Behind The Scenes

My Appearance on Live & Local [04.15.14]

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 the news of the week and journalism in general with host Chris Lenois. This week's discussion includes: Traffic snarls following the unexpected closing of Interstate 91 over the weekend; The ongoing investigation into a police-shooting at a local hotel; And the future of Vermont Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Listen to it here.


My Appearance on Live & Local [03.25.14]

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, today, to discuss the news of the week and journalism in general with host Chris Lenois. Planned discussion include: The fallout from last weekend's annual Representative Town Meeting in Brattleboro (coverage and my impressions); coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines Jet; and the Reformer’s policies regarding candidates for elected office.

Listen to it here.


Reporting on sex offenders in the news

An interesting discussion in the newsroom, earlier today, on exactly how -- or even if -- a newspaper should report on sex offenders who move into the community.

As day managing editor Bob Audette put it: On the one hand it's a reader service and people should be aware if one of these people is moving into the community; On the other, these folks have served their time and deserve a second chance at a normal life (if they're on the "up and up").

Shadow figureTruthfully, this information is at anyone's figertips. Both Bob and myself signed up for alerts from the Vermont Department of Public Service Victim Crime Information Center. This information is public knowledge. But, the truth is, a lot of people just aren't aware of this service. So, if one of the main duties of a news outlet is to keep the public informed, isn't this just another reader service?

To be honest, until today's discussion, I didn't have an opinion on this one way or the other. But, after an editorial board meeting of the minds, the following decision was made: Starting in the next published Police Log, the Reformer will begin listing sex offenders who have recently been released into the community. Though we will be listing the name, age and offense of the offender, we will not be printing his or her photo or address.

That information will also run with the following disclaimer: However, for those in the community who would like to register to receive notifications, which include photos, go to

But, as with many decisions such as this, I'm interested to find out what members of the community think, as well. Do you believe it's a news outlet's responsibility to publish this type of information? Or do your believe once an offender has served his sentence he should be left alone to live in relative anonymity? Send me an e-mail or leave a comment, here.

[UPDATE: This conversation is also taking place over on the Brattleboro Reformer's Facebook page: take a look.]


My Appearance on Live & Local [03.05.14]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Live & Local (WKVT 1490AM and 100.3FM in the Brattleboro area). I am the in-studio guest for this edition of Live & Local, to discuss the news of the week and journalism in general with host Chris Lenois.

Chris was nice enough to invite me back for an extra appearance this week, to give a post-Town Meeting Day wrap-up. In the first hour, Chris and I take calls from the Reformer reporting staff. Howard Weiss-Tisman, Dom Poli, Mike Faher and Chris Mays go over the big goings-on in the towns they covered.

There was so much news coming out of Town Meeting Day, I stayed for a second hour to talk about Brattleboro's non-binding vote to approve a 1% option tax and Vernon's move to dissolve it's town police department.

First hour: Listen to it here.

Second hour: Listen to it here.


Town Meeting 2014 (by the numbers)

Now that Town Meeting Day has come and gone in Vermont, I wanted to take a moment and look back at the effort put forth by the newsroom, and the new news-collecting and reporting initiatives we've implemented in the past year.

A scene from Marlboro Town Meeting (Photo by Kayla Rice)

A scene from Marlboro Town Meeting (Photo by Kayla Rice)

This was the first Town Meeting officially under the DFM banner ... with reporters deployed in the field with smartphones and laptops, and I think it went fantastic.

Typically, Town Meeting Day (for an editor) means sitting around the office, keeping things in a holding pattern until reports and results begin coming in later in the day. This was the first time reporters were able to connect with readers while "on assignment" (partly due to Vermont's growing cell phone and broadband initiatives; partly due to reporters being outfitted, by the company, with the tools needed to be a "digital first" reporter).

I ran a live blog throughout the day on (through Storify); it was not the first year I experimented with live blogging, but by far the easiest (in terms of having lively content from the field throughout the day; as well as the relative ease a tool like Storify allows for resource collection from a variety of sources. In past years, I would be forced to add content and code it for web, manually.).

Here are just a few numbers you may find interesting:

-- 40-plus Tweets from the field (including live photos from meetings)
-- 16 Tout videos from various towns
-- 1,000-plus views (and counting) of the live blog on Storify
-- 48 photos in our online slideshow
-- 24 bylined stories from various towns around the county
-- 22,644 "views*" on Facebook (*This number may be slightly skewed as I simply added all the views for Town Meeting -related posts from yesterday)

All that, plus in the spirit of truly "UNBOLTING" from the print product, each and every Town Meeting story was uploaded to as it was completed. (All content was live by 11 p.m.)

If nothing else, this is an interesting exercise in reflecting on the multitude of changes taking place not only in the Brattleboro Reformer newsroom, but newsrooms around the globe.

[P.S. As an aside, I'd like to publicly acknowledge the hard work and good effort put forth by every member of the news team -- day editor Bob Audette, senior reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman, lead reporter Mike Faher, and reporters Dom Poli and Chris Mays. The work this newsroom does, especially during Town Meeting, is truly a team effort.]


