By Chris Horton
Twenty years ago the Telegram and Gazette, despite being stiflingly timid and conservative, was a real newspaper with a substantial team of reporters who would go out and get such news as the editors would allow and get it into print before deadline. Worcester Magazine, an independent and perky, free entertainment weekly, added another dimension, but it was not a voice for Worcester’s regular working people.
Enter Rosalie’s free-wheeling, no-holds-barred InCity Times, or ICT, publishing every two weeks, giving a voice to regular people, and printing the stories the Telegram and WoMag disdained. If you had a story that needed telling – about foreclosures or the workings of city or state government offices or the back-room deals that the T&G or WoMag would only report in prettified form too late to do anything – Rosalie would welcome your writing it and would very likely print it.
Stacks of ICT would stand by the door at restaurants like the Pickle Barrel, the late great Goldstar or the Broadway, and people would pick them up and read them over breakfast. Then they would talk about them! I would have articles in InCity Times and people I didn’t know would stop me to talk about them. ICT was part of the ferment that kept the seeds of democracy alive in our city, “far beneath the driven snows.”
Fast forward to today. The Telegram, then owned by the New York Times, has passed through various hands and is now owned by Gannett, which owns hundreds of newspapers around the country. The Telegram has fired most of its reporters and columnists, so that it routinely misses big stories, and replaced them with canned features. Its news coverage has a formulaic quality, and its daily circulation has plunged from over 100,000 to around 20,000. Gannett also owns Worcester Magazine, which is doing somewhat better but is not an independent voice. InCity Times, rebranded as CECELIA, has gone monthly and is no longer able to catch the news cycle, but it’s still feisty and fiercely independent.
For example, where the Telegram and WoMag basically were cheerleaders for the WooSox Stadium project, CECELIA was a thorn in its side, raising the hard questions about how it was going to pay for itself, what Worcester was losing by pumping tens of millions of dollars into it, and the destruction it was causing to Rosalie’s old Green Island neighborhood. When the Telegram was busy ignoring, misrepresenting or making excuses for the Worcester Police Department after their disgraceful ambushing, beating up and arresting a group of Black Lives Matter protesters, CECELIA gave the victims of the police attack a forum to tell their own story!
Does this matter? We all get most of our news online now, right? And there’s lots of alternatives now – including Rosalie’s incitytimesworcester.org … With all that variety why would anyone still want a paper product?
Well, for one thing, a surprising number of people I know don’t have easy access to the Internet, and others don’t have time to go looking. For another, online news is competing with millions of other sites and doesn’t direct people’s attention to what’s important locally.
And then, a real paper journal is a forum where many voices get expressed, that passes into many people’s hands in public, and people see each other reading it, which stimulates discussion. It gets passed to a friend or will sit in a corner and be there when you think of something you saw that you want to share. It helps make us a community, in a way that the online sites never can!
So here’s wishing Cecelia another 20 years!