Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Itty Bitty Busy Bones

Hi there!

Thug Child Gangsta here checkin' in with an inadequately prepared update on what's been going down in my little world of freelance journalism. 

I covered the Katy's Courage 5K on Ssturday, April 5, for both the Sag Harbor Express and Dan's Papers, which was my first time covering an event for multiple publications. 

One of my photos graced the front cover of the Express and the story I wrote about the event may or may not represent my very first for a newspaper's sports section (Can't imagine that's true)

I think I also made the front cover of the Rockland County Times that Thursday, April 10, after covering the formation of the group, "Rockland Clergy for Social Justice" and writing that here represents the first time I realized I made two different front covers in two different counties on one day.

Check it out:

GIANNA VOLPE    Bronx-based Rabbi Ari Hart of Uri L’Tzedek—Orthodox for Social Justice—voiced his support of newly formed “Rockland Clergy for Social Justice” in the packed basement of Spring Valley’s First Baptist Church on Tuesday afternoon, when the group announced its intent to petition Governor Andrew Cuomo for immediate fiscal and administrative oversight over the East Ramapo Central School District.

Other things:

photographed the first annual Horseradish party on Saturday, April 12, for Dan's Papers and even competed in the Bloody Mary contest,  placing third of 10 despite forgetting the Worcestershire sauce and both lemon and lime. 
It was there I learned Moustache Brewery was holding its soft opening the next day and I'm pretty sure I was the only member of the Press there.
I wrote that up as a story for last week's issue of Dan's Papers, in addition to photographing the grand opening of the brewery for this week's issue.

I am really excited about the fact that I just handed in two stories to the Southampton Press - the first two I've written in a long while and will not discuss as I believe they're both being held for next week's paper. 

Also wrote two pieces for the Sag Harbor Express - one on weed-eating goats and another about well-known local chef, George Hirsch. 

Just handed in my first of two upcoming magazine features for the Express, one of which I am incredibly excited about because it's a first-person feature and I love those. 

I write the other one tonight, but now I have to go shower and get ready for work at the bar.

Such is life for this busy little Gia!

My 27th birthday is coming up in June, so if you don't know what to get me, an acountant/personal assistant/both would be incredibly helpful!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Long-time LI Farm Bureau executive director announces retirement

As seen on:

Gergela retiring from Long Island Farm Bureau

By Gianna Volpe

When Joseph Gergela III retires in December from the Long Island Farm Bureau, local farmers will lose one of their own.

The lifelong Island farmer and longtime executive director of the Calverton-based nonprofit informed its Board of Directors of his retirement plans in March. When he steps down at the end of the year, it will be after 26 years with the LIFB – and over 50 years with type 1 diabetes, a diagnosis he received at age 7.

Gergela, now 58, has weathered numerous diabetes-related complications through the years, including multiple heart attacks and a 2012 kidney transplant from his brother. He cited health concerns as the main reason for his pending departure.

“That’s why I have to retire,” Gergela said. “The physical work of walking the halls of the New York Legislature is a challenge now. I have heart problems and circulation problems, and that wears you out.

“And trying to make time all the time, and to have your best, most charming personality day in and day out, plus the stress of what the farmers are going through … I just know it’s time,” he added.

At times during his LIFB career, you might not have known Gergela was ill. The executive director has garnered a national reputation for his political and PR chops, including management training from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, service on the National Farm Bureau and what he described as a “personal friendship and working relationship” with former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

Locally, he’s known as the farmer’s best friend. A tireless point man and booster for the regional agricultural community, Gergela called the 2002 negotiations for the East End’s former KeySpan property, now known as Hallockville, one of the best victories of his LIFB tenure.

With many environmentalists clamoring for public park space – a plan that would have cost 300 acres of prime farmland – Gergela brokered a farm-saving deal between KeySpan and then-Gov. George Pataki.

“That was my baby,” he said. “The beauty of this, which is how I sold it to the governor, was that the farmers would buy the land with the development rights sold to the state, and the money would go into a pot to a build a state park on [Long Island] Sound.”

That $3 million is still sitting in a fund in Albany, waiting to build that park, Gergela noted.

Long Island Farm Bureau President Karen Rivera said the organization will miss Gergela’s wisdom and energy.

“Joe has been a fearless and effective advocate for Long Island agriculture,” Rivera said. “He is greatly respected not only here on Long Island, but also in Albany and Washington.”

Rivera did not mention a specific successor, but noted the LIFB Board of Directors “has formed a committee to formulate a plan for the organization moving forward.”

Whatever direction the bureau takes after he leaves his post, Gergela – who plans to retire to Boca Raton, Fla. with his wife, Donna – said the LIFB’s greatest strength will always be the Long Island agricultural community itself.

“We’re proud of our farms, our land, our crops,” he said. “It takes a lot of personal pride. You have to be really into it, or you’re not going to make it in farming.”

Read more:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Express lane to victory!

I am so unbelievably proud of The Sag Harbor Express for winning The New York Press Association's inaugural "Newspaper of the Year" award at this year's Better Newspaper Contest, which took place this weekend in Saratoga Springs.

I've been honored to write a number of compelling monthly magazine features for them in the past year, including my all-time favorite "Art of Scalloping story."

The Express apparently received a number of accolades for these magazines

(I am completely unsurprised - they are gorgeous.)

New publishers, Gavin and Kathryn (Georgie) Menu, wrote the following on the subject: 

"What a great weekend at NYPA's spring newspaper convention for The Sag Harbor Express! For those of you who don't already know, The Express collected a total of 31 awards in categories that touched every aspect of the business--editorial, advertising and design. Our magazine series, which every one of you played a huge part in, dominated the special section categories, with The Summer Book, XO, Harvest, Festival, Voyeur and Home & Garden all winning awards. 

In the end, The Sag Harbor Express was named Newspaper of the Year and received a huge ovation from over 500 of our peers, representing 178 different newspapers across New York State.

We all joke that the awards "don't mean anything," but the truth is it's tremendously rewarding to be honored in such a way in front of our peers. If nothing else, the awards validate all the hard work we put into making such outstanding newspapers and magazines.

Kudos to you all."

Passion of the Blimp

Blimpie to celebrate 50 years with 50 cent sub; chain’s founder sits down for interview with Rockland County Times
The original Blimpie Base
The original Blimpie Base
The tri-state’s own submarine sandwich chain, Blimpie, turns 50 years old on Friday, April 4 when the first 200 customers of any Blimpie location can celebrate the half-century anniversary with a 50-cent Blimpie’s Best— and that’s cheaper than the 95 cents it once cost for the same sandwich during the chain’s 1964 inception, according to founder, Tony Conza.
“It was the most expensive sandwich at 95 cents and at the time we called it a ‘Super,’” Conza told The Rockland County Times of Blimpie’s very beginning, which saw he and two high school friends slap a sandwich shop together with $2,500 and the dream of bringing the cold subs of South Jersey to their hometown of Hoboken.
“The concept of a salad on a sandwich wasn’t really being done at the time,” Conza said. “It was just hero sandwiches—meatballs, ham and cheese on Italian bread—not shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes or onions.”Founder Tony Conza
Blimpie forever altered that culinary landscape. From the moment the doors opened, Conza said folks were lining up to buy a ‘Blimp,’ a marketing descriptor he said was chosen to teach North Jersey folk the concept of the sandwich, inspired by Point Pleasant-based Mike’s Submarines, while associating it to the Blimpie brand.
“Back then the sandwiches weren’t known as ‘submarines’ and though we knew people in Philadelphia called them ‘hoagies,’ we wanted to teach everyone a word that was our own. We went through the As and Bs and got to blimp and said, ‘Okay, the sandwich kind of resembles an airship’ and then we just added an –ie to the end of it— that was our big market research,” he said with a laugh. “These days you spend a million dollars to come up with a name.”
Conza–author of “Success, It’s a Beautiful Thing: Lessons on Life and Business From the Founder of Blimpie International”– is no stranger when it comes to learning what it takes to build a successful business. What began as a lone sandwich shop on Seventh and Washington in Hoboken ultimately ascended to more than 2,000 locations by the new millennium, but in the beginning, Conza said there was darkness. “We were selling a lot of sandwiches but we really weren’t making money because we didn’t know what we were doing,” he said. “My partner [Peter DeCarlo] and I … went through some very difficult times. I remember one time we pulled up to the tollbooth at the Lincoln Tunnel and when I reached into my pocket, I didn’t have the 50 cents it cost at the time. I said to [DeCarlo], ‘Give me 50 cents to pay the toll,’ and he said, ‘I don’t have any money.’ Neither one of us did.”
After briefly considering getting out of the business in 1989, the year after the small public company had lost money and was selling for only 15 cents a share, Conza said he realized he had “lost the passion for Blimpie” and swiftly set a five-year/ 1,000 location goal for the company.
“Once I made that mental decision to get the passion back for Blimpie – everything changed,” Conza said of the start of an eight-year stretch of record company earnings. “In the beginning it was like being behind a Mack truck and trying to push it up a hill by myself, but eventually more and more people got on board—and the rest is history.” Sadly for local Blimpie fans, the few Blimpie locations in Rockland County have all been put to pasture in recent years. If you want to get your 50 cent Blimpie fix on Friday, you’ll have to hop over the border to Mahwah, Allendale or Westwood in nearby Jersey. For those working in New York City or Westchester, there are also several Blimpie locations to choose from, which you can find at
This story sourced from The Rockland County Times website:

Rock(l)and Roll

Just picked up a new publication (The Rockland County Times) and already love working for them. See my next post to read this week's piece on Blimpie's 50th anniversary. 

The following is the woebegone tale of how I came to be united with my latest 'client.' (Man, that's really fun to write)  

The day was Wednesday, March 19, and
I happened to be in the immediate area when RCT's Dylan Skriloff offered a story to the first-responder who wanted to cover one of Governor Andrew Cuomo's press conferences about property tax reform.

I'd been stranded at my father's house all day due to a case of lost keys and remember wondering aloud to myself (and the neighboring kitchen appliances), "They say everything happens for a reason, but I just do NOT understand what reason could be behind this."

A police officer had even helped me break into my car using a wooden spoon earlier in the afternoon (I think I could, at this point, write a book called "Breaking In: the 5-0 Way) to see if I'd left them inside the vehicle. I had no such luck, outside the fact that car alarms will, eventually, stop sounding/alerting everyone within a mile radius that you are  the hugest idiot in the universe.
But I digress.

I had just hopped out of the shower when I was alerted that I'd received the email that I had a possible chance to do the job of journalism, and further, that I was a twenty-or-so minute drive away from doing so.

"Ahhhhhhh - so THIS is why I lost my keys," I said, triumphant finger pointed toward the heavens, as my father pulled said keys from between a chair cushion I'd already searched several times over and handed them over to me with a facial expression denoting exactly that I am the biggest idiot in the universe (But I digress)

Both this event and Katy's Courage 5K, which took place yesterday AM in Sag Harbor, taught me that 
for me to get new camera equipment because this Nikon D500 is just not cutting it. Not even slightly. 

It will make an excellent "extra" camera, so I can FINALLY graduate to being the kind of pro who has two cameras at any given time (three counting an iPhone)

The photos were bleh and though I had taken notes, my iPhone had decided to stop recording at some point because it was crammed full of content.

(I have since upgraded to one with more space/have established back-up techniques to cull content and keep that from ever happening again)

However, I did get to interview our state governor, which is a pretty righteous rite of passage for any young journo. 

I also need a new tape recorder....

Is there any rich journalist (cue the canned laughter), or at least one who now has a talk show, who wants to help me get new audio/visual/computer equipment? 
(Cue the cricket reel) 

Following the event, I flew to a nearby diner and began to write furiously, but as I have some horrific Dell without so much as a genuine version of Windows (which it reminds me about every two minutes) three-quarters of my copy blasted off into a nearby dimension never to return when I was nearly finished and I then spent the next few hours trying to recreate the article from memory.

I'm not sure what the moral of the story is - oh right - the moral of the story is, my dear, young journalism professionals, you need to somehow have enough money to be able to afford the best technology, or at least a computer with a genuine copy of Windows. 

I haven't quite figured out how to do that as a freelancer without going into further debt than my journalism degree has me, but once I do - you'll probably be the first ones I tell.