When Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor of the Altamont Enterprise in New York, talks about journalism her voice isn’t calloused with the cynicism that often comes from working in the industry for a quarter century. Her voice is soft and affectionate because she loves journalism and local news.
In fact, the 62-year-old loves it so much that she and her husband, Gary, 61, along with Enterprise staffer, Marcello Iaia, 26, decided to buy the newspaper in July. Owners Jim and Wanda Gardner had intended to sell the paper, but rather than watch the newspaper fall into the hands of someone else, the three took it into their own.
While so many papers today are run by large media companies or are being bought up by millionaires and businesspeople, Hale-Spencer and Iaia believe newspapers should focus on editorial first then the business side.
“That’s the core of why we do this—so journalists run the paper,” said Iaia. “What’s important is what’s written. Everything else comes after.”
Since its birth in 1884, the Enterprise has been a type of community bulletin board for citizens in Albany County, N.Y., said Hale-Spencer.
With a circulation of more than 5,000 and 122 online subscribers, Iaia said the paper has a strong base of subscribers, an active editorial page and a focus on providing local community news to their readers.
The Enterprise will continue to be a newspaper for the community, Hale-Spencer and Iaia said, but they’re also working on updating and improving their digital products and the Enterprise website (altamontenterprise.com), which was almost non-existent until Iaia came to the paper two years ago.
While Hale-Spencer and her husband, who is currently the spokesman for New York’s Court of Appeals, have had long careers in journalism—the couple met while in college and worked together at Hale-Spencer’s parents newspaper, The Lake Placid News—this is Iaia’s first reporting job out of college.
For now, Hale-Spencer and Iaia are getting their footing running the newspaper. Hale-Spencer said once things settle, she hopes to be able to write more again, and Iaia said he’s getting used to being more than just a reporter for the paper.
Currently, they have no plans to change the paper dramatically. “Just make it better,” Iaia said.
The new owners aren’t trying to get rich with their new business endeavor, but they hope that by purchasing the newspaper they can continue quenching the public’s thirst for local news.
“I like to say we make every citizen into an activist, because when people are informed they can take action,” Hale-Spencer said