Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An infant Eye

I'm afraid I've been scooped.

As you will have read (the strange thing about this blog is that you may read my post first, though it was published later than others on this topic), the Middletown Eye is celebrating its first anniversary today. Jen Alexander's post provides the stats, but allow me to be a bit more anecdotal.

I've been a newshound for most of my life. I began reading news in earnest when I delivered the New Britain Herald, beginning at 10 years old. I've never tired of it. I began my post-college working life as a reporter for the Hartford Times, but made my wage with other kinds of writing after the Times (Hartford's liberal, afternoon daily) folded.

The inspiration for this blog is multi-faceted. For years Jen Alexander and Mark Masselli have been trying to convince someone to start another newpaper, or online newspaper, in Middletown. I was a part of those occasional dinner-party conversations. I was also in attendance at several town meetings, of some great import, at which there was nary a reporter from the dailies which claimed to be covering Middletown. Unfortunately, my conclusion was, when no one's watching local government, there's a greater tendency to make policy the general public may not like. On a practical level, Catherine Johnson, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, was complaining to me, exactly a year ago yesterday, that the town needed a newsource at local meetings.

"I can do that," I thought.

The same day, I was listening to my iPod on a walk, and one of my favorite Billy Bragg songs, "Waiting For the Great Leap Forward" shuffled on, and Billy sang, "If no one out there understands, start your own revolution and cut out the middle man" As an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer who was often frustrated by my ability to get letters published, I decided to go home and open a blogger account, and create a blog, "The Middletown Eye."

It's been something of a magical, exhausting year. We've gone from a few dozen visitors a day, to nearly 600. We've covered development controversies, dozens of town meetings, cultural happenings and an electrifying election.

While the Eye isn't read by everyone in Middletown, it is a favorite stopping place of politicians, activists, and residents who want to stay in the know. I can't go to any event without someone stopping me and saying "thanks."

But the thanks are not due to me alone. We have some regular, and very dependable correspondents - Stephen "fishmuscle" Devoto, Jen Alexander, Richard Kamins, Jen Mahr and some less-frequent, though always informative and entertaining contributors like Izzi Greenberg, Vijay Pinch, Beth Emery, Anthony Lancia, (the mysterious) Madam Nirvana, Karen Swartz, Eye M, John Hall and Catherine Johnson. Some contributors have only posted a time or two, but those posts are appreciated. And the many thoughtful commenters have kept the news lively.

We're always looking for more Eye writers. More citizen journalists.

What's happened in the past year is that the dailies which used to cover the town well are even more strapped. The Courant has all but disappeared. The Press continues to be dragged down by corporate debt. And you won't see a TV truck in town unless there's a murder.

The Eye has a long way to go. From my perspective, I'd love to see us covering every town meeting, sporting events, charitable events, cultural events. I'd love to have a correspondent at every school. I long for the Eye to be more diverse in every way, involving new ideas and new correspondents from every neighborhood in Middletown.

And except on those nights, after a particularly late municipal meeting, when I am feeling wiped-out and brain dead, I think the Middletown Eye has been a good idea, and good for the community.

As an anniversary gift to the Eye, consider two gifts - a post or two over the next year, and persuading a friend to check out the Eye today.


David Bauer said...

Happy Birthday to you Ed, and all the other contributors that make The Eye such an integral part of Middletown.

One of my favorite definitions for having a conscience is simply that you are being watched. The Middletown Eye is our community's conscience.

I read The Eye every day. Keep up the good work!

Barrie said...

Ed! You have a good Eye! Many thanks and congratulations on your birthday.