Friday, November 11, 2005
The Carlisle Mosquito, a truly independent newspaper
Those of us on the Mosquito staff will admit to being proud of this organization. When we talk to acquaintances in neighboring towns, they often will tell us how lucky we are to work for an independent, small-town newspaper, written for the people by the people who live in the town. Unlike the newspapers in surrounding communities, the Carlisle Mosquito is not part of a chain. Our editors, reporters, and feature writers live in Carlisle and know what goes on in the town. We are paid a small salary or serve as volunteers.
Recently I called the New England Press Association (NEPA) to see if there were other independent newspapers in the area. The staff member I spoke to could not name a single one, and did confirm that most of the weekly newspapers in Massachusetts have been bought up by the Boston Herald's Community Newspaper Corporation. Yes, the Mosquito is one of the last independent newspapers in Massachusetts.
The Mosquito, published weekly except during vacation time, comes to your mailbox free of charge. It is also available on the Internet (www.carlislemosquito.org). The paper relies on advertising sales and donations from townspeople for its financing. As you receive our letter in the mail this week asking for donations, we hope you'll help support our efforts to continue publishing weekly as we have for the past 33 years.
With only 38% of Carlisle households contributing to our support, we urge our readers who have never given before to make a contribution this year. To those who have given before and plan to do it again, we say thank you for continuing to support your hometown newspaper.
It's all Greek to me
I travel frequently on business, so it's not uncommon to find myself stuck in an airport with a little time to kill between flights. As we all know, airports used to be designed primarily for transit (you expected to zip right through to your destination) but now they've become retail emporiums that just happen to have airplanes parked close by. New security regulations mean longer lines, frequent delays, and more time required to make connections.
When I have time to kill, I often head for the bookstore (there's always a bookstore) to check out the new titles. In the better shops, I'll see books I should have read in college but didn't. Every once in awhile, I'll pick one up, which enables me to feel quite noble about finally finishing my homework. I've discovered that contrary to the popular maxim, you actually can tell quite a bit about a book by its cover. One of my favorite examples is Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. The book's main premise is that people often make decisions intuitively based on brief snippets of incomplete information, and that these decisions are often just as good as those arrived at after excruciatingly detailed analysis. And the book is true to its word: after spending only a few minutes perusing the cover, table of contents, and the first few sentences of two or three chapters, I felt that I'd absorbed everything the author had to say and hence didn't bother to buy a copy.
My current paperback, which I picked up recently in Cleveland, is Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, by the prolific Thomas Cahill, who seems to come out with a new book every fortnight or so. He's an historian by training with an accessible style and a sly sense of humor that helps his readers connect the stories of the past with today's current events. Those Greeks were pretty amazing — their achievements in politics, philosophy, mathematics, art, architecture, and literature set the foundation for what we've come to call Western Civilization. Many of our most highly cherished values are based on ideas and things that they invented. Which got me to thinking — how come the Greeks don't still run the world today? Why did such a powerful, pervasive culture fall from prominence? Was there a time when they knew their influence was fading and they could have done something to reverse the decline, but didn't? How come? And what does this say about our own circumstances? The U.S. is, after all, the world's sole superpower (at least for the time being). We're bigger, badder, richer, smarter, more inventive and more productive than any other nation on earth. Yet at the same time, we seem to lead the parade in stupidity. Are we still approaching our zenith, with even greater good to come, or are we seeing the first inklings of an inevitable decline? We've made such amazing advances in medicine, information technology, agriculture, and manufacturing that we've become accustomed to miracles. We can do more with less than ever before. Yet in terms of the environment, energy, politics and race relations, we've clearly got our work cut out for us. Do we have our priorities right? Will we be the ones who save the planet, or bring it to ruin?
There's a good case to be made for both sides. Maybe someone should write a book about it.
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