Arons-Barron makes case for a new source for Newton journalism

Marjorie Arons-Barron, former editorial director at WCVB Channel 5, made the case for a new, independent news source for Newton during a recent community meeting at the Durant Kenrick House to rally community support for the idea.

Arons-Barron is a well-known figure in the region’s journalism community, having also served as executive director for media communications at BankBoston, associate producer of PBS Television’s The Advocates, national political affairs writer for The Boston Phoenix, reporter for WGBH-TV’s Ten O’Clock News and political editor of The Newton Times. Her full remarks are below:

Forty years ago, the city of Newton had four local newspapers: the Newton Times, the Graphic, the Tribune and the TAB. Residents had to work hard to be UNinformed about local government and community activities. As a founding writer for the Newton Times, I thought of course local news would endure—the inky version of local cracker barrel conversation. How wrong I was! And my 25 years in broadcast journalism also saw a decline.

Our last barely surviving paper stopped printing last month. This is happening nationwide. Consolidation by vast chains and investments by hedge funds meant achieving “efficiencies of scale,” a euphemism for laying off local reporters and shrinking coverage, hollowing out the journalistic product to the point of extinction.  You don’t need me to tell you what a downward spiral it’s been.

In such a journalistic wasteland, how can we know whom to vote for if we only have politicians’ press releases and newsletters, however informative from their personal perspectives? How can we participate in the electoral process if we haven’t watched they’re doing between elections?  Professional reporters are the liaison between those officials and the rest of us going about our business, earning a living, raising our families, and just leading our daily lives. Those reporters are the ones who cover not just the Mayor, City Council and School Committee, but police and fire departments, public health, public works, inspectional services – as many aspects of the underpinnings of our city government as humanly possible. 

Ideally coverage goes even further. It’s also high school sports, the arts, new local businesses, and all those milestone events that make up the fabric of our community.  And it would include all demographic groups, ages, partisan affiliations – all those elements that both differentiate us from one another and, taken together, pull us into one diverse and vibrant city.

A year ago, in my blog, I wrote that maybe it’s time for some civic-minded Newton residents to take a page from history and create a substantive, locally owned and operated Newton paper for today– even if that paper exists online only.  And that’s what this meeting is about.

A new non-profit news publication.

The founders want your ideas, your energy, your involvement.

Oh, and lest anyone worry, I’m not on the board. I’m not writing for the Newton Beacon, as it is being called.  I’m not looking for a job. I’m simply hopeful that our thirst for fact-based news, the fodder that helps a municipality run well, according to the needs and desires of its citizenry, will be addressed by this nascent online publication.

If you care about the quality of this initiative, if you care about the quality of our hometown and of the decisions being made affecting our lives, speak up, speak out constructively. You have a right to know what’s going on in our community. It will take a new news publication to ensure that very precious – all important – right to know.