Since September 2000, residents at Greenspring, an Erickson Senior Living community in Springfield, Va., have worked diligently on a monthly basis to publish The Villager: a completely resident-organized and -written newspaper that highlights the campus' vibrant lifestyle.
Known as "the voice" of Greenspring residents, The Villager is filled with stories of community life, resident council updates, and popular personal interest columns.
"The Villager is the best voice of the residents because the resident writers know their audience," says assistant editor Phil Scianna. "They know who they are writing for, and a result, can get a message across much better than others."
Ernie Carpenter, editor of the paper, notes that, "The Villager is one of the most respected communication vehicles at Greenspring." Ernie and Phil both accepted their roles last July, and they have been valiant leaders ever since.
"Our goal is to educate residents regarding the many activities at Greenspring. We also alert our readers of upcoming events," says Ernie.
Experience at the helm
The dynamic duo also brought a wealth of experience to the paper.
Ernie, who previously volunteered as a reviewer and then assistant editor of The Villager, worked for Chemical and Engineering News for 34 years. He held several positions with the magazine, including reporter, photographer, editor, and head of the editing services department.
"I have a keen eye for editing," says Ernie. "I've also worked with some excellent editors. And even when I was editing, I continued to write. It was a large publication - about the size of Time or Newsweek - from the '70s to the '90s. We spent a lot of late hours ensuring we got the magazine out in time. Fortunately, we don't have the same pressure with The Villager."
Phil, who also volunteers as secretary for Greenspring's Resident Advisory Council (RAC), worked as an FBI intelligence analyst and supervisor for 25 years, authoring more than 1,000 intelligence articles.
"Subjected to a high level of scrutiny, you learn the precision of words and the need for accuracy," he says. "My last position was as a writing instructor at the FBI Academy. Throughout my career, I've seen the breadth and scope of different types of writing."
Jacks of all trades
In their roles as editor and assistant editor, respectively, Ernie and Phil tackle important tasks that ensure the timely delivery of the monthly paper.
This time last year, Ernie, tasked with designing the layout of the paper, took it upon himself to restructure The Villager's appearance.
"It is quite a different thing than writing and editing," he says. "I lay out each page, using iStudio Publisher, to make sure the articles fit. I also locate photos or illustrations to accompany the articles."
As the RAC secretary, Phil writes articles detailing the community's current and upcoming activities. When it comes to the resident-interest stories, Ernie and Phil look to their neighbors.
"Every Greenspring resident is welcome and encouraged to submit articles for consideration," says Ernie. "Many people write and send in articles. For the most part, it has worked out quite well. If there is an activity that I think should be covered and we don't have a writer, I either write it myself or ask someone I know. Residents are writing to their interests - that's how The Villager really became the voice of our community."
Ernie also works with resident volunteers who review each issue before it's published.
For the last 22 years, The Villager has reported on the daily life, events, and celebrations at Greenspring. And as a result, the newspaper stands as a summation of the remarkable people who make up the vibrant community.
"You can trace Greenspring's entire history through The Villager," says Phil. "No other source does that so accurately or with such precision."
Each issue of The Villager - since its debut - is available for download on the newspaper's website. Current copies are shared electronically and printed in hard copy, but the demand for a digital version continues to grow.
"Over 250 people request to receive a copy by email, and that number is increasing every month," says Phil. "This allows our readers to receive a copy right away, in color, as soon as it is released and sent to the printer."
"For those who still prefer a hard copy," adds Ernie, "copies are available on news racks in the mail rooms."
'Labor of love'
This summer, as The Villager celebrates its first year under their leadership, both Ernie and Phil look forward to continuing their work in bringing campus news to their neighbors.
"I'd like to encourage more residents to submit articles," says Phil. "It's very likely your interest is shared with others, and Ernie and I are eager to help spread the word."
"Putting together the paper each month is a labor of love," says Ernie. "We strive to continue the excellence created by our previous editors - while building on The Villager's respected reputation as the voice of our residents."