Last year, in the months and days leading up to December 14, 2010, I was freaking out.
That's because I had been hired to do a job here in Wakefield that no one's ever done before: Create a free, online news website that seeks to do more than just share the news, but build an online community for an entire town.
So I headed out, took as many photos as I could of places in town, (trying to appear as non-suspicious as possible, although I did get the police called on me once) meticulously poured over my initial ten articles (spending probably about a day writing each one to ensure absolute perfection, which seems silly now that I write about seven a day) and on the fateful day and time of 8 p.m. on Dec. 14th, one of my bosses clicked the magic button and my website went live.
"Will people even read it?" I worried.
The answer? Nope.
That's because although I had created an amazing product, there were none of you yet, the readers. No one knew Wakefield Patch existed.
Well, except for a few people, without whom I would have certainly been lost. Among my early supporters were Kim Bova McDonald, who wrote everything from Christmas tree shopping tips to real estate columns, and Nancy Bertrand, who let me profile her business and hire her as a contributor not knowing anything about me and my mission here in town. Thanks a million to you both. I'm so grateful to have contributors like you. Both of you go above and beyond your roles as contributors and have always helped out where you can to keep the site functioning and rolling. I sincerely appreciate it.
Sometime around February, I met contributor Laurie Hunt, although we started out on the complete wrong foot. It was mostly because one of my calendar editors had wrongly used one of her photos without the proper photo credit. Well, Laurie handled the situation with such grace that she ended up joining up with me to lead the Wakefield Patch Moms Council, a column that soars in popularity each week far ahead of anything I write :) This special thank-you goes out to Tasha Schlake-Festel, Regina Martine, Peggy Barresi, and Holly DeSouza, too. You are all fantastic and have captivated me, the community, and even the surrounding communities with your stories.
Other early supporters of Patch I'm grateful to are former School Committee member Daniel Lieber, Wakefield High School Principal Kim Smith, and Superintendent Joan Landers. Were it not for your help and grace in allowing me to infiltrate your schools prior to any real journalistic reputation in town, I'm not sure where I'd be.
Which brings me to the Wakefield Police Department. Former Deputy Chief Jack MacKay, who early on not only began to believe in Wakefield Patch's mission to inform the community through the Internet, but realized the potential that online media and the police department could have when they worked together. Through this partnership I was able to cover stories on , , , and even help solve a crime in another town through a , which Deputy MacKay began to release to the media in 2010 based on my request. Chief Richard Smith and Lieutenant Craig Calabrese have also been incredibly friendly and helpful to me, a relationship for which I'm truly grateful. Even when I freak Lieutenant Calabrese out by asking weird, hopefully hypothetical "Is it a crime if...?" questions. Thanks so much for all the time you spend talking to me every day.
And I can't forget to mention Fire Chief Michael Sullivan and Rosemary Dellano for not only keeping me informed up-to-the-minute on fires and department news, but for also reaching out with other community information that's been invaluable in getting to know Wakefield as a community.
I could go on and on, and I haven't even mentioned Selectman Paul DiNocco, who always used to tell me "Keep writing that Patch!" Don't worry, I will (or I'll be out of a job...) It's also been a pleasure getting to know Selectman Betsy Sheeran, Selectman Albert Turco, Selectman Patrick Glynn, School Committee members Lisa Butler and Anthony Guardia, and DPW Director Rick Stinson, who I've called and emailed with at all hours of the night (or early morning) about various snow and water main emergencies and convinced to send over videos, photos and other media. I'm so grateful for the news and information you share with me. Photographers Mike Angelo and Paul Mozell have also been there for me in a pinch. Thanks so much to you all.
For those who I haven't indivdually thanked yet, it would be impossible to thank everyone, but just know I am grateful to anyone who has ever written in to let me know about something going on in town, written a blog post, posted an event to the events calendar, recommended Wakefield Patch to a friend (considering we do close to no marketing, I'm extremely grateful for any word-of mouth recommendations), anyone who has taken the time to share an opinion in the comments section, who has emailed me to point out a mistake, typo or inaccuracy, or you name it. Wakefield Patch would be nothing were it not for readers and writers like you who harness the site's capabilities and make it useful for everyone else.
It's been a true pleasure getting to know Wakefield, MA. I'm always impressed by how effortlessly the government and town departments function, and how passionate town supporters and residents are of not only their town, but each other.
Thanks again for choosing me as your local online news source. Looking forward to another great year.