Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Online reality gets to be a bit much for the Monitor

Yesterday afternoon, the Concord Monitor informed readers that it was eliminating anonymous posting on its Web site and requiring people to sign up with user names. They also implemented a new plan that will allow "trusted" users to be created and for the community to regulate their site with ratings, in order to stave off any "mean-spirited" comments.
Hey, this is not a huge thing. The company I work for implemented the same change a few months after allowing comments online for many of the same reasons the Monitor is making the change. It was an absolute free-for-all, as it has been on the Monitor's site. And it seems now, the reality of what people think and are willing to say online is a bit too much reality or free speech for the Monitor to handle.
At the same time, anonymity allows people to show their true feelings. Instead of censoring or trying to control the true feelings of people, media outlets should embrace the interaction and learn from what people are saying.
Personally, it's not a big deal to get a user name and continue to post things. You can make up a fake name and fake email and have the same anonymity commenters have now. I do worry about having a trusted user process instead of a free and open process. Does the Monitor really want its Web site to become a flame and rating war like Daily Kos or Blue Hampshire? It would seem to me that a better idea would be to allow the community to freely say what they want without being rated or having their comments disappear because some people don't like them. That is what has happened before on other sites and that's what will happen at the Monitor.
That said, people will be free to comment here as much as they like.
News from ConcordMonitor.com
May 26, 2009

Dear Monitor Online member,
Because you are a registered member of the Concord Monitor online community, I wanted to tell you in advance about some exciting improvements coming to the website tomorrow. We are completely redesigning our reader comments, to make it an even better forum for community dialog.

Some things you'll notice right away:

Comments will now be threaded, making it easier to follow side discussions.

You'll be able to control how you view the comments, switching from having the newest on top (the way we show them now) to having the oldest on top, if you prefer it that way.

You'll be able to preview your comments before you post them. If you notice an error in something you wrote, or you just want to tweak the wording, you now will be able to edit your comment after it's posted, at least until someone responds to it.

You'll be able to e-mail specific comments to friends.

You'll be able to rate comments, so people can quickly find the best comments. (And so we can call attention to the best of the best.)

We've made some changes behind the scenes, too.

First, we will begin requiring registration of all posters. Screen names are fine, of course. But we will no longer publish completely anonymous posts. This should make it easier to follow the comments, and should cut down on sock puppets and spam.

We've also introduced user roles that will allow us to entrust experienced posters with direct, immediate posting, as we currently allow for all registered users. Existing registered users, like you, will be grandfathered in as trusted users. Newly registered users, however, will go through a period when their comments are reviewed before they're posted. Once they've demonstrated that they understand and are willing to follow the discussion guidelines, their comments will go up directly.

On the other hand, if we receive a number of legitimate complaints that a trusted user is violating the discussion guidelines, we can now remove the user's trusted status without having to block the account entirely.

To keep that from happening to you, be sure to check out our revised discussion guidelines and our new Rules of the Road FAQ. In the FAQ, we've tried to lay out in plain language what we hope to see on the comment boards -- a lively, civil discussion, with plenty of room for argument and disagreement but no tolerance for personal attacks, name-calling, derogatory comments, spam or other anti-social behavior.


Thanks for your participation. We hope you like the new features. And if you don't, well, we're sure you'll let us know!

Sincerely,

Geordie Wilson
Publisher, Concord Monitor

Another book event at Gibson's

From the inbox:
The Finest Hours
Thursday, May 28, at 7 PM
In a 1952 nor'easter, the distress of two ships off Cape Cod initiated a dramatic Coast Guard operation recounted here by coauthors Tougias and Sherman (Casey Sherman will be joining us this evening to tell us about the book.)
Both vessels were World War II surplus, cheaply built, unwisely kept in service, and broken in two by the storm.....

All four halves floated, for the moment, and the authors' narrative accordingly tracks four separate search-and-rescue efforts that form the complete story. The most prominent, in the press at the time and in official honors conferred afterward, concerned one motorized lifeboat, a puny 36 feet long and manned by four men, dispatched to do battle with the maelstrom's towering waves. This is the seascape of The Perfect Storm, and the authors do justice to the peril in a tight account of the action. Plotting the course of CG36500, the utilitarian name of the lifeboat captained by Bernie Webber (interviewed for this book), Tougias and Sherman reach their peak of tension in the sink-or-swim moments when mariners abandoned ship and chanced their lives on their rescuers skill and bravery. An excellent entry in the disaster-at-sea genre.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Herbie Quinn visits town


Former Concord Mayor Herbie Quinn signed books at the Kiwanis Fair on May 17.
Former Concord Mayor J. Herbie Quinn was in town recently selling copies of his new book, "Political Crucifixion, and I got a chance to meet him and buy a copy of his book. He was selling books a various locations around the city the last few weeks including the Kiwanis Fair. Herbie shared a slew of old stories about life in Concord, his election to mayor, and eventual impeachment after he, as he puts it, took on the police department and the political insiders of the city.
I haven't had a chance to read the book yet - I passed it on to a family member to check out first. But I will read it later.
You gotta love the homemade aspect of Herbie putting out his book - visiting with old friends, selling them at local stores, and even out of the back of his car. Herbie headed back to Florida after his visit at the Fair.
In the end, Herbie said, you really have to be true to yourself and do what you believe is the right thing to do. And I can't think about better advice to give anyone.
"Political Crucifixion" is available in various places around town.


Scenes from the Kiwanis Fair

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Partners in Health raffle

Partners in Health is a Community Bridges program that provides services to families who have children with chronic health conditions. The Partners in Health Family Council, consisting of eight family members, is selling calendars representing each day of the month of May 2009 as a fundraiser for the Partners in Health program. For each day, the purchaser is eligible to win a gift. Names are reentered into the raffle so there is more than one opportunity to win. On the last day of the month, May 31, a signed and framed Tom Brady football shirt will be raffled off, a value of $350. The cost for the calendar is $5 each. To purchase a calendar, visit the website at: www.communitybridgesnh.org or call 225-4153 ext. 387.

The families who are supported by Partners in Health are often overwhelmed with caring for a child who has a serious chronic condition. The demands of the care may interfere with their ability to work fulltime, or at all, and with their capacity to pay for the enormous expenses incurred by caring for their family member. These expenses could include travel expenses to frequent doctor visits or overnight stays at hotels to be near their child who is in the hospital. Last year, Partners in Health assisted 80 families in Merrimack County.

“I wish I had known about Community Bridges at the start of my son’s illness. My son has since passed away, but Community Bridges was there for us to help us through the grieving. Words cannot express how thankful we are to Community Bridges,” said Robert Magill, parent and member of the Partners in Health Family Council. “I want more people to know about Community Bridges and I am doing what I can do to get the word out. We think this raffle will not only help us raise awareness for the program, but it will also help us raise needed funds to assist families.”

The Partners in Health calendar fundraiser will help support families in the region who care for a loved one with a chronic illness. The funds raised from the calendars will help cover costs and expenses not met by insurance, or any other sources, to ensure that families will have assistance to cover the most basic costs while caring for their loved one.

“Partners in Health has been a Community Bridges program since 2002. Since that time, we continue to receive numerous letters from families thanking us for the support they received through the program,” said Roy Gerstenberger, Executive Director of Community Bridges. “Families are often overwhelmed when caring for a child with a chronic health condition. We do everything we can to help ease their concerns so they can focus on doing what they do best - being a parent.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Local control of Concord public schools

In the House By Rep. Rick Watrous

There is an important bill that directly affects Concord citizens making its way through the State House. Your input could be crucial.

House Bill 319 would give taxpayers a chance to exercise local control over the Concord School District by giving citizens the opportunity to amend their school district charter without prior legislative approval.

As the law now stands, Concord citizens—unlike residents of all other districts—are unable to change their own school district charter. As one of the five Concord state representatives who are co-sponsoring this bill, I believe that Concord citizens should be able to amend their own school district charter without having to go through the State House.

