Joseph Stalin is famously alleged to have noted that one dead is a tragedy; one million dead is a statistic. He would know, of course. And so would I – the moment I discovered one morning while at my grandparents’ home that the Maywood Herald was missing from the dining room table. It had, in fact, died a while before my discovery. By the time I noticed, my grandparents had gotten comfortable with the Chicago Sun-Times and barely felt the Herald’s absence. Now, the only time they happen to stumble upon the word ‘Maywood’ in the paper is while reading headlines like these: “Maywood housing scandal reeks of greed;” “Alderman owned Maywood ‘drug house‘;” “6 charged in Maywood dog fight.”
The tragedy of the Herald’s disappearance becomes a statistic when considered in a wider context; one among hundreds, thousands of local tragedies that have become almost bland in their repetition. But I’m an idealist. I don’t believe that people should have to get used to a particularly tragic reality simply because it persists – especially when there are alternatives, the variety and degree of which are only limited by the bounds of our imaginations. Perhaps…perhaps the future calls for a reality in which local communities like ours are going to have to take direct responsibility for the simplest necessities.
Instead of relying on corporate conglomerates to bankroll small cadres of journalists to keep us informed, perhaps the future will mandate that we, as citizens, do it for ourselves. Right now, as the chart above (courtesy of Market Watch) illustrates, the number of people employed in newspaper outlets is diminishing with frightening rapidity. This diminution has tragic implications, for it reflects a wider cultural reality. As more and more local outlets of information recede from the scene, our collective brain recedes apace. Despite the Googles and the Bings and the Yahoo!’s, as citizens, we’ve never been less informed.
My project, since creating this site, has been to address this most persistent problem. It’s the motivating factor behind The Village Free Press (emphasis on ‘Free’). Thomas Jefferson once noted that “our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” In plain words, a free society is only as free as its base of knowledge. I’m not implying that free and independent sources of information creates free communities. I’m implying that free communities, almost without exception, have never been without free and independent sources of information.
The mission of The Village Free Press isn’t necessarily to liberate people. However, I believe it is the purpose of a site like this to remind this community, particularly its leaders, of the unlimited array of liberating possibilities. And to remind you, the reader, wherever you may be, that a better future is at your fingertips. Enjoy!