The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Brookline.News founders named 2024 Women of the Year

Brookline.News founders attend the Brookline Women of the year event on Wednesday, March 20 to accept their award as Brookline Women of the Year. The award was issued by the Brookline Commission for Women for their efforts to restore professional journalism to Brookline.

In the spring of 2022, Brookline was a desert. Not the hot and sandy kind, but one where people did not have a source of reliable information on local affairs. It was a news desert. The Brookline Tab had shut down, which meant that there was a lack of independent news organizations to cover town government, local events or anything important going on in Brookline.

Six women—Ellen Clegg, Julie Rafferty, Iris Adler, Colette Phillips, Irene Sege and Betsy Tarlin—began meeting on Sege’s back porch, with the common goal of bringing more formal journalism to Brookline. They raised money, developed a website, hired an editor and formed Brookline.News in six months. These women were named 2024 Brookline Women of the Year by the Brookline Commission for Women for their successful efforts to restore professional journalism to Brookline.

Rafferty, co-chair of the steering committee that made Brookline.News possible, said the hardest part of this process was convincing people that their efforts were worth donating to.

“It’s a big challenge both to raise money and convince skeptics that you’re going to be around in six months,” Rafferty said. “But six months passed, and we’re still around and, in fact, hiring more people.”

As the steering committee raised money, they held house parties in different regions of Brookline. Clegg, co-chair of the steering committee, said the committee asked for opinions from people in Brookline to guide their process.

“We asked people, ‘What do you miss in news coverage? What do you want to see?’ and the answers ranged from school sports in Brookline to climate change to politics to the School Committee meetings and the arts,” Clegg said.

The Brookline Commission for Women honored the group of six women from Brookline.News, as well as Mindy Paulo, Director of English Language Education for Brookline public schools, and Lynda Kirby, who is retiring after 37 years of working in the public schools. The Commission made the decision over about two months, sifting through and debating over the 28 nominations.

Elizabeth Stillman, chair of the Brookline Commission for Women, said democracy relies on fact-based journalism, which Brookline.News helped to bring back to Brookline.

“The press is incredibly important. Journalism is incredibly important. Democracy only works when the public is educated, and without journalism, there is no education for the public,” Stillman said. “We want to celebrate these women for being the light that we need to continue being part of democracy.”

The Brookline Tab, owned by Gannett Media, was not the only small newspaper to shut down recently. According to Clegg, about 2,900 newspapers across the country have shut down since 2005.

Brookline.News is attempting to combat these growing numbers by expanding the journalism community in and around Brookline. Rafferty spoke about this when the commission celebrated the honorees on Wednesday, March 20.

“We want to help train the next generation of journalists, which we are doing. We are working with organizations and universities around town, including students from Brandeis University, Boston College and Emerson University, all of whom are getting their first professional journalistic experiences by working with us. We want to make sure there is a pipeline of future journalists,” Rafferty said.

Stillman joined the commission after attending a Brookline Women of the Year event. She said it is important to celebrate the amazing women in our community, especially this year with many women in government.

“Our governor is a woman, the mayor of Boston is a woman, our Attorney General is a woman,” Stillman said. “Celebrating women in leadership who are doing wonderful things for the people of Brookline is really important.”

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