I was listening to headlines on the radio last week when news about the GateHouse and Gannett merger was casually noted in a manner that came nowhere close to reflecting the horror that is rapid megacluster-style consolidation. For those who don’t eat, sleep, and weep insider journalism happenings, the situation is quite simple—an axis of demented necrophilic financiers and heinous hedge fund nihilists are strangling what’s left of local news. The numbers are depressing—in Mass alone, more than 50 newspapers have been folded into less than half that many in the past few months, while columnists and reporters with institutional memory are getting their hands cut off, and in two notable instances were denied that most basic right of exit everyone deserves: to write goodbye to readers.
Jason Pramas, my Dig co-editor who also runs the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ) with me and our third partner John Loftus, has opined at length about these tragic developments. I have too. Still, it’s only getting worse, and so I’m back here on my knees begging for mercy. And screaming from the only platform that I have. Since I refuse to curl up quietly and die while anti-intellectual trends that devalue journalism thrive. No matter how hard it is to convince you that solid independent media is worth backing.
It’s not like I believe that we can help turn the tide before an impending storm finally hits the fan. Hell no, we are already many miles past that. The unholy phony baloney matrimony between GateHouse and Gannett is only the tip of the turd; last week it also broke that Viacom and CBS are moving in together, a development I like to think would have garnered more than a few shortsighted wire blips had the news cycle not been entirely consumed by a POTUS who threatens his former cabinet members in public on a good day and sticks his dick in nuclear mashed potatoes when he’s feeling extra insecure.
If you and other people like you don’t help us, if you don’t boost independent journalism beyond NPR and resultantly leave the few of us who remain on the battlefield alone to find solutions by rubbing the few resources available together and wishing on a star—then guess what, we’re going to burn out. Or go into public relations.
At the very least, we’re going to climb out of this punishing, thankless pay pit once and for all and sit idly along with all the bystanders who spend more time reading, posting, and whining about any number of inane things but have zero concern about the fate of journalism. Media rapture can unfold in any number of ways; currently, it looks as if we’re facing a future in which only people of a certain economic class will be able to access quality news behind paywalls of some kind or another. It’s a nightmare. For me. For you. And for communities across the country. But there’s something we can do about it.
Over the next several months, our team at BINJ is going to relentlessly remind you of these tragic truths. Don’t worry—rather than merely asking for your spare change, we’re going to specifically showcase the deep and critical reporting we are doing, and then, yes, we’re going to grovel for money. Our initial issue-based campaign is focused on our efforts to cover the morphing opioid scourge, and subsequent solicitations will highlight BINJ and DigBoston’s crusades—from covering the 2020 election from a local perspective, to housing and police malfeasance in the region.
You’re not obligated to help us, or our analogues and comrades, but beware: If you don’t, it’s quite unclear who will.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF