Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Onward and upward

The march forward isn't always so direct but steadily we gain ground.
That's a bit how it feels these days, the holidaze and the aftermath, along with the realization that winter is here can lead to a motivation deficit, personal and collective.
As we head toward the second month of 2010 we've got some substantial projects brewing including some big investigations that will cover a whole bunch of ground, and recharge our ambitions.

Meanwhile, we are field testing a variety of new technologies for online communication as well as in-the-field digital news gathering. Like using the iGoogle blogger ap to publish from my iGoogle home page, as with this post.

We are rapidly adding to our capacity to collect and display a variety of meaningful content for our readers as well as expand the story for news junkies -- that we hope will pay off.

Many in the business are also hopeful the revenue side of the news is going to pick up again in the weeks ahead.

So despite some recent technical hurdles we've faced and the post holiday and mid-winter doldrums we march on optimistically with a renewed sense of purpose.

Journalism lives.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ka-ching, ka-ching meet Coo-coo Cachoo

Row of slot machines inside Las Vegas airport.Image via Wikipedia

There was zigging and zagging on the competing casino campaigns this week in Maine.

First we learned that another partner in the Lewiston venture was going to "out" himself in a guest editorial Sunday.

That news sent us searching for the other alleged partners -- of 5 we know of 3 now including a doctor, a former politician and now apparently a lawyer on hiatus. The other two we are told include an elderly person and Zoro. I made the Zoro part up, but doesn't it leave you wondering?

The Sun Journal's editorial on Monday suggests all those involved in the Lewiston plan should step forward.

From the Portland Press Herald last week we also got the news that a paid politico who formerly worked against casinos in Maine was now working for a casino campaign. A reversal of fortune, perhaps. The individual was soundly panned by his formerly colleague and praised by his new boss.

But the Oxford Campaign is very well-funded early on, besides paying $20,000 for gathering of signatures to get the question to voters and $15,000 for lawyers.

The campaign is sitting on a $400,000 campaign war chest. I checked the numbers today, even though the state workers were furloughed there web sites and the public information available on them was open for business. Score one for the internet and open government in Maine.

Regardless this tale of two casino campaigns has become very interesting in this week and I suspect we will have two fully vetted proposals aired by November. Maine voters will get one more chance, one more roll of the dice, one more run for the roses -- insert your bad gambling cliche here --- in November.

I would suspect the campaigns will get very intriguing as we get closer to jackpot day.

Oh, just to keep it confusing the new campaign worker for the Oxford Casino's last name is Robinson. Likewise, the newly outed "partner" in the Lewiston venture has the surname Robinson.

Koo, koo, ka choo and ka ching, ka ching here's to you Mr. Robinsons.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The toll in Haiti

The day started for me with a robust conversation over the role Americans play in the disaster unfolding in Haiti. Our primary concern in reporting the news, as it pertains to, or connects to readers in the communities we serve, was the jumping off point.

Going downhill quickly, the conversation devolved into a debate over the role Americans play, in a general sense, on the world scene in times of crisis. My opinion on it was terse and critical.

My point was we over inflate our self-worth and assume the rest of the planet enjoys the same world-view, wealth and educations we do -- as we gallantly charge off to save them.

I also suggested passionately that all good charity starts at home. Later in the day we listened to a scanner call saying our homeless shelters were full that day in L-A but nobody made mention of it.

Granted my comments, on the heels of the major loss of life in one of the world's most impoverished nations, were obviously ill-timed and poorly worded.

But my point remains Americans are quickly drawn to drama and we so badly want to be primary actors in all the big ones that we jump in feet first. It's not that it is the wrong thing to do always -- it's just our view of our own actions on the global stage is often myopic.

It's also not that we aren't well-heeled or well-intended -- it's just we don't usually pause long enough to understand or even contemplate our American effect on things.

When we do it is usually for self-aggrandizing purpose.

Yet still for fear of some label or stigma of being un-American we often silence self-critical comments of our government, our society or our culture.

Agreed, Americans are generally generous, we are largely kind-hearted and overwhelmingly well-meaning. We also have and continue to make blood sacrifices, securing freedoms for others.

But what we are not is savvy, genteel or even bi-lingual enough to appear other than as Lone Rangerish, arriving in our big twin-propped helicopters or cargo planes with helicopters inside them -- usually after disaster descends.

Even so, how could anyone possibly pan our rush to help poor Haiti at this time? Fair point but off the general topic of what we typical do and how it usually ends up.

I felt badly for criticizing my colleagues' abundance of education and good charity. But also feel our ignorance towards these things contributes to and bolsters America's overall bad image abroad.

My other point, is only that our charity at home was always lacking. Somehow our empathy and sympathy for those removed miles from us by sea or economics is always greater than for those in our own communities.

Our disdain for the less fortunate among us here at home is also apparent. As some reasoned Haiti deserved our love more because they had so much less to begin with.

It was reasoned that most impoverished Americans were far better off than impoverished Haitians and it was reasoned that many impoverished Americans selected that life for themselves. It was their choice, was the argument.

The suppositions floored me. My case was only that we often go well-intended but largely half-cocked and uninformed to global disasters. That seemed to be playing out again in Haiti, even our rush to cover it in some meaningful way seemed to be throwing resources at stories re-told.

As journalists and Americans we also tend to see the world in aftershock sound bites. We are there for a week and gone, next story, next drama -- we can finally get caught up with American Idol and other coveted diversions like Hollywood scandals and politics.

Often our rush is to help in dramatic and traumatic situations is strong but our staying power and our ability to prevent or limit human suffering in the first place is woefully inadequate.

Haiti is an unfortunate example of this.

The response by thousands of well-intended Americans to Haiti is heart-warming and good.
We cannot be critical of that and true enough thousands of Americans were devoted to Haiti, as local reporting has shown, prior to this recent disaster.

Still the realization and reassertion that's highlighted for me remains how long-lasting our overall neglect for Haiti has been while squandering great American resources, spirit and even blood on ill-thought debacles elsewhere.

My hope is this tragedy, compounding Haiti's woes, can also a be reminder and warning that America's great wealth, compassion and intent is often better applied before and not after the mayhem sets in.

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