Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lois Lane and Perry White*

Perry WhiteImage via Wikipedia

Holy 48-hour news cycle and hats off to our staff in Norway and Lewiston. We also had a freelancer photographer and volunteer fire fighter lend hand in this coverage. There is more in the works including some large court and crime reports involving drugs, death and mayhem. On the bright side we have kids helping out by giving and stories of pie-baking fundraisers that sell out in a day. What a place this is.

One of our reporters just shot me a note about how she has had to hitchhike rides with firefighters and ambulance drivers to bring back these sad spot news stories over the last two days. These folks have not only helped those in need they have enabled these reports.

Others stories in this recent busy cycle have seen editors and page designers stepping up and heading to the scene. Both to write stories and shoot video but also to do their desk jobs and shuttle colleagues to and from scenes as need be. Photographers at shift's end hanging for one more go. Adept and capable journalists working under tight deadlines with tragic stories.

The stories linked here are examples of community journalism at it's finest and also examples of how a newsroom team and citizen journalists working together can bring compelling and important reports to the community.

This is impressive work by a host of people in some trying times. Especially those volunteer community members who step to the plate again and again to help those in need. Anyway we have been on a rough run into Thanksgiving and I thought all these folks warranted recognition and appreciation.

*Our in house honors are action figures from the Daily Planet. The awards, while named for characters are gender neutral. Lois Lane is given for superhuman reporting efforts, Perry White for editing efforts that go above and beyond the bounds of gravity. We also award the Gecko and Jimmy Olsen -- but that's for another post. :)

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

The keeping 'em honest beat goes on

Today we learned the Lewiston City Council met to interview a candidate for the job of city administrator the only problem is they did it illegally, without giving due notice to the public as required under Maine law. I had a nice conversation with the city's attorney today, who couldn't say officially whether he had been informed of the meeting or not. Two guesses.

If you are going to do something illegal would you tell your lawyer about it first?

The attorney said it wasn't always easy doing the public's business in public and he's right about that. I suggested that while it isn't always pretty to hash things out in the public eye the end result is usually a more understanding public.

I believe pretty strongly that most elected officials really do want to do the right thing and are in it for the best interests of those they serve.

But if you close the doors during the decision-making process, why you made the decision you did becomes less clear and subject to far greater criticism.

The old saying about watching laws and ordinances being made being akin to watching sausage being made -- it ain't pretty -- may be true but in the end. But when we can see how something is actually made we are more likely to understand the decision.

Open meetings protect our government from corruption and graft.

Of course the city official who set up the meeting claims he doesn't know he had to notice the meeting.

The ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of the elected officials including the mayor and council president, all of whom have been informed, at length, of the laws governing public meetings in Maine.

Bottom line -- open access to our government is a hallmark of American democracy and those who attempt to block, keep or remove the public from the process are damaging to democracy everywhere. Meanwhile, media turning a blind eye to it, are equally damaging to the process of open government.

That's the big news day for today.

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