Frederick is a small city with great entrepreneurial spirit. The mutually supportive vibe going on in the community among the residents and the small business owners is one of the things that makes it a pleasure to live here. We have to stress the importance of including our media resources on the pedestal of local esteem, particularly on this solemn occasion. The Gazette will cease publication at their remaining Montgomery County facility this week. The Gaithersburg Gazette started in 1959; Frederick’s version was discontinued in 2013.
Imagine for a moment what we would do here without a local paper at all. Son of a corn nut! What corruption could be possible with no real journalists reporting on it?
“For the moment, nobody does what we do. Nobody covers these communities,” Lyons said in 2011. “If we went away tomorrow, there’d be a heck of a lot of news go away. If The New York Times stopped covering Washington, D.C., tomorrow, there’d be other people to cover Washington, D.C.” (Bethesda Magazine, July 12, 2015)
Local journalism can be a peculiar beast. Many entry-level reporters cut their teeth at small local papers. Young reporters can have a steep learning curve with the pertinent issues, which are almost always a densely packed snoozefest of taxes, budgets, land use, property values, and school politics. It’s hard enough to get adult homeowners with children to engage with these issues, much as we try to insist on the importance (and honest-to-Thor, a council meeting can be entertaining as all get out). It creates a new challenge for a reporter who has no first hand experience with their reader’s perspective on what information is prioritized, and may be discouraged to discover that readers mostly like dumb stuff. Papers and online media are full of the junk that sells, at the expense of the stuff that matters.
Local papers are expensive. They don’t have the advertising reach of larger ones, so subscribing costs more, and people complain about that (heck, The Gazette was free, and it still didn’t stay afloat). The expectation is that journalists and the media do it all, with less and less in terms of resources. Much like it is with teachers. They are held to a standard of perfection, and frequently not enabled to achieve it. 10 ugly truths about modern journalism addresses more than one of these, but the most important here:
In the age of layoffs and buyouts, many of the first people to go in the newsroom are the copy editors, the people ensure that published stories are accurate and well-written. Without copy editors, many stories, especially those that appear online, are being published without first being checked for spelling and grammar. These errors are becoming even more frequent and are a mark of credibility against the news outlet.
We local yokels are random mommies who think community engagement will help the place we are raising young people. We can only do so much; we can do a lot less without a true outlet working their beats. Teachers and journalists share some other common ground with regard to a volatile and demanding profession that is not well compensated (you know when they increase class size, they decrease staff size, right?):
In the golden age of journalism, reporters could dedicate themselves exclusively to their work in the newsroom when there was no fear of being sudden layoffs [sic]. But when a pink slip could come at a moment’s notice and paychecks are becoming increasingly smaller, many more journalists are writing books, creating blogs, consulting, and anything that can build their personal brand or bring in a few extra dollars.
*Recycling a paper does not help their bottom line. It’s important to your community that you become a paying customer. How important? Well…
Journalism is the only media enterprise that democracy absolutely requires—and it is the only media practice and actual business that is specifically mentioned and protected by the U.S. Constitution.