Behind The Scenes
31May/120

He remembers when (… paperboys brought the news)

Who remembers the NES game Paperboy?

I just wanted to share a recent letter I got from a long-time (literally!) reader and contributor: Warren Patrick.

In his more than 100 years on the planet, Mr. Patrick has certainly had his fair share of experiences ... and I am lucky enough to have struck up a relationship with him, enough so that for the past year or so he's submitted "letters" about various memories he has on a variety of topics.

His most recent piece deals with enjoying the morning paper over breakfast, and reflecting on the paperboys who once delivered that news. It's interesting that the tradition of paperboys (are there any left?) may be long gone, but the stereotypical imagery is still used in commercials to this day.

Nonetheless, enjoy:


I remember when ...

Newspapers were delivered to your door before breakfast time. Even
now, don’t most of us like to read the news the first thing in the
morning? In cities, small and large, the publishers hired newsboys to
deliver the papers to their customers. A delivery truck would drop
off bundles of papers at designated locations before daylight.

About 5:30 a.m., newsboys would ride their bicycles to the spot
located near their route area. The newsboy would open the bundle of
papers and proceed to fold each one into a cylinder shape. Then he
would load them into the basket between the handle bars.

That done, he would ride to the start of his route and down the
side-walk tossing a paper onto a customer’s walk or, sometimes, onto
the house steps, before breakfast time. Sometimes, a customer could
be seen picking up his paper while still in his pajamas. Then, like
now, many of us want to read the news early in the day.

The newspaper publishers paid the newsboy a weekly salary and, often,
a customer would reward a reliable newsboy with a welcomed tip.

31May/120

Budget for June 1, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the June 1, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
31May/121

A controversy over editor's notes?

First, a little background:

Several weeks ago, we ran a story about Brattleboro's first Friday tradition, Gallery Walk. Specifically, whether it was outgrowing its current setting. (I wish I had written a "deconstructing news coverage" blog on this story, to be honest.) In short, I was forwarded an e-mail exchange between an older man who lived in Greenfield, and the Brattleboro town manager. The gist of the exchange was that the older gentleman had a bad experience at Gallery Walk, did not feel police were handling the issue, and was bringing it to the town's attention. Since, in her response, the town manager admitted she had heard there were "issues," we decided to investigate further and do a story (with the headline "Walk on the wild side").

For the story, we talked to various downtown merchants, folks involved in the gallery walk, the town manager, Brattleboro police chief and the man making the complaint.

Needless to say, after the story ran we were accused of "manufacturing news" and being anti-Gallery Walk or anti-youth (since the Gallery Walk in question also featured a youth-centric diversity celebration).

On May 24, we ran a letter from members of the Diversity Day Planning Committee. It read, in part:

As organizers of Diversity Celebration we feel compelled to respond to some of the concerns voiced in the Reformer article "Walk on the wild side?" (May 12-13) ... the Reformer chose to focus four paragraphs on the one experience of an individual from Greenfield, Mass., who complained that youth were "running amok." What we saw downtown that evening was youth proudly displaying their art and showcasing their talents, carrying tables for nonprofit organizations to display their materials, and directing people to events while community members of all ages greeted each other on the streets of Brattleboro. ... We need to continue to support events that showcase Brattleboro as a welcoming community to all.

In turn, we offered the following editor's note:

We did not "focus on the one experience of an individual," which would have been improper reporting. Rather, we spoke to town leaders and downtown merchants who echoed that one person’s concerns. To claim we did otherwise dismisses this as a non-story, when obviously there are those in the community who express concern.

In turn, we received the following letter:

One of the Reformer’s practices that continues to baffle me is the presence of “editor’s notes” in response to citizens’ views in the “Letter Box” section. The latest example was an editor’s note in the May 24 edition defending an article with which the Diversity Celebration Planning Committee took exception. In fact, you not onlydefended the story, but went so far as to take exception yourself at the letter, with the editor’s note sounding dismissive, unprofessional and more than a bit condescending.

By all means, write an editor’s note to correct a blatant factual error, but, in the absence of such a need, I urge you to not feel compelled to use your power to provide notes to defend your own stories. That’s not why citizens write letters and, more broadly, that’s not a great use of our much-treasured freedom of the press.

An editor's note an abuse of freedom of the press?

By no means is an editor’s note meant as an abuse of power. At least that's not how I've intended to use it in my time at the Reformer. Rather, the editor’s note, as it is in many other publications around the world (except for, perhaps, MAD Magazine), is simply an effort and tool to engage readership in open, public dialogue.

Just as we allow other readers to respond to letters on this page, so too does the editor (me), on occasion, feel compelled to respond to letters. It can be to defend a decision, a story, a reporter, clarify a statement, offer a correction or any number of perfectly justifiable reasons. Ultimately, as conversation continues through the daily Letter Box, these notes would stimulate conversation instead of stifling dialogue. It would appear, from this exchange, the conversation is ongoing ....

[My hope, when a version of this response to the letter appears in print -- as an editor's note -- it is not taken as an affront to the message from the letter writer.

30May/120

Budget for May 31, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the May 31, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
29May/121

One-sided editorializing?

Not to get too "meta," but I reference a portion of a blog post from last week -- The view from nowhere? -- where I wrote about New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen's discussion on the topic: The View from Nowhere. Rosen writes that "the attachment not just to objectivity but to a kind of inhuman, artificially-balanced viewpoint is damaging newspapers and their credibility."

Surely, the point there is about news coverage, and not everything a newspaper has to offer. ...

