”
As a publication that focuses primarily on local news, the Montclair Dispatch’s subscription numbers do not match that of the Journal, Ledger or Times, but Kennedy charts his paper’s success through different parameters: “I’ve been given many opportunities over my careers and now it’s time to create many more for the next generation. Our focus has been on developing journalists, editors, researchers and writers from a philanthropic standpoint rather than focusing on subscribers.”
Indeed, Kennedy’s publication serves this exact purpose. Through their work as reporters and editors, the Montclair Dispatch staff learn to conduct proper interviews, write cleanly, and meet deadlines. Many staff members who have left the publication go on to high-profile internships and entry-level positions within the print and digital media landscape.
The Montclair Dispatch’s first, and current Editor Catherine Baxter, was recruited from the Editor’s chair at the Montclair State University’s student newspaper the Montclarion. A graduate of Montclair State’s Communications program with a double major in Journalism and Public Relations, she is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Public Relations. Says Baxter: “Working at the Montclair Dispatch from the beginning has given me a different perspective in terms of seeing all of the changes and growth the paper has been able to go through. It has helped me learn various administrative and writing skills, and helped me learn how to work with a wide range of people.”
Lena Rawley is a former Assistant Editor at the Montclair Dispatch. Following her time at the publication, Rawley went on to be an Editorial/Web Intern at ELLE Magazine and an Editorial Intern at Women’s Health Magazine. Currently a sophomore at NYU, Rawley works as an Editorial Beauty Intern at Us Weekly and is on the Editorial Board at Washington Square News, the NYU student newspaper.
The first Managing Editor, Rebecca Firkser is a graduate of Smith College. “I’m interested in pursuing a career in the publishing world, so I joined [the Montclair Dispatch] in order to gain experience managing a team of writers and to learn how to collaborate with the publication’s partners.” Following her time at the Montclair Dispatch, Firkser works editorial intern at POPSUGAR. She also works as a freelance writer and recipe developer, blogging regularly at Spices and Spatulas, and contributing to publications such as Food52, The Nosher, and Freja Daily.
Erica Manansala, a nursing student at Seton Hall University, is the Montclair Dispatch’s Digital Content Editor, and solely responsible for the site’s exemplary SEO and bounce rates. Throughout her time at the Montclair Dispatch, Manansala feels she has become a more aware member of the community. Additionally, Manansala notes that “the Montclair Dispatch taught [her] numerous marketing channels…Being able to work with various kinds of people prepares me to handle any and all situations, which I strongly believe will ameliorate things for me in the long run.”
Kennedy also offers internship opportunities at the Montclair Dispatch for Montclair High School seniors every spring for CIP (Career Internship Program). Willieneil French, the new Director of Guidance at Montclair High School, praises the program, stating “I want [students] to learn how life really functions. You do not get a lot of second chances to get it right. I want them to function as adults and…to learn how to be real working [citizens].” The Montclair Dispatch takes French’s aspirations for the program seriously: CIP interns are held to the same standards as regular Montclair Dispatch staff writers, gaining invaluable professional experience.
Maddy Firkser, who completed her CIP internship as a writer for the Montclair Dispatch in the Spring of 2015, cites the Montclair Dispatch as her first professional experience with journalism. “Working at the paper helped me improve my organizational skills in terms of scheduling interviews,” says Firkser. “I also honed my communication skills because I had to figure out what kind of questions to ask in order to get the kind of answers I needed for my article’s angle.” Firkser is currently a first year at Bard College, and hopes to pursue a career in journalism.
Caitlin Kennedy acted as publisher for her CIP internship at the Montclair Dispatch. Her tasks also overlapped with that of Managing Editor. Says Kennedy: “As publisher, my task was to make sure everything ran smoothly and that the articles were ready on time. I learned how to manage a team and my time.”
Rebecca Brownsword, who participated in the CIP internship as a photographer for the Montclair Dispatch feels as though she improved her organizational skills and learned responsibility during her time at the publication. Brownsword is a first year at University of Colorado Boulder, majoring in Sociology.
Even with Scott Kennedy’s priority placed on the success of his staff, the Montclair Dispatch thrives: with 20,000 unique visitors to the publication’s website and a bounce rate of about 4%, Kennedy is confident that the Montclair Dispatch is reaching its targeted market with strong content. Why still print a paper if the site is so successful? Why read the Montclair Dispatch at all? Says Kennedy: “There is still something very special about printed copy, and there is a need by our advertisers [for the] exposure.” With such an assured publisher and dedicated staff, it’s safe to say that the Montclair Dispatch is here to stay.