First, a heartfelt thanks to our many readers who have reached out to us with praise and appreciation for the steps we have been taking to make our print and digital publications a more informative and engaging community resource.
Now we are asking for your help in the next phase of our improvement efforts; please respond to a new survey designed to help us get a better sense of how our readers interact with our newspapers and website. Our intent is to discover what our readers most enjoy and what we could be doing better. In hopes that as many voices as possible will be heard, the survey has also been designed for non-readers—and sporadic readers—to complete as well. The more information we gather, the better able we will be to continue our efforts to make our papers—and their online counterpart, currently in the throes of re-design—vital and integral resources for our communities.
It has been 20 years or so since the names Tara Barnwell, Michael Moffat, Elinor Vincent and Darla Youngs have appeared together on the masthead of “The Freeman’s Journal.” A confluence of events perhaps regarded by some as a perfect storm—or an imperfect storm, by others—has brought us all together again.
“The Freeman’s Journal” is arguably one of the oldest weekly newspapers in the nation. Founded by Judge William Cooper, it began as the “Impartial Observer” in 1808 with publisher William Andrews. A year later, both the name of the paper and the publisher had changed, becoming the “Cooperstown Federalist” under the direction of John H. Prentiss. The newspaper’s flag finally stuck in 1817 and has remained “The Freeman’s Journal” ever since. The Journal’s sister newspaper, “Hometown Oneonta,” is a mere babe in the woods by comparison at just 15 years old.
Iron String Press, the parent company of “The Freeman’s Journal,” “Hometown Oneonta” and “AllOtsego.com,” has hired Darla M. Youngs as general manager. Youngs joins Publisher Tara Barnwell and her team as the organization seeks to revitalize its newspapers, revamp its website and reestablish its connection with the communities it serves.
“We are so fortunate to have Darla join us,” Tara Barnwell, Publisher, said. “She brings a wealth of knowledge from her previous newspaper experience, everything from design and production to sharp editing skills.”
Youngs, who hails from Bouckville originally, has a long history covering the news and addressing issues important to Otsego County.
The March 17 edition of The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta includes a look at local reaction to New York’s new retail pot dispensary regulations … whether giant spiders are headed our way … tips on taking care of your pupper’s paws … thoughts on botany … helpful March Madness bracket hints … Merl Reagle’s fantastic crossword puzzle … and more! Subscribers will see all our stories on-line at allotsego.com.
Available now, this week’s print edition of The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta, featuring the stories we’re adding this morning for our on-line readers — plus this week’s Merl Reagle crossword puzzle, a take on the whole Major League Baseball kerfuffle courtesy of Babe Ruth’s grandson, letters to the editor, and the joy of holding a printed newspaper in your hands. Subscribe now!
Oh yes, I remember: August 1983, leaning against a column in front the library on Main Street for a photo, thanking the people of Cooperstown for reading my Freeman’s Journal work that summer, and heading back to Rochester to begin my junior year of college. My boss published the picture with the caption, “I’d like to thank Richard Johnson for giving me my own column.”
A few things happened since then. I met her in London, England, in 1984 and in 1986 married the wonderful Angela Buesing of Davenport, Iowa; we raised two daughters, each grown and married. I was a newspaper editor in suburban Rochester and then worked for the New York State Senate. I spent three decades in Albany as the lobbyist for New York’s retailers large and small, retiring in November 2020.
But like classic rock bands that retire — only to come back a year later — here I come, out of retirement and back to my beloved hometown. Back to writing for the newspaper that my dad brought home every week when I was growing up, that I’ve never stopped reading, and that indeed gave me my own column all those years ago. I’m honored by the opportunity to work here again and am grateful to Tara Barnwell, Lin Vincent, and Michael Moffat for their dedication to local journalism and their trust in me.
I can honestly say this is a column I never thought I would write, my first as editor of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta.
I say that for two reasons: one, I spent the past decade in competition with the Iron String Press media team, while working as an editor and reporter for another news organization; two, that stint, with an Alabama-based organization I shall forever more refer to as the pension fund, did not go well.
My first play, “The Sun,” first staged in 2004, is about a small-town newspaper that is being destroyed as larger news organizations try to buy it. I spent the past decade at the pension fund thinking either irony is a cruel trick of life, or I was being blessed with an abundance of stories for the television adaptation.
The twin low points were mass layoffs on Good Friday/Passover eve and the closing of the Town Crier office and relegating the Cooperstown paper to a reprint.
As the Crier editor at the time, I took the laying off of my reporter (while I was on vacation, no less) hard and the office closing harder. I transferred to a couple of different roles at the pension fund’s daily, but it wasn’t a secret I hated commuting to Oneonta. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise in some ways as I got to know the city, its politicians and businesses, and the southern half of the county.
Still, I missed Cooperstown and the coronavirus pandemic and family issues made it harder and harder for me to commute.
I had been planning to quit the newspaper business for good this year, perhaps to go back to my dreams of making movies. Or, at least, to help other people make their movies. Last year, after years of discussions, I teamed up with a group of local film makers, businesspeople and political leaders to start a nonprofit 501c6 film commission office, Film COOP (rhymes with hoop, we are not a co-op), or more officially, The Cooperstown, Oneonta, Otsego County Film Partnership, Inc.
Tara Barnwell promoted to publisher;
Greg Klein named editor;
ownership remains In local hands
COOPERSTOWN – As of Friday, April 16, Iron String Press, Inc, publisher of The Freeman’s Journal, Hometown Oneonta and www.allotsego.com is under new ownership.
Tara Barnwell, general manager of Iron String Press, becomes president and publisher and actor-writer Greg Klein becomes editor of the company’s print and digital news and entertainment sources, succeeding Jim Kevlin.
Kevlin after 15 years as editor, publisher and president of Iron String Press and its media family, has retired.
With the new ownership, Iron String Press remains the only locally owned and locally focused news and entertainment operation in Otsego County.
A full story will appear in this week’s print editions of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta.