Behind The Scenes
17Sep/140

Reformer newsroom budget for September 17, 2014

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

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

This a list of stories the newsroom staff is working on in the Reformer newsroom, today (September 17). Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper or appear online today — 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
16Sep/140

Driving rude [an editorial]

[A sneak peek at an upcoming editorial for the Brattleboro Reformer.]

A new survey recently aimed to rank the country’s rudest drivers, and
shockingly Vermont ranked in the Top 10.

The “survey,” released on Monday by Insure.com (”The #1most cited
independent consumer insurance website”), ranked the states on
behavior it called “brusque, boorish or downright barbaric.” Topping
the list? Idaho.

Vermont tied for the sixth spot on the list, sharing the honor with
Delaware. Our neighbor to the south, Massachusetts, is just a little
more rude, ranking fifth on the list. (Those saints over in New
Hampshire were ranked 48!)

For point of reference, the top spots were rounded out thusly: Utah
(10); Nevada (9); New Jersey (8); Wyoming (4); New York (3);
Washington D.C. (2); and Idaho (1).

So, why has Vermont ranked so high? Well, Insure.com actually put a
little thought into its explanations: “The University of Michigan
Transportation Research Institute reported that according to
statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
Vermont was one of only two states (the other North Dakota, where the
population soared during the same period) to register an increase in
the number of traffic fatalities between 2005 and 2012. The same study
found Vermont ranked No. 1 in the greatest increase in fatalities per
distance driven of any state over the same period.”

It also points out that, in a 2010 study, DriverSide.com ranked
Vermont No. 3 in the nation for speeding tickets issued per capita. Of
course, what’s not clear is if those tickets are being issued to
out-of-state drivers …. Not from New Hampshire, of course (those
drivers are saints, didn’t you know?), but did you already forget
about those maniacs in Massachusetts? (Yes, the editorial board is
aware there’s more common and concise phraseology for Massachusetts
drivers, but this is a family news organization!)

Needless to say, news of the survey was not warmly received on the
Reformer’s Facebook page, Tuesday.

“Vermont? I don’t believe it, unless the rude drivers they are
referring to are the out of staters here to ski or leaf peep!” wrote
one reader.

“Visited Vermont in the spring and everyone seemed so laid back and
relaxed it’s hard to imagine it being in the top 10,” stated another.
And also: “Pretty positive that Vermont is one of the most courteous
states when it comes to driving. Never had I ever once had road rage
in Vermont but all the other surrounding states all more than once.”

So what, if anything, can we learn from this survey?

“Casting aspersions toward other drivers is a long-standing
tradition,” Amy Danise, editorial director for Insure.com, stated in a
release. “We wanted to know not only where the rude drivers come from,
but also who thinks they’re rude.”

Ah yes, we also failed to mention that this list not only ranked the
states on rudeness, but also the states that hate them the most. (In
Vermont’s case, California was the culprit. But really, can you blame
them? When you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper gridlock for hours on end,
how can you not hold a grudge against our wide-open highways framed by
beautiful countryside?)

Perhaps more important, a breakdown of the various pet peeves drivers
hold against one another. The top five things that most infuriated
other drivers: driving too fast (26 percent); weaving in and out of
lanes (28 percent); not signaling turns (35 percent); tailgating (37
percent); and talking on a cell phone while driving (47 percent).
Well, that last one won’t be an issue much longer.

If our tongue-in-cheek response didn’t make it clear enough: Surely
Vermont’s ranking on this list is little to get all hot and bothered
about. This survey’s attempt was most likely to generate buzz more
than start a serious controversy. But it does offer a good opportunity
to step back, if just for a moment, and reflect on the way we handle
ourselves when out on the roadways. Those top five pet peeves are all
genuine safety concerns that can and do lead to serious accidents.
Re-evaluating how we choose to conduct ourselves when behind the wheel
of a vehicle is not only good common sense, it could save a life.

So display your Vermont plates proud … and if nothing else, be happy
you aren’t driving in Idaho! We hear those drivers are so rude ....

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16Sep/140

Reformer newsroom budget for September 16, 2014

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

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

This a list of stories the newsroom staff is working on in the Reformer newsroom, today (September 16). Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper or appear online today — 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
15Sep/140

Support for mothers [an editorial]

[A sneak peek at an upcoming editorial for the Brattleboro Reformer.]

The Vermont Department of Health on Monday revealed that, for the second year in row, Vermont is one of only four states to exceed the Healthy People 2020 breastfeeding goals established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card, which was published by the CDC in August, Vermont women breastfeed their babies at birth, three months and six months at a rate well above the national average. Vermont also exceeded the national goals in five categories including rates of exclusive breastfeeding at three and six months. Consider for a moment a 2010 report published in the the journal Pediatrics, which states that the lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breastfed their babies for the first six months of life.

