News flash: Dan’s paper has published its last edition. (Stop the presses! Literally.)
No, not the Dan’s Paper based in Bridgehampton. (Although, from what I hear, its parent company has been experiencing some significant economic difficulties of late.)
The Dan’s paper I’m talking about is formally known as the Fishers Island Gazette. It was established by Dan Gordon and his wife, Sally, in 1987, and was taken over by editor Betty Ann Rubinow five years later (because the Gordons found the task of publishing the paper from their principal residence in Philadelphia too much of a reach).
Ms. Rubinow remained at the helm until earlier this month, when, in a “Letter to Readers,” she announced, “It is with great reluctance that I have decided to close the doors of the Fishers Island Gazette.” She added: “Although I have made a concerted effort to find a successor, no one appeared interested in taking over as editor …”
Dan Gordon was an experienced journalist and radio station manager when he was approached 23 years ago by Brad Burnham, president of the Fishers Island Civic Association, on a ferry ride between New London, Conn., and the island.
Shouldn’t there be a newspaper on the island?
“As soon as Brad said it, I shook my head in amazement that I hadn’t thought of it before,” Dan was quoted as saying in the final edition of the Gazette. “A newspaper for Fishers Island!”
(Note: I’m allowed to call Dan by his first name because I have known him almost as long as the Gazette has been in existence, having been introduced to him by Sam Campbell, a mutual friend who once worked for The Suffolk Times.)
They started out with two issues a year, eventually graduating to four issues and an occasional election year special edition. “What we realized,” Dan said in a recent phone conversation, “was that even though a lot of people lived there for only a couple of months each summer, they cared deeply about the island. They [the summer residents] could now stay abreast of what was going on year around. And for full-time residents, we were able to provide them with timely information on what was going on year around.”
As overseen by the Gordons, and during Ms. Rubinow’s subsequent 18-year tenure, the Gazette wasn’t a newspaper in the traditional sense. It didn’t have a lot of hard news — and, in fact, sometimes de-emphasized controversy without totally ignoring it, in Dan’s estimation — but was a faithful chronicler of births, deaths, personality profiles and features on island life. In fact, a lengthy obituary for Dan Gordon’s father, Albert Gordon, who died last year at the age of 107, appeared in the final issue.
Still, “not all the news in the Gazette was happy or good news,” according to Dan Gordon. “A fair amount of it was painful. We were walking a tightrope. It had to be honest but I wanted to respect the fact that a lot of people go to the island to get away from problems. So we never sensationalized. If it was news that would be painful, we might not put it on the front page, even though it might have deserved that.”
Dan continued: “I believed in participatory journalism, and we had a core of four or five contributors, ranging from [acclaimed novelist] Rick Moody to Wesley Walters, an eighth-grader who wrote our pets column.”
And, of course, Dan’s dad, staff photographer emeritus Albert Gordon, who turned out to be “Betty Ann’s biggest booster” over the years, according to his son. “He was right there, with his camera hanging around his neck, until the last few years,” Dan said. “His degree of involvement was unbelievable. He cared a lot about [the Gazette].”
It turns out a lot of people cared a lot about the Fishers Island Gazette, which means a lot of people are in mourning this spring. Southold Town now has just one community newspaper, and some people might think that’s good news for The Suffolk Times.
It is not