Since 1961 Concord has had the only autonomous school district in the state. Up until the 1961 charter change, taxpayers were able to vote on their school district budget. The school district annual budget—now representing approximately 70 million dollars and 2/3’s of the tax base—is subject to approval by neither the voters nor the city council. Any attempt to change Concord’s school district charter has had to be approved by the NH House, Senate and Governor.

This unfortunate situation—which exists only in Concord—impedes home rule and puts the legislature in the midst of a strictly local situation. Concord citizens should possess local control similar to that of residents of other NH towns. If passed, HB 319 would simply give Concord voters the opportunity to amend their own school district charter under existing state law.

The bill was unanimously passed by the House Municipal Committee and passed the full House on the consent calendar. The bill is now being considered by the Senate. There was much support of the bill at the recent Public and Municipal Affairs Committee hearing. The only person who spoke in opposition was the attorney for the school district. He suggested forming a commission to study the bill, composed of state senators, representatives and other appointees.

This would be a lengthy and needless process, getting the state even more involved in what should be a local affair. It’s time for the state to step aside, pass HB 319, and let Concord citizens control their own school district by having the power to amend their charter. Any changes would then be voted on by the Concord taxpayers.

I urge citizens to contact the chair of the Public and Municipal Affairs Committee, Senator Betsi DeVries (271-6933, betsi.devries@leg.state.nh.us) or Concord’s own senator, Senate President Sylvia Larson (271-2111, sylvia.larsen@leg.state.nh.us). Let them know that you support HB 319 and local control for Concord.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The city's budget is up online ...

Here it is ... read it and weep: ["FY10 Proposed Budget"].
The most ridiculous and outrageous line item? ConcordTV getting $211,000! Layoff nearly 10 percent of the municipal workforce but the cable access center gets a minor cut and will probably be able to keep its five or six people. Absolutely infuriating!!
More later, when I get off my work deadlines.

Community Bridges names Gibson new career development specialist

Community Bridges, a non-profit organization providing services to people in Central NH who experience disabilities associated with developmental delays, acquired brain injury, chronic health conditions, and aging, recently hired Jack Gibson as the new Career Development Specialist. He will be responsible for networking with area businesses and assisting in placing people into meaningful careers of their choice.

Mr. Gibson has more than 35 years of vocational rehabilitation experience. Prior to joining Community Bridges, he was the Director of Vocational Services for Columbia Work Link where he oversaw the supervision of all staff who delivered supported employment services. Prior to that, he served as the Rehabilitation Counselor for Dutchess Advocacy Respect Community Clinic and was the Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant for the Disability Consulting Service in New York City. Gibson has provided vocational rehabilitation services for many different non-profit organizations throughout New York State. Over the past several years, he has concentrated on job training, mentoring and employment supervision.

“Everyone needs employment, even people who experience a developmental disability,” said Roy Gerstenberger, Executive Director of Community Bridges. “As the Career Development Specialist for Vocational Services, Jack brings a wealth of knowledge on how to assess someone’s ability and how to properly place them in the right working environment for both the person and the company. He has had great success throughout his career and we are excited to have him join Community Bridges and help place people with meaningful work.”

In his free time, Gibson enjoys outdoor activities - hiking, canoeing, playing golf and gardening, reading and spending time with his grandchildren. He resides in North Sutton, NH.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Volunteers attend autism awareness event


Jeffrey Disko, Elizabeth Webster (Easter Seals), Mary Ellen Yatzus (Easter Seals), Payton Fisher, Mimi Rossi and Joey Wilson pile into the holding cell of the Mobile Command Unit from the NH Liquor Commission-Bureau of Enforcement during the Community Bridges Autism Awareness 911 event.

Community Bridges, in collaboration with Easter Seals of Manchester, held an Autism Awareness 9-1-1 registration for families who have a member with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to register their family member with the Concord Police department and the Department of Safety 9-1-1 office. In addition, attendees had the opportunity to meet with police and fire first responders as well as explore the first responder vehicles.

Children and teenagers with ASD are encouraged to have repeated opportunities to meet and interact with law enforcement and other first responders. This is important so they can recognize a person in uniform and know they are safe and proper to approach when help is required. The person with ASD also needs to be repeatedly taught appropriate behavior when interacting with law enforcers, as it is estimated that an individual with ASD is up to seven times more likely to have an encounter with a law enforcer than the neuro-typical population.

