On the morning of Jan. 29, 2014, I sent an email (which I’ve kept) to Tim Armstrong, then-chief of AOL and founder of Patch, a national online news outfit where I’d been working for nearly four years.
The company was being sold and I was to be laid off on a conference call minutes later with hundreds of others, and we all knew it, so I sent Armstrong—a Greenwich resident I’d met several times and liked—a note of thanks.
“My strong sense is that … digital community news will be led by current and former Patchers putting to use all that we’ve learned here,” it said.
Armstrong wrote back, thanking me for all my hard work.
Two days later—five years ago today—at my brother Terry’s urging, I reserved the domain newcanaanite.com with the idea of creating a news website covering the town.
I’d never owned a business, seen a WordPress dashboard or sold an ad.
Yet I had covered small-town news both in print and online—I would advise anyone hiring in this business to go find ex-Patchers—and felt it was worth a try.
I had the two months’ guaranteed severance plus another month’s worth for signing an NDA, and I thought I could write freelance articles while I ramped up the new business. I created the New Canaanite Facebook and Twitter feeds and sent a text to then-First Selectman Rob Mallozzi with a proposed “About Us” section. He encouraged me to go forward.
Hello New Canaan
— NewCanaanite.com (@NewCanaanite) January 31, 2014
So Terry covered a New Canaan High School boys’ basketball game that Friday night and the following week, I started showing up to cover public meetings.
Five years later, I am working my absolute dream job—covering my hometown, working for and by myself, connecting daily with New Canaanites and rediscovering a community that shaped me. I learned many things about reporting news online at Patch, and I also discovered that I’m a pretty lousy manager, so-so colleague and nightmarish subordinate. I was supposed to be a senior manager, but the work I enjoyed most was when a local editor would quit or get fired, and I could slip in and do the day-to-day reporting work. At one point I remember thinking that if I won the lottery, I would become the New Canaan Patch local editor and ignore everything from headquarters.
Now here I am—in many ways, that’s exactly what NewCanaanite.com is.
I find myself thinking of dozens of people to acknowledge and thank for reaching this milestone, from Terry and Rob to fellow independent publisher Bill Demarest and my very first newsletter subscribers (Claudia Weber, Susan Serven, Nancy Welch, Doris Munger and my mom), Rotarians who had me in as a speaker (Bill Walbert, Ken Campbell), the “Chamber ladies” who helped me with a launch party (Tucker Murphy, Laura Budd), my first summer intern Alex Hutchins, Kenny Katzgrau of Broadstreet, local businesspeople who came on board as advertisers during my first year of operation (Doug and Alex Stewart, Steve and Leo Karl, Heidi Burrows, Christine Saxe, Phil Williams, Denise Gannalo, Peter Santella, Anna Valente, Denise Gannalo, Phyllis Weinstein, Jim Berry) and community partners (Lisa Oldham, Eleanor Flatow, Arianne Kolb, Mimi Findlay, Steph Radman).
And to the many advertisers and thousands of readers who continue to help make this dream job a reality for me, and my fabulous Editorial Board of Laura Budd, Rob Mallozzi, Julia Stewart and Doug Zumbach—thank you, thank you, thank you.