10 Years On, Authenticity Shines in Local News

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10 Years On, Authenticity Shines in Local News

By Jaci Clement, jaci@fairmediacouncil.org

There was much in the news this week, but on Dec.14, only one story mattered: The 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. 

Major news outlets, inside and outside the U.S., looked back, but in different ways. ABC News: ‘Sandy Hook parents reflect on 10th anniversary of mass shooting, work to curb gun violence’. The New York Times: ’10 Years Later, a State Trooper Who Responded to Sandy Hook Looks Back’. PBS: ‘On 10th anniversary of Sandy Hook, Biden says U.S. has moral obligation to prevent another shooting tragedy’. CNN: ‘Sandy Hook parents push for changes in the decade since the school shooting’. Fox News Channel: ‘Sandy Hook 10 years later: Biden says US should have ‘societal guilt’ over gun violence’. Al Jazeera: ‘US marks 10-year anniversary of Sandy Hook school shooting’. BBC: ‘Sandy Hook 10 years on: How many have died in school shootings?’ The Guardian: ‘Sandy Hook’s tragic legacy on gun safety takes a new turn 10 years on’. Daily Mail: ‘Experts say we’re still failing to keep children safe from gun violence in schools’.

Some news stories played up the emotional, and some, the political. Most fell somewhere in between. But no matter the story angle, or the amount of resources devoted to covering the story, or the style of the storytelling, these big-branded news outlets were all missing one thing: They weren’t the local boots on the ground. They weren’t ones who knew Newtown inside and out. They weren’t the ones who called the people inside the school friends and family. And they didn’t take that photo, now seared into memory, of the state trooper leading children out of Sandy Hook Elementary School following the shooting. 

Enter The Newtown Bee. 

Founded in 1877, the first edition of what was then simply known as The Bee was a four-page broadsheet that included a poem on the cover, along with a short story inquiring, Love or Pride? A yearly subscription to this weekly paper would set you back a buck.

The Bee has published continuously since June 28, 1877, changing hands once in the process —  citing financial woes, for which the Internet could not be blamed — in 1880 and emerging as The Newtown Bee. Today, print circulation is somewhere between 7,000-14,000, according to various sources. The online edition boasts something along the lines of 30,000 monthly views. A subscription is now $50 a year. 

In all those years, The Newtown Bee has published only one special edition, which came out on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, to commemorate the lives lost three days earlier.

Throughout its history, The Newtown Bee has gained a reputation for producing news that illustrates sensitivity to its community. Some say that’s due to it being a family-owned enterprise, where staff members become part of the family, too. That photo shown ’round the world was taken by Shannon Hicks, who is now managing editor at the paper.  

This year, on Dec. 14,  here’s how The Newtown Bee covered the story: ‘Ten Years Ago Today: The World Begins Responding To School Shootings With Signs Of Support And Gestures Of Kindness.’

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