Think Globally, Subscribe Locally



I noticed these words on a train’s advertisement last month. The Chicago Reader is a local, alternative newspaper. It’s free of charge, it’s had an impressive following for 45 years, and it strongly emphasizes the Arts in Chicago.

It’s also written by Union journalists from The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America (TNG-CWA Local 34071), and in keeping with the spirit of last month’s post, I encourage you to sign this petition.

There is a threat of dramatic cuts by the owners, and to quote the “Save the Chicago Reader” Facebook page, “The Chicago Reader’s owners must enrich editorial content and invest in marketing, advertising, and digital operations, or this local treasure will die.”

Many of us who make a living in the Classical Music Industry often ponder: How can we more effectively connect with our community? What are our neighbors going through, and how can we be of service to them?

One answer to these questions: Start subscribing to the Local Newspaper. (Yes, even if that means paying for it!)

Finger on the Pulse.

Local newspapers are often the most in-touch with what’s happening in a community.

The Chicago Reader helped spread the word for a panel discussion on Sexual Harassment in the Music Scene. It took place at the Beat Kitchen, an intimate neighborhood restaurant/performance space. This type of an event provides a wonderful opportunity for local musicians to cultivate respect in the workplace. I could find no mention of this in either of Chicago’s larger, nationally-read newspapers, but bravo to the Chicago Reader for publicizing it.

Whether or not you pursue politics, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the controversial tollbooth closures on the George Washington Bridge in 2013 that caused massive amounts of traffic. This has escalated into quite a widely-followed investigation. All of the national news organizations have covered this scandal, but where was it heard first? This traffic report from the local newspaper

Communication and Expression.

Where can we learn about what matters to people in our community? Where can our neighbors express what’s on their minds?

This is an Editorial from the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire, titled “City must Ponder Art Direction”. Concord is deciding on two works of art to be installed in public places. The author brings up several important points. What should the decision-making process be? Should the artwork be iconic? Decorative?

If you read this Editorial, you’ll also come across a couple references that only insiders would be likely to understand. A Concord Coach is one of the classic models of stagecoaches from the 1800s (think “Wells Fargo”). Turtles also seem to be mentioned quite a bit, and I can’t tell if it’s a mascot or a symbol of the many bodies of wonder in and around the city.

But whatever the turtle stands for, journalists won’t be aware of the pertinence of these elements unless they know what the community members consider relatable. These things may seem inconsequential to an outsider, but a stagecoach or a turtle could be very significant in deciding on a piece of art that genuinely reflects Concord.

And to bring that into terms for Classical Music, this information from the Concord Monitor could be useful to someone who is programming repertoire. Perhaps a touring pianist might choose to include the “Concord Sonata” of Charles Ives on a recital. Or “Wells Fargo Wagon” from The Music Man as an encore at this recital–or better yet, for the unveiling of the public artwork, should the community choose to depict a Concord Coach.

Good for the Goose, Good for the Gander.

A local newspaper can be a tremendous service to the livelihoods of many people in a community.

  • Journalists
  • Printers and Deliverers (If there are hard copy editions)
  • Web Developers
  • People who work to keep the offices functioning (Custodians, electricians, plumbers, etc.)
  • Local Businesses, Organizations, and Advocacy Groups (Through advertisements and publicity)

There might be even more people, so as always, feel free to leave a comment below. Any omissions were purely accidental. But suffice it to say, Classical Music is one of many entities in a community that can benefit economically from having a local newspaper.

Elderly woman reading newspaper on a park bench. Her legs are crossed at her ankles, and she is facing to her right. She is wearing all black clothes, black gloves, and has white hair. Green grass, a couple yellow flowers, and green shrubs are behind her. The bench is dark brown wood, and it sits on top of asphalt.

I certainly don’t mean to disparage larger news sources. They serve us in a myriad of ways, and I am incredibly grateful for their hard work. It often takes a big operation to get to the bottom of some very important matters.

But there’s also a need for strong local sources. Even when issues in the Classical Music Industry feel like they occur on the national level, the vast majority of our actions happen in our own neighborhoods. And the Local Newspaper can be our ally.

So, where do you get your local news?

About Doug Rosenthal

No one told Douglas Rosenthal to give up playing music. Not even his patient siblings, who endured many early-morning practice sessions; even they encouraged their brother to follow his passion. As the years passed, that passion evolved from simply playing music to advocating for music, musicians, and music-lovers. Douglas is based in Washington, DC. He is the Assistant Principal Trombonist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra/Washington National Opera Orchestra. He currently makes his home on Capitol Hill in DC with a pug named Jake, who serves as a constant reminder to relax, eat well, and sleep plentifully.

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