Behind The Scenes
28Jun/140

Summer hiatus

Out-of-Office

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13Jan/140

You are not alone [an editorial]

[Here's a sneak peek at tomorrow's editorial.]

Today is Jan. 14.

The year is only 2 weeks old.

Yet, sadly, we’ve already reported on the death of two area teens who died by suicide.

We hurt for their families, their friends ... for all who new them. But most of all, we hurt for the young lives, ended far too soon.

We can’t begin to imagine the emotion or mental state behind such a decision.

And we also believe that, given the recent tragedies, this often under-reported element of daily life in any commu­nity — suicide — will be talked about more. By chil­dren and adults, alike. Charlie Biss, director of the Child, Adolescent and Family Unit of the Vermont Department of Mental Health, told the Reformer on Monday that “Suicide is huge public health problem, and there is no one answer on how to prevent it.”

According to Biss, in Vermont there are between six and nine sui­cides every year committed by youth under the age of 18.

That number seems incomprehensible. That many?

Equally as troubling, Biss added: Data shows that about 20 percent of the teenagers surveyed in this state say they have thought about it, or have experienced long periods of profound sadness.

“It’s important for everyone to get information on this,” Biss said. “This is not a youth problem. It is really a life span concern.”

To that end, we’d like to re-publish an editorial we wrote last year, on this topic:

***

Spending most of our days inside a newsroom, there are numerous bits of information that comes across our desks on a daily basis that doesn’t “make” the daily news.

One of those items: suicide.

As a longstanding policy, unless there’s an unusually public aspect to a suicide, we choose not to publish them. Part of that is due to the sensitivity of the family and friends; part is due to respecting the complex nature of what makes a person feel like they have no other option (than to take their own life); and part is to prevent others from possibly following suit.

However, while we don’t typically report on suicides, we do make a point to do stories on suicide prevention, and the various local groups that work very hard to help those in need.

Without getting into specifics, the editorial board has noticed there’s been several suicides in the area this summer, and wanted to take a moment to recognize the seriousness of the issue, and spot­light the help available to those who feel like they have nowhere left to turn.

“Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities,” accord­ing to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “While its causes are complex and determined by multiple factors, the goal of suicide prevention is simple: Reduce factors that increase risk (i.e. risk factors) and increase factors that promote resilience (i.e. pro­tective factors). Ideally, prevention addresses all levels of influence: individual, relationship, community, and societal. Effective preven­tion strategies are needed to promote awareness of suicide and encourage a commitment to social change.”

The Vermont Department of Health calls suicide “a serious public health problem that devastates individuals, families and communi­ties,” while pointing out it is one of the leading causes of death among Americans.

“Completed suicides are only part of the problem,” the Vermont Department of Health reports. “More people are hospitalized or treated and released as a result of suicide attempts than are fatally injured. ... While suicide is often viewed as a response to a single stressful event, it is a far more complicated issue.”

There are many warning signs to consider if you are concerned someone you love may be at risk. They include: always talking or thinking about death; clinical depression; having a “death wish”; los­ing interest in things one used to care about; making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless; or even talking about suicide.

There are resources available, just by picking up the phone. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-TALK. Here in Vermont, people can get information and refer­rals by calling 2-1-1. There’s also a National Suicide Hotline at 800­SUICIDE. Or, for teens: 800-852-8336.

Here in Windham County Health Care and Rehabilitation Services provides 24 hour emergency support to anyone with thoughts of sui­cide, as well to family members and friends who are communicating with someone with such thoughts.

Anyone in immediate crisis should call 911, and HCRS can be reached at 800-622-4235.

Please, before doing anything rash, reach out to one of these servic­es. There are people waiting to help you.

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2Jan/140

Budget for Jan. 3, 2014 edition

*What's a budget? Click the image for a definition.*

*What's a budget?
Click the image for a definition.*

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the Jan. 3, 2014 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).

29Dec/130

Budget for Dec. 30, 2013 edition

*What's a budget? Click the image for a definition.*

*What's a budget?
Click the image for a definition.*

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the Dec. 30, 2013 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).

