“Like-Minded People Keep Coming”: How One New Jersey Town Became a Magnet for the Media Elite

When The New Yorker famously depicted the “View of the World From ninth Avenue” on its cover practically a half century in the past, New Jersey was only a brown, barren strip of land past the Hudson. However Maria Russo, a former New York Occasions editor who now works in guide publishing, had a unique perspective from the paper’s cafeteria home windows. “This complete a part of New Jersey is flat—you understand, Meadowlands—and then you definately see a sudden jutting up of the Watchung Mountains. And that’s Montclair,” she recalled. In a approach, stated Russo, “working on the Occasions and residing in Montclair appears like a coherent life.”

With a inhabitants of about 38,000, the prosperous Essex County township some 20 miles within the distance has lengthy been a bed room neighborhood for journalists—significantly these, like Russo, who’ve labored at 620 eighth Avenue. A lot in order that, amid latest disputes over a dues-increase proposal on the NewsGuild of New York, The New Republic’s Alex Shephard used “somebody who lives in Montclair, N.J.” as shorthand for big-shot Occasions reporters opposing the hike from their “gilded palace,” out of contact with their rank-and-file colleagues. Shephard later apologized for “being an ass,” however the inside-baseball dig mirrored how a roughly six-square-mile suburban city has developed right into a populace of distinguished bylines.

Maybe that’s why Montclair appears disproportionately on the radar of Manhattan media shops. In January, New York journal contributing editor and Montclair resident Andrew Rice wrote in regards to the college reopening warfare enjoying out in his personal yard, which the journal had a month earlier devoted its cowl to for the “Permit Karen” of Montclair. There was additionally New York’s Justin Bieber–in–Montclair story, and, within the ’90s, a canopy story that deemed Montclair “The City Suburb.” The Occasions, too, has written on the college reopening controversy, together with the city’s 2012 mayoral elections and native dads forced to care for his or her children whereas mother was away marching (in a much-derided story). Neighboring cities like Maplewood—house to Occasions writers like Dan Barry and (till just lately) Taffy Brodesser-Akner—and South Orange even have their justifiable share of media individuals, however Montclair looms largest. 

As a reasonably new arrival on this enterprise—and particularly, on the media beat—I’ve been struck by what number of colleagues and sources appeared to be Zooming or calling from the identical place (and that this, to them, didn’t appear unusual in any respect!). Simply take take a look at the governing board for the Montclair Native, a four-year-old nonprofit newspaper: Kathleen Carroll, veteran journalist and former government editor of the Related Press; Stephen Engelberg, editor in chief of ProPublica; David Jones, a former Occasions nationwide editor; and Jake Silverstein, the editor in chief of The New York Occasions Journal. After which there’s the advisory board, a 24-person roster that features writer and journalist Jonathan Alter; the OccasionsRukmini Callimachi, David Chen, Kate Zernike, and Karen Yourish; The New Yorker’s Ian Frazier; former Washington Put up reporter Dale Russakoff; and AP vp and managing editor Brian Carovillano. As Jodi Rudoren, editor in chief of The Ahead and certainly one of two former Occasions masthead editors who volunteered to hitch as an adviser, advised me, “This group may both be the advisory board for the Montclair Native or the Pulitzer committee.”

Although many information shops are represented in Montclair, together with by certainly one of my Vainness Truthful colleagues, the Occasions may set up a large bureau inside the city limits. Earlier than departing the Occasions in 2018, former editorial web page editor Andy Rosenthal says he was certainly one of greater than 100 staff who referred to as Montclair house. A couple of years earlier, amid discussions in regards to the newsroom’s emergency contingency plans, Rosenthal says the late editor Janet Elder “received this sensible concept” to do “a zipper code search of the personnel record” for Montclair. “And there have been 124 of us, staffers and their households,” in accordance with Rosenthal. (A Occasions spokesperson confirmed “{that a} contingent of newsroom (and total firm) workers reside in Montclair” however was unable to supply additional particulars.)

There’s additionally a slew of media individuals on the movie and TV facet, similar to CBS Information correspondent Jim Axelrod, actor Patrick Wilson, Saturday Evening Stay producer Steve Higgins, and late-night star Stephen Colbert. For two decades, the Late Present host has lived in Montclair along with his spouse, Evelyn McGee-Colbert, who’s president of Montclair Movie’s board of trustees. A number of members of Colbert’s staff reside on the town, McGee-Colbert stated. Final 12 months, when McGee-Colbert was serving to do the present remotely, from their residence in South Carolina, among the staffers she was speaking with on a day-to-day foundation have been in Montclair. She recalled, “I’d be like, ‘How are issues stepping into Montclair?’”

I had the identical query, and fortunately, in our (sorta) post-Trump information surroundings, I had a bit extra time on my palms to research this weird media migration. The enterprise was, admittedly, extra like infiltrating the PTA than the NSA. However at a second through which the delta variant is throwing off information shops’ plans to lastly shift away from the work-from-home lifetime of the previous 17 months—the Occasions, amongst others, just lately delayed its September return to the workplace—it appeared excessive time to get out of my Brooklyn condo to go to the house base for a lot of the New York media.

I noticed I’d arrived after I noticed an indication declaring Montclair a “stigma-free city.” Delight flags adorned storefront home windows and “Black Lives Matter” and “Cease AAPI Hate” indicators adorned doorways; Higher Montclair’s St. James church had all the above. Watchung Booksellers had reminders for a “Nasty Girls” guide membership and one other on local weather change. “Individuals do strive right here—generally overly sincerely,” Rosenthal advised me over the telephone.

Virtually everybody I spoke to for this text advised me I had to go to Montclair earlier than writing—one even described it as a vinyl-siding-less “oasis”—which is why I used to be barely disillusioned to seek out that it was not, you understand, the Metropolis of God. Montclair seems to be, for essentially the most half, just like the upscale suburb it’s, with tree-lined streets and Tudor and Georgian–fashion houses and cute retailers. On an overcast Tuesday morning in Watchung Plaza, the barista at Native Espresso was on a first-name foundation with each clients coming to choose up their “traditional” behind me. On the tables outdoors Bluestone Espresso Co.—a dim, charming breakfast spot virtually the antithesis of the avocado-toast chain with which it shares an analogous identify—buddies and {couples} talked and ate. Two older males sat having espresso, one with a duplicate of the latest George Saunders subsequent to his cup. The quiet hum of the realm was interrupted solely by children passing by way of on their bikes—presumably dogged reporters on project for Montclair Kids News—or automotive engines, or N.J. Transit coming and going from Watchung Avenue station.

https://www.vanityfair.com/information/2021/08/how-one-new-jersey-town-became-a-magnet-for-the-media-elite | “Like-Minded Individuals Preserve Coming”: How One New Jersey City Turned a Magnet for the Media Elite


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