We’re in this together — with you, our supportive readers — and we shall press on

Every spring, we gather with journalists from across the state to applaud the past year’s work judged the best and to learn, in two days of seminars, how to be better at what we do.

The sobering keynote address at last weekend’s New York Press Association conference was given by Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist, formerly the public editor for The New York Times. She quoted from a recent Pew report that showed three out of four Americans think local journalism is thriving, yet only 14 percent had paid for local journalism in the last year.

“We need to tell our story better,” Sullivan said.

We, at The Enterprise, are grateful to have readers who do pay for local journalism, who understand that it takes skilled reporters — Elizabeth Floyd Mair, H. Rose Schneider, and Sean Mulkerrin — to find what is happening in our community, and who will pay to support their research and writing as well as the work of a talented artist — Carol Coogan — and versatile photographer — Michael Koff — to present the news with impact.

That subscription also pays for Jo E. Prout to compile arrest reports each week, and for the two dedicated women who manage the office — Ellen Schreibstein and Holly Busch — as well as for our longtime ad accounts manager — Cherie Lussier. All of this is overseen by co-publisher Marcello Iaia who is forever exploring and guiding us to new frontiers with weekly walk-throughs of the news, a vibrant newsletter, podcasts to introduce other voices, and most recently reporters reading their stories out loud so you can listen to as well as read your news.

Together, with the support of our readers, we are ready, as our first editor put it, for “a square knockdown of wrong” each week. But more: We are able to keep at bay the so-called news deserts that are occurring all-too-frequently in places across the country. We are informing local citizens in ways that keep democracy alive. The pages of letters we run each week, particularly at election time, are a testament to a well-informed community, passionate about electing its leaders.

Those same opinion pages are enriched by the work of our columnists, both humorous — John R. Williams and Frank Palmeri — and serious — Dennis Sullivan, Mike Nardacci, Mary Ellen Johnson, and Jesse Sommer.

So, as we report here on work that was recognized this weekend by the New York Press Association — in a contest with 2,743 entries judged by journalists in Wisconsin — we do it with gratitude for our community’s support.

Editorial Cartoons

Carol Coogan, who produces original artwork every week to illustrate our editorials, continues her winning ways with both an honorable mention and a third-place award.

“I have a sketchbook with me at all times,” said Coogan. “I play in it. It’s my most important tool. That’s where my ideas come from.” This practice started when she was just a girl and she created little books.

“To support yourself as an artist, you need to be versatile and you need some chutzpah,” says Coogan.

Her drawing that received an honorable mention this year depicted a journalist as a knight — with truth for a sword, an American flag as a cape, and the First Amendment as a shield.

Coogan drew the knight to illustrate our Aug. 16, 2018 editorial, which was written in response to the Boston Globe’s call to protect a free press. An excerpt of our editorial ran in The New York Times and, when The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors printed a journal of editorials answering the Globe’s call to action, Coogan’s artwork was selected for the cover.

Coogan won third place for her cartoon depicting an elephant wearing a ballcap with the familiar “Make America Great Again” slogan as it rampaged a post office, spewing mailboxes, letters, and stamps. The cartoon illustrated an Oct. 18, 2018 editorial titled “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this administration from attempting to dismantle a cherished institution” — the headline being a contribution from Rich Mendoza.

“Excellent editorial cartoon that really grabs the reader’s attention,” the judges wrote. “I was blown away by the artistic talent and all the fine details in the drawing. The drawing is the first thing I saw when I looked at the page, and it is so captivating that it led me to read the entire editorial. Great job!”

Photography

Michael Koff covers everything from car crashes to school plays. He has the patience to wait for the right shot even in the pouring rain. As a volunteer firefighter, he lets us know about breaking news although he can’t cover a fire while he is fighting it.

Koff says he has taken pictures since he was a little kid. “I’ve always loved it,” he said. “I like capturing moments.”

Koff, who has a degree in psychology from Siena College and another from the University at Albany in art with a concentration in photography, has worked for The Enterprise since June 2007 as a general-assignment photographer.

Week in and week out, he captures our high school athletes — from Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Guilderland, and Voorheesville — at their best. Regardless of their records, he covers each team at least once each season — scores of teams and hundreds of athletes each year.

Koff knows the athletes by name as he follows their careers through the years. This year, Koff won third place for his sports-action photo of Guilderland’s Hannah Durant sailing over a high hurdle in May. He caught her just as she clears the hurdle, and looks to be coming right at the viewer — her expression one of intense concentration.

