Finding Mentors For Life — A Turning Point In My College Education and My Career

Sometime during the fall of 1981, my junior year at SUNY New Paltz, I had a meeting with Professor Glenn Doty. I really wanted to participate in The Legislative Gazette program but he told me I wasn’t ready, probably because I wasn’t doing so great in his class and my writing wasn’t where he needed it to be.

Although I was covering sports and culture for The Oracle, the college newspaper,  it wasn’t the same as having an editor and mentor.

I knew in my heart, though, that once in Albany I would not let Glenn or the newspaper down — and that I could improve quickly.

Glenn did finally relent and agreed to let me join the program.

In January 1982, I was assigned to cover the Tourism, Arts & Sports Committee and that also meant the I Love New York campaign.

I remember leaning over Glenn after submitting my first story — not sure if I was scared more of him or that red marker — and watching the master teach me how to write sharp copy on the spot.

After my first story, he turned to me and said, “not bad, Rich. You can do this. You just need a good kick in the ass.”

Glenn had set very high standards for The Legislative Gazette. Of course, this was just the program’s fifth year, so the newspaper had not yet become an Albany institution. But it was the perfect time to be there because we were getting noticed with our regular exclusives and in-depth coverage of the committees.

From that day on, I felt confident I could churn out at least one solid story per week. With Glenn’s stewardship of the paper and Alan’s fabulous Monday morning meetings, I was starting to get into the groove.

But I still shook in my shoes entering the Legislative Correspondents Association press room, where future journalism stars like E.J. Dionne, Michael Oreskes and Marcia Kramer roamed. Fred Dicker probably thought he was a legend upon birth but that’s a whole other story.

That first semester at the paper was a turning point in my college life and career. Glenn invited me back as one of three city editors in 1983, when Gov. Mario Cuomo took office and few outside the Capitol knew about his two sons, Andrew and Chris. But I do remember The Gazette’s major feature on Andrew that helped introduce the future governor to the world.

I was honored to cover the Judiciary and Transportation Committees in 1983. It turned out that the late Senator Norman Levy was chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and my father’s cousin, another prominent Long Island attorney, happened to a high ranking counsel for the Senate. I didn’t scoop anyone but did get treated well.

I also loved working with many first-year reporters and guiding them to sources for their stories. Before I graduated in December 1983, I already was working as a sports writer for The Daily Freeman and later was part of a team that won Best of Gannett for Sports at The Ithaca Journal in 1985.

Glenn’s tutelage made me a sharp reporter and writer that mattered more than I imagined in sports. After moving back to New York City in 1986, I became the “Glenn” of a monthly Jewish newspaper that had a circulation of 10,000 and that led to the start of a position two years later as a junior writer and media relations manager for the national office of the Anti-Defamation League.

While there, I was able to place many stories in the New York Post, thanks to my Gazette connection with Dicker.

I spent the next 30 years in public relations, working at various times for law firms, big PR firms and myself. In my own business, I’ve conducted media training for two SUNY New Paltz presidents and their administrations and recently advised a candidate for Congress, again drawing on what Alan and Glenn taught me.

Most recently, I wrote an article about the death of Maurice Hinchey for The Sullivan County Democrat, where I’m a freelance reporter/photographer. A few weeks later, I wrote another piece about Governor Cuomo visiting  Monticello, N.Y. to promote a program. Both of those stories turned out nicely, thanks to the Gazette experiences and the obvious connections to Hinchey and covering Mario Cuomo’s first term.

In the past decade of living in Sullivan County’s Catskills, I often run into younger Gazette alum who have worked for the region’s weekly and daily papers. We smile and swap “war” stories about the good old days. Last month, while working part time for a congressional candidate, I met Melanie Zerah, who just joined The Gazette in 2018. I wished her luck and told her she will love the program.

I’m still in touch with many Gazette alum (particularly on Facebook) and so proud of what they have accomplished in journalism, public relations and beyond.

My daughter is off to college later this year and loves to write. I can only hope that she finds mentors like Glenn and Alan.