Case in point, this morning I fielded a someone angry phone call referencing an editorial we wrote last week about a Dummerston (lesbian) couple. The two, an American and Japanese woman, have been struggling to get a Green Card since student visas ran out, and were forced to search for waivers to the system since they were not allotted the same rights as a typical (read: straight) couple. Last week, they had been granted a (temporary) reprieve in the battle with federal authorities who did not recognize their same-sex marriage and no longer had the threat of deportation looming large. (Read all about it, here.)

Our editorial later in the week lauded the decision, and hoped the extra time would allow federal lawmakers to update its views on marriage.

The gentleman on the phone called the editorial the most one-sided piece he'd ever read in a newspaper. So, my first reaction is: Since it's opinion-based, can't an editorial be one-sided? Aren't most?

(By the way, if you'd like to read the editorial in question: A sense of (temporary) relief.)

I don't think we go out of our way to be one-sided. Consider the following except:

"Under federal law, married couples get more than 1,100 benefits that are not available to same-sex couples.

Just a small sample: Hospital visitation rights, the say over end-of-life care, the option to file joint income taxes, Social Security survivor benefits, spousal retirement benefits, veteran and military benefits, health insurance if their spouses are federal employees (health insurance that doesn't extend to the non-federal employee's children, by the way) and the ability to transfer real estate tax-free. ...

... This discussion about marriage rights isn't about the Bible, the threat of gay marriage devaluing the institution (after all, we know plenty of straight couples who have done enough of that on their own), procreation, the freedom to marry your dog, deviancy, gay people turning their children into other gay people and whether those children need both a male and female role model in their homes.

That's nothing but ridiculous hyperbole that is meant to obfuscate the real issue.

What is it all about?

We can't say it any better than (online writer and website editor Derek) Powazek: 'I'm married, and it matters. It changes the way I look at the world, and the way the world looks at me. It comes with state and federal benefits and rights. Withholding those things from same-sex couples is discrimination, pure and simple. If you support withholding rights from people because of who they are, you're a bigot. Period.'"

One-sided? I guess. Stating a clear point? You bet!

In the end, isn't that what an editorial is all about?

*UPDATE: I should note that, as editor, I would never withhold or censure submitted letters to the editor or guest opinion pieces on the topic. That's why I'm never concerned about the Reformer's Opinions page becoming "one-sided."

29May/120

Budget for May 30, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the May 30, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
29May/120

Balancing act (local vs. national/world news)

It can sometimes be a tough balancing act, at least at a smaller community newspaper, trying to balance the various type of news coverage from day to day. In the past, I've often told colleagues that I'd almost prefer to go 100 percent local on our news reporting (doing away with the AP coverage); After all, surely people can get that type of news elsewhere. The best thing the Reformer has going for it is it's continued, daily coverage of local news issues. Then again, losing that other part of our coverage, the national and international stories and features, sports, etc., would surely alienate a large part of our readership, too.

Though I have no first-hand knowledge on the matter, I'm sure this was the thinking behind the Keene Sentinel's push for local coverage a couple of years ago (when they made a big deal about "dropping" the Associated Press). However, they did pick up an alternate news service through CNN which they continue to use to publish world-nation stories.

The correct course isn't clear right now. However, I can see in a few (or several) years, when Vermont and our readership have better access to the Internet, that we would go more "local-only" with our daily paper.

All of this, in a round-about way, brings me to two letters to the editor which will be published later this week. Each, in it's own way, reminds me that it's important to strike some sort of balance with our coverage, in regards to the above-mentioned points.

Editor of the Reformer:

I have been a loyal customer (as well as contributor) of the Reformer
for years.

I can understand highlighting local news. But for the first time I’m
considering stopping my subscription — for your Monday headline and
story to be an article about summer camps, with all that is going on
in the world, is an insult to your readers.

The world is only getting smaller. We cannot afford to be smug in our
corner, even though we have it good (to say the least) compared to so
many other towns, cities and countries around the globe.

Last weekend, there was a massacre in Syria, including scores of
children, in a town that warned the world this was going to happen,
months ago. Their warnings went unheeded by the international
community, to its shame.

To ignore what happened as a result of international politics is to
compound this tragedy. Much of the national and international press
is covering this news.

Why does the Reformer think we should be fed pablum?

**********

Editor of the Reformer:

Kudos to the achievements of the Brattleboro High School athletes,
but doesn’t the Indianapolis 500, the largest single day sporting
event in the world, warrant more than a 4-by-7 inch corner of the
sports page? Possibly even a photograph?

**********

To be fair, we did have some sort of coverage of both of these items in the paper. However, clearly some readers believed we should have given those stories better placement in the day's news.

Comparing the Syria massacre to a local summer camp is like comparing apples and oranges, as the old adage goes. In our effort to present the best local news, we need to remember there are certain stories (presidential elections, national budget, Sept. 11 attacks) that can trump that mindset.

For now, I chalk this up to a learning experience.

28May/120

Budget for May 29, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the May 29, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
27May/120

Budget for May 28, 2012 edition (Memorial Day)

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the May 28, 2012 edition of the Reformer. Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper — some stories will be held to get complete information; some stories may be dropped completely. Stories might be held for space, or other timing considerations. Also, breaking stories may not appear on this budget.

If you have any information that could be useful to any of these stories, we'd love to hear from you (call 802-254-2311 ext. 7 or e-mail news@reformer.com).

Filed under: Budgets Continue reading
26May/120

Changes coming to Reformer802

After months of blogging on here, brainstorming with colleagues and reaching out to the public, Reformer802 is getting a direction.

I have about five new bloggers, interested in writing about a variety of themes and topics, lined up to begin new blogs on the site in the coming days.

Let's hope this is the start of an all new blogging community in the Brattleboro area.

More information on this as it develops ....