What I Learned from Blogs This Week

Administrative Stuff
I’ll be putting up a few items on the Virtual Assignment Desk for next week.  If you register at the WorcesterActivist site, you can update this as well. 

For those of you interested in citizen journalism, you might want to read this article about bloggers requesting press passes in MD and listen to Simon Winchester on BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent (around the 17:30 minute mark) discuss a village newspaper in Western MA.  The latter is especially inspirational.

If you don’t have a blog but want to report on something, let me know and I’ll post it here.  Also, please feel free to send in nominations for “What I Learned from Blogs This Week.”  I tend to collect news-ish items during the week, but please let me know if I’ve missed anything of note.

Contests & Other Publicity
The Worcester Cultural Commission is going through a name change (Worcester Arts Council), and is looking for a new logo.   They are also starting plans for Art in the Park 2010; if you’re interested in attending weekly meetings, contact them.

Union Music 100th anniversary – March 23.

Women’s History Month Resources here.

Best of Worcester has been extended a week.  Albert Southwick for best columnist!!

Shameless Begging
As some of you know, the Regional Environmental Council is holding the 21st annual Earth Day Cleanups on May 1st, and for the third year in a row, I’ll be site coordinator for the Swan Avenue/God’s Acre site.  Our site is simultaneously one of the worst sites for illegal dumping in the city and (if I do say so myself) one of the most beautiful places in the city.  We’ve made significant progress in getting things cleaned up, but this is a huge site and we can always use more volunteers.

So, if you like reading this blog and you have a few spare hours on the morning of Saturday, May 1, please consider helping us.  You will feel great cleaning up some woods, and you can hear my husband tell you about the history of the area, including a detailed discussion of Millerite theology.  (Or Irish grammar.  Really, you decide!)

You can email me if you’d like more information on the cleanup.

What I Learned This Week
Brendan on SeeClickFix; this was later the subject of a WoMag article that was then mentioned on the SeeClickFix blog.  He and Scott Zoback also put together a wonderful GoogleMap to show how much we’d like GoogleFiber.

Bill on no-lo, 48 Mason Street, capping small group health insurance, and Dirty Dozen.

Jeff: Outside Worcester, Polito and his comments, Gateways and RedactionGate, disclosure, my new favorite website,

Tracy on Level 4 schools, gaps, and tough decisions; which Jeff also wrote about.

City Council Meeting: best quotes.

Signs and more signs.

Victor on courting, of the non-romantic variety.

You can find what the Seven Hills of Worcester are here.

New leaders, new names, private investment, visitors, chairs, beetle booklet, stress, anticipation.

Telegram.comment of the Week
There was an editorial about what must have been a very difficult decision for the School Committee.

Q, of course, spouted off about “hypocrites like o’connell and monfredo”, which prompted this response from Dear Old Dad:

Let’s see if I’m following your’ logic. You are railing against O’connell and Monfredo (who both voted against the pay raise), and have no ire for the 4 that voted in favor of the raise?

But Mr Q sees no problem with that. He rails against 2 of the 3 people on the school commitee that made the right decision. Sometimes I agree with Q. This time I don’t even understand his position. He seems to be all over the map.

Social Media and the City
DPW, your excellent use of Twitter in letting people know about hydrant flushing totally deserves an award.

So, how’s War and Peace coming?
Thanks for asking!  At this point, I’m probably up to page 90, but I’m thinking of switiching to the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation, because I’m probably only going to read this book once and I may as well read it in the best translation available.  (On a related note, if you’re going to read my second-favorite book, you should read the Nunnally translation.  And you really should read it.)  So, I think this weekend, I’m going to switch translations and see how they compare.

WoMag: the quotes you didn’t see

I was telling my husband that the WorcesterMag article makes me sound like the grumpiest person in the city.  He gave me that “everyone already knows that, dear” look.

What Tim O’Keefe didn’t tell you in the article was that I spent nearly half an hour yelling about local media, some of it directed specifically at Worcester Mag.

