Mark Brown: From Chief of Staff to Executive Editor

Posted July 29, 2008 at 4:57pm

Leaving behind a three-decade Capitol Hill career, a two-time Congressional chief of staff has returned to his journalism roots and quickly found success.

Mark Brown, chief of staff to then-Reps. Bill Hughes (D-N.J.) and Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) and past president of the House Chiefs of Staff Association, founded what has become the award-winning ByTheSeaFuture newspaper last year to serve residents of his new home in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Fla.

Prior to working as a staffer for 26 years, Brown was a reporter for four years at the Griffin-Larrabee News Bureau, covering Congress and the White House from 1973 to 1977 during the height of the Watergate scandal. While reporting on the Hill, Brown first met Hughes, who soon offered him a job.

Brown moved from Washington to the small oceanfront community in southern Florida after Roemer retired in 2003.

“I didn’t have the energy to start over and get another Congressman,” he said. “I decided if I wasn’t going to stay in the government and in the center of the real action, there was no reason for me to stay in Washington.”

But since his move, Brown has found ways to stay involved in politics, volunteering to work on campaigns for Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), retired Gen. Wesley Clark and several local candidates.

And starting the newspaper brought together his interests in journalism and politics, allowing him to weigh in on local issues through his editorial writing and to report on local political stories.

“I still get to keep my fingers in a number of different political events down here, but I’m also writing,” he said.

He admits it’s unorthodox to write the news and the editorials, but at such a small operation he doesn’t have much choice.

“I’d prefer to just be a reporter — that’s what I was trained as,” he said. “I try really hard to keep the news coverage and the editorials separate.”

Recently, the National Newspaper Association awarded ByTheSeaFuture three national awards in the category of nondaily newspapers with a circulation under 6,000.

“Lauderdale-By-The-Sea might not be the prettiest small town in America, but it is definitely home to one of the finest small town newspapers in the country,” ByTheSeaFuture announced in a July 18 article.

The mayor of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Roseann Minnet, agrees. She is grateful to ByTheSeaFuture for bringing the small community to life in print and helping put it on the map.

“I wish every community could have a newspaper that has the … quality writing that ByTheSeaFuture has,” she said. “Washington’s loss is Lauderdale-By-The-Sea’s gain.”

With just two other staff members, Brown is responsible for all the news and editorial writing at the paper. ByTheSeaFuture, a free newspaper, has a circulation of 5,000 and an estimated 10,000 readers throughout Broward County. Currently, it publishes every three weeks.

For Brown, the newspaper is a hobby, as he is not being paid for his work. And like most newspapers in the country, ByTheSeaFuture is struggling to make a profit, managing to break even through ad sales.

But it’s also a long-awaited chance to finally have control over his writing after years of not receiving credit for his work as a staffer.

ByTheSeaFuture won first place for an editorial written by Brown and his co-executive editor that appeared in the first issue of the paper.

Brown also brought the newspaper accolades in the breaking-news category, winning second place for his writing about a manhunt for an accused cop killer in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. He got the scoop on the massive police search that swept through the town before the major news media could get a reporter on the scene.

The newspaper also won third place for best use of color in a nondaily newspaper.

ByTheSeaFuture will enter its second year of publication this January.