Local News Matters
Guest Columnist Geri Throne / May 25, 2020
Local news matters. It connects our community. It keeps us informed about major city decisions that affect our quality of life. It keeps track of government, shining a bright light on the actions of government officials, both elected and appointed. It helps foster political involvement.
Each spring, the Winter Park Voice seeks donations and pledges to support its newsgathering efforts. I hope you can respond generously. As a reader and a journalist, I believe that financial support of the Voice is more important now than ever.
Why? Because Winter Park is one more example of the precarious state of local news coverage nationwide. Just a few years ago, the Voice’s Anne Mooney had plenty of company at City Hall when she reported and researched stories. Fellow journalists from the Orlando Sentinel and the weekly Winter Park Observer also attended City Commission meetings and wrote about City Hall news.
But in 2019, the Observer ceased covering Winter Park. And as the Sentinel continues to trim its staff, its local news coverage has greatly diminished.
Meanwhile, in Winter Park, the Voice remains.
From its inception 10 years ago, the Voice has strived to be an impartial, reader-supported source of local news. Like a growing number of online “hyperlocal” news outlets throughout the country, it focuses on local government. After all, what happens at City Hall has the most direct effect on residents – from zoning decisions and parks improvements to bond issues and tax increases. The Voice not only reports and publishes articles online, but also invites community members to submit columns and comments. It moderates the Winter Park Voice page on Facebook.
As a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel in the 1980s and 1990s, I quickly learned that failure to pay attention to government boards or agencies, no matter how insignificant they may seem, could result in decisions that have little to do with the public good.
Unfortunately, Central Florida’s struggling news industry mirrors a nationwide trend that began with the rise of the internet. Declining advertising revenues over a period of 15 years has shuttered more than a quarter of our country’s newspapers. More than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies have closed. Remaining newspapers often lack the resources to cover routine public meetings and hold public officials accountable. The Voice does not need bricks and mortar to keep local news alive in Winter Park, but it does need your support.
Keep in mind — the less we pay attention, the more we pay the price. Your contributions are vital to sustaining the Voice. Please give as generously as you can.
Geri Throne, author of the recently published novel “Secret Battles,” is a frequent contributor to the Winter Park Voice.