Not quite twenty years ago, in the dead of winter, in a small newspaper room in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, Russia, I sat reading New Year’s Eve coverage for the years 1903 until 1923 in bound volumes of three or four dozen newspapers from the time.
A city of Petersburg’s size had many tens, even hundreds, of separate papers – newspapers for businessmen, for housewives, for industrial workers, for Orthodox clergy, conservatives, liberals, and newly-arriving peasants. There were penny papers, and Jewish papers, evening papers, and morning papers. There were underground papers, papers for the newly-literate, and for the intelligentsia.
And although there was no formal right to free speech, and all of the papers that were not published underground, even before the Revolution, had to be approved by censors – nevertheless the sum total of so many voices was a remarkably rich and critical conservation about government, culture and economy.
It’s this public conservation – and the role of the press – which the German political theorist Jurgen Habermas, in the aftermath of the Second World War, understood as fundamental to a healthy democracy.
In the years just after 2001, I remember longing for a press as good as what Russia had until 1918.
The Connecticut Examiner is my best effort, a labor of love, amidst the greater events of 2019 and 2020 to foster healthy democracy, civility, and informed decision-making. That our home base, Old Lyme, enjoyed by far the highest participation rate in the state for the last election, I think is proof positive of our work.
Since launching in late May, CT Examiner has gained regular readers in all but two towns in Connecticut, and a remarkably strong readership in New York and Hartford. We’ve led press coverage on a variety of issues, and we’ve come under sustained DoS attack and kept publishing with barely a hiccup.
In 2020, the staff at CT Examiner will be offering in-depth coverage of municipal budget-making in the region; more interviews with decision-makers; more coverage of food and culture; we’ll be extending our coverage of education policy and spending. Expect expanded coverage of Essex, Old Saybrook and Chester.
So keep your letters, news tips and ideas coming, and let’s make 2020 a year to remember!