Editor Al Campbell -- Use This One

Former Managing Editor Al Campbell.

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Every story has a beginning, middle, and end.

This week's Compass Points is my last weekly column.

As of Sept. 1, I begin to write a new life chapter called retirement. Where it will lead, who knows?

Many who have arrived at this stage of life have related a common sentiment, "You'll know when it's time."

It is exciting to see young minds and hands ready to continue the important work of informing Cape May County readers. There is no shortage of stories to be covered by willing writers. Just when it seems there cannot be anything else to report, a new issue erupts.

Who would have imagined that recycling would have fallen on its face due, in large measure, to China's refusal to buy our cardboard? Who would have envisioned that barrier island residents would be enraged at construction during the summer? Who could have forecast that bicycles would become a factor in local and county planning?

These and many more stories will continue to need reporters to keep the readers informed.

It is uncanny how much has changed in the county, yet how unchanged are the peninsula's concerns: Beaches continue to wash away and need public funds to restore them. Tourists continue as the county's lifeblood. In love with the geography, they are buying second homes and some rent them to other tourists.

Jobs, while available, tend to grow scarce in winter. Unemployment continues as a way of life for many. Young people continue to want good jobs, and few seem readily available, so many move to distant states.

Bridges that link the county's island communities continue to drain funds. At least one of them ought to be replaced, but cannot be, since it is deemed of historic significance. Plans are in infancy to replace the Middle Thorofare Bridge linking Five Mile Beach and Lower Township. How many millions of dollars will be spent when the span is built?

Such are the stories of tomorrow to be written by correspondents and edited by Erin Ledwon, who will assume the managing editor title Sept. 1.

It seems like only a few weeks ago, although it's been years, Publisher Art Hall and I discussed the future of the editorial team. I recall telling him, "If only we could get a Rowan (University) grad in here, we'd be in good shape."

We at the Herald have great faith in the Lord's provision. For that reason, we were awed when, a few days later, a chap whom I had known decades before at another newspaper contacted me with the name of a Rowan graduate.

Yes, that person is Ledwon, and she has been a valued team member ever since she came to work here July 10, 2013. Since that time she wholeheartedly assumed the tasks assigned: overseeing Spout Off, managing correspondents, tending to the Herald’s social media accounts, and much more.

Since the beginning of this year, with my retirement as a target, Ledwon has supervised the print edition’s content. She has done an excellent job, and I know it will be in capable hands well into the future.

It will be Ledwon’s chief task to oversee the editorial content of the print edition as well as the digital product. Assisting her will be our corps of correspondents and Eric Conklin, the newest member of the editorial team, also a Rowan graduate.

While I will end 31 years with the Herald, my time spent with a camera and writing stories and columns is even longer. The first news photo I snapped was published in July 1965. A northbound early-morning Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Line train and a gasoline truck collided at Schoolhouse Lane in Court House. The driver was killed.

I heard the crash from my bedroom, looked out the window and saw the plume of black smoke rising. I grabbed my camera and that photograph was printed in the Cape May Star and Wave on page one. I earned a byline and a start in the world of newspapers although I didn't even have a driver's license.

After returning home from the Navy in 1971, I spent a few months with the Wildwood Leader. That job, too, was a gift of Providence, a tale no one would find believable.

Then, wanting to work closer to my Court House home, I was hired at the Cape May County Gazette, a job I held for 4.5 years. Then, on the death of the Editor-Publisher F. Mervyn Kent, and the sale of the newspaper, I sought other work outside newspapers. For a while, I was a clerk in a commercial marine hardware store. After that, I was an account executive at a small advertising firm in Erma. Neither job was as satisfying as the world of weekly newspapers.

Then, the Gazette-Leader, which was published three times a week, got a new publisher from Sidney, Neb. His marching orders were to turn the paper around, resume weekly publication and make a profit. I was there for 8.5 years.

That publisher departed and I saw the handwriting on the wall. At the time, one of the advertising sales representatives went from there to the Herald, and I expressed a desire to make a similar move. She connected on my behalf, and soon I was in contact with the Herald's late Editor Joe Zelnik and General Manager Gary Rudy.

Then came the fire at the Herald office, and I was sure my new job similarly went up in flames; it did not, and my start date of that new job was Sept. 1, 1988.

Last year the Herald marked its 50th anniversary. It was a milestone and an honor that we all enjoyed tremendously.

It will be heartwarming to see how the next generation leads the Herald. One story ends, and another begins.