Editor’s Note: We received more than 40 letters in response to last week’s front page story on the CHCA’s Board of Director’s meeting in which several board members claimed that the Local’s content was responsible for a slip in advertising sales, leading to a decision to postpone passage of the paper’s budget for three months. There is no way to print all the letters that we received in a single issue. We will publish everything we received online this week and print more letters in this space next week. Though this collection is not balanced in its support for the Local, we received no letters that agreed with comments that the paper’s content is responsible for poor ad sales.
— Pete Mazzaccaro
Here we go again
Here we go again. What is it about certain members of the CHCA board that they feel compelled every so many years to attack the Local?
I refer to the April 3 front-page story in which we learn that one or more members believe the paper is “a failure” and (my personal favorite) “a content rat hole” with “content issues.” Their definition of “issues” seems to be that not every story is aimed at pleasing local businesses. As one member was quoted as saying, “the content doesn’t reflect what advertisers want to see.”
Let’s examine one specific criticism: that there is too much negative news. I’m a journalism professor, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that this is a ridiculous claim. Look, for example, at what else was on Page One: A feature describing a school softball team’s trip to Florida, a profile of a new construction company, and an informative story about a town hall meeting. Gee, how can we bear so much negativity?
And then there was the Page 3 story announcing that the Local had just won four more awards from the Pennsylvania News Media Association. All four winning entries were positive features.
Some board members would have us believe that such “negative” coverage is to blame for a decline in advertising revenue. But this is an industry wide problem. It won’t be solved by gutting the product.
The Local – as defined by the CHCA’s own website – is a newspaper. It is not, as one member put it, “the mouthpiece” of the CHCA. The Local is published by the CHCA, which is not the same thing. A newspaper publishes the news, warts and all.
If you want to start your own PR newsletter, be my guest. Just don’t try funding it with my dues.
Not right on Local
Richard Snowden is responsible for much of the beauty and distinction that is so noticeable along Germantown Avenue today. The shops and buildings he has introduced to the community have all been handsome additions, and I would agree with many of his opinions. But not on the Local.
It seems to me to be a fine newspaper for a small community like ours in that it offers readers information about the community that they would not find elsewhere and does so in an intelligent, interesting way. I don’t see the paper’s content as being “primarily negative,” as Mr. Snowden does. In fact, most of the paper’s stories seem to promote local causes.
The decline in print ad revenue is definitely worrisome, and I can understand Mr. Snowden’s concern, but with all the empty storefronts along Germantown Avenue and the slow recovery from the recession, it seems almost inevitable. There just aren’t as many advertisers to buy ads. I don’t know what a change in the content of the Local could do to change that fact. Perhaps a completely revolutionized Local might attract more advertising revenue, but until the shops along Germantown Avenue start to fill in, I doubt if it would make much difference.
Mary Sue Welsh
Local comments are wrong-headed
My family moved to Chestnut Hill a year ago and joined the association from which we receive the Chestnut Hill Local. I was troubled by the recent comments from some members of the association about defunding the newspaper.
I worked for more than 20 years in major media organizations, including the Associated Press, Newsweek, and ABC News. I am a professor of journalism at Temple University. For a number of years, I worked with community journalism at philadelphianeighborhoods.com, the award-winning program at Temple.
I find the local newspaper informative and useful.
I think the newspaper provides great information to the community. I find the comments of some members of the association wrong-headed and ill-advised.
Please continue your support for the newspaper.
Department of Journalism
The only paper that she reads
“Our local paper is a failure. I’m not going to vote in favor of what is a content rat hole.”
I have to admit that I was shocked and horrified to read this comment about the Chestnut Hill local.
Our paper a failure? Are you talking about my wonderful little Chestnut Hill Local paper? The only paper that I read? Yes that’s right. I may be one of the few people in the Western Hemisphere who does not, and never did, read newspapers. I don’t like them, they depress me, and I don’t have a television either.
But I DO read the Chestnut Hill Local, every week. In fact I even subscribe to it. Yes, that means that I pay real money to have this wonderful gem of a paper come right to my door. And then I pass it on to my neighbors who love it, too.
When my mother was alive, I subscribed to it for her, and it was mailed all the way to Oklahoma for her reading pleasure. She loved it too. So I can’t for the life of me understand how our paper could be a failure or something worse than that. I only hope that the above comment was taken out of context. I’ll assume that I don’t understand what it meant.
But just in case, it was anything less than totally appreciative of our wonderful paper, let me take a moment to tell you what I love about it. It’s real. It’s real stories, real conflicts, real dramas and real resolutions. Week after week and year after year, I see in the paper all of the things that I know are going on around me but could remain hidden if I didn’t get to read about them. I’m not a lover of Peyton Place-type dramas, but the stories in the Local are really happening.
We do have a certain drama here. We’re often at odds with each other. We’re passionate about things, a bit stodgy about others, but it’s all cool. That’s what makes Chestnut Hill, well, so … Chestnut Hill. It’s part of our flavor.
I admire Pete, Len, Larry and all of the other dedicated folks who help make this newspaper tick and keep on running. Pete, I personally don’t know how you do it. I would die under the strain of it all! But you keep a good attitude and an unbiased perspective, and I truly admire that.
So just in case any of the deep appreciation of our local paper were to get unnoticed or lost in the shuffle, I’m here to say thanks to you all. I love the paper and appreciate all the hard work you do. I look forward to it showing up at my door every week.
Thank you for what you do, and please keep on putting up with us Hillers and putting the words and stories out for us all to share.
The Local has very few peers
I was very disappointed in reading Mr Snowden’s comments about the Local, which I look forward to reading everyweek. My aunt, a subscriber who lives outside the city, and I email each other every week about stories that we have read in the Local and want to share with each other.
As a regular advertiser, weekly reader and someone who contributes stories several times a year, I feel that our paper is a wonderful asset to our community and that it has very few peers.
Almost five years ago I wrote a story about Jules Csatary who was known as “Unidred” for his one lone dreadlock that he wore as he routinely walked the streets of Chestnut Hill. While most everyone who saw him assumed he was homeless and looked through him or the other way, very few knew what an amazing story there was in this poor man.
I met his mother when I was asked to sell her house on Mermaid Lane, and she told me of her and Jules’ story, his mental illness, and showed me his brilliant art work and wove an amazing tale of their life escaping the Hungarian Revolution and the many trials and tribulations they endured over decades, including his schizophrenia and ultimately his death.
This story generated dozens of letters to the editor and triggered a front page story in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Melissa Dribben because of the response it received. A man whom everyone saw but knew little of had a story and an amazing artisitic talent, and his legacy would have been unknown if the Local had not published this story.
I am honored to have been a part of giving Jules and his mother Marguerite a chance to let the area know who he really was and make many look at the homeless and mentally ill differently since then. This is one of many examples of positive and good that immediately came to my mind in defense of the paper’s bashing by Mr. Snowden.
Keep up the good work, Chestnut Hill Local. There are far many more of us who treasure you as an integral part of our community than those who think negatively of you.
Local should tell what’s going on
I couldn’t believe what I read in the Local last week about the business community not being happy about what the Local writes. Is it a newspaper or an advertiser? If the businesses want a marketing piece, then they should just develop one. It’s important to have local newspaper with actual news.
Not all news is good. Chestnut Hill, while being a place that I dearly love, is not perfect. To have the paper reflect only the items that the local businesses deem complimentary, is to deny that there is room for improvement, and to offer no forum for discussion.
Lately the Local has bored me to tears. If it didn’t come to me courtesy of my CHCA membership, I would discontinue it. I’ve grown weary of the rash of self-congratulatory letters to the editor of late, and front-page promotion of the pricey private school athletic teams. Where is discussion of what’s going on with the vacant stores and the empty eyesore that was once Magarity Ford?
