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

Minnie V. Muir

When The New Yorker famously depicted the “View of the Globe From 9th Avenue” on its include just about a half century in the past, New Jersey was just a brown, barren strip of land outside of the Hudson. But Maria Russo, a former New York Occasions editor who now works in ebook publishing, had a distinctive point of view from the paper’s cafeteria windows. “This complete component of New Jersey is flat—you know, Meadowlands—and then you see a unexpected jutting up of the Watchung Mountains. And that is Montclair,” she recalled. In a way, explained Russo, “working at the Instances and living in Montclair feels like a coherent lifetime.”

With a populace of about 38,000, the affluent Essex County township some 20 miles in the length has very long been a bedroom local community for journalists—particularly all those, like Russo, who have labored at 620 8th Avenue. So much so that, amid the latest disputes above a dues-boost proposal at the NewsGuild of New York, The New Republic’s Alex Shephard made use of “someone who life in Montclair, N.J.” as shorthand for major-shot Situations reporters opposing the hike from their “gilded palace,” out of contact with their rank-and-file colleagues. Shephard afterwards apologized for “being an ass,” but the inside-baseball dig reflected how a about 6-sq.-mile suburban city has formulated into a populace of outstanding bylines.

Most likely that’s why Montclair appears to be disproportionately on the radar of Manhattan media outlets. In January, New York magazine contributing editor and Montclair resident Andrew Rice wrote about the faculty reopening war taking part in out in his own yard, which the journal experienced a thirty day period earlier devoted its cover to for the “Permit Karen” of Montclair. There was also New York’s Justin Bieber–in–Montclair tale, and, in the ’90s, a protect tale that considered Montclair “The Urban Suburb.” The Instances, much too, has written on the university reopening controversy, together with the town’s 2012 mayoral elections and regional dads forced to care for their young ones when mother was away marching (in a a great deal-derided story). Neighboring cities like Maplewood—home to Periods writers like Dan Barry and (until finally recently) Taffy Brodesser-Akner—and South Orange also have their fair share of media individuals, but Montclair looms largest. 

As a fairly new arrival in this business—and precisely, on the media beat—I’ve been struck by how many colleagues and resources appeared to be Zooming or calling from the exact same put (and that this, to them, did not seem peculiar at all!). Just consider look at the governing board for the Montclair Local, a 4-year-aged nonprofit newspaper: Kathleen Carroll, veteran journalist and former government editor of the Connected Push Stephen Engelberg, editor in main of ProPublica David Jones, a previous Situations nationwide editor and Jake Silverstein, the editor in chief of The New York Instances Magazine. And then there’s the advisory board, a 24-man or woman roster that involves creator and journalist Jonathan Change the OccasionsRukmini Callimachi, David Chen, Kate Zernike, and Karen Yourish The New Yorker’s Ian Frazier former Washington Article reporter Dale Russakoff and AP vice president and managing editor Brian Carovillano. As Jodi Rudoren, editor in main of The Forward and 1 of two previous Occasions masthead editors who volunteered to be a part of as an adviser, informed me, “This team could possibly be the advisory board for the Montclair Nearby or the Pulitzer committee.”

Though numerous information outlets are represented in Montclair, like by a person of my Self-importance Truthful colleagues, the Times could set up a sizable bureau inside the town limits. Just before departing the Situations in 2018, previous editorial website page editor Andy Rosenthal states he was one particular of extra than 100 workers who identified as Montclair residence. A number of yrs previously, amid discussions about the newsroom’s crisis contingency programs, Rosenthal suggests the late editor Janet Elder “got this fantastic idea” to do “a zip code research of the personnel list” for Montclair. “And there were 124 of us, staffers and their family members,” according to Rosenthal. (A Situations spokesperson confirmed “that a contingent of newsroom (and all round enterprise) staff members are living in Montclair” but was not able to offer even further particulars.)

There is also a slew of media folks on the film and Television set side, these types of as CBS Information correspondent Jim Axelrod, actor Patrick Wilson, Saturday Evening Stay producer Steve Higgins, and late-night star Stephen Colbert. For two a long time, the Late Present host has lived in Montclair with his spouse, Evelyn McGee-Colbert, who is president of Montclair Film’s board of trustees. Quite a few members of Colbert’s staff stay in city, McGee-Colbert claimed. Previous yr, when McGee-Colbert was assisting do the display remotely, from their residence in South Carolina, some of the staffers she was speaking with on a day-to-day basis have been in Montclair. She recalled, “I’d be like, ‘How are items heading in Montclair?’”

I had the similar query, and thankfully, in our (sorta) submit-Trump news natural environment, I had a little bit far more time on my arms to examine this strange media migration. The enterprise was, admittedly, far more like infiltrating the PTA than the NSA. But at a instant in which the delta variant is throwing off news outlets’ ideas to ultimately shift absent from the function-from-home everyday living of the earlier 17 months—the Instances, amongst others, not too long ago delayed its September return to the office—it seemed high time to get out of my Brooklyn apartment to check out the house base for significantly of the New York media.

I realized I’d arrived when I noticed a sign declaring Montclair a “stigma-no cost town.” Satisfaction flags adorned storefront windows and “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop AAPI Hate” indications decorated doorways Upper Montclair’s St. James church experienced all of the earlier mentioned. Watchung Booksellers had reminders for a “Nasty Women” book club and another on local weather modify. “People do attempt here—sometimes extremely sincerely,” Rosenthal told me over the mobile phone.

Pretty much every person I spoke to for this article told me I experienced to go to Montclair in advance of writing—one even explained it as a vinyl-siding-less “oasis”—which is why I was somewhat let down to uncover that it was not, you know, the City of God. Montclair appears to be like, for the most portion, like the upscale suburb it is, with tree-lined streets and Tudor and Georgian–style houses and adorable outlets. On an overcast Tuesday early morning in Watchung Plaza, the barista at Community Coffee was on a to start with-identify basis with each shoppers coming to pick up their “usual” guiding me. At the tables outside Bluestone Coffee Co.—a dim, charming breakfast location virtually the antithesis of the avocado-toast chain with which it shares a comparable name—friends and couples talked and ate. Two older adult males sat possessing espresso, 1 with a duplicate of the new George Saunders subsequent to his cup. The quiet hum of the place was interrupted only by young ones passing through on their bikes—possibly dogged reporters on assignment for Montclair Kids Information—or automobile engines, or N.J. Transit coming and likely from Watchung Avenue station.

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