2May/130

Taking care when ID'ing people

The Reformer was recently covering a potentially tragic situation where a pedestrian was struck by a train in the downtown Brattleboro area. She survived, but investigators were hesitant to release the woman's name. Once they did, we reported it in an update, making sure to include her town of residence and age.

Letters graphic"The victim was identified as Kimberly Saunders in a police report that had been requested by the Reformer. Police previously had identified the woman only as a 47-year-old Brattleboro resident."

Some folks may ask, "Why provide that much information?"

Consider the following letter to the editor:

My name is Kimberly J. Saunders and I live in Hinsdale, N.H. I have received some very interesting calls about the Reformer’s police logs and the story of the women hit by a train ("Woman hit by train identified," May 19), with the same name as mine. I am writing to you in order to let everyone that is reading the police log and the story that this is not me. I have not been arrested for anything and have not been hit by a train. I would appreciate this letter making it to your paper to clear things up.

Years ago, when I worked at another newspaper, we had two men living in the same town: same last name, same age, same middle initial. One was a well-known business man, the other frequently appeared in the police log. To ensure people reading the paper did not confuse the two, we had to go above and beyond to also provide the street address of the suspect. That is an extreme case.

For most everyone working in a newsroom, the last thing anyone wants to do is "ruin" a reputation through lazy reporting. That's why it's always critical to include all pertinent, personal information when reporting a story. (That includes correct spellings, last names, middle initials, ages and towns of residence.) If you do so, it's hard to justify the next morning's angry phone call.

"Yes sir, I understand you aren't the person in the police log. ... Are you 24? Do you live in this town? Then people shouldn't be making those assumptions. ... Please feel free to write a letter to the editor, we'd be glad to run it."

As they say, the devil's in the details.

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15Apr/130

A reporter's new best friend

Several months I wrote a blog post about what tools every reporter needs to best do his/her job. And wouldn't you know a friend e-mailed me the following image making the rounds online. You know what they say about pictures ....

The wonders of technology ...

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7Apr/130

Brief hiatus

I will be taking a brief vacation this week, but will return to the office on April 11.

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18Oct/120

Video: The History of Printing

How great is this video?

When pushing forward, it's always important to remember where you came from, too.

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11Jul/122

Newspapers picking a path to the future

In his latest post over at Reflections of a Newsosaur, Alan Mutter poses the question, "What's next for newspapers?"

Talking about the serious decline in ad revenue over the past decade, along with the shift in readership from print to online, he outlines three paths publishers could choose when deciding the future of their product(s):


Farm It – Keep doing what you do today as well as you can in the hopes of optimizing the existing franchise for as long as possible. This presumes that (a) the company will operate in a reasonably hospitable and predictable market environment and (b) management is sufficiently skillful to execute smartly with the available resources.

Milk It – Accept the inevitable decline and fall of the traditional newspaper model and then whack costs to extract the most profits from the decaying business for as long as possible. On the day you no longer can turn a profit, throw the keys on the table and call it quits.

Feed It – Determine that even the most proficient management cannot overcome the fundamental changes in the marketplace that have been cutting readership and revenues since the Internet arrived two decades ago. Instead of retreating, however, you leverage the waning strengths of the legacy business and invest aggressively in new digital products to reposition it for the future.

Mutter then matches each scenario up with a publisher to give real-life examples to his theories. Commonsense, at least in my opinion, would dictate you choose Option 3. Surely that's the plan here at the Reformer, and with the rest of Digital First Media.

Consider the various social media platforms the Reformer now hosts content on, offering readers alternative content to the "typical" newspaper fare (from video to interactive graphics to large-scale packages we never would have had space for in a printed product). This expansion of our readership, through sites like Facebook and Youtube, in theory has doubled or even tripled our readership, especially when you consider the folks in other states (like Texas and California) now regularly read the Brattleboro Reformer (a statistic proved true not only through page views but through letters to the editor).

The trick now is to figure out how to convince traditional advertisers of the value of that global audience (a tough task with small-town local business) and also by taking advantage of that audience when it comes to national advertisers (which Digital First Media is doing, now).

Now ... if we could only do something about that paywall ....

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1May/120

Budget for May 2, 2012 edition

Here's what the newsroom staff is working on for the May 2, 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).