Keeping a print legacy alive

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Editor's note: In connection with its production of "Water, Water Everywhere," a drama set in a small-town newsroom, Oldcastle Theatre Company is exhibiting work by North Bennington photographer Peter Crabtree through October 20. Crabtree's statement about his Newsprint project follows.

A year before he died, New York Times media critic David Carr wrote a column headlined "Local Newspapers Shine Light in Society's Dark Corners."

Carr described how the journalists at The Record, a daily newspaper in northern New Jersey, broke the story linking Gov. Chris Christie's staff to the closing of the George Washington Bridge, a scandal known as Bridgegate.

Although national newspapers contributed coverage, "It's hard to overstate the importance of local journalistic vigilance," Carr wrote. "Before cable bobbleheads were debating Mr. Christie's future and bloggers were measuring the political impact of the scandal, there was a reporter and a simple question."

Carr's deep respect for the practice of daily journalism was coupled with an awareness of the threats to its future. And although he embraced the digital age, Carr remained a lover of newsprint.

"I find [value in] the curation, the ordering, the creation of a hierarchy in which we preserve a certain idea that we all hold in common about what is important now," Carr said in an interview. "There's a discipline that goes with making a physical artifact that is not the same as the web but has a significant value both to me as a consumer and to the broader culture at large."

As a former newspaperman, I share the belief that good journalism can be practiced in even the most modest circumstances and that putting out a paper day after day is critical to our democracy. And so in the spring of 2015 I drove cross-country, visiting both rural and urban newsrooms, looking to create a visual record of an industry in a time of dramatic change.

Peter Crabtree was a reporter, photographer and editor for daily newspapers in Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, for 30 years. He is co-founder of thestoryproject.net, which creates limited edition books on commission. To view more of his work, visit petercrabtreephoto.com.

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