A call to support journalism

In response to last week’s call to action from the Boston Globe over 350 news outlets around the country have run opinion pieces over the last 24 hours on the importance of a free press. That could not be more timely, nor more critical.

We have a president who routinely attacks journalism as “fake news,” and told an audience at one of his rallies, “Just remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Here in Rhode Island, we have the Newport Daily News attacked by former White House spox Sean Spicer, essentially for covering his book tour. We have one of our television stations being forced to run content by its corporate parent Sinclair. We have the state-wide newspaper of record with little coverage outside Providence, having closed all its bureaus ten years ago. We lost our alt weekly, the late, lamented Providence Phoenix, and with it a vital voice and training ground for people often unheard in mass media.

So what can we do?

First, we can fight for the notion of a free press in the marketplace of ideas. We can speak up for the value of journalism and respond to those who question it without reason. Journalism is a mechanism for getting to “what happened,” and that’s necessarily fraught. Reporters do make mistakes, that’s part of the process: we fix them. But the criticism from the highest levels of the current administration is generalized and absolute. Shouting “fake news” at any story with which one disagrees is not rational criticism, but rather the refuge of the authoritarian who wishes to discredit an entire profession.

Second, we can support local, independent news. Here in Rhode Island, we are fortunate to have two robust online news sites, and (Full disclosure: I write for RI Future.) Here in Portsmouth, we have We also have a strong weekly in the Portsmouth Times providing focused local coverage. All of these news organizations could use your clicks, your shares, and, yes, your dollars.

Finally, we can and must use our political power to protect our rights. Ask your state reps if they supported Net Neutrality, something which is critical to keep the voices of small news organizations flowing. Look at the records of all your elected officials and judge for yourself whether they support freedom of the press, and when it comes to Election Day, use your power in the voting booth.

02871, Localblogging, News

Portsmouth's harddeadlines named a "best local politics" blog by Stateside Associates

Stateside Associates, a government relations consulting firm, has named Portsmouth's to its list of the best local politics blogs around the country, according to a press release distributed today.

The 74 blogs on the list run the gamut from sole props like mine to the politics blogs of newspapers like Gannett's (Yes, I did google for secondary pickup to see if it was a linkbait scam. If your mother says she loves you, check it out.)

In Stateside's companion guide to the best State-level politics blogs, Ted Nesi and the ProJo Politics blog both got the thumbs-up.

As I said to their representative when he contacted me