March 26, 2011

Free-newspaper volunteer wonders if anyone collects data or does research on free papers

I received the following message from someone who has helped publish a free community newspaper for several years and wonders is anyone has collected information about free papers or conducted any research on them. As she mentions, such publications get little notice, perhaps because they aren't included in state press-association directories and have few organizations of their own. Here is her message and contact information:

Over the years I've been involved in a free community monthly newspaper here in New Marlborough, a rural area in far western Massachusetts. New Marlborough is a town, large in area, which consists of about 1,100 people spread between five villages. Our newspaper, The New Marlborough Five Village News, is about 10 years old and during that time it's become very important to most people who live here for getting meaningful local information of the sort not found in the large commercial papers in the larger nearby towns.

Surrounding towns have similar free newspapers. They're often overseen and directed by people who've had significant careers in journalism, who manage to tolerate, support, and sometimes educate people like me who have no background in writing at all. We have Jon Swan who's written all his life, most recently an article for Smithsonian about Iceland. Next door in Sandisfield, their paper's somewhat directed by Setsuko Sato, an NPR producer, and her husband Simon Winchester, author of recent bestsellers including The Professor and the Madman, and in Norfolk, Conn., there are writers galore including Lloyd Garrison.

Anyway, the point is that I think these papers are wonderful, fulfill a big democratic mission -- occasionally even some muckraking -- and operate almost entirely beneath the radar. I'm wondering if anyone has studied them, if there are any repositories of information or statistics about them. I thought you might know.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope to hear from you.
With best wishes,
Ann Getsinger
P.O. Box 307
Mill River, MA 01244

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