Today’s news:

TimesLedger expands into Jackson Hts.

“It pretty well completes what our plan was for covering Queens,”...

By James DeWeese

With the addition of the Jackson Heights Times and the Woodside Times, both published Thursday for the first time, the award-winning TimesLedger family of newspapers has grown to 16.

“It pretty well completes what our plan was for covering Queens,” publisher Steve Blank said. “It fills in the biggest hole we’ve had.”

“Queens County is the Ellis Island of the United States,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said during a March luncheon with the press at the Delhi Palace in Jackson Heights. “One of the greatest things we make in Queens is great American citizens.”

The trail that many of those Queens immigrants follow on their trek to other parts of the borough and country takes them through the heart of Crowley’s district. It includes Elmhurst, labeled by National Geographic as the most diverse Zip code on the planet; Jackson Heights, with the country’s second largest South Asian population; East Elmhurst, with La Guardia Airport handling more than 22.5 million passengers a year; and Corona, an epicenter for the region’s spiraling Latino population.

Since the 1940s, Jackson Heights has also been a vibrant center for New York’s gay community.

These communities are now served by the Jackson Heights Times, part of the TimesLedger family that has won hundreds of state and national awards for journalistic excellence.

“We’re giving voice to the community,” Blank said. That community voice is one of the basic reasons “that newspapers are the only business that’s protected by an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Since 1989, when Blank bought the Bayside Times and the Little Neck Ledger, the papers have provided a unique brand of community-oriented coverage. Over the years, the chain grew to 14 papers and now to 16.

“We‘ve demonstrated with the other 14 papers that there is a demand for what we provide,” Blank said of the nuts-and-bolts reporting that tackles the issues affecting the people who populate a neighborhood, the politicians who represent it, the police and firemen who protect it and the stores that call it home.

As the new papers come on line, the TimesLedger’s reporting staff will expand, bringing more depth to the broad coverage of Queens-wide issues, such as Willets Point development, hunger and the city’s 2012 Olympic bid, that know no geographic boundaries, Blank said.

The papers’ launch also provides advertisers, especially smaller outfits with limited resources, with an opportunity to target specifically the customers most likely to frequent their establishments, Blank said.

“No other Queens-wide publication covers Queens communities like we do,” Blank said.

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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