The original home of the blog known as 802 Online

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Proctor High School bans blogging

A story in Tuesday's Rutland Herald — via Jessamyn at — reports that Principal Chris Sousa banned blogging from Proctor High School computers. He says blogs aren't educational.

I think he's got a very valid point about monitoring how much personal information a kid (or anyone, for that matter) puts on the web. But Jessamyn points to this link, noting that blogs can be a great educational tool, as well. It's all in how you use it. You can ban loud music that offends you, or you can teach kids how to make their own music. I'm for making yer own whenever possible.

Ahem...Vermont media? Are you listening?

More industry yammering — from the Carnegie Report, via Jim Romanesko's must-read media blog — about the demise of newspapers. I intend to post these whenever I can, if only because someone in the Vermont media needs to be talking about it in public.

Money quote from the Carnegie Report: "Other notable findings revealed by the survey: although ranked as the third most important news source, newspapers have no clear strengths and are the least preferred choice for local, national and international news."

Better soup up that website, Emerson Lynn (you, too, Biddle Duke).

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Dedicated to my dear old dad...

Here's a link to my story this week about boosting computer use among the 50+ set. And by computers, I don't mean slot machines and video poker, ok Dad?

Yeah, like he'd read this. He's never seen a blog in his life--my parents still don't have a computer at home. I don't think my dad's ever gone online by himself. One time, when he came to visit, I showed him how to find the scores for college basketball games on He seemed to like that.

My mother, on the other hand, was a programmer back in the days of key cards and computers that filled entire rooms. She helped write the code for the first ATMs used by the National Bank of Detroit. When I was little, she used to take me to her cubicle way up in the Penobscot building in downtown Detroit. These days she oversees implementations of software programs for AAA Michigan.

But she's still not as net-savvy as my friend Annette Zeff (Scrabble maven extraordinaire). I talked to Annette for this story. She has 75 people on her MSN buddy list. "They're not really buddies, to be perfectly honest," she confides.

I didn't mention it in the story, but after our interview, we played a game of Scrabble. I won, 336-325, which was nice because Annette's really a much better player.

Sit on it

Over at Hall Monitor, intrepid blogger/journalist Darren Allen of the Vermont Press Bureau chides the Vermont House of Representatives Institutions Committee for trying to buy new chairs — for $41,000. Governor Douglas did not include that item in his proposed budget.

Allen writes: "$41,000 for chairs is two drug counselors in schools," one administration wag told me. "I guess they find it more important to cover their posteriors than protect high school children."

Incidentally, it appears that Allen is the state's first official paid journalist/blogger. He beat me by a couple months, I guess.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

More Muni Wi-Fi

Here's a story from Durham's Independent Weekly about municipally owned wi-fi in the Triangle Area (in North Carolina). It's written by my new pal Fiona Morgan, who I met at the blogger conference at UNC last month. It's a good read, particularly for anyone interested in getting muni wi-fi in Vermont. This is an extremely relevant topic, given the current controversy over Burlington Telecom's cable project.

Incidentally, Tim Nulty of Burlington Telecom told me that there are no plans to do muni wi-fi in Burlington. They've completely ceded that to the private sector (in this case, Soundtivity, Summit Wireless, and the various vendors on Church Street).

Journalists vs. Bloggers round MCMXIII

Jack Shafer at Slate berates David Shaw of the LAT.

Revealing quote: "I suspect that the more he treats blogs like the press the more he will come to realize that they are the press, and that the petty attempt he's made with his column to commandeer the First Amendment for the corporate media will only wreak the damage to society and the press that he so fears."

follow along on your screen

Part of my self-defined "mission" here is to draw your attention to what's going on in the Vermont blogosphere, to show you how Vermonters use the internet to communicate. So even though I feel a little funny about it, I'm going to point out that my exhibitionist friend Kelly is using her livejournal to chronicle her recent breast reduction surgery in a purposefully public way.

The difference b/w Brattleboro and Winooski

This doesn't have much to do with blogging, but I wanted to point it out. Cornelius Van Ness over at Politics VT posts this headline: "Four Seek Vacant Selectboard Seat". Couple weeks ago, one of our four Winooski city councillors resigned — oddly, two weeks after he was re-elected — and the Council will now have to appoint someone. At a City Council meeting last week, councillors and the City Manager said, let's do personal interviews, in addition to getting letters of interest, but only "if we get more than one applicant."

Both of our city councillors who ran for re-election this month were unopposed.

Monday, March 28, 2005

More Bloggers vs. Journalists

Here's a link to a March 27 column by David Shaw from the L.A. Times, arguing that bloggers shouldn't be given the same protections as journalists.

