I work in a big city, where the screams of a passing siren barely dent one’s consciousness and only the most sensational crimes make the local papers. Then there is The Gazette, the weekly newspaper that covers the small community in which I live. The village is only 30 miles north of Manhattan, but viewed through the prism of The Gazette, it might as well be on another planet—and in another century. It’s not just that the typography has barely been updated for the 20th century, let alone the 21st; its view of what really matters hasn’t changed either. If a week goes by when one of my kids isn’t mentioned because of a school play or a soccer game, I almost start to worry. And without The Gazette, I never would have learned that a “Wood Road resident reported that someone overnight stole his garbage can (and the garbage inside).”
As newspapers continue to bleed readers and advertisers, there has been a lot of agonizing—in media circles, at least—about the implications of the industry’s decline. Newspapers provide the lion’s share of the hard-hitting reporting that exposes greed, corruption, and incompetence, so their demise would undeniably leave us far less informed. The Gazette and its ilk in towns across America aren’t exactly in the business of muckraking, but they’d be missed, too. Sure, it’s easy to mock a newspaper that saw fit to reveal that “police responded to a report of a soccer game referee embroiled in a dispute with two parents.” But it’s the small things that help forge a sense of community. And at least I know that when a siren goes by, I’ll soon be able to read all about it. -Eric Effron
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