Interview with John Conway: December 2021

Interview with John Conway
By John Adams and
Jason Gebhardt

On October 18, Investigative Journalism students at the new Collaborative College High School (CCHS) interviewed County Historian and Editor-in-Chief of the Hurleyville Sentinel John Conway and made many new discoveries.
“Immediately, once we walked in, he began talking about the importance of newspapers in small towns,” said Nicolo Micara, a student in the CCHS Investigative Journalism class. Mr. Conway was very passionate about this, and explained that at one time Rock Hill, Narrowsburg, White Lake, Jeffersonville, Wurtsboro and many other towns once had at least one newspaper, if not two. Out of all those towns, only 2 others still have a newspaper: Jeffersonville and Narrowsburg.
Not long ago, small towns used to be self- sufficient. They would likely have a grocery store, pharmacy, newspaper, and whatever else was necessary to prevent residents from needing to travel long distances. Some of these towns that used to thrive, but have fallen into disarray, have attempted to revitalize, often with the help of external organizations such as The Center for Discovery in Hurleyville. When this happens in towns without newspapers, the revitalization isn’t advertised beforehand, and citizens of the town are unaware of what is happening. This can lead to some confusion with the organization buying up property for revitalization, and tends to cause opposition towards the movement, which then leads to the revival fizzling out, leaving the town as desolate as it was in the first place. This is where newspapers can help.
In his own words, Mr. Conway said, “I thought it would be a good idea to revive the community newspaper that was here up until the 1940’s.” His goal was to bridge the gap between diverse residents in small towns, and to have a free community newspaper that would allow residents to get reliable news. Since newspapers are becoming more and more passé, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get local news. He wanted to make accessing local news easier.
The Hurleyville Sentinel has been a great success. However, in the last decade, over 2,000 American newspapers have winked out of existence, according to Penny Abernathy, a University of North Carolina researcher. CCHS journalism students are excited to be a part of keeping this newspaper alive and full of news.
Mr. Conway also taught the students techniques for writing journalistic articles. They learned about the importance of lead sentences to hook the reader and to front load information. They were also taught about how reporters often start out by working in small markets, and then write for more and more people, until they’ve worked their way into a large market and beyond. He shared with them his story of being a sports reporter in Atlanta and then returning to his roots in Sullivan County.
“It was very much an in-depth learning experience on writing journalistic pieces and what is happening to newspapers,” stated Rose Mandelbaum, 7th grade journalism student. “I enjoyed the experience.” Kelly Adams, CCHS Investigative Journalism teacher, said that having John Conway available to CCHS as a resource was invaluable. “Our weekly meetings with Mr. Conway were excellent opportunities for the students to learn from someone who has made journalism a career.”
At the moment, Hurleyville is rapidly being improved with new businesses like the Hurleyville Performing Arts Centre and CCHS High School, and the newspaper has been a vital step in this renovation, allowing people to get informed on the new and great things in this fine hamlet.