In-house training

The Reformer newsroom was lucky enough to have Steve Buttry, director of community engagement & social media with Digital First Media, visit the offices today. I hope the reporters got so new ideas on how to better utilize the many social media resources available to become better journalist. (And, of course, we all use these tools to better serve the readers and community at large.)

Here he discusses the live chat tool ScribbleLive.

Buttry at Reformer


My appearance on Live & Local [10.01.13]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Live & Local (WKVT 1490AM in the Brattleboro area).
Host Chris Lenois and I talked about the recently completed Jodi LaClaire trial (and verdict), the Four Columns Inn foreclosure, the proposed cell tower in Putney, and Doggie-palooza. We worked some music discussion in there, too!

Listen to it here.


My appearance on Live & Local [09.24.13]

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Live & Local (WKVT 1490AM in the Brattleboro area).
Host Chris Lenois and I talked about our coverage of some notable, local trials; accident coverage; the challenges covering two states; and plenty of other topics.

Listen to it here.


Reporting from the scene

I think, sometimes, when people imagine working in a newsroom, they imagine that stereotypical situation: Everyone is quietly working, when all of a sudden the noise of the police scanner screeches through the silence. There's an accident, with possible entrapment, and traffic is both directions is being re-routed. Without hesitation the editor motions to a staff reporter and photographer, and the two grab their coats, their gear, and head out into the night.

Actually, that might happen more often than you think. Except -- and this is my personal preference -- I usually like to let the situation play out on the scanner for a few minutes, to make sure there really is a serious (and thus newsworthy) scene to report from. All too often reporters show up at the scene of a "fender-bender" with nothing of news to report.

Nonetheless, it's very important to for newsrooms to have a clear list of policies and/or guidelines for reporters and other members of the staff to adhere to when covering the news. For example, here at the Reformer, reporters are given the following guidelines: be careful and be safe; make your presence known to emergency responders on the scene, but be sure to not get in their way; if possible, introduce yourself to emergency responders on scene; follow the instruction of emergency responders on scene (within reason); know your rights; get what you need and get going; report from the scene (for example, post a photo or traffic alert via smartphone to Facebook and/or Twitter. We also make sure to protect the identity of those injured in an accident -- no photos of injured people (or dead victims), try to avoid license plates, etc.

Consider the following image from a crash scene in Chesterfield, N.H., taken last week:

Chesterfield accident

After posting that photo on Facebook, it created a lively debate in the comments section. The group seemed evenly split: those "pro" on our posting it stated that it was newsworthy ("There are no victims in this photo. And there are multiple vehicles that look like this one that drive around. Nothing identifies who the victims are therefore it was a properly selected photo") and those against our posting repeatedly stating this is not the way for family and friends to be notified of a tragedy ("So nice for the family and friends of the victims to see this. News? I think not.").

Of all the comments, perhaps this was the most interesting:

"From a first responder, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop posting pictures of motor vehicle collisions in the area, at least until family is notified. You (The Reformer Staff) were asked to stay off the scene and I can see how well you listened..."

... Which is why it is so important to have a set policy in place. Following the accusation, the poster was asked to contact the editor (myself) to discuss the matter further via another posting. (We also took the time to justify/clarify our reporters' actions at the scene.

Later that day, the person who made the post took the time to call me, and we took the time to share "both sides" of the story during what I felt for the most part was a cordial conversation. (It unfortunately ended with a request to never cover accidents in that town again and, I after I stated that just wasn't possible, a threat that my staff would be immediately arrested then next time they showed up on scene. Yikes!)

It was nice to see, later in the day, a reply to the above post, from the Spofford, N.H., fire chief:

"As command of the crash scene in Spofford I can assure you that no order was ever given for Reformer staff to stay off the scene. The reporter and photographer stopped at the traffic detail on the east end, and asked the Spofford firefighter if they could proceed to the scene, I was contacted by radio by that member and granted the request. NEVER will I deny any press from any scene.I did request of the photographer that no license plates be posted or published. I see that my request was honored. I read all these that are upset that pictures posted prior to family notification. My personal opinion on this is, its just another thing to complain about. Does anyone know that the families were not already notified by the time the picture hit? I counted 87 White Subaru's today, would all those families check on their loved ones even if it was not their loved one involved?"

As a final "food for thought" -type item, here's a similar piece of reporting, this one via Tout, from the scene of a fatal motorcycle crash in Winchester, N.H., several weeks ago. Again, you'll notice the reporter took the time to make sure there was nothing to identify the victim, and he made sure to talk to emergency personnel on scene to get information and make sure he wasn't in the way.

I'm sure I'll write more on this topic in the future.


My appearance on Live & Local (09.03.13)

podcastQuick post to promote my latest appearance on Live & Local (WKVT 1490AM in the Brattleboro area).
Host Chris Lenois and I re-visited the Vermont Yankee coverage from last week, talked about U.S. action in Syria, musical tastes and a little more local news.

Listen to it here.