As local news withers, we’re losing sense of identity

WHEN RICK HOLMES RETIRED as the opinion editor at the MetroWest Daily News in 2017, he was worried about the decline in journalism and what it would mean for local communities.

“The local paper introduces us to our neighbors. It’s a mirror, through which communities see themselves. It expresses and reflects community values. It establishes the facts on which public debates are based. In its pages, the community defines itself, argues with itself, sets its priorities and, most of the time, finds consensus,” Holmes wrote in his farewell column.

In the three years since he wrote his goodbye, the situation has only worsened. His paper, and the chain it was a part of, merged into an even bigger organization called Gannett. His position was abolished and his old paper now rarely runs a locally produced editorial on a local issue.

“I don’t believe Gannett has any editorial page editors anymore,” Holmes said on the CommonWealth Codcast. “Even the Providence Journal no longer has an editorial page editor. So how is a paper like that, the most important media presence in the state, going to exercise any leadership if they don’t have anyone to research those topics and write about them and provide that leadership in the pages of the paper. It’s a tremendous loss.”