Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
No matter the sentence imposed by our system of justice on 75- year-old Parvin Niroomand, who drove W-A-Y over the centerline into the opposite lane to impale 33-year-old cyclist Misty Bassi on a bright sunny Memorial Day morning and then fled the scene, nobody wins...absolutely nobody.
(I should point out her excuse that she simply thought she hit a tree, but if you believe that you probably also believe 9/11 was an inside job orchestrated by our government.)
Since the family of Misty Bassi asked the court for leniency on her killer, I'm not going to argue. And, thank God, Ms. Niroomand will never drive again. But I wonder about the killer of 21-year-old Blake Goodman run over the night of September 12 in North Amherst by a hit-and-driver who is still at large.
Yeah, maybe it sends a positive message: Turn yourself in, show remorse and you will be let off easy (especially if you are a female senior citizen).
At the very least, it should remind cyclist (and their immediate family): you're on your own.
The Springfield Republican reports
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
So at Monday night's illustrious Select Board meeting our highly-paid bean-counter bureaucrats presented a how-we-doing budget analysis now that FY2010 is one-quarter completed.
(Naturally ACTV screwed up the live broadcast so us taxpayers have yet to see it, but I grabbed a PDF of the Select Board media package from the town website.)
Municipally owned and operated Cherry Hill Golf Course revenues stand at a pathetic $88,350 compared to $97,675 at this time two years ago. And expenses--you know that other half of the simple but important equation-- were $81,658 compared to $71,178 two years ago.
In other words revenues are down 9% while expenses are up 11.4%. Nice combination if you can afford it.
In the private sector when met with declining revenues we try to cut expenses. Last quarter, while millions of workers were laid off nationwide, about the only segment to show an employment gain was (BIG) government.
Be afraid. Be very afraid!
The Amherst Bulletin reported (but forgets to follow up)
Sunday, October 25, 2009
So after a dozen years dominating the Happy Valley video/DVD rental market the Blockbuster in the Stop and Shop Hadley stripmall is going the way of the Dodo bird. A tad too late for 'Video To Go' the iconic, slightly funky, video store that opened in Amherst many years before Blockbuster and moved from Main Street to the shopping center near Gold's, errrr, The Leading Edge Gym and then to Greenfield and then the graveyard.
Locally owned 'DV Den' and 'Captain Video' will be happy, but with consumers shifting to online downloads, cable video-on-demand or just the mailorder convenience of Netflix, the future of the industry is not in bricks-and-mortar outlets.
Some of you locals may remember only a couple years ago when Hollywood Video opened right around the corner from Blockbuster and only lasted about a year. Kind of an oldstyle Monitor vs. Merrimack engagement, only in this case one sank (Hollywood Video).
Interestingly this paradigm shift on the demand side leaving large (over)supply types like Blockbuster out in the cold parallels what is happening with the media--especially print media--today.
No wonder Netflix is killing Blockbuster.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
First off, establish a blog…and then behold the power. Like many things involving the Internet, they are free. Perhaps the main reason print news industry has become a “dead man walking.”
Writing is of course a basic requirement but not nearly as important now as it was four or five years ago. But with a blog, if you are going to do it correctly (and my mother taught me “If you are going to do something, do it right,”) then you will be writing a lot and as a result your writing will improve. But still, shorter is better.
A computer, preferably a laptop with WiFi, and high-speed Internet access are mandatory. Give your blog a catchy title, easy for folks to remember and for a google search to find. Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are great adjuncts and can feed back into the blog.
Get a free sitemeter that tells you how people find your blog, and hits per day will give you an idea of what stories are of interest, have legs, or fall flat. Post frequently but don’t force it with something Twitter –like about what you had for breakfast this morning.
A digital camera with video is also a must. Try to get one with a high optical zoom, as digital zoom tends to come out blurry. Last year I pushed an older camera to the limit of digital /optical zoom taking a shot from a public road about 100 yards away of an Amherst town official gardening at her new home in the town of South Hadley, and it came out lousy.
But she had a recognizable, errrr, figure so it still proved my point. (She later resigned as Amherst has one of those pesky regulations that you must live in town in order to serve as an elected public official.)
Photo editing skills are not all that important as cameras have simple settings that allow any neophyte to take decent photos. Basic skills with video editing are handy because you will need to snip only the pertinent sound bites. These days Apple imovie or simplemoviex make it for anybody to become a Stephen Spielberg.
Now that you have all the tools, establish your turf. Are you going to specialize by covering only school related issues (and in the community of Amherst that is a paramount issue) or just local government in general (and in Amherst they often dabble in foreign policy)?
For the sake of this discussion let’s assume you are a political blog covering the People’s Republic of Amherst.
Either way continue to read/watch the mainstream media, get out to the local coffee shop, bar or restaurant where the locals hang out and keep your ears open. Attend public meetings, ask hard questions. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s none of your business because you are not a reporter for the local newspaper. The First Amendment applies to everybody.
Bone up on Massachusetts Open Meeting Law and Public Documents Law. Get to know the Town Clerk. Visit other blogs and post relevant comments under your name or google/blogger name so it can link back to your blog. Visit the cyber versions of local media and post comments there with your blog URL.
But above all, seek the truth. Triple check facts and spelling of names,stick to the AP pyramid style of presenting information (most important fact first) and never let your guard down.
Because with every post, you piss somebody off. If you don’t, then you are not doing your job.
And did I mention there’s no pay?
Friday, October 23, 2009
Obviously the cataclysmic events of 9/11 brought national attention to the Amherst Select Board decision from the night before restricting the display of 29 commemorative American flags in the downtown.
Around 6:00 AM that morning the AP sent out a brief one-paragraph article about the Amherst town officials decision from the night before, just proving how slow a news day 9/11 first dawned.
Unfortunately some of the BIG media (Fox and CNN) got the story wrong--probably in the confusion of what started going terribly wrong at 8:46 that morning. As a result, some folks watched the Twin Towers fall and then heard a story about a small town in western Massachusetts restricting the rights of residents and businesses to fly the American flag. You can just imagine the hate mail that flowed into Amherst Town Hall that week.
Well as that old saying goes, "here we go again." This Gitmo detainees to Amherst story hit the AP wire on Tuesday (curiously they did not carry it a month ago when the Springfield Republican first covered the story) and within hours the story broke about Federal authorities arresting a Sudbury, Massachusetts resident for plotting to attack shopping malls (probably in the Boston area.) Not a good mix for Amherst.
But, once again, the story is not always presented fairly. Some people make is sound as though Amherst is laying out the welcome mat and promising to harbor Osama Bin Laden. The two men now named by Ruth Hooke are, rightfully, getting great scrutiny and may not pass the smell test.
But the actual Warrant article does not name names and does say four times that the person or persons (does not even mention a number) will have been "cleared." Surely out of all the people left at Gitmo, there does have to be one or two who are completely innocent. Therefore they are not "terrorists".
So if they do ever come to Amherst, the town would not be coddling terrorists.
Michael Graham rips Amherst on radio and in print. Ouch.
Howie Carr Piles on. Double ouch.
And now even the Wall Street Journal. Triple ouch.
The Amherst Bulletin speaks, in their wimpy sort of of way.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
So Boston radio personality Michael Graham wanted to hear Mr. Weiss out on this proposal to allow (2) "cleared" Gitmo detainees to resettle here. Happy to oblige him.
The warrant article (#14) Town Meeting will vote on does not contain any names whatsoever and clearly uses the word "cleared" four times.
So again, just for record. If there is any chance in Hell the two individuals have any connection to terrorist activities I will of course vote No on the floor of Town Meeting. But this naming of the two is kind of a new wrinkle and I'm now told that the two in particular may have some connection to bad things. Makes me wonder about the definition of "cleared."
