When I moved to the neighborhood, there were many places I could turn to to find out what was happening. As someone who was not necessarily used to being vigilant about local news developments at first, it came as a surprise to me to discover all the drama, chaos, and debate that required vital attention in our immediate surroundings.
Like many, I had grown up watching the nightly news that focused on the entire city, and it took a lot of signal boosting and effort to get an event or issue covered by those outlets. Local papers were where individuals could go to find a wider net of coverage for issues that concerned them.
When I came to Greenpoint, the neighborhood was in the midst of the 2005 rezoning, battles with Exxon and other polluters, struggles with developers breaking rules (remember the finger buildings?) and others.
As a young community organizer, I learned to befriend the local press and invite them to my events. They did not always come, but more often than not, I received coverage.
On a few occasions, the super local coverage would get picked up by the borough-wide Brooklyn Paper and then by the Daily News. On a few notable occasions, those articles were picked up by NPR.
Once major citywide or nationwide coverage occurred, you could definitely expect politicians to respond. Often these initiatives met success in their goals for local change.
As time went on, I started to see a shift. Facebook and other social media platforms began to play a bigger role in getting coverage. As blogs devolved into Twitter feeds and Facebook posts, I began to connect with new stakeholders.
The addition of DNA Info and Gothamist created an amazing relationship with local reporters. Collaborating directly over longer-narrative issues and having them posted and reposted on social media amplified our concerns with the Police Department to international levels.
We were eventually covered in the Guardian and, again, change came somewhat swiftly and cooperatively after that.
DNA Info and Gothamist were purchased and shuttered when their employees organized for better wages for their hard work. Then the Daily News was bought and gutted of local reporters.
Similarly, our local massive Facebook group, where so much information - story seedlings - was shared and discussed is now shuttering in September because the management of it overwhelmed it's founder, who became exhausted of working for free while simultaneously having to manage some bad actors in the group.
A new group is forming on Facebook and Gothamist is now financed by NPR, but they will not be the same. Often these reboots lose steam and attention when they are revitalized.
Now, as an activist and organizer, as well as a writer, I sit in an uncomfortable seat at the edge of another change. When neighbors do not have a space to unite that is accessible, when they aren't given good and clear and wide reporting by journalists who can concentrate on their work and make a living wage, how will we stay informed and on our toes?
How can this public service exist in a world where billionaires gut local papers, and the people who benefit from the information feel principled against paying for the work? I feel a dearth of local exchange is coming upon us, one like I haven't seen before.
The Greenpoint Star is holding down the fort as a local paper, but more information and reporting is always better. I know in the past much of this exchange happened in person, but our world has been reorganized and people are not used to the “Town Square” concept anymore.
Our neighborhoods need advocates to defend them, and our advocates need local media to amplify the message.