I’ll start with a disclaimer: there are many fine professionals at the newly christened Western Mass News operation whom I admire – at least a couple of which I consider friends.
The following comments do not in any way imply a lack of professionalism on their parts.
I simply wish to question the wisdom of greater consolidation of news operations for our market.
I truly believe that for this country to work as an experience in democracy we need multiple voices as represented by newspapers, television and radio stations and online sources such as blogs. We need different versions of stories in many instances to get a complete view of an event or personality.
In the Greater Springfield area we have seen over the past 30 years the erosion of those outlets. Consider for a moment that Springfield used to have two daily newspapers – owned by the same company but with separate staffs who competed with one another.
Holyoke had a daily newspaper and a radio station that broadcasted news and talk programming.
For example, if you’re a news consumer in Holyoke, you had a hometown paper and two Springfield papers as well as two television stations and a local radio station all presenting you with news content.
Westfield had a news talk station as well that later moved to Springfield. It is now an AM outlet for WFCR, but has no local programming.
Now consolidation of the media was an issue years ago. The Daily Hampshire Gazette used to own WHMP, but was forced to divest itself of that holding. The families that owned the Holyoke Transcript and the Daily Hampshire Gazette founded WHYN radio – the “HY” stood for Holyoke and the “N” for Northampton.”
The Federal Communications Commission used to be a little sensitive about such cross ownership, but the recent merger of the three commercial broadcast channels in our market into one entity didn’t seem to bother it too much.
The merger, as you probably know, combines the newsrooms of CBS3 and ABC40. For advertising sales, the station can now offer business availabilities on three of the four major commercial networks – a nice sales pitch.
Added to this situation is the apparent continuation of a relationship between the merged stations and The Republican and you have an even deeper consolidation.
Again, these observations are not a criticism of the news package or the personalities involved. Here’s another question: Does it serve the region to have fewer news outlets?
I don’t think so. It was a shame the Springfield Daily News and the Transcript-Telegram folded. It was a shame that radio stations weren’t required to have some sort of news content. It’s a shame that absentee owners, whose decisions don’t always favor greater news and community involvement, control more and more news outlets.
My concern is that we will see more and more of this consolidation in the future, which is not a good thing for the strength of our republic.
Walking down King Street in Springfield on Saturday morning, one could instantly see the transformation taking place. The owners of 28 homes were seeking everything from major home repairs to upgrades in their yard thanks to the thousand-plus volunteers of Revitalize CDC’s third annual Green-N-Fit program.
The organization, formerly known as Rebuilding Together, has been making a physical difference in the urban neighborhoods of Springfield for years and this effort does so in a big way.
The strength of our community can be seen in such efforts.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.