Sunday, March 15, 2009

Greenpoint Newspapers: Don't Take Competition For Granted

Now that the Greenpoint Courier has gone the way of the New York Sun, the Optimist wanted to take the opportunity to recognize his neighborhood's two remaining newspapers: The Greenpoint Gazette and The Greenpoint Star.

The Optimist is a regular reader of both these papers and even coughs up 35 cents to buy the Star each week at his corner deli, even though getting it for free doesn't require inordinate ingenuity. As a former weekly newspaper editor, I enjoy these local papers, even though by the time they hit the stands, I've generally read all of their stories on blogs like New York Shitty, Greenpointers, and Brooklyn 11211.

The Gazette, which is Greenpoint's only independently owned newspaper, features fine reporting from Juliet Linderman, Khristina Narizhnaya, and Adriane Quinlan and generally makes up for what it lacks in breaking news with sober and thoughtful analysis.

The Greenpoint Star is the neighborhood edition of the Queens Ledger / Brooklyn Star chain of newspapers that cover Brooklyn and Queens. While the Star and Gazette tend to cover a lot of the same stories, the Star's Jeffrey Harmatz and Dan Bush admirably distinguish their paper to the point that I find it worthwhile to read both our neighborhood's weeklies.

I should note that I have not known either of these papers to do much in the way of investigative reporting - which is sad given how ripe the politicians and environmental issues in this neighborhood are for probing - but I attribute this deficiency less to a lack of skill or desire on the part of their reporters, than to the heavy load that their writers and editors must shoulder producing a weekly newspaper with a tiny staff.

The reason I have taken this post to praise my two local newspapers is because I want both of them to exist long into the future, and never go the way of the Courier. In Brooklyn, where we have enjoyed rich competition among our local papers for generations, it is easy to take for granted that there will always be rival papers to educate us.

But that assumption is no longer consistent with the facts. Recently, True News from ChangeNYC.Org published a remarkable post on the end of the newspaper era. With the recent death of Denver's 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News, only nine cities remain in America with competing local papers, and among the remaining cities, papers in Detroit, Seattle, and Tucson are hobbling on life support. There are even rumors afloat that the New York Daily News could end up publishing exclusively online as early as this summer.

What's this mean for Brooklyn? As we saw by last week's purchase of the Brooklyn Paper by News Corp., many of the papers that do survive will likely fall victim to media consolidation. Others will end up solely on the Web, like the venerable Christian Science Monitor.

Fewer newspapers inherently equal a weaker press. That's why I urge my fellow Greenpointers to pick up the Gazette and the Star. The only people who can keep our newspapers alive are us, their readers and their advertisers. To many of you these papers might not seem like much, but just like with the Greenpoint Courier, we're sure to miss them when they're gone.

1 comment:

Xris (Flatbush Gardener) said...

Check out Clay Shirky's analysis for an alternative view:

"Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism."

As you note, we no longer turn to newspapers for timely information. Even aggregating sites are losing place to massive personalized subscription and filtering of content.

If newspapers are not surviving, what can/will replace them?