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Change at Citizens’ Call

You’re probably aware at this point that there hasn’t been much going on around here at Citizens’ Call.  Hardly anything.  So after plenty of stewing and ruminating, it’s time to come clean.

The message here is about change, both journalistically and personally.  My drive to generate local news stories on a regular basis has been depleting like tap water from a badly leaking faucet – relentlessly and rather dramatically.  Kind of like a wildcat strike (what the heck, another metaphor) that engulfs production.  The resistance to regular work routines by management and workers –  that would be me on both counts – has been fierce and, by all accounts, thoroughly successful.  So something had to give.

Things really crystallized by the end of the year when Bill Cosby showed up for his initial court date.  With Elkins Park being trumpeted as ground zero in stories blanketing the globe, where was Citizens’ Call?  Carrying groceries, if you really want to know.  Not that pitching in more on the grocery shopping is high on my bucket list, but it does speak in a way to the personal upside of what comes next.

I’ll be moving on in a new rhythm.  Released from the chains of lining up stories for every tomorrow or fretting about my Google Analytics will definitely bring a new spring to my step.   Fewer meetings, free evenings, more cooking, more pleasure reading.  Vacations without the specter of the next story hanging over my head.   Pursuing old interests (there’s already a growing chorus of “please, anything but that!” when it comes to picking up my trombone) and finding new ones.  You get the picture, the jewels of retirement.  Except for one thing: I don’t exactly want to retire.  And that’s where things get a little confused and, no doubt, why it’s taken so long to crank this out and talk about the future of Citizens’ Call.

It’s not going away entirely, but if you’re an email subscriber, don’t expect to start finding it again in your mailbox every morning.  Still, I don’t know what’s next, although, clearly, there are some big issues for Cheltenham (beside the day-to-day news that will be largely left to someone else) that will continue to cry out for coverage.  Major development projects and comprehensive zoning changes; possible new ownership/management of the township sewer system; addressing the “achievement gap” in the public schools; flood protection; periodic looks at the local housing market; a fair role for non-profits in contributing to the local public purse – just to name a few.

There are also a range of broader issues that I’m passionate about, which seem worthy of attention.  Voting rights and election administration, campaign finance reform, aspects of the local criminal justice system and a whole lot more.  Focusing on those kinds of themes might well transform Citizens’ Call from a local news site into a blog, or involve projects outside of either format.  In any of those other scenarios, its function would be very different and its routine community service role changed and, most likely, diminished.

For the most part, it’s been a great ride.  I’ve met so many people who I now consider friends who I probably wouldn’t know at all if it weren’t for covering all those meetings and events.  And I’d like to think that Citizens’ Call opened up some eyes to the possibilities for local journalism.  We’ve tried to fill a piece of the growing gap between what the mainstream media delivers in this age of diminished possibilities for local news (especially for suburban communities and those of Cheltenham Township’s size) and what vibrant democracy demands.  Of course, you can’t separate the role of the press from its underlying economics in a digital world.  The lack of impetus on the business side is certainly a factor driving this change.  We needed to be bigger and take on a larger presence, which didn’t happen for a variety of reasons.

It will be interesting to see how the local media scene evolves.  Will the restructuring of Philadelphia Media Network (The Inquirer, The Daily News and philly.com) to facilitate charitable giving for news coverage represent things to come?  Will Digital First Media, the parent company of Montgomery News (the string of suburban media outlets in these parts owned by a NYC hedge fund) finally be sold off, and, if so, what will take its place?  Like any concerned citizen, I will be following how the media landscape takes shape and what it will mean for our communities.  In some way, I expect to stay a part of what goes on.

Thanks to all who have supported Citizens’ Call – contributors, email subscribers, readers, commenters – for your enthusiasm and encouragement.  Hopefully, you’ve gained information or considered perspectives you found valuable, but even if we left you gnashing your teeth more times than you care to remember, it’s been a privilege to be of service and a part of such a dynamic community.  See you around town.

Steve Strahs

 

 

About the Author
  1. Ken Ulansey

    Steve…. Your humor and wisdom while dealing with chaos (local issues aren’t inherently less chaotic than international, it seems) has been so wonderful to read. But the world DOES need another trombone player, it’s true.

    • d nova

      bullseye!

  2. Bob CHS Class of '57

    Thank you Steve for the best try in the past 25 years. Even though I wish there will be, I do not think that there will be any replacement with the courage that you displayed, just as I believe that Cheltenham Township will ever regain the status that it once had, i.e. when I graduated from CHS. It is a loosing battle waged against the “Carpet bagger” politicking machine that has taken hold of Cheltenham Township

  3. David L. Cohen

    As someone who has sat in many meetings with you and shared many conversations, thank you for your good and hard work over the years in keeping the community informed with reasoned and well crafted articles. Best of success and happiness moving forward.

  4. Juanita Anderson

    Steve,
    I am also saddened by your decision to retire from your excellent reporting at Citizen’s Call. I am an avid reader and you have enlightened and informed me about what ethical and fair journalism is about. I will miss opening my email and reading your articles, however, please enjoy your plans for self-care. I also echo the call for someone(s) to continue such a much needed service to our community. Good luck and enjoy !

  5. d nova

    you’ll train a replacement before you quit, right?

  6. Amy Fried

    Steve,

    Thanks for all the work and moxie that went into Citizens Call. Naturally, I side with the workers at CC, who deserve better pay and benefits. Looking forward to seeing the new paths you will explore (and run with Tom).

  7. jeffrey kohn

    I too will miss you reporting on local issues as well as your personal view on same. I attempted to support your efforts both when it was free as well as when there was a requested fee by contacting you with potential leads.

    I do not recall when you requested and I agreed to become a regular subscriber finding no problem paying your requested subscription rate. When I did, I was surprised that PayPal started a yearly anniversary payment to you. I do not like such arrangements, so I personally had PayPal remove such automatic payment from my credit card.

    I do not know my renewal anniversary date at this moment but will check since I, and likely others, paid for a year’s subscription. Have you given any thought as to how this will be handled?

  8. Ted Cerebi

    Steve,
    I’m not sure how to react to this. I think I’m as ambivalent as you seem to be. It is a great loss to Cheltenham. I know that I am only one of many readers saddened by your decision. I have read every one of your posts and have always found them informative, interesting, and insightful. The comments to your stories indicate the diversity and breadth of your readership. However, I can also understand your need to move on and enjoy the added time that pulling back will give you and that you certainly deserve. Your voice will be missed. Good luck and good night.

  9. Elayne Aion

    We’ll miss you, and not just your excellent reporting but your sense of humor. We look forward to hearing about your next step. Good luck.

  10. Laura

    Dear Steve,
    We will certainly miss you!
    Sincerely,
    Laura

  11. Deb McCarter

    Steve,
    We’re going to miss you! You’ve done an excellent job of keeping Cheltenham citizens up to speed on what’s happening around town. And as you pointed out in your farewell article, there is not much of that type of thing being covered at the local level. Thanks so much for your heroic effort to be everywhere & cover everything. I hope we will be fortunate enough to see coverage of Cheltenham news be a priority. Thank you so much for your shining example of what there is to do and how it can be done!

  12. Ellen Friedman

    Steve, thanks for your voice and dedication. Your reporting will be missed.

  13. Gina Craigo

    Thanks for all of your excellent journalism over the years, Steve. I came to rely on your balanced voice and reporting on those issues that really matter to us in Cheltenham. Good luck to you, thank you for all your efforts, and see you around town!

    Gina Craigo
    p.s. I’m with Bill, thank you for NOT reporting the Cosby arraignment.

  14. Deborra Sines Pancoe

    You have been such a fine voice in covering local issues. You will be missed! I wish a person could be found to take your place. Big shoes to fill. I hope you find the right balance between nurturing yourself in retirement and engaging in public discourse. THANK YOU. All the best!

  15. Jeff Cohen

    Thanks Steve. I hope you can continue or find ways to enlist others to help continue this needed local news service. Most importantly – thank you!

  16. Emily Brecker Greenberg

    I will really miss your levelheaded regular reporting of our local news, Steve, but totally support the choices you are making. I am glad that you will have the time to search for the activities that give you personal pleasure and less stress. (I started to play the harp at age 62 after 57 years of piano!!! I am not “good” yet but am still plucking along with it.) Hope your trombone playing makes your heart sing no matter what others say! GOOD LUCK – I look forward to seeing you in the ‘hood. THANKS for your tremendous work.

  17. Madeline Rawley

    Good news and bad news for this reader. Good news that you will still be involved in working on voting rights, election administration, and campaign finance reform. I know you CANNOT and MUST NOT “retire” from that!!!!

    Bad news, in general, about the loss of a needed outlet for local news. I hope you will find someone else to continue the work you have done on Citizens Call.

    You are a brilliant thinker and persuasive rwriter. Hope you will continue to use those gifts in the “free from daily pressure” time of “retirement”.

  18. Wendy Blutstein

    Thanks Steve for your presence at so many township meetings, and your thoughtful follow-up.
    You’ve done a real service to so many of us in the community by keeping us more fully informed than the main stream media has been able to do.
    Hope you stay in the game, even if less frequently!

  19. Benjamin Lloyd

    Thanks for your great work supporting our community – and it sounds like you’re making a sensible change!

  20. Peter Denitz

    Thank you for bringing us gifts of true journalism. Whether on matters large and heady or smaller and whimsical, if all captured the character and pulse of our very particular home. All best Steve.

  21. Andy

    Thank you for all your hard work, Steve. Those of us with journalism backgrounds would be happy to pitch in where we can with respect to Citizen’s Call’s future. It’s too valuable a resource to let go fallow.

  22. Bill England

    Thank you Steve for all you have given us over these past years. Your local reporting, I will say journalism because it was a helluva lot more than what I see on TV and in too many print/electronic forms, focused on our community and issues that directly impact us, will be missed. BTW, THANK YOU for NOT covering the Cosby arraignment. That was best left to the reporting of the local news/entertainment industrial complex and the self reporting on social media. See you around the neighborhood, Mr. Murrow