The Long Island Press: A 10 Year Retrospective

Long Island Press Ten Year Retrospective
Long Island Press Ten Year Retrospective

Michael Patrick Nelson - Long Island Press 10 year retrospective

My first day at Long Island Press was March 23, 2002—so long ago that, back then, the paper wasn’t even called Long Island Press; it was called The New Island Ear. It wasn’t a weekly publication either; it was produced on a twice-monthly basis. Heck, at that point, it hadn’t been “produced” at all—the new paper was still in the planning and preparation stages.

I was a vestige of the old publication, The Island Ear, a longstanding local music newspaper that had just been purchased by The Morey Organization, who planned to reboot the whole thing, make it wider-ranging, more expansive, smarter. I’d been working as managing editor of The Island Ear and was swept up in the purchase, along with a file cabinet full of slowly decaying promotional photographs and a few dozen mailing bins stacked with back issues.

In those days, The Morey Organization had numerous media-related holdings—several radio stations, an events and catering hall, a graphic design firm—and The New Island Ear was just one more. So, on March 23, 2002, I showed up at TMO’s Garden City headquarters and was ushered by the paper’s then-Editor-in-Chief Robbie Woliver to my new “office”: a converted conference room crammed with three mismatched desks—one meant for me, one unoccupied, and one occupied by a young man unfamiliar to me, busy already on some data-gathering assignment, seated beneath a freshly hung Clash poster. Robbie introduced me to the young man, my new office mate—the paper’s just-appointed staff writer, an eager rookie named Chris Twarowski—and installed me in the adjacent desk, where I would begin work as The New Island Ear’s arts and listings editor.

That was 10 years ago, I was 27 years old, and I still remember most of the details pretty clearly: the slightly toxic odor of lacquer lifting off the newly assembled desks in our claustrophobic workspace; the Dr. Evil action figure standing at the base of Robbie’s desktop PC, which I fiddled with absentmindedly during meetings; the rush and buzz as disc jockeys scurried down the hallway, to and from the radio-station studios, past the glass-paneled walls of the room in which Chris and I were stationed, chained to our computers, fueled by caffeine, ambition and a list of assignments so long and unrealistic that certain items remain on our docket to this day.

And along the way, I witnessed, and occasionally contributed to, some of the most impressive journalism to come out of the region since Bob Greene was putting Pulitzers on the shelf in Melville—including breaking such stories as the Newsday circulation scandal, Long Island’s heroin epidemic and Nassau County’s troubled sewage treatment facilities—and worked with some editors and writers who educated and inspired me in ways I cannot begin to quantify or even express. The newspaper won nearly 300 awards in the decade I was there.

I was very, very lucky. In 2003, I met a girl who had contacted me, care of the Press, regarding “The Nelson Ravings,” a weekly column I was writing at the time; In 2011, she and I got married (Chris officiated the ceremony, and half the office was in attendance at the reception). In 2009, Robbie left the Press, and the paper’s reins were handed to me, to sustain the brand that he, Chris and I—along with a vast and ever-changing editorial team—had been building since March 23, 2002. After Robbie’s departure, I was named editor-in-chief of Long Island Press by its publisher, Jed Morey, whose trust, confidence and courage have done more to propel my career than I ever could have managed on my own.

This past May, I left the Long Island Press, to take a role as editor of the music blog Stereogum. After a decade of heartache and triumphs and laughter and growth, I said farewell to a team that was also a family to me—a team whose work ethic, dedication and heart served, and continue to serve, as an inspiration to me. The Press has enjoyed immense success and broken real ground, both during my time there and since my departure (Yes, I still read it every week), and I do not believe it would have been possible without that team, those players, from the superstar sluggers to the utility infielders, all of whom leave it on the field, day in and day out—all of whom play a role in the game’s outcome.

I cannot begin to list here all the people who deserve to be recognized by name, but I must spotlight a few: Beverly Fortune, the Press’ associate publisher, as well as its center, its engine, its heart; Jon Sasala, the paper’s art director and its organizer and a genius and a genuinely good man, alongside whom I grew up at the Press, whose wholly positive influence extends to all aspects of the paper and the organization; Chris, Tim Bolger, Jaclyn Gallucci and Spencer Rumsey, my officemates and editorial team, whose Herculean and heroic efforts made my tenure as editor-in-chief look quite remarkable (To be sure, without any one of those people, my time in that role would have ended long before it did, with a decidedly different legacy); and Jed Morey, the Press’ publisher, who has staked his name on the pursuit of truth, encouraging his editors and writers to slay dragons, and serving as the shield and sword while the soldiers go to war.

This newspaper moved its offices three times over the 10 years I worked there, but regardless of where my desk was placed, it sat adjacent to Chris Twarowski’s.

Today, I have a new neighbor. I am greatly blessed and very happy, and I know, after 10 years, the time had come for me to move on.

But I know, too, that what I left behind will never be found again, and how lucky I was to have ever found it at all.