The 9-1-1 registration at Community Bridges had police officers and fire fighters on hand to interact with the children. This event was sponsored by the Bagan Foundation.

For more information, please contact Adra Darling at Community Bridges, 225-4153 ext. 387 or email her at adarling@communitybridgesnh.org. Visit the Web site at: www.communitybridgesnh.org.

Gas prices up again ...

Another 5 cents in just three days. I'm beginning to wonder about this ...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Budget update ...

Here is a quick Concord city budget update. I'll have at least one other update over the weekend.
According to sources, the mayor and city council will receive copies of the city manager's proposed fiscal year 2010 budget sometime today. The budget should be released to the public by Monday [Check www.onconcord.com for details].
Over the next six weeks, the city council finance committee - essentially, the entire city council - will be holding hearings about the proposed budget. The public is invited to participate either in person, in the council chambers on Green Street, or by submitting written testimony to the council.
The following is a list of the meetings as well as the topics proposed to be discussed. In the past, the council has switched things around, often in what seemed to be an effort to jump ahead and hold controversial meetings when no one was around. I'm told that this year, the mayor intends to stay on this schedule so that everyone will have a chance to be heard on specific issues of concern.

* Tuesday, May 19, at 6:30 p.m.: Budget overview and review meeting. There will be a discussion of revenue and service reductions.

* Thursday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m.: Administration, community development, and conservation commission.

* Tuesday, May 26, at 6:30 p.m.: Fire, police, including parking.

* Thursday, May 28, at 6:30 p.m.: General services, including water/sewer funds and solid waste.

* Monday, June 1, at 6:30 p.m.: Fiscal monitoring report, miscellaneous, and there will be a non-public session concerning "compensation adjustment."

Note to readers: CCTV, which is now ConcordTV, has historically been presented during the "miscellaneous" discussion ... sources have told me that the city manager has been directed to make a significant cut to this line item and to prepare ConcordTV for that cut. And yet, ConcordTV reportedly plans on lobbying for more than $250,000 this year! If this is true, it's absolutely outrageous considering the fiscal situation of the city. I haven't watched the ConcordTV budget hearing yet but I will soon and report back.

* Thursday, June 4, at 6:30 p.m.: Library, recreation.

* Monday, June 8 at 7 p.m.: Regular city council meeting.

* Thursday, June 11, at 6:30 p.m.: Human services, social service agencies.

* Monday, June 15, 6:30 p.m.: Recessed city council meeting, if necessary, capital budget, bonded debt.

* Monday, June 18, 6:30 p.m.: Optional work session.

* Monday, June 22, 7 p.m.: Public hearing/budget adoption.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chrysler to strip Carlson's of dealership ...

In a news alert earlier today, the AP [via the Union Leader] is reporting that New Hampshire will lose six Chrysler dealerships including Concord's Carlson's Motor Sales: ["Six dealers on Chrysler's NH hit list"].
According to Holly Carlson, the dealership will not close.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Important hearing tomorrow

For those of you following the school board charter situation there is an important meeting tomorrow morning in the LOB Room 103.
The state Senate Judiciary Committee will be hearing testimony about the home rule charter petition bill, HB 319. The House has already approved the measure.
If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, and then approved by the voters in November, Concord residents will be able to change its own school charter without having to go through the Legislature first. Concord is the only city in the state that has to petition the Legislature to change the school charter.
Even if you can't make it to the hearing, this is a very important bill. Please contact your state Senator [in Concord, that's Sylvia Larsen: sylvia.larsen@leg.state.nh.us], and ask them to support this bill.

Kevin Flynn in Concord Thursday

Former Channel 9 reporter Kevin Flynn will be in Concord signing books at Gibson's. Here is the press release:

Wicked Intentions: The Sheila Labarre Murders
Thursday, May 14, at 7 PM
When investigators were called to the secluded farm of attractive, fortyish Sheila LaBarre, they found the dismembered and incinerated remains of her young lover, a man with a child's I.Q. A series of young men had come and gone from the farm over the years, all seeming to vanish into thin air. Now LaBarre was on the run....

