Friday, October 13, 2000
A Unique and Independent Small-town Newspaper
The editorial policy of the Carlisle Mosquito reads, "The purpose of the Carlisle Mosquito is to serve the people of Carlisle by keeping them informed of what is going on in and around town. To this end, the Carlisle Mosquito is distributed town-wide without charge, and attempts in its policies and practice to remain a unique and independent small-town newspaper." Thanks to advertising sales and donations from townspeople, the Mosquito staff (often referred to as "underpaid" or even "unpaid") has pursued this goal since the newspaper's founding in 1972. And speaking of the staff, the people who work and write for this newspaper have, in most cases, been people who lived in town.
I was reminded of this fact last week when I read of the Boston Herald's plan to buy Community Newspaper Corporation (CNC), publisher of the Concord Journal and more than 100 other publications in eastern Massachusetts. In the mid-nineteen-eighties, CNC started acquiring weekly newspapers when its parent corporation, Fidelity Capital, bought up several North Shore papers. Fidelity's president Steve Akin calls this a great success story. A success story, I really wonder? Who actually is the winner in these take-overs of weekly newspapers, the readers or the companies that buy them?
Pat Purcell, the Boston Herald publisher, talks about maintaining the local focus as he plans to buy CNC's suburban weeklies. Is this possible when low-paid reporters and editors are often not residents of the community in which they are reporting? Is this possible when these same reporters and editors move on to better paying jobs after two or three years?
At the New England Press Association (NEPA) annual meeting in Boston, this takeover of local papers by large publishing companies has been a serious topic of conversation for the past several years. The consensus has been that once local control is lost, the reader loses out as well. The editorials, news stories, and features that are published under these conditions may not always reflect the true interests and concerns of each community, but instead those of the publisher.
Old-timers in Concord still remember the days when native Concordian Sam Kent was the publisher and editor of the Concord Journal. Many say the newspaper hasn't been the same since Kent retired in 1970.
This brings us to Carlisle Communications, Inc. (CCI), a non-profit corporation with its principal place of business in Carlisle, Massachusetts, which publishes the Mosquito. Its charter reads, in part, "It is the intent of Carlisle Communications, Inc. to publish a newspaper to increase communication within the town."
With this in mind, we here on the staff of the Mosquito are pleased to be published under the auspices of CCI, instead of by an outside publishing company with a different agenda. The Mosquito and CCI work hard to maintain financial solvency so that now, as in the future, the Mosquito can be an independent, home-based medium to serve the people of Carlisle by keeping them well-informed.
Marriage and Divorce in the New Millennium
A recent Ellen Goodman column in the Boston Globe pointed out that our society has a double standard for the break-up of a marriage. According to Goodman, "When the marriage of a friend, a son, or a sister shatters, we wish this husband or wife another shot at happiness. We believe in the possibility of a second chance." If they have children, however, we have an equal and opposite wish — "that the children have a chance to grow up with both parents in a stable home."
Goodman also suggests that kids don't really care if their parents get along. "A good enough marriage, a marriage without violence or martyrdom or severe disorder will do for the children," she writes.
One facet of the problem that Goodman doesn't address is that marriage in our society differs quite radically from marriages in other parts of the world and from those in the not-too-distant past. Personal mobility and mobility of personal wealth greatly differentiates our modern world from the past. "Information" or "knowledge" workers have the unprecedented flexibility to live anywhere, without having to consider how their choice affects their ability to earn a living. This is in sharp contrast to the situation that existed only a few generations ago, when the majority of the world's population earned a living from cultivating land.
This tie to the land created a sense of place for families. Land, which equated to the means to earn a living, was passed from generation to generation. Selling inherited land to a non-family member was probably discouraged. In many agricultural societies, even today, a large percentage of marriages are between second cousins or even closer relatives. Of course many of these marriages are arranged.
Marriage in previous times was a vehicle to convey property from one generation to the next. It also served to bind groups of people together into rather large and interrelated families. In our modern information society, the environment is quite different. Although wealth still passes from one generation to the next, information workers have such large income earning potential over their extended productive lifetimes that inherited wealth plays a lesser role. The increasing annual productivity of the information worker, with its corresponding increase in earning capability, tips the scales even further away from inherited wealth as an important society value. Of course, education plays a huge role in a knowledge worker's earning potential. And education starts early.
The family and learning environment that children in our society experience is often quite geographically dispersed. Kids live primarily in a nuclear family rather than in an extended family. The source of the nuclear family's livelihood is independent of the extended family.
This geographic and financial independence is quite liberating and has dramatically altered our society in many positive ways. But it has also put an enormous burden on parents who no longer raise their children in the context of an extended family. As a result, the consequences of divorce on children have changed dramatically. We need to make sure our views on divorce take account of these fundamental changes.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito