Local news

The local newspaper can be greater than the sum of its parts. Today, people can find out what will happen with the weather by reaching for the phone in their pocket. With that phone still in hand, they can quickly look up any number of things, plus order dinner, shop for groceries and see what’s at the movies if they are inclined to see a big-screen flick once in a while. They can do all these things and much more with ease. But taking the pulse of a community is another matter – unless they happen to be reading a local newspaper on the phone. Maybe it’s a digital-first newspaper that “prints” its stories online first and then delivers a print version. But it’s a newspaper.

Day-to-day or week-to-week, the newspaper can deliver the greater sum of a community’s personality and character. With its range of stories about a place and its people, the newspaper can aspire to embody a community – and serve as a mirror that reflects the public back to itself, perhaps helping it to make sense of itself.

Even in an age when artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT, appears ready to play a signficant role, local news as a commodity remains vitally important. To quote an AI-generated,  ChatGPT response:  “A local newspaper serves as an important source for local news, events and information that directly impacts the community it serves. It help to create a sense of community and can provide a forum for community members to express their opinions and raise concerns. A local newspaper can also provide coverage of local businesses, schools and government, which can help improve transparency and accountability. Additionally, a local newspaper may serve as an important historical record of the community.”

So back to print. It’s hard to resist Norma Bosworth’s “Turn Back the Pages” column, which appears on this page every week – “an important historical record.” The local newspaper seeks to report all the news and information (which ChatGPT knows about), and to provide a forum for opinions and concerns and keep government accountable. That’s good news.

This spring,  we witness new and revived local news operations sprouting in our communities. In Kent, work is underway to bring back the Good Times Dispatch weekly newspaper. In Pine Plains, the New Pine Plains Herald has launched at www.newpineplainsherald.org. As we reported in January, the Winsted Citizen launched as a start-up, print-focused newspaper, backed by Ralph Nader.

These new community news sources and other ones like them that have been serving their communities for decades are vital to community health and spirit. Many of them are staffed by volunteers, a virtuous cycle. In sum, they tie our communities together as a region, a larger-than-life village square.

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