by Molly Kenney
The lower part of Cape Cod used to be almost completely overlooked by tourists. There, the bay and ocean beaches are only ten minutes away from each other, fresh water kettle pots dot the landscape, art galleries and community music and theater venues abound, and the bike path takes you where you need to go.
The town of Eastham is home to the Nauset Light and Coast Guard beaches, while Wellfleet has incredible galleries, the Wellfleet Harbor Actors’ Theater, and one of the last drive-in movie theaters in Massachusetts. Truro’s beaches and dunes remain largely untouched, and Provincetown retains its fishing heritage while supporting a vibrant arts and GLBTA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Ally) community. This area is a second home to me and a year-round home to many, all of whom comprise the readership of the Provincetown Banner.
Last week, GateHouse Media announced its buy-out of the Banner, another small acquisition for the huge conglomerate publisher. The Banner probably won’t make much difference to GateHouse, which already owns the majority of the Cape’s weeklies and will likely shut down the newspaper in favor of another one it already runs on the Lower Cape. But it makes a huge difference to the community the Banner serves and represents — and to those trying to hang on to independent community newspapers in the face of national conglomerates trolling for profits in a swelling sea of wealthy tourists.
The Banner was first published in 1856 and went in and out of publication until 1995, when its modern history began. It subsumed a few other community papers along the way, as its former editor Hamilton Kahn claims, in the process of becoming a stronger independent media outlet for the Lower Cape. But Kahn’s editorial in The Boston Globe last week is only a footnote in a similarly subsumed newspaper, owned by the giant New York Times Company.
The little community paper focuses on issues and events important to the Lower Cape community — the erosion of the sand dunes, marine law, the effects of tourism, Provincetown’s Family Week, local performances, and real estate development in the context of already strained resources. With the buyout will assuredly come a move away from the local focus and personal touch that defines the current coverage. Just like the droves of tourists that now overwhelm the Lower Cape in the summer, the Banner’s replacement will likely be a distanced, mass produced paper unconcerned with the roots of the area and its interests. The slow erosion of the Lower Cape’s unique culture may go as unnoticed as the Banner’s demise.
I know that this summer, when I’m in line for the incredible stuffed quahogs (or stuffies) at Hatch’s Fish Market in Wellfleet center, there won’t be any Provincetown Banner to pick up. And I bet the guy in front of me will be a loud, rich New Yorker who wants a pre-steamed, pre-cracked, pre-cleaned lobster — but only the tail.
(The photo of the Provincetown Library at sunset is by iessi via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)
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by Molly Kenney