PASSING FROM THE FAMILY AND FROM LOCAL HANDS

Last week brought an announcement of the sale of our local, family-owned newspaper to a corporate rival downstream. You could watch the deterioration over the past decade as Foster’s Daily Democrat slipped from a feisty competitor to, well, adrift – and the absence of detailed copy editing became evident to the casual reader.

I’ve already argued about the lack of a viable business model for today’s newspaper industry – and much more of that underlying mindset plays throughout my Hometown News novel. Good journalism requires investment, after all, and you have to pay good people to do the job thoroughly.

Family owned since its founding by Joshua L. Foster in 1873, the quaintly named Dover paper was one of the last in the country to remain free of media-chain management. For all of the potential problems that run in families, the perception on the street has been that the local ownership generally produced a level of commitment and understanding the larger, bottom-line driven conglomerates lack. Again, my slant here plays through the novel, and I hope you’ll see why. Besides, most of my career was spent in smaller operations with enough of the big-biz side for an inside look.

How long the two papers will retain their current identities is a matter of conjecture, but I’d bet it won’t take long to merge the two. The process will not only eliminate healthy competition but also reduce the range of community dialog and debate. There will be one reporter covering municipal meetings, not two — and the radio and TV stations will summarize their versions from that what they clip from the paper. We’ll be one voice less in what calls us together. One independent voice less, at that.

Hometown_News

LAYERS OF INVASION

if nothing stands long, there’s little victory attorneys argue . windows mildew . cockroaches scurry through musty pantries . children’s stubby fingers twist evening newspapers into battered projectiles . priests raise pale claws and unpainted barns collapse . fields exhaust with a color of spent motor oils sullen lodgers in yellow snapshots stand before their […]

TO DO LIKEWISE

the committed circle worshiping together conscientiously calms and inspires may others among us become more regular and devoted in their own witness and practice *   *   * how are we to Truth as an infinitive to make life’s outpouring more consistent or inconsistent reaching and slipping *   *   *  fidelity . humility . action as […]

OBSERVATION TOWER

For much of the year, before the foliage fills out, I can see the Garrison Hill observation tower from the third-floor attic room where I write and revise. Not that you can often detect our house and barn in return – they’re obscured by the surrounding trees.

So here, taken a few houses down the street, is a suggestion of what I see from below, followed shots at the foot of the tower itself and then some views it offers from its top deck.

Getting to the tower offers a pleasant bit of exercise, beginning with a five-block walk (cutting through a neighbor’s yard, of course) and then taking a wooded trail to the top of the 298-foot-elevation hill. (You can drive, if you want, but then the car gets the workout.) From there, getting to the top of the tower adds another 76-foot gain.

The views range include the White Mountains to the north (Mount Washington often appears as a snowy shadow or a low cloud) to Maine to the east (with Mount Agamenticus, which offers even more stunning views) to the Isles of Shoals five miles out in the Atlantic (something I’ve never quite detected in the blur, even though I’ve seen Garrison Hill from the ferry returning), to the three Pawtuckaways in the west. Plus our downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, and a host of passing birds. Quite a panorama.

But I’ll spare you the sordid history surrounding the naming of the hill itself in the Colonial era. These days, I’m happy to see how much this landscape blends forests and farms and small communities in a place I call home.

POINT OF REVOLUTION

A lighthouse has stood at this site along Portsmouth Harbor since 1771, where fortifications were first erected in 1632. The long dark stonework along the water was part of Fort Constitution. Historically, it was the site of Fort William and Mary, the first armed skirmish of the American Revolution.
A lighthouse has stood at this site along Portsmouth Harbor since 1771, where fortifications were first erected in 1632. The long dark stonework along the water was part of Fort Constitution. Historically, it was the site of Fort William and Mary, the first armed skirmish of the American Revolution.

This year’s Patriots’ Day comes next Monday, a holiday in Massachusetts and several other states to commemorate the April 9, 1775, Battles of Lexington and Concord that inaugurated the American Revolutionary War. These days it’s also the occasion of the 117th annual running of the Boston Marathon as well as a late-morning Red Sox game at Fenway.

New Hampshire, on the other hand, traditionally marked the event obliquely, with its own Fast Day the following week, ostensibly originating in 1680 and officially abolished in 1991. We got Fast Day as a holiday free from the office, but the only way we knew when it would fall in a particular year was by paying attention to the Marathon — and we’d get the following Monday off.

While Patriots’ Day marks the historic “Shot Heard Around the World,” the actual first armed skirmish happened months earlier at Fort William and Mary along the Piscataqua River in New Hampshire. On the evening of December 13, 1774, Paul Revere rode north from Boston with reports of the latest British actions, especially in Rhode Island. The news sufficiently angered 400 Sons of Liberty led by John Langdon to march on the fort, one of several protecting the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor, and raid it, carting off 98 barrels of gunpowder, roughly five tons. The next night, a small party headed by John Sullivan carried off 16 pieces of small cannon and military stores.

These supplies were then distributed to hiding spots, including the cellars of Boston churches and at least one New Hampshire home, before being used in the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17 the next year.

Known as the Powder Major's House because of the gunpowder secreted in its cellar after the attack on Fort William and Mary, the residence of Major John Demeritt in Madbury likely originated around 1723 as the wing now attached to the larger Colonial home.
Known as the Powder Major’s House because of the gunpowder secreted in its cellar after the attack on Fort William and Mary, the residence of Major John Demeritt in Madbury likely originated around 1723 as the wing now attached to the larger Colonial home.

ON THE PICKET LINE

As I said at the time, carrying a picket sign, after all those years as a professional journalist, crossed a barrier. We don’t take sides, in public, so what does one do in a labor impasse? I realized this is what my younger stepdaughter, the political activist, called a “viz,” for visibility event, and that we could add more posters to our sticks, to create a “totem pole.” I also recalled a Friend, speaking of driving along and seeing a vigil and then stopping and opening his car trunk for the sign he always carries, just so he’d always be ready to join in anywhere. There was something liberating in this, even if it was an “informational picket” rather than a straight-out strike line.

Now, having retired from the profession, I sense another opening. A return to an earlier calling. My entering journalism, as a public witness and service, is restored to its original prompting of advocacy and reform, before it was confined by corporate media – the very bottom-line organizations right-wing critics overlook when they accuse “liberal media” of, well, reporting both sides. Maybe I’ll become a Quaker agitator, after all. (As the retiree activist, I might say: Thank you, Megan. And Iris. Especially.)

DOLLARS AND SENSE

When it comes to handling money, very little seems to reflect what we were taught in college economics classes. Even at the time, I felt something essential was missing. Only later, while working through some tangled emotional issues, did I chance upon a host of much wider implications. In fact, I was finding that other […]