27 November 2010

Agawam, Mass.

In recent weeks I have been making regular contributions to a western Massachusetts community newspaper known as the Agawam Advertiser News.

I have long been perplexed and saddened by the fact that when one travels in the US, and picks up different papers along the way, one reads largely the same stories. The various 'local' papers fill most of their papers, and certainly all the ones near the front, with stories from Reuters and AP. Thus, such newspapers find themselves in serious economic difficulties. Anyone with access to the internet can go to Reuters' website. When not cut out the middleman?

I mention that only in order to acknowledge that the Agawam Advertiser doesn't have that problem. Nobody disintermediates it. First, it has no online presence. Unless you are willing to pay the dollar for the dead tree version, you won't read the stories it offers.

Second, and related, there are no wire stories. The stories are local in both topic and conception. The front page of this week's issue includes a story headlined "Council nixes zone change," written by Gregory Scibelli. The lede? "Resident concern and perceived lack of benefit to the community led the Agawam City Council this week to rule against a zone change at the corner of Maple and Spencer Streets."

If you don't know or care about the corner of Maple and Spencer in Agawam, Mass. -- well, you are presumably not the audience for that particular story. You'd rather read about who is going to be the next chair of various important committees of Congress in Washington? Go for it -- but the Agawam Advertiser carries no wares in that overcrowded marketplace. That is the better part of its charm.

What about the back pages? You won't find here reviews of the latest books on the New York Times best seller list. When there are book reviews, they involve local publishers, local authors, and local issues. One of my own recent contributions was a review of a book by an Amherst College professor on slavery in the Connecticut River in Massachusetts in colonial days.

So: the Agawam Advertiser News is an institution for which I believe the people of Agawam and environs have reason to give thanks on this thanksgiving day weekend.

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