Hello, Montclair, I’m Carla Baranauckas, and I’m delighted to be Montclair Local’s new editor-in-chief.

I’m excited and humbled that the Montclair Local board of trustees has given me the opportunity to practice my craft in such a dynamic and engaged community. 

So let me tell you a bit about myself and what I’ve learned along a career that’s taken me from tiny community papers in the Midwest to a global news organization based just across the Hudson River. And, especially, why I believe community news organizations like the Local are essential.

My last name is Lithuanian and is pronounced BEAR-uh-NOCK-us, but you can call me Carla. I’ve been a New Jersey resident for 27 years and have a homeowner’s understanding of permit and zoning issues, real estate taxes and confusion about what really is recyclable. Double-parking makes me nuts, and now that I know what jughandles are, they don’t bother me too much. 

A lifelong dog lover, I’ve just adopted a 6-year-old mixed-breed sweetheart named Emmy Beans, who looks like the Mini-Me version of my Anatolian shepherd, Angels Cydney Claire, who died in May. If you see me around Montclair with my dog, please don’t hesitate to come up and say hello. (Emmy Beans loves to meet new people.)

I also enjoy watching sports, dining out and going to the theater, movies and comedy clubs. 

Growing up in Minnesota, where “Minnesota nice” is a real thing, I became a devoted fan of the Twins. (I was thrilled to visit Cooperstown, New York, this summer to see Twins greats Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat join Montclair’s own Yogi Berra in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.) I graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where I was editor of the campus newspaper, before launching myself into a journalism career. 

While covering local news in the communities of Pampa, Texas; Texarkana, Texas and Arkansas; Edwardsville, Illinois, and Grand Forks, North Dakota, I learned the value of an informed citizenry. Town councils, school boards and local government commissions and agencies have real impact on our lives. 

The people who hold public positions devote time and energy to making the community a good place to live. And it’s crucial for local leaders to hear the voices of community members. Journalists provide information that helps build that bridge. 

Later, as a staff member at The New York Times, I learned how a news organization can serve in troubled times. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, The Times set out to write brief profiles of the people who were killed, and it was my honor to write a dozen of the “Portraits of Grief.” As I spoke with families and friends of the victims, I kept a box of tissues handy to wipe away my tears. The experience deepened my understanding that everyone truly is an individual and that each person’s story has value.

While working at The Record/NorthJersey.com, I saw how investigating beyond the surface can reveal crucial information that some people may want to suppress. As my colleagues worked on the Bridgegate story, I saw how asking questions about what initially seemed to be mere traffic jams uncovered a tale of political retribution.

So many things can divide Americans today. Local journalism offers a way to build shared understanding and culture. We take our role seriously at Montclair Local. We work to make our community stronger through independent, accurate reporting on the issues and events that matter to the people who live and work here. 

The Local is proudly an independent nonprofit news organization supported by people right here in Montclair. As the new editor-in-chief, I’m committed to nurturing and expanding our reporting on township government, schools, business, culture and sports.

Our energetic staff will keep covering the people and institutions that make Montclair a special place to live and work. Throughout, accuracy and fairness will be our bedrock, and we expect to have our feet held to the fire on that.

We also provide a forum for community members to express opinions in our Town Square column and Letters to the Editor. We believe in respectful, spirited discussion of community matters.

I believe, indeed all of us at the Local believe, that what we do helps keep democracy vital and vibrant. 

I look forward to meeting you and hearing from you. You can always find me at carla@montclairlocal.news. I welcome your feedback and your ideas.