We’ve been planning on doing a story on the loss of the courthouse in downtown Elkton and more broadly on the evolution of Main Street for a few months now. Well we’d better get on it or we’re going to get scooped by the Whig on this one. Our first alert came at Wednesday’s meeting when Commissioner/Aliance Director Jablonski announced that the Whig was working on a piece on the central business district. With that bit of information urging us on, we walked into a long-time Main Street retailer to get an interview. Figuring we needed to explain what we were doing, we said we were gathering data for a column on the business district. The second alert came when the merchant, seemingly already understanding our purpose, said he’d been expecting us. The Alliance had been in touch to let the retailer know that we were coming by to work on a story for them! Being briefly speechless (only briefly), we explained to the retailer that the Alliance was probably making the arrangements for the daily and not for the blog Someone Noticed.
We need lots of news content in Cecil County so we’re pleased to hear that the Whig is digging into this one. It’ll be interesting, though, to see what each of us comes up with as we work up the pieces. We recall when the loss of the courthouse was originally covered by the Herald in an excellent piece and finally the Whig (after lots of urging) a month or two later. There was very little similarity in the body of assembled facts, other than the courthouse moved out of town. Whatever one thinks about the loss of the courthouse in the town center, it was an important transformation in the county. We thought this significant change was of interest to current day readers and since papers are the first draft of history it was important to get an accurate recordation of the facts. But researchers decades frm now will be puzzled by the different depictations, so they’ll have to consult other sources to get the “rest of the story.” These sorts of reporting issues occur when one repeats the statements of officials, without asking a few challenging (at least mildly) questions and asking for other viewpoints (not the officially arranged interviews).
At least there was another newspaper to cover it and we remember a time when a cluster of reporters covered Elkton. The News Journal, the Cecil Whig, the Times, and WSER, our day time A.M. radio station, attended town meetings. A fifth one, the County Post, a small, feisty independent, may have been there in that period too. With four or five professional journalists competing to bring the public the stories, it made each of them better since they couldn’t miss anything. As for the publishers, they knew they had to keep resources in the news room or they’d lose readership. In those days there was some quality reporting that came out of local government coverage. It also helped with openness of government for the town (and the county) knew that every action was a potential news story since the reporters had to compete on news content.
While local government still doesn’t have much media coverage, the blogs have broken up the monopoly by at least adding another voice.