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130 years and the legacy continues

Dear Sonny, Thank you for passing the torch and jumping in where others feared to tread

On April 24, 1974 the first edition of the Suburban Gazette was published.

From the publisher's desk... Dear Reader,

It’s hard to believe it has been a year since I was handed the reins here at Gazette 2.0 by former publisher and Stowe Businessman Sonny Jani. I never in my wildest of dreams thought I would one day own a newspaper. Yet, here I am.

What’s even harder to believe is that in November it will be five years since the rebirth of the McKees Rocks-based Suburban Gazette community newspaper. It was launched by Jani with the help of several community members including myself. Until I became editor and publisher last year, I had worked in the background as a mentor and journalism coach who edited a majority of the stories in the bi-weekly that you all have come to know and love, and gave final approval to pages before sending them off to the printing press. While much of those responsibilities remain, I’ve spent the last year in a crash course learning how to actually be a small business owner (I am still guessing) and to be responsible to employees and freelancers alike.

The team here means the world to me and without them, we would not be able to deliver to you the quality product you now expect.

There’s been a paper of record in McKees Rocks for 130 years. In 1892, the same year McKees Rocks separated from Stowe Township and became its own borough, print shop owner John E. Schramm printed the first copy of the McKees Rocks Gazette. That paper served the area through two world wars, the St. Patrick’s Day flood in 1936, the merger of the Stowe and McKees Rocks school districts in 1966-67 and the white flight to suburban communities like Kennedy, Moon and Robinson townships.

It was because of that change in population and at the behest of then Editor Ann Milles, that the McKees Rocks Gazette retooled itself and on April 24, 1974 became the Suburban Gazette. It ran continually under the care of the Schramm family until October 2017. During those 130 years, some very powerful women held the editor’s seat including Milles (her daughter Jane Milles Tallon of Robinson handles public relations for the township and promises to share some stories with us about growing up with a newspaper editor for a mom) and Virginia Schramm (final editor) who took over after her brother James “Jimmy” DiNardo passed in 2015.

A few weeks after the Suburban Gazette shuttered, Jani and his team launched Gazette 2.0, a new paper created in homage to the Schramm family’s dynasty. Several members of the Suburban Gazette team moved over to Gazette 2.0 and are still making wonderful contributions including Photographer Lynne Deliman, Columnist Rev. James Hogan, Sportswriter Ken Hohman and Graphic Designer Caitlin Spitzer.

Jani ultimately did not want to see the town where he grew up losing its community newspaper and took a chance on making a go of it with Gazette 2.0. I’m so very glad that he did. By nature, I am a cautious person and ultimately would not have taken that step for fear of failing. In my mind, I was a lifelong journalist and an editor, not a publisher and small business owner. Thank you, Sonny Jani, for treading where I feared to go. And thank you for four years later entrusting this legacy to me. I do not regret picking up the reins.

As Gazette 2.0 continues to evolve, we have a few tricks up our sleeves for this coming year including:

  • Expansion of our footprint to include the community of Carnegie

  • The addition of a cooking column entitled “Carol of Moon”

  • Fun things like “The Cheesiest Pizza Contest Ever” in partnership with Ya Jagoff! podcast

  • Continued reporting partnerships with other area media outlets

  • A greater focus on nurturing our online product

  • Expansion of our print products to include business cards, yard signs, booklets and the like

In the meanwhile, I am still a mother of three, a wife, a caring member of this community and Director of Marketing and Communications at McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation. Special thanks should also be aimed in the direction of Executive Director Taris Vrcek and the board at MRCDC for approving of my proposal to be publisher here.

And thank you for your support as a reader, a subscriber and/or an advertiser. Without you, we would cease to exist.

With kind regards,

Sonja Reis

Editor & Publisher of hyperLOCAL Media’s Gazette 2.0

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