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Letter from the editor: The importance of local journalism

Written by Cate Burgan, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Kingston Springs Gazette.


I founded the Kingston Springs Gazette on June 3, 2023 because I wanted to give back to the community that raised me. 


The leaders at Pegram Church of Christ, the coworkers at SKYKING PIZZA; every teacher at Harpeth; the volleyball coaches; the parents that drove me to countless football and basketball games – I could go on.


My point is: bringing grassroots journalism back to our community – made by and for local residents – is the best way I know how to serve South Cheatham. 


Local journalism is the heartbeat of small towns, like Kingston Springs and Pegram. For those of us who’ve lived here since before the onset of COVID-19, we knew how meaningful the South Cheatham Advocate was. And – we know its importance even more so, now that it’s gone. 


To quote Joni Mitchell, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” 


The fact is, local journalism is struggling nationwide. That’s no big surprise. Trust me, when I launched the Gazette nearly one year ago, I heard everyone’s concerns that it was DOA. But, I also heard every person who told me how glad they were to have a news source back in town – to connect with the schools, to see their grandkids playing sports, to learn about their neighbors (the list is endless!).  


One person even told me – it was stories about South Cheatham that they had read in the Gazette that convinced them to move to the area. 


Let me paint you a picture of why local journalism is integral to Kingston Springs and Pegram. 


Local news and community wellbeing


Local news bridges divides in communities, showcases opportunities for community connection, highlights community perspectives, and sheds light on how policy issues affect readers and their neighbors. 


Don’t believe it? Here’s a recent study that shows the lack of a local news source in a town has a negative impact on residents’ sense of community, with participants missing celebrated gatherings and noting increased isolation and diminished pride in their community. Findings also demonstrate the adverse impact on residents’ daily lives, declaring that “life is harder” without a newspaper. 


At the Kingston Springs Gazette, we strive to highlight community members and their stories, as well as uplift their small businesses. Most recently, we have been spotlighting local Emmy Russell’s journey on “American Idol.” In our interview with Russell, she, too, noted how grateful she was to the Kingston Springs community that raised her. Throughout her time on the show, she has aimed to embody the town’s “unconditional love and generosity.”


Local news and democracy


Research shows that the loss of local news is having an insidious effect on the nation’s democracy – contributing to polarization, decreases in voter turnout, and gaps in government accountability.  Local news is an essential component in a healthy democracy; it helps residents understand what’s at stake in local elections, equips the community to get involved in the political process (by voting, contacting officials and running for office), reduces political polarization, and holds public officials accountable.


The Kingston Springs Gazette is proud to be your trusted source of news from the heart of the Harpeth this election season. Our community lacked a news source during the 2022 election cycle, and as a result, false information ran rampant. 


The August elections for Pegram will seat a new Mayor for the next four-year term, as will the November elections for Kingston Springs. 


We will have free special election editions coming this summer and fall for both cities, in which readers will be offered the chance to get to know the candidates who may be running our local government in the near future. As Kingston Springs and Pegram continue to grow, I cannot stress enough just how important it is to be an informed voter.


Most recently, the Gazette has been proud to be the main source of reporting on the Town of Pegram’s change in zoning laws, holding community leaders accountable after a new resident group raised flags about pending plans for commercial development in Pegram’s residential areas.


We cannot continue to share community events, hold government leaders accountable, and uplift your voices – without your support. 


South Cheatham county is a special place. A loving, accepting, and warm place. A hidden gem, if you will. (That’s why everyone wants to move here!) Nonetheless, the practice of local journalism is in critical health. 


Still don’t believe it? Maybe you’re a numbers person


  • As of 2023, residents in more than half of U.S. counties have no, or very limited, access to a reliable local news source;

  • Newspapers are continuing to vanish at an average rate of more than two a week;

  • The footprint for alternative local news outlets – digital-only sites, like the Gazette – remains very small and centered around metro areas. 


But – if you’re an optimist (like me), there’s a glimmer of hope: “At a time of industry-wide economic disruption, news organizations located in affluent or growing communities with diverse sources of for-profit and nonprofit funding are most likely to develop sustainable new business models. However, committed and entrepreneurial local owners and founders can also find ways to thrive in less affluent markets.”


The odds are stacked, but I refuse to give up on my mission of serving the informational needs of South Cheatham. I only ask in return that you not give up on supporting local journalism, and the community-strengthening benefits it fosters with every article you read and share.  


You can support the Gazette (and in turn, make an investment in our community), by continuing to read, subscribe, follow us on Facebook, and advertise with us. Also, we are always looking for new writers! Join our team by emailing cateburgan@ksgazette.com.  


I want to say thank you again for supporting The Kingston Springs Gazette, as we round up on the first anniversary of our founding. Together, we have enriched the ties which bind our community together – and I can’t wait to see all that’s in store for South Cheatham in the future, as we continue to cover it.

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