Well, How Did We Get Here? 2019 in Review


The top stories of the past year and a thank-you to everyone who makes it possible to continue our work.

By Matt Skoufalos | January 2, 2020

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash – https://bit.ly/2RnVmy7.

If you’ve come to read NJ Pen in the last 12 months, thank you and welcome! Some of you may be new to us, but our data tells us that 416,690 of you checked in with us this year.

That’s up 18 percent from 353,317 in 2019, and for an independent local news website covering nine towns in South Jersey, that’s a healthy number.

It reflects a figure comparable to the population of the surrounding region. It shows us that we’re having an impact in the communities we serve.

Those of you who read NJ Pen in 2019 looked at pages on our site nearly 1.3 million times. About 10 percent of that traffic came from people who were simply doing a web search for something we’d written about.

Just like in 2018, 60 percent of our readers were new to the site in 2019, which shows us that the audience for our work continues to grow nearly six years into the job.

Up until a few weeks ago, most of that work was subsidized by a fraction of the people who read or otherwise benefited from it. In December, we rolled out a tiered paywall system to help drive reader support for our work.

Happily, many of our regular readers have responded! In just a few weeks, we’ve gone from 130 paying subscribers to 213 and counting. Thanks to all who help us continue on—and if you’re reading for the first time, please join us!

And now, some numbers…

In 2019, we published 236 stories (excluding our weekly recaps) spanning a variety of categories. With 70, police and fire news led our site by a bit, just edging out business news (60 stories) and government (54). “People,” our human interest and feature category, was next (25), followed by school and arts news (12 apiece), and finally, opinion and editorial (3).

This distribution tracks with that of our prior years. We work to provide coverage over a variety of subjects as best as possible, and many stories easily overlap a few of our in-house categories.

Of course, this isn’t the culmination of our work. We also maintain a presence on social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, publish an e-mail newsletter, and provide a text alert service, service, Direct Dispatch, by which you can get our headlines sent right to your phone.

Top 10 Stories (by page count)

The most frequently accessed stories on our site from the past year reflect the diversity of coverage we provide.

Some of them showed how responsive local media can help locate criminal suspects and bring closure to a police investigation. Others showed the impact of following up on a good tip, or the importance of maintaining communication with sources in the communities we cover. More than a few illustrate our willingness to dig beyond the basic information to bring back something worth reading.

Here’s your hits from 2019.

Police Seek Help ID’ing Suspect in PATCO Sexual Assault

97-Year-Old DuBell Lumber Closes, 140 Laid Off

Reunion Hall: Haddon Twp. Native Plans Modern Beer Hall for Haddon Avenue

Collingswood Couple Hits HGTV House Hunters, Store Opening Soon

Police Investigating Homicide at Collingswood Parkview Apartments

Remembering Kurt Brahms, 54

Ex-Di Bruno Bros., Rastelli’s Chefs to Open Haddon Culinary in Former McFarlan’s Market Collingswood

Camden County Sgt. Defuses Suicide Attempt in Fairview

UPDATE: Collingswood H.S. Student Charged for Bringing Handgun to School

Police: Frustrated Kidnappers Killed Camden Man in Failed Ransom Attempt

Police and Fire

The work done by local emergency services personnel has often comprised the bulk of our breaking news reports, from significant arrests and prosecutions to the efforts of first responders in moments of tragedy. Here are the highlights from 2019.

Collingswood Murder Victim was Robbed, Killed for Marijuana, Police Say

Haddonfield Police Debut K-9 ‘Blue’

Three Charged in NJ Landmark ‘Ghost Gun’ Sting, 9 More Arrested in Drug Ring

Collingswood Firefighters Rescue Dog from Cooper River

UPDATE: West Deptford Teen Allegedly Snapchatted During Stolen Bus Chase, Charged by DRPA

Active Shooter Defenses: Drills, Gear, and Community Intervention

Camden County Police New Use-of-Force Guidelines Hailed as Blueprint for a National Model

Signs of National Drop in Volunteerism Showing in Local Fire Companies

Two Injured in Three-Alarm Haddonfield House Fire

Missing Cherry Hill Resident Recovered After Search for Man with Crossbow


Small business has always been a coverage focus at NJ Pen because its impact reverberates far beyond brick-and-mortar walls and into community life.

In 2019, we introduced readers to openings, plans, and proposals for dozens of new local businesses, and informed them of the closings of many others. Our work in this area is often a reason many readers tell us they follow NJ Pen, but our coverage isn’t limited to commercial comings and goings. We also showed the role that many small businesses play in the towns that they call home. Here’s a sampling.

