en years ago, metro as we now know it didn’t have any words in the paper. Five years ago, it had some, alternating with the features section each issue when The Heights published twice a week. This year, it’s averaged at two pages per issue, with articles posted online throughout the week. There’s a staff and an interest in reporting on Newton and Boston. The mayor of Newton, the police, and local unions talk with The Heights about what’s going on in our community. Business owners share their thoughts on the recent vape ban, the poet laureate of Boston told us her story, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, BC ’09, allowed us to join him for the Homeless Census with other major news organizations.
BC does not exist in a bubble. The Heights has an obligation to report on the place in which we live. Over the years, things in metro have changed. It began in 1999 as marketplace, a section that focused mostly on business and technology. In The Heights’ 90th anniversary issue, it announced that politics would also find a place in marketplace.
“While other Heights sections will place an emphasis on campus life, marketplace strives to inform students on possibilities in a cosmopolitan context,” wrote Brendan Benedict, a Heights editor.
Metro was born, expanding the coverage to arts, theatre, food, and the general happenings of the city. It still covered business—Jebbit, a start-up owned by BC grads; Sistine Solar; Purr Cat Cafe. Forty food articles were posted in 2014. Some were reviews, announcements of openings, or columns about the experience of Boston dining. At the beginning of the transition, most articles were short features about groups in the city and what they were doing: organizations that brought offices to Boston, a post-production facility for film, renovations happening at the Boston Public Library.
Today, metro covers consistent beats and breaking news, more specifically in Newton than in Boston. Some things draw our reporters downtown: the Straight Pride Parade in August, the Climate Strike, the Women’s March. More often, though, we stick to the blocks around campus.
The Newton elections for city councilors and school committee members were covered by new reporters—each candidate was reached out to and interviewed for a short profile if they replied. We covered a debate and the results for all seven of the wards in Newton. Vape bans, a statewide and local issue that has seen tangible effects in Newton, are constantly covered. This year, the MBTA warranted its own category online as the majority of things we wrote about were T related. In print, to report on the closings scheduled for this winter and fall, we have a “T Closure of the Week” graphic with the info posted underneath.
At City Hall, reporters cover proposals in committees and city council votes. The mayor’s decision to veto the salary raise of councilors—and then the city councilors overturning her veto—was all reported in The Heights. Columnists were selected to write for the metro selection this semester for the first time. They’ve written about the vape ban, a bill in Boston that aims to end natural hair discrimination and local housing in Newton, among other intriguing topics. The columns give students a chance to really consider what is going on in the city, and prompt their peers to do the same with their writing.
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ocal newspapers are closing—more than 2,000 in the past decade and a half, and for those still open, their staff is being slashed and their circulation is dwindling. Large companies are buying them and some college newspapers are trying to fill in the gaps. In October, The New York Times wrote about The Michigan Daily being Ann Arbor’s only newspaper—it’s been that way for a decade, and it’s the University of Michigan’s student newspaper. The paper has 300 staffers, four of which are dedicated city reporters.
The Heights does not have hundreds of reporters, and we don’t print every day. The Boston Globe is our neighbor and Patch and Wicked Local work in Newton. We have company in our reporting. But as the rest of The Heights provides a record of what is going on at the University, metro is the record of the context.
Boston College’s graduate students have been fighting to unionize—it went to the Boston City Council where city councilors showed their support. In Newton, the teachers union is currently fighting for a contract.
BC students are calling for divestment, with groups like EcoPledge and Climate Justice BC spearheading the eco-friendly movement. Newton is working to decrease its carbon footprint with its Climate Action Plan and introducing a composting program to the city.
Even with the addition of local news reporting, metro is still doing the fun stories that it has been doing since its creation. We write about Boston theatre, covering shows with topics of race and education, childhood, and mental health. They go to restaurants, do coffee guides, and interview owners. They go to museums and speak with artists about their work.
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etro works with our multimedia team to make metro a digitally engaging section—from videos of the women’s march to the video compilation from our recent Voice of the T profile, metro has plenty of opportunities to work with our creative team. It gives a glimpse into something people on campus might not be used to seeing—not to mention the city is rife with options for good videos, something that could be hard to find on campus. Multimedia has plans with metro for the future: capturing the voices of politicians and including them with their quotes in the article is one step toward an even more engaging digital experience.
Journalism is changing: college and local. Local newspapers are closing. College newspapers are competing with Twitter and other social media platforms as the main mode of communication in schools. Metro must adapt to both changes. It has been changing over the years, and it will always continue to change.
The section is young, and it’s still being molded. There is more local news to be reported on, more culture to be featured, and more people to hear from. Any step toward preserving and furthering local coverage is a good one.
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor