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Posts Tagged ‘local’

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Photo: Richland Source
As part of its effort to engage community members, an online news startup in Mansfield, Ohio, holds free Newsroom After Hours concerts that feature local bands — and free beer and food.

Local journalism is in trouble as giant organizations like GateHouse Media buy up papers and cut staff. That’s a problem not only because of the jobs lost but because so much important news is first revealed thanks to investigations at the local level.

Still, there are always people who will find find opportunity when everything looks bleak.

Doug Struck writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Noah Jones is working. The young reporter for the Richland Source, a local news startup in the heart of Ohio’s Rust Belt, listens to the jazz quartet warm up and eyes the crowd. Then he takes the mic.

“ ‘Thank you for coming out tonight,’ Mr. Jones intones, in his best master-of-ceremonies voice. ‘Now let’s welcome the Mansfield Jazz Orchestra quartet!’

“The small concert, with free beer and food for the public, is in the middle of the shared-space newsroom of the Richland Source, an online site started by a businessman who thought his city needed more news.

“The monthly Newsroom After Hours concert – from jazz to pop to hip-hop – is just one of the unfamiliar roles for some journalists and publishers trying bold experiments to buck the wholesale die-off of local news sources around the country. Like mad inventors, they are furiously writing and rewriting plans to find what works, often in small-scale, community efforts. …

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last year found that in the past 14 years, 1,800 newspapers have closed – 1 in every 5 across the country – creating a U.S. map spotted with ‘news deserts.’

“A Pew Research Center analysis in July showed newspaper circulation since 1990 dropping by half, to 31 million last year. Pew noted jobs in all newsrooms plunged by one-quarter in the past decade. A Wall Street Journal study published in May said Google and Facebook have sucked up 77% of digital advertising revenues from local markets. …

“For years, observers have warned of the effects of this loss of news coverage: paralyzing partisanship, lower voting rates, government corruption, little accountability among public officials, less civic engagement. … Equity firms have bought up many local news outlets at fire-sale prices, often slashing staffs and coverage to drain the last bit of profits. …

“[Carl Fernyak, founder of the Richland Source,] says he knew ‘zero, nothing’ about news publishing when he began the Richland Source six years ago, but predicts the organization is now within 18 months of breaking even. …

“In 2013, Mr. Fernyak joined a Chamber of Commerce study of the sagging Rust Belt town. ‘Without fail, each one of the businesses said we have an image problem, a self-esteem problem,’ he says. ‘Ninety-five percent of the coverage was crime.’

“Mr. Fernyak was in the office equipment business, but within six months he had hired a president, a veteran managing editor, and a few journalists, and started the Richland Source. … The site, which Mr. Fernyak adamantly keeps free to readers, offers up a smorgasbord of hard news and homespun stories. A recent front page included a shooting-suicide next to news that Barb Weaver had once again won the county fair’s lemon meringue pie contest. The site has local sports, summer parades, short features on business owners, and occasionally a deep dive into a social problem.

“To support this, and to bond with readers, the Richland Source and its owner do some decidedly untraditional things. There are the newsroom concerts, trivia nights at a local brewery, movie nights, and roundtable discussions with high school students – all staffed in part by Richland Source employees.

“The Source has a marketing arm that crafts social media strategies and ads for businesses, the editors are trying to sell an artificial intelligence program they use to generate short stories on high school games, and the staff solicited $70,000 from businesses and community groups to pay for two extensive reporting projects. Reporters are expected to make an ‘ask,’ through email and social media appeals, for readers to sign up for memberships at $5 to $20 a month. …

“ ‘I like it,’ says Cheryl Moore, a clerk at the 111-year-old Hursh Pharmacy. ‘It’s current, it’s true, and it’s factual.’

“The mayor of the town concurs. ‘They’ve been a breath of fresh air,’ says Timothy Theaker, who was first elected in 2011. ‘If the news is always negative, it starts tearing down the community.’ …

“Mr. Fernyak thinks newsrooms and owners are figuring out models that will work. ‘We’ve had a crazy amount of support from our community for this,’ he says. ‘I had people saying, “It’s about time.” ‘ ”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Here’s my latest photo round-up.

