Garfield’s half-century of journalism

Ken Garfield

Matt Garfield

Garfield’s half-century of journalism

At 70, Ken Garfield is reflecting on his 50-year career in journalism that began at his college newspaper; landed him for a while at the Morganton News Herald; saw him through 22 years at the Charlotte Observer; and now finds him independently editing, ghost writing, and penning obituaries.

But Garfield credits his time as assistant editor at The Millerton News between April 1975 and October 1976 as the most impactful year and a half of his career.

Garfield, who grew up in Long Island, attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he studied political science. “I tell people that I’m a child of Woodward and Bernstein,” he said. “I was enthralled by the power of newspapers and journalism, and I started on my college paper at Hampshire and never really stopped.”

Toward the end of his senior year at Hampshire, Garfield saw a job listing on a bulletin board in the alumni office for a position at The Millerton News. Garfield recalled his journey to the job interview: “I didn’t have a car at the time, so I had to get a friend to drive me to Millerton.”

Garfield had the interview and then took the bus into the city. He said: “The bus stop was across from what was Dutchess Auto at the time. I don’t know if it’s still there. And you stood on the corner to catch the bus into the city. So I did the interview, and I got on the bus and from Millerton to New York City Port Authority, I was the only one on the bus. I’ll never forget that. The whole thing was just so odd and fateful.”

Garfield shared: “Meg Alexander was the editor at the time. Bob Estabrook owned The Lakeville Journal and then The Millerton News. Meg was a one-person newsroom and she convinced Bob, I guess, to hire an assistant editor. And that was the position that I filled.”

“You know, you go from a college setting in Amherst to a tiny little house on a creek in Millerton,” he continued. “You’d think that wasn’t the thing to do, but I loved it from the start. I just loved work. I loved journalism.”

After a year and a half in Millerton, Garfield felt he needed a change. A fan of North Carolina basketball and sports in general, he applied to a bunch of North Carolina papers for a job and worked for several years in the mountains at the Morganton News Herald before joining the Charlotte Observer in 1985.

Matt Garfield

“So a year and a half, even today, is probably the life of a small-town newspaper, both in terms of career path, income, that kind of thing,” he said. “But it was a supremely pivotal part of my life. That year and a half instilled in me a love of journalism that still lasts today. I’ve done some other things, but it all has to do with storytelling and writing, and it all kind of took shape there.”

Garfield spoke passionately about his time at The Millerton News and recalled the excitement he felt every week when the paper was released. “I remember the first time I went to get the paper,” he said. “The paper came out Wednesdays at sunset. I was living in Falls Village in a boarding house, and I drove to town in my little Toyota Corona and parked at Terni’s store to get the paper. When I pulled up, I noticed there were all these other people who were waiting at Terni’s store to get the paper. And it was a gorgeous April night, the sun was setting, and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, all these people are here to read the paper and to read what I wrote in the paper.’

“You know, I still have that sort of skip-a-heartbeat kind of feeling that I got for the first time in Millerton at Terni’s store. I’ll never forget that. Of course, people don’t do that anymore. They read their newspaper on the phone. Terni’s store is gone. Most newspapers are gone. But that moment for me still endures. Always has.”

Garfield is now working for himself as an editor and sometimes ghostwriter. One of his side gigs is writing obituaries. “It’s so interesting what shapes a journey, what leads a person in a certain direction,” he shared. “When I write obituaries for people, most people want their jobs and where they grew up and what civic clubs they belonged to. But I’ll always ask about that moment where their life turned or, late in life, what memory comes back to you. And it’s always something sort of technically small that had sort of a cosmic influence on them. For me, The Millerton News was like that.”

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