If there´s no Star-Ledger, then who will cover Newark?

I remember working at a paper on L.I. when a colleague asked me “What’s the paper of record in New Jersey?” He followed the question with a chuckle.

The Star-Ledger,” I shot back.

That memory came to me last week, after I´d been reading about troubles at the paper over the last couple of years, and a recent buyout that nearly decimated the place.  It was with much sadness that I read the other day that a veteran reporter and photo editor were working in a mail room.  A reward in some ways for all of those years of stress, meeting deadlines and working themselves for the paper… for the business.

Pensions are important and that was probably a good way to make sure they could both retire with something to show for it.

But, still. I worked with the reporter, Jason Jett. I knew him to be a dedicated, serious practitioner of his craft. If I´m not mistaken, he would always bring copies of the Village Voice into work for everyone (it´s hard to get the Voice across the bridge).  No reason he had to go out like that. But I understand.

To be honest, I never was a huge fan of the Ledger. Not really made with an eye on my generation. Plus, for a quick train ride I could go grab the New York Times. That´s not to belittle the work and talent at the Ledger, nor the writers it´s reared.

I grew  up with a piece of my childhood attached to South 18th Street in the city of Newark, where my grandmother, grandfather, aunts and uncles would take care of me when my parents needed a break. Or were out working extra shifts. I care about the place.

New Jersey needs a strong paper of record. People to monitor corruption (there´s a lot). Governors who get caught. Governors, period. Immigration. And the ever-growing gang problem. But most importantly, someone to be the paper of record for the “Jersey Shore.” Ha. No, I´m serious.

There are plenty of smaller papers in Jerz that are worthy. Such as my more local daily, the Home News Tribune (which produced this U.S./Mexico border reporter) and the Asbury Park Press (which produced this writer, who covers L.A.´s celebrity machine).

The Ledger was my first newspaper internship. My first and coolest summer job ever.

It taught me a ton about the paper business and the things I didn´t want to cover.  I wasn’t a big fan of riding around Newark, quizzing people on street and in the projects about shootings. Exciting when an editor gives you an assignment , but a whole other story when you get there. All square reporter, and people are asking you how you got into your line of work, saying they didn´t see anything.

But Newark is worthy of close coverage. It´s a town with a deep and rich American history,  and home to one of the great urban riots of world history.

It would be a shame if profits, or the inability to change with the times kept the greatest city in the State of New Jersey to be without a paper, or worse.

Photo of Newark riots by AP, from NY Times story. (via)