Just my Thoughts

Small Town America, Its Media and the Recession

We sit and watch as The Boston Globe and its unions make news daily.  Votes take place to see if concessions will keep the Boston institution printing papers.  Meanwhile, here in Small Town America, the news is just as bad, if not worse.

Since there is currently only one daily newspaper in my area, I do not know if it will cease publishing any time soon.  It, both on its own and with directive from its corporate parent, is tightening its belt as are those who live here and support it.  Unfortunately, the majority of its readership probably doesn’t realize that employees at the local Gannett paper have worked one week without pay in the first quarter of this year and are also being forced to take another week without pay in the second quarter.  The size of the newsroom at this Gannett publication has shrunk – early retirements, deaths, no new hires.  Then, there are normal vacations and furloughs.  I am not sure how many people are actually available in the newsroom – this week when a local state senator helped stage a change in the leadership of the state senate, this week when a former major manufacturer in the city sustained a two-alarm fire that may be arson and today is only Tuesday.

On top of furloughs, the parent corporation has shrunk the editorial page staff.  In an attempt to cut costs, the three papers owned by Gannett in this general area all have the same editorial page editor now.  While this is good in some cases, I truly believe that issues like the local community college and its inability to find an appropriate president are not an issue with the other two papers but with the one here.  While the blog aspect of the paper has done a great job in keeping up with the presidential search, the paper itself should have an editorial voice on this that is missing.

The local television news arena is not in much better shape than the local paper.  Just last week it was announced that one local station will stop producing newscasts here locally.  They let go a good number of their staff – though other television news and the paper are reporting conflicting accounts as to the exact number affected – and will now produce news out of a sister station in a city forty miles away.  There will be local bits in that news but it will not be local news.

While we watch as major city newspapers fold, Small Town America is losing its media.  Small Town America is losing its own ability to report on what is happening within its borders.  This is due to many aspects but will undoubtedly get worse as the recession continues.  What will those of us who do not want to live in a major city do when the only news we can get is cable news or network news because it is not profitable to report local news?

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