EDITORIAL: "Groton Girl Jumps Over Groton Fence, Chased by Groton Dog"
As of October 26, 2018 The Groton Herald began its 40th year of publication. We don’t like to write about the newspaper much, preferring instead to put out the best newspaper we can. But with the milestone of a 40-year anniversary just passed and with dramatic changes taking place in newsgathering and distribution, it’s appropriate to talk a bit about The Groton Herald - its role in the community, its health, its sustainability.
Even though the economic spoils of publishing a home-town newspaper are small, getting the paper out depends on the special skills, good will, and honest effort of many. Over these 40 years, more than 100 Groton residents have drawn small paychecks for their work at the Herald. Some worked here for many years - talented people - including Loretta Mallardo, Connie Sartini, Robert Mingolelli, Robert Stewart, John MacLeod, Karen Johnson, Chris Long and Jane Bouvier, among many others.
As local newspaper circulation declines and as reports of newspapers closing across the nation multiply, we feel like we’re living in a time warp because The Groton Herald’s circulation is growing year over year and we see new subscribers almost every week. In many ways our little newspaper feels more vital, more important now than it did when we founded it 40 years ago.
The Groton Herald may be more important simply for having survived - many regional newspapers and news outlets are gone. The Groton Landmark, the Times-Free Press, the Groton-Line and even the Lowell Sun often did good local coverage. But either they are gone or have abandoned the detailed, consistent reporting that is the "blood" of local news.
Being a useful community newspaper requires reporting the news week-in and week-out, reporting the boring along with the sensational. Even when not much is happening at Select Board, School Committee, Planning Board or numerous other committees, it is crucial to keep reporting because consistency of coverage provides the knowledge base for both newspaper publishers and readers to understand context when conclusive events take place.
For all its many benefits, social media is proving it can be a divisive pry-bar, pulling communities and even nations apart. We think a carefully edited small town newspaper can be a countervailing force to these troubling influences, pulling in the opposite direction, providing useful information, information unavailable anywhere else, information which increases community understanding, cohesion and offers residents knowledge needed to organize and solve community problems.
If one headline simultaneously parodies and captures the nub of small-town newspapering, it might be: ‘Groton Girl Jumps Over Groton Fence, Chased by Groton Dog.’ Within this headline is the hint of small town newspapering’s core principle: Do you live in Groton? Have you ever lived in Groton? If the answer to either question is ‘yes,’ you are part of our community, you share Groton’s destiny, you are part of the greater Groton ‘family.’ Each Groton resident earns a special status at our newspaper.
We believe a small-town newspaper has the potential to make us all a bit more ‘civil,’ to refine, to reinforce, and to build our local ‘civilization.’ Instead of just being a random group of people thrown together by chance - all living in this town we call Groton - a local newspaper can help realize the creation of community identity, purpose and even destiny.
This goal is accomplished by reporting, by highlighting the work of our volunteer town government, organizations, dedicated individuals and families, - all working toward the same goal – the goal of bettering ourselves and our mini ‘civilization.’ This reporting helps us understand each other better, providing information and opinion to coordinate and continually correct course.
If you depend on the newspaper and believe in the value of consistent reporting of Groton news, please support the paper. There are many ways to provide support. If you own a local business, please consider advertising if you don’t already. Soon, we will be offering subscribers the ability to provide some financial support by paying a little more to become a ‘sustaining subscriber.’
If you are a reader, please let our advertisers know you saw their ad in the paper. Maybe you could write a letter to the editor, offering your unique perspective on an important topic. And if you are a reader/subscriber please realize that the future of any newspaper is not automatic but depends on community financial and moral support.
Publishing a local weekly newspaper has been called ‘the great American privilege,’ a democratic privilege open to anyone willing to do the work. We could not agree more. The financial payback is small and satisfaction mostly comes from the pleasure of learning about our community and working together with good people, all reaching for a common goal. Our hope and intention is that - many years from now – the Groton Herald organization will be going strong, ready to pass on to a next generation of editors and reporters, people who will enjoy the work as much as we do.
Deborah E. Johnson
Russell H. Harris