Tom at the Harriton House annual Plantation Fair (Bryn Mawr, PA) in 2008 with then reporter and photographer Ryan Richards . Tom supported local events and he would pop up at many personally, not just send a reporter.
Yesterday I went to say good-bye to my friend Al Terrell. This morning I am writing about saying good-bye to someone else I called friend. Tom Murray, Managing Editor/Lead Content Manager of The Daily Local, our Chester County daily newspaper.
Yes Tom, yes Sam, I know…I just buried the lede. But it is like I have to get my head all wrapped around this. And this one is tough.
It was not quite a year ago that I wrote my blog post about Tom Murray coming on as managing editor of The Daily Local .
We had a joke he and I from way back when he took over for Warren Patton at then Main Line Life (eventually Tom’s job grew and he helped create the whole thing known as Main Line Media News and bring multiple papers together.) When he had come on board to Main Line Life, I had as a local blogger and community activist with the then fledgling Save Ardmore Coalition (back in the days of eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore) sent him an email welcoming the “new sheriff in town.” He laughed and we became friends.
Just like that.
These photos I am sharing are my favorites that I took of him. September 2008 at the Harriton House Fair in Bryn Mawr. And one he sent me when I said I wanted to write about him assuming the editorial helm at The Daily Local. The other is a newspaper box from Saturday. And a photo shared by whom he first referred to as “his lady” when he first told me about her, Terry Hardin.
Terry sent me this photo. She loved him so much.
Tom gave a lot of us voices back in the day and today, and all my reader’s editorials were published under him. His “As I see it” columns for readers to have a voice.
But he also then became a friend.
I loved talking to Tom. He was a real daily newspaper guy. He was also a modern media guy and not afraid to try new things, new media platforms. He also was with Patch early on – when they were actually micro news sites and not just regurgitations and shameless re-publishers of the work of others that they are today.
When I was stiffed on fees for some freelance writing last year, he was someone whose wise counsel I sought. What he told me left me better prepared to take on writing assignments after that. And I loved the few choice words he had for the person who reneged on payment and said I was a lousy writer. “You know you can write, ” he told me “How many years did I edit what you wrote?”
Tom and Diane – photo taken at Harriton Fair 2008.
I watched him support his late wife Diane through cancer and we all learned the hashtag #distrong . Like everyone else who knew him our hearts all broke a little when he lost Diane. And then when he met his Terry, we smiled and our hearts were happy. He and Terry were to be married.
One of Tom’s photos from his Main Line Life Days when he also has a local access TV show.
I was at a dinner party Saturday night with my sweet man n Philadelphia when I checked my phone around 10:00 pm. At 9:47 pm my childhood friend Bob Robinson had messaged me to tell me he had heard from Tom’s son Ian that he had suffered a fatal heart attack around 7 pm. Bob and I shared Tom as a friend.
Behind me I heard the chatter of a happy dinner party as I stared at my phone re-reading Bob’s message. A surreal moment. There I am having a conversation with myself in my head “No, no, no. This can’t be true, it must be a mistake” and around me the cheerful banter of friends.
Because of Tom I got to know so many great people who I am lucky to call friends today. One of them, Cheryl Allison (who was a reporter at Main Line Media News for years) said to me
“I’ve never known anyone who was more passionate about the process of gathering and reporting the news. What many may not have known, but what I had the opportunity to witness, was how Tom delighted in finding, encouraging and mentoring talented young journalists starting their careers.”
Another friend, Caroline Mangan O’Halloran, who wrote for him when he was with Main Line Life and Main Line Media News and now pens the fabulous Savvy said to me
“I am terribly saddened by his loss. Tom was my boss at Main Line Life after Warren Patton. Tom and I bantered about (and disagreed) over many things, but he always played fair and shot straight. He respected everyone and was a kind and generous man. An old-fashioned newsman, he was a a truth teller. I too plan to pay him tribute in SAVVY.”
Truer words were never spoken. He encouraged the inner writer in both professional writers and citizen journalists. (And yes, perfectionists of the craft of writing I have done these two quotes like this on purpose. They are beautiful and I want them to stand out.)
I started blogging before it was quite fashionable, and when I started it was often perceived as a bit scandalous and definitely controversial. He was an early champion, yet would call me out if he felt I could do better.
As I had mentioned earlier, during his many year tenure at Main Line Life/Main Line Media News I wrote a lot of reader’s editorials. I wasn’t the only one – Tom was a big believer in the vox populi or the voice of the people. Tom is one the many traditional journalists I know that has helped me become a better writer. More importantly, this guy does good newspaper. He did the First Amendment and “sunshine” right.
And so I am writing about Tom for my blog. As I write I remember a really great guy and friend. And a man who was a true newspaperman, a dying breed indeed. True newspapermen are to journalism as cowboys were to founding the west. Mavericks, yet good and true. And so darn American if you want to distill it down.
I thought of Tom Saturday morning when we went over to the D.K. Diner in West Chester for a bite to eat in the afternoon. The first thing that greeted us before we went inside was a Daily News newspaper box. Way back when in the days of Main Line Life I would always tell him if a box emptied out fast. He liked to know which issues were selling big time.
Life is fleeting.
RIP Tom Murray. So many of us will miss you. I had no idea when we spoke last week it would be for the last time. The future of true journalism just dimmed a little.
Luke Phayre addressing the Board of Supervisors in East Whiteland on December 14th , 2016 when they honored him ~ Adam Farence Daily Local photo
I noted in East Whiteland Supervisor Bill Holmes’ comments that he (like many others) do not know that Ebenezer is actually184 years old (deed of trust for land is 1832) – and yes this is a black historic cemetery solely. This is in my opinion and that of many others a very important piece of black history. This history of ours in Chester County has people laid to rest there whose relatives still live in the area today.
The AME Church grew out of the Free African Society in the late 1700s, but the church became it’s own entity founded in Philadelphia around 1816. So you can see given the age of Ebenezer AME in East Whiteland, Chester County, PA that it is truly part of the early days of a church and religion founded in Philadelphia. Bishop Richard Allen died in 1831, just months before Ebenezer came to be after Joseph Malin deeded the land.
Ebenezer is cleaned up thanks to Willistown Eagle Scout Luke Phayre (and his fellow scouts) , Al Terrell and the many volunteers including local arborist Robert Phipps, Doug Buettner , Kelbey Hershey and all the volunteers from West Chester University (veteran’s group and fraternity brothers from at least two fraternities – FiJi was one of them), Captain Howard Crawford and the American Legion folks, Charae Landscape Services, Tim Caban from East Whiteland Historic Commission, and many, many more. It has literally been a pretty large village of amazing volunteers the past few months. I apologize if I neglected mentioning anyone – would never wish to offend the wonderful volunteers who have come forward in 2016.
Luke Phayre has done a truly amazing job with his Easgle Scout project. He is an amazing young man. He is so bright and very polite, and dedicated with an amazing work ethic. And he has leadership skills and compassion which will take this boy far in life – such a credit to his equally amazing mom Kathy!
This has been a labor of love for me personally because until Al and Kathy and Luke came along after I had placed the first article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, up to that point no one, not even the AME Church was interested in the history and importance of the site. For years. And before me, the late Ann Christie had tried to get the place cleaned up.
People get upset for me that East Whiteland doesn’t acknowledge me for helping raise awareness, but seriously? Don’t sweat it. Local elected officials view as something like poison ivy half of the time and I am o.k. with that 🙂 I do not do what I do for any other reason than it is the right thing.
As soon as I first realized what Ebenezer was in 2013, I knew I had to raise awareness. And I will continue to do so because I want this piece of serenity and history preserved for future generations. My reward is seeing Luke Phayre and the Scouts recognized, and seeing what a community can do when it comes together. To see Ebenezer rise like a Phoenix from the ashes at 97 Bacton Hill Road and to have people from all over recognize how historically important Ebenezer and her departed souls are is the best thing ever!
Thanks also must go to Kristin Holmes of the Philadelphia Inquirer for two beautiful articles and to The Daily Local editor Tom Murray for a very nice front page story written by reporter Adam Farence who has followed the story of Ebenezer. Without our local and regional media it is hard to draw attention to things like this which matter.
