Greetings, Daily Hampshire Gazette readers

  • Joan Livingston STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Editor-in-chief
Published: 12/30/2020 10:41:32 AM

Let me introduce myself. I am Joan Livingston and as of today, I’m the Pioneer Valley editor-in-chief, who will oversee three newspapers: the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the Greenfield Recorder and the Athol Daily News.

For nearly two years, I have led the Recorder, and for one year, the Athol Daily News, but I’m no stranger to the Gazette and Hampshire County.

I began my career in journalism at the Gazette, when I was the Worthington correspondent, being paid by the inch, and at the start, writing my stories on a typewriter and driving to the newsroom in Northampton so typesetters could get them into the system.

A technological advance happened when we were given Radio Shack laptops that showed seven lines on the screen and stories were sent via the phone line from my home in Worthington.

My first lesson was that I had to get my story right because I’d most likely see the person I wrote about the next day at the general store. My second lesson was there is nothing like the feeling of breaking news.

Number three? Our job is to report stories that will help people make sound decisions about their communities and, at times, entertain them.

I recall attending a Worthington Board of Health meeting where neighbors were complaining about the smell of pigs next door. Tony Lake, who owned a farm before he became Bill Clinton’s national security adviser, spoke in defense of the pigs. Later, I interviewed Lake at the White House.

Eventually, I became a full-time Hilltown reporter, a columnist, and then editor of the former Easthampton bureau. So, I can honestly say I know Hampshire County well.

I left the Gazette in 2006 to move to Taos, New Mexico, with my husband, Hank. I was hired as editor-in-chief of The Taos News, leading coverage of a multicultural area that is politically charged and one that won the paper numerous national and state awards.

While there, I taught creative writing to children and helped young adults get their GED. I have written several novels, including a mystery series set in the Hilltowns. (I get up at 5 a.m. to write fiction.)

You could say I love reading, hearing and telling stories.

Hank and I returned to western Massachusetts three years ago, specifically, Shelburne Falls, to be closer to family since four of our six children live in this state. While I wasn’t expecting to return to journalism, my interest was piqued when I saw an ad in the Recorder for the editor-in-chief’s position, especially since it’s a newspaper devoted to hyperlocal journalism.

I found myself working with a dedicated and congenial team of editors, reporters, photographers and the people up front who handle the business end.

Since I began in this news business, I have witnessed and been a part of the changes in the way news is reported. That includes the tools journalists use and the way readers get their news. And unfortunately, many newspapers have not survived the changes.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges for newspapers with the loss of revenue. Publisher Michael Moses explained that well in a story this week announcing layoffs and staffing changes, including my new position as Pioneer Valley editor-in-chief.

Starting next week, I plan to meet each member of the Gazette’s editorial team, in person or virtually — several I worked with when I was employed there — and to share our thoughts on coverage and the newspaper’s system.

Basically, I see this change as a collaboration. Although I pledge to keep the identities of each newspaper separate, we certainly will share coverage that is of regional interest. I see this as a great opportunity for our newspapers, and I am pleased to be a part of it.




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