By Gary Tischler
We’ve come to celebrate.
And in so doing, we’ve come to praise ourselves — or rather The Georgetowner, which is marking its 64th birthday.
Celebration — with some antic fondness for and a broad hint of the Beatles’ wonderfully,helplessly hopeful 1967 song “When I’m Sixty-Four,” from the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album — is in order, along with a pat on the back, giving credit where and forwhat it’s due.
For a newspaper of our size and type to still be publishing in these perilous times for print— black and colored ink on paper pages — is no small achievement.
We began as and continue to be a community newspaper, covering and celebrating our neighborhood, Georgetown. Ours is a unique community, docked next to the gateway to the Virginia and Maryland suburbs and attached to the larger culture and energy of Washington, D.C. — by affinity, taste and preference, and by deeply rooted physical and historical connections to the beginnings of our still democratic democracy.
We serve this community, the institutions, members and residents of which we respect and love, with professionalism as writers, editors, designers and salespeople — and also with energy, joy, intelligence and enthusiasm, with due diligence and in the awareness that with each issue we have a responsibility to our readers.
We think we’ve achieved something special, having moved through our own place in history with three very different publishers: our dogged, irrepressible founder, the late Ami Stewart, the irreverent, impatient-to-move-forward Dave Roffman and the high-energy Sonya Bernhardt, whose infectious enthusiasm and graceful taste inspire us daily.
However different, the three shared a common quality that leaders of publications such as ours need to have — not only a love of community, but participation in the community, from knocking on doors to spearheading projects and leading organizations.
Like all newspapers big and small, The Georgetowner faces economic and cultural challenges and is beset with a multitude of questions: Where do we fit into the digital world? How do we manage costs, especially those of printing and distribution? How do we divide our interests and efforts between the print product and our web presence? Who are our readers and how do we best serve them? How do we stay up to date in a rapidly changing world, in terms of news, politics, business, fashion, the arts? Can we be hip and classic at the same time?
It’s difficult not to ask, but to answer such questions. Certainly, thanks to the daily contacts made possible by the intimate nature of Georgetown as a historic village, through walking about, picking brains and taking part in community gatherings, we both absorb and generate new ideas and approaches.
The publication and printing of newspapers — other than those owned by the likes of a Jeff Bezos, with seemingly limitless resources — is a struggle in these times, a struggle that’s not helped by a climate in which no less a personage than the president of the United States has branded the media “an enemy of the people,” dealing in “fake news.”
It’s not an accusation any newspaper should have to defend. We should rather consider the value of what we do where we do it. In the case of The Georgetowner, that includes not only the immediate community, but the larger capital city, in which Georgetown remains influential. That connection allows coverage of the arts and of local and national politics and events that enriches our publication, even as we are always mindful of Georgetown itself, its history, its university, its special nature and values.
We’ve been engaged — for 64 years — in providing an ongoing portrait of a particular world, Georgetown and its environs, in words and pictures, an effort that’s augmented byour newsletter and website.
We think we can make it richer still by including our readers in that effort, through more outreach and interaction, focusing on what makes our community visible in the eyes of the rest of the city: its citizens, its doers, its trendsetters, its gloriously varied merchants.
In the end, a newspaper — and ours is a 21st-century newspaper — is a reflection of its time, a basket of bouquets in the garden of history. At 64, we still love you, our readers. And we need you, too — just as, we trust and believe, you need us.
The Georgetowner asked a few influential Georgetowners about their neighborhood and their newspaper, which celebrates its 64th anniversary this month.
Feels like forever that I have known The Georgetowner and been a part of the Georgetown community, but it must have been in the ’70s!
As far as a Georgetowner story or memory I reflect fondly on, there have been so many. But I can’t help being particularly fond of The Georgetowner’s coverage of Stuart (Davidson)and John (Laytham). The story covering Clyde’s 25th Anniversary (over 25 years ago!), featuring our good friends at the Georgetown Senior Center will always be very special to me.
— Ginger Laytham, Senior Executive Officer to the President, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Clyde’s Restaurant Group
I’ve known the Georgetowner for over a decade. The Georgetowner has been a strong supporter of community businesses and has written great articles helping chronicle Long &Foster’s history as a company. Surprisingly, my favorite article wasn’t the one about me, but the one about my Uncle Wes and Aunt Betty from 2013, which was so well written.
Staying informed is more critical than ever. The Georgetowner not only provides news that we all need to stay updated on important local matters but also provides readers with a look at everything Georgetown and the surrounding area has to offer and helps bring the community together.
— Larry “Boomer” Foster, president of Long & Foster Real Estate
The Phoenix has been part of The Georgetowner community for almost as long as The Georgetowner itself! We turn 63 this year; established in 1955.
I liked the Georgetowner story featuring me, of course! Also featured in the article were two other prominent women business owners: Hope Solomon of Anthony’s Tuxedo and Karen Ohri of Georgetown Floorcoverings. It was such a pleasure to be featured with such strong women as the next generation brings shape and new life to our neighborhood.