We all get by from a lot of help from our friends.
Now we are waiting on the AME Church’s Bishop Ingram to make good on his promise to visit the site. We want to get permission to shore up the long walls of the church and keep on maintaining it. I sincerely hope the AME Church actually helps us to keep this project moving forward. That is a Christmas wish I have.
Many moons ago in a time far, far away I wrote a very tongue in cheek e-mail as a blogger to a new newspaper editor for the local paper where I lived. I welcomed the “new sheriff in town.” The editor laughed.
His name was Tom Murray, and I respect him a great deal. He came up in journalism as a true newspaperman and when I first met him he had come in as the new Managing Editor of then Main Line Life. His job grew to run the day-to-day operations of the Editorial Department for three weekly newspapers, Main Line Times, Main Line Suburban Life and King of Prussia Courier – he was part of the transition to “Main Line Media News” as you know the papers today online.
I started blogging before it was quite fashionable, and when I started it was often perceived as a bit scandalous and definitely controversial – a lot has changed since the early 2000s, hasn’t it? Now it is sort of everyone-has-a-blog or website or vlog…and some still find me scandalous or controversial when they don’t agree with me.
During his many year tenure at Main Line Life/Main Line Media News I wrote a lot of reader’s editorials. I wasn’t the only one – Tom was a big believer in the vox populi or the voice of the people. Tom is one the many traditional journalists I know that has helped me become a better writer. More importantly, this guy does good newspaper.
And guess what? He is a new sheriff in town yet again where I live now (Chester County). Tom is now Tom is the Lead Content manager at the West Chester Daily Local News, the top editorial position in the newsroom. The role includes newsroom contact with the public and administrative management of editorial employees in addition to content manager duties.
When I heard Tom was moving into this role at the Daily Local I was psyched. Andy Hachadorian was an awesome editor in his own right, but this was the guy who edited the local paper I loved when I lived on the Main Line. So Andy stepped away from the helm in late February and Tom stepped up.
Good day Chester County. I wanted to take a few minutes of your valuable time and introduce The Editor’s Corner to West Chester Daily Local News readers.
For some, it’s more of a reintroduction as I worked with many people in Chester County over the years, while for others, this is the chance to introduce myself as the new Lead Content Manager of the West Chester Daily Local News.
For my old friends, I’m back and hopefully better than ever. We met years ago when I was Executive Editor of Main Line Media News ….And for the rest of the Chester County residents, I’m excited to be the contact person here at dailylocalnews.com as well as the print edition of the West Chester Daily Local News…..Just a heads up, I won’t be talking about Kanye and the Kardashians, unless Kanye really does run for president, but other than that, I hope to use this space to not only give my insights on the hot local topics of the day, but more importantly, start a dialogue with everyone and hopefully this can turn into a conversation.
There is more to this post , so I hope you go read the whole thing. And he means what he says: he is an editor you can talk to.
Glad to have you in Chester County, Tom. You always were my favorite new sheriff in town 🙂 I wish Jim McCaffrey was around to see this….
Want to connect with Tom? tmurray [at] 21st-centurymedia.com
AOL Inc. effectively abandoned its ambitious strategy of reinventing hyper-local news when it agreed Wednesday to sell a majority stake in the Patch website network to technology investment firm Hale Global.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The companies anticipate closing the deal in the first quarter.
The deal is touted as a joint venture between AOL and Hale Global, which says it specializes in turning around underperforming businesses…..
Hale Global and AOL say Patch will be relaunched as a place for contributors and businesses to create “locally-themed news and content.” ….”We are committed to bringing users, local businesses, writers and advertisers together into a Patch experience full of innovation and growth,” said Charles Hale, CEO of Hale Global, in a statement.
Well corporate raiders, acquirers, whatever you want to call them never seem to follow through on the warm and fuzzy moments do they? With them and underperforming assets it is all about business. And the bottom line.
Well as of today all of our local Patch sites are kind of over. The web pages are up but this morning AOL Patch did mass layoffs. It is all over social media and the news is slowly trickling to traditional media. It is “off with their heads” Wednesday.
