Effective with the new year, the former Joan Giger Walker and I have transferred ownership of the company and the three community newspapers it publishes — The Suffolk Times, The Riverhead News-Review and The Shelter Island Reporter — to our daughter, Sarah Olsen, and her husband, Andrew Olsen, who has served as publisher since Joan and I stepped down as co-publishers in 2003.
This is, as you might imagine, a bittersweet time for the Gustavsons. We purchased the business from the Dorman family in November of 1977, and our 35 years as owners have been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream that began when I “published” The Coolidge Place Gazette as a 10-year-old in Hackensack, N.J. So this is the end of an era, and that’s the bitter part.
The sweet part is that Times/Review will remain in our family for the foreseeable future. Sarah and Andrew are ready, willing and able to take the helm, and Joan and I are confident that they and their amazing staff will continue to produce high-quality, prize-winning newspapers and websites.
You can assess the Olsens’ qualifications for yourself in the aforementioned business story, but here’s one most people are unaware of: Back in the late ’80s, before they were married, Sarah and Andrew were co-editors of The Quill, the newspaper jointly published by students from Greenport and Southold high schools. (Sarah went to Greenport, Andrew to Southold.) So, you see, they’ve had newspapering in their blood for a long time, too.
On Jan. 5, 1978, as the new owners we published an editorial under a headline that read: “What We Stand For.” It appeared in both The Suffolk Times and The News-Review, and the sentiments expressed applied once again when we acquired the Shelter Island paper some 20 years later. We’ll leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide if those promises were fulfilled or not, as follows:
“The changing of the guard at The Suffolk Times hopefully will be taken for what it is: a natural evolution. Newspapers are bigger than their owners, and The Times will be here for a long time after we’ve all played out our part in its life.
“Nevertheless, the community has a right to know what we stand for. And that will be up to you — our readers — to determine over a period of time. What follows is offered to help you keep score in the months and years ahead.
“We stand for truth. The truth will always be our guiding light.
“We stand for excellence. There is always room for improvement, but we intend to build upon the record of excellence that has become the standard at the Times.
“We stand for fairness. If we fail to be even-handed in our reporting and editorial policy, we hope it will be merely because we are human and not in the business of grinding axes.
“We stand for self-determination. The right of the individual to determine his own fate — beyond the influence of outside forces — is supreme in our eyes. And that goes for outside forces who would overdevelop our diminishing farmland, supply power to points west by despoiling the North Fork’s natural resources and endangering its people, or bring interstate ferry service to a village that has serious reservations about that service.
“We stand for non-partisanship. It doesn’t matter to us whether someone is a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent. Honesty, integrity and performance are what matter.
“That is what we stand for. Now it’s up to you to determine whether we live up to our word.”