New Year, New Editor: Announcement from The Clifton Times
In 2021 I worked with a group of longtime residents to launch this online news site for Clifton, after we all witnessed a decline in local news over a decade that came to a near grinding halt from buyouts of north jersey newspapers in 2016 and 2019.
The idea was to create a local news site to help residents stay up to date about the Clifton community. Our goal was to cover what no one else was anymore - local meetings including the Board of Education and City Council plus a calendar of Clifton events to help residents find out what’s happening in one place online. But we also hoped to share Clifton’s good news: stories about its residents and the every-day but exceptional accomplishments of Clifton schools, youth athletes, community nonprofits, resident professionals, new and growing local businesses, and volunteers tirelessly giving back to improve our city.
Over the past decade the loss of local news in the US has happened alongside a surge in social media use on sites with fake news and misinformation that rewards negative and angry content. We hoped to provide an alternative to the negativity with authentic Clifton based content that highlights the many positive aspects of our community.
So why does local news matter?
The loss of local news is not unique to Clifton. As many small newspapers were bought out by conglomerates “news deserts” were created in towns around the country. When this happens, a town’s history can be lost online. Some articles may be stored in online “archives” but are often behind paywalls and require time consuming key word searches to find stories. This means that the history of news in a town can be completely lost to a Google search by younger residents, since archived articles are not found by search engines.
Over time this lack of historical context will have a negative impact not only on a sense of community and history, but also the strength of democracy. Local elections depend on an engaged and informed community of voters. A news void creates an opportunity for bad actors to exert influence on limitless issues that impact daily life. Recent studies from Carnegie Mellon have shown that on social media "... falsehoods are 70% more likely to be shared than the truth." This effect was found to be "more pronounced in political news" and can influence votes. An MIT Sloan study found that in some circumstances "... people appreciate a candidate who tells obvious lies" due to an anti-establishment sentiment. An analysis by MIT Sloan explains the current trend of norm-breaking political candidates who are perceived by some as authentic, despite spreading falsehoods.
The Clifton Times five regular contributors has brought together over 30 years of community involvement, public service, and volunteerism from longtime Clifton residents, while also offering student journalists the opportunity to publish their writing as interns.
As the site grows, I am excited to step back as Editor and hand the reins to Tova Felder, an accomplished writer, educator, longtime Clifton home owner, and parent to CHS graduate who has expertly covered the Clifton BOE meetings, Mustang Marching Band, recent Clifton Council election among many other stories. Tova has shown a commitment to egalitarian and respectful public dialogue in her moderated Facebook group “Clifton News and Community” since 2015 and has plans to expand The Clifton Times coverage with new contributors.
Let’s wish Tova well in this new venture and support our community’s effort to provide “Authentic Local News for Clifton by Clifton” – there are many ways to participate: post public events on the calendar, or sign up for the email newsletter, help the audience grow by liking and sharing the site on Facebook. If you support the effort to save local news in Clifton, consider making a monthly or one-time donation or running an ad for your local business.
We can all choose to contribute to the story of Clifton in a positive and constructive way – I am excited to continue reading what Clifton has to say under Tova’s editorial guidance.