Amherst Town Meeting: I gave it my best shot
Mr. Graham's blog post about the People's Republic
Yes, the petitioner and Mr. Weiss show up in the Hall of Shame
Really Dumb Foreign policy from the People's Republic
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
These two 'Guantanamo Guys'--at least according to Federal officials charged with protecting us (although they did do a lousy job that awful morning)--proclaim them “cleared”. They did not do a God damned thing on 9/11. Their only crime is wearing cotton on their head, the pallor of their skin or the accent of their spoken language.
No tax money will be involved if the two men should relocate to Amherst; and--ONCE AGAIN-- the Federal government has cleared them, so they are NOT a threat to local citizens.
Strangely, at the beginning of this Select Board meeting Princess Stephanie voted in favor of two resolutions: one supporting "Climate Action Day" (A global warming thing) and another supporting/promoting "United Nations Day," neither of which are local issues.
My original take over a month ago
Boston Globe picks up the story
UPDATE: 8:00 PM
Of course what is also hyper-hypocritical from Princess Stephanie is that she tells the venerable Boston Globe that "It was just my luck that two of us were absent,"(meaning her pawns Select Board members Alisa Brewer and Aaron Hayden) but two months ago in discussing flying the AMERICAN flags on 9/11 she said the decision (knowing I will come before them next year and the year after that to ask for the flags to fly) should not be "an issue for which the outcome should be politicized by making it dependent on the attendance at a meeting or the make up of the board. Etc."
(You can tell Princess Stephanie used to be a PR flack.)
Monday, October 19, 2009
So the UN Flag (liberated last week--probably as a dorm room decoration) has been replaced, for the 4th or 5th time in the last few years. Paid for by a UN Committee, who also apparently donated the flagpole all those years ago.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
But above all, readers want to trust the source. You expect the New York Times or Wall Street Journal to thoroughly vet a story so you know what you are reading is reliable. Folks hate to be deceived.
And in journalism, even with iconic newspapers, it happens. Reporter Janet Cooke’s, infamous profile of “Jimmy, an eight year old third-generation heroin addict” that originally won a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post but was then rescinded because it was all fiction.
The Washington Post did something hardly any major newspaper does: they apologized; and in a mea culpa report by their ombudsman of what had gone wrong concluded it was due to a “failure to check confidential sources and the risks of putting sensationalism above editorial judgment. “
I disagree with Mr. Crosbie’s declaration that the local news story is dead, which flies in the face of Tip O’Neil’s famous assertion “All politics is local.”
Yesterday a run away balloon that everyone at first thought had a 6 year old stow away child on board riveted the nation.
If not for that hair raising component of a child potentially at great risk it could easily have been just a local news or blogger upload about an “interesting” family who happens to keep a large flying saucer balloon tethered in their backyard and who also recently appeared on the national TV show “wife swap”.
Here in bucolic Amherst, I posted on Monday morning about a “ghost bike” (a bicycle painted all white and placed at the scene of a car/bike accident where they cyclist died) vandalized by ax wielding assailants.
The local newspaper picked it up the next day (even used a photo from my blog) and then within 24 hours both local TV news stations covered the story as well.
And on a slow news day that is the kind of tragic/weird story that could hit the AP wire (they covered the original accident/death a month ago, a hit-and-run still to this day unsolved).
I agree with Crosbie that in today’s 24/7 world of instant information the average reader initially craves (to, sort of, quote Sgt Joe Friday) “just the facts”; but then 59 seconds later, they are ready for a well-written, well –researched, human interest story--all the better if it actually occurs in their neighborhood.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Chancellor Holub, who knows a good thing when he sees it.
Former Drummer Boy (actually tuba), State Senator Stan Rosenberg
So in addition to the $52 million Recreation Center 'Death Star' about to open any day now, this afternoon Umass also broke ground on a $5.7 million Minuteman Marching Band Building, appropriately called the "George N. Parks Band Building."
