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.
This is such a great story about a home grown citizen who followed his passion, met the challenge of a start up, seized the opportunity of new technology and, five years later, achieved his dream. Michael, you have reached beyond your grasp as this is where creativity and opportunity reside. You are a terrific example of tenacity and integrity. It is special when the ‘good guy’ wins. Congratulations!
Congratulations, Michael. You continue to do a great job covering our community with the insights and perspective of a local. Keep it up!
Thank you, Michael! You do great work! Keep it going!!!
So extremely happy for you Michael. THANK YOU for doing what YOU do to keep us all informed on what’s going on in our little town.
Love the quick glimpse local news from the Newcanaanite. Thank you Michael for keeping a news source like this in our community!
Thanks for this wonderful story, Mike! You are an inspiration!
Our community is so lucky to have you and the NewCanaanite, Mike! Congratulations on 5 years!
Congratulations on five years Mike! Look forward to reading what the next five bring.
Just an inspiring story of following your heart. Congratulations!
Michael has talent and a strong ethical center. I have so many former students of whom I am proud. He is certainly one of them.
Thanks Anna for saying that, and for helping me get my SAT reading score up 160 points!
Thank you and congrats Michael. Without you, I would not be able to amaze my wife with all I know about New Canaan. “We moved here in 2005. How do you know all this?” is her frequent question. NewCanaanite.com is my answer each time. Cheers.
Congrats to a future Pulitzer Prize winner. Keep up the great work.
Congratulations, Mike! Newcanaanite.com is my go-to site for New Canaan news. You have found the community’s sweet spot. It is great to see someone succeed in a role he enjoys so much.
Congrats Michael (and Terry too!). I truly look forward to your email in my inbox every morning to keep me up to date on the town. Wishing you and NewCanaanite a very happy anniversary!
You are indeed an inspiration. I grew up in New Canaan, and left in 1990 but love to follow what is going on there. Every once in a while I dream of starting up a similar though much smaller scale site where I live now west of Boston. Maybe one day…I shall look for ex-Patchers! Anyway, thanks for all you do and share with those of us near and far away.
So proud and so happy for you, Michael. With our many moves throughout the south, it’s nice to know I still have one foot in New Canaan through you. Love you. Mom
Thank you for all you do for New Canaan. You ROCK BRO!!
Thanks so much. I moved from New Canaan to Texas years ago and the New Canaanite is how I keep in touch. Thanks again.
Thanks for all you do and all the help you have given.
here’s to another 5 yrs or better 25 yrs !!!!
Congratulations Michael! You cover our town with dignity and respect and you stick to your ethics and values! You cover the little to the big, and always w a great sense of humor too. National news could take a page from your book!! So happy for you and your success.
Congratulations Michael! You are providing an invaluable service to our community. In the world of today’s media environment, it is difficult to straddle the line between reporting the essence of a story and the temptation to create ‘click-bait’ salacious headlines. You have mastered the modern art of digital reporting and New Canaan is so much better for it. I wish you continued success!
We are lucky to have you Mike!
Mike – lifted and adapted from an old rock and roll review .. endless days and nights of tracking down leads and tips and meetings affects “performers” in different ways … some buckle under the strain; others work out a set routine and go thru the motions; and still others find reserves of energy and keep on giving and getting every single day. Mike D.- you are one of this latter breed!
Keep on giving and getting!
Great job Mike!
Congratulations, Mike! Thank you for all that you do for our community.
Congratulations and thank you for supporting all local activities, organizations and events!
Mike – Still cheering for you from the sidelines! Congratulations!
Thank you, Charlene. I still have your April 2014 note to me on the wall.
Congratulations, Mike! You and NewCanaanite have given us all a local forum that was clearly needed. It’s how I start my day, and I always learn something new. And I feel more inclined to patronize your local advertisers, since they too support this wonderful outlet. Long live New Canaanite!
Mike and his team (2 and 4 footed) are a breath of fresh air for the Town. Thank you for all your reporting and diligence.
Wishing you continued success, Mike. Your integrity and professionalism is unmatched. Thank you for making our hometown news come to life with your unique wit, candor and insight.
***are unmatched ? (See, I need you to edit EVERYTHING that I write.)
Thanks for presenting the facts and for reporting information on meetings that have no media coverage. You ROCK!
This is a very valuable thing you do, and you do it well, Mike. You found your voice and you use it to congratulate, criticize, inform, thank, probe and prod New Canaanites to grow. Your presence at Town Hall meetings keeps us all informed. Thank you and keep up the good work.
A bit disappointed you didn’t thank me for helping kill your competition with my ‘reporting,’ but congrats anyway.
Thank you for all of these supportive comments, it has been better than a birthday on Facebook!
Mike: Always the first read in the AM .Congrats and good luck!!
Congratulations Mike. You are a real champion for New Canaan retailers and I thank you for all the support over the years. The community is so lucky to have you. Wishing you continued success
If anyone was going to make this endeavor work I knew it would be you! Proud of you! And you were a great colleague. 🙂