Adirondack Explorer turns 25 in 2023
By Tracy Ormsbee
Some of you who have just begun seeing our daily posts to the Adirondack Explorer’s website or are new subscribers to our glossy magazine might think the Explorer is one of the hundreds of nonprofit news startups of recent years.
But the Explorer’s been here for the reintroduction of the moose and the state’s acquisition of the first Whitney parcel and myriad other public land purchases. It has introduced readers to hundreds of hikes, paddles, skis and a fair share of rock climbing. The first issue was published when George E. Pataki was governor. In 2023, the Adirondack Explorer celebrates its 25th anniversary.
In some ways it’s easier than ever to explain the important role the Explorer’s journalism plays in the protection of the park. We are all more acutely aware these days of the need for facts, truth and good information.
Dick Beamish, one of the Adirondack Park’s true advocates, knew back in 1998 that the people here and elsewhere needed to know about the Adirondack Park, why it is crucial to protect what’s here – and that the agencies in charge needed to be held accountable. And, in addition to the coverage of the issues, he showed readers ways to get out and enjoy this magnificent landscape so they would truly understand why this mission of protection was so important.
With the critical help of Bob Worth, he got the publication off the ground. He started with a thin, black and white monthly publication on newsprint that told about the return of the moose, distinctions that make the Adirondack Park unlike anything else – and in that first issue – and the next 100 – why the Adirondack Park Agency must do its job. Back then, he was the publisher, editor, ad salesman, circulation director and a reporter (his wife managed the business).
That foundation he created of good information, fairness and presenting all sides of the issues, is what the rest of us – former publisher Tom Woodman, former and current editors Phil Brown, Brandon Loomis and Jim Odato, and board chairs Charlotte Hall and Tom Curley – and the entire Adirondack Explorer team, have built upon. Can you imagine an Adirondack Park without the Explorer?
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The publication went from black and white newsprint to color. A series of easy-to-carry guidebooks with short hikes was added. The Explorer purchased the Adirondack Almanack community forum in 2014. The news tabloid became a glossy magazine and the Explorer began publishing daily stories on the Adirondack Explorer website and added five email newsletters. Today the Explorer reaches millions through its two websites, thanks to the work of digital editor Melissa Hart.
Getting stuff done
A team of reporters was added to keep daily watch over the issues of the Adirondack Park. With Mike Lynch covering wildlife, recreation and contributing photography and video, Gwen Craig on policy, Zachary Matson on water quality and soon Chloe Bennett on climate – all led by longtime investigative journalist Jim Odato, the Explorer’s work is stronger than ever.
And here’s the difference good environmental journalism can make:
- It breaks down complicated science, land use laws, and economic issues so readers themselves can be informed, get involved and act.
- It brings readers information they won’t find otherwise.
- It introduces readers to people, places and ideas outside their own experience.
- It influences, cajoles, and unmasks policy makers.
The Explorer in 2014 ran a series of articles and held a panel discussion about strengthening the APA, bringing together experts from around the country. One of the things that came out of it was the idea for legislation that would establish conservation design principles to protect forests, water and wildlife from sprawling development.
Explorer reporting by Jim Odato put a quick halt to state police using the Olympic Regional Development Authority training facility for a shooting range at Mount Van Hoevenberg after he received a call from a distraught neighbor of the facility and posted a story to our website.
Last December, after a 3-year delay by the governor in appointing an APA chairman, something that was weakening the agency, Gwen Craig wrote ongoing stories about it and then the Explorer added a ticker at the top of our website counting how many days the APA had been without a chairman. Every day after, we changed that count. Before the second week, Gov. Kathy Hochul would appoint John Ernst.
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And, in recent weeks, Mike Lynch reported on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s reluctance to identify a wolf that was shot in Central New York. Through ongoing reporting and increasing public pressure, the DEC became more transparent about its stance and later confirmed that the animal was indeed a wolf. The Explorer became the first media outlet to track this as it unfolded, leading the way on a story that made national headlines.
The Explorer reports on potential ideas and solutions to longstanding issues of the park. This past year, we brought ideas from outside the blue line on how to better manage high use on trails – and about how to alleviate an extreme lack of housing in recreation economies like ours.
These are only a few examples of the more than 400 stories the Explorer reported this year. We are committed to the Adirondacks, every corner, not just the populous Tri-Lakes region.
Journalism plays an important role in the future of the park and for 25 years the Explorer has been here doing that work. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating the Adirondack Explorer and its Adirondack journalism in 2023. Stay tuned for related events and more reporting on the issues important to you.
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