After more than 30 years of service to Umass--and still going strong--nobody deserves more praise and thanks than band leader George Parks. Over 500 folks turned out this afternoon to enjoy the festivities, a historic turnout for a groundbreaking remarked Chancellor Holub.
Busy day today as Central Fire Station has an Open House (Pancake Breakfast tomorrow at North Station). The Fall Foliage Walk was just getting started (raising money for A Better Chance) and they were already lining up at McMurphy's Bar. Guess Amherst PD will be busy later tonight.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
So I was kind of wondering when the venerable Umass Daily Collegian would get around to correcting their front page article, above the fold, with photo from two weeks ago trumpeting the opening that day of the $52 million Recreation Center, what I have dubbed 'The Death Star’.
And I dub is so--as lawyers are fond of saying--with all due respect. As a Umass graduate (with a degree in Exercise Science/Sport Management) I completely agree the University should provide a state of the art fitness facility for staff and students and it will make them more competitive with other colleges and universities for attracting students (who are, after all, paying customers.)
As the owner of a private, taxpaying health fitness facility in town for over 27 years I normally do not like the idea of a competing facility opening up—especially one so L-A-R-G-E. But this, I’m soooooo looking forward to. Because it will hurt/kill others before it kills me.
Kind of like in war hoping for a plague outbreak, knowing you have a built in immunity that the enemy does not.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Ch 3 TV picks up the story
UPDATE: Tuesday 6:00 AM
Today's Gazette (using top photo above with permission) states a driver contacted police at 5:31 PM on Saturday after observing two men attacking the bike with axes. Hard to believe two Nitwits could be so callous (also kind of early in the evening to be drunk.)
ORIGINAL post: Monday 10:00 AM
The Ghost Bike on Montague Road, up for only three weeks, marking the spot where 21-year-old Blake Goodman was killed by a hit-and-run driver was heavily vandalized this past weekend.
And the pernicious perp who did it must have been a Lizzie Borden fan as it appears the bike was whacked 40 times or more with an ax.
Springfield Republican updates:
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Jay Rosen: The People Formerly known as the Audience
Yes, I completely agree with Rosen that high technology has changed EVERYTHING concerning news production and news consumption, where the word "instant" applies almost equally to both sides of that equation.
But still, there are a lot of people out there who want (and will pay for) a packaged, professional product covering a wide variety of news, politics, sports, entertainment, weather, lottery numbers, etc. Even if that newspaper does go to bed at 10:00 PM the night before.
Rather than a blogger vs. mainstream media pissing contest, everybody wins--especially the general public--if the the two camps merge into a hybrid that taps the fantastic features of the Internet with the tried-and-true methods of traditional journalism.
Simply allowing comments on a news web cite allows for greater participation from readers; and perhaps some of them have inside information valuable to the story. Even better if the newspaper shares some of their bandwidth and exposure by hosting and promoting outside independent blogs.
They can still keep things at an arms length and protect themselves legally by using a disclaimer to readers that the blog is a separate entity. That way they could use the blog as sort of a canary in the coal mine to ascertain if a story is worth pursuing in greater detail.
Newspapers have always solicited feedback from readers via Letters to the Editor and Guest Columns for almost as long as they have been in existence. Only now those letters or columns can appear INSTANTLY as opposed to the days or weeks it required back in the good old days they they were properly vetted--albeit slowly.
When I was writing a professional column for my little hometown paper--The Amherst Bulletin--my goal was for half the readers to hate it and the other half to love it.
Howie Carr at the Boston Herald has said pretty much the same thing when he observes that half his readership loves how he skewers public officials and the other half are those public officials checking in to see if he is skewering them.
My stingy editor wanted me to keep it to 750 words--and since the issue and not the money was my motivation I would usually end up with a first draft closer to 1,000. Retired Journalism icon Howard Ziff told me his goal was 600.
So I would reread my final draft 100 time and every time try to edit out something.
These days I publish to my blog six days per week, although I try to keep it shorter than 750 words. And before I hit the "publish" button I reread the final edit only 10 times rather than 100.
But I can still go back anytime and instantly change anything 90 more times over the next hours, days or weeks.
And of course my daily numbers even multiplied over the month probably still do not equal the audience I had as a monthly newspaper columnist. But my theory is the folks who come to my blog daily really want to read what I have to say (even if hoping I make a mistake they can use to embarrass me.)
Thus they are committed readers/consumers rather than passive newspaper readers who usually only lazily scan the headlines (and Columnist don’t get to write their headlines) maybe the lead paragraph and if both are really compelling the rest of the article.
Quality vs. quantity.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
So the American Legion Post 148 did not take long to replace Old Glory and the POW flags stolen less than a month ago. Replacement costs were a tad steep since the offending Nitwit managed to trash the flagpole while stealing the flags.
This new, more expensive one has better security as the line to raise or lower the flag is on the inside of the hollow pole so easy access can be locked out to any drunk yahoo.
(My WW2 Vet friend Kilroy tells me they also installed twin 50 caliber machine guns on the roof trained on the flagpole base as well as a couple of claymore mines…)
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Groff Park pavilion: estimated revenues $14,160. Actual revenues $3,462
So if Socialized Amherst Recreation Empire Director Linda Chalfant was sooooo “confident the town will be able to rent the Mill River pavilion for 88 weekend and holiday days at a rate of $150 and for 116 weekdays for $75” for a grand total of $21,900 then why didn’t she guarantee it with her taxpayer funded $100-K annual salary, like any private sector entrepreneur?
Lucky thing for her she didn't, because this past year the formerly free pavilion only generated $5,735 in total revenue; Chalfant also predicted annual revenues of $14,160 for the Groff Park Pavilion and actual revenues were a paltry $3,462.50 Her total projected revenues (with “add ons”) for both pavilions came to $44,880 and the actual intake this past year was under $10,000…a tad off the mark.
She also s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d things when she told the illustrious Amherst Select Board that one of her $39,000 salaried employees is offset by $44,800 in new pavilion revenues when that $39,000 employee also has an additional $12,000 to $13,000 in health care and other associated employee benefit costs thus bringing the total revenue required to over $50,000 per year.
Either way $9,197 is not even close--unless you subscribe to the adage "close enough for government work."
Groff Park's $140,000 "comfort station" with an expensive "concession" component that has never been used.
The Bully reported (but never followed up)
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Umass Amherst remembers
And on that awful day we lost 343 (three times the yearly average). Some of them off-duty, some of them retired, all of them responding to a call to duty.
A search for the truth drives those who would call them selves “citizen journalists.” And holding up a mirror to reflect what actually occurs at an event is now far easier because of technology—digital cameras, cell phones with built in video, micro-cassette recorders, etc.
Plus the Internet makes publication for the whole world to see just a click away.
But facts still matter. The old “who, what, when, where and why” still matter. And yes, for God sake spell names correctly because somebody will notice, and they’re going to think “If you can’t spell my name correctly what other facts did you mess up.”
When it first made the literary scene in the late 60’s and early 1970’s New Journalism, where a writer immersed themselves in the actual story, was viewed by journalism purists as a red headed bastard stepchild.
But with talented writers like Joan Didion, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer to name a few, it proved to be more than a passing fad. The New Media journalist has a tremendous advantage with new technology and can capture actual scenes instantly thus relying less on writing skills and more on layout.
A good lead, however, still matters—as does a catchy headline. And these days a citizen journalist can’t rely on a photo editor or headline editor, which of course can be good or bad. But who better to chose a headline or photo than the person who actually wrote the article?
Since most Citizen Journalists are not paid a salary obviously their motivation is similar to an Olympic athlete who does things for the love of the sport.