I think he raises some good questions — should bloggers be entitled to legal protections that protect professional journalists, even though there's no editorial filter on what we write? That's a legitimate concern. I think about how difficult it's been for me to learn how to do my job well. That training has been hard-won and extremely valuable. I don't want to discredit that by saying that anybody can make a website and do what I do.

On the other hand, I think he misunderstands blogging when he writes: "Many bloggers — not all, perhaps not even most — don't seem to worry much about being accurate. Or fair. They just want to get their opinions — and their "scoops" — out there as fast as they pop into their brains." This echoes a misconception I heard from some editors at the JSC panel last Friday.

Blogs are a medium, like newspapers, radio, and television. The only difference is that the barrier for entry is lower. And it's not just the great unwashed bloggers who use them. There are plenty of mainstream journalists who blog, not because it's a way to undermine newspapers, but because it's a great way to supplement them. At a time when the amount of information — especially in-depth reporting and LOCAL NEWS — is increasingly limited by the economic realities of a newspaper's bottom line, journalists should be embracing a technology that gives us the freedom to write as much as we need to write, as much as the readers want to read.

Journalists need to put their energy into regulating and developing this medium, and finding innovative ways to impose filters. We can help build the infrastructure of the blogosphere, or we can fight it. Which best serves the public's need and right to know?

Update: Here's what Atrios had to say about the Shaw piece.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

JSC Journalism Day Roundup

I heard lots of inspiring and informative remarks yesterday, but I can't get this one out of my head, from Geoff Gevalt, managing editor of the Gannett-owned Burlington Free Press: "We have 9 fewer people than in the year 2000 in our newsroom."

If it's troubling to read statistics about shrinking newsrooms in activist journals and on websites (and in stories in the alt. weekly), it's downright alarming to hear those trends confirmed by representatives from the state's largest media outlets. More from Gevalt: "In every news organization, you're seeing a huge decline in the number of people who are collecting information...investigative people are the first to get hit."

The comment came in response to a question, from a woman who asked, "what can we do to return to where we were 30 years ago, when newspapers produced solid, hard-hitting investigative reporting?" Gevalt, who struck me as being as disturbed by his answer as I was, said wearily, "convince the bean counters."

Here's how VPR reporter and Switchboard host, Bob Kinzel described the situation in the radio biz: "It's really shocking what's happened to the radio news industry in Vermont over the last 25 or so years," he said. He recalled a time when Vermont had 4 radio stations employing 3 people each to cover the news. Now, he pointed out, there's just 1 person for all 4 stations. "It's driven by the bottom line," he said.

Both Kinzel and Gevalt emphasized that in-depth news coverage isn't profitable, which is why we see less and less of it these days. Anthony Pollina, who was on the afternoon panel with them, pointed out that media consolidation is part of the problem. As big national media companies gobble up local outlets, they have less and less interest in providing news as a public service, and more interest in skewing their output toward entertainment. Kinzel noted that a third of all the radio stations in Vermont are owned by one company — Clear Channel. And they couldn't care less about local news.

I didn't hear any solutions to the declining news problem in the afternoon panel — probably because no one has one! — but I heard some encouraging comments in the morning session. At least about local news. All four of the panelists — Ross Connelly of the Hardwick Gazette, my editor and mentor Pamela Polston of Seven Days, Ethan Dezotelle of the County Courier, and Biddle Duke of the Stowe Reporter — work for, and in some cases, own independent newspapers. They're all locally owned.

It was clear from the conversation that they're all struggling, some more than others, but they seem vigorous and vital, really engaged in local issues. They all said they hear from their readers that they crave local news coverage. Ethan and Pamela also reported that their circulation is trending up rather than down. In case no one has noticed, Seven Days has ramped up its news coverage in the last two years.

I liked what Connelly said, comparing the news media to transportation infrastructure: "We're the back roads," he said. "the dirt roads, the country roads. You don't find that detailed coverage in the...interstate press." Of course, you won't find a lot of detailed national coverage in the local press, but the 4 morning panelists said they try whenever possible to localize big national issues.

Connelly said something else I liked a lot: "All people have a right to know what's going on in their communities." That's good for me to hear right now, as I'm faced with the daunting prospect of taking over my struggling local paper. Winooski desperately needs to keep their newspaper. Sometimes I wonder why I put so much effort into keeping it alive, and then I hear Ross Connelly say that people have a right to know, and it gives me the shivers. Someone has to take responsibility for keeping people informed. If not me, then who?

