As the page turned on 2022, the Bronx Times went out into the borough to find out what readers and residents most want in their local paper this year — straight from the source.
Even as local news has struggled to survive amid growing societal constraints in recent years, readers that we spoke with highlighted the continue importance of localized news coverage and listed off issues like politics and community events as most important them.
Jim Donaldson has lived in Throggs Neck since 1991, but has worked in the neighborhood since 1968. A long-time resident, Donaldson has watched the neighborhood change over the years, and expressed concern over changes to come, particularly the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning, a four-site development to be built in the Throggs Neck area around the Super Foodtown.
The controversial rezoning will bring a 3 story, 5 story, 6 story and 8 story buildings to the area, which is currently zoned with a suburban low density growth management designation.
“I believe that this neighborhood is congested, over-congested as it is, and that will only worsen the situation,” said Donaldson, 79.
While many local residents like Donaldson listed off local politics, crime and safety as issues they wanted to read about in their local paper, some also expressed fatigue from what they feel is the constant barrage of negative news stories.
“There’s enough of that going around,” said the 86-year-old Grace Bruno when asked if she would like the Bronx Times to focus more on crime and public safety issues.
Instead of prioritizing crime coverage, many local readers stressed the importance of reporting uplifting stories and amplifying ways that they can become more involved in their communities.
“I’m interested vaguely in crime, but I’m not overly interested in crime,” said Lynn Muzsik, 65. “I think there’s too much emphasis on crime. And I think it really may be worth focusing more on good things that are happening, things that are being done for the youth locally, education-wise. I’m an artist, so I’m interested in what they’re doing in the arts … I’m kind of more interested in the things that are fruitful and good for the community.”
Zenon Aponte, 45, similarly hoped to see “basically everything about the current situation, from crime down to new progress,” covered in the local news. Known to his friends as “Z from the B,” Aponte is a life-long Bronx resident, and said that his new job working for the MTA has encouraged him to seek out more positive news stories.
“I don’t like to look at the paper and just look at the bad stuff,” Aponte said. “I’m looking at the city a little bit differently now because I’m dealing with different people everyday. You never know what’s on everybody’s mind or what’s going on.”
Aponte, who has a 10-year-old child, pointed to coverage of youth events as something particularly important to him.
Similarly, Nancy Hidalgo, of Throggs Neck, hoped to learn more about events for senior citizens in the news.
“There aren’t really a lot of activities around here for senior people. … So to just make us aware of what’s happening, what activities are going on in the neighborhood, that would be good,” Hidalgo, 61, said.
Last July, AP News reported that newspapers were dying at a rate of two per week. Since 2019, 360 newspapers have shut down, 336 of which were local weekly newspapers, according to a report by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications.
Annual newspaper revenue slipped from $50 billion to $21 billion in the same period, Northwestern said.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The Bronx Times, following an editorial reboot, captured seven awards last year at the annual New York Press Association Better Newspaper Contest – a high-water mark for the company.
The strong showing by the paper comes on the heels of a refocusing of its coverage, which began in mid-2021 with the reshaping of the newsroom. Since then, the Bronx Times has focused its editorial efforts on tackling a wider swath of the borough, gravitating its coverage toward hard news while also investing in storylines and controversies that require enterprise reporting.
The Bronx Times is one of just a third of the country’s weekly newspapers that remain locally owned and operated. And the importance of local and community-specific events, readers say, is in contrast to the nationwide decline in local newspapers as a whole.
“I’m interested in the Bronx Times because it has to do with what’s actually in the Bronx,” Aponte said.
— AP News contributed to this report
This article was updated on Feb. 11 at 10:54 a.m.
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