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3 minutes reading time (581 words)

What do we do about Arlington's news desert?

Dave Levy, a Precinct 18 Town Meeting provided this opinion about local news and Town Meeting:

Arlington Newspapers, 1871-2005Click image to access >>

During the time overlapping with Town Meeting, I learned that The Arlington Advocate had merged with the Winchester paper, effectively eliminating the Town of Arlington having a true local paper that has material financial support to cover local issues en masse. Later, it was reported over the Arlington Email List that the new Advocate & Star would not have a local reporter covering Arlington news.

When I went to the “WickedLocal,” site of now both papers, I could not locate any articles related to Town Meeting, masking in schools, a 5k race to support public schools, etc. 

I’m a longtime subscriber of The Boston Globe. However, the only recent Arlington news I’ve seen there was related to the four high school students who made the winter all-scholastic team. 

We need more local news

Put simply, we need more local news. For example, I have learned about my bus route being canceled via the Arlington List. I’ve learned about another bus route being canceled from a School Board member, actively being diligent about transportation improvements. I don’t believe the town is fully aware of the looming override that our Finance Committee chairman spoke to at the beginning of Town Meeting. There is not a good forum to discuss Article 38, which, critics say, could stop future single-family housing.

To be clear, YourArlington does great work. This is not a knock on the hard work of the team that produces it. But we could all benefit from more resources to help us as a community identify the problems this town truly faces, giving us a common language for discussion. 

I see the consequences of this lack of news in many areas. In Town Meeting, we’ve spent hours debating whether gas service should be self-service. No resident has ever complained to me about gas service. John. Worden asked the Select Board if it had even investigated the matter with local gas stations, to which the reply was “none”. We spent another several hours debating whether certain businesses shouldn’t cause noise, specifically landscaping companies. Again, as far as I know, leaf-blowing noise is not even close to the No. 1 priority of the town, yet now we told an entire business it needs to change. 

Forum to discuss Article 38?

Finally, there is no forum to discuss Article 38. A good local paper would run either one or several “for” and “against” columns from various members of the community for all to read and debate. Instead, we are inundated with a long-running debate online, with no closure and no consensus on the facts. 

Having local news reported in a thoughtful, methodical way will continue to help our government be reminded of the priorities we need to address and how to be responsive to our constituents. This isn’t just about town issues. We need reporting on how decisions at the State House affect our town. The more reporting, the more transparency. 

I don’t have answers for how to fix this news desert, but I’m open to any and all who do. I would look to helping YourArlington first, as it has a good handle on many issues and could use more consistent revenue to help it be the paper we really need. 


May 11, 2022: Firsthand perspective: What has happened to your local newspaper? You can help

 


This opinion was published Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

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Comments

Guest - Eric Segal on Wednesday, 25 May 2022 15:26
What would it take?

I wonder what it would cost to have a local, nonprofit digital news network -- like this but maybe a little more comprehensive, and paid for, instead of done as a labor of love - say an editor, a sports writer and one or two interns. May $250,000 per year?

If we knew how much it would cost, we could see if it would be possible to raise that amount of money from subscribers, ads, donations and grants.

I wonder what it would cost to have a local, nonprofit digital news network -- like this but maybe a little more comprehensive, and paid for, instead of done as a labor of love - say an editor, a sports writer and one or two interns. May $250,000 per year? If we knew how much it would cost, we could see if it would be possible to raise that amount of money from subscribers, ads, donations and grants.
Guest - Mark Tuttle on Wednesday, 25 May 2022 08:52
Local news is essential

I believe that democracy depends on high-quality local news reporting. I believe that quality news reporting depends on having trusted editors that can weed out all the crap for me. Social media doesn't cut it. Everyone having a platform for screaming their personal opinions doesn't cut it. I rarely care what the "man on the street" has to say about anything. YourArlington does top-notch work. I feel lucky to have it. But it appears to be a labor of love for the town of Arlington that can disappear with a simple change in the professional or personal circumstances of a small number of people. I think it is a threat to democracy that Arlington can't support a local newspaper.

I believe that democracy depends on high-quality local news reporting. I believe that quality news reporting depends on having trusted editors that can weed out all the crap for me. Social media doesn't cut it. Everyone having a platform for screaming their personal opinions doesn't cut it. I rarely care what the "man on the street" has to say about anything. YourArlington does top-notch work. I feel lucky to have it. But it appears to be a labor of love for the town of Arlington that can disappear with a simple change in the professional or personal circumstances of a small number of people. I think it is a threat to democracy that Arlington can't support a local newspaper.
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