By Mary Kate Feeney
FRAMINGHAM – When I was in school, I religiously read the Middlesex News, later the MetroWest Daily News, every day. The newspaper was my textbook for my budding interest in local politics. I learned the names of the select board, state representatives, planning board members, and other local players. The paper was packed with Framingham stories. Each article educated me on the big topics of the day and connected me to my neighbors. The Middlesex News brought me into the world of local government more than any of my social studies classes.
It is this knowledge I learned from a young age that is my foundation for my current community activism. Many of those issues I read about then still make an impact on Framingham today. Some of those names I memorized are still active.
Without the Middlesex News and the MetroWest Daily News, I would not have been so in tune with my hometown. Community news is the glue. We turn to them to learn the actions of elected bodies, or to learn the high school sports scores. We expect them to keep our elected officials accountable. We read about the joys and positive news about our neighbors, and take action to help out in times of tragedy and sadness.
Local news binds us together.
It is why I read about the changes happening at the Framingham Source with such sadness and anger. For seven years, Susan Petroni and the Framingham Source has been the go-to digital newspaper for all things Framingham. She has kept our new city government and its elected leaders accountable. She celebrated the achievements of our neighbors. She reported on the comings and goings of small businesses. She was the beating heart of our Framingham community.
Without knowing and connecting with each other, who are we?
I am sad we are losing glue that has kept our community together.
But I am angry we took this all for granted.
Other news sources like the Framingham Patch, the MetroWest Daily News, and The Boston Globe have shown glimmers of interest in Framingham, depending on the reporter or editor at the time. But they are no longer the consistent local news outlets of the past. Now the pressure is on them to step-up.
Yet, there was the Source day after day reporting. I am not alone in never thinking that one day the Source won’t be there.
Did we do enough to help the Source with advertising and financial support? It is no secret running a newspaper is a costly endeavor, forget about the struggles of being a solopreneur. Why did the city never enact the part of the Charter that allowed for the publishing of legal notices in digital mediums? This alone would’ve helped the Source tremendously.
As someone who spent her career working in communications and operates a marketing agency today, I always tell my clients to act like a media outlet. While newspapers and media are still key to sharing your news, in a changing world, you cannot depend on them as your sole outlet. Yet, locally, engaging the Framingham Source was always part of my communications strategy. It was different.
Who are we without local news?
Several people in Framingham are celebrating the news about the Source. Without its accountability comes opportunity to do things in secret and under the radar. They want residents to be in the dark.
But who is going to keep them and others accountable? While the Source was not perfect, who is going to report on the latest decisions out of the Memorial Building? Who is going to inform parents about School Committee votes and issues? With an election year coming this year, where will voters turn to read about the candidates?
What will be our glue?
Since August I have been writing a weekly newsletter called The Ham’er, focused on separating the truth from the noise in Framingham politics. It is a huge success, but I am not an experienced journalist like Susan Petroni. I write it to share what I have learned, my thoughts and engage you with our city government. It keeps me and my readers thinking about our neighborhoods, what we want from Framingham and where we are headed. But it was to compliment other media outlets, not be THE media outlet.
I am happy for Susan and understand her need to provide for her family. Whatever the next chapter of her career is, we will feel the impact of not having her and the Source keeping us together, as an informed community.
Framingham is at a crossroads. Our community pride is mediocre. We are divided – by neighborhood, commuting, socioeconomically. We are a city in transition. About 5,700 new residents moved into Framingham in the past year.
How can we be more welcoming and more proud of who we are? I regularly ask myself these questions. Who will we turn to when we need the truth? Who will be the mirror of who we are?
The closing of the Source is our loss. As a community, we need to decide who we are and how we will keep ourselves active and informed. Framingham depends on us.
Thank you Susan and the Framingham Source for helping us be Framingham.