Editor’s note: Covering the crush of local news can be overwhelming. On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for encouragement from Linda and many others who put the “Great” in Greater Morristown. As Linda notes, news organizations are an endangered species. MorristownGreen.com needs your help to carry on. If local news matters to you, please donate here.
By Linda Stamato
A recent report, Losing the News: The Decimation of Local Journalism and the Search for Solutions, portrays a picture of state and local news in every region of the country in decline.
Suzanne Nosel, the chief executive of PEN America, a nonprofit organization that protects free speech, believes we are experiencing a chilling crisis and that “the first draft of history is disappearing.”
Not so in Morristown. We have Kevin Coughlin and MorristownGreen.com.
But we can’t be complacent. Local news outlets are under threat. Since 2004, more than 1,800 local print outlets have shuttered in the United States, and at least 200 counties have no newspaper at all.
Moreover, a Pew survey revealed this year that 71 percent of Americans believe that their local news outlets are doing well financially but only 14 percent say they have paid for or donated money to a local news source in the past year.
In thinking about what a difference it makes to have MorristownGreen.com available day and night, I recall a letter I read decades ago, a letter for a radio competition that asked people to write about what radio meant to them.
The winner, a young mother with several not-yet school-age children, said that, for her, radio was the newspaper and magazines she couldn’t afford to buy, the books she had little time to read, the movies and concerts that she couldn’t go to. It was the connection to members of her community who she rarely could engage directly.
It’s probably true that, like others, I tend to take a lot of things for granted. But when given the chance to reflect on something as critical to my life as being a citizen in a democracy, and as critical to my life as being an active resident in my town, I don’t take journalism for granted.
Yes, I can sing the praises of The New York Times and the other newspapers I read. But I know I can turn to my reliable community source, Morristown Green, for valuable, timely and trusted guidance and information for what else I need to know.
A recent cross-national study found that the lower the circulation of newspapers in a given country, the higher the level of corruption. As if we didn’t know. Journalism, the only business protected in the Constitution, is an essential restraint on abuses by the powers-that-be, on the national, state or local level.
In Morristown, we have Kevin to report on consequential news, to be sure — matters concerning plans for new hotels and apartment buildings, plans and projects underway throughout the town, agendas for town council meetings and what transpires there, holding government accountable by shedding light on its activities.
And he’s also there for seemingly minor matters as well. Minor is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? Coverage is very meaningful to the high school kids who perform on the stage—Kevin covers their performances—and it’s meaningful to the family members and friends of outstanding locals who might not be widely known or appreciated beyond our borders.
Kevin covers the ceremonies and programs that celebrate our history, our culture, and our town’s institutions, civic and social and educational. He also renders life in our community in a way that cements the community.
When vandals desecrated churches in our town, we could vent our disdain for their acts and add our voices in support to our fellow citizens—on MorristownGreen.com.
When undocumented residents fear the voices raised against them, we know where the marches in their defense will be held and we can join because the needed information is easily accessible on MorristownGreen.com.
When racists chose to gather in Morristown, at our historic courthouse, no less, to chant their vile message, we knew about it in time to gather in protest—on MorristownGreen.com.
And we know the history-in-the making in Morristown is being captured and will be covered on, yes, MorristownGreen.com.
Kevin has developed MorristownGreen.com into a widely-respected and consistently-followed source, a venue for the spirited (and monitored) exchange of views, a place to share family experiences and photographs, and an acknowledged local home for all that is happening in our lives — in families, in schools, in performing arts, and in the role we cherish and expect from the press: Holding government accountable.
MorristownGreen is a responsible, consistently high-performing, frequently entertaining, and always reliable website that has become vital to Morristown. This is a vibrant place, one that has a lot going on, all the time.
It’s a crucible of the state, urban, diverse, growing….yet Morristown is also a community made smaller, by which I mean more intimate, civically active, and meaningfully engaged, not least by the means residents choose to connect. That is the power of MorristownGreen.com and its outstanding editor, Kevin Coughlin.
Morristown resident Linda Stamato teaches in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and co-direct its Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Rutgers University. She also writes about topics of interest for MorristownGreen.com. Today’s column was unsolicited.