Boothbay, ME

Can NewsBreak Transform a One Party Town?

Mackenzie Andersen

Report from the Boothbay Peninsula, Maine
Beth Macdonald / Unsplash

There is a new concern about the survival of local news talked about across forums as the shift to online media has affected local news providers just as online has affected everything else.

NewsBreak is seeking to localize the global, which is a high concept for a world in the thrall of the aftereffect of coronavirus interjecting and pressing pause as the world was speeding along on a trajectory toward ever-increasing centralization.

In December of 2019, The Journal of the New York Bar Association published Why Local News Matters, and What We Can Do to Save It By Penny Muse Abernathy. In the following paragraph, she describes the problem of uncovered news and single-sided narratives.

Important local news also goes unreported. A member of my local city council recently asked me, “How do you correct a story on Facebook?” As it turns out, no reporter had showed up to cover an unexpectedly contentious council meeting. The mayor’s rather one-sided Facebook post about the meeting was the only account of what had transpired – and it had been shared hundreds of times. The Journal of the New York Bar Association published Why Local News Matters, and What We Can Do to Save It

In my local community, Joseph Carpentier does a fine job of covering town meetings for the Boothbay Register. On the surface of Mr. Carpentiers, articles, it is just the facts exclusive to the events Carpentier reports about, reflecting a journalistic discipline, but still, the facts tell a story, there to be linked together within and without by the reader.

When reporting about a public meeting of the JECD group, a public-private organization calling itself a Joint Economic Council of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor, Mr. Carpentier reports that practically every meeting included a part wherein the leader of the JECD group would chide the towns of Edgecomb and Southport, also on the Boothbay Peninsula, for not contributing funds to the Joint Economic Council of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor.

The towns of Southport and Edgecomb are not officially included in the towns the JECD is said to represent, so why should the towns of Southport and Edgecomb finance the capitalization of the JECD?

The reader might find himself wondering, did the leaders of the JECD encourage Mr, Carpentier to include the disparaging of Southport and Edgecomb for not pitching in their fair share, or did Mr. Carpentier make that choice on his own? Mr. Carpentier’s choices appear to reflect the disinterested representation of what transpired at the meeting, making no editorial choices, just recording everything that went down, in a disciplinary manner of an official secretary or in the model of Cspan. The simple recording and arrangement of the facts tell a story effortlessly.

However, since Mr. Carpentier is not an official secretary, to know whether or not selective choices were made, there would need to be an official secretary report, publicly accessible, and/or more than one reporting of a story. This may be the case if the local TV station also recorded the meetings. I believe that if there had been another part to the story wherein the JECD talked about the advantages for Southport and Edgecomb to joining the joint economic council, Mr. Carpentier would have reported it, and so I assume there was no part to those meetings wherein the JECD talked about what it could do for the towns of Southport and Edgecomb.

Editorializing the story

Since one of the JECD projects was an advertising fund for the dining and entertainment establishments in Boothbay Harbor during the Botanical Garden’s lighting event, it is fair to assume that the JEDC’s reasoning for why Edgecomb and Southport should pay up is the trickle-down effect, borrowed from larger central management philosophy.

By now, with the simultaneous growth of central management alongside the expansion of the wealth divide, it stands established that the trickle-down effect is just a political marketing myth. It is even more absurd to apply it locally unless one is using increased real estate values as the measure of economic development.

Which Edgecomb or Southport business gets the benefit of public dollars spent on advertising downtown Boothbay Harbor during the Botanical Gardens Christmas lights event?

Businesses in Southport are unlikely to see any benefit from advertising downtown Boothbay Harbor during the Botanical Gardens Lightfest.

Businesses in Edgecomb on Route 27 leading toward the Gardens do not need the additional advertising.

There is a very smart business in Edgecomb, the pizzeria-bar that struggled for years as a marketplace until its current owners reinvented it as a place where the travelers going to and from the Botanical Gardens Christmas light fest, can get something affordable to eat in a fun environment. The success of the pizzeria has nothing to do with the JECD’s advertising campaign for Boothbay Harbor. It has to do with location, location, location- and a smart entrepreneur. The pizzeria is not lacking in business. during the Botanical Garden’s light fest. during which it is hard to get into the pizzeria’s parking lot. The JECD does not deserve the credit or the dough, and I don’t mean pizza dough.

Why does the JECD group think that Southport and Edgecomb owe them? There is only one explanation. In the JECD’s view, economic development is the equivalency of increasing property values. Promoting the dining and entertainment industry in downtown Boothbay Harbor is good for real estate values all over the Peninsula, in trickle-down theory.

One might ask if the reason the towns of Southport and Edgecomb did not chip in to finance the JECD group’s agenda is a legal reason pertaining to a requirement that the inhabitants of those municipalities approve such expenditures in a yearly budget.

The JECD group is as if a front for an unidentified political party that has no opposition in the Boothbay Region. In May Kenneth Rayle, a former member of the JECD group ran unopposed for a three-year selectman term in Boothbay Harbor. When I voted in Boothbay, the JECD group was still a budget item on the ballot. I did not find the JECD mentioned in the new budget and so I assume that the JECD budget item did not get public approval. However, the JECD is still listed on the town website, despite having announced that it was closing down when coronavirus hit.

I started blogging and researching in a media environment where there are many mainstream media resources in Maine reporting on singular issues, which, at the time I started blogging, about 12 years ago, most media pundits sounded like they took their cues, from a press release issued by the State, which is a centrally managed public-private state, aka, a hegemony.

Centralization has diminished local control, creativity, and identity, and to my experience, does not offer services to the public unless the public happens to fit central management’s programs and agenda so that taxpayers pay but do not necessarily benefit from the programs. For that reason, such services belong in the private sector. Government should be reserved for functions that are a common benefit.

Mr. Carpentier is a reporter in the style of Cspan. He reports the facts of the story at hand and rarely interjects a larger context, such as information pertaining to why the towns of Edgecomb and Southport were not capitalizing the JECD group’s mission. With more than one local journalist or media source reporting on diverse perspectives on a story, the larger context comes into play. All Good!

If there are several journalists reporting independently on a singular event, one can get a better measure of how and what facts are recorded, selectively or indifferently, except when all reporting and opining are so similar, that it sounds like the writers are taking their cues from an official press release.

According to the law of change, which states that the only constant is change, the world has been coalescing into one centrally managed world order since mid-century. The shift in the tide back toward complexity is long overdue. Many voices are needed to burst the bubble of one-party rule.

Anyone can apply to be a creator on NewsBreak. This is quite exciting, People creating the media. I know one local community that needs this sort of change, I hope to see more independent voices participating and reinventing local news for the era of social media.

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Independent researcher of contemporary issues placed in a historical context, giving voice to alternate perspectives and conceptualizing where it all leads in the future . . . . .

Boothbay, ME

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