Dorchester Reporter founder Ed Forry ’69, copublisher Linda Dorcena Forry ’96, executive editor Bill Forry ’95, and associate editor Tom Mulvoy ’64.

Photography by Lee Pellegrini

Making Headlines

A group of Eagles running the Dorchester Reporter are a model for community news publications launching all over the country.

In the late spring of 2003, I picked up my ringing desktop phone and a good friend, Ed Forry ’69, was on the other end of the line. “Hi, Tom,” he said, “I’m calling to see if you can give me some help in the office.”

Ed and his wife Mary were the owners of the Dorchester Reporter newspaper, which for twenty years had been circulating weekly in Boston’s largest and most diverse neighborhood. I had retired a few years earlier from a thirty-four-year career at the Boston Globe, where I’d been fortunate enough to serve in a number of positions, including the final fourteen years as managing editor for news operations and front-page oversight. At the time of Ed’s call, I had just finished my fourth semester as an adjunct professor at Boston College, leading a seminar on how a large metro daily newspaper, in this case the Globe, comes together each day, from the first news meeting in the morning to the first-edition deadline at 11 p.m.

“How can I help?” I asked Ed. He said he was looking for a backup editor, someone to scour pages for typos, misspellings, layout problems, and so on. “It’ll only take a few hours a week,” he said. I signed up on the spot. I had been rescued from retirement. I was back in a place where surprise and excitement were readily on offer: a newsroom.

Sadly, the editorial vigor that marked the Dorchester Reporter then, as now, stands in stark contrast to what has befallen so many news organizations across the country’s media landscape over the past two decades. 

By the early 2000s, even as I was returning to a newsroom, a slow march to oblivion was underway for newspapers, with the internet setting in motion an inexorable decline in advertising dollars and circulation numbers. Papers large, medium, and small were shutting down, and those that continued to publish were plummeting in value. 

It all added up to chaos for the newspaper industry. People working at newspapers with proud old names—the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and Los Angeles Times, to name three of the most prominent—became accustomed to waking up to news of yet another new owner, declining readership numbers, and worries about their jobs and pensions.

Here in Massachusetts, meanwhile, medium-sized papers like the Patriot Ledger in Quincy and the Enterprise in Brockton were undercut in their commitments to quality local coverage when they were bought out by big-chain firms. To save costs, the chains moved many of the editing and administrative responsibilities of these local papers to faraway centralized operations that serviced as many as 250 outlets from coast to coast.

Photo of Ed Forry at his desk.

Ed Forry and his late wife Mary founded the Reporter in 1983 with a mission to strengthen the sense of community in Dorchester.

Statistics in a report released in 2023 by the Pew Research Center and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism tell a bleak story: The nation has lost nearly a third of its local newspapers—2,900 in total—since 2005, while more than half of all papers in the United States have changed owners since 2013. Through all this upheaval, 43,000 newspaper journalist positions have been eliminated. That’s nearly two-thirds of all such jobs. The carnage has resulted in more than half of the nation’s counties becoming what the report calls “news deserts,” meaning they have either no or very little access to a news source of any sort that covers their area. The problem is particularly acute in poorer and more rural areas, according to the report, and it’s hardly limited to newspapers. Overall employment in newspaper, television, radio, and digital newsrooms dropped by roughly 26 percent, or 30,000 jobs, between 2008 and 2020. And the bad news keeps on coming. Through the first three months of this year, news organizations across the country eliminated some 2,100 jobs, 48 percent more than the same quarter in 2023, per the outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

All of this has had significant consequences for many more of us than just those who have been employed in the news business. “The significant loss of local news outlets in poorer and underserved communities poses a crisis for our democracy,” writes Penny Abernathy, the report’s coauthor and a Medill visiting professor. Indeed, the erosion of local news organizations has resulted in fewer contested local elections, lower turnout at the polls, and greater polarization, according to Rebuild Local News, a coalition of more than three thousand news and civic organizations. All of which may explain the motivation for a resolution sponsored by thirteen US senators to designate last April as “Preserving and Protecting Local News Month.”

But the news isn’t all bad. As the report points out, people all around the country—many of them with little or no journalism experience—are banding together to form community news organizations of their own. Using the internet, social media, and good old-fashioned reporting techniques, these outlets are keeping tabs on what’s happening in their local town halls, businesses, and neighborhoods. Some are for-profit ventures, while others are nonprofit. Some publish online, while others still put out paper editions. What they all have in common, however, is a mission to sprinkle a little water into those news deserts.

One of them, the four-year-old California-based online news site Lookout Santa Cruz, which competes against a chain newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for “its detailed and nimble community-focused coverage” last year of catastrophic flooding and mudslides in California.

These publications are using a formula that the Dorchester Reporter has followed for more than forty years now. Ed and Mary Forry promised from the get-go that the Reporter would help revitalize what they saw as a sagging value in public life. The paper would promote continuous and substantial engagement by neighbors and local businesses in the welfare of their shared community. The Reporter, then, has been exactly what the promising news organizations that are sprouting up across the country aspire to be: a mediating influence in bringing residents together to address local challenges collectively.

