Newspapers have been on the skids for some time now. The Times-Picayune in New Orleans recently announced it was cutting back to a 3-day-a-week print schedule, and focusing most of its efforts on the web. The powerful New York Times is increasingly dependent on its successful digital subscription model, with more and more people reading the paper online. Here in the Catskills/Hudson Valley Region, the Catskill Daily Mail and Hudson Register-Star are generating new reader interest online, especially with their Opinion sections (which overlap, since the two papers are under the same ownership).
Both papers, along with their smaller brethren like the Windham Journal, have long published right-wing rants in their opinion pages. Perhaps it was seen as part of the local color (red). But an interesting new phenomenon is now taking hold: when a self-righteous curmudgeon like William Durr (who regularly sneers at diversity and “free-loading” social programs, and suggests we’ll need to revert to living in caves if Obama wins reelection) or a religious zealot like James Varelas (who claims that a decrease in “Biblical Christianity” is destroying Western civilization) spouts off, people now answer them. They answer curtly, sarcastically or with thoughtfully reasoned rebuttals—but they answer, something that was not always the case.
Since the “opinion pages,” especially the online version, represent what passes for Town Hall-style debate these days, this is encouraging news. BlueInGreene—Tom Pletcher in particular— has tried to respond with a progressive point of view to the more egregious right-wing lies in the local media, and has been predictably vilified for it. “Go back to the city” is among the gentler comments we’ve received.
But many citizens in Greene and Columbia Counties are coming to our defense, and calling out the local demagogues on their specious assertions and divisive, us-against-the-world diatribes. This represents real progress. We’re delighted by it, and we thank those who’ve had the courage to stand up for reason and progress in our local press.