Editorial: In Franklin County, newsprint still rules

Published: 1/1/2020 11:41:30 AM
Modified: 1/1/2020 11:41:11 AM

As we enter 2020, newsprint still rules in Franklin County — witness the volume of calls from subscribers when the daily paper fails to show up on their doorsteps at its usual time. Readers could go to their computer or mobile phone to read our stories on our website or app, but they prefer the tactile experience of opening that paper, propping it up on the kitchen table and consuming it with their first cup of coffee. Research has shown that when a print edition closes down, those subscribers do not necessarily migrate to its website or mobile app. That makes the print edition equally as important as the online version of the Greenfield Recorder.

For that matter, any newspaper at all is cause for celebration. Our readers tell us that when they travel, they find the local newspaper is a shadow of its former self — that is, if it exists at all. Large swaths of the population now live in “newspaper deserts,” with no objective coverage of local government.

This is concerning because the loss of government monitoring resulting from a newspaper closure is associated with higher government wages and deficits and a consequently larger burden on taxpayers.

Certain towns showed even more shocking results. Bell, Calif.’s only local paper closed in the early 1990s. In 1993, Bell hired a town manager at a starting salary of about $70,000. By 2010, the same town manager was making over $785,000 per year, owned a waterfront mansion in town and a 10-acre horse ranch outside Seattle. The Bell Police Chief was earning more than $450,000 per year in the town of 37,000 residents. He earned 50 percent more than the Police Chief of Los Angeles, the closest major city to Bell, with a 2010 population of 3.8 million residents. That story was broken by the Los Angeles Times.

Overall, local newspapers hold their governments accountable, keeping municipal borrowing costs low and ultimately saving local taxpayers money.

We’re happy that scandal is a rarity in our coverage area but readers with long memories will not soon forget the flamboyant Frenchman, Olivier de Cavele, who came to town in 1993 with grandiose schemes to build a 10-story office tower atop the vacant First National Bank and Trust building on Bank Row and establish “The Acropolis” in the former GTD plant on Meridian Street. Amid the skepticism of many town officials, Recorder reporters Richie Davis and Russell Haddad were soon calling France to pull together a cautionary picture of the self-described “mystery man,” a dreamer and a charmer not unlike the character of Professor Harold Hill, the traveling con man in the musical, “The Music Man.” De Cavele was eventually deported for overstaying his visa.

In a world of news conglomerates buying up print and TV news outlets and then consolidating them (to the detriment of local coverage), the Greenfield Recorder is that rarity, a member of a small, family-owned chain of print publications committed to community journalism. A lean staff of reporters and photographers led by veteran newswoman Joan Livingston attend Selectboard and School Committee meetings, interview candidates for town offices, monitor elections, cover fires and catastrophes, sports, the arts and human interest stories and investigate allegations of malfeasance — all with an impartial hand. Its opinion page presents all views that are fit to print, and publishes your letters galore.

We’re not immune to the challenges facing local journalism but we remain committed to serving you with timely, impartial news and analysis and, yes, dependable delivery of this paper in whatever form you consume it. Keep those letters and My Turns coming in the new year.

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