Voice quietly hits 20th milestone
Observant readers of the Voice will notice a logo on the front page with the number “20.” It’s hard to believe, but May 15 was the 20th anniversary of the first edition of the newspaper, which, we had hoped at the time, would follow in the footsteps of the many publications before it.
The idea for the paper came after the demise of the Milford Citizen and its many weekly newspapers, along with the closure of the Shoreline Times and its string of publications. That took place in 1995 with the decision by the Journal-Register Company to consolidate its operations.
The Journal-Register, which had owned the New Haven Register and the other publications including the Citizen, was in a period of contraction after several years of purchasing many papers in the state, both dailies and weeklies.
Eventually, it was determined the company would close its various satellite offices and many of its papers. That meant that the Citizen would cease operation, with a part of the paper included in a weekly supplement in the New Haven Register. The several weeklies, including the West Haven News, would be moved to New Haven or cease publication.
Many of us were let go during the consolidation process, and many of us saw the years of work that we gave to the many papers disappear. It took a while, but the News, Orange Bulletin and Woodbridge Bulletin were folded into one weekly and distributed by the Register. The same was true for the other papers, which included the towns of North Haven, North Branford and Hamden to the North as well as Stratford to the West, and East Haven.
It didn’t take long to figure out that those weeklies were nothing more than re-plates of stories that had appeared in the daily paper. The Bulletin is still seen on newsstands, and can be picked up in many of the outlets this publication utilizes.
Still, that process took a while, and by the time we started publication there was a skeleton staff working the old Milford site and then at New Haven putting out the weeklies until the melding operation was decided.
The News continued for a while, but the re-plating of old stories was the model, with original material either phased out or discontinued at the outset. But the difference wasn’t lost upon those who had been loyal readers
Almost from the beginning when people saw either myself, the late Denise Madera or Alan Olenick anywhere around town we were asked if we were going to start a new paper. It’s not exactly something one does at the drop of a hat.
After about a year or so, a bunch of former Citizen employees got together and we thought we’d try to put together a new publication. It was a slow process, but we were able to secure some funding, a printer and advertisers interested in the project, and we set out to begin a paper.
With the advent of desktop publishing, new software and better paginating programs, the once-painstaking task of putting pages together, editing copy and making half-tones for photographs was much faster. Olenick was the expert in the IT department, Madera was to be the schools and social editor and reporter, and yours truly was to do the newswriting, editorials and continue many of the features that separated West Haven newspapers from the rest. Don Miner, who was a crackerjack graphic designer and on board with the project, and the stage was set for us to get started.
With a few fits and starts, changes in other personnel and growing pains before we even got underway, May 15 was set as the date for the initial paper. We were able to get the basement of 666 Savin Ave., the office of a West Haven newspaper going back to the West Haven City News under Bob Joyce since 1970. That was considered a coup because it was a sign of continuity.
We were ready to start. But, there were some glitches we had to overcome. The software we bought for the page printer was a bit slow. No, it was a lot slow. In order to get out the first 16-page paper, it took us an entire night. That first edition took so long to print I didn’t get home until 4 a.m. It was to be weeks before we realized how to speed up the process.
Overall, the first edition was a success and was popular from the get-go. We used to say if praise were dollars we’d be millionaires. Our former co-workers who still worked for the Register were anxious to see what we did. Many were amazed at the professional quality of that edition, and realized right away they had competition.
It’s been two decades of changing faces, the loss of our beloved Denise Madera, clashes with politicians and a lot of worry over finances, bill payments, production value and many other things.
A few years ago we were able to add color, which in the original years was too prohibitively expensive. New technology, like in so many industries, cut costs and allowed small outlets to utilize things that gave the big boys the advantage.
The arrival and maturation of the Internet, something that was just getting started 20 years ago, has changed many people’s reading habits. Newspapers are vanishing for the most part, but the only healthy part of the industry seems to be weeklies.
So, by my count, we have published 1002 editions of the Voice. The recipe is the same now as it was back then: give readers things they can’t get anywhere else. So, we publish school news that dailies won’t touch. We have youth sports – always a staple of weeklies, and we have news and views that represent the people of the city.
We’ve learned a few things along the way, and we’ve tweaked the recipe, but not changed it. One of our biggest lessons: don’t get the puzzle answers wrong. Nothing brings on the phone calls quicker than a crossword answer that’s incorrect.
Like I said, it’s been 20 years. That’s hard to believe.