At one point, I was talking about how I felt local media aren’t paying enough attention to local issues.  For instance, did the Telegram need to devote all or part of three columns in one week to Tiger Woods?  So, I said, “I don’t want to read what Robert Z. Nemeth has to say about Tiger Woods; I want to read what he has to say about the City of Worcester.”  And as I was driving home, I realized I really don’t want to read what RZN thinks about Worcester, either.  So I’m very glad that quote was not included.

I also pointed out how last week’s cover story in Worcester Mag was about the Oscars.  I told him that if I wanted to read about the Oscars, I’d pick up People or Entertainment Weekly. Where was the Worcester in last week’s WorcesterMag cover story?

Regarding the city and communication: I look at technology as another tool for communication.  Technology is not a solution for organizations that are not good at communicating (or, at least, who don’t want to communicate).  All the Web 2.0 applications in the world are not going to make the Worcester Police Department inform the public unless they want to. As a community, we need to ask why we continue to tolerate those certain parts of city government that are really lousy at communication.

Regarding anonymity: I really should have said that I keep my last name out of things because I want to be the Madonna of Worcester.  (I am not-so-secretly jealous of my husband, who is known in Irish language circles primarily by his first name.  Let me tell you, it’s like living with a rock star.)  I also like introducing myself to people as “Nicole” (or, as I prefer, “Nicole Comma Worcester.  The comma is very important!”) and having them know who I am.  No one can pronounce my last name, anyway, so it just cuts down on confusion.

I also want to make it clear (and I think I am) that using anonymity to lob insults at people is not cool and I try my best to write constructive criticism.

I hate the BlogLog.  There, I said it.  Everyone else is thinking it.  It was innovative when it first came out, but we need to move on.  We are wasting nearly a whole page of a newspaper for a snippet of something a few dozen people might find funny or interesting.  If we want to support the blogging scene, a better way to go about it is to either solicit a piece that someone would write specifically for WoMag, or — better yet — solicit people to cover specific topic(s) and write 500 words about them.

That’s where the Telegram has got their whole blog thing wrong on their website.  Forget the annoying lack of RSS.  Why not put out a call that you need someone to cover the Conservation Committee meeting and that you need someone to summarize the Boston pit bull ordinance?  Then, if the writing is good, it’ll get featured in the Local section of the website, not relegated to the Blogs link.

None of my thoughts are innovative, and writing the last two paragraphs made me feel like I’m still five years behind the curve.  I’m also talking about people writing without compensation, which is a whole separate issue.  But we’re also looking at a situation where blogs are providing better election coverage than the local daily.  There has got to be a better way, preferably one that involves replacing Robert Z. Nemeth with Lance from No Drumlins.

Victor notes that the Telegram has gone “toe-to-toe with the city and even the police department when it’s necessary.”  I have been pleased that the T&G has used its resources to work for the public’s right to know.  But why isn’t the Telegram also using those resources to determine whether pit bull fighting is going on in the city or whether the Boston pit bull ordinance has actually impacted that community in a positive way?  Why aren’t they making any connection between the School Committee’s raise to Brian Allen (to prevent having to pay for a CFO search, among other things) and how much we are going to have to pay for a search for a new head librarian?  Having an ongoing lawsuit with the city is no excuse to not dig deep into other issues.

As Brendan pointed out, I’m not getting paid to interview people or attend really boring meetings.  I don’t have a (paid) research assistant.  I don’t know anything about being a journalist.

But guess what?  I also didn’t know anything about street sign design, or cities leasing out parking garages, or the Boston pit bull ordinance.

Here’s what I have: the ability to read, access to the Internet and a telephone, and about twenty fewer reporters than the Telegram and Gazette.

I get frustrated with myself nearly every day for not writing long enough or well enough about the local scene.  I wish more local bloggers were writing longer pieces about things I know nothing about.  So my anger is certainly not limited to traditional media.

But traditional media has a much larger audience than I do, or than I ever will, and I think they owe their readership something better.

The biggest question, and the one that remained unanswered in the article, is why exactly no one in traditional media is as angry about the state of things as I am.