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The Importance of Reporting “Close to the Ground”

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January 10, 2023

By Barrett Seaman–

News stories about Long Island Congressman George Santos’ bogus claims about his background, education and employment continue to make national headlines. Noted in the many stories about Santos is the “local” Long Island paper, the North Shore Leader, that had the goods on Santos months before the national media discovered it.

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The Leader’s “scoop” on the Santos story is not the only example of local journalism producing stories of national importance. In recent years, the Wasau Pilot & Review shed light on the local Wisconsin governments’ inability to resolve a contaminated wastewater issue. In New York City, an upstart nonprofit news web site, The City, uncovered the sorry saga of a woman suffering from epilepsy who died in solitary confinement at Riker’s Island. Both stories eventually found their way into the national media.

Not every local news outlet can count on exposing major malfeasance or mismanagement to justify its existence, but their existence does require their proximity to the communities they cover, which in turn increases their opportunities to land important stories. Asked by WNYC radio to explain how The Leader broke the Santos story, its publisher, Grant Lally, replied, “We’re close to the ground. We heard stories about him from local people again and again.”

I feel an affinity for the North Shore Leader because when I was growing up in that part of Long Island, it was then the Locust Valley Leader. A woman named Edith Wyckoff was the publisher, editor and chief bottlewasher, but the weekly paper had most of what residents wanted from their local: weddings, funerals, charity luncheons and a column called “Pipelines” that promised mildly gossipy tidbits Edith had picked up around town.

Now I feel a new affinity for the Leader, as it is in many ways a kindred spirit with The Hudson Independent. We too are “close to the ground,” covering local governments, local schools and local businesses. We too rely mostly on freelance contributors for our reporting and on local businesses for our advertising. As of late last year when we became a registered not-for-profit, we now count on contributions from readers like you for financial support.

Recently, we announced that an anonymous donor agreed to match, dollar-for-dollar, contributions from the public up to $10,000. We are well on our way to meeting that challenge, but with a deadline of January 31st looming, we are feeling a sense of urgency. To those who have already made a tax-deductible donation, we thank you. For those who have not, we ask that you give it renewed consideration.

You can donate to The Hudson Independent by clicking the button below:

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