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TBR News Media

From left, Jacob Mariani, Gio Chiesa, Jenna Lennon, Benji Dunaief and Julia Tranfaglia. Not pictured, Fernando Gutierrez Photo from Benji Dunaief

To honor the tireless and dedicated young professionals whose combined talents produced two delightful and historic films, Times Beacon Record News Media’s “One Life to Give” and “Traitor,” we congratulate them on their graduation from Emerson College in Boston on Sunday, May 12. We wish them continuing success in their future careers and hope to work with them again soon. 

Benji Dunaief, director

Benji Dunaief grew up in Philadelphia but was born in Manhattan, which is his excuse for being a Mets fan. In the third grade, his parents got him a LEGO Steven Spielberg stop-motion movie making kit, and a love for building with LEGOs quickly transitioned into a passion for making films. He graduated with a bachelor’s in visual and media arts: film production. 

Through his films, Benji strives to bring to light true stories of forgotten heroes and marginalized communities. He is currently in development on multiple projects, both narratives and documentaries, and in the future looks to begin a career in commercial and feature film directing.

Jenna Lennon, script supervisor

Born and raised in Boston, Jenna Lennon didn’t travel too far from home when she decided to attend Emerson College. Now, she is graduating from Emerson with a bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in publishing. Working on the crew of “One Life to Give” sparked a love of movies she didn’t know she had, and since then Jenna has developed her writing skills as a film critic. She has also gone on to work on numerous film sets. Currently, Jenna works for the Walt Disney Company as part of the Disney College Program in Orlando, Florida. Starting in August, she will join the rest of the “One Life to Give” crew in Los Angeles.

Jacob Mariani, 1st assistant camera

Jacob Mariani has been working with Benji on his creative adventures for years. An experienced filmmaker, Jacob has been working with cameras since he was only 4 years old. Jacob is also a longtime wildlife photographer specializing in birds. He grew up on Long Island and spent most of his life in Nassau County. Graduating with a bachelor in fine arts in visual and media arts: film production, Jacob has moved to Los Angeles and is currently working as a freelance camera operator.

Julia Tranfaglia, gaffer

Massachusetts native Julia Tranfaglia is a producer, director and cinematographer based out of Los Angeles. She is a graduate from Emerson College with her bachelor’s in visual and media arts: film production and a minor in marketing/business. 

Julia is motivated by her passion to make a difference, believing that filmmaking as a means of storytelling has the power to encourage empathy. She is committed to creating films that focus on important, untold perspectives, providing a platform for new voices to be heard. In her free time, Julia enjoys traveling and visiting friends and family. Occasionally she can be found playing her saxophone, particularly “Careless Whisper.”

Fernando Gutierrez, co-editor

Fernando Gutierrez was born in El Salvador and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Manheim Township High School in 2015 and is graduating from Emerson College with a visual and media arts major focusing in editing and postproduction as well as a minor in psychology. He prides himself on his drive to accomplish even the most difficult of challenges. Fernando is an extremely dedicated individual constantly looking to improve himself in his professional, personal and social life. He is always looking to grow and never shies away from the uncomfortable.

 

You’re invited!

Join us for a special double-bill screening of TBR News Media’s award-winning films at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook on Sunday, June 23. 
“One Life to Give,” the story of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, will be screened at 6 p.m. followed by “Traitor,” the sequel that chronicles the capture of British spy Major John Andre, at 7:30 p.m. As TBR’s gift to the community, the event is FREE.
For more information, please call 631-751-7744.

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Photo by David Ackerman

There’s something real about a newspaper, and it goes beyond the ink and page, beyond the action of picking one up at the drugstore or plucking it from the mailbox. 

We who work at TBR News Media imbue the paper, the one you hold in your hands right now, with our labor. If you could see us at our work, you would know just how hard and long we work to provide the community with as much local content as we can. Truly, the paper is alive.

While we editors and reporters are active in the community every day, we know the lives of the people behind the paper are not front and center.

Behind each of those bylines you might read in the paper today is a person researching, interviewing and eventually rapidly typing each deliberated word hunched over a desk. Each picture is edited and placed within the blocks of text. The ads are crafted by graphic designers spending hours arranging each one. We’re hardly some sort of news assembly line, working out of some monolithic New York City skyscraper. Our tiny, two-story office is located right here on the North Shore, blending into the surrounding rustic buildings of Setauket.

This past weekend, a team from TBR News Media traveled up to Albany for the annual New York Press Association convention. Hundreds of reporters, editors and publishers from papers from across the state gather for this annual event in a single location. 

Listening to the voices of the people at other papers during this event can be both disheartening and encouraging. Advertising dollars are down; and, while research from the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement shows journalists rate themselves high in credibility, accuracy and trustworthiness, the public has a much lower opinion. 

“Fake news” has become a common phrase, one that was initially used for the express purpose of distorting facts during the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s now regularly used to denigrate a pillar of our democracy, which concerns us. It’s important for people to understand the importance of our profession to a healthy democracy. Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable is an expression often used to describe the role of the newspaper. We aim to hold people in power accountable and report on government operations, so citizens become better informed voters. We take this role very seriously. 

A good chunk of our staff lives within our coverage areas along Long Island’s North Shore. We carefully report on the community because we are a part of that community. We wish to see it thrive because we ourselves care about what should happen to our neighbors and the place in which we all live.

What does that mean for you, the person holding the paper? Know that we appreciate you. You’re keeping the paper alive.

The cover of the first issue of The Village Times in 1976 by Pat Windrow

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is a week of celebrations, and it gives me great pleasure to share them with you, our readers. First is the delightful news that Times Beacon Record newspapers won 12 awards for outstanding work over the past year from the New York Press Association this past weekend.

The convention was in Albany, and we loved hearing our names called out before a group of more than 300 attendees from weeklies and dailies, paid papers and free, representing communities throughout New York state. The prizes are listed elsewhere in the paper, and I am particularly pleased that they span the two primary responsibilities we carry: good editorial coverage and attractive advertising. Those are our two masters, and we need to serve both well in order to survive.

Speaking of surviving, a major part of the convention and its workshops was concerned with just that. As most of you know, newspapers — and the media across the board — are engaged in a gigantic struggle. Small businesses, long the backbone of community newspapers like ours, are falling by the wayside. Consumers are buying from Amazon and Google. It’s so easy to toddle over to a computer in one’s pajamas and order up Aunt Tillie’s birthday present, have it wrapped and delivered in no time at all, and perhaps even save some money in the transaction. Only small stores with highly specialized product for sale can compete. Or else they offer some sort of fun experience in their shops, making a personal visit necessary. And it’s not only small stores that are disappearing. Stores like Lord & Taylor — “a fortress on Fifth Avenue,” according to The New York Times — are also gone, directly impacting publications like that esteemed paper.

But that is only one existential threat to media. The other is the drumbeat of fake news. The internet and social media have been significantly discredited as news sources. Cable television hasn’t done much better in the public’s regard. Print, which has always been considered the most reliable source of fact-based news, mainly because it takes longer to reach the readers and is vetted by editors and proofers, can be dismissed with a wave of the hand and the accusation, “Fake news!” 

On the other hand, polls show that print is still the most trusted source. And that is particularly true for hometown newspapers, where reporters and editors live among those they write about and have to answer to them in the supermarket and at school concerts.

Which brings me to my next cause for celebration. Monday, April 8, marked the 43rd anniversary of the founding of The Village Times, which began the Times Beacon Record expansion. We were there in 1976, we are here in 2019, and I believe a good measure of success is simply survival. We are still just as committed to the high ideals of a free press — carrying those ideals and passion to our website and any other of our other platforms and products — as we were that day of wild exhilaration when our first issue was mailed to our residents. We will remain so in the future with the support of the communities we serve.

There is one other happy occasion this week. My oldest grandchild, Benji, is celebrating his birthday. When Benji was born, 24 years ago, I became a grandmother. This is, as we know, a club one cannot join on one’s own. One needs a grandchild to be admitted to this lovely existence. And in addition to the joy of watching him grow up into an honorable and talented young man, I have the exceptional pleasure of working with him as he goes about his chosen career of making quality films. It was he who directed and helped write our historical movie, “One Life to Give,” and now its sequel, “Traitor.” It is he who will be the first of our family’s next generation to graduate from college next month.

I am writing this column on the eve of your birthday, Benji. Happy Birthday, Dear Grandson! And I salute your parents for letting you follow your heart. 

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Holiday shopping started off on the right foot in the Three Village area.

The Bates House in Setauket was filled with shoppers looking to get a head start on their holiday shopping Nov. 13. TBR News Media hosted a private shopping experience at the venue where local retailers and service-based businesses offered attendees discounts on products and services as well as pre-wrapped items ideal for gift giving.

The event was sponsored by The Bates House, Simple Party Designs, Empire Tent Rental & Event Planning and Elegant Eating. Retailers and businesses included Ecolin Jewelers, Hardts and Flowers, DazzleBar, Blue Salon & Spa, East Wind, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Chocolate Works, Three Village Historical Society, East End Shirt Co., Signs by All Seasons, Nicole Eliopoulos of State Farm, The Rinx, Stony Brook Vision World and Rite-Way Water Solutions.

Special thanks to musicians Steve Salerno and Tom Manuel for performing at the event.

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Sunday was a magical night. After a full year of work, we offered you, our readers and viewers, the initial screening of “One Life to Give.” Our first full-length film, the story is set at the beginning of the Revolutionary War more than 200 years ago, and is about Nathan Hale, Benjamin Tallmadge, George Washington and the events leading up to the founding of the Culper Spy Ring. The location for this screening was the 1,000-seat Staller Center off Nicholls Road within Stony Brook University, and to my amazement and delight, we filled the auditorium to the point where our general manager had trouble finding a seat just before curtain time. This full house by itself is a most gratifying testimony to your regard and to the pulling power of our newspapers and digital media, especially competing as we were with graduation day at the local high school.

It’s also a lot more. In these chaotic and divided times, I believe we yearn to understand our common origin as a nation and the history that we share. History after all is glue that holds us together and, to the surprise of many students who hate social studies in school, is also the series of fascinating stories about people, personalities and events that help define who we are today. And since our film is focused on local people and events, we share a pride of place. Our area has been dubbed the “cradle of history” because of its brutal occupation by the British, the activities of the spy ring and the military skirmishes during the war. Long Island, in fact, endured the longest occupation of any part of the colonies because its farms and forests, livestock and fish made up the unwilling breadbasket for the major British garrison in New York City.

So viewers came to see the history and the authentic local scenes and events, and the familiar faces of many residents as they served as extras on screen. Also some were simply curious. And by the time the movie was over, I believe there was an enriched sense of community among those in the room. As much as we want to know where we came from, we also enjoy a sense of belonging to a community. One viewer from farther away came up to me at the end and said he wished for that pride in his city. That particularly pleased me because we as publishers of the hometown paper have always sought to strengthen those ties. Strong communities can be a powerful force for good. They also want to get the latest local news by reading the local papers, which is not so bad for us.

Making a film was a new experience. My eldest grandson, Benji, the director of “One Life to Give,” aspires to be a professional filmmaker as his career progresses, and as we saw he has already acquired many filmmaking skills in college, where he is now a senior. He also brought to us for this venture a remarkable hardworking and talented crew of young professionals in front of and behind the camera. Thanks to our local connections, which included local historical societies and carefully preserved sites, we were able to put together an authentic venue for the shoot. The weather was wondrously cooperative, and actors and historic re-enactors of considerable skill joined the team. Local restaurants, costume outfitters, dry cleaners, scenery designers, makeup and special effects people and SBU, among others, made in-kind contributions. Muskets and cannons were procured and brought to the filming site, often among hilarious circumstances. One rule became obvious: No day would go exactly as planned.

A number of generous local businesses helped us meet costs by agreeing to be sponsors, and for their help they received credits before and after the film. Their names will be seen near and far as a number of groups have asked to show the film.

My major contribution was offering my house for the 15 young people and their equipment throughout the shoot. I can tell you there was not a clear view of floor or rug during those 16 days. It was great fun with high excitement but on their next film, the shooting of which starts in two weeks’ time for release next year, they will definitely stay in a hotel.

By Heidi Sutton

The 1,000-seat theater at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center was filled to capacity last Sunday night as the community came out in droves to celebrate the first screening of TBR News Media’s feature-length film, “One Life to Give.” And what a celebration it was.

“I have to say this exceeds our highest expectations. We are so thrilled,” said TBR News Media publisher Leah Dunaief, scanning the packed house as she welcomed the audience to “what has been a year’s adventure.”

“I am privileged to be the publisher of six hometown papers, a website, a Facebook page and, now, executive producer of a movie,” she beamed.

TBR News Media publisher Leah Dunaief addresses the audience.

Dunaief set the stage for what would be a wonderful evening. “I’m inviting you now to leave behind politics and current affairs and come with me back in time more than two centuries to the earliest days of the beginning of our country — the start of the American Revolution.”

“We live in the cradle of history and I hope that when you leave tonight you will feel an immense pride in coming from this area,” she continued. “The people who lived here some 240 years ago were people just like us. They were looking to have a good life, they were looking to raise their children.” Instead, according to Dunaief, they found themselves occupied by the British under King George III for the longest period of time.

Filmed entirely on location on the North Shore in 16 days, the film tells the story of schoolteacher turned spy Nathan Hale and how his capture and ultimate death by hanging in 1776 at the age of 21 led to the development of an elaborate spy ring in Setauket — the Culper spies — in an effort to help Gen. George Washington win the Revolutionary War.

Scenes were shot on location at Benner’s Farm in East Setauket, the William Miller House in Miller Place, the Sherwood-Jayne Farm, Thompson House and Caroline Church of Brookhaven  in Setauket and East Beach in Port Jefferson with many local actors and extras, period costumes by Nan Guzzetta, props from “TURN” and a wonderful score by Mark Orton.

The film screening was preceded by a short behind-the-scenes documentary and was followed by a Q&A with Dunaief, producer and writer Michael Tessler and director and writer Benji Dunaief along with several key actors in the film — Dave Morrissey Jr. (Benjamin Tallmadge), Hans Paul Hendrickson (Nathan Hale), Jonathan Rabeno (John Chester) and David Gianopoulos (Gen. George Washington).

“It says quite a bit about our community that we could pack the Staller Center for a story that took place over two hundred years ago,” said Tessler, who grew up in Port Jefferson. “I hope everyone leaves the theater today thinking about these heroes — these ordinary residents of our community who went on to do some extraordinary things and made it so that we all have the luxury to sit here today and enjoy this show and the many freedoms that come with being an American.”

Director Benji Dunaief thanked the cast, crew and entire community for all their support. “In the beginning of this project I did not think we would be able to do a feature film, let alone a period piece. They say it takes a village, but I guess it actually takes three.”

From left, Jonathan Rabeno, David Gianopoulos, Hans Paul Hendrickson and Dave Morrissey Jr. field questions from the audience at the Q&A.

“Our cast … threw themselves 100 percent into trying to embody these characters, they learned as much as they could and were open to everything that was thrown at them — I’m blown away by this cast. They are just incredible,” he added.

“The positivity that was brought to the set every day made you really want to be in that environment,” said Rabeno, who said he was humbled to be there, and he was quick to thank all of the reenactors who helped the actors with their roles.

One of the more famous actors on the stage, Gianopoulos (“Air Force One”) was so impressed with the way the production was handled and often stopped by on his day off just to observe the camera shots. “I really enjoyed just watching and being an observer,” he said, adding “It was just such an honor [to be a part of the film] and to come back to Stony Brook and Setauket where I used to run around as a little kid and then to bring this story to life is just amazing.”

According to the director, the film has been making the rounds and was recently nominated for three awards at Emerson College’s prestigious Film Festival, the EVVY Awards, including Best Editing, Best Writing and Best Single Camera Direction and won for the last category. 

Reached after the screening, Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the film was the essence of a sense of place. “I thought it was spectacular. I thought that it was one of the highlights of all of the years that I have lived in this community.”

He continued, “It all came together with local people and local places talking about our local history that changed the world and the fact that it was on the Staller Stage here at a public university that was made possible by the heroics of the people who were in the film both as actors today and the people that they portrayed.”

For those who missed last Sunday’s screening, the film will be shown again at the Long Island International Film Expo in Bellmore on July 18 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Filming for a sequel, tentatively titled “Traitor,” the story of John André who was a British Army officer hanged as a spy by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, will begin in two weeks.

Special thanks to Gold Coast Bank, Holiday Inn Express, Island Federal Savings Bank and Stony Brook University for making the evening’s screening possible.

Photos by Heidi Sutton and Rita J. Egan

Augusta R. Malvagno of Port Jefferson Station is our grand prize winner!

Dear Readers, 

We recently held our third annual adult coloring contest. Readers age 21 and older were asked to color in the cover of Arts & Lifestyles.

The response was overwhelming, and we received many colorful entries from readers all along the North Shore who used many different types of medium, including colored pencils, markers, gel pens and glitter to create their masterpieces. 

Many participants commented on how much fun they had  coloring in the page and how relaxing it was. Jaclyn Visco of Wading River wrote, “Thank you for considering my entry. I love these contests!”

Susan Saviano of Selden gave us glittery red butterflies poised to flitter away, while Linda Sardone of Sound Beach gave us a Caribbean-inspired entry with a pink salmon background. 

The color choices for the petals of the flowers were also very unique, with yellows, reds, greens, purples and even multicolored and ranged from bold to demure. 

Although it was extremely difficult to choose a winner as every entry was unique in its own way, the judges (our editorial team) ultimately chose the coloring page by Augusta R. Malvagno of Port Jefferson Station  who edged out the competition by using vibrant colors that seemed to pop off of the page! Augusta receives a three-year subscription to any one of our six papers, courtesy of Times Beacon Record News Media.

And surprise, all other entries will receive a one-year subscription as a thank you for entering our contest. Congratulations to all!

Recently I received a voicemail message asking me if we were planning to cover fairly a contentious issue currently in the community. The speaker cared deeply about one side, and said he understood that we had friends on the other side of the issue. As a result of those ties, were we going to favor them or, at the least, bury the story in the back of the paper where no one would read it?

Forty-two years ago this week, a handful of us started The Village Times in a tiny office but with great ambition. We promised to serve the community according to “the highest ideals of a free press.” It was 1976, the bicentennial year. We were well aware of the singular role the press played in the American Revolution and the sanctity with which the Founding Fathers viewed the press. Today, we acknowledge other forms of free speech and press by putting them all together and calling them “media.”

But the press, specifically the printed word on newsprint, will always be where my heart is in this business, no matter that we now have a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a place on YouTube and are called TBR News Media. We’ve gone viral on the internet, with over 17 million views for our story and video dealing with school safety in Rocky Point, and to have that kind of reach certainly impresses me. Nonetheless the printed story, the elegance of crafting exactly the right words to describe a scene or an issue or emotion, laid out efficiently and attractively, and most especially truthfully and fairly on a page, with pictures to drive home the information, gives me enormous professional satisfaction. Words as precision tools are not respected the same way on the more frenetic media.

Nor are truth and facts always respected there. Because there is little or no vetting, some people take advantage of the lawlessness to write the most astonishing things, slanted or even untrue as they may be, and others willingly believe what they read. Right now, Facebook, which was started in 2004, is facing the consequences of publishing unmonitored content presented as news or advertising, as CEO Mark Zuckerberg tries to answer hard questions put to him by the U.S. Congress.

Not to revel in another media’s troubles, but everything printed in a newspaper is vetted, even the ads, the sources of the ads and, to the extent possible for facts, the letters. That does not mean everything you might read in our papers is correct. We can and do make mistakes. But those are, or should be, immediately acknowledged and corrected in the next edition. Nor are we without bias, however hard we try. But if we try for a truthful and balanced presentation in every story that we print, to a large extent we can succeed. We reserve our opinions for the opinion pages.

At least, so I believe. With such a long track record, I was quite surprised to hear that question on my voicemail. The caller left his number, and I was able to return his phone call. We had a heart-to-heart talk, and that, along with the story we wrote, I trust, persuaded him that we had dealt with the matter fairly. If he were trying to encourage us to lean in his direction on the issue, his strategy clearly didn’t work.

Here are some of the other things newspapers don’t do. We don’t compile personal information about our readers and then sell that information to potential advertisers. We don’t even sell the names and
addresses of our subscribers, although we have been asked a number of times. Your privacy is not for our profit. We don’t write stories about businesses in order to get their advertising. Our newspapers have never been hacked. But I wouldn’t mind having a couple of their billions. And forgive my pride if I suggest that there is some kind of old-fashioned honor that underpins a good newspaper serving its community. That’s not a sentiment I associate with the internet.

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A local news, features and sports weekly flash briefing from TBR News Media is now available on Amazon Echo devices. Image from TBR News Media

The first TBR News Media flash briefing is now live and available to be accessed on Amazon Echo devices.

You can position where you want TBR News Media’s flashing briefing in your list of flash briefings. Simply moves TBR News Media to the top of the list if you want local news, features and sports to be read first. Image from TBR News Media

To get your local news and sports updates, simply tell Alexa to “enable TBR News Media flash briefing,” or use the Alexa skills store on the Amazon website or Alexa app to enable our skill.

Once enabled you can say, “Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?” or “Alexa, what’s in the news?” and she will read TBR’s briefing.

To enable Alexa skills:

•Go to the menu, and select skills. Or, go to the Alexa skills store on the Amazon website: www.amazon.com/skills.

•When you find a skill you want to use, select it to open the skill detail page.

•Select the enable skill option, or ask Alexa to open the skill.

If you have other flash briefings enabled, they will be delivered in the order you have them in the app. You can easily reorder your briefings in the app. For instance, if you to place TBR Newa Media on top, Alexa will read the TBR local news flash first.

Marshall was featured on the cover of last year’s Love My Pet issue!

Calling all pet lovers on the North Shore! Do you want to show off your pet? Now’s your chance! Send a high resolution image of your pet to art@tbrnewsmedia.com to be featured in the Arts & Lifestyles section in all six of our weekly papers in the issue of February 8. Please include your name, your pet’s name and town you live in. Deadline for submissions is Feb. 1. Questions? Call 631-751-7744, ext. 109.

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