It was thirty-five years ago that I wrote my first editorial for the Vineyard Gazette, an editorial so important that today no one remembers the message. The thoughts behind that editorial essay were of no particular significance, except perhaps to mark the beginning of a journalistic journey through a profoundly important period of Martha’s Vineyard history.

Today, my last Gazette editorial appears in this edition. It is a farewell of sorts to the Vineyard after many long years as editor and publisher of this newspaper. But beyond the farewells and beyond any thoughts about the past three and a half decades and the transformation of the Vineyard, the importance of this moment lies in a rare change of ownership for the Vineyard Gazette.

With this edition of the Gazette, the publishing responsibilities and ownership of the paper pass from the Reston family after forty-two years to the control and stewardship of Jerome (Jerry) Kohlberg Jr., longtime Edgartown resident and a generous philanthropic supporter of Vineyard institutions considered critical to preserving the quality of Island life.

As the retiring publisher of this newspaper, I wish to welcome Mr. Kohlberg and his advisors as the new stewards of one of the great, old community newspapers left in this country. The Gazette is now in its 164th year of unbroken publication, and in that time there have been only ten publishers. Mr. Kohlberg will be the eleventh to assume the publishing responsibilities.

Under his guidance, the Gazette now moves into a new and promising era of its history. And in this endeavor Mr. Kohlberg has my full confidence and support, also the complete backing of my wife, Mary Jo Reston, who served with such distinction as general manager in charge of the newspaper’s financial affairs, as corporate treasurer and co-publisher for many of our thirty-five years.

I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the staff of the Vineyard Gazette and all who have preceded them. The accomplishments of the Gazette staff over the years are unparalleled. The reputation of this newspaper for distinguished journalism and its recognition for journalistic excellence within the profession are the result of superb staff work through the entire history of the Gazette. Once again this year the Vineyard Gazette was named the best community newspaper in New England. Voted by our peers, that prize for best in community journalism has gone to the Gazette more often than any other newspaper in New England over the past twenty-five years.

This also is a moment to thank the loyal readers of the Gazette for their devotion and strong support through the generations. That bond between the newspaper and its audience continues today, and it has sustained and nourished the Vineyard Gazette for the past 164 years. Our readers help to make the Gazette the special paper it is today.

In the thirty-five years since that first editorial, Martha’s Vineyard has undergone perhaps the most important transformation in its history. From the early 1970s to the present, the Vineyard moved from a sleepy Island community sometimes referred to as a civil wilderness to a great resort that today commands attention from across the nation and the world. The Island now draws countless thousands to her never-ending shoreline. They come as ordinary folk from the main streets of America and as power brokers from Wall Street and as presidents from the White House. But they all arrive on Martha’s Vineyard in search of the same thing: the solitude and beauty of the Island, the special sanctuary the Vineyard offers as a quiet refuge far from the clatter of the mainland.

It is this transformative period in Island history that explains the fierce political battles, legal clashes, the social upheaval and the great debates about proper levels of development that have raged for more than three decades on the Vineyard. The Vineyard Gazette, more often than not during these years, landed at the center of the political and social collisions.

And while perhaps not always understood, there was but one editorial message from this newspaper, one that has stood for the past thirty-five years, a position first set forth in the early decades before me under the direction of Henry Beetle Hough, the revered old country editor of the Gazette, and continued from 1968 to 1975 by my father, James (Scotty) Reston.

The case for the Vineyard, as argued by the Gazette, was that the Island had the right to determine its own future, the right to define a plan for thoughtful and orderly growth. At stake was the preservation of the character of the Vineyard and the quality of Island life for her citizens. And so the Gazette through those sometimes tumultuous years often stood against those who pressed for unbridled development, against outside interests that appeared more interested in making money than in preserving the special character of Martha’s Vineyard. It is after all that character that makes the Island a special place and sets it apart from so many other communities now overdeveloped and long forgotten.

We do not have time in this farewell to wander through the great environmental and political fights that were so critical to the protection of the Vineyard over a thirty-year period. There was the eleven-year battle to save Katama Plains. And too many years were devoted to the struggle against political thuggery in New Bedford and Boston, an attempt by outside politicians to impose fast ferries and mainland control of the Steamship Authority on the Vineyard and her citizens. The flags of battle flew everywhere in those years: the fight to keep McDonald’s and fast food chains off the Island; the struggle for years to prevent golf course development in the Southern Woodlands, a project that threatened the contamination of Lagoon Pond in Oak Bluffs.

These were the years and the fights that helped define what Martha’s Vineyard, the community for citizens and the resort for visitors, would become in the future. Certain major battles were won by environmentalists who sought to preserve the character of the Vineyard; others were lost. Some of these issues are still with us, but perhaps with less intensity than the divisive clashes of the decades just past.

There was also a quieter side to the Vineyard Gazette and the rush of events through this last period of the Island history. We believed and sought to prove that a newspaper in this day and age can survive and still maintain a literate quality. We believed where possible in the principle of quiet understatement and not in the shrill noise that too often comes from extreme positions. And finally we believed the best argument for the preservation of the Vineyard was to keep the focus of the newspaper riveted to the physical beauty of the Island and to Vineyarders, to the citizenry, who make such an extraordinary human landscape.

We thought that if the Gazette could make people pause long enough to understand and appreciate the gifts and rewards the Vineyard offers, then these same people might be more willing to join the effort to preserve the character and quality of an Island way of life. At times I think we succeeded; at others, perhaps not.

I look back on these last thirty-five years and realize how much the Vineyard and the world were intertwined. A dusty folder of editorial tributes to the lives of just a few Vineyarders who contributed so much to Island life speaks to the link between the outside world and this tiny spot of land in the sea beyond the land: Jackie and Teddy Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Della Brown Hardman, Bill Styron, Dr. Robert Nevin, Art Buchwald, John Hersey, Polly Hill, Jack Ware, Lillian Hellman, Rufus Shorter, Beverly Sills, John Updike. The bridge between the two worlds stretches endlessly.

At about the time of that first editorial so long ago, I had dinner with Henry Hough and we talked about the magic of the Vineyard and her people. He said I would come as an outsider to understand and appreciate the unique values of the Vineyard. And when I left that evening, I wondered what he meant. I still thought in those days I had come to the Island perhaps for a handful of years and that eventually I would return to the daily urban journalism of mainland America.

But Hough was right. I am still here in the year 2010 after a most rewarding journalistic journey. The Vineyard will remain my home in many ways. And as I write this farewell editorial, I do so with a salute to the Island, to her people and to the readers of the Vineyard Gazette. Together you form a remarkable community, and I leave with great admiration and respect for this special place called Martha’s Vineyard.


Richard Reston, editor and publisher of the Vineyard Gazette during the years 1975-2010,

retired from the newspaper upon publication of this morning’s edition.