I was invited to write a column for the newly reformed Republican Journal this week. They must have a short memory. Twenty-seven years ago, or so, the long-past owners and publishers of The Republican Journal refused to publish my friend Jay Davis’s farewell editorial as they forced him out as editor. I printed up a couple dozen and mixed up some wall paper paste and papered the town, including The Republican Journal building (now The Lost Kitchen), making that the most read Jay Davis editorial ever and ruining George Patterson’s week as he had to painfully remove it from the building. It was one of the first shots fired in what became the golden years of Belfast newspapers as the Waldo Independent was born shortly thereafter.

 

I became a columnist, and a guerrilla operative, for the Independent writing a weekly column for the next 13 years. Sometimes I look back, and reading those pieces I cringe and give thanks that no one like me has been around writing pretty brutal, self important and devastatingly witty commentary on the Belfast scene. As a past mayor and now city council member I got a pass from the likes of me. But Belfast has suffered to some degree for the loss.

 

Back then, people like Mike Brown and I cared deeply and rightly believed that government and its effects on our present and future mattered greatly and we, among others, pounded our representatives. While two, and then, three newspapers covered every inch of Belfast, lively discourse was an essential ingredient in the Belfast-area public square. With the passing of the other two papers, that left The Republican Journal as, again, the only paper in town and a focus on web-based reporting and a lessened respect for the importance of print, the decline was swift and noticeable.

 

As mayor I looked out on and generally had up to half a dozen reporters in the house as we presided over the “Big Box wars.” Whatever; the people were very well informed. And they bought papers by the armload. And then they stopped.

 

Today we have a new Republican Journal back in town. I welcome them back. We need a strong newspaper and web news site to keep people informed about what’s going on and what it means to them.

 

One of the single worst things the last paper did was to abolish editorials. I always read the editorial pages of every newspaper I read no matter where I travel. In Belfast the previous owner’s plan was apparently to replace informed intelligent editorials with anonymous web postings by anyone with an Internet connection. May I respectfully point out that this idea failed miserably? And ask that it never rear its wrong-headed good intentions again.

 

One of the things that has significantly contributed to the dumbing-down of our world is that idiots are no longer identified as such. When I was growing up, and for a good long time after that, you had to have more than a dumb opinion lest you be labeled as just plain stupid. The Internet has unleashed more idiocy than anyone had a right to imagine could exist in nature. I look to newspaper editors, reporters and editorial writers to have a good understanding of the topics they would assist and guide us in comprehending. I count on that.

 

At a recent facilitated meeting I attended it was posted “All ideas are good and equal. No ideas are bad.” I beg to differ; there are truly bad ideas and they are not equal to good ideas. The fair and balanced treatment of good and bad ideas is ridiculous. As a city councilor it’s important to me to have that informed and responsible editorial voice as a sounding board and to receive encouragement, push back, and a community sense of direction. Without it, we are worse off.

 

The Republican Journal is back and I have every hope they will do a good job. I thank everyone from The Free Press and Reade Brower for jumping into the breach. We need a good newspaper in Belfast and Waldo County and I know the paper will be supported. If we supported three at one time not too long ago, I am certain we can support one. I look forward to being informed, outraged and hurt by their editorials soon. And I truly hope they will not force me to wallpaper paste editorials and news around town. It could happen. I’m just saying.

 

Mike Hurley is a former Street Talk columnist; former Belfast mayor and current city council member.