From the editor: Help us soar to a brighter future

“A lovely commentary not only on vaccinations, but a look ahead to a possibly brighter future. The use of the butterfly is a fresh take. The image itself is crisp and detailed.”
That’s what the judges had to say about the artwork by Carol Coogan you see at the top of this page.

Coogan once again took first place for Editorial Cartoon in the New York Press Association’s annual competition.

The artwork accompanied our March 11 editorial, “An injection of hope” — which is what we got this past weekend as we gathered with journalists from around the state for the first time in three years.

The crowd was thinner — about 200 instead of the usual 300 — and many more daily newspapers continue to join the ranks of the once all-weeklies organization as some of the smaller papers have disappeared and others have been consolidated. Our peers in Nebraska sorted through 2,481 entries to come up with the winners.

We attended workshops to improve our writing and reach, we commisserated with colleagues over the hurdles posed by covering news in the midst of the pandemic, and we celebrated the work that has carried communities forward and shone light in dark times.

Coogan, who is in her sixties, has spent a lifetime thinking about and creating art. “I always drew when I was a little girl. I’d make little books,” she said.

Every week, she comes up with original artwork for our editorial page. “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.” She said that the hardest part of drawing an editorial cartoon is coming up with the idea.

“I do get emotionally involved,” she said. “When I get excited about an idea, I feel it in my body. It’s like the art is coming through me. I’m just the vehicle. That’s a great honor for an artist.”

The other images that inform our readers week in and week out are provided by longtime photographer Michael Koff. He, too, has been enthralled with his craft since he was a kid.

Koff, who is frequently recognized in the NYPA contests, was given an honorable mention as Photographer of the Year. This places him fourth in the state; the first place went to Schenectady’s Daily Gazette photographer Erica Miller.

“Strong photos – nice work,” said this year’s judges of Koff’s entry.

“I like capturing moments,” said Koff, who has brightened the pages of The Enterprise since 2007. The 12 shots in his winning portfolio this year included photographs of an anti-hate rally at Guilderland High School, a graduation hug at Berne-Knox-Westerlo, a Christmas concert in Voorheesville, a summertime leap into the pool at Tawasentha Park, and a worried woman exposing her shoulder for a vaccine.

In short, Koff captures the many sentiments that make up the seasons in our communities. And he single-handedly follows the careers of athletes in the three school districts we cover so of course his winning portfolio included samples of that work, too.

Koff also delivers our newspapers every Thursday along with the uber capable Holly Busch.

The Enterprise has a longstanding tradition of being recognized for our community leadership and this year was no exception. Our reporter Sean Mulkerrin received an honorable mention for his series of stories on the CSX acquisition that will lead to big trains rumbling through the villages of Voorheesville and Altamont.

Mulkerrin broke the story a year ago and has followed it relentlessly ever since, including an article last month noting that federal approval of the deal will make it a reality, with work expected to start in the fall.

Mulkerrin’s early reporting of the story allowed the alert government leaders in Voorheesville to negotiate concessions and support for a Quiet Zone so that train whistles won’t sound so frequently in the village. This is just one example of how responsibly reported news can empower people to act and improve their communities.

“Great job covering a proposal to run a 9,000 foot-long, double stacked train — a two-mile-long train — traveling through this small community, back and forth to Massachusetts every day,” wrote the contest judges. “The issue is as yet, unresolved (which is why this merits only an honorable mention). Regardless of the outcome, great job of keeping the community informed!”

Mulkerrin not only keeps the villages of Altamont and Voorheesville informed, he also covers the town of New Scotland and zoning and planning issues in the town of Guilderland.

First place in the statewide contest for the Sharon R. Fulmer Award for Community Leadership, where Mulkerrin came in fourth, went to a four-member team at Syracuse’s daily, The Post-Standard.

The Enterprise has just two reporters. The other is Noah Zweifel who covers the Helderberg Hilltowns.

If the heart of The Enterprise is our news stories, its soul is in the editorial pages. The score of letters in this week’s edition attests to the vibrant community dialog that regularly unfolds on our pages.

We are grateful to our readers who become letter writers and enter into the civil discourse that can expand our views and move us forward.

Central to this endeavor are our dedicated columnists: Dennis Sullivan whose mind takes us places we never thought we’d go; John R. Williams who shares the weekly wit and wisdom of the Old Men of the Mountain, Maryellen Johnson whose careful research on Guilderland history enlightens us, Mike Nardacci who explains the geology in our midst, Jesse Sommer who combines an off-beat perspective with a fierce loyalty for home, and Frank Palmeri who captures the quotidian with quirks and qualms.

Sullivan this year was given an honorable mention for Best Column. His “Field notes” typically appear monthly on page 3 of our paper, next to the editorial.

The three columns in the winning series included one titled, “Do you live in a place or a community?” in which Sullivan, who is the village historian, used Voorheeville history to answer that question.

A second, titled “A spike in the human heart,” looked at the poetry of Rubén Darío in the framework of Sullivan’s presentation for a Spanish class. “How sad these days that even the guy next door turns words upside down and seems to relish the doubt and confusion he creates, even in the suspicion and hate that follow — a spike in the human heart,” wrote Sullivan.

The final column ran for Christmas on our editorial page: “America is searching for the words to let every citizen know they can have it their way.” In that column, Sullivan wrote:

“In the years I was involved with restorative justice, I came to see how difficult it was for people — after they had harmed another — to find the words to apologize, and the same was true for those who had been harmed, they could not find the words to forgive.”

The judges called Sullivan’s columns “very well written” and said, “The reader can learn a lot from this writer.”

We certainly do.

We have hope that, like Carol Coogan’s butterfly, we at The Enterprise will emerge from this chrysalis of coronavirus isolation as a transformed creature that will take wing, as the judges put it, for a “possibly brighter future.”

We are counting on you, our readers, for the continued support that will allow us to shine that light, to make the possibility a reality.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

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