2017-06-07 / Features

At 35, A Voice To Be Reckoned With

The Queens Gazette:

There is a message in the survival of the Queens Gazette, a message for naysayers and skeptics that doubted the newspaper would survive when it first debuted in January 1982: “Never Say Never.”

The once-small Queens weekly, rooted in community unity and determined to meet the challenges of a hometown newspaper, is very much alive and thriving, 35 years later.

None if it was easy. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how we survived those first 18 months, when news was plentiful, but cash and volunteers were scarce. Everyone wanted to play a role in the new newspaper, but few were willing to give their time freely to do so.

Queens was a very different place when the Gazette first hit the streets in January of 1982 than it is today. The issues on the minds of its neighbors may not have changed all that much since then, but people in the other boroughs, across the nation and around the world now realize that the folks in Queens are at the heart of what really matters.

People that doubted the survival of the paper failed to realize that we were not simply printing neighborhood news. We were creating a vessel to carry the values, understanding and true concept of community from Queens to the world, on paper or on the global network, as a voice to be reckoned with.

The newspaper evolved from a vision shared by three local leaders who reached into their own pockets to finance the first edition of the paper, then dubbed the Western Queens Gazette. Co-founder George L. Stamatiades inherited full responsibility for the newspaper in May 1982. During that same month the paper relocated to office space provided free of charge by the Dutch Kills Civic Association.

The Gazette was purchased in June, 1983 by newser John Toscano and Astoria businessman Buster Celestino. Toscano, who covered politics for the Daily News for 26 years, quickly expanded coverage and created a more professional image for the Gazette.

The Queens Gazette is today owned and operated by publisher Tony Barsamian, who has continued the Gazette premise of printing local news, while successfully guiding it through the global network.

It has been said that newspapers, in their present form, are regrettably headed for the dustbin of history. Forgive those of us who have grown and learned from newspapers like the Queens Gazette, who share a certain nostalgia for the magic of newsprint, for there is something about turning the pages of a newspaper that can never be duplicated by an electronic image.

From its first edition, the Gazette has provided a voice for the community. And with each issue in its 35-year history, through changes in ownership, the growth of our neighborhoods, and a changing political landscape, the Gazette has helped to strengthen that voice to become louder, bolder and stronger.

Barsamian’s experience as a publisher and his knowledge of Queens communities makes him a perfect choice to steer the Gazette into the next chapter of its life.

The success of the Gazette gives testimony to the strength of our neighborhoods and to the people of Queens. “Never Say Never,” the original publishers said. And they were right.

After all, who would have thought that the little newspaper with so little money and so few staffers would outlive parking meters, subway tokens and pay phones? The little paper that a Daily News editor gave less than three months to survive.

Queens today is truly a global village, the most ethnically diverse place on the planet. Immigrant families that settle in Queens depend on grassroots publications to help foster better understanding of their needs – a task that is well handled by the Queens Gazette.

Congratulations and thanks are in order for Tony and the founders and past publishers of the Gazette, for reminding us each week what we can accomplish together as we reinvent ourselves to live side-by-side with a voice in whatever the future holds.

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