I had time to kill and Googled (insert your favorite town) and the names of various newspaper URLs that cover the Delaware Valley and South Jersey. I came up with police blotter reports, high school sports scores, puff pieces based on press releases put out by the towns, and an occasional letter that took a critical look at what was going on in local government written by a resident and submitted to the "Opinions and Letters" section of the paper.
The town where I live has been run by one political party for years. They get reelected year after year, and they're connected to the county machine that's been in power the last 40+ years. The party running my town squashed a Pay-To-Play reform last year that was initiated by a group of residents trying to limit the amount of money that could be donated to the town's PACs in return for getting contracts with the town. Call it what you want, participating in the political process, buying influence, greasing palms or whatever, the residents saw it as corruption.
During the current election, the incumbent party has put out 5 mass mailings so far. The first one was a negative ad paid for by a group going by the name "(insert your favorite town) Citizens for Responsible Government" featuring a picture of Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman mocking out-of-context quotes of members of the opposition party. The opposition party has not come out with any mass mailings yet, nor is it likely they ever will, being they don't have the money – the incumbents are outspending them 30 to 1, fueled by the Pay-To-Play dollars pouring into their PACs.
There have been a number of issues in my town during the last year involving the influence of outside money over the interests of the residents. Huge tax breaks going to insiders for projects of dubious long-term value to the town, kickbacks for multimillion dollar "Green Energy" projects, political meddling in our schools by Board Of Education members who were bankrolled onto the Board by the local political machine. I've read about this in blogs and on Facebook posts written by residents who attend council and board meetings, but never seen anything about it in the newspapers.
I remember the time before the Internet took over the media, when newspapers came out with multi-part exposés on the inner workings of government, politics, business, education – the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of what was going on under the hood. They broke it down so the average person who doesn't have the time or know-how could understand. To me, that was the most important function of the newspapers: digging out the facts, cutting through the smoke screens and complexities, and giving people a look at how things really worked. Most residents don't attend council or board meetings every month, and rely on second hand newspaper accounts, or worse, campaign pamphlets mailed out before the elections.
"Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage." H. L. Mencken
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