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december 18, 2015


The man behind the curtain

David Kirkwood.

Linda Leavitt.

And now me.

In the event you missed the small blurb on the front page last week, or don’t look at the masthead below this space, my name is Jason Chirevas and I’m now the editor-in-chief of The Scarsdale Inquirer. That means I’m only the third person to sit in this chair since 1975, and I’ve taken the helm of a more than century-old newspaper that’s been a pillar of its community equally as long at a time when newspapers are either dying, dead or existing as anemic, flimsy versions of their former selves.

Good gig.

Frankly, it is a good gig. A great gig, in fact, because the Inquirer enjoys a healthy, engaged readership and has had the respect of the community going back as far as I suspect anyone currently in town can remember.

And now it’s up to me to make sure all of that remains the case.

Before I go any further, there’s one more name that belongs in this discussion of the Inquirer editor’s chair.

When Linda Leavitt retired in June of last year, the Inquirer needed a bridge. It needed someone to take the paper from where it’s been to where it’s going to go. Former Arts & Entertainment Editor Debra Banerjee stepped up and filled that role, serving as interim editor from June to November of this year. When the decision was made to install me as the permanent editor-in-chief, there was a two-week crossover period in which Debby showed me the ropes and made the transition a smooth, gracious thing. I’m thankful for Debby and what she did, and I hope the Inquirer’s readers are too. A newspaper craves stability and Debby provided that at a time that could have proved most difficult in the Inquirer’s history. Well done to her.

So, let’s look forward for a bit.

The Inquirer will have a legitimate online presence in 2016. That’s as specific as I’m willing to be at present other than to say I’m looking at spring as the time to launch. There will also be a comprehensive social media policy in place at that time, which will work to integrate the digital and print products in such a way that will be beneficial to both.

So there’s that cat out of the bag.

And now a word about philosophy.

Throughout its history, the Inquirer has served and celebrated the village of Scarsdale ably and consistently. That trend will continue; when the community does something great, the Inquirer will be there.

But a newspaper should also, in its best version, be a dispassionate mirror held up to the community it serves so those therein can see who and what their neighbors really are and what’s actually going on. I’m a big believer in that, and so the Inquirer will strive to be that dispassionate mirror in at least equal proportion to a highlighter of all the good things and good people Scarsdale is fortunate to be able to claim as its own.

With this philosophy in mind, you will no longer see stories in the Inquirer’s pages in which public meetings — be they of government or school officials — are recapped or otherwise reported simply from an observer’s point of view.

Two reasons for this.

First, in this age of local cable TV and Internet streaming, it is no longer worthwhile to provide a newspaper’s readers with play-by-play from a meeting a reader could watch from his couch as it happens or the next day on her iPad on the 7:25 to Grand Central.

Second, in that best version of a newspaper mentioned above, it is the reporter’s job to go below the surface of individual stories and issues as often and as deeply as that reporter can. The meetings and their resolutions are not the story. The issues behind those resolutions and how they got to the table — those are the stories the Inquirer’s news beat reporters will explore.

Last, if you read the letters on this page this week, you might see one in which the writer, in disagreeing with the paper’s stance on a current village issue, makes it a point to reveal I do not live in the village of Scarsdale. That’s true. I live in what the post office calls Bronxville — it’s actually Yonkers — and that would never have been a secret to anyone who asked.

I bring this to your attention here because it goes directly to the philosophy outlined above. As a non-Scarsdalian, I’m not constrained by the concerns a villager might have in my position, which will only serve to make the Inquirer, in my opinion, the best version of itself it can be.

Plus, David Kirkwood lived in Manhattan, and look how great that turned out.

—Jason Chirevas

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of The Scarsdale Inquirer. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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