Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why publish?

Welcome to, a brand new hybrid newspaper covering Concord, New Hampshire. I’m Tony Schinella, the publisher and writer of this enterprise and I want to thank you for reading. I encourage you to be a part of what may be the future of the news business.

Unexpectedly, the walls between the news consumer and producer have fallen. As consumers, we no longer have to let editors and program directors control what we read, listen to, or believe. We no longer have to follow their lead. We can lead. Whether we work in the media or not, we can essentially become the media.

This is not an entirely new phenomenon. People have been producing their own fanzines, Web sites, blogs, cable access programs and online radio programs for a very long time now. But with the advent of new technologies, the phenomenon has become easier to process. Just about anyone can do anything these days. Citizens can be journalists and columnists. Journalists are no longer just journalists. We are multimedia content providers. We can and should do everything. It is a brave new world of interactivity and potential openness and honesty in government and media. It is an exciting time.

Admittedly, the doors to some media outlets are closed and will remain so. No one can just start a television or radio station and broadcast over the public airwaves [Well, you can, but you will quickly find yourself in jail]. Acquisition costs for such licenses are extremely expensive, meaning that they will remain in the hands of very large corporations, the very rich, or broadcasters who got lucky and bought before the 1996 Telecom Bill wrecked the entire industry. Entrepreneurial competition will unfortunately remain out of the licensed broadcast industry for the foreseeable future. For now, the Web is better than nothing. But it is not the same as what the box on the countertop delivers.

Good and bad changes

Changes to the media industry are both good and bad. The changes are good because they allow for more empowerment, enlightenment, and the joy of providing information to the public. The ability to accomplish what the Founders essentially set out to do by establishing the First Amendment. If you think about it, the Web is not much different from the pamphleteers of the past. They just weren’t hunched over computers, pontificating about the world while sitting in their pajamas [or maybe they were]. The spirit, however, is the same.

There are a bunch of reasons why these changes are bad. First, a totally freewheeling media can confuse the public. With so many outlets of information, consumers sometimes don’t know which way is up or what is the truth. And because we are all so busy, the choices get whittled down even more. At the same time, the general public really needs to be connected to the news. That is why some media outlets are looking inward and focusing on localism, with some success. That is why there is an explosion of micropublishing going on in America right now and why the Web has taken off.

Then, there is the issue of profit. The long-term health of the profit-making side of the industry is to have fewer outlets offering information. If there is less competition, the more control you have over the advertising pie. As we have seen firsthand watching the media in our community, there is not a lot of pie out there to go around. There are always projects starting but they often wither away due to lack of funds, deciding to worry about the pie instead of the competition and information. For these reasons, for now, we’re going to take a different tack and not worry about the pie right away.

The need for serious news

Over the past couple of years, many in Concord have been dismayed by the lack of serious news published in our community, about our community. For far too long, the community has not been given the deep analysis and conversation it needs or deserves. There is not enough serious news about Concord, its government, and its finances. There is some good reporting going on in the area. But more often than not, the gatekeepers to the news industry have truly shown that they are not interested in exposing some of the city’s problems to the citizenry, for whatever reason. They refuse to take on the big issues and give them the airing they deserve. They trust the connected and elected and target, ignore, or sometimes malign the good people of our community who bother to ask the tough questions. It seems as though everyone takes everyone else’s word for it, for lack of a better term, when we all know that there are serious problems which need to be exposed. This is one of the reasons that has been established.

For example, did you know that there is a heroin problem in Concord? Prosecutors and police will confirm this and talk quite openly about it when asked. Has there been any in-depth investigating into the issue? No. Are high school kids taking heroin too boring a story? Is it too time consuming? Is it just not important? Wow, doesn’t that say a lot? Did you know that there is abuse and waste in the Concord city budget? There is, and some have tried to expose this waste to the current leadership in the city and they have refused to act on it. Go along to get along. But resources really need—and deserve—to be directed towards those things that matter. Someone has to serve the red meat news market.

At the same time, we need to be more critical. It is not uncivil to ask questions, ponder, or prod, especially when some people refuse to answer the questions. It is also important to keep a watchful eye on the gatekeepers of our news to make sure that they are staying true to their mission. To be a newsperson is more than just to have a job. It is important. It matters. The lack of media criticism in our state is pretty embarrassing especially when you consider that there are a number of media critics in the state to our south. We intend to serve in that capacity as well.


For almost five years, I have been publishing an online political fanzine called Politizine. Having been involved in politics for more than two decades, it is like a sport for me. Focusing on New England and National politics was a natural extension of the love of the sport. But at more than 60,000 visits and 1,000 blog entries, it is time to give the site a break. It is time to focus inward and locally.

I was once given the chance to start delving into some of these local issues but that opportunity was unfortunately cut short. In hindsight, I made poor choices which took me away from my professional calling: To be a journalist and editor of content, and a leader in my field, an example to others of how journalism can serve the public good, instead of being a dictator of whims. In adversity though, there is challenge. And with change comes hope and opportunity, if you are brave enough to stare it square in the face. By creating this hybrid online/print newspaper as an aside to my regular job as a newspaper editor, I’m getting back on track. has not been established out of boredom or to waste time and money, although it may cost some money. It has not been established to pick fights with people or to ridicule or embarrass, although that may happen along the way. was created because there needs to be more voices available to the public and there needs to be more opportunity to tell stories that others won’t tell. How you act after you find this information out is your choice. You can choose to act or you can choose to ignore. But you cannot say that you did not know. will primarily be a Web site published frequently. As it expands, other voices will be invited to contribute stories and columns to the site. At critical times during the year, the online edition will expand into a print publication. We will post an online sustainer’s option so people can assist in keeping the Web site and print publication up and running. Think of it as a small investment in your community’s future. It is our hope that the business end of things will expand and the publication will be printed on a regular basis, preferably monthly or biweekly. After that, the sky is the limit.

Join us in this effort and together we will be a more enlightened and better community.

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