Keep the Local a newspaper, and let Mr. Snowden et al produce whatever marketing tripe makes them happy.
Please don’t harm the Local
While it is true that the Local has handsomely contributed to the community association is coffers over the years, even during my term as head of the Local Management Committee, that was never the purpose nor the real value of the publication.
The Chestnut Hill Local over these many years has been an exceptional community asset. It has been and will be of inestimable value to Chestnut Hill. Please do not harm it.
Local has been valuable resource
I have enjoyed reading the Local for years and look forward to receiving it each week. I am fascinated by the interesting people it showcases, and I always try to frequent the featured shops and restaurants.
In addition, like many of my friends, I rely on the classifieds to find competent people to help with home and yard issues. Even closer to home, the Local has been a valuable resource in helping my organization find wonderful homes for many, many rescued cats.
I feel connected to a wonderful community through its presence, and I hope it will continue to receive the support it needs to fulfill its important role in our community.
Founder, Brenda’s Cat Rescue
Commitment to excellence
After reading the article in last week’s Local in which a member of the CHCA board referred to the paper as a “content rat hole,” I wanted to take a moment to commend the staff’s continuing commitment to editorial excellence, at a time of great challenges for print publications of all sizes and in all communities.
As both a part of the Chestnut Hill Community Association and a news outlet charged with covering it, the Local is in the sometimes difficult position of both advocating for the community and keeping that community informed.
I have long been impressed, not just by the quality of the coverage, but by the balance and sensibility editor Pete Mazzaccaro and his staff to bring to bear on those sometimes conflicting responsibilities.
Shutting down avenues of discussion, whether in agreement or not, is against openness and freedom of speech. Those are things that this “ratty” real estate pseudo-potentate clearly does not support. I’m sure he’d get on well with other dictatorially-minded individuals.
‘Picked on and bullied’
How disappointing to read about the Local. It sounds like it’s being picked on and bullied. Sure, everything and everyone needs improvement, but basically this is an interesting and informative newspaper, run by talented and caring people. Let’s hope that efforts will be made to help and not hinder.
Advertising decline affects print media
There has been a traditional struggle regarding the independence of the Local in terms of its content and editorial freedom while under the budget scrutiny of the CHCA. I suggest that any decline in advertising revenue is likely a reflection of the overall decline of print media. I found it difficult to even find the classified section of the Inquirer today.
I intentionally am not going to blame any individual for this new scrutiny – it is way too obvious. Frankly the monetary status of the Local seems much stronger than it was say, seven years ago.
I humbly ask what the CHCA is trying to do with its investigation of the Local. Do you really want day-to-day oversight, or can you again trust those that have served you well for maybe 10 years.
I liked the investigative nature of the Local of years past. If there is any criticism due – the LOCAL has perhaps lost its critical edge. The CHCA, the Business Association and even the BID are apparently blameless. Bottom line, the Local has been tamed in support of our “Greene Towne.”
So (for those that want to control the Local) I suggest you have already won. What more do you want?
Local content not negative
On the first page of today’s Local, Richard Snowden is described as saying that both the commercial and the residential community felt that the content of the Local was primarily negative. I have no recollection of being interviewed by him, as part of the residential community, so I’m puzzled as to how he knows my views! Perhaps he has some new technology not yet revealed to the rest of the world. Some Thought-Tap, perhaps?
For the record, I have a reflexive negative response to anyone claiming to speak for me – something about that “taxation without representation” gene, maybe?
I found it also interesting for such a “primarily negative” paper to have received four Keystone Press Awards, each for an article that was clearly very positive!
My own experience is that these days the Local is quite full of positive articles on a number of topics. So before a great deal of time is spent fixing the content, it should perhaps first be determined if in fact it is broken.
It would be interesting to have a little background information on how Richard Snowden came to his conclusion, and when he last read the Local.
