By HEATHER WRIGHT — Let’s get it out of the way. I’m the first non-Hyattsvillian editor hired by the Hyattsville Life & Times (HL&T). Heck, truth be known, I’m not even living in Prince George’s County. I’ve lived in Takoma Park, in Montgomery County, since 2004, and I still live there. Happily. Although, admittedly, I lived there more happily before I came under the spell of Hyattsville. What am I doing as an editor with the HL&T? What are the Times coming to?
(Full confession: I’m also a New England Patriots fan and a believer in the Ideal Gas Law. Let the hate mail begin.)
There are actually a fair number of similarities between Hyattsville and Takoma Park. Hyattsville was incorporated in 1886; Takoma Park in 1890. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Hyattsville had a population of 17,557; Takoma Park, 16,715. They both — unlike most jurisdictions in the U.S. — allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in city elections; Takoma Park was the first to come to this decision in 2013; Hyattsville followed in 2015.
They are both racially and economically diverse cities that value the environment and the arts. Including lawn art. While Takoma Park may not have a pink-haired mannequin head reclining in a rock-filled bathtub, we do have a sculpture of a human child head peeking out of a kangaroo pouch.
And if you combined the space and friendliness of Capital City Cheesecake and the hipster-coffee-worship vibe of La Mano Coffee Bar (technically in Takoma, DC), you’d have something like Vigilante Coffee Company.
The story of my journey towards Hyattsville begins, as a fair number do, with the phrase, “So I spoke to this guy named Chris Currie …“ Looking for a Montessori school, we ended up at St. Jerome’s Academy (SJA) during the first year of their Montessori program. Our daughter began to attend. Then our son. They enjoyed their schooling, and my husband and I felt deeply welcomed by the school community, even though we weren’t from Hyattsville, and even though we weren’t Catholic. In fact, I fell so in love with the SJA community — people’s kindness, thoughtfulness, and desire to live well-examined lives — that I entered into the Catholic Church last year and am now a member of Saint Jerome’s parish.
Many mornings after dropping my children off at school, I started hanging out at Vigilante. I started grocery shopping at both the Target and Giant along East–West Highway, going to see movies at the Regal Hyattsville movie theatre, and meeting more Hyattsvillians. And I started reading the HL&T. I learned more about the broader Hyattsville community — city events and celebrations, new store openings, and, of course, Miss Floribunda — and I found a few errors in punctuation and grammar along the way. After emailing the managing editor (and, yes, that Currie fellow), I started volunteering as a copy editor. I entered more deeply into the stories (and their punctuation and grammar) and continued to like what I read.
Takoma Park’s newspaper, the Takoma Voice, stopped its print edition in 2012. Sadly, that is when I stopped reading it. While the Takoma Voice still has an online presence, I prefer my paper, well, paper-y. I like its tangible, foldable nature, and I like how my kids know exactly what I’m doing when I’m reading it. I’m continually impressed that the HL&T manages both print and online coverage. Although I’m partial to print, I get my up-to-date news about Hyattsville’s happenings through the online site (www.hyattsvillelife.com). Online coverage does have its advantages.
Community journalism. At its best, it brings a community together — recounting history, showcasing events, introducing residents to one another, and even shining light into dark places so that messes can be fixed and community strengthened. And in my case, it can help bring outsiders into the fold — or folds, as the case may be.