Somehow, more than four decades after getting started in the news business, Ed Forry has turned out to be a trailblazer.

Photo of Tom Mulvoy at his desk.

Tom Mulvoy, the former managing editor of the Boston Globe, was teaching journalism classes at BC in 2003 when Ed Forry asked him to help out at the Reporter for a while. He’s still there two days a week.

Save for extended outings fifty and more years ago in service to the United States Air Force in faraway places like Texas and Mississippi, Edward W. Forry has lived and learned and worked in Dorchester, Massachusetts, his entire life, which will reach eighty years this coming August.

In 1983, when the Dorchester Reporter was founded, Boston’s largest neighborhood was in a state of transition. Longtime residents were moving out in unusual numbers and newcomers of many new ethnicities were moving in. Ed and Mary, who had two children—Bill, who was ten, and five-year-old Maureen—and a mortgage, believed there was an opportunity for a new community paper to help better knit the changing neighborhood together, and to earn a living in the process. Ed, after all, had spent some time writing a column for the Dorchester Argus-Citizen.

“I think I always had a calling to put out my own newspaper and cover my neighborhood, telling stories about Dorchester,” he told me. “Mary, as usual, stepped up and said, ‘I’ll support you if owning a newspaper is what you want to do. Just do it!’”

The couple launched their paper from a tiny newsroom that doubled as Maureen’s bedroom, on the second floor of their home in Dorchester’s Lower Mills neighborhood. Ed served as the paper’s reporter, editor, editorial writer, photographer, ad salesman, and circulation driver. Mary wrote for the paper—a particular favorite was her column “The Urban Gardener”—and helped to keep the books. The first edition, at twenty pages, was published in September 1983. “We promised our readers information about your church, your school, your neighborhood, your local merchants,” Ed recalled, “with advertisements for local businesses, and a classified section.”

Over the ensuing forty-one years, the Reporter has established itself as an indispensable part of life in Dorchester. Through the inevitable ups and downs, including Mary’s untimely death from cancer in 2004, the paper has faithfully told the stories of the neighborhood, never straying from its commitment to bring people together and strengthen the sense of community.

If anything, that commitment was only deepened in the mid-1990s, when Bill Forry ’95, P’26, who’d done some writing during his years at the Heights, formally joined the paper as its news editor. He’s the executive editor these days, but as from the beginning, he also reports and writes for each edition, along with his father, who now plays an active emeritus role. Bill is also the copublisher, a position he shares with his wife of twenty-four years, the former state senator (and fellow Eagle) Linda Dorcena Forry ’96, P’26, a Haitian American dynamo whose profile as a business leader in the city’s C-suites includes serving as a trustee of the publicly traded utility company Eversource Energy. In her relatively new role as a Reporter executive, Linda is focused on recruiting new business and talent for the newspaper. Meanwhile, Maureen Forry-Sorrell works in the Reporter’s advertising department, maintains the paper’s website, and oversees a companion publication that the family also puts out, Boston Irish magazine.

There are all the usual comings and goings of a newspaper, but the Reporter generally has a reporting team of five (three full time, including Bill, and two interns), plus freelancing help, to cover Dorchester and neighboring Mattapan. Reporters file stories to both the weekly print edition and the paper’s website, As has been the case from the very start, little happens in Dorchester—from fires, crimes, and community meetings to rallies, sports events, and honor roll announcements—that is not recorded in the Reporter. The slogan of this paper, after all, speaks to a commitment to “the news and values around the neighborhood.”

“The Reporter strives to be more than a paper of record,” Bill told me. “On our better days, we’re the common ground, a town square, a place for neighbors to seek, build, and arrive at consensus, or something that approaches it. It’s an imperfect attempt at chronicling and celebrating our corner of this imperfect union.” 

The paper takes seriously its obligation to report on the sweeping issues that are shaping the neighborhood, including a serious housing shortage, racial tensions, climate initiatives along the coastal neighborhoods, and the public transportation system. And, as ever, the paper’s dogged reporting often serves the interests of not just Dorchester’s residents, but the entire city’s. Last year, for instance, the paper broke the story that the city’s high school track teams were being forced to use their schools’ hallways as practice facilities because the world-class Reggie Lewis Center, which is supposed to benefit the residents of Boston first, was instead often being reserved for schools from the city’s affluent suburbs. The Reporter article was picked up by news organizations throughout the city, including the Globe and WBUR, and the Boston City Council eventually passed a resolution in support of greater access to the facility for Boston students.

“The Reggie Lewis Center story might be viewed as one example of the Reporter punching above our weight class,” Bill said. “It speaks to the power of a simple story well-reported and well-told. But it’s also important to note that stories like this are even more potent when carried in a product that has forty years of consistently reliable work behind us. The brand’s reputation precedes us each week—and that’s why the Reporter is looked to as a go-to authority on news far beyond our neighborhood lines.”

With four decades of operating this way, the Reporter offers a road map to the community news organizations taking root around the country. 

Photo of the staff dicussing content around a computer monitor.

Little happens in Dorchester that is not recorded in print and online by the Reporter’s journalists, photographed here in an edit meeting.

In their recently published book What Works in Community News, Ellen Clegg, my colleague for twenty years at the Globe, and Dan Kennedy, a media observer and a journalism professor at Northeastern University, take a deep look at the many local news organizations that have been launched amid the country’s crumbling traditional media landscape.

“It’s so clear that people miss having access to reported information about their communities,” said Clegg, who worked in supervisory positions in a number of departments at the Globe, including a term as editor of the editorial pages. “Cable television is driving a nationalization of news, where both Fox and MSNBC host a parade of pundits giving their views 24/7 on Trump, Biden, and other cultural wedge issues. But we tend to live our lives locally. That’s where we shop, shovel our sidewalks, and educate our children.”

But Clegg isn’t simply an experienced journalist covering this emerging story—she’s actually a character in the story itself. Two years ago, she helped launch Brookline.News, a nonprofit online publication dedicated to covering Brookline, Massachusetts. The idea came about in 2022, when Gannett Media shut down nineteen newspapers in Massachusetts, including the weekly Brookline Tab. “I realized that there was no reliable source of news about what transpired at the town meeting, and who was up for election,” Clegg told me. Brookline.News endeavors to keep the city’s residents informed, Clegg said, but also to help strengthen the future of journalism by training tomorrow’s reporters. She and the paper’s founding editor, Sam Mintz, co-taught a class this year at Brandeis University and invited their students to the newsroom once a week. “We learned from each other, and the enthusiasm of the students was downright contagious,” Clegg said.  “They all wrote live for Brookline.News. It gives me great hope for the future of the Fourth Estate.”

In their book, Clegg and Kennedy focus primarily on nonprofit entities that, like Brookline.News, gather funding from reader donations, philanthropic grants, and their own commercial ventures, but they recognize that for-profit companies, like the family-owned Dorchester Reporter, are part of a movement they see as “profoundly positive.”

Photo of Linda Dorcena Forry standing in front of her desk and window.

Linda Dorcena Forry ’96, the Reporter’s copublisher, is a former Massachusetts state senator whose role at the paper is focused on recruiting new business and talent.

The Reporter continues to be a profitable venture. The paper charges fifty dollars for an annual subscription, or each issue can be purchased at news outlets for fifty cents. On its website, the paper also provides an opportunity for readers who appreciate the paper’s role in the community to make donations.

“I would not rule out a nonprofit model as at least one pillar of our organization,” Bill Forry said. Still, he added, “I wouldn’t completely abandon the for-profit enterprise, in part because it seems unwise to put all our eggs into one basket.”

He noted that the back-and-forth with the local businesses who advertise in the paper is yet another important method for keeping up with what’s happening in the neighborhood. Ads deliver local news, too. “I’m cognizant of the fact that this symbiosis can sometimes raise the specter of conflict for journalism purists,” he said. Then again, newspapers have been supporting themselves and their employees via advertising revenue for generations. There’s also the fact, he said, that supporting a paper strictly via grants and donations from wealthy donors and nonprofit organizations can come with just as many potential conflicts. “Foundations and boards—as well meaning as they may be—can summon interests that are likewise problematic,” he said. “I also worry about the sturdiness of philanthropic pillars and wonder if they will look with favor upon the offerings of smaller outfits as the years progress.”

At present, the Reporter puts all of its journalism for free on Many papers have abandoned this approach, instead charging for access via digital subscriptions, a process known as setting up a paywall. But the Forrys say that asking everyone to pay will mean that those who can’t afford to do so won’t have access to the same news as everyone else—the antithesis of their mission for the paper. “I am resolved to resist pressures to put a paywall between our neighbors and the news we produce,” Bill said. “I think it undermines the brand and our impact. But it also does injury to our goal of equipping all of our constituents with the same information available to their neighbors. In my view, democratization of the news is critical to an informed citizenry and to our republic.”

Photo of Bill Forry in the doorway to his office.

Bill Forry is the executive editor of what is quite literally a family paper. He’s the son of Reporter founder Ed, the husband of copublisher Linda, and the brother of advertising sales coordinator Maureen Forry-Sorrell.

 It’s been more than twenty years since the phone call that brought me to the Dorchester Reporter, and here I am, still helping out at the paper a couple of days a week. It’s sentiments like the one above from Bill that explain not just what’s kept me around at this place, but also why I will be marking sixty years as a journalist next February.

Over my life, a newspaper has been almost a part of my wardrobe no matter where I’ve found myself. But at age eighty-one, the relentless onslaught of information, essential and not so much so, is overwhelming on too many days now. My suspicion, actually, is that my age has little to do with it. Journalism has been overrun by mass media, and we are all of us the worse for it. The Reporter, however, like so many of its community-news brethren that have more recently sprung up to fill the void, is a place that honors the very best of the grand tradition of newspapers.

Far too many of the national, buzzy sites have become lightly curated mishmashes of considered sentiment and irremediable, offensive blarney, bringing to mind a question that T.S. Eliot asked during the Great Depression: “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” ◽

Tom Mulvoy ’64 is the former managing editor for news operations of the Boston Globe.