The Pearl

sylvia-weinstein-2.jpgSylvia Weinstein ’60, editor of the Newport News, Virginia business newspaper Oyster Pointer, talks about her paper with pride. She’ll tell you, in quick, punctuated sentences, the most important thing: Oyster Pointer only prints good news — and with so many headlines proclaiming so much turmoil, good news is great. Weinstein will tell you how much she enjoys editing, and if you’re a young writer, she’ll offer to help you find work or clips. In half an hour, you’ll hear about the paper’s awards and its long relationships with advertisers, and Weinstein will narrate the paper’s entire history.

It began 30 years ago, when Oyster Point was a largely undeveloped nearly 700-acre parcel of land. Weinstein and a partner developed an advertising, marketing and public relations firm and saw the chance for a small newspaper specific to the area. In its early days, Oyster Pointer was a small four page quarterly. She bartered with companies, offering advertising space in exchange for print and distribution.

In 30 years, Oyster Point, located in central Newport News, became a large and modern hybrid residential and retail space. Parking garages and office parks punctuate the streets. It has its own hotel. As the area grew, so did Weinstein’s paper.

The paper organizes stories into three main categories: Beside, Stretching and Beyond the Point, including stories local to and outside Oyster Point. There are profiles of nearby businesses, advice and news tidbits for the public and columns from Weinstein herself, documenting her travels with her husband, Bill, or readers’ favorite books.

Now published monthly, Oyster Pointer distributes to nearly 200 locations with a distribution of more than 9,000. She and her network of designers, advertisers and freelance writers showcase local businesses, telling stories from the area, for the area. The September issue, headlined “Swap Day,” asked local business leaders whom they would switch places with and why. One said Oprah Winfrey, another Axl Rose. Sharon Martin, vice president of Old Point National Bank, said she would be Sylvia Weinstein.

Martin admires Weinstein’s adventurous spirit and mentorship. She said when Weinstein talks with you, it’s like you’re the most important person in her life. A consistent reader, Martin said the Oyster Pointer paper is always uplifting and highlights accomplished members of their community. One time, after eating lunch together, Weinstein obtained the restaurant owner’s contact information, just so Martin could contact him about their banking needs.

“Who does that?” Martin said. “Sylvia’s just completely unaware of how much value she’s added to the community. She’s the pearl; most definitely she is.”

Brian Cole, president of Personal Training Associates, has worked in the Oyster Point area for over 20 years. When he started reading Oyster Pointer, it didn’t print in full color, and since then, Cole has enjoyed watching it grow. There are new sections, a variety of articles and human-interest stories that have introduced him to dozens of his business neighbors.

“You read about people in the paper, and you feel like you know them,” he said.

Cole himself has been featured in the paper and often contributes articles, which regularly bring reassuring feedback from customers and coworkers. He speaks with Weinstein about the paper almost every other week and has known her for over two decades.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who does more to tie this community together,” Cole said.

Oyster Point, he said, is the business center for Newport News, and Oyster Pointer helps bring it all together.

“If you take a look at the daily papers, it’s hard to find positive news today,” Weinstein said. “I’m happy I can put a smile on someone’s face, and a smile is so important. I think if you give one, you’ll always get one in return.”

She Weinstein accepts every story, as long as it’s non-political. Weinstein also often works with young writers from nearby Christopher Newport University and keeps in touch even after they move on, always offering to help them continue their careers.

“I don’t let my writers get away from me,” she said.

She was once just like her young writers. An English major, Weinstein spent a year at William & Mary before moving on to the workforce. She lived in Chandler Hall, and along with her friends, got into trouble sneaking into other people’s rooms through open windows on the first floor. Those memories, she said, stay with her.

The paper Weinstein began 30 years ago doesn’t much look like Oyster Pointer today. It has expanded into surrounding areas and looks forward to more growth in the years to come. For its 25th anniversary five years ago, Weinstein celebrated with a big party for advertisers and readers. Newport News Delegate David Yancey presented her with a resolution from the Virginia General Assembly, recognizing her outstanding service to the community.

Newspaper work taught Weinstein to speak well and listen, even though she’s still learning. It taught her to adjust to a new and fast-paced work environment. It’s taught her to never question her commitment and to enjoy the thrill when a distribution point calls for more copies of the paper.

“I’m like a sponge, I just want to soak it all up,” Weinstein said. “I’ve been dragged into the 21st century, and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Oyster Pointer is Weinstein’s work and pleasure, the hometown paper she’s nurtured for three decades. It’s her chance to give back to the area that’s given her so much. The favorite thing she hears from readers is that the paper showed them a local business they didn’t know about before.

“It’s a good newspaper,” Weinstein said. “But it’s also a good-news paper.”