“Well executed,” wrote the judges.

Coverage of Agriculture

H. Rose Schneider, who covers the Helderberg Hilltowns, was the dominant force in The Enterprise garnering third place for coverage of agriculture. The submission consisted of two editions: Sept. 27, 2018 and Dec. 6, 2018.

Schneider began working for The Enterprise three years ago, fresh from the journalism program at the University at Albany. She covers all four Hilltowns as well as the BKW school district.

She had top-of-the-front-page stories in both of the submitted editions. In September, Schneider wrote a heartfelt story, “Sunset on a dairy: Farmer who couldn’t break even sells his cows,” about the demise of a Knox family’s dairy intertwined with a look at the state and national forces at play.

The judges said the story was a “well-told and intriguing, even a bit heart-wrenching, article of the plight of the American farmer. The opening paragraph was a great hook and the remainder of the story did not let up. The statistics were equally unrelenting. The story was well organized and the photographs were complementary to the story.”

The September edition also included pictures Schneider had taken of the state agricultural commissioner’s visit to the Hilltowns, and an editorial on legalizing hemp.

The Dec. 6 edition led with Schneider’s story on two Berne farmers testifying about invasive species before the State Assembly’s agriculture committee and was illustrated by Koff’s pictures.

Coverage of Health, Health Care and Science

The third-place award The Enterprise received for its coverage of health showed the strength of our team of reporters in responding to community interests and concerns. The entry consisted of five stories, written by four different staff members.

A Voorheesville resident, Rebecca Tillou, had the courage to write a letter to the editor about fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition she was born with. Rather than writing just an editor’s note to provide background, Melissa Hale-Spencer wrote a story, explaining the syndrome and how it had affected one person’s life.

“I liked the uplifting tone of the story without sacrificing the devastating facts about the syndrome,” wrote the judges. “The chosen photos helped me feel as if I was sitting across from the subjects of the article. I liked the boxed quotes.”

In May, Elizabeth Floyd Mair wrote about two women — both retired local doctors — who believe terminally ill patients should have more control over how and when to die. She also wrote about the state laws they are fighting for.

Floyd Mair covers Guilderland, the town where she was raised, where she now lives, and about which she cares deeply. She has a lifelong interest in languages, having studied spanish as a Guilderland student, Arabic as a Binghamton University student, and Japanese for a master’s degree from the University at Iowa before spending 15 years in Japan.

As with her story on terminally ill patients, Floyd Mair is skilled at weaving personal perspectives with analysis of important issues.

Sean Mulkerrin contributed his story, “As mental health declines, are schools providing enough support for students?” to the entry.

Mulkerrin, who joined The Enterprise in August 2017, covers the villages of Altamont and Voorheesville, including the school district, as well as the town of New Scotland.

He frequently thinks of overarching topics that are worth researching, as he did with this story. After sustained investigation that involves both reading and interviewing, he writes in an analytic style that is often more witty than dry.

Mulkerrin read a report by the New York State School Boards Association and New York Association of School Psychologists that said, “The number of young people affected by mental-health issues is staggering.” He then talked to the president of  the Association of School Psychologists to tease out the important strands of the report, grounded his conversation in relevant statistics, and followed up with interviews with local school superintendents.

The final two stories in the submission were by Schneider. One was a feature on “vitalists,” volunteers being trained by a Hilltown doctor to track vital statistics, like blood pressure, of homebound patients and communicate them electronically to the doctor.

Schneider attended a training session to record, in both words and photographs, the perspectives of the volunteers and the doctor.

Finally, the entry included an article that covered our entire front page, “One veteran’s story: After combat, treating mental illnesses is the new battle,” which blended one man’s story with a deep look at how the current Veterans Administration health-care system had failed him.

Schneider’s story was illustrated with artwork by Coogan and photographs by Koff.

We’re in this together — with you, our supportive readers — and we shall press on.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

 

More Editorials

  • It takes a rare person, like Damion Coppedge, to come out of an SHU sanction with his humanity in tact. It looks to us like the things that sustained Coppedge in prison — a session where he was first introduced to Buddhism, mail that allowed him to play chess, a radio through which he heard poetry — are what will make him a productive member of society now that he is out of prison.

  • After the outbreaks in the building at 1228 Western Ave. in 2012, when it was a hotel, and in February 2019, after it became an assisted-living facility, was there another outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in September? … The public — particularly the people living in that building — deserves answers.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.