It’s lovely that Americans set aside a holiday each fall for the simple purpose of taking time to reflect on the things we are thankful for. In this space, we often take the time to appreciate the abundance surrounding us on the South Fork — the natural, cultural and economic bounty we share. That’s as true this year as ever, but the richness of sentiment feels even warmer than usual this year.
Exactly halfway through 2019, a merger brought together two companies that publish four newspapers — The Sag Harbor Express, The East Hampton Press, and the two editions of The Southampton Press — plus two websites, 27east.com and sagharborexpress.com. It was a rare instance when two successful organizations that have served their communities for more than a century joined forces.
This first Thanksgiving after the creation of the Express News Group, now that the dust has started to settle, it’s a chance to catch our collective breath, look around at the new ground we find ourselves on, and express some heartfelt gratitude.
At a time when newspapers all over the country are struggling, and the future is hazy, the merger that created the Express News Group was not a desperate decision — but it was a tactical one. Two companies that have always been friendly competitors saw a future that looks brighter for organizations with more resources, which allows a more nimble response in a changing business climate. Moreover, it offered an opportunity for both newsrooms to come together and commit to doing even better work together than they were doing separately.
Readers will be the ultimate judge of how that turns out, in both the short and long term. Within the new organization, however, there is a palpable energy and excitement. The future is always a challenge, and the headwinds can be daunting. But a few months in, there already is plenty of evidence that the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts that came together.
The goal, ultimately, is a deeper connection with a readership that is more engaged than in most communities — a rare, joyous symbiotic relationship between an audience that wants more information, and a community news organization eager to provide it. That connection will only be enhanced with public events, such as the Express Sessions, which have expanded to include Press Sessions in both East Hampton and Southampton towns. It’s also deepened by more in-depth reporting, a greater focus on telling stories that are going untold in such a diverse community, and being attentive that all four print newspapers remain individual sources of news for their communities. Special sections and magazines that even more deeply explore the amazing stories all around us are part of the equation, as is a vibrant web presence that serves as a daily news source, supplementing the rich experience in print.
It’s early in the effort, and there is much work to do. The next year or two will include some surprises — good as well as, inevitably, bad. But as Thanksgiving 2019 arrives, this news organization feels thankful for a moment in time that feels full of potential. While many of our colleagues nationally are fighting for survival, despite doing fine work, our focus is on thriving and expanding, both in breadth and depth of coverage.
That said, there is always one thing we are most thankful for — and that is the readers of Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Southampton, Hampton Bays, Westhampton Beach, Montauk, Bridgehampton, Water Mill, North Haven, Flanders and Riverside, Quogue and East Quogue, and every tiny neighborhood in between. You are the reason we exist, and reflecting this marvelous community back at you is our mission.
Happy Thanksgiving, and we hope everyone reading this feels as optimistic about the future as we do.