Health & Medical Hearing

History - Reaction to End of Deaf Newspaper, Silent News

Updated June 08, 2015.

About Deafness visitors learning about the end of the Silent News, reacted by sending in their comments, below:

From Tom Willard, a former editor of Silent News:

Thank you for writing about the “passing away” of Silent News. It was practically the only acknowledgement I have read anywhere about the newspaper’s sudden and mysterious departure from the scene. Can you imagine if The New York Times went out of business and no one reported this news?

It is a sad commentary on the deaf community that our leading newspaper could cease to exist with a bare minimum of response from the community.

I read the cryptic message issued by Silent News in January 2003 and was not satisfied with this information. No reason was given for why the newspaper halted publication, no date was given for its supposed return, and no names were provided as sources of this information. The advertisers and subscribers who supported the paper all these years deserve better. I spoke with a few advertisers and they were in the dark like the rest of us. I saw a note on alleging that one advertiser gave $11,000 to Silent News and got nothing in return!

I was editor of Silent News from 1991 to 1996. In my opinion, the problems started in July 1996 when the founders’ daughter, Adele Wiggins, showed up in our office in Rochester with a lawyer and informed us that the office was closing immediately and reopening in New Jersey near her home. She had never been a part of the paper during the five years I served as editor, but with her parents planning to retire, she decided to have herself appointed as executive director.

She had been an interpreter and I understand she could no longer do this kind of work due to carpal tunnel syndrome.

I was abruptly fired as editor, despite doing a good job to improve the paper. When I joined, Silent News was a “Mom & Pop” operation run from the dining room table of Julius and Harriet Wiggins. By the time I left, the newspaper was computerized, had a professional office and was run an all-deaf staff of seven. Subscriptions increased from 8,000 to 12,000 during my tenure, and revenue grew from $200,000 to $500,000. During this time, we launched the local newsmagazine “Deaf Rochester” and the national “Job Bulletin,” filled with deaf-related job announcements from all over the country.

Adele Wiggins replaced the entire Rochester staff with new people and had a revolving door of editors. Betty Broecker lasted just one year. Considerable time then passed without an editor (it showed) before Trudy Suggs came on and did a marvelous job of upgrading the newspaper. Alas, she suddenly resigned, taking the sports editor and several writers with her. The Wiggins family then turned to the marketing director, Jonathan Kovacs, to serve as interim editor.

It is Kovacs who has been the target of rumors about an alleged theft of money from Silent News. I was at the Deaf Expo in California last November and two people from New Jersey told me with strong assurance that the rumors were true. One said the theft totalled $35,000; the other said $65,000. The story was that Kovacs organized a Silent News-sponsored party at the Hard Rock Cafe during The Deaf Way II and then pocketed the admission fees; leaving Silent News on the hook and unable to pay the restaurant, much less continue to pay for printing and postage fees. Later that same day, I spotted Mr. Kovacs himself roaming the aisles. I flagged him down and asked him about these rumors. He categorically denied the allegations and said that in fact Silent News still owed him money for his work. He referred further questions to Adele Wiggins. In a recent newspaper interview, Kovacs addressed the matter and claimed that he was the sponsor of the Hard Rock Cafe event, not Silent News. So who is telling the truth? It is hard to say, but if Kovacs did in fact steal money from the newspaper, I think Silent News would have filed a lawsuit against him, and we have heard of no such action taking place. Perhaps Kovacs was used as a scapegoat to cover up the financial misdeeds of Silent News management.

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