A couple of things occurred over the past few days that got me thinking about the state of journalism in Lowell these days. Consider . . .
Yesterday afternoon, the Sun’s political blog launched a post critical of Mayor Patrick Murphy’s subcommittee appointments. Within hours, Mayor Murphy posted a response as a comment to that blog item, rebutting much of what had been written.
Very early this morning I posted on Facebook that I was en route to a guest appearance on City Life, the Lowell cable TV show produced by John McDonough. By the time I reached the studio, Alex Ruthmann, a UMass Lowell professor who is on sabbatical in Australia, had already commented via Facebook, “Cool. It’s so much easier to watch City Life at 9pm streaming over here in Australia.” Perhaps the show should be renamed “City Life International” since its reach is global. I found the implications of this stunning. Here is a television program done each day by John and George Anthes on which they discuss local issues that gets zipped around the globe to someone who knew to watch because of Facebook who then responds to the streaming video content by posting additional comments on Facebook. That’s amazing media synergy.
Where have you gone Gerry Nutter? Many have asked. Whatever you thought of Gerry’s position on the issues, he was a prolific writer who fed our insatiable appetite for local political news and discussion. We’re fortunate that he plans to write on the weekends, but the mid-week withdrawal is tough to take. Gerry is a great example of the impact one person with a keyboard can have on a community. Consider using him as a type of role model. If you have a Google account, just go to www.blogger.com, click on a few buttons to select your format, and start blogging. Your community needs you.
Some might feel they don’t have the time or the talent to take up blogging. Don’t worry about political writing: it’s what Woody Allen had in mind when he said “90% of life is just showing up.” If you write something about politics in Lowell, people will read it. As for the time commitment, it can be as long or as short as you want. Keep your paragraphs short and bang out a post before breakfast or after dinner and none of your normal activities will suffer. Last night I was the guest speaker at the UMass Lowell “Community Psychology” class that had attended the prior evening’s city council meeting. My job was to provide some background info and to answer any questions they may have had. Once we got past the first few questions (“Why do they dislike each other so much?”), the students, only 2 of 16 of whom were from Lowell, had some amazing insights into what went on at the meeting. In a similar way, anyone who sits down and watches a council or school committee has all the material necessary to write a good blog post. And no offense, but anonymous posting is on the same path to obsolescence as printed-on-paper newspapers, so use your real name or an easily identifiable pseudonym.
Finally, sign up for Twitter. I sense a real curiosity out there about that social media application, and a vague recognition by many that it might be very useful in the type of activities discussed above. The nice thing about Twitter is that it’s short – only 140 characters. It’s like the “news crawl” that shuffles across the bottom of your TV screen while watching CNN. The best way to get a feel for Twitter is to sign up and “follow” some folks. Start with me: www.twitter.com/DickHowe. Next, check out my “Lowell List” – I’ve created a list of many of Lowell’s most active Twitter users and compiled them in a list. By clicking on it, you only see the “Tweets” by these Twitter users. It’s a simple stream of local news and info that still allows you to follow the Bruins, Glenn Johnson, and other notable correspondents. My Lowell List is at www.twitter.com/DickHowe/lowell – if you Tweet about Lowell and you’re not on the list, just send me a message thru Twitter and I’ll add you to it. (Because it’s “my” list, my Tweets don’t show up on it, or at least I haven’t figured out how to add me to my list. If you do know, I’d appreciate some guidance).
So that’s my view of where journalism stands in Lowell today. You don’t have to pass a test or obtain a license to share your views about your community. Just do it.
(Oh, and if you’re interested in examples of citizen journalism and commentary about it, check out these sites: New Haven Independent; Dan Kennedy’s Media Nation;
New York Times maintains two hyperlocal blogs – Fort Greene and East Village).