Tri-Town Taco Crawl Turns Spotlight on Inter-Community Business Growth

Westmont Farmers Market a No-Go in 2019

The New Victor Talking Machine Company: a Camden Classic, Revived in Pennsauken

Sidestepping Haddonfield Retail Rents, Small Business Partnerships Explore New Models for Success

After 48 Years, All-Star Awards & Trophies Moves on from Collingswood

Pennsauken Nursing Home, Union Caregivers, Brace for Strike Amid Contract Talks

Power Restored, Collingswood Asks Shoppers, Diners to Help Small Biz with ‘Lights On’ Promotion

Brooklyn Pizza Finding its Niche in Haddon Heights

Crystal Lake Diner Files for Bankruptcy

‘Dinner at the Club,’ Joey Baldino’s Debut Cookbook, Celebrates the Italian Immigrant Experience in Philadelphia


From elections coverage to policy action, we produced 54 stories on local government in 2019. Keeping an eye on the mechanisms of power and civics in the information age is an ongoing process, and not all that work happens within the confines of public meetings. NJ Pen endeavors to bring you closer to the people behind the decisions from both sides of the voting booth. Here’s some highlights from the past calendar year.

Camden County Recycling Contract Tested in Court Amid Summer of Rejected Truckloads

Haddonfield Commissioners Resolve Bancroft Lawsuit with HERD Objectors, Advance 55+ Housing Project

Atlantic Avenue ‘Rails With Trails Project’ Finds Design, Construction Money

More Brewery Rule Changes from NJ ABC: Food Trucks Out, Limits on Events

CamCo ‘Bridge to Work’ Program Connects Homeless People with Jobs, Services

DRPA Opens Bike Access Ramp to Ben Franklin Bridge

Camden County Jail Expands Drug Therapy Program for Addicted Inmates

‘Understaffed and Underfinanced’ Haddon Heights Public Works Dept. Considers Merger with Audubon

Local Controls: Part III – Policy Constraints

Three Weeks After Historic Storms, Some Still Waiting to Return Home


The “people” category is often a catch-all for our human interest news, which can be far-ranging in subject matter. The 25 such stories we produced in 2019 spanned topics from local history to communities pulling together to support neighbors in need. Here’s some of the most-read among them.

Verts, Bowls, and World-Class Talent: Remembering the Short-Lived Cherry Hill Skatepark

Surviving the Shutdown: Camden County Reacts

Historic Newspaper Donated to South Jersey Goodwill Headed for New Home

Camden Residents Protest Failed Supermarket Projects, Tax Incentives

PNC Donates Collingswood Home to USMC Purple Heart Veteran and Family

Camden Historical Marker Acknowledges City’s Role in Colonial Slave Trade

The Return of the Loudo Imperium

South Jersey Girls Heading to Thailand for World Martial Arts Tournament

Westmont’s Woodstock Revival Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Historic Concert Saturday

Jersey Joe Walcott, Camden’s Heavyweight Champ, 1st Black Sheriff, to be Cast in Bronze


Local school coverage often doesn’t catch the notice of readers without children in the district until there’s a bond referendum or some other controversial item of interest. Nonetheless, public schools are often the sites at which a variety of community concerns intersect, and keeping an eye on their activities is part of the work we do.

In addition to being one of the only regular sources of voting information about school board candidates ahead of elections, NJ Pen covered teachers who made a difference in the lives of their students and issues of classroom safety.

Oaklyn Voters to Decide $4M School Bond in September 24 Special Election

Counselor, First Responders Lead Audubon Students in Pre-Prom ‘Mock Crash’

Haddon Township Police Investigate Threat of Violence at Rohrer Middle School

Haddonfield’s Kim Dickstein First NJ Teacher of the Year from Camden County

NJ Pen 2019 Election Coverage: Collingswood Schools Seek $225K for Mental Health Program in Ballot Question

Beats, Business, and Building Relationships in Collingswood High School Digital Production Class

Prepping Full-Day Pre-K, Collingswood Turns to Oaklyn for Classroom Space


Local arts and artistry are among the least frequently covered topics in our coverage area, owing only to the limitations of our staffing. Yet in 2019, NJ Pen uncovered a handful of significant storylines among the local creative culture in South Jersey, from multimedia works to community projects to pop culture commentary.

‘Greetings from Haddon Heights’ Tells a Local Story in Mural Mosaic

‘Hidden Lives’ Exhibition Connects PA Inmates with Audiences Outside Eastern State Penitentiary

Camden Arts, Neighborhood Groups Partner for Parkside Arts Pavilion Project

Sculpture Trust Installs Haddonfield’s “Ballerina”

Here Comes the Sun: Haddon Township Summer Solstice Returns for Year Three

‘The Journey Back to Normal’: South Jersey Filmmaker Explores Alternative PTSD Therapies for Veterans

Dudetown Comes to Collingswood: Gallery Plans Immersive Cartoon Experience


NJ Pen very infrequently offers editorial commentary on the events of the day, but is always welcoming of well-considered opinions and letters to the editor. We also have been fortunate to be able to publish the work of some great guest writers. Here’s a couple of their takes.

Words of Angehr: Springsteen’s Western Stars

Game of Thrones Episode 8.6 Recap – And Now My Watch Has Ended


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