Telegram editor retires Conzola reflects on long career as a journalist

EJ Conzola heads into retirement seven years after starting as editor in Malone and 41 years after starting off as a reporter in Saranac Lake. Tom Graser/Johnson Newspapers

MALONE — Malone Telegram’s editor for the past seven years is hanging up his reporter’s hat and starting a well-earned retirement after decades working as a journalist and in the field of communications, among other pursuits. EJ Conzola II retired from his job as Telegram editor, Friday, Nov. 6, ending his journalistic career close to where it began, in Saranac Lake during June of 1979.

Conzola said he had been living in Florida working on a long-line tuna boat, before he took the job as a reporter in Saranac Lake, starting work before the Fourth of July, when one of his first assignments was covering the fireworks over Saranac Lake.

“I thought it was freezing. It was so cold it was snowing, I mean it wasn’t sticking but there was snow falling and if I had any other job than being on a tuna boat I think I would have moved back to Florida,” Conzola said.

Ultimately, Conzola stuck with it.

According to Conzola, between his jobs with the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and The Malone Telegram, he had several adventures in-between, not working as a journalist the whole time but always coming back to reporting because it was something he enjoyed doing.

“I dipped in and out of reporting but I kept on coming back because I liked it,” Conzola said, “It was kind of like this, what I like about journalism is doing something different every day, getting to do something different all the time and learning a lot too. I like to know stuff and I got to learn about a lot of stuff I didn’t know about. Getting paid to learn stuff was pretty cool.”

Conzola said another aspect of the job he really enjoyed was getting to know people.

“I like talking to people, meeting new people and in this job you get to do that all the time, meet all different types of people in the community,” Conzola said.

Conzola said that for him reporting was mostly about informing people.

“I never saw myself as a big part of the story, I’m not shy but I thought the biggest part of the job was to keep people informed, or at least give them the opportunity to be informed,” Conzola said.

According to Conzola, he was working in Casper, Wyo., in 2013 when he took the job at The Telegram, moving, with his wife, to be closer to his daughter who was living by Saratoga Springs.

Legislature Chairman Don Dabiew, D-Bombay, said Conzola was someone who not only informed the public but elected officials of what was going on in Malone and around Franklin County. “He was always good to deal with,” Dabiew said. “EJ was always there if we needed to get information on something going on in the area.”

Dabiew said he appreciated the open nature of communication Conzola brought to his position as editor.

“The information went both ways, he was always easy to work with and that is something that is nice to have in a small town,” Dabiew said.

Dabiew said with county meetings moving online since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the legislature didn’t see Conzola much this year but was happy he was able to attend its meeting on Nov. 5, a day before his retirement.

Mayor Andrea Dumas, R-Malone, who represents District 3 of the county legislature, got to know Conzola in her current government roles and during her time as a Village of Malone Trustee.

“I’ve known EJ for many years now, he always did a good job covering both sides of an issue,” Dumas said. “He was always there for local meetings and events; he did a great job of letting people know what was going on.”

Regardless of the size of a community event EJ was there if he had time to cover it, according to Dumas, something she appreciated and the village benefitted from.

“You would always see EJ at everything here, it didn’t matter if it was something little or a big event,” Dumas said. “He will be missed.”

Remembering the biggest stories he covered, Conzola said the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, only a year into his career, was a special experience.

With The Telegram, Conzola said the escape and subsequent capture of the Dannemora inmates in 2015 and the kidnapping case in Moira in September stick out in his memory.

Conzola studied journalism when he attended graduate school and went on to teach journalism as an assistant professor at Utica College and SUNY Morrisville, teaching for a total of 12 years.

During his time as an undergrad at Colgate University, Conzola said he was unsure what he wanted to do until his time studying abroad in the Soviet Union during the 1970s.

“When I was an undergrad I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I was iffy about law school and was interested in international studies,” Conzola said, “I was studying in Moscow in 1975, when the Apollo-Soyuz mission was happening.”

The Apollo-Soyuz was the first crewed mission, carried out jointly by the United States and the Soviet Union in July 1975.

According to Conzola, he and some fellow students had been invited to attend a lunch featuring one to two hours of speeches, but were able to steal away from the event and go to the Rossiya Hotel, a place with an American-style bar with American-style beer.

“Russian beer was disgusting, we were excited to have American or European beer for a change,” Conzola said.

The bar was on the third floor of the hotel and in the elevator Conzola said he ran into a news crew from NBC, covering the rocket launch.

“I ended up talking to them for a couple hours, asking all kinds of questions, what they did, what it was like,” Conzola said. “I thought it sounded interesting and decided to give it a try.”

Conzola said he completed an internship at a local television station, WKTV Utica.

According to Conzola, he worked in other communications jobs including as communications coordinator at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs.

Conzola said his retirement plans include spending more time at a residence he and his wife own in the Lake George area.

Johnson Newspaper’s St. Lawrence and Franklin County Editor Tom Graser will be acting editor in Malone while a permanent replacement for Conzola is sought. Graser was the Telegram’s editor from 1993 to 1996. He can be reached at tgraser@wdt.net.

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