Behind The Scenes
3Sep/140

My Appearance on Green Mountain Mornings [09.02.14]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Green Mountain Mornings (WKVT 1490AM and 100.3FM in the Brattleboro area). Today's discussion, with host Chris Lenois, includes: The ongoing issues at Putney's Santa's Land and the newsroom's efforts to cover the issue from multiple angles; recent coverage of the Vermont primary elections; Vermont politics and the upcoming elections; the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge; and more! ....

26Aug/140

My Appearance on Green Mountain Mornings [08.26.14]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Green Mountain Mornings (WKVT 1490AM and 100.3FM in the Brattleboro area). Today's discussion, with host Chris Lenois, includes: News coverage of a recent murder/suicide in Townshend, Vt., and how the newsroom handles those types of news stories (as well as some related challenges with social media); the Vermont primary elections; and more! ....

12Aug/140

My Appearance on Green Mountain Mornings [08.12.14]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Green Mountain Mornings (WKVT 1490AM and 100.3FM in the Brattleboro area). Today's discussion, with host Chris Lenois, includes: ongoing coverage of the Brook House renovation project in downtown Brattleboro; the Brattleboro Selectboard's decision-making process (in regard to the skatepark); the state of local news and my upcoming appearance at the River Garden, this Thursday; and more ....

11Aug/140

The future of (local) news [an editorial]

[Here's a sneak peek at an upcoming editorial for the Brattleboro Reformer.]

In the summer of 2005, Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi, in a piece for American Journalism Review, wrote about the failing newspaper industry, and how, despite many challenges, there was a place for newspapers in our collective futures.

"The media have been covering the bad news about newspapers for years," Farhi wrote. "To see and read these accounts is to encounter an industry that seems on the verge of crisis, and possibly on the edge of the abyss."

Consider this comment Farhi referenced, from Slate media critic Jack Shafer: "In many U.S. markets, the dominant paper is a fading enterprise. ... In the long run, no newspaper is safe from electronic technologies."

Or this one, from Barron's Online columnist Howard R. Gold: "A crisis of confidence has combined with a technological revolution and structural economic change to create what can only be described as a perfect storm ... [P]rint's business model is imploding as younger readers turn toward free tabloids and electronic media to get news."

To be sure, a lot has changed since the first U.S. newspaper was printed on Sept. 25, 1690. [That would be Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, for you history buffs out there.]

Credit those changes to advances in technology, changes in society and the way people want or expect their news, or development of new delivery methods. Still, one thing remains clear: People want the news. They want to know what's going on in their communities, in their state, around the country, around the world.

Consider the Reformer's past hundred years: Throughout the past 10 decades, each change has brought with it changes that could be viewed positive and negative. In the beginning there was expansion to allow room for growth -- more people, more news, more product. Over time, technology allowed newspapers to do more with less. These days, it's all about diversifying how we present our product. But one thing has never changed in that timeframe: At the end of the day, the newspaper, however you choose to view it, is a collection of the days' news written and presented by a trained staff of newspeople (reporters, editors, etc.).

Reporting this week for the New York Times on the recent spin-off of newspapers from larger media companies, David Carr highlights just how dire today's reality is for newspapers: "Newspapers will be working without a net as undiversified pure-play print companies. Most are being cut loose after all the low-hanging fruit, like valuable digital properties, have been plucked. Many newspapers have sold their real estate, where much of their remaining value was stored.

"More ominous, most of the print and magazine assets have already been cut to the bone in terms of staffing. Reducing costs has been the only reliable source of profits as overall revenue has declined. Not much is left to trim."

Let's return to Farhi's piece for a moment. In it, he juxtaposes the newspaper industry against other modern forms of information dissemination -- local and cable TV news, magazines and the Internet -- and makes a case (albeit a little dated at this point) for why newspapers, more than any other news outlet, are best positioned to weather this storm of new-age news consumption. While he breaks this down to several major points, let's consider just these three:

First, localism. "Readers will always want to know about the schools, government, businesses, taxes, entertainment and teams closest to home. No news organization is better equipped or staffed to supply this information than a newspaper."

Attention from readership. "Newspapers no longer play the central role in people's daily lives they once did, but they are far from irrelevant. Some 42 percent of adults surveyed by the Pew researchers in 2004 reported that they had read a newspaper 'yesterday' (a figure that rose slightly over 2002). With the exception of local TV news, no other news source reaches so many people on a given day."

And lastly, brand-name recognition. "Newspapers big and small have spent millions of dollars over the years reminding people what they do. This has created a vast but hard-to-measure reservoir of goodwill for newspapers...."

To be sure, the editorial board knows that local news -- big and small -- is why people continue to read this newspaper, both in print and online. But, in a changing media landscape, covering our local communities in a thorough and timely fashion -- especially in this age of instant gratification and immediacy -- continues to be a challenge.

"A free-market economy is moving to reallocate capital to its more productive uses, which happens all the time," Carr writes. "Ask Kodak. Or Blockbuster. Or the makers of personal computers. Just because the product being manufactured is news in print does not make it sacrosanct or immune to the natural order.

