Thank you, John Derr

Posted 10/12/23

As our readers now know, John Derr is leaving the Chestnut Hill Local after serving as its publisher for the past five years. 

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Thank you, John Derr


As our readers now know, John Derr is leaving the Chestnut Hill Local after serving as its publisher for the past five years. 

John’s efforts have made a lasting impact on our paper and our community. We are grateful for the energy, skill and dedication he brought every day to continuing the mission of the Local and enriching our readers’ experience. He will be missed.

John’s mark on the Local is most noticeable in the redesigned paper, website upgrade, and our two new brands: the Wissahickon Magazine and the Mt. Airy Local. His efforts were instrumental in attracting Editor Carla Robinson to the paper, along with bringing other top talent to the organization. Blending new team members with our existing core of exceptional news professionals elevated the Local’s content and expanded its editorial coverage. 

But John’s impact runs much deeper. Even before the pandemic, the Local was not immune to the systemic headwinds affecting local print journalism across the country. We struggled to keep the enterprise going and had little to no ability to reinvest in the paper. During the pandemic, shuttering the Local became a real possibility. John reorganized and streamlined operations, increased revenue from existing and new streams, and secured PPP loans, grants and community donations generously given by our supporters. It is not hyperbole to say that without these efforts, the Local would be out of business. 

John understands that ensuring the viability of the Local for its next 65 years will depend on taking advantage of development opportunities offered by philanthropic institutions and individual donors. His efforts resulted in the Local Media Association selecting the paper as one of just a few across the United States and Canada to participate in its Lab for Journalism Funding. He secured a donation from a prominent champion of the community, which allowed the Local to hire a development director to pursue these opportunities. 

John has positioned us well to actively seek grants and philanthropic donations to modernize our infrastructure, expand our coverage and ensure the long-term sustainability of our enterprise.

This incomplete list of tangible accomplishments is only part of the story. Anyone lucky enough to have worked with John knows him as a true newspaperman in the best sense of that term. Anyone lucky enough to have interacted with John on an individual level knows him as thoughtful, funny and a genuinely good person. He is universally liked and admired by the paper’s staff and board members for his ability to manage a workforce facing the stresses of weekly deadlines and operating with insufficient resources and antiquated systems and equipment. 

John is equally admired by the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s board, executive director and staff. He understands that a collaborative relationship between the CHCA and the Local is critical to each other’s success. John worked to foster and deepen a culture of mutual respect and partnership. It is unsurprising, then, that John developed great relationships across our region that led and will continue to lead to meaningful, productive partnerships among the Local, the CHCA and our fellow community groups. 

I am thrilled that John is taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity for himself and his family. It’s an opportunity that will allow John to continue his work in media and us to continue working with him in his new role. The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and the Commonwealth’s media organizations are lucky to have him. 

The Local is a more than 65-year-old, storied institution. Most of us who have worked for the paper or supported the Local in other ways are stewards shepherding the paper along its journey. Few have such a meaningful impact in shaping the Local in such enduring ways.

In your too-short 5-year tenure, you became one of the few to leave an enduring legacy at the Chestnut Hill Local. Thank you, John Derr.

Joel S. Barras

President, Chestnut Hill Local Board of Directors