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1987 was a lifetime ago for some of us in the NJBIZ editorial department. This presented some challenges as we worked for five months on our special 25th anniversary edition.
Some of the reporters weren’t even alive 25 years ago, while others were in cribs and playpens. Managing Editor Joe St. Arney was in kindergarten, no doubt drawing creative artwork, stringing together the alphabet in new ways and cracking snarky jokes over graham crackers and milk. I was a freshman in college, learning about debits and credits as an accounting major, discovering the university newspaper and cracking jokes over something stronger than milk. The only person actually in adulthood was Beth Fitzgerald, who had already been tearing it up for several years as a reporter at The Star-Ledger.
Beth left NJBIZ for a short time, and the planning for the 25th edition began while she was gone. I said early on, “I wish Beth still worked here. I could free her up, and she could produce this entire edition from just what’s inside her head.” It will always be one of the lucky breaks in my life that Beth returned while we were preparing this publication.
Still, the project was challenging even for Beth, who was given the task of identifying the top 25 business stories of the past 25 years. She had covered them—easy enough, right? But Beth insisted she needed to look through binders upon binders containing 25 years of NJBIZ newspapers to make sure she didn’t miss anything. She did that over several weekends. I practically issued a bossy edict like, “I forbid you to come in the office on weekends to do this!” She ignored me, not because she’s insubordinate, but because she cares that much about the work.
All of us, even binders-obsessed Beth, relied on our sources, the leaders who lived in the New Jersey business world for the past 25 years. They provided info and insight so reporters could write stories about top issues in the top industries for the past quarter-century. They gave ideas to Beth for her top business stories piece, and to Andrew Kitchen for his summary of the top 25 bills from Trenton since 1987.
Sources were invaluable as Joe and I compiled and wrote the 25 Legends, 25 Fallen Stars, 25 Best Projects and 25 Failed Projects lists. The sources were all over the map about whether Donald Trump was a legend or a fallen star, so we did a separate story on him. Every source named New Brunswick as a leading example of multiple best projects but couldn’t identify just one, so we did a longer breakout on the Hub City. Finally, nearly everyone talked about the tribulations of the Meadowlands over the past quarter-century, earning that area a longer entry on the Failed Projects list.
The 25th edition was the most time-intensive and daunting project the NJBIZ editorial staff has undertaken in my five years here. I am amazed and proud of what the staff produced.
I am also grateful for our wonderful sources, who are always willing to give us the inside scoop on what’s really going on. Thanks to them, 1987 was just a phone call away.