Catching up with the locals

My last post on the coverage of the funeral for Rafael Ramos and the debate surrounding policing strategy left out an obvious source for discussion, the Ridgewood Times/Times Newsweekly, which has an article by Robert Pozarycki. I am sorry to have missed it because it has a good number of details local to Ridgewood and Glendale and unique to this paper. I received a link and not the printed copy, which for reasons I should discuss I do prefer—

But I should also explain how I get the papers and what the point of this series is for me at this point. I'm working with printed papers that I pick up in my daily orbit, and free ones at that. Depending on where you look, certain papers are free, others available at a newsstand or the library. But it may be that the Ridgewood Times is only available for the modest cost of an issue, so I'll add that to my weekly routine. That's a good lesson, too, about the necessity of paying for the service that otherwise we take for granted. (More on this later, as the Queens Free Press plans to produce an occasional printed edition).

On Thursday afternoons my ritual has been to walk down to Jamaica Avenue, do a little shopping and pick up the weekly newspapers. This, of course, before I pick up my two children at day care. If I wait until after picking them up, it may be a day or two before I'm able to grab the newspapers.

My routine is fairly tight and over the next days I try to devote some time to going through each newspaper cover to cover. What am I reading?

At Scaturro's Super Market and the laundrymat across the street I reliably find the Queens ChronicleThe Forum, the Courier Sun and the Queens Tribune. Usually on Friday those four papers meet the fifth, the Leader-Observer, which is mailed to us each week. You can find Queens Gazette at the post office or sometimes (not lately) at the bank at the NW corner of Jamaica and Forest Parkway.

You might say that I have a love of printed matter. I try my best to gather evidence of print culture wherever I go.

For example, recently we were in Brooklyn to visit a friend in Carroll Gardens, and on the street I saw a box with copies of the Brooklyn Courier, part of the Community Newspaper Group (CNG). And yesterday, my wife brought home copies of what was available at the Ridgewood branch of the Queens Public Library, but that's not a place we go every week.

Sometimes what I find are not weeklies at all, but occasional or irregular publications by student groups, ones dedicated to a single issue, cause, point of view or identity, such as those for the gay community, for the Guyanese community, the cinema community, or whatever. I'll note these when they are produced in Queens or  somehow relevant—for example, it would be interesting to see how the policing crisis is covered by newspapers printed abroad and distributed here, and there are more than a few.

By any measure, Queens has a vibrant local press and given how local some of them are, you really have to travel around to see more than the few published and distributed near you. According to a 2007 New York Times article, "The New York Press Association counts 55 community weeklies, and that’s not including 29 papers geared toward specific immigrant groups. (By contrast, Brooklyn has 30 weeklies, and Bronx 13.)" While many of these papers are owned by regional chains, and presumably consolidation is at work here as everywhere, they largely retain their local interest are quite distinct, and many of them, like the Leader/Observer (the Ridgewood Times), have been around for one hundred years or more.

What is the youngest weekly newspaper in Queens? This is a question it might be fun to ask and explore sometime. What about local papers from the 50s or 60s? Was there an alternative, student radical or hippie paper produced in Queens?

In these notes scribbled in the middle of a busy schedule, I will try highlight what's interesting about the newspapers I come across.

And I'm not going to limit myself to print publications, though I do love the ritual of going through each weekly from cover to cover. I'm an active follower of many of the Queens beat reporters, their publications and editors, and I try to keep abreast of what's going on — and what the coverage is — through social media, mostly Twitter. I will cover the news-oriented sites that cover Queens, such as NY1, DNAinfo and Patch, and I'll be continuing to read the handful of go-to blogs and community websites, and for me they're all playing a role, even if I'm going to focus on the institution of the printed weeklies.

Think of this as a typed version of those TV show readings of newspaper headlines—a little kibitzing and commentary here and there, and certainly nothing comprehensive. After I have a few dozen posts, I'll see what it looks like. In the meantime, please feel free to direct my attention however however you see fit—

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