Usually, we the journalists don’t like being the story. It’s much more comfortable reporting the news of events with which we’re not directly involved, but there are times it has been unavoidable. Over the past couple of years, the Advocate has been the subject of stories about the sudden departure of our own Executive Editor, the formation of a union at our company, and — happily — an extensive history of the publication accompanied by the announcement we would be returning to weekly publication after about a year of experimenting with a bi-weekly distribution.
Today, I’m writing about the state of our industry, which was elegantly summed up last week in Boston Magazine by DigBoston Editor-in-Chief Chris Faraone. In short, things are not going well. In the piece, called “No News Is Bad News,” Faraone gives examples including Worcester, where the daily Telegram & Gazette was sold to Gatehouse Media — which recently eliminated the final longstanding byline at the paper over the summer — and where Worcester Magazine has been reduced to a single staffer. Faraone also writes about the consolidation of several Eastern Mass community weeklies into single papers where reporters are expected to cover multiple communities with significant populations. The state, at last understanding the hole that local publications would leave if they closed, is creating a state journalism commission to study what can be done to help the industry, but we all know how long the Legislature takes to deal with even simple questions.
While here in Western Mass, we’re in somewhat better shape, we face the same industry pressures that are eroding local journalism. Through some smart planning, which has involved a good deal of input from staffers over the past year, we at this company have been able to maintain the health of the Advocate (in weekly form), Daily Hampshire Gazette, and Greenfield Recorder. The Advocate now shares resources and staff with the Gazette’s features department, but we maintain our own editorial independence.
Over the past eight months since returning to weekly publication, the Advocate has reported on stories other publications have left untold — Gena Mangiaratti’s piece on Gina Rose Napolitano, who is fighting to get consent laws changed after having a teen relationship with a teacher she was told was legal; Jennifer Levesque’s story of trans musician Julia Clark, who is returning to music after giving it up for 11 years fearing no one would take her seriously; Luis Fieldman’s look at the reopening of Whately strip club Castaway with more queer-friendly policies; Miasha Lee’s article on the questionable use of Chicopee Police’s social media; Lauren Simond’s old stoner’s guide to modern cannabis; and several extensive issue pieces by Chris Goudreau on the topics of equitable HIV treatment, the dangers of natural gas, and immigration activism at the border, to name a few.
We’re a free weekly, and our website has no paywall. Our stories are available to all. But they are not free to produce. We’re grateful to those advertisers who work with us, though we’re always looking for more who will join us to be seen by our many thousands of readers.
But you don’t need to be a business owner to help support us. For the past several months, we’ve been accepting donations at valleyadvocate.com/donate from our readers to help keep us a strong publication, and are giving out Advocate mugs, shirts, and tote bags as thank you gifts. If you like what you read; if you’ve been a loyal Advocate reader for decades or if you’ve only recently found and enjoyed us, please consider donating to support this paper.
And if you’d like to do more, Faraone’s non-profit BINJ (Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism), is also worth supporting. The Advocate has collaborated with the organization in the past to bring vital coverage on the issues of militarized use of police as well as the Puerto Rican migration into Western Mass following Hurricane Maria.
We’re fortunate that national publications like the New York Times and Washington Post have been weathering the storm more or less successfully — and exposing corruption at the highest levels. But those publications won’t fill the gap in our local communities, where as Faraone notes, “the wheels are turning, decisions are being made, and people are getting away with things.”
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.