NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine — When it comes to news coverage, New Gloucester is in a bit of a Bermuda Triangle – tucked away between Portland, Lewiston/Auburn, and Brunswick. Given their locale, news that happens in New Gloucester tends to stay in New Gloucester.
That is until a few years back, when a few industrious residents decided the town needed to up their game a bit. They created an online news presence that recently re-launched … just when New Gloucester needed it most.
"We’re in a great location to get places, but we’re not regularly covered by any of those news outlets," says Deb Smith, one of the editors, and a resident of New Gloucester.
New Gloucester is home to Pineland and the Shakers of Sabbathday Lake – as well as about 6000 residents. It was also home to the award-winning weekly – The New Gloucester News. "Community’s very important here. You know, I always think about the fact that 'community' and 'communications' have the same root. And people need to be informed to be active participants in their community."
With that in mind, they decided to start a news website - "by, for, and about New Gloucester” – in place of the paper. The website launched, and the all-volunteer staff decided it needed a bit of a new look, so the redesign work began in 2018. For about a year, New Gloucester resident Fred Brusseau rebuilt the NGXchange website – focusing on things like branding and color palate, and tying the website to the Facebook page, so folks could access information on different platforms.
The website is filled with stories about what’s happening in town—everything from government to the environment, budgets to book reviews. "We also have a section called “Reflections” where people can just submit photos, essays, poems – really trying to find ways to get more of New Gloucester involved with this website, to read it, and for it to become a focal point for news for the town," according to Fred.
New Gloucester resident Julie Fralich is a contributor to NGXchange. "We’re tapping into people who’ve had creative lives that we’ve never known about and all of a sudden we’re saying, “Hey. Tell us about that! That’s very interesting.”"
The new and improved NGXchange launched in March - run by volunteer editors, writers and photographers. In a small town that relies on informed citizens, the website provides news and a voice.
Fred Brusseau sees it this way. "Portland is growing, because Boston is growing, and New Gloucester is gonna feel that growth. To have a community that’s more engaged and knowledgeable about the issues going on in this town? Because there are going to be issues and we gonna have to discuss them and come up with solutions if we’re gonna want to keep it a small, rural town." It was simply a coincidence that the website was “open for business” just as life in this village was shifting.
"I think we’re all re-configuring our lives now. The places where we have gathered, where we have socialized, where we have met, they’re either closed or they’ve reconfigured their hours," says Julie Fralich. "We in our small way are trying to find provide a place where people can find out what’s happening. So people really are re-thinking what their daily lives are like. Our brains do not like uncertainty. And there’s a lot of uncertainty now. And we can barely re-imagine what our life is gonna be like in a month or two months or a year – so I think we all hold on to, and take comfort from – what is close to us. And what is close to us is our community."
The NGXchange is driven solely by volunteers – there are no sponsors or advertisements sold – and content is also shared on the associated Facebook page. If you would like to learn more about the NGXchange, click here.