Back in the 1980s, three different daily newspapers regularly had reporters covering City Hall - The Bristol Press, The Hartford Courant and the Waterbury Republican-American.
First to drop was Waterbury, about 20 years ago. By the mid-1990s its last newsboxes vanished in Bristol.
Then the Courant began trailing off its coverage over the last five or six years, though it didn't truly cease until a few months ago, when big cuts there left it too stretched to do much in Bristol.
Now the Press itself is facing closure on or soon after January 12, leaving not a single daily standing with any interest in Bristol.
As a watched nobody at all get up to speak during Monday's public hearing on two proposed new school sites, at least one of which remains controversial, I couldn't help thinking that I was seeing the city's future. Public hearings with no public. Decisions made by officials with no input. Actions taken with nobody even having the slightest idea they'd occurred.
Forget the watchdog nature of journalism for a minute. I was seeing what happens when there is no Press at all. Nobody will have a clue. The glue that's needed for the community to come to a compromise decision, the essence of our republic, is what newspapers provide. Take them out of the picture and everybody is operating in the dark. Forever.
PS: To those who think the Courant will fill the gap, you're simply wrong. Its corporate owners are in wretched shape and it's had to cut back sharply. It's only going to get worse there, too. I imagine if the Press closes, the Courant will make a stab at upping its Bristol coverage for a litle while, but it won't be sustained. Ask anybody who works there. It doesn't have the resources any longer to cover Bristol except incidentally (like a major crime).
*******Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at email@example.com