One last thing — I heard two editors, Duke and Emerson Lynn of the St. Albans Messanger talk about how they don't post their entire papers online because they lose money that way. Duke even announced that he will probably institute a paid subscription service on the website, effectively cutting off online access to a big chunk of the paper.

I think this is a mistake. I think these papers should look for a way to finance their websites that doesn't involve charging users for access. Maybe it's selfish of me, but I really believe that our communities are better off if we can get free and easy access to their online archives. I think it's smart for the papers, and in the best interest of the community. There has to be a way for websites to pay for themselves through advertising. And then if subscribers don't want to see ads, they pay for an online subscription.

Anyone with ideas about this issue should contact these guys ASAP. And compare their websites with the one Ethan Dezotelle has at the County Courier. Which one best serves its community? I ask because I think the answer's debatable.

Brian Brown, of iBurlington, has also posted his who's who report here. Thanks to Tyrone Shaw, JSC Journalism Professor (and guitarist for the Oleo Romeos!), and to Mike Schaefer at JSC Admissions for organizing the event.

If anybody knows how to do that "extended entry" thing on blogger, where you tease the post and hide the rest, please let me know.

Friday, March 25, 2005

JSC Community Journo Day

Blogging sort of live from Johnson. There's no wi-fi here. I logged on from a computer in one of the labs (using Firefox, yay!). Update to follow. I'm sitting next to Brian Brown from iBurlington.

update: Most of what I have to say about this conference can wait, but I feel a pressing need to pass one thing on right now. Check out the website for The County Courier in Franklin County. Editor Ethan Dezotelle was on this morning's panel. They have RSS feeds, and have enabled reader comments on their stories. In other words, they're ahead of us at Seven Days. I was impressed with Dezotelle. He really seems to get this tech stuff. And he's only 30. Did I mention that I'm 30, too? Still taking birthday wishes on the post below.

Happy 30th Birthday to me

cr beach
Originally uploaded by cresmer.
Birthday wishes, anyone?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Social Capitalist

In case you missed it, here's a link to my recent interview with Robert Putnam, sociologist and author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

Putnam's probably the most famous scholar of social capital — the idea that informal (and formal) social connections are valuable and an indicator of personal and communal health. He's affiliated with The Saguaro Seminar at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. I read his book years ago and have been talking about and testing his ideas ever since. He's speaking at Middlebury College on Monday at 4:15pm, in the Dana Auditorium. Admission is free.

Click here for a list of 150 things you can do to build social capital. My favorite: "103. Join in to help carry something heavy."

Armstrong blogs for LA mayoral candidate

Last week, in researching my Seven Days piece on Senator Leahy's fabulous FOIA bills (I advise clicking through just to see the classic photo of the senator at Mardi Gras), I talked with Jerome Armstrong of Jerome lives in Burlington; he's been here since he moved to work for the Dean campaign in 2003. He's currently a politico/techno consultant who works with Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos. You might remember him from such accomplishments as introducing Joe Trippi to In other words, Armstrong is Vermont's most prominent blogger.

I didn't get to use Armstrong's quote in my FOIA piece, but I did find out that he's been asked by LA mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa to be a regular guest poster on Villaraigosa's blog (he'll be following the race from Burlington).

Armstrong, an LA native, says he's doing the work pro-bono. After the "Dean paid bloggers" dust-up, I guess that's relevant. Armstrong addressed the issue in an update to a post on MyDD: "No compensation or clients involved," he writes, "just doing my part to elect the right hometown mayor." He'll also continue to post on the race for MyDD. A post from Armstrong on MyDD yesterday bears the title Villaraigosa Walking Away in L.A..

Villaraigosa is obviously a net-savvy candidate — he has advertised on Armstrong's blog in the past, though there don't appear to be any ads there now. Wonder if any of Burlington's newly announced mayoral candidates are studying this strategy?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Cable controversy ain't just about cable

It's not every day the MA- and CT-based chapter of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association takes out a full page ad in the Burlington Free Press. I called the Freep to find out how much the industry lobbying group spent on the ad, but they've asked me to submit a request for ad rates in writing, and wait for them to mail me a kit. So I can't tell you how much they spent. But I can tell you that the ad, on page 3A, wasn't cheap.

Why has this out-of-state group taken an interest in Vermont? The NECTA represents cable companies like Adelphia. They're opposed to Burlington Telecom's plan to offer residents access to municipally owned cable service. The ad trumpets the Public Service Board's public hearing scheduled for 7 tonight at Contois Auditorium.

That's great, right, letting people know that this very important meeting is happening tonight? Well, kinda. It's true, people haven't been paying nearly enough attention to these telecommunications issues. The way we get and send information is changing, and Burlington's planned municipal network would certainly benefit from more citizen input and oversight.

