Every few years, a new movement springs up. In the sixties, housewives were freed to be all they could be. Our political conscience then hop scotched through Columbus’ treatment of Native Americans and our systemic subjugation of African Americans. Each group — whether they be Latino, Irish or tree huggers — gets its day in the sunshine of national consciousness. One can argue that a piecemeal approach to human and Earth rights doesn’t work, but it’s how we’ve limited ourselves in the past.
Today, it’s all about raising a Green Standard in Defense of Local Communities. Buy local, save gas. Eat local, save the micro-ecology. Save the micro-ecology and we’ll preserve a healthy-world-diversity.
Everywhere we look, hard copy newspapers are dying slow strangling deaths. Recently, after years of cuts and accommodations, The Rocky Mountain News and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer stopped arriving on doorsteps.
Until recently, our Sullivan County backyards have been blessed with a bevy of local news sources.
Perhaps we took them for granted because The Times Herald Record was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps and presto-change-o, Beth Quinn was canned. Predictably, readers in Orange and Sullivan Counties cried out. We sent a flurry of letters supporting her. The Orange County Legislature declared August 9, 2008 “Beth Quinn Day” and hundreds turned out to commemorate her thirty years of community service. (While some elected officials acknowledged her role in keeping our local ecology vibrant, to my knowledge, The Times Herald Record neither published our letters nor covered our day with Beth.)
In 2006, Catskill-Delaware Publications purchased The Towne Crier and its loyal readers held their collective breath in dismay. Publisher, Fred Stabbert, did not increase the Crier’s online presence. In fact, few articles appear in the online version of Mr. Stabbert’s flagship paper, The Sullivan County Democrat. Local activists were not surprised when Mr. Stabbert merged the two papers and The Crier breathed its (probably) last independent breath in May 2009.
Members of a local community need information about local happenings. How else do we know where to volunteer? Without local advertising, how do we know where to buy local products and services? Where will we learn about the latest School Board fracas or Town Board tumult? How will we know that our neighbors are descending en masse on Town Hall to protest tax assessments? How will we know when gambling interests, power line advocates and natural gas “frackers” have drawn a bead on our green mountains and fresh waters?
Citizen journalists, local advocates and volunteer-run public radio (WJFF-90.5) that’s how. Sustainable Sullivan, Coalition for a Casino-Free Sullivan, The Riverkeeper, members of the Upper Delaware Community, The Towne Crier, The River Reporter and many others investigated and reported what they believed were threats to our “way of life.” WJFF ensures we have multiple community fora for airwave discussions. (The River Reporter’s current online front page is devoted to natural gas extraction from shale beds and the resultant designation of the Delaware River as endangered.)
Events over the last few weeks have demonstrated that a news renaissance might be in the offing. Leni Santoro (former award-winning journalist-editor-photographer for The Crier) and Beth Quinn are back in the saddle. Check out Leni’s Catskill Chronicle and Beth and Friends’ Zest of Orange. CottageWorks is up and running with pages for referring local workers, freely advertising local events, Swaps & Barters, a Second Hand Shop and for selling and buying locally-produced goods. The Mamakating Messenger is another source for local news as is Ellenville’s Shawangunk Journal.
Most of these efforts are in their infancy and though we might not agree with their points of view, our communities need and deserve a wide-ranging discussion of the forces brought to bear on us whether they originate in China, Washington, D.C., our State Capitols or our Town Boards.
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Disclaimer: Liz Bucar is the proprietor of CottageWorks and holds a longtime bias in favor of the community servants & groups mentioned in this article. She offers heartfelt apologies to any groups not mentioned. Hopefully, you’ll contact her so your group, local business and events will be posted in a future article or at one of CottageWorks pages.