The Georgetowner is a wonderful resource as a community newspaper that keeps Georgetown residents informed of happenings right here in our neighborhood, but also the larger city that surrounds us. I look forward to every issue to see what’s new in and around Georgetown.
— Samantha Hays Gusher, owner of the Phoenix boutique
I have been living in our house on N Street for 36 years, but my devotion to The Georgetowner goes way back to when I first lived in the Hamilton Arms Village on 31st Street 50 years ago, which was the only slum in Georgetown. I had a studio apartment that was so tiny that when the sofa bed was opened I had to crawl over it to get to the other side of the room. And the roaches were enormous. I would walk past the house I now live in on my way to work every day and wonder who lived in that big house, never dreaming that it would someday be mine.
There have been a number of Georgetowner stories about my husband and me, so it’s hard to choose one that I reflect more fondly upon. I just remember that the pictures of Ben were always more flattering than the pictures of me!
I read The Georgetowner religiously. I learn so much about what is going on in the community, socially, culturally and politically. Who’s cut down too many beautiful trees, which shops are opening and closing, where the best restaurants are, what’s happening to the canal and the waterfront, the building of the labyrinth, the farmers market, crime reports and safety tips … It makes me feel so much more connected to the community than I would if I didn’t have that. You all do a fabulous job of, more than just connecting, but creating a community. That’s invaluable.
— Sally Quinn, writer
It is almost 20 years since Washington Fine Properties opened our doors in 1999, and we have had a very special partnership with Sonya and her team ever since. We are always excited to see what is going to be on the Georgetowner cover, and I have so many favorites. Several years ago, The Georgetowner captured our four founding partners being silly with real estate signs in the middle of the streets of Georgetown. Also, who didn’t love the issue with Nancy Taylor Bubes featured as “Georgetown’s Sweetheart” for Valentine’s Day?
In so many ways, The Georgetowner provides its readers relevant and useful information on community events, restaurants, real estate, editorial pieces, etc. Sonya and her team have done a great job keeping the newspaper young and fun in a time when so many publications have moved only to online. Everyone loves to pick up and read The Georgetowner! Happy Birthday, Georgetowner, and congratulations to Sonya for being such a great leader!
— Dana Landry, Washington Fine Properties
I was born in Georgetown in 1939, and in 1964 I opened Georgetown Tobacco, just 10 years after The Georgetowner published its first edition. I have been a regular supporter of this fine paper since the beginning of my career — first with Ami, then David Roffman and in 1998 with my admirable friend Sonya Bernhardt.
Sonya and I have been dear friends for many years and I was so relieved and impressed when she purchased the newspaper. It was a bold step for her to take, but she made it possible to have this wonderful publication continue for our community. The Georgetowner is the glue that keeps the readers and advertisers together, with excellent editorials and current local news and, under Sonya`s leadership, is one the finest publications of its kind.
I have many fond social memories of Sonya and her staff, but most of the memories are how to make that damn publication deadline with my advertising and burning the midnight oil to make it.
— David Berkebile, Georgetown Tobacco
I arrived in Washington in April 1989, living in Foggy Bottom as I had a position at the Peace Corps. Georgetown was love at first sight, even though I had trouble parallel parking! By 1992, I had found a house that was right for me on Dumbarton Street. From day one I looked forward to having The Georgetowner.
I reflect fondly on many Georgetowner stories. Of course, I loved when you featured the CAG Gala each year, especially when we were on the front page. I am a serious person so when you tackle the issues that impact our historic district, I am particularly interested. AND I FIND YOUR REPORTING ALWAYS FAIR.
I see The Georgetowner playing an important role in keeping the community apprised of District decisions that effect our lives. As the Federal government also has a role in what happens in Georgetown, I think reporting on their actions is a plus.
— Pam Moore, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown
Our business has been in Georgetown for close to 130 years, so I have known The Georgetowner my entire life. My father, Jim Weaver, was a photographer for the Washington Times-Herald as a young man and always loved newspapers. He felt The Georgetowner was a great advocate for the Georgetown community. Dad became a good friend of David Roffman of The Georgetowner and always was interested every edition.
My father, along with Richard McCooey (1789, F. Scott’s and the Tombs), Tim Jackson (Swenson Ice Cream) and Rick Hendin (Britches) were some of the founders of the Georgetown Business Association, and in the early 1970s they put together the Georgetown Parade, which had Harden and Weaver (not a relative) as masters of ceremonies. It was a great day and The Georgetowner covered it all.
On the day of the parade, I remember as a small boy being allowed to join Art Buchwald and Doc Dalinsky in a room at the Georgetown Inn to watch the Redskins game, while at the same time looking out the window to watch the parade below.
The Georgetowner newspaper has always been one of the top advocates for the Georgetown community and has chronicled the evolution of our village. Our family looks forward to enjoying the next 64 years with The Georgetowner.
— Mike Weaver, Weaver Hardware