And yes in spite of some of the recent articles about competition between mainstream media and citizens journalists being a thing of the past competition is a powerful motivator. I hate to say it but I dearly love scooping my local newspaper (not that it’s all that hard to do).
About the only good thing to come out of the 2004 Presidential election was the common use of the term “core.” (I think it came up in a negative sense in ads paid for by the Swift Boat Veterans against John Kerry and he made the huge mistake of not responding instantly but—for the sake of this discussion-- that is irreverent.)
Core is an all or nothing thing. You either have it or you don’t. And being motivated by altruistic principals goes a long way to ensure you do indeed have one (although it’s nice to bring home a paycheck at the same time).
Bobby Kennedy once said something to the effect that if a politician really, really believes in the message then they should be able to present it without a script or (if they had them back then) a teleprompter. Extemporaneous speaking often comes from the heart.
On the day Martin Luther King was assassinated (4 April 1968) Bobby was in the middle of his ill-fated Presidential run and against the wishes of his advisers got up on a flatbed truck and spoke from the heart to a predominantly African American crowd in Indianapolis, Indiana in what was supposed to be a routine campaign stop.
He broke the horrible news off-the-cuff and ever so eloquently, closing with a message of non-violence. That night Indianapolis was one of the few cities not to go up in flames.
No, I don’t honestly think Citizen Journalists or bloggers are the reincarnation of Bobby Kennedy—but many of them share the same ideals: to dream things and say, why not?
Friday, October 2, 2009
From: Shaffer, Larry
Sent: Fri 10/2/2009 9:54 AM
To: Arcamo, Judith; Musante, John; Mooring, Guilford; Seaman, Katherine
Cc: O'Keefe, Stephanie
Subject: RE: Kendrick park structure
I have to get up to see the structure.
I am trying to figure out a balance for the use of the park. Interesting aspects of community life highlighted in brief displays may be a way to achieve a level of excitement. In many ways, I am trying to figure out a good mix of usages….passive, interesting, temporary.
Hope you are well.
From: Arcamo, Judith
Sent: Friday, October 02, 2009 9:31 AM
To: Musante, John; Mooring, Guilford; Seaman, Katherine
Cc: Shaffer, Larry; O'Keefe, Stephanie
Subject: RE: Kendrick park structure
Yes, Larry approved this back in August. The event begins today through the 11th during meal times 2:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Administrative Assistant to the Town Manager
From: Musante, John
Sent: Friday, October 02, 2009 8:46 AM
To: Mooring, Guilford; Arcamo, Judith; Seaman, Katherine
Cc: Shaffer, Larry
Subject: FW: Kendrick park structure
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Stephanie O'Keeffe)
Sent: Friday, October 02, 2009 8:43 AM
To: Musante, John
Subject: Kendrick park structure
Just curious: The structure put up yesterday or the day before on Kendrick Park for Sukkot -- presumably someone asked permission to do that? How long will it be up? People will ask.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
UPDATE: 10:00 AM I'll take his/her word for it:
It is a sukkah, a structure erected for the celebration of Sukkot, a Jewish holiday.
"Sukkot, a Hebrew word meaning "booths" or "huts", refers to the Jewish festival of giving thanks for the fall harvest, as well as the commemoration of the forty years of Jewish wandering in the desert after Sinai."
Perhaps it is part of the town's harvest/farm festival happening down town tomorrow.
So the Kendrick Park study committee came back with their Final Report a while back and concluded that no "permanent structures" (like the sani-can, outhouse, "comfort station") the Town Mangler had in mind should be erected on the donated pristine public park.
And--talk about double diss--they also mentioned how it would be just fine for the Boy Scouts to sell Christmas trees--as they have done for over fifty years--on the cite (presumable without the $1 tax per tree imposed by Mr. Shaffer.)
So I'm not sure what the this is...stay tuned.