“The health care system has got to be aware that breast-feeding makes a profound difference,” Dr. Ruth Lawrence, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics’ breast-feeding section, told the Associated Press following the release of the report.

The health benefits linked to breastfeeding have been well reported, over the years. Among the benefits: Breast milk contains antibodies that help babies fight infections; it also can affect insulin levels in the blood, which may make breastfed babies less likely to develop diabetes and obesity.

“Vermont hospitals and our breastfeeding support community have done a phenomenal job,” Breena Holmes, MD, director of maternal and child health for the Health Department, stated in a release. “Breastfeeding is the most protective and nutritious way to feed your baby. It contributes to brain development and acts as a protection against obesity and chronic disease later in life.”

Despite all of the efforts put forth to educate the public about the benefits of breastfeeding, it is still viewed by many in society to be a taboo topic, and many mothers are left to feel ostracized by the simple act of feeding their babies, as Reformer parenting columnist Michelle Stephens illustrated in a piece last year.

“I found that there are people who are very very against seeing mothers feeding their child. So against it that they will say rude comments to you, ask you to leave, or accuse you of terrible things,” Stephens wrote. “They will shame you into sitting in a filthy restroom, afraid to touch anything. I learned that I couldn’t leave the house without a fight.”

To make matters more challenging, high breastfeeding initiation rates, according to the Vermont Department of Health, take a dramatic decline as mothers return to work, and more than 70 percent of new mothers with young children return to the work force. “Despite federal legislation under the Affordable Care Act requiring employers to provide reasonable time and space for lactating employees, many employers have not yet provided the required support. Many women,” Dr. Holmes said, “feel powerless to approach their supervisors about their needs.”

We call on state and local officials to continue educating the public — mothers on the value of breastfeeding as well as the general public on why breastfeeding should never be something a woman is bullied into feeling ashamed to do. More effort must also be placed on reforms which will support mothers in the workplace.

It’s common sense and there’s more than enough tangible evidence to support that the health benefits far outweigh any societal taboo that makes people “feel uncomfortable” having to witness this most natural of interactions between a mother and child.

“There is still a long way to go before our current society accepts breastfeeding as normal,” Stephens wrote. “Together we will ensure that no new mom, trying to feed her baby gets called names or banished to a bathroom. Instead, she will get the love and support she deserves, regardless of how she chooses to feed her child.”

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15Sep/140

Reformer newsroom budget for September 15

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

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

This a list of stories the newsroom staff is working on in the Reformer newsroom, today (September 15). Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper or appear online today — 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
13Sep/140

Reformer newsroom budget for September 13-14, 2014

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

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

This a list of stories the newsroom staff is working on in the Reformer newsroom, today (September 13). Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper or appear online today — 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
12Sep/140

A dangerous blame game [an editorial]

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

Two recent news items for your consideration: First, the recent “indefinite suspension” of NFL running back Ray Rice (who was ultimately cut from his team, the Baltimore Ravens), following a domestic violence incident earlier this year in which he punched his then-fiance (now wife) in an elevator. The incident — and the NFL’s subsequent investigation and handling of it — has been a hot topic for most of the summer, and only intensified after footage from inside the elevator (which showed Rice strike his wife in the face and render her unconscious) was leaked to the press last weekend.

Second, the hacking of several, high-profile celebrity cell phone accounts late last month, which ultimately resulted in many nude photographs, meant to remain private, being posted to various corners of the Internet. Slate staff writer Amanda Hess compared the invasion of (digital) privacy as “the digital equivalent of approaching a woman on the street, pulling down her shirt, snapping a photo, and passing it around.”

Unrelated incidents to be sure, but there’s one powerful thread of commonality to be found. In both cases, a woman or women were victimized through tragic circumstance and forced, due to their celebrity (or connection to celebrity), to not only re-live this violation in extremely public fashion, but also live through further victimization by those who chose to question their actions (“Why did she stay with him?” “Why did they take those types of photographs and assume they wouldn’t be stolen?”) as opposed to the people perpetrating the violence.

It says a lot about us as a society, doesn’t it?

Hannah Giorgis, in a thought-provoking opinion piece for UK news outlet The Guardian (“Don’t watch the Ray Rice video. Don’t ask why Janay Palmer married him. Ask why anyone would blame a victim,” Sept. 8) explores this ongoing, troubling cycle of re-victimization.

“That we feel entitled (and excited) to access gutwrenching images of a woman being abused,” Giorgis writes, “speaks volumes not only about the man who battered her, but also about we who gaze in parasitic rapture. We click and consume, comment and carry on. What are we saying about ourselves when we place ... pain under a microscope only to better consume the full kaleidoscope of their suffering?”

Giorgis continues: “This broadcasting of victims’ most vulnerable moments as sites for public commentary is not new. Indeed, victims of abuse have always been forced to recount their traumas to audiences more intent on policing their victimhood than finding justice.”

And really, whether it’s watching a grainy elevator video or clicking through to view personal, intimate photographs never intended to be shared with the world at large, the result is the same: Not only do some feel entitled to view these images, but they also justify their actions by calling into question the very person being violated.

“We think we can look at victims (or batterers) ... that if we look at them at arm’s length, we become spectators,” Shari (no last name given, as policy), a community outreach advocate for the Women’s Freedom Center in Brattleboro, told the Reformer. “There’s this sense that we would never make those decisions ... When really, we have no idea.”

Especially troubling, in this day and age with technology putting a world of information (literally) at our fingertips, victimization can be amplified and disseminated around the world.

“For victims now, in this media age, we are all potentially vulnerable to having incredibly private things become permanently public, and then perceived to be fair game,” Shari said, pointing out that in an age of the 24-hour news cycle, the conversation can only go on for so long before it circles back to judgment on the victim.

And, really, that’s the worst possible way for any of these conversations to be directed.

“It says a lot about the sense of entitlement,” Shari said, “to weigh in and judge that we know what people are going through. It’s like open season on analyzing and critiquing what a victim is going through, creating a cycle of blaming and shaming the victim. This fuels battering.”

More importantly, it takes the focus away from the behavior of the batterer — whether that’s someone striking a woman in an elevator or hacking digital file. The conversation is not about what a victim would or wouldn’t — should or shouldn’t — do.

So we know where the conversation shouldn’t go; Where should it go?

When these types of news stories come about, and spark national debate, the value comes from what we, as a culture, decide to do in terms of looking inward and changing the tone of the conversation.

“Domestic violence is a public media event,” Shari said. “We feel like that spotlight needs to stay on. We’re always examining victims’ mindsets and not our own.”

What we should really be asking ourselves is what is actually going to be an effective deterrent to this behavior?

Any time, in any of these issues, when the culture refocuses and looks at where the responsibility actually lies for these different kinds of crime, that is a step in the right direction. Those are the conversations we need to continue to have with each other.

Filed under: editorials No Comments
12Sep/140

Reformer newsroom budget for September 12, 2014

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

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

This a list of stories the newsroom staff is working on in the Reformer newsroom, today (September 12). Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper or appear online today — 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
11Sep/140

Reformer newsroom budget for September 11, 2014

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

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

This a list of stories the newsroom staff is working on in the Reformer newsroom, today (September 11). Please note: Just because it appears on this budget, doesn't mean it will run in tomorrow's newspaper or appear online today — 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
10Sep/140

Always remember [an editorial]

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

Today marks 13 years since 19 men hijacked four airplanes and committed the largest act of terrorism against the United States. And now, 13 years later, there’s still a lot to pause and reflect upon.

Flags will be at half mast, and somber memorials will be held across the United States in remembrance of that horrible day, a day that many among us will always remember with incredible sadness, unrequited anger and soul-numbing helplessness.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the United States awoke to the real dangers of terrorism: Fantastical terrorists bent on destruction will strike anywhere, anytime and that they are willing to die to do it. In the years that have passed, America, and the world, has changed — and in some ways not for the better.

As this editorial board put it in a similar editorial last year, the feeling of insecurity and impermanence that permeates our society today could be the greatest legacy of Sept. 11, 2001.

Some have posited the disturbing notion that, in fact, the terrorists did win on Sept. 11, but not due to the attacks on the United States, but in our reactions to the attacks.

In the years that followed Sept. 11, 2001, the nation’s infrastructure has crumbled around us, all the while budgets for the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies tasked with protecting us from terrorism and malignant forces continue to skyrocket. While we throw our resources at combating external enemies, the things that have made our society strong and a beacon to people around the world — education, upward mobility, community services, social and economic justice — take a backseat.

Surely that’s a recipe for disaster. And those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.

But that’s also only one way to look at the previous 13 years.

The editorial board at the Contra Costa Times has a different take, however. “Despite taking any number of reactive actions that do not look so good in hindsight,” they write, “the people of the U.S. have rallied. They have, by and large, gone back to business as usual. Our politics are as fiesty as ever. Our people are in some ways defiant and the nation has resolved to remain unbowed by terrorism. The construction of the soaring Memorial Tower and Museum on the site of the World Trade Center Towers will stand as testament to that sentiment.”

Anyone old enough to remember that fateful day in 2001, when heavy smoke from two city skyscrapers scarred the picturesque blue sky, will always remember where they were when they first heard the chilling news. It is equally imperative that we not forget the nearly 3,000 innocent people who were killed that day.

The attacks that day were not specifically against those fallen people, it was an attack on all of us, on our way of life.

That attack continues to this day, and it is the job of each of us to protect it. Today, more than any other, is a time to reflect on who we (as a society) are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

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