NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ, - TAPinto.net is pleased to announce that Curtis Leeds has been named the editor of its Flemington-Raritan franchise, covering Hunterdon's county seat and Raritan Township, which surrounds it.
Leeds lives in neighboring East Amwell.
"I'm a newcomer to Hunterdon," said Leeds. "I've only lived here for 34 years."
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Leeds has a long history of working in media. His newspaper career began at his hometown weekly, where he was paid $10 for each of his photos it published.
"That was long before digital photography," Leeds said, "and I had to pay for my own film and processing. Even though I had my own darkroom at home, I still didn't make much money from it."
He didn't even have his driver's license yet. "Fortunately, I grew up on an island," Leeds explained. "I could cover the whole thing on my bicycle."
More recently, Leeds spent nearly 20 years at the Hunterdon County Democrat newspaper and its website, NJ.com, serving as managing editor of the paper when he left a year ago. Before rising to the managing editor position, Leeds worked at the newspaper as a reporter and then bureau chief.
And yes, he's the same Curtis Leeds who is often remembered for the radio shows he hosted at WDVR-FM, a public station based in nearby Delaware Township.
Leeds says the TAPinto Flemington-Raritan site is more than just an opportunity for him, but for the Hunterdon community.
"Hunterdon is poised on a tipping point of massive change," Leeds said, yet the county is largely ignored by conventional media and the county's challenges aren't widely recognized.
He is not the only one making the observation about Hunterdon.
The Hunterdon freeholders commissioned a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy three years ago and its plan was accepted by the federal Economic Development Administration in May. The county has since hired a director of economic development, who works within the county's Planning, Economic Development and Land Use Department. County officials now say the CEDS has moved from planning to execution.
CEDS cites the county's aging and declining population, lower school enrollment, commercial vacancies and changing demographics as the need to attract more business, tourism and improved infrastructure.
And the CEDS plan is often cited by those that seek to drive that growth - from redevelopment in Flemington to affordable housing in Raritan Township.
"The CEDS plan is a blueprint for growth," Leeds said, "and it has the support of the county's elected officials. As the newly-formed economic development staff gets to work, you'll see the Hunterdon landscape change. TAPinto Flemington-Raritan thinks residents want to know what that change will look like."
In particular, Leeds notes a paragraph in the CEDS study that its authors chose to highlight with a bold face font.
It states: "Failing to address the high cost of living in Hunterdon County - through a combination of land-use zoning to allow lower cost, higher density housing where it makes most sense and the introduction of affordably priced transit options - will, most likely, undermine most other economic development efforts within the county, over the long-term."
Of course, TAPinto Flemington-Raritan will do more than report on growth. The achievements of its residents, its businesses and volunteer groups are worth publicizing. The needs of its non-profits and the changing offerings of local services will all get the attention of the online newspaper.
Most important for readers, Leeds said, is that they understand, "It's not about me. It's about readers, and their family and friends, and what they're doing, and what they want to do."
TAPinto Flemington-Raritan has been an almost instant success with readers since its "soft launch" at the end of last year. "Our first big story was the year's first baby born at Hunterdon Medical Center," Leeds said. "That something so quaint could be of such interest tells me Hunterdon residents care about where they live and the people who live there with them. That's really the only ingredient that a good journalist needs for success."
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