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Highbridge Horizon Celebrates 10 Years
Article from the December 2008 Edition

The Highbridge Horizon Turns 10

 By Tony Richards

Editor-in-Chief

If the ceilings of your home have collapsed onto your floor, and your landlord does nothing to fix it... If your child has to travel 30 minutes every morning by bus, because there is no middle school in your neighborhood… if you are weary of being stopped-and-frisked by the police when you are simply walking from point A to point B …

Or, on the positive side, if you are the director of a local ecology center that gives children a rare opportunity to interact with aquatic animals… if you help to organize an annual celebration for Father’s Day that brings your community together … if you are a local resident making a documentary film about the history of your neighborhood...

If any of these situations apply to you, who will tell your story? 

 Well, if you live in this community, there is only one consistent answer to that question: The Highbridge Horizon.  Our newspaper exists exactly to cover stories like this. And, in fact, we have written about all of the people and issues mentioned above in recent months and years.

Now, our publication has arrived at an exciting milestone:  Our 10th anniversary.

In the late 1990s, Highbridge residents joined together with the Highbridge Community Life Center—a non-profit organization that had already been providing a wide array of services in the neighborhood for nearly two decades—to launch this newspaper.  The first issue of the Horizon was printed in December 1998. The occasion of our 10th anniversary offers the opportunity to reflect on what makes this paper unique and important, to offer gratitude to those who have made this milestone possible, and to look forward. 

To begin, it is worth re-emphasizing that the paper was founded by local residents, and alongside the paper’s first editor—current Newark Star Ledger reporter Joe Ryan— it was they who produced the paper and largely supplied its content in our publication’s early years.  Ten years later, although I am the paper’s only full-time staffer and my address does not fall within the borders of this community, I work hard to ensure that the paper remains true to its slogan: “The Voice of Highbridge.”   I hope I am successful.

In addition, several members of the Highbridge community continue to contribute their time, their energy, their love for their neighborhood, and their passion for writing to the pages of this paper. These contributions take the form of news stories, opinion columns, poetry, photographs, and many more things that are less tangible, and all of this is produced on a volunteer basis, in whatever time our writers and photographers can carve out within their busy home, social, and work lives.

I would particularly like to thank those Highbridge residents whom I have been fortunate enough to work alongside directly since I started as editor of the paper in August 2006: DeAnna L. Daniels, John Felder, Maria Simmons, Ken L. Simmons, Roy Speller, Robert Stanley, and Vanessa Truell.  And, while he lives in Morrisania, C. Lionel Spencer has been one of the paper’s more prolific writers since he started writing for the Horizon in early 2008, and I want to thank him as well.

Since the Horizon’s beginning a decade ago, the paper’s basic mission has been to write stories that inform and empower the community, and that give its people a voice they otherwise would not have. In order to serve and reflect a population with a large Spanish-speaking population, the paper was—and continues to be—printed in both English and Spanish.

In its early days, the Horizon placed particular emphasis on southern Highbridge.  In the years since then, the paper’s slogan has shifted from “The Voice of Southern Highbridge” to “The Voice of Highbridge.”   While the Horizon still covers the southern part of the community extensively, we report on happenings throughout the neighborhood. For instance, we recently wrote about a food pantry fighting to stay open at Merriam Avenue and West 170th Street, as well as a mosque on Jesup Avenue that is seeking more space for its after-school programs.  

We also aim to draw connections between what is happening in Highbridge and events occurring elsewhere in New York City, the United States, and the world. It would be both wrong and limiting to treat Highbridge as though it existed in a vacuum, isolated from the rest of the planet.  It is with this in mind that we have written articles tracing the reactions of local residents to the April 2008 acquittal of the NYPD officers who killed Sean Bell, and the November 2008 victory of Barack Obama in the presidential election.

Another central component of the Horizon from its inception to the present has been the contributions of aspiring youth journalists. The “Get and Give” youth page, which displays the works of journalists in the Highbridge Community Life Center’s Get and Give after-school program, is a regular  feature of our paper.

Hopefully, everything written above has given a strong flavor of why the Highbridge Horizon has been a rare and precious resource for the community and its readers.  It is a resource whose reach into—and beyond—the community has expanded during the past several years. Not long after I came aboard as editor, the Horizon, together with the Mount Hope Monitor and Norwood News, launched the West Bronx News Network.

 From this online partnership evolved the West Bronx News Blog (westbronxnews.blogspot.com) , a Web site that features the works of all three community newspapers and provides us with the opportunity to publish breaking news in the West Bronx. 

 Meanwhile, within Highbridge itself, we have recently held two very successful “Open House” nights for the Horizon—one in March 2008 and one in August 2008— during which I, along with the paper’s writers and photographers, had the chance to meet more of our readers; to tell you more about the Horizon and its mission; and to get your feedback on the content of the paper and how we might expand awareness of our publication. From these events, we also made contacts with community members who have since helped with the content, distribution, and promotion of the Horizon.

As we enter our second decade of existence, one of our key goals is to foster the paper’s further growth in several ways: In the coming months and years, we hope to print more copies; to publish more frequently; to further enhance our online exposure; and to become a resource that more and more people in Highbridge are turning to on a regular basis in order to get their news and find their voice.

I want to end this column by offering heartfelt gratitude to several people whom I feel have been instrumental in fostering the development of the Horizon overall, as well as my own growth as editor of the paper.

First, thanks to the Highbridge Community Life Center and executive director Sister Ellenrita Purcaro for publishing this paper, and for consistently granting me the editorial flexibility and freedom necessary to remain true to our mission. Thanks to our translator Manuel Villanueva, who works tirelessly each month to ensure we can bring you the Horizon in both English and Spanish. Thanks to our ad sales representative Jacqueline Acevedo, for helping our paper grow. Thanks to Cesar Aquino for bringing the paper to you each month as our deliverer. And thanks to Caleb Windley for putting it all together each month as he completes our paper's layout.

Thanks also to Jordan Moss, the editor of the Norwood News, Buddy Stein, the editor of the Riverdale Press, and Jill Grossman, a Horizon consultant, for their constant guidance and mentorship.

Further thanks to Norwood News reporter Alex Kratz and Mount Hope Monitor editor James Fergusson, whom I also count as good friends, for their support and their willingness to offer necessary constructive criticism.

 Thanks to the paper’s previous editors—Joe Ryan, DeNae Brewer, and Joe Lamport—for making the Horizon what it is, and for laying a strong foundation for its continued success. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to the paper in different ways for the past 10 years; some of you were mentioned by name earlier in this piece, and the rest of you know who you are.

Most of all, thanks to you, the reader. It’s been a privilege to serve the people of this community ,and to have been a part of the paper’s first decade, and I am looking forward to ushering the paper into its next ten years.

 
  
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