Twenty years after leaving The Press of Atlantic City - I served as its controller from 1989-93 - I returned last week as publisher.
It felt like coming home to me. And home feels good.
South Jersey is a great place to be publisher of a newspaper. This region is newsy, the people are vibrant, businesses are unique and innovative, and politics is as fervent and passionate as anywhere in the country.
So, going forward, just how will The Press fit in with all that?
Warren Buffett's company, BH Media, is the new owner of The Press. When it comes to investing, Buffett is as shrewd as they come; he does not spend his money on a fool's venture. Clearly, his company and the management of The Press believe in South Jersey and the people who live here, work here and do business here.
That will be the message I take with me over the next few weeks when I introduce myself to our advertisers and the business community in general. The people at those businesses can expect to hear us discuss ways we can better work with them and help their companies achieve their goals. The business climate today requires innovation; The Press will seek to provide just that on both its print and digital platforms.
This kind of thinking will apply across a broad spectrum - from the small family business to casinos execs, we will strive to be a friendly, positive business partner.
Our readers, of course, are of equal importance, and we will strengthen our commitment to community journalism. News organizations often are accused of stressing negative news; it's hard to dispute this, since negative news often has the most immediate impact on people.
However, South Jersey residents have plenty of positive news going on about them. For instance:
• The continued development of Atlantic City's downtown area, with Bass Pro Shops said to be very near beginning construction of its store.
• Completion of the Route 52 causeway between Somers Point and Ocean City. Besides being a much safer road, many people now walk on its pathway and fish from its piers. That wasn't happening when I was here in the 1990s.
• The Atlantic City Alliance and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority are clearly working steadily toward developing Atlantic City's future. When I left here 20 years ago, the Atlantic City Expressway gateway into the city was a depressing sight. Driving into town today one can't help but feel upbeat about Atlantic City's future. CRDA projects are paying off.
• In Cape May County, those dangerous traffic lights on the Garden State Parkway are finally being removed. If memory serves, this project was actually being discussed way back when I left the area in 1993. Finally, it's happening.
• Health care as an industry is flourishing in the region. We are very fortunate to live in an area where we all have access to some of the best health care options and technology in the state.
• The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Stockton's continued growth and investment obviously reflect a confidence in the area's future.
These are positive, ongoing stories that readers will continue to see reported in The Press.
But they are also the obvious stories. It's the not-so-obvious stories that often paint the full picture of a community, and those are the stories we need to hear about from our readers.
Our editors will be exploring new ways to get feedback and feel the pulse of our readers. We already make strong use of social media; we'll continue developing that, but we'll also go out into area towns and hold community meetings, where readers (and nonreaders) can suggest where we should point our resources. In short, we will strive to see that the people of South Jersey have a voice in the coverage we provide.
Finally, there's politics. The entire Legislature is up for election in November, as is the office of governor. New Jersey political campaigns are traditionally fiery, compelling - and sometimes ugly. This year should be no different, and The Press will provide readers continuous and relevant campaign coverage.
For instance, The Press is partnering with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton to sponsor debates between Senate and Assembly candidates in the 1st, 2nd and 9th districts - that includes Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic and southern Ocean counties. The debates will be streamed live on our website.
So, put all of that together - the business opportunities, the positive news about the region - and you can see why I say South Jersey is a great place to be a newspaper publisher.
Yes, it's good to be home.
Mark L. Blum is publisher of The Press of Atlantic City.