The piece to read today can be found here:
Sun Kills Columbia Flier Newspaper, Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter
You can safely assume that this week’s F ³ stands for something else entirely.
Anyone who has been reading the Flier from week to week cannot be surprised at this outcome. Its demise still felt like a blow or a betrayal. Columbia is the second largest metropolitan area in the state of Maryland and we now have no newspaper.
Realists will remind me that local news has been dying for quite some time. I have been writing about it here. That doesn’t ameliorate the sense of loss.
That young upstart - - the New American City - - chronicled its beginnings and its early years in its own local paper. No longer a young upstart, Columbia now has no one to be that beacon. I don’t mean to say that we are somehow so exceptional that we deserve to have an excellent local paper more than all the other communities across the US that have lost theirs.
We are not alone in our loss.
But we need that kind of high-quality, professional journalism in Columbia now more than ever. As local journalism has declined, locals have been getting their “news” (or perhaps views) in social media groups that filter what they learn and think through many layers of opinion. Thus it is possible to visit a different social media group and be stunned by what their interpretation of the truth is. We all believe that it’s the other folks who are listening to false prophets.
A strong free press cannot prevent that but it at least it can hold its own and provide a starting place for learning what you need to know about your community. Without that we are wandering in darkness, dependent upon rumors and what George said that Bob said about that meeting Helen went to.
You need a lot of money to operate a newspaper, and a lot of good sense. If you look at what’s happening nationwide it’s clear that the people with the money do not have good sense. In Columbia the people with the most money are probably the Howard Hughes Corporation but if would be ridiculous for them to bankroll a newspaper. How could they in good faith write about or investigate themselves or issues in which they have an interest?
But who else has the money?
In reading Len Lazarick’s article I realized that I missed the Columbia Flier’s greatest years, having arrived here in 1999. Oh, how I wish I could have read the paper he describes. I’ve been told so many times that I “just don’t understand” because I wasn’t here back then. This paragraph in Lazarick’s piece really drove that home in a way I haven’t felt before.
The Flier was more than just a writers’ paper. What’s striking going through boxes of old clips I dragged out for this series was how closely we covered this new community — the opening of restaurants, the closing of stores, the community dustups, the arguments over tot lots and door colors, the nitty-gritty of everyday life. While there were wonderful photo spreads and long features, there was also column after column of “notices” about routine events and meetings.
I get the sense that the early writers of the Flier were motivated by the belief that Columbia was growing into a real and significant place, and that real places had newspapers. Their idealism makes me a bit sad today.
On the same day that the Sun slipped the news on the Flier in tiny print that could barely be noticed, Howard Magazine announced the nominees for the Best of Howard Reader’s Choice contest. Here’s the list of bloggers for your consideration.
Of course it’s nice to be nominated. I made my case earlier for supporting the Merriweather Post blog. It’s not a life or death contest and no material prizes are awarded. Still, it would be nice to see someone win who writes with respect for the community and their readers.
Just a thought, not a sermon.