By Tom Lamia
In mulling over possible topics for yet another column melding the virtues and fates of small town life on the coast of Maine and the essence of life among the residents of the West Village, I chose this topic as one that celebrates community. My thoughts have the virtue of being complimentary to both communities and the urgency of the need for praise of each.
The trigger for this is my sincere and deep respect for George Capsis, the Publisher of this newspaper and my admiration of his skills as a journalist. My praise is not, and should not be taken to be, sycophantic or uncritical, but even if it were it is needed and deserved. Without George and his bulldog qualities, the West Village and our place in it would be diminished.
In the August issue of WestView News, George wrote of his family connection to Izmir, once Smyrna, an ancient center of trade and culture on the west coast of Turkey, and the ancestral home of all who go by the name of Capsis. The story was well told and timely. What it was not was bitter or vindictive—qualities that are characteristic of much of what is written by Greeks and Greek émigrés. George is a professional. It must have taken several hard swallows of ethnic pride to lay out the detailed description of his experience with his cousin, who opened the door for the 1988 visit that he and George made to Izmir without demeaning any Turk, past or present.
These thoughts came to me as I read George’s recent appeal for financial support for this newspaper. The appeal is certainly justified on the merits of the product and its importance to our community. One wonders why it is needed, notwithstanding the obvious devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic in the world, and in our nation, city and community. The pandemic has sucked much of the life out of the local news because of the dominance of that news in every news market. How much attention can be left over from the daily inundation of excellent product from newspapers, television (in all of its varied forms), podcasts, magazines and all media? We do know, from the many media sources seeking our attention, all manner of fact and opinion about the pandemic, much of it false or repetitive. What we need and do not have is more of what is happening within a several block perimeter of our homes, whether or not pandemic related. That news and opinion is what WestView News offers, as its readers well know.
In the ten-mile radius of my home in South Bristol, Maine, there are, I suspect, more local news sources than there are in the West Village. There is, for example, a weekly newspaper that is delivered to my door in the post every Thursday. It also fills the newspaper racks of local stores and sells out within a few days at 75 cents per copy. My yearly subscription is $35. This week’s Lincoln County News carried, on its front page, in addition to interviews with local COVID-19 victims and political profiles for the coming election, the news that the Seagull Shop on Pemaquid Point had burned to the ground the day before. That shop had stood for 83 years and was known to visitors from across the country and beyond because it was adjacent to the Pemaquid Point Light, a tourist mecca. But for the local newspaper, the loss of this local shop, and its place in the conscience of my neighbors, would have had the impact of one hand clapping.
There are many newspapers that circulate in my Maine community: Some are free, like The Coastal Journal (for island residents) and The Working Waterfront (covering commercial fishing). Both are well written, timely and popular. They appear to subsist off ads, but not entirely. There are community interests that subsidize their publication.
Daily newspapers of high quality are also sold locally: The Portland Press Herald, The Bangor Daily News, The Kennebec Journal, the Lewiston Sun-Journal, and others are published within 70 miles of my home. Each is available for purchase on the day of publication at local stores. The major New York and Boston dailies are on the newsstands daily as well, but their news is often a day late. Of course, none of these papers carries news local to South Bristol, Maine.
Like politics, all news is local to those directly affected. To have any community’s moments in the sun (or the shade) go unreported for lack of a local news source inflicts an insidious cost on the community, at once or over time.
The WestView News coverage is worthy of the attention of even the most sophisticated reader. The West Village has welcomed and nurtured great lives and great institutions that have left indelible impressions on our streets, buildings and memories. George Capsis has corralled and cultivated a staff of writers that have earned your attention and respect. Let’s keep them at their task by supporting the enterprise.
I would like us all to reflect on the importance of our monthly newspaper and act to sustain it. A subscription would be a good place to start. Pay for it and it will survive. Other actions include improving our local coverage by your comments, ideas, and reporting, by letter or email. These are my suggestions. They have not been shared with George or his news or editorial staff. If you have your own suggestions, I urge that you provide them directly.