A Beacon is a light in darkness, a device designed to draw our attention to where it is needed. In Worcester, we’re lucky that there are a great many people doing just this, in print, in activism, in non-profits, in community with one another in many ways.
Too many places that hold power, however, diffuse this light- from a City Hall that equivocates instead of enacting real change, to a School Administration laden with disturbing and outdated racial stereotypes about our children, to a paper of record that openly rejects professional standards that are designed to protect vulnerable populations.
Over the years, many attempts at a space like this have been launched- we’ve sat in livingrooms, gathered online, and brainstormed how to have a truly independent voice for news and analysis in the great city of Worcester. We could certainly spend more time doing that now- fundraising, writing by-laws, gathering a team. The moment is too urgent, though, to not take the leap, even if our wings are still being crafted.
Who Are We?
We are a group of dedicated volunteers from a cross section of Worcester communities- age, neighborhood, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other aspects of our lived experiences. We believe that in order for our community to move forward to a more equitable future, the people need and deserve quality information about what is happening in our city and what else could be possible.
What Are We Doing?
A couple of things-
(1) we don’t want to reinvent the wheel. There are some great local journalists, analysts, bloggers, and organizations that are sharing important information, perspectives, and tools for community members to effectively engage with one another and those in power. So we’re aggregating some of those here, and spotlighting the voices of organizations directly, to alert you what we’re reading and hope that you support those efforts (like subscribing to Bill Shaner’s newsletter or setting up monthly giving to Clive MacFarlane’s WoostaChat) as well! DISCLAIMER- While we are excited to share all of these different voices with you, they are not in any way affiliates of the site, and we’ve worked to ensure that we’re crediting them and sending you to THEIR sites. If you’re mad at us, they didn’t do it!
(2) We’re developing original content- through research, analysis, and Freedom of Information Act requests, we’ll be originating important reporting that we know is going untouched. To that end, we want to hear from you! If you have things that you think a team needs to follow up with, we want to hear it! As we continue to build our capacity, we’ll have more opportunities to build out this kind of community reporting.
(3) We want to publish YOUR words. Many of us have probably been told at some point to write a Letter to the Editor about issues that we’re passionate about or an article that upset us. We’re hoping you’ll send them to us. We’re calling this section Letters to the Community, because we want to get your voice directly to our neighbors and decision makers. Check out our guidelines below to decide if it’s a good fit.
(4) We hope to deepen and grow direct community engagement! There’s a lot of cool ideas on this team and as people have space to dig in, we’ll be excited to share them with you- from podcasts to weekly community newsrooms, to building community reporting teams, there’s so much cool stuff coming!
What We Print
There are so many things we could share about why we hope what we publish here is different. One of those things, though, is making sure things are ACCESSIBLE (which will be a growth space, we know). So we’re keeping this simple. This will serve as our guidelines, and those we use to determine what we’ll print from others- THINK before you speak:
Is is True? Too often, conversations about people’s real, lived experiences come down to false questions of opinion. When publications explicitly focus on lifting up voices that have been historically marginalized, we’re often accused of bias. Bias is unavoidable. It is human to filter what we see, hear, and do through our lived experiences. Still, we can interrogate our own biases, be transparent about them, and root any FACTUAL statements we make in sourced, logical arguments. We commit to that. It is critical.
Is it Helpful? Does it give people information that they need to make good decisions, advocate for themselves and others, become more engaged? Information itself is critical, and so is the analysis and explanation to make it usable. We commit to sharing relevant, timely facts and analysis to help you make sense of what is happening in our community and what you can do to get involved.
Is it Inspiring? Does the information we provide here build your own sense of what’s possible? Does it make you feel connected to others? Does it make you feel depressed, hopeless, and angry? Or does it, while never ignoring the hard truths, provide pathways to a better Worcester? We are committed to finding ways to speak truth to power in ways that make you feel more possibility.
Is it Necessary? While being transparent about bias is important, so is being transparent about framing- or how we even decide what is newsworthy. Too often, stories about powerful, positive work in our community are dismissed because they are not news. This is not a site for breaking news- you will rarely find information about car accidents, robberies, house fires. You will find analysis of decisions that are or will impact your life, events that you can get involved with, small businesses you can support, and critical context about the biggest conversations in the city’s news cycle. If it will help you be a more informed, engaged, connected community member, it is necessary.
Is it Kind? Some may take issue with this, so it’s important to explain what we mean. Kind does not mean tone policing people who are speaking truth to power. It does not mean censoring people’s righteous anger. It does mean questioning whether we are lifting up the humanity we want to see in others. It does mean strictly enforcing that what we publish here does not punch down and say harmful and hurtful things about people for no reason. Asking for accountability is not unkind. Using strong language or dismissing/decentering the feelings of those who have power to make change is not unkind. Swearing is not unkind. It is important to say this because too often, a focus on enforcing polite conversation takes precedence over having a truthful conversation. Kindness is not about glossing over hard truths, it is about recognizing that we are all in community with one another, and should attempt to invite human growth when possible. Power always matters, and will always be taken into account when deciding how to enact this principle. It also means that we do not print sexist, racist, fatphobic, ableist, or otherwise discriminatory jokes or comments.