Newspapers aren’t All that Matters

Local news is good, be it delivered from community members’ blogs or in hardcopy on the driveway. In this week’s edition of the local newspaper, The Alpharetta-Roswell REVUE & NEWS, the publisher wrote an opinion piece entitled “Why newspapers still matter to you.” And yes they do matter, even to a ‘net-centric person like me. The REVUE’s just about the only publication that I read through cover-to-cover as soon as it comes. It provides a relaxed look at area happenings that I may have not otherwise stumbled upon, gives me a “heads-up” about things that may affect our community, and gives parents nice, scrapbook-worthy clips about things their kids’ organizations did.

It usually does, anyway, though this article was submitted and never ran. Probably just a lack of space not already spoken-for by an advertiser (something that’s not a problem on the Internet). As Hatcher once told me, “every picture I want to include is taking the space of an ad – and pictures don’t bring in revenue.”

Ray’s point though, is that he sees newspapers as a safe “anchor,” one “with a face that can be trusted to tell the truth … that you can recognize in your grocery store.” I’ve met Ray and his managing editor, Hatcher, but I’m pretty sure the rest of his ten writers are completely nameless and faceless to me. I suppose they’re all good folks, I just don’t know why I should “trust” those ten any more or less than the dozens of bloggers who’s sites I read every day.

Ray’s company delivers newspapers to about 75,000 homes, and according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project over 5% of Americans write on a weblog. Can you imagine if 5% of the homes here in Alpharetta, Roswell and Milton contained a writer as well as a reader? We could have over 3000 more “reporters” who’s occasional local news postings could be added to what’s created by Ray’s 10-person staff. I wonder how many of them would be someone I’d recognize at the grocery store. Ray asks “How can newspapers possibly compete [with the user-created Internet]?” I don’t think he should compete, but rather find ways to work together, to become an aggregator for his local community. Hey, I could even help out with that, having helped other companies use blogs as a part of their business.

As for “the truth,” well… I believe that there’s no publisher – of a newspaper, tv or radio station, news service, website or blog that has a monopoly there. As much as I like reading the REVUE & News, I wouldn’t want to rely on it — or any single source — to be the one and only place to get information. Every story is written by a human being, and everyone — no matter what medium we’re using to express it — has a viewpoint.


They’re not saying “boo.” They’re saying “Moo-ving.”

Expect a new look, possibly using new software, for the new year. In the meantime, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

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Non-Beta Blogger

Powered by BloggerBlogger, the service that I use to build and maintain this weblog, has finally moved their new version out of beta. Over the next few weeks or so, everyone with an (old) Blogger account will be given the opportunity to move over to the new version, with a google (gmail) login i.d. (Google bought Blogger a while back).

My question, which has yet to receive a yet gotten a good answer from Blogger employees or others on their support forums, is this: what’s new for FTP users? There are lists of things that are yummy goodness, but as far as I can see none of them (at least as far as creatively building new templates) work for blogs not hosted on Blogger’s (or Blogspot’s) servers.

I’m going to keep asking and poking around, but if you already know the answer please drop a comment in here.

Freedom is Ageless

Freedom begins when you tell Mrs. Grundy to go fly a kite

Robert A. Heinlein

Apparently that doesn’t apply if you’re a student in 21st Century United States.

There’s been quite a flap this past week about kids and their use of the web. To me, there are three different topics getting mixed up together. Writing that can get you in trouble today (even if some of it shouldn’t), writing that can get you in trouble tomorrow, and reading with too much trust. I’m only writing about the first of those today.

To today’s kids (and a good number of adults too), the web is just another outlet for expression and creative writing. Things that are written on websites are the same sort of things that would be written in paper-based journals, talked about over the phone or with a group of friends in the coffee shop. As Facebook director of marketing Melanie Deitch says, “[online writing] is just an outlet to express what students are already doing.”

To be clear… I’m not talking about death threats here – about anyone: teachers, parents, or other students. Those need to be investigated appropriately.

What I’m talking about are simply the sort of complaints that kids have always voiced, which are now being voiced online – and having much more serious repercussions than they warrant. Students have been saying critical things about their schools and teachers since the beginning of time. It’s easy to imagine Ralph, Potsie and Ritchie sitting in Arnold’s and griping to each other about their teacher or the test they were given that day, but you’d think it pretty absurd if they were suspended from school for it. That’s the equivalent to what’s happening.

a censored studentReed College (Portland, OR) has denied admissions to a prospective student because of comments written on a weblog about the Dean of Admissions. Louisiana State kicked two swimmers off the team last spring for posting criticizing comments about the coaches their coaches. Fourteen year-old Daniel is an acquaintance of mine who had a website until recently when school officials were able to have it shut down just because he wrote that he “didn’t like” a teacher, and there are reports of students being suspended or expelled from school for similar writing.

I won’t get into “freedom of speech” or “freedom of the press” debates here, that’s a much larger discussion including an actual reading of what the Constitution says (not just what most Americans think it says) and then the whole question of whether or not a public school’s actions equate to Congress making a law.

I just ask for a calm, rational discussion and an answer to one question…

Is this what we want to teach our kids, that over-reacting and stomping on creativity is an appropriate response?

Believe. Trust. Give.

Al‘s tagline always catches my eye.

Believe nothing. Trust no one. Give oxygen.

a big drop of bloodI’ve given blood before. Some people give bone marrow, others have given organs. Given that the human body takes in oxygen and returns carbon dioxide (at least, that’s the rumor goin’ round), I’m not sure how I can “give oxygen.” Al, care to elucidate?

Welcome, Fr3der1cK

Fr3der1cKFriday I had the good fortune of being asked to help build a new website/weblog, and so yesterday was a pretty darn productive day*.

Please welcome Fr3der1cK to the world of blogging. As with so many sites, the design and coding aren’t 100% complete done for launch — the web is as “finished” on any given day as it was the day before — but things are coming along quite nicely I think.

* And I’m happy when I can have a productive day. Most of my days at my “real job” fall well short of productive, especially since most of my time is spent working on projects which are doomed — everyone knows that there’s no funding and/or no support to get them completed, but nobody’s got the guts to tell their boss’ boss that we’re all wasting our time and the company’s money. grrrrr.