But NECTA's ad is biased and misleading.

First clue? Fearmongering language: "The City of Burlington has already committed to financing and has this phase of the project on a fast track." (italics mine) And in red, in larger type, they've written, "THIS MAY BE YOUR ONLY CHANCE TO ASK QUESTIONS OR HAVE YOUR VOICES HEARD."

Here's another quote: "Government-run cable television businesses tend to fail or leave taxpayers responsible for paying the bill." A footnote attached to this quote references a report, not on cable television, but on municipally owned broadband networks. The Burlington Telecom Project will offer both, plus phone coverage.

The report's from a think tank called the Heartland Institute. Not surprisingly, their conclusion is a controversial one. In a March 8 story from Wifi Net News, called Sock Puppet Talks, Unravels Glenn Fleishman takes issue with the Heartland Report. He calls industry efforts to block municipal networks tools of "retrenchment, refranchising, and renegotiation by the incumbent carriers." A story here also disputes it.

NECTA says, "Burlington taxpayers would be better off using the City's limited financial resources to invest in education, housing, public safety, or other essential city services." Burlington citizens should be asking, "says who?" And aren't information services, in the digital age, absolutely essential?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

stereojoe's first time tappin'

Stereojoe details his first shot at sugaring:
Our neighbor, Kay, was good enough to accompany us to the village hardware store and point out the basic equipment we’d need: taps, pails, lids, filters, mason jars. I wasn’t allowed to buy the 85 cent instructional pamphlet; that would have made me look like a flatlander.

Read more.

85 Degrees in Vermont


Monday, March 21, 2005

Pretty Pictures

Ntodd from Dohiyi Mir has launched a blog ad campaign promoting his photo-for-sale site, Winding Roads. I mention it here because I think he's got a good eye.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

This Week in Seven Days 3.17.05

Highlights from the latest edition of Vermont's arts and culture weekly:

NEWS - A controversial anti-tax group opens a Vermont chapter.

NEWS - Donations are way down this year at the Good News Garage. Find out why.

NEWS - Two conferences explore Vermont's expanding poverty problem. Kevin Kelley reports.

MUSIC - Lez Zepplin comes to S. Burlington Friday.

FOOD - DJ Ric Tile can't get enough of the poutine.

ART - Word: Letters, Words & Books at Studio Place Arts in Barre closes March 26.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pssst...wanna buy a gun?

Jeff Soyer, Vermont's own gay gun nut, just sold one of his guns on his blog. I wonder...did he do a background check?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Ask and ye shall receive: Bloggers at JSC Conference...sort of

When I called the number posted below for the Johnson State College Community Journalism Day conference, a woman in admissions told me she'd already read my post and had fowarded it to JSC Journalism Professor Tyrone Shaw. This morning, Shaw called to explain that though bloggers won't be represented on this month's panels, JSC will have a separate conference for "alternative media" next fall. Bloggers are still invited to participate on the 25th, and he wants any bloggers who come to stick around for a 4pm meeting to plan next fall's event. Cool.

My only quibble is that I think iBrat in particular deserves a place at the table with the other eds at that meeting. It's an alternative medium, but in practice it's serving much the same function as some of those other newspapers. Putting it on its own day is kind of misleading, I think. But hey, it's not my conference.

I'm encouraged that the folks at JSC were so responsive. This is exciting. Good job getting the word out, VT bloggers.

Shaw's letter:
Dear Cathy, Morgan, and other bloggers: :

A number of you have contacted me expressing your concern at being excluded from the panels for the upcoming event at Johnson. I hope you will see this differently after this explanation.

The March 25 event is only the second of what will be a rolling forum at Johnson on issues in Vermont journalism. Last October we held our first, which was on Ethics and featured an ethics workshop for Vermont high school students in the morning and an afternoon interactive panel forum in the afternoon. These panels, if all are to have reasonable time to participate, need to be limited in size. Obviously, we cannot invite everyone we’d like at one time, and choices have to be made. Many Vermont publications have yet to be included, but we hope to see them at future events as this forum becomes established.

As you note, blogging is an emerging force in journalism, both locally and nationally, and a significant one, I believe. Which brings us to my next point: The next Journalism Day, which will be in September or October, will be devoted entirely to alternative media in Vermont. Obviously bloggers and blogging will be a significant part of that forum, during which we will also explore public access broadcasting, "pirate radio," and a variety of alternative print media as well. The absence of bloggers on either of the upcoming panels reflected our decision to explore emerging media in its own forum and was not intended as any kind of slight. Yes, there are other ways to handle this, but given our resources, we figured this would be the most effective. Believe me, we know you’re out there.

I hope the blogger community will join the panels for the fall event, in addition to helping us design that day. Work on "Vermont’s Alternative Media" will begin in April, at which point initial letters of invitation will be sent out. In the meantime, we warmly encourage you to visit us on March 25. As audience participants, you will play an important part in these discussions.

Finally, I would like to meet afterwards with anyone interested in helping us to design next fall’s forum. That meeting will take place at 4:00.

Best Wishes,
Tyrone Shaw

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Liveblogging from the Statehouse

Robert Roper, Freedomworks
Originally uploaded by cresmer.
Just attended a press conference for Freedom Works, a conservative anti-tax group championed by Dick Armey that's just opened a Vermont chapter. My write-up will appear in next week's Seven Days.

I was the only reporter here, and clearly I was the only blogger present. I think I may be the first blogger to liveblog from the Vermont Statehouse. True?

Thanks to Summit Wireless, MontpelierNet, and the Vermont Broadband Council, reporters, activists, and bloggers can immediately hop online via wi-fi at the Statehouse. Now anyone can tote their own press bureau into the statehouse in a briefcase or a backpack and report on the proceedings.

Am I the only person in the state of Vermont who's excited about this?

UPDATE: I was wrong. Morgan Brown of Norsehorse points out that he has in fact blogged from the statehouse, albeit from the public access desktops, and not via wi-fi. He also directed me to Hall Monitor, a blog linked off the Times Argus website, written by Darren Allen. So I guess I won't be VT's first paid journalist blogger after all. Darn.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

No Bloggers at VT Community Journalism Day

On March 25, Johnson State College is hosting Community Journalism Day. They've invited representatives from newspapers all over the state (Burlington Free Press, Times Argus, Seven Days, etc.) to talk about the way the local press influences the political, cultural, and economic climate of our state.

But they haven't invited any bloggers. Or anyone from iBrat, iBurlington, or iPutney.

I think they're missing an important aspect of the changing nature of community journalism. I say VT bloggers ought to call 'em up and ask (politely) to be included in some way. This is the number and the email listed on the site: 1-800-635-2356 or e-mail

Also, I'd like to note that March 25 is my 30th birthday.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Link Policy

I don't have one...yet. But I've been building the links to VT stuff for a couple weeks now, and would like to include more. My rules so far: I only link to VT media sites or blogs that are updated regularly (not sure yet how to define that, but the point is to exclude sites that are static or abandoned).

I know of quite a few other blogs I'd like to link to, but I feel like I should get permission before including them, because they seem like personal sites rather than blogs written for public consumption.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Yay! Fishbowl gets pass, NYT reports

Congrats to Vermonter in DC Garrett Graff, who finally got his White House Press pass. NYT reports on the saga today. Graff becomes the first blogger to get a WH press pass.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Online Ag

If you haven't seen Down on the Farm, Peter and Maryellen Griffin's blog about their organic farm in South Peacham, check it out. They're probably the only farmers in the country using a blog to advertise a CSA (stands for Community Supported Agriculture — you pay up front for veggies you collect once a week during farming season). They're distributing their brochure around the NEK, and online, here.

Anybody hears of another farm using blogs in this way, lemme know.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Making Waves in the Fishbowl

Peter Freyne reported in Seven Days a week ago that Garrett Graff, son of Chris Graff of the Vermont AP bureau, has started a blog called FishbowlDC. Graff has drawn attention the last few days from both Daily Kos and Atrios for his attempts to get one 'o them White House day passes that James "Jeff Gannon" Guckert used to get into the White House for two years. Apparently, Graff has been denied.

In 1997, the native Vermonter built then-Governor Dean's 1st website, and worked as his deputy national press secretary on DFA campaign. Now he's running a gossip blog about the DC media. And he's the vice president of communications at EchoDitto Inc., a tech consulting firm staffed by a bunch of Dean alums like Nicco Mele, Harish Rao, Michael Silberman, Jim Brayton, Carey-Leah Havrilko, Tim Jones, Justin Pinder, and Jennifer Powers.

Dean's not the only one who's made a comeback after his failed presidential bid.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Big day for VT on Drudge

This afternoon, conservative internet tabloidist Matt Drudge linked to a Christian Science Monitor story about Town Meeting Day. His header: "Vermont Towns Voting on Anti-Iraq War Referendum." That's on the same page as a link to a story from last Saturday about our former guv: "DNC Dean says Republicans 'evil'..." Cool.

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