Since you are reading this, you are already aware that the Internet offers the opportunity for individuals and groups to publish and widely distribute local news and commentary in ways that would have been impossible only a few years ago. LookingAtLancaster.com is only one out of a number of sites that offer alternatives to the mainstream media. With few exceptions, these are a labor of love, created and maintained not for profit but out of a concern for our community.
These independent news and opinion sites often publish information that is neglected or ignored by the local newspapers and television stations. Occasionally, independent sites have broken important stories long before the print or broadcast media. At other times, when the mainstream media has intentionally distorted the "news" in a way to serve their own interests, alternative news sites have been the only way for the public to get the facts, often obtained directly from the sources and parties involved.
Below is a brief description of a few of the most popular independent Web sites and alternative news sources which have made an impact on Lancaster. There are other sites online which discuss local issues; some of these are independent, others represent specific groups or organizations. This article does not include online forums, where people have the opportunity to discuss the issues of the day; that topic is deserving of an article of its own.
NewsLanc.com clearly stands out as a real alternative to the mainstream media. Managed and funded by Robert Field, a locally based apartment and hotel developer , NewsLanc.com has a full-time reporter dedicated to local issues, in addition to contributions from volunteers. NewsLanc.com has broken a number of stories, most notably about the public library. This site has also been publishing an in-depth investigative series about the hotel and convention center project; these articles have publicly revealed the misuse of millions of taxpayer dollars, an issue which has been intentionally neglected by the mainstream local media. NewsLanc.com has the potential of becoming serious competition to the local newspapers.
LIP News (www.lipnews1.com) is an alternative news and opinion site operated by Becky Holzinger. LIP News has revealed a great deal of information about issues neglected by the mainstream local media, most recently concerning the Roseboro/Funk murder case in Denver, as well as the abuse of a female minority suspect by male officers in New Holland. Becky Holzinger's commentary can be controversial, but it is always well worth reading.
Unfortunately, a number of once-prominent local sites are no longer being updated on a regular basis.
Lancaster First (LancasterFirst.org) began life as the online voice of the Lancaster First ad-hoc community group. LancasterFirst.org became a news site in its own right, breaking a number of stories about the hotel and convention center project in downtown Lancaster. This site is no longer updated on a regular basis, but recently has posted several significant additions. LancasterFirst.org will continue to be maintained as an archive of potentially valuable information for the foreseeable future; for example, this site is the ONLY place where the agreements and other documents governing the hotel and convention center project are available online.
Lanco Yokels (lancoyokels.blogspot.com) USED to be a source for the some of the most astute commentary about Lancaster County which was available anywhere. Unfortunately, its author apparently suffered from burn-out, and only a placeholder for the site remains. Some of still hold out hope that Lanco Yokels will return some day.
The granddaddy of all the local alternative news sites, and the one which has had the greatest impact, is 5thEstate.com. No longer being updated, the site is being maintained as an archive. 5thEstate.com was a labor of love by local activist Ron Harper Jr., who for seven years single-handedly took on the Lancaster establishment. 5thEstate.com has had a tremendous impact on Lancaster: one state representative, several district justices, and a number of constables were forced to resign as a result of articles which appeared there. A school superintendent was revealed to have misused his authority for his own personal gain, for which he later served time in prison, because of information first made public on 5thEstate.com. Other revelations posted on 5thEstate.com resulted in dramatic changes in how the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority conducts its business in public. Even the local newspapers have improved their reporting after being scooped repeatedly by 5thEstate.com.
Unfortunately, 5thEstate.com eventually became too much for one person to handle by themselves. Ron Harper Jr. took on a partner, and together they founded the Lancaster Post (LancasterPost.com). For six months, both online and in a print edition, the Lancaster Post provided an outstanding weekly news and commentary alternative to the mainstream media. But when financing became an issue, the Lancaster Post ceased publishing, and the partners went their separate ways. LancasterPost.com is still online, and all of its editions are still available for download. There is no word if or when LancasterPost.com will resume publishing.
The Internet provides more opportunities for individuals and groups to reach others than at any other time in history. For example, LookingAtLancaster.com is hosted on Blogger, a free blogging service from Google (the search engine masters). The domain LookingAtLancaster.com is forwarded to lookingatlancaster.blogspot.com, where its articles actually reside. Anyone can open a Blogger account for free, and start posting almost immediately. Blogger is easy to use, easy to customize, and requires little knowledge about the Internet to use. Who knows: it is entirely possible that someone reading this article will start a site that eventually becomes a major influence within Lancaster County.