Written by Kevin Heffernan
When Local Media Dies, We All Get Screwed
Even if you disagree with everything The Public writes, this week’s absence and the threat of them closing down for good should give you a serious scare.
Kicked off in 2014 when founder Geoff Kelly wisely stepped away from Artvoice before that turned sharply to the right and then imploded shortly after, The Public strived for a higher level of investigative journalism, criticism of public officials, and fun, innovative promotion of the region’s arts and entertainment.
From incredible cover art released every Wednesday, to collaborations with City&State, Investigative Post, and others, The Public accomplished their goals and has become a leading media force in the region.
Roughly 35,000 copies go out for free all over the region, every week. After releasing three newspapers and now a magazine of our own, also out for free to the region, we have truly come to appreciate what a massive undertaking The Public’s production and distribution process is for their small team to execute.
Local TV and radio are often just turning press releases from government and corporations back around with very little investigation.
The Buffalo News has purged nearly every investigative reporter they have.
You’re running out of places to say, “OK, I’ll just get my news from….” or “To keep officials accountable, I’ll rely on….”
Here’s a few examples of the work they’re doing to make our community stronger, and better-informed:
When covering local law enforcement, The Public is one of the few organizations that says, “Wait a minute…”
Why are nearly all of the Buffalo Police’s checkpoints occurring in neighborhoods of color?
Why on earth is a lawyer for the Buffalo Police suing someone for their comment on a Buffalo News comment section (The most ridiculous circus on the internet)? Who’s paying for this frivolous suit?
And even if you respect the first amendment right of everyone, even a bunch of scared, white racists to assemble and rally in public, it was The Public that pointed out that an elected law enforcement official should never be speaking at such a rally, and in uniform to boot.
In a region desperate for development and economic growth, it can feel counterproductive to want to put a leash on major real estate developers. We all love seeing cranes, right? But when millions of dollars in tax incentives are outright abused, or hundreds of thousands in taxes are left unpaid under the guise of “a business decision,” The Public provides a powerful megaphone and their own perspective to the work of Investigative Post, The Partnership for the Public Good, The Public Accountability Initiative to say to a much wider audience, “Hey! We will never move forward if all of our developers can corrupt all of our local and state public officials and funnel your tax dollars directly into their pockets.
They’re reminding public officials that just because you easily win re-election every four years, you still have to do a good job.
They’re entertaining us, and inviting us to poke fun at ourselves
And they’re saying to other media in town, “Damnit. Do a better job. For all of us.”
We know that if you’re reading this right now, you probably agree with The Public, and with our opinion of it. But are you still taking it for granted?
Your phone will always be there for you, but when you show up at the coffee shop, pizza place, community center, pick up an issue and put your phone down for a bit. Read an article in full. Talk about it with your friends.
Take some time to read their work online, and share it to your networks if you feel passionate about it.
Own a business, large or small? Take out an ad once in a while. You’ll be happy to found a new platform with a new audience to get your name out there. Trying to reach people below the age of 40? They’re not watching TV, so put your money elsewhere, where it stays local and doesn’t go off to some national conglomerate.
Ultimately, The Public is doing work to benefit you. It’s 2018 and everything you take for granted is up in the air in this changing economic, technological and political climate. Do some work for them. It will make our region stronger, and you smarter.