Award-Winning Journalist Scott Brinton, senior editor of the Herald Community Papers, has been writing for over 20 years. A Columbia University and New York University graduate, he has reported on everything from communist refugees to 2012s Superstorm Sandy. Most recently, he has been named to the Press Club of Long Island’s Long Island Journalism Hall of Fame for his significant contributions to Long Island journalism.

You have been the senior editor for the Herald Community Newspaper for almost 21 years, how did you get your start at Richner Communications?

The country was climbing out of a recession when I returned from Peace Corps service in 1993, so I arrived back to an awful job market. Through Michael Kornfeld at the Press Club of Long Island, I learned of a reporter’s opening at RCI, which publishes Herald Community Newspapers. Leatrice Spanierman and Randi Kreiss, two of Long Island’s great editors, hired me and taught me nearly everything I know about journalism. Call it a four-year apprenticeship. I was promoted to editor’s positions from there. I learned newsroom management from my longtime friend John O’Connell, our executive editor.

You’ve reported on a broad spectrum of topics, including but not limited to the September 11 attacks, the crash of TWA Flight 800, and recently Hurricane Sandy. What is your favorite topic to cover when reporting the news? Why?

Without doubt, Sept. 11 and Superstorm Sandy were the most trying stories I have covered. Through them, I met so many courageous families and individuals. They were feeling such pain, but they were so dignified. Both stories taught me about the strength of the human spirit. What I love most about my job is telling people’s stories.

Over your 3,000+ piece career at the Herald, what would you say is your favorite piece that you’ve written?

There are so many stories that I love. The one that comes to mind first is Long Road to Freedom, from 2006, in which I chronicled the lives of Lucila and Oscar Farias, a Cuban couple who escaped Fidel Castro’s communist revolution and started life anew in the United States. I spent a month every Friday evening interviewing Lucila, who earned a doctorate from New York University and became a professor of Spanish language and literature at Fordham University. Her daughter, Elizabeth, grew up to become a doctor and Adelphi University professor. I was astounded by their determination to make it, to persevere.

How do you think that the print news industry has affected the industry as a whole?

Print media drives the news. Television is the most widely consumed medium. Radio is critical, particularly during a crisis. The Internet is becoming increasingly important. Print, though, still provides depth to the news, even in this era of shrinking news holes.

Your writing clearly has a huge impact on society. In 2001, your 44-part investigative series, An Epic Power Struggle, led elected leaders to shut down a Village of Freeport diesel power plant that failed to meet federal air-quality regulations and that local residents charged threatened their health and the environment. How does it make you feel that your writing can lead to change not only on Long Island, but also bring awareness around the country?

First, thank you for saying that. I will never forget the sense of elation I felt when the Village of Freeport’s Power Plant No. 2 closed after three decades of operation. More important, I won’t forget the smiles of nearby residents who no longer had to live in fear. Newspapers are society’s watchdogs. In this case, it all worked out because elected leaders responded to the media coverage ‚Äì‚Äì and the persistent calls for action by hundreds of concerned residents. The system worked. The story is a perfect example why we need newspapers.

Is there an investigative piece that you are working on now or would like to write in the future that you are particularly excited about?

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Yes, there is. I’m working with a team of editors and reporters on a series we’re calling Living on the Edge, about the trials and tribulations of making it in a very expensive place to live like Nassau County. It was inspired, in part, by the Covering Suburban Poverty conference hosted by Hofstra University’s Herbert School of Communication and the Poynter Institute last September. The series has been among the most difficult, but most rewarding that we have done. We’ll be coming out with two stories over the summer and more in the fall.

Beyond writing for the Herald and Newsday, and photographing for the New York Times, you are also an adjunct professor at Hofstra University. What is that like?

I love teaching at Hofstra. I come from a family of teachers. I had originally thought of becoming a teacher, so to be an adjunct professor at a national university like Hofstra is just incredible. My colleagues are amazingly accomplished and creative. The students are curious, and they want to make a difference in the world. I couldn’t be happier.

What do you hope to teach students at Hofstra about what it takes to be the best possible journalist?

To be honest and respectful and professional in all their dealings. Truth matters. It’s what our society is built on.

Scott Brinton at the PCLI Awards Dinner Photo Courtesy of the PCLI

Scott Brinton at the PCLI Awards Dinner
Photo Courtesy PCLI

You have begun to film short online videos as a new method of reporting. How else are you keeping up with the evolving times of Journalism?

Technology is critical. I attend conferences to keep up with the latest changes, and I read continually. No doubt, technology is transforming the media industry, mostly for the good. It’s critical, though, that today’s multimedia journalists never forget the fundamentals. Your primary job is to seek truth and report it. For print journalists, the quality of your writing matters.

Since the print aspect of the journalism world is changing at such a fast pace, with the increasing popularity of social media and online reporting, what changes do you think will occur in the future for journalism?

Many have predicted the death of journalism. Don’t believe them. Traditional media have struggled in recent years, but they appear to be stabilizing, and they’re experimenting with and finding new, innovative ways to tell people’s stories. At the same time, we’re seeing the rise of smaller, independent media outlets with nimble reporting staffs, hyper-local websites and blogs run by individual journalists for profit, and even nonprofit media outlets. There is a growing focus on community journalism. All of this is good for the country. Journalism is evolving, much like society. It’s an exciting time to be a journalist.

Just recently, you were recognized for your significant contributions to Long Island journalism by being named to the Press Club of Long Island Hall of Fame. What was that like?

Amazing. Bob Keeler and the late Robert Greene, both one-time Newsday editors and Pulitzer Prize winners, were inductees as well. They are both heroes of mine. To see my name in a list with theirs, I could think of no greater honor. It was wonderful of the Press Club to do this. I have to thank Carl Corry, of Newsday, who worked tirelessly to put it together.

–As told by Alexa Froccaro

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