The three cheerful and unsuspecting little pigs are hanging out at Chez Pascal in Providence. French-inspired, the restaurant features wurst and local produce. The horse dancers grace a wall of AS220, an arts powerhouse. The Roy Lichenstein POW! art is on a Rhode Island School of Design Museum banner. I think the iris-like banner is of a vase.

The “Bed Early” mural is part of a longer thought at the charming Dean Hotel. The skinny windows are just skinny windows. The fork, which I just noticed after several years of walking past, is on a Wayland Square restaurant called the Red Stripe.

Providence is not all food and fun. If anyone can tell me what church was behind the Assumption of the Virgin parade on August 7, I’d be much obliged. It was impressive. I Googled everything I could think of. I can at least tell you that the guy waving the hat is George M. Cohan at Fox Point. A king of parades, he nevertheless probably composed no music for the one I saw.

From Concord, we have a typical lichen-covered stone wall near the North Bridge, a garden ornament in the shape of a mushroom and grapes hanging on a blue fence.

Sometimes KerryCan tells me which photo she liked best. I’m always grateful for signs that someone’s reading.

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With a little creative thinking, a woman in Detroit was able to put a rundown house to good use, improve the neighborhood, promote her flower business, and help florists who focus on locally grown flowers.

Stacy Cowley writes at the NY Times, “Eleven months ago, a derelict house here that is now filled with 36,000 flowers contained far grimmer things. …

“Twelve thousand pounds of trash had to be hauled out before Lisa Waud, a florist who bought the duplex at auction for $250, could see what kind of canvas she had purchased.

“The house remains a structural wreck, but its atmosphere has been transformed. [In October] some 2,000 visitors [toured] Flower House, an art installation Ms. Waud and more than three dozen floral collaborators from around the country created on the site. Their goal is to cast a new light on the Detroit metropolitan area’s infamous blight, and on their own trade. …

“All of the plants and flowers filling [the rooms] are American-grown, a rarity in an industry that imports a majority of its wares from Colombia and elsewhere. …

“The inspiration for Flower House struck in 2012, when she saw images from that season’s Christian Dior couture show, held in a Parisian mansion filled with flowers in a rainbow of colors.

“ ‘It was stunning, and I knew immediately that I wanted to do that — but living in Detroit, I pictured it in an abandoned house,’ she said. ‘I’m trying to rebrand abandoned houses as a resource.’ …

“Ms. Waud estimated that she would need to raise $150,000 to cover the installation’s floral costs, but when she contacted her usual wholesalers, the California Cut Flower Commission, Mayesh and Nordlie, all three offered to donate their flowers.” Read about the inspiring results here.

Photo: Laura McDermott for The New York Times 
Lisa Waud, a Michigan florist, works on her room on the back side of the Flower House on the first day of the installation in Hamtramck. 

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Here’s an update on the Wooly Pig farmers I blogged about in 2012. (See that here.) At that time, they were raising chickens in Connecticut. They have since joined forces with other young farmers and are now part of the Letterbox Farm Collective in Hudson, New York. If you have Facebook, that’s the best place to see their photos and learn what they are up to. (Click here.)

From the Letterbox Farm About page: “We are a group of people growing meals and medicine on shared land in the Hudson Valley. We take our time and listen.”

If you don’t have Facebook, you might enjoy the pictures at a Turnquist Photography post called “Young Farmers of the Hudson Valley.”

The photographer writes, “We were recently contacted by Chronogram Magazine, a tremendous monthly publication circulated in and around the Hudson Valley based out of Kingston, NY. They asked that we photograph some young farmers local to the Hudson area for an article being written for their September issue. … It was a true honor to be considered for this assignment, especially after meeting these amazing people who UNDERSTAND what it means to eat responsibly.

“My first stop was just outside of the Hudson city limits to Letterbox Farm Collective.” (Turnquist photos here.)

Letterbox farmer Nichki’s Aunt Sandra sent me a photo of a spring farmers market that the collective attended in Rhinebeck. I’m told they can hardly keep up with the demand from restaurants for duck eggs, rabbits, and quail.

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