NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

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Guest Opinion: A Salute To Bill "The Pen" Cleary

This article was first published in November  2013





Diary of a Madman

Browsing the web the other day, checking up on the goings-on around town on my favorite local website, I was saddened to learn that after October 31, 2013, Bill Cleary will stop publishing new content to his site, ClearysNoteBook. The only independently run, small-town news source in South Jersey is shutting down. His site's been running since 2006 when he launched ClearysNoteBook onto the Internet after spending almost 40 years in the newspaper business in Gloucester City. Bill must be past retirement age, so I wasn't surprised he's finally taking a break.

Running a one-man newspaper shop consumes a lot of time and energy, even for a young guy. He was nearing retirement when he started his site, which is amazing, considering the learning curve involved in going from print to digital publishing. And he must have loved his job to hang in that long, catching flak from the local political machine and business community, year after year, whenever his opinions didn't fall in line with theirs.


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I remember his old paper lying around my parent's house when they were living in Gloucester City and would pick it up to see if I recognized anyone from my days at Gloucester Catholic in the early 1970s. I found Bill's site by googling my mother's obituary a few years ago, and afterward, now and then, I would click on it to see what's new, eventually bookmarking it and becoming a regular visitor.


 I never got back to Gloucester City much after my parents passed away, but I liked reading about the people and places I hadn't seen in years. Bill's site was my link to the town where I went to school and where my parents spent the last part of their lives.


The last few years. I started spending more time on local sites rather than the large media news sources that I used to read. I've read the big-name columnists, literary and film critics, and reporters, keeping up with the latest geopolitical developments and cultural trends around the world. But as I grew older, I lost interest and didn't care as much if someone started another war in the Middle East or an author came out with another bestselling book that I should read. I became more interested in the town I live in and the places I came from.


In my opinion, Bill's site was the best in the area for home-town news. You could find out when someone was having a baby or had passed away, if your neighbor was arrested for drunk driving, or if his kid got an award at school. He covered Little League and high school sports, graduations, and class reunions. You could read about watchdog groups exposing government corruption at the state and national levels, and stories about our heroes serving in the military, risking their lives overseas. Or just catch up on the latest gossip around town posted in the reader's comments section.


He kept his readers informed on the important issues affecting the quality of life in their town, whether a new business was opening up, an old one was closing, or a potential scheme was being cooked up by the people running the town. And he would offer his opinion on how things should be done, to the dismay of those he felt were not looking out for the town's best interests.


I never met Bill, but I got to know him a little by reading his columns and by his encouragement after printing a few of my blogs. He cared about the town he lived and worked in and sometimes got frustrated when it seemed that a resident or public official was slacking off, not taking care of their property, or trying to make a fast buck at the expense of the town. You don't see this in the big-time papers.


Independent, small-town newspapers are going the way of tube radios these days. Unfortunately, politicians and civic leaders can sleep a little easier at night now that "The Pen" has retired.


Editor's Note: Thank you, John, for your kind remarks. Send me an email, I like to meet you in person. [email protected]