Pat Thibodeau, a former editor and reporter at The Herald of New Britain, is the creator of a new blog about his former beat — NB Blogs — Thibodeau’s current work and pursuits are now in Washington, D.C. where he is an editor and writer and authors a blog about D.C.
His New Britain blog is a reminder of what community journalism should be about — asking the right questions in a nonpartisan way and focusing on topics that fulfill the ultimate task of journalism — the public’s right to know. In his recent posts about the decades-long decline of downtown’s retailing (impact of Westfarms Mall) and the track record of a new developer for the Andrews Building near Arch Street, Thibodeau shows what an informed observer can bring to public and community issues.
Thibodeau’s blog, bloggers in 2006’s state and national political campaigns (Example: spazeboy) and sites as such New Britain Community News are a cause for optimism that the internet can bring New Britain and other localities thorough coverage and commentary that each deserves in a democracy.
Local journalism via mainsteam, corporate-owned daily newspapers has been in rapid decline for some time. The Herald of New Britain and The Hartford Courant, notwithstanding quality efforts by individual editors and reporters, do not deliver the news product they used to. That is no fault of the editorial staffs. Their budgets and the demands of absentee owners severely restrict the scope and content of the “news hole” for any one community. Corporate-owned print publications also struggle with selling the commodity of “news” via the internet. That’s why the knowledge and perspective of a Pat Thibodeau are rarely found in daily coverage anymore. And why the tradition of the free press is in jeopardy at all levels, particularly locally.
Thibodeau’s reporter’s eye and analysis are what New Britain needs not just occasionally, but on a daily and weekly basis. But that is something even the best and most well-informed bloggers cannot provide. A town’s newspaper –in the traditional sense of being the “fourth estate” — is akin to a public utility. It comes out daily or weekly and, in the age of internet and blogging, should provide a regular filter for balanced information. You didn’t make a zoning board hearing about a new development in your neighborhood? You should be able to read about what happened to know the impact it will have on you and your neighbors and what you should be doing about it.
An outstanding example of how the internet can bring community journalism back is found at the nonprofit New Haven Independent. This five-day a week online publication led by Editor Paul Bass demonstrates that the role of a local free press can succeed thanks to an accessible internet and sufficient funding. The Independent, “rooted in and devoted to the city,” believes “that democracy starts at home, with smart, thorough, in-depth local news reporting and broad citizen debate about local issues. Thanks to the Internet, journalists and news-deprived citizens need no longer be hostages to out-of-state media conglomerates. We can reclaim our communities. Power of the press now belongs not to those who own one, but to those who own a modem. We own a modem.”
As long as the internet remains accessible and affordable on the bandwidths of the nation, online publications like the New Haven Independent can blossom in many places, including New Britain.