Hi everyone, it’s Leigh Zarelli Lewis. Patch is being restructured in connection with the creation of the joint venture with Hale Global…..Unfortunately, your role has been eliminated and you will no longer have a role at Patch and today will be your last day of employment with the company
I’m told that hundreds — two tipsters claim two-thirds of the editorial staff — have been laid off by Patch’s new owner, Hale Global…
“The patch years were years of being aol’s tool and plaything. Killed myself, almost literally. Left with literally nothing. Better off dead.”
“I was a local editor for Patch for 3.5 years, up until about an hour ago. ….We knew it was coming, but the silence from New York over the few months was deafening. They left us in a state of suspended animation. For those of us who killed ourselves working for this company, it was a real slap in the face.”
I have many friends who worked with Patch since it’s inception. Some were traditional journalists and writers by trade. People like Tom Walsh, who is now the Public Information Officer of Lower Merion Township. Or former Managing Editor of Main Line Media News, Tom Murray and Sam Strike from the now defunct Suburban and Wayne Times, Tom Sunnergren, Anthony Leone. And more.
Heck, when Patch was in its embryo stage I was a freelancer for photos and occasional articles for mostly Ardmore Patch.
I have been critical of Patch in the past couple of years. It had gone from being this wonderful hub of hyper-local news to a mish mosh of spelling and grammatical errors with very little emphasis on what was happening in the communities it was covering. But yet, there were Patch sites that continued to stand out – locally Malvern Patch until Pete Kennedy left, Phoenixville Patch, Tredyffrin-Easttown Patch, East Hampton Patch and Radnor Patch.
If I had to pick my favorite it would have been Radnor Patch, where Sam Strike was editor. She is a friend and I have always loved her writing and photography skills.
If I had to pick a golden time for a lot of the local Patch sites, it would have been when Tom Murray was a Regional Editor. A real newspaper guy, he really taught me how to write when I used to contribute to then Main Line Life Newspaper.
But this morning for my remaining friends at Patch like Sam Strike it was “hello, you must be going, you are fired.”
Sam Strike wasn’t the only fine Patch person who got the axe today. Bob Byrne of Tredyffrin Patch and it looks like West Chester Patch and Malvern Patch and the list goes on. Basically if you go to Patch, click on the editor’s hyper link. It goes to an “oops there is nothing here” page. That is how I am counting up who is gone from our region.
I have been in touch with some of the Patch people I knew today. Tom Sunnergren who now writes for places like ESPN.com and hibu (you know those Malvern Life and similar “Life” magazines we get in the mail now once in a while?) and I spoke this afternoon for a few minutes.
Tom said he left Patch in August 2013 for a new position and when he thought he saw the final handwriting start to appear on the wall. He told me he believes all the Patch editors in our region is gone. He said enjoyed his experience at Patch, they gave it the “college try”. He remarked towards the end of his tenure there was a period of mixed directives that was hard on editors.
We spoke about Patch being almost a social experiment after a fashion. He remarked it would serve as a cautionary tale to the next group that tried this hyper-local formula.
Not to armchair quarterback but at first Patch had too many sites and tons of people working for them. Then they kept cutting people but not consolidating Patch areas to keep up with the layoffs. First they were right there with your hyper-local news reporting on local issues from local meetings. Then they were not covering the news but telling you that you could blog on Patch “for free”.
The Patch sites around here operated under a mushy soft news umbrella after Tom Murray left the Regional Editor spot for another job.
Sam Strike now former editor of Radnor Patch sent a note out to her e-mail list this afternoon:
Date: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 1:23 PM
Subject: It’s been a pleasure
I wanted to let you know that it has been a pleasure working with you all over the years (some many, some few). Today Patch laid off the majority of its staff, myself included.
I’ve been doing local news in Radnor for a decade. And I’ve enjoyed it. But I think it’s time for a new challenge.
I have been and will continue to be pursuing work in the public relations/communications sector. I would appreciate any leads that you may encounter.
My Patch email will be shut down at 5 p.m. today
I was also in touch with Anthony Leone today. He used to be a Patch editor I worked with at the Haverford-Havertown Patch. Anthony always had an uphill battle while at that Patch and so did every subsequent editor because it wasn’t just the Havertown/Haverford Township Patch. They also tossed in the town I used to live in when I lived in Lower Merion: Haverford.
