A conversation about the local news crisis in a time of polarization

I’d like to let you know about a special program coming up on the crisis in community journalism. Titled “The Decline of Local News and the Rise of Polarization,” the event is part of the Masterman Speaker Series and the Ford Hall Forum at Suffolk Law School. It will be held next Thursday, Sept. 29, at 5 p.m. in Sargent Hall, 120 Tremont St., in the Blue Sky Lounge on the fifth floor.

I’ll be moderating, and I promise to inject some optimism into the proceedings. We’ve got a great panel:

  • Joshua Darr, associate professor of political communication at Louisiana State University. Ellen Clegg and I interviewed Darr earlier this year on the “What Works” podcast about his research into polarization and local opinion.
  • Renée Loth, an opinion columnist for The Boston Globe and a former editorial-page editor of the Globe.She is currently an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
  • Charles St. Amand, practioner in residence in Suffolk’s communication and journalism department and a 31-year veteran of community journalism, most recently as editor of the Sentinel & Enterprise in Fitchburg.

The program is free, but you do need to register. Just click here.

Real Paper alumni get together this Thursday

Veterans of the Real Paper, a Boston-based alternative weekly in the 1970s, will get together in a Ford Hall Forum event this Thursday to discuss what they learned and what lessons that might hold for the future of journalism. The event will take place in Suffolk University’s C. Walsh Theatre from 6:30 to 8 p.m. You can find out more here.

As we old-timers well remember, the rivalry between the Real Paper and the Boston Phoenix was intense during the decade or so that they both published. The Real Paper was formed in 1972 after Stephen Mindich, the founder of Boston After Dark, bought the Phoenix, which was sometimes known in that earlier incarnation as the Cambridge Phoenix. Mindich called his new paper the Boston Phoenix.

The former staff of the Cambridge Phoenix, rather than going away, founded the Real Paper, which during its first few years operated as an employee-run collective. The paper ceased publication in 1981.

This Wikipedia article on the Real Paper strikes me as an accurate summary of those years.

The Ford Hall Forum event brings together a number of well-known former Real Paper staff members: Harper Barnes, Jan Freeman, Mark Zanger, Laura Shapiro and Paul Solman, assembled by Monica Collins, herself a Real Paper alumna who’s also vice president of the Ford Hall Forum.