Indy Celebrates Five Years of Local Reporting


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On March 30, 2019, the Amherst Indy published its first issue. It contained 10 articles, including reports on the February and March town council meetings (by Maura Keene), the town-wide potluck celebrating Town Meeting (by Art Keene), Citizens for Racial Amity Now (by Jennie McKenna), the District One Neighborhood Association (by Meg Gage), budget constraints on the proposed major capital projects (by Toni Cunningham), the need for a new design for the Jones Library (by Terry Johnson), and an interview with the first Town Council President Lynn Griesemer (by the Indy Staff).

By The Numbers
Since that first issue, the Indy has published 5236 stories, letters, opinion pieces, and events listings (1,253 since this date last year), written by 383 unique contributors (76 new contirbutors since last year). Those stories elicited 6,958 posted comments (1,517 in the last year). Some of those writers have appeared just once in our pages while others are frequent contributors.  Last month, for the period February 15 – March 15, the Indy recorded a record number 44,421 unique visits with 81,149 page views, more than doubling our tallies from this time last year. While we noted elsewhere that those prodigious numbers are due in large part to a viral article on fines incurred by the proprietors of two new restaurants in Amherst, the steady growth of our readership over the last five years is still apparent. Currently, over 2800 people subscribe to the Indy’s free weekly email digest – an increase of about 700 people from last year. To get on that email list, shoot us an email at and please note that we are in the process of changing our email software so if your digest has not been arriving with regularity, we’re in the process of fixing that. Please let us know if you are subscribed and not receiving your weekly dispatch. You can reach us at

Mission and Impact
The Indy‘s founders envisioned that it would be a community journalism project, an opportunity for Amherst residents to create an “online public square” where civic discourse would thrive, civic literacy and civic participation would be fostered, and a space where progressive politics would be promoted. Underlying this aim was a desire to keep tabs on our (then new) local government, to support  local participatory democracy, and to keep things transparent. 

The Indy was founded as and remains a free, all volunteer, independent news source in Amherst with an unapologetic progressive orientation.  The Indy works hard to present fact-based reporting of the news with integrity, and makes a clear delineation between its news reporting and opinion.  We fact check rigorously to the best of our ability and we reject the publication of personal and ad hominem attacks. When we make errors we correct them expeditiously. Our extensive use of hyperlinks allows our readers to know where our information is coming from. We aim to provide a forum for exploring new ideas and diverse opinions, and to include voices within our town that are not typically heard. The Indy is free of advertising, aspires to remain so, and publishes under a Creative Commons license.  Our Mission Statement can be found here.

As Kitty Axelson-Berry notes elsewhere in this issue, there are several important stories from Amherst that probably would not have seen the light of day without the Indy’s coverage. To her list I would add the following additional examples:

  • Jeff Lee’s incisive reporting on the Jones Library broke several stories that received initial or exclusive coverage in the Indy.  Most notable among these was his reporting on the library’s apparent suppression of the Popp report,  a professional space study by Anna Popp, a consultant with Massachusetts Library System (MLS), a state-supported collaborative providing services to libraries across the Commonwealth. Her study concluded that the library could meet all of its needs within its current footprint. The undated report is believed to have been written in 2015 and within the current context implies that the massive, expensive expansion now underway was unnecessary.  Lee was also the first to point out that the first promised payment from the Jones Library Trustees to the town for the Trustee’s share of expansion expenses, fell $1.7 million short of what was due.
  • The Indy broke the story about Council President Lynn Griesemer’s effort to withhold information from the Town Council about State Senator Jo Comerford’s pending legislation to ban in the Commonwealth the sale of all products containing PFAS, including all artificial turf.  Greisemer subsequently rushed a successful vote in support of installing an artificial turf field at the high school before the report of the Board of Health opposing such action on health and environmental grounds could be heard by the council.
  • The Indy has raised awareness of the town’s desire to sell off the Wildwood Elementary School building, rather than study its possible use for sorely needed civic space including for a senior center, a youth empowerment center, for much needed town office space, and for possible performance space.

Looking Ahead
The Indy continues to invite and enthusiastically welcome new contributors writing about all matters of interest to Amherst. When we first gathered in the fall of 2018 to discuss the prospect creating a local news source, we imagined that we would attend Town Council meetings, write up a summary of the proceedings, and post a report on the internet. We quickly learned that much of the “sausage making” of local government occurs outside of Town Council meetings and much civic work takes place outside of formal meetings. Most weeks in Amherst there is a full calendar of goverment meetings and civic activity that produce emerging stories that require ongoing engagement with local issues and with the people at the center of those issues. We strive to provide encompassing coverage but always need help in covering all of the bases of the town’s civic news. We especially seek reporters to cover the following beats: Agriculture, Arts, Community Resources Committee, Conservation Commission, Energy and Climate Action Committee, Finance Committee, Governance, Organization and Legislation Committee, Recreation Commission, Recycling, School Committees and events within the schools, and Transportation.  It’s interesting work and does not necessarily require a massive commitment of time. Would you be willing to explore the possibilities of writing about happenings in our town?  Could you help us with one of these important beats? Drop us a note at and we can explore the possibilities.

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5 thoughts on “Indy Celebrates Five Years of Local Reporting

  1. Congratulations! As long as we don’t have to eat that cake we will celebrate along with you. Once there was a WMass Indymedia but that was then and this is now. Onward!

  2. Happy Birthday. Thank you for your reporting. The town needs multiple people to cover the news, present board views, and be available to our citizens.

  3. It would be difficult to estimate the number of hours put in each week by Indy reporters and editors to attend meetings, collect more facts, write articles, edit and put together the Indy. Also to count the number of articles on key issues that were first covered in the Indy, then picked up by the other local papers with their reduced staffing. Congratulations Indy! and a big thank you! We all would be less informed without your hard work.

  4. Thank you Art and Maura for five years of the Indy. It has been my ‘go to’ source for local news articles, and diverse perspectives, including the many letters about current topics being discussed as part of our civic discourse – long may you reign in enlarging the conversations and discernment beyond Town Hall/Town Council.

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