There’s been a long-running joke in the ROI-NJ newsroom. What’s the crazier idea: Starting a media organization in 2017 — or taking full ownership of it during a pandemic?
This is just one of the things Tom Hughes and I are pondering as we start Year 4 of ROI-NJ, a media company we feel straddles the intersection of business and politics — covering New Jersey’s big personalities and subtle successes in both areas.
We’re celebrating with the launch of an updated website. It has a sleeker design on the home page, but its biggest impact will be on the back end, where it will give us a greater ability to present content — and advertising. And, as anyone in business can tell you, what goes on behind the scenes is more important.
That’s certainly true at ROI. Tom Hughes and I may be out front, but it’s the team that has made ROI what it is today. To paraphrase the saying: We didn’t build this ourselves.
We’d like to honor those who helped make this a reality.
On the editorial side, it starts with managing editor Eric Strauss, an old-fashioned copy editor who is as good as anyone I’ve worked with in three decades in the business. Writer/editor/social media manager Emily Bader has been instrumental to our growth — as have ace reporter Brett Johnson and Rob Russo, who singlehandedly has produced all of our creative elements.
On the sales side, a tip of the hat goes to our sales director, Liz Dwyer, who sets the standard in hustle and hard work, and Damon Riccio — known throughout the state’s ever-growing food sector as the go-to guy.
Of course, these are just some of the people who have been instrumental in our growth. So many others have gone on to bigger and better things, but they always will remain a part of our family. That includes Chris DeCellio, our first employee, who set up the operations of the company. And Anjalee Khemlani, the longtime face of our editorial team, who now works on the national scene at Yahoo.
The contributions of Meg Fry, Joanne White, Frank Scancarella, Ali Brush, Chrystalin Popp, Morgan Potucek, Elena Parks and our do-everything associate, Alex Wolmart, should be noted, as well. As should the efforts of Nasir Michael, who assisted us as part of our original holding company.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the financial support and backing of Amy and Monica Smith. They believed in our vision when it was just a PowerPoint presentation — and helped us establish ourselves as entrepreneurs, teaching us every step of the way. We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. Simply put, we cannot say “Thank you” enough.
Last but not least, we want to thank our wives and kids. They have allowed us to follow our dreams while also allowing us to break local labor laws while serving as writers, editors, photographers, data processors and social media and marketing assistants.
The pandemic has been tough on the media business, as it has for all other sectors of the economy. The one silver lining for us: In the toughest of times, people turn to trusted sources of information. Our metrics have skyrocketed during the pandemic. And for that, we say, “Thank you.”
We also have a huge note of thanks for our sponsors and advertisers — for, without them, we wouldn’t be in business. Thank you for believing in us.
The media business is a challenge. One we enjoy taking on every day. We’re proud to be part of a profession that brings its passion to the workplace every day. We ask for your continued support. And we also ask that you continue to support the folks we always consider colleagues — not competition.
New Jersey is blessed with a number of media outlets that are outside of the mainstream, including, but not limited to, Politico New Jersey, InsiderNJ, New Jersey Globe, NJ Spotlight, TAPinto and, of course, the place where so many of us previously worked: NJBIZ. We’re all better off because of all of them.
The more media, the better, we say.
All of this brings us back to our original question. What’s the crazier idea: Starting a media organization in 2017 — or taking full ownership of it during a pandemic?
At ROI-NJ, we feel it’s a trick question. Both are great ideas — as long as you have the right team behind you.