Eventually she would be caught and would plead insanity. But was she indeed insane -- an "avenging angel sent to kill pedophiles," as she claimed -- or a vicious, calculating serial killer? "Wicked Intentions" explores the case in depth, from investigation to trial. As the Emmy award-winning television reporter who first broke the story of the Sheila LaBarre murders, Kevin Flynn is uniquely positioned to unveil the details of the bizarre chain of events that culminated in one of America's most sensational murder stories -- a spellbinding true story of obsession and vigilantism carried to a deadly extreme. Come ask him about the book!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Oops, one more thing to do today

Mother's Day Sale at Gibson's! If you need anything, buy it at a discount. From the inbox:
Everything in the store will be 25 percent off, this Friday and Saturday only, May 8 and 9 (we'll be closed on Sunday, in honor of mothers everywhere).
You won't see it in the paper, or hear about it on the radio. It isn't our February sale, and it isn't our August sale. It's a benefit to our newsletter subscribers, and to everyone else who just happens to come in the store during these two days--in other words, future newsletter subscribers.
Our regular sale conditions apply: everything in the store--books, cards, sidelines--will be 25 percent off the original price. If you have to special order a book, prepay and get the same discount--unless it's a textbook or other short-discount title. You'll earn stamps on your frequent-buyer cards as you take advantage of our sale.
So come on down to Gibson's--prove to dear old Mom that you're a smart shopper--and if you are dear old Mom, get something for yourself. You've earned it!

Looking for something to do tonight?

Check out Live Electric - George Belli and the Retroactivists at the Green Martini, Concord, NH, this, Saturday, May 9th, 8-11 pm. Rock and roll baby!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Newspaper notes, early May edition ...

Crossposted and edited from Politizine.com:
I've been meaning to write some quick newspaper notes about things I have seen or heard that are worthy of a blog post.
I have been meaning to write about this and it seems as good a time as any. I recently let all my daily newspaper subscriptions run out. The reasons are pretty simple: Money and time. Not unlike millions of other folks, the money I was spending on newspapers is put to better use paying for other things. As well, for whatever reason, I just don't have the time to read them any more. They essentially pile up all week and then I try and spend some time on the weekend catching up.
First to go was the New Hampshire Union Leader last year. I found that most of the state news featured in the UL - the only reason I was buying it - I could also find in the Concord Monitor or online. I kept the Sunday edition for a while but in the fall stopped getting that too. In order to save money, I've stopped buying most of stuff I needed coupons for. So, I don't often need the coupons that come in the Sunday newspapers, one of the big pluses for buying the Sunday newspaper.
I'm still getting the Wall Street Journal but it ends in a week or two. I would like to continue getting it. The WSJ really is an impressive newspaper and I learn so much from reading it. However, the time thing kicks in each and every week. You can't really skim it. You need to READ it. They keep bugging me to resubscribe but they want $150 for the renewal. I have never paid more than $99 for it. If it ends and they come back with a $99 offer again, I may keep getting it. It really is worth the $1 a week.
After many, many years, probably more than three decades, my household no longer subscribes to the Concord Monitor. This was another hard decision based more on finances than anything else. At $35 for eight weeks [I always round up], it might not seem like a lot. But that money, like the UL and cutting the grocery coupon extravagances, is being put to better use. As well, considering the time thing again, I don't often have the time to read it as thoroughly as possible. A quick gander at the headlines online is about all the time I have for the newspaper these days.
It may seem like a complete cop out for a newspaper man to admit that he has [financially] abandoned his local newspapers. It does feel weird. But, at the same time, if there was a Concord weekly which provided me the same type of serious news that I provide readers at my job, I would subscribe to that. But that isn't an option. I also long for a newspaper that will actually give me the hard-hitting, serious news that I long to read about and not distractions or silly things.
Admittedly, for the first time in my life, I also now understand a bit more what my elders always said about not having the time to keep up with new music or trends and cocooning yourself because the most important things are keeping your job, protecting and tending to your family, etc.
I hope to resubscribe to the Monitor again in the future once things settle down financially. While the online experience is interesting - especially with all the outlandish comments - I do miss the print edition.

Changes in the industry
I have reported here previously some of the changes in the newspaper business locally. Unlike the Boston area, which has Media Nation and Don't Quote Me, there doesn't seem to be anyone blogging about media. So, I'm glad to do it.
Here are some of the latest changes I have noticed.
The Union Leader seems to have ceased publication on Saturdays. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that there was a new Friday/Saturday hybrid edition on sale Friday mornings and then the Sunday edition. I saw one complaint about the change on my Facebook account this week so I guess it is a done deal [A Google search yielded no official announcement or anything else about the change but a co-worker of mine later sent me the text from the most recent NEPA alert that mentioned the change at the UL. Essentially, the company combined the Friday and Saturday editions for editions outside the "Greater Manchester" area. According to the release, "Greater Manchester includes Auburn, Allenstown, Atkinson, Bedford, Candia, Chester, Danville, Deerfield, Derry, Dunbarton, Epping, Goffstown, Hampstead, Hooksett, Litchfield, Londonderry, Manchester, Merrimack, New Boston, Pelham, Pembroke, Plaistow, Raymond, Salem, Sandown, Weare and Windham, all in New Hampshire." So I wouldn't see it since I'm outside of that area. Thanks Robert for the information!
The Union Leader will offer subscribers receiving the combined edition options such as free access to an electronic version of the Greater Manchester Saturday paper and a subscription extension.
This seems like a smart move considering that Saturday editions in the business have always been the worst ones for sales, ads, and news - unless there is a bomb dropped nationally on Friday night.
As an aside, the Miami Herald has gone to a Saturday/Sunday hybrid edition. I noticed it when I was there recently for a wedding. My brothers and sisters, who are in their 20s, don't subscribe to the newspaper. So, I went daily to the little bodega down the street to get the Herald. On Saturday morning, there was the hybrid edition - at only 50 cents! It included Saturday news on the front plus the guts of the Sunday newspaper - flyers, real estate, Parade, etc. Wow. Not only a bargain but I actually had a chance to skim through the thing before the wedding. Very cool idea.
A not so cool idea? The Monitor's massive left hand side rail on Saturdays that promos what is in the inside of the newspaper. It, frankly, reeks, "We don't have enough news to put on the front page so let's put a huge rail on the left hand side." It just looks really bad. The rail would look cool if it were smaller. And, it would look cool as an every day thing. Many newspapers are starting to put content rails on the front page in order to make up for the fact that they don't have the news or staffing to fill the front page each and every day or week. It really stands out as a useful tool but not when it is so big. The Monitor might consider scrapping the Saturday edition, having staff produce enough stuff in the can to be used on Saturday to have at least a few things on the front page, a Friday/Saturday hybrid edition, or produce a hybrid Saturday/Sunday edition.
Two more South Florida notes: I really enjoyed the Sun Sentinel's redesign. Big blocky letters, big headlines, small pull graphics and quick hit things to read. Lots of color everywhere. I really liked it compared to the stodgy Sun Sentinel. The Miami New Times is also still as good a newspaper as it was in the past although I noticed that it was a lot smaller than in years past. I mean, a lot smaller, like 50 to 60 percent in page counts. Yikes!
Speaking of alternative weeklies, I noticed that the Hippo was 56 pages this week, that's down from a hefty 70-plus pages this time two years ago.

A bit of bragging
In closing, I want to brag a bit: At my company, the newspaper I edit recently was named an interoffice finalist in the GateHouse Media Best Newspaper of 2008 category. Basically, we tied for third with a handful of other weeklies out of nearly 300. The newspaper was the only one to show in the unit. We were judged by peers in the business at the University of Missouri so there was no insider voting.
While I know we do a pretty good job, I was really surprised that we placed especially when considering all the great community newspapers at GateHouse. Combined with the NEPA Award, 2008 was a pretty good year professionally for this lowly editor. Here's hoping as many of us get to stay employed in the business we love for as long as we can.