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Southbridge Evening News hires Ashton as staff writer

Mark Ashton. (click for larger version)
April 10, 2012
SOUTHBRIDGE — The Southbridge Evening News is proud to announce the hiring of veteran journalist and Southbridge resident Mark Ashton to its editorial staff.

Ashton, who also is a regular columnist for the News, joins staff writer Gus Steeves, covering all the news that's fit to print in Southbridge.

"I'm really looking forward to getting reacquainted with the people who make Southbridge the unique, lively, engaging town it is," Ashton said. "I still know all their faces. I can't wait to put all those faces with the right names."

Ashton got his start in the business right here in town as a summer intern for the News in 1968. "It was such hard work," Ashton said, he went back to school in Syracuse to rethink his major, but since he enjoyed working with his hands, he returned to the News after college, taking a job in the press/production room,.

"After working in the production and graphic arts departments long enough to know what I was doing, I volunteered to help with 'extra' stories and photography," Ashton recalled. "Eventually, I also took on the assignment of writing weekly movie reviews — we had Southbridge Twin Cinema at the time — and continued that, and a few hundred theater reviews, for about 20 years. I also got to write, photograph, and edit special projects and publications — a wonderful community cookbook comes to mind."

In the meantime, he said, Ashton was involved in Gateway Players Theatre and musicals and fundraisers at St. Mary Church.

"I have served on the board of directors at United Way of Southbridge, Sturbridge and Charlton, the Tri-Community YMCA, and Southbridge Interfaith Hospitality Network and I have always thought of Southbridge as home — even when we lived in Spencer for a while," he said.

Ashton lists locals Joe Capillo and Leo LaFortune as inspiration. Capillo is a longtime local journalist, author, historian, and sports organizer, while LaFortune was a production supervisor who worked at the News for 68 years before retiring.

"What a quitter," Ashton joked.

When asked why he is interested in returning to the News, Ashton replied that local newspapers are more in tune with the communities they cover.

"What's great about local papers is that they can truly reflect the character — and characters — of the communities they serve," he said. "There's really nothing too small to report on when it truly means something to those involved in it. There's also no better way to understand the 'big' news than to report on its impact on local individuals — families, children, seniors, students, employers, employees, whoever feels the effects of what's in the news."

As a longtime resident of Southbridge, Ashton said he understands the local character of the town.

"People should know that columnists and reporters are real people too," he said. "Some of my fondest memories of childhood surround paper routes, athletics and recreation at local fields, swimming at 'The Rez' and being reported on in the News. Family photo albums still feature clippings and photos of the 'important things' — honor roll listings, Little League line-ups, photos of us neighborhood kids donating backyard-carnival earnings — about $3.50 — to the fire department or Jimmy Fund."

Ashton encouraged readers to think of the News when they think about local events, opinions and news.

"The community is best served when everyone feels free to contribute thoughts, opinions, suggestions, complaints, and recommendations as if they truly mattered — because they do."

Mark Ashton may be reached at 508-909-4144, or by e-mail at mark@stonebridgepress.com.

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