It’s a ‘treasure’
A “content rathole?” From a board member? It makes me wonder why he’s serving on the Chestnut Hill Community Association board at all.
The Chestnut Hill Local is a big part of a living, breathing community, and I’m surprised he can be so disparaging towards this treasure. I don’t live “on the Hill,” but every time I read the Local, I’m reminded what an important part of the larger community Chestnut Hill is, with the Local at its center. I hope it will continue for many years to come.
The Dovetail Artisans
‘Destructive and patently untrue’
Mr. Snowden’s remark was an awful, destructive comment and patently untrue. The Chestnut Hill Local consistently runs constructive, resourceful and interesting articles. Does that man know anything about the role of a community newspaper?
Three cheers for the Local
Three cheers for the Chestnut Hill Local! I will forever be grateful for your support of my nonprofit’s animal welfare programs – for the sake of the animals and because you broadcast the local children’s efforts to help them.
I am also thrilled when I see the attention you draw to animals in need of homes and when you share stories about people and their animal companions. Small papers like yours create a sense of community and clearly promote compassion for animals – something I will always be the first to support!
Coverage in Local helped attendance
The Chestnut Hill Local prints so many wonderful articles about cultural events in Northwest Philadelphia. The Local consistently covers upcoming events at Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion. This coverage has increased visitation and attendance at the Mansion’s Victorian Theatre productions, Victorian workshops and lectures.
In 2013, the Local was the first to feature an article about the Mansion’s “Upstairs Downstairs” interpretation, which focuses on the lives of women during the Victorian era. Upstairs Downstairs went on to win the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Award for Excellence in Educational and Public Programs. Chestnut Hill Local was on top of this story.
Just this week, the Local published a wonderful story about the Mansion’s creative director, Josh Hitchens.
Also, I personally enjoy reading reviews of local restaurants as well as articles about students and schools in our area. I know that my friends in Wyndmoor also read the Local to find out about upcoming events, concerts, etc. The Local also has been helpful in finding homes for displaced dogs and cats.
I am very busy, so sometimes the Local is the only newspaper I have a chance to read.
And Len Lear is always so convivial and pleasant.
Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion
Pleasing everyone pleases no one
“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.” – Benjamin Franklin
We are a nation founded by smart people, one of whom was a notable newspaper writer and publisher. What would Franklin say about someone who wants to shut down a paper to make it more agreeable?
The Chestnut Hill Local (just like the same named train) is part of what makes Chestnut Hill special. No paper pleases everyone. That’s not the purpose of a newspaper. It is a forum for the community, an information exchange, a place to air grievances, a neighbor’s back fence and a place to conduct commerce. A newspaper that pleases everyone would in fact please no one, because just who needs to read what you already know?
No, the Chestnut Hill Local is not The New York Times or even The Philadelphia Inquirer. It is actually something more. To the residents of this fair community, it is a voice, where local concerns and interests are front and center. There is also information about arts and artists, shops and sales and Chestnut Hill’s unique citizens with their wide range of accomplishments, intellect and opinions.
Today all printed media are feeling the financial pinch of new technology. People are using their computers and cell phones to access news and information and to sell their wares. It’s a sad reality for all newspapers and magazines. Revenues are down for all papers across the board and around the nation. It’s not due to content; it’s due to public trends. The solution may be in making the paper even more available to our technologically savvy public. Maybe a Chestnut Hill Local app is an answer.
But what would life here be like without our special paper? Chestnut Hill would just melt into the rest of Philly. And that’s not us.
As a merchant who has a formidable stake in the success of Chestnut Hill, I say let’s take pride in the fine newspaper that carries the flag of this community. Let’s delight in that fact that it’s well-written, timely and specific to our friends and neighbors. Let’s also be accepting of the fact that Benjamin Franklin well knew that it will never please everyone, but ending it will surely please no one.
Long live the Chestnut Hill Local. Long live Chestnut Hill.
Owner, Cin Cin Restaurant