Widgets Magazine

Beth Young of the East End Beacon on Slow News

Q: You founded and publish the website and print newspaper the East End Beacon.  How did you get into journalism? A: I started by delivering the Sag Harbor Express—I was working on boats about 20 years ago, answered an ad for delivering papers, and in a couple weeks they had me writing stories. I was there for about 8 years.

While I was working there I finished my bachelor’s degree and went to Columbia’s Journalism School. Then I went to DC and interned with a wire service called the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.  Then I came back home, worked for the East Hampton Press, the Southampton Press, and the Times-Review Group. After that I launched the Beacon.

Q: You’ve been a part of the East End’s media landscape, from several angles, for the past 20 years. What changes have you seen?

A: When I started, websites weren’t standalone sources of news, they were more a place for contact info. That changed rapidly and everywhere, and it’s a totally different business than it was 20 years ago. They’re still figuring out how to make it work.

Q: Fair, the shift to digital journalism changed everything. But what was it about the media landscape out here that prompted you to start a new media website and ultimately launch print? I mean, it seems much more common for papers to close and stop printing.

A: One of the biggest reasons I felt was everyone seemed to be reinventing a wheel—East Hampton might do something, really consider an issue, and then a few years later it would come up in Riverhead or Shelter Island and it was as if they were starting from scratch.

I wanted to create a platform that would help keep people in the loop about what was going on in the other towns. It’s kind of the opposite of hyper-local news.  The East End is a relatively distinct region, and I thought it needed journalism from the whole area. I’m aiming for the bigger picture, and not living life in a vacuum. This would be the Peconic County newspaper if there ever was a Peconic County.

I would really love some day to print paper clothes for fish, so that if people are really tired of reading newspapers, we can make it easy for them to wrap fish in it. The whole idea is to have fun with the form, to see what of it is still alive and breathing. I'm betting there's more here than naysayers are willing to believe.

Q: Sure—the East End Towns do have a lot in common that they don’t share with the rest of Long Island. That’s at least in part because we were colonized by CT, not NYC, and why ‘Peconic County’ makes so much sense. Besides wanting to counter the hyper-local, fragmentation aesthetic of a lot of media, was there any other need you thought the Beacon could fill?.

A: In the last 8 years of working for other media the focus became breaking news, and searching for what creates the most traffic on the internet. That imperative doesn’t give you an opportunity to decide if a story is actually important. In a place like this, where a mountain can easily be made out of a molehill, you don’t want that.

Some days around here there’s just not a lot of news happening, some days there’s a lot.  The breaking news, site traffic and profit focus wasn’t healthy for the journalism business or the reporters. I think a lot of journalists burn out, and they just become public relations people. I wanted to publish Slow News, stories that were important enough to report, and to report them well.

Q: When and how did you launch the Beacon? How often do you publish?

A: It started as a website four years, two months ago, and became a printed newspaper this April.

Usually the website has one or more new stories every weekday, and sometimes on a weekend as well. We also have digital newsletter that is sent out at 5 am every Sunday. We call it The Week in Review.

The print is once a month, on the first of the month. There’s about 45 retail locations for the print edition you can find them here.  Our current print run is 5,000 copies. It’s a wide broadsheet, 20 pages. Very old fashioned in that way. One of things I’m really tickled about is that it’s a very old form filled each month with new ideas.

Q: Is there a particular story or series of stories that you’re particularly proud of? If so, why?

A: I’m trying to make this a well-rounded newspaper, so I’m most proud when I can cover all of our main focuses well in a given month.

Q: The  New York Times has a motto—All the News that’s Fit to Print. Does the Beacon? Also, your font is distinctive. How did you pick it?

A: The East End Beacon is devoted to covering new ideas, social and environmental issues, arts and culture on the East End of Long Island.  As to font, it’s called American Typewriter. I got a kick out of publishing an internet media site with a font based on the un-digital typewriter. I like the old fashioned aesthetic.

Q: Besides your general news coverage, do you have any particular column, or set of listings that you do regularly that people should turn to the Beacon in particular for?

A: Music. I try to keep the music listings really current, in the wineries, parks and performing art spaces. I want us to be a home for musicians. Music was an early love for me, though I never was any good at it.

Q: Is there something else important to know about the Beacon?

A: Yes. We have some really good writers working for us. William Sertl, a former editor of Gourmet Magazine who lives in Cutchogue; Kara Westerman, who founded the Amagansett Writers Collective; Jinsoo Henry Oh, a young man who grew up in Mattituck who’s very enthusiastic about planning and the future; and Jo-Ann McLean, whose real job is as an archeologist. She knows a lot about everything going on under our feet.

Tim Kelly, the former editor of The Suffolk Times and Glenn Jochum, a former editor of The Traveler-Watchman, are both writing columns. Michael Daly writes for us about housing issues, Susan Tito does a great column about gardening and Linda Slezak, of Slow Food East End, does a great local food column. I think there are others I’m forgetting at the moment. If so, I apologize.

Q: Speaking of the old fashioned aesthetic, your last name is Young. By any chance are you connected to the Reverend Young from New Haven Connecticut, who founded Southold Town in 1640?

A: Yes. He’s my 9th Great Grandfather.

Q: So did you grow up around here? Does your family’s deep roots out here influence your perspective and reporting?

A: I grew up a lot of places out here. I was born in Riverhead, and when my parents divorced I lived in Greenport and Mattituck but spent the weekends in Riverhead. And I lived in Sag Harbor. That  was such a great place to cut my teeth in journalism. If I had the time I’d write the Cannery Row of Sag Harbor. There were such great characters there then. I’m probably one of the few people left around here that’s nostalgic for the potato farms. The vineyards were a big change. The North Fork is very different from when I was growing up.