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Columnists

How The National Herald Has Touched My Life for a Quarter of a Century

No institution has touched my life as profoundly as The National Herald. Actually, I never realized that until I sat down to write this piece, in honor of TNH’s 25th anniversary, but it’s true.

Yes, there are people – actual human beings, such as family members and close friends – who have had more of an impact on my life than TNH, but no other institution has. Not a school that I attended or a place where I have worked. Here’s why:
I’ve been a regular columnist for TNH since 2008. That’s almost the longest I’ve worked anywhere. However, my relationship for TNH began long before that.
In 1997, the year TNH was founded, my parents and I bought a two-family home in Northern New Jersey. Still single at the time, I took one apartment and they took the other, and of course I saw them every day.

On the weekends when I had more down time, my father would encourage me to read TNH’s sister publication, Ethnikos Kyrix, in order to improve my Greek. Foolishly proving the “good is the enemy of better” maxim, I responded: “my Greek is just fine, I don’t need to improve it.” I was comparing myself to the vast majority of my American-born peers of Greek descent instead of considering how much room there was to further enrich my Greek.

In any case, one Saturday while up in my parents’ apartment, my dad walked up to me and handed me a newspaper. It was the very first edition of TNH, which was an insert in the Kyrix’ weekend edition. He said something to the effect of “now you can read the Greek news, in English.”

I remember being very interested, and I read it from cover to cover.

My dad would hand me the TNH insert every week, and soon enough, I’d skim the headlines and focus mostly on the Goings On and the op-ed pages.

Shortly after 9/11, I submitted a guest op-ed piece to TNH, which was published. I remember feeling very honored to share the same space as so many fine columnists.

Fast forwarding to 2008, TNH founder Antonis Diamataris sent a letter to subscribers. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was a wonderful description of TNH, and I felt compelled to express my interest in serving as a regular columnist. I sent a sample piece, which he published, and then invited me to write for TNH regularly.

In addition to my regular op-ed column, I served in various editing capacities over the years and also contributed news articles, feature pieces, book reviews, crossword puzzles, and backgammon challenges.

Therefore, I’ve been a TNH reader for 25 years, and for the last 15 did my part to help create it each week.

There are two particular characteristics of TNH that stand out in my mind: quality and professionalism.

I was impressed early on by the quality writing, particularly on the op-ed pages, and I’ve often compared TNH to Cigar Aficionado magazine. Granted, that magazine is primarily about cigars, but even readers not interested in cigars can enjoy its first-rate articles about a myriad of other topics related to music, sports, fashion, and fine dining.

Similarly, TNH focuses on all things Greek, but even for those who are solely interested in, say, American politics, some of my colleagues’ op-ed pieces that I’ve read – and edited – over the years are of the caliber one would expect to find in a national broadsheet, not a modest-sized, ethnic-based paper.
As for professionalism, I’ve often said and will continue to say that few publications nowadays adhere to the canons of journalism as faithfully as TNH does. For one thing, TNH does not censor. When Antonis first brought me on board, he said to me “you may write about anything you like.” Fifteen years later, that still holds true, as I’ve never been asked to pull any piece, neither by Antonis nor by his daughter, Vanessa, who has taken over as publisher.

In 2016, many if not most of America’s largest newspapers limited their diversity of thought to two points of view: left of center and non-Trumpian right of center. We either got liberals Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne, or anti-Trump conservatives George Will and David Brooks. To read a truly pro-Trump point of view, one would have had to turn to newspapers that didn’t censor, such as TNH (mostly mine).

TNH’s editorials are measured, not extreme (neither are my columns). But the point is that though my views differed at times with those found in TNH editorials and otherwise in the majority of TNH’s op-ed pieces, TNH always gave me a voice. It wasn’t a personal favor to me; it was an appreciation for readers who would be interested in that sort of content.
Moreover, anyone who understands good journalism knows that opinions belong on opinion pages, not infused into news stories. Sadly, too many of America’s most respected newspapers are guilty of the latter. TNH, however, well comprehends that the practices of informing and persuading need to stay in their respective lanes.

TNH serves a somewhat different role in readers’ lives than does its Greek counterpart, EK, but no less of an important one. For over a century, Greeks who settled in the United States and knew little or no English turned to EK not only as a source of information, but also as a friend that provided comfort in a strange land. TNH, though, is the future of Hellenism in America. It is what ties younger and increasingly Americanized generations to their Greek heritage. And whether in English or in Greek, the Herald remains the Greek paper of record.
Congratulations, TNH, on your silver jubilee. Here’s to the next 25!

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