Haverford, Lower Merion Township should have been attached to Bryn Mawr or Ardmore Patch but only the local editors ever got that. Anyway, I asked Anthony what he thought and this is what he shared with me:
While it is a shame that this happened to so many of my former Patch colleagues, some of whom I have worked with personally, it is not a surprise. I do wish them the best of luck. One of the wonderful things that I have discovered since I left Patch in July 2012 is the fact that so many former Patchers are still in contact with one another and offer support.
Since I left Patch, I’ve written a lot about it on my blog What Burns My Bacon, but I thought in the beginning that they were filling a true community need, something that the readers really wanted. But over time decisions were made and it started to have a negative impact on Patch and its readers. I just hope someone can take the best parts of Patch, fix the things that were wrong with it and make something that will employ journalists and give readers what they truly desire: Original, local news.
So now what? What is the future of journalism? Regionally and locally our newspapers have had to keep cutting back while beefing up on things like new technology and an online presence.
Years ago I had the good fortune to become aware of a blogger named Karl Martino who was one of the folks who thought up this amazing blog, a blog community really, called PhillyFuture.org which is now defunct. One of his topics there was the future of journalism. I wish I still had those posts he and others wrote. (he still blogs at paradox1x.)
Journalism was so different when many of us were little kids. Real newspaper people and hard-core editors chasing the story.
Then came the failures.
I remember the first time The Philadelphia Bulletin closed. 1982. Then the name was bought and it was resurrected for a second life. Then it died again in June 2009. It became deficit omne quod nasciture or everything that is born passes away.
Patch was launched in our area on or about September 10, 2010. One of their editors wrote at the time:
“Want the facts without bias? A team of trained journalists covering every government meeting, every school board hearing and keeping the community abreast of local events? A brand new online newspaper launching Sept. 10, 2010 in Ardmore. Patch.com is owned and funded by AOL, supports community journalism on a “hyperlocal” level. Patch will cover all of the goings on in its three namesake communities, and will be updated multiple times every day with breaking news and information. “
The initial Patch sites in the greater Philadelphia area went “live” at 10:55 a.m. on September 10, 2010. The Patch editors were ironically all fired by that time today.
I think we’re seeing that since actual civic-minded good-for-you news and investigative reporting — propped up for more than a century by department store ads, classifieds and crossword puzzles — has zero economic value in the digital free market, there’s only one thing that will keep it alive. And it’s not really what those hundreds of journalism reform articles I read over all those years were about — things like reader engagement and crowdsourcing and using social media (although those things matter).
It’s really just about very rich people.
And not just any very rich people, but very rich people with an agenda.
Given the state of politics and craziness that has defined the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise again of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News I am almost surprised he was able to articulate much of this particular piece.
But is he wrong? Sadly, I think not.
Who will be our voices in Chester County now? We get some coverage on TV if too many people in Philadelphia aren’t being murdered or politicians aren’t causing scandal. But as far as local news, we don’t have much coverage by the Philadelphia Inquirer (they jettisoned their Chester County bureau a few years ago), and the Daily Local and Main Line Media News are stretched thin.
Will we be our own voices? We have all but run out of our traditional real-time story tellers A/K/A reporters and editors.
Not surprisingly most major media outlets like the New York Times are now starting to report on the Patch editorial massacre today. They all are saying that neither AOL Patch nor new owner Hale Global would comment on the layoffs.
Interestingly enough according to Fox News a Patch that survived with editor intact apparently is Greenwich Patch. As in Greenwich, CT. Why? Because Tim Armstrong (AOL) lives there basically. Fox reports that AOL still owns 40% of Patch.
To now former Radnor Patch Editor Sam Strike and Tredyffrin-Easttown and lately Phoenixville Patch Editor Bob Byrne I wanted to say thank you. They were among the last editors standing until today that I really respected. They are true journalists and are people of integrity.
My friend and former editor (as well as Patch Regional Editor) Tom Murray said to me today “Very sad day when journalist and friends lose their jobs.”