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Editorial: The Closure of The Gazette Newspapers Leaves Huge Void in Germantown Community


When GermantownPulse.net went live on August 1, 2014, the plan was to report as much Germantown news, sports, and information as possible with a very small staff – and do that for a year, build an audience, grow a brand, and see if the Pulse could grow ever stronger.

The plan was to use that first year to build up credibility in the community. If the Pulse could be sustained in the community after a year, an editorial page would be introduced in August 2015. The plan changed after Friday, June 12.

June 12 was a very sad day for Germantown and Montgomery County. The Gazette newspapers, an institution which has been in Montgomery County for almost 60 years, announced it would stop production of the newspapers and eliminate its online presence.

This Wednesday’s issue of The Gazette will be the last one Germantown residents will find in their driveways.

This hurts. It hurts on a number of levels, not the least of which, is that it means 69 people are out of work, including 12 reporters and two photographers.

Anyone who knows a little bit about print journalism and local newspapers knows that if you want to get rich, you should look elsewhere. Anyone who has spent any time working in local weekly newspapers, could understand the constraints and limitations inherent in the company’s business model. None of the people with bylines and photo credits, or people listed in the masthead of The Gazette were getting rich working for a weekly newspaper company. Most were doing it because they loved news or loved doing something for their community. No one takes a job at a local weekly newspaper with thoughts of getting rich and famous.

The closing of The Gazette leaves a huge void in Montgomery County. It leaves the County without a newspaper, without a megaphone to trumpet the news -- good or bad -- generated in the County, without a means of reaching the community.

If you think about the impact that The Gazette has had on high school sports alone over the years, the loss is devastating. There will be no more All-Gazette teams. The loss of the accumulated knowledge of Montgomery County high school sports that is just going to go away is horrible.

Now consider the sizable portion of the population that does not use Twitter or Facebook or even the Internet to read news about their friends, neighborhood, and community. For this reason as well, this is a huge blow to Montgomery County.

But perhaps the biggest blow to the residents of Montgomery County is the loss of a voice -- the voice of The Gazette’s Opinion page. For a county in which every elected representative on the County Council is from the same political party, the loss of even the possibility of a voice of dissent with the reach of a countywide newspaper is tremendous. In Montgomery County it is essentially the end of political debate. While there are other printed and online media vehicles in the County, The Gazette could stand alone as The Voice for the over one million residents. And now that voice will go silent.

Local newspapers speak for local people about local events, local issues and LOCAL problems. Whether you agreed with what was written in the editorial pages of The Gazette or not, it was still comforting that an in-depth discussion of the issues was still possible. A well-constructed, thought provoking editorial is far more important than a 128-character Tweet.

Germantown Pulse, was never intended to replace The Gazette. It was meant to supplement The Gazette’s coverage. The Germantown Pulse understood that Germantown was big enough that there could be community news that didn’t get covered because of The Gazette’s space limitations.

With last Friday’s announcement, the Germantown Pulse will become the only source for news and information for the Germantown area. As such, the Germantown Pulse decided to begin an editorial page on the website earlier than planned in an attempt to continue to serve the community with the same journalistic tradition and integrity that community newspapers like The Gazette and so many others around the country have worked so hard to achieve – so that issues can be discussed, dissent voiced, and the community can be heard.

The editorial staff of The Gazette – the photographers, writers, and editors have set a high bar of excellence for decades and the Germantown Pulse can only hope to someday reach those heights. Becoming the voice of a community is a responsibility that the Germantown Pulse does not take lightly.

Obviously, the loss of The Gazette creates a very large void and a very large opportunity for the Germantown Pulse. The Pulse is strong, up to the challenge, and honored to have our thousands of readers along for this new phase in our growth as the true hometown news source for Germantown. The Germantown Pulse is a free and independent voice for Germantown, beholden to neither political party nor corporate share-holders. It is quite-literally your neighbor that lives around the corner who is trying to keep his finger on the pulse of the community. It is your Pulse. It is our Pulse.