Since media is a relatively hot topic these days, I was not surprised to have a crush of people contact me on social media and via email in response to the feature I wrote for this month’s issue of Boston Magazine. Titled “No News Is Bad News,” it’s about how the predicament of local media in this state has gone “from bad to worse,” what “a world without news really looks like,” and, specifically, how “the marriage of GateHouse and Gannett looms like an Angel of Death over what’s left of the local media landscape.”
Though the response was mostly positive, however cloaked in sadness, there were also criticisms, and for the most part I agree with complaints about how I neglected to identify those working hard to hydrate news deserts and who are launching ambitious hyperlocal startups and hustling between the gaps. As a result, I thought I’d take a couple of inches to salute them, because while there’s no single entity that could come close to compensating for the destruction that GateHouse, which continues to strip the 100-plus newspapers it still owns in the state, has brought, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some rays of light poking through the wreckage.
Since its journalists have been my loudest critics (and perhaps the most justified), I’ll first acknowledge MassLive. I failed to note its formidable digital team in Worcester in my piece; as I have written several times since on Twitter, this was absolutely not a purposeful omission to drill home the point that Worcester is suffering news-wise. It was just an oversight, but while I should have shouted out the work of MassLive reporters, no such mention would change the fact that Worcester still doesn’t have enough coverage of basics, like its school, planning, or zoning boards.
What’s ironic here is that I am typically the person howling on account of being ignored. With that said, I am pleased to further address a central question—“Is there any hope of survival?”—that I left unanswered in my screed for Boston. Hopefully I can also speak to the observation of one journalism student who chimed in: “It’s those regions that are more rural + more isolated AND regions that are more diverse and have lower incomes that don’t get reported on.” While my assignment was to look at municipalities in the magazine’s core readership, that’s nevertheless true, and so it is with hope as well as much admiration that I recognize the likes of Harvard Press, North Suburban News, Grafton Common, Bedford Citizen, Cape Cod Chronicle, Provincetown Independent, the Shoestring, and of course Universal Hub in Boston, among countless others. Though all unique in their own right, with different approaches, they have the same general mission: report on municipal madness to prevent miniature monarchies from metastasizing. Or something like that.
We already have plans to meet up with some of the crusaders behind those outlets, and we encourage others to connect with us as well. We don’t have much in the way of resources, but through the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, we do have some bandwidth to guide others through solutions we have found in our journey thus far. Anybody who is looking to learn more about how they can boost the local media in their slice of the state should check out our sites, binjonline.org and binjbox.org, and also email us at email@example.com.
Chris Faraone, Editorial Director