"It's a measure of the basic problem that many people haven't cared or noticed as their hometown newspapers have reduced staffing, days of circulation, delivery and coverage.

"Will they notice or care when those newspapers go away altogether?"

Well, we sure hope so!

To that end, Strolling of the Heifers is hosting a panel discussion, this Thursday, on the future of local journalism. The session, at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden, includes: Ed Woods, publisher of the Brattleboro Reformer and its regional sister publications; Jeff Potter, interim editorial and operations director of The Commons; Tom D'Errico, editor of the Reformer; and Martin Langeveld, a media observer and former newspaper executive. Questions and comments from the audience will be welcomed.

The group will tackle two key questions: As print media decline in popularity and digital access to news continues to increase, how is the nature of local journalism changing? And, given the trends toward digital delivery and consumption of local news, what business models can sustain journalism going forward?

Local journalism continues to be a valuable watchdog for the public good. Growing pains may hurt, but ultimately change can be good. One thing that will never change, however, is the value of local news.

5Aug/140

My Appearance on Green Mountain Mornings [08.05.14]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Green Mountain Mornings (WKVT 1490AM and 100.3FM in the Brattleboro area). Today's discussion, with host Chris Lenois, includes: summer-time lulls in the news cycle; candidate profiles; our recent Hinsdale economic news analysis; controversy surrounding Market Basket; and more ....

29Jul/140

My Appearance on Green Mountain Mornings [07.29.14]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Green Mountain Mornings (WKVT 1490AM and 100.3FM in the Brattleboro area). Today's discussion, with host Chris Lenois, includes: news coverage of a "sword attack" over the weekend, in Brattleboro; our recent editorial taking town officials to task over the Brattleboro town manager search (and responses from the Selectboard chairman); upcoming coverage of political forums and how a small newsroom goes about assigning coverage; and more ....

22Jul/140

My Appearance on Green Mountain Mornings [07.22.14]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Green Mountain Mornings (WKVT 1490AM and 100.3FM in the Brattleboro area). Today's discussion, with host Chris Lenois, includes: the Reformer's recent report, following a FOIA request, on the police-involved shooting from last April; local folks traveling overseas and sharing their stories; online-exclusive video content; and more ....

[NOTE: My commentary begins at the 9 minute mark.]

16Jul/140

My Appearance on Green Mountain Mornings [07.15.14]

podcastRegular readers will now I've had a weekly appearance on local radio program Live & Local for 7-plus years ... but Live & Local is no more (read more about that, here). In it's place is Green Mountain Mornings, which airs 6 to 9 a.m. Mondays through Fridays on WKVT 100.3FM and 1490AM (in the Brattleboro area). However, my weekly contributions on local news, topics and the journalism industry will continue, with host Chris Lenois. In my first appearance on the show, we discuss: Entergy's payment to Vermont to offset the closing of Vermont Yankee and how that money should be used; Brattleboro Community Television's national recognition and community news coverage in general; parenting columnist Jill Stahl Tyler; and the variety of ways the Reformer publishes different types of information.

Listen to it here.

18Jun/140

My Appearance on Live & Local [06.17.14]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Live & Local (WKVT 1490AM and 100.3FM in the Brattleboro area). I was the in-studio guest this week, to discuss news from the past several days and journalism in general with host Chris Lenois. Today's discussion includes: Vermont's GMO labeling efforts; picking sides in terms of news coverage; election/candidate coverage; and more ....

Listen to it here.

12Jun/141

Meet the Reformer’s new features editor

When a small newsroom loses a member, especially one who has held a position for several years, it can be a daunting task to replace them. Such was the challenge I was unexpectedly faced with when, a few weeks ago, longtime arts editor Jon Potter resigned to take a new job with Brattleboro-based Lachis Arts/Corportation (read more about that, here).

As tracking down a replacement, along with many other newsroom responsibilities, dominated a lot of my time over the past few weeks, I was remiss in taking to this blog to publicly voice my positive opinion of Jon and the work we've done together in my time in Brattleboro. In short, for those who don't know, I began my career in the same seat -- albeit at a different news outlet -- that Jon held at the Reformer. We found much common ground in those shared experiences ... along with the many Friday night shifts we shared putting together the Weekend Reformer. Jon had a fantastic handle on the local arts scene, many contacts, and strived weekly to put together a solid arts section, chock-full of local content from all corners of the local entertainment scene.

[Good luck, Jon. It was a pleasure working with you!]

All that said, Jon departure opens the door for the opportunity to re-image the shift that aspect of coverage. As it turns out, I did not need to look far to find a person to fill that void. Cicely Eastman has been a longtime member of the Reformer, most recently as the special sections editor and online content contributor.

Much like when photo editor Zach Stephens departed last year -- and I converted that position to multi-media editor (a position now held by Kayla Rice) -- I shifted the vision of what Jon's former position should and/or could be: Cicely will serve as the features editor, overseeing the Reformer's arts coverage, assigning stories to the reporters, and handling the production of various editorial elements being created in the newsroom (specifically the weekly arts section Ovation! -- but, for example, she also assisted this week with our annual Graduation special section).

Here's a short piece I put together for Reformer.com announcing Cicely's appointment: