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It’s not that I think Andrew Kitchenman is a liar, but I do think he lied to me once.
Managing Editor Joe St. Arney and I were sitting with Andrew explaining the concept of the State Street page about to be launched. It would be a Trenton-focused version of the NJBIZ Grapevine column, which aims to have exclusive, newsy content. State Street would also be 50 percent longer than Grapevine. Oh, and the kicker: Andrew would be doing the State Street page all by himself. After explaining the parameters, we asked Andrew, “So, do you think you can do it?” Andrew said yes.
I didn’t believe him for a second.
You see, it was one of those questions from a boss where the question is only a formality and the answer can only be yes—the State Street page was coming no matter what Andrew’s answer was. And my lack of belief wasn’t based on Andrew’s ability. It was based on my experience overseeing the Grapevine column for more than a year. Grapevine was fed by six people, and it was still a crapshoot most weeks how—and sometimes, if—the 700 words of exclusive content could be found to fill the column. Andrew was being asked to deliver the same level of quality, at 1,050 words, and to do it solo.
Somehow Andrew pulled it off, from week one in February to week 39 coming on Nov. 5, when he produced the page from a mostly desolate State Street and empty Statehouse after superstorm Sandy. Like Grapevine, the State Street page quickly became one of our most popular features, evidence that Andrew had nailed it and a testament to his efforts. And here’s the cool thing about Andrew: despite working longer hours to produce State Street, he never once complained, and seemed to enjoy the challenge.
I could easily give you a list of 20 things that have amazed me about the newsroom staff during my five years at NJBIZ. If I had to rank them, Andrew pulling off State Street would be in the top five, if not the top three.
Today is Andrew’s last day at NJBIZ before he moves on to NJ Spotlight next week. Jared Kaltwasser will be taking over the Statehouse beat—and State Street page—starting Nov. 5. Andrew will be missed for his calm demeanor, quirky sense of humor, quiet nature smattered with occasional long diatribes on whatever, stellar work ethic, and his disembodied voice at weekly story meetings when he called in from Trenton. He will also be missed for his keen intellect that, frankly, made me lazy because I never had to track bills—or, sometimes, even try to understand them—because Andrew could always give me an update or explanation. And, perhaps most importantly, Andrew will be missed for his singing ability and intestinal fortitude displayed at this year’s Correspondents Club dinner, where he sang a song calling Chris Christie a prick, mere feet away from the governor (and Andrew doesn’t exactly have the, um, heft of a Steve Sweeney to defend himself if the governor got pissed).
All the reasons why Andrew will be missed are all the reasons why he will do very well at his next gig. And that I believe 100 percent.