Apr 012012

Imagine our surprise when we opened The Groton Herald this week to see that it had devoted nearly a full page of its slim edition to an unsigned, misinformed attack editorial. Under the guise of what the piece called “community journalism,” The Groton Herald managed to both attack the publication and staff of The Groton Line, yet never mention us or our online news site by name.

Let”s set the record straight on a number of the editorial”s points. First, we understand the impetus was their staff”s fairly recent discovery that the paper”s management had failed to follow basic business and technology standards. At some point in the distant past, they secured the url http://www.grotonherald.com . Most anyone in business knows that when you secure an online name, that it is a good idea use the real name of your business –- The Groton Herald — with that “The” — as it is at the top of the printed sheet.

The Groton Line did follow this practice. Because The Groton Herald does not have a web site, we went ahead and purchased www.TheGrotonherald.com, with the knowledge that anyone typing t-h-e-g-r-o-t-o in a search engine will hit an auto-fill point – and we thought it should point to a Groton news source. We were not competing with the local print paper… because it has no online presence.

Now, back it up a few years. After years of growing success of the free Talk About Groton email list, which now has just under 1500 subscribers (including other news media), founder Art Campbell began to consider creating an online newspaper that would go beyond opinions and use the best practices of journalism to tell local stories. He approached The Groton Herald about a collaborative venture that would give the less-than-thriving paper a vibrant new online presence. They were not interested. Apparently they felt that online news was not important to the people in town. So we went our own way, and we’re quite happy with where we are.

Several weeks ago, we were approached by The Groton Herald“s editor, Russ Harris, who asked if we would transfer the domain name of thegrotonherald.com to the paper. I responded that we would certainly entertain a sale of the domain. However, we were still interested in a collaboration. Though The Groton Herald”s editorial doesn”t mention it — there are two proposals on the table. Russ Harris chose not to respond to the proposals but rather used his paper to deliver a personal attack. Really, Russ? Is that how community people talk to each other?

This brings me to other points of the two The Groton Herald editorials: that somehow The Groton Line (unnamed) represents “urban” journalism. “Urban,” in The Herald”s lexicon, seems to equate with “evil.” So what”s urban? Art Campbell is the heart and soul of both Talk About and The Groton Line. Art has a journalism and technology background and has lived in town for more than two decades.¬¬ His daughter went through the schools here.

Unlike other media covering our town, Art is a volunteer. Like other volunteers who serve the town — firefighters, board members, selectmen — he wanted to provide a free service. So The Groton Line was born. After two years, The Groton Line frequently has more daily readers than The Groton Herald has in a week. Our weekly average is usually more than 4,000 views. Clearly, folks in Groton want online news.

About that urban thing… I have to believe that Russ has decided to attack me personally (unnamed again). Prior to moving to Groton five years ago — because I fell in love with and married Art — I lived in New Haven, Connecticut — admittedly, a city. I wrote for community papers, and The New York Times,earlier in my career. The editorial seems to equate The New York Times with urban (bad) vs. community (them) journalism. I find this mystifying. For the record, I grew up in a town smaller than Groton and lived there the first 22 years of my life. My father was the (volunteer) fire chief and ambulance driver. I”m a small town girl who had the benefit of working for one of the best newspapers in the country.

The Groton Herald made a mistake in leaving its URL on the table. We”ve offered, several times, to help them correct that unfortunate error. So Russ, be a good neighbor and give us a call.
There is room for everyone in town. We are always impressed by Hiroko Sato”s Groton coverage for The Lowell Sun. The Groton Landmark provides yet another voice. We are proud of The Groton Line, and we”re here to stay.

Betsy Fitzgerald-Campbell
Executive Editor