Local Political Journals

In the previous post I talked about Jim Roy and his new journal, The Newburyport Liberator, which hopes to engage people in issues in Newburyport, MA.

The Newburyport Liberator definitely follows, in almost everyone’s opinion, including Jim Roy’s, in the footsteps of Tom Ryan’s political journal of 11 years, The Undertoad.

The Undertoad talked about issues, certainly. It also talked about people. And Tom Ryan had a knack for creating very entertaining drama, “heroes” and “villains,” twice a month, out of, let’s face it, for the most part, pretty ordinary folks and pretty mundane lives.

Our little seacoast town, every two weeks, was the subject of compelling drama. Joe or Josephina citizen of Newburyport, MA, could be elevated to a “hero” or a “villain,” or an accomplice to one or the other. It was riveting stuff. People bought it, because, who knew, “villainy” or “heroism” might befall or enfold about the person you might be talking to over grapes at your local grocery store.

The ordinary folks of Newburyport, MA, became “important,” frequently way larger than real life.

Often it was like reading a local tabloid, all about Newburyport, MA. And in between all that drama, Mr. Ryan also talked about issues. In between reading about the “good guys and the “bad guys,” one also learned about how government was run, who was on the city boards, who was your Newburyport City Councilor, what were the compelling issues that the people of Newburyport were fighting for. It was the stuff that one might have read, or glanced at or yawned about or ignored in one’s local print media.

Do folks pay attention about who is on a local city board or committee when it is reported in our local print media? Rarely.

But if those same people were mentioned in the Undertoad, “villains” or “heroes,” folks were engaged. They remembered those ordinary folks, because they remembered the story that could be enfolding about or around them.

The stories of ordinary folks, raised to high drama, were the hook that got people interested in reading about the issues that affected their lives.

The caveat was that folks didn’t mind being the “hero.” But they sure didn’t like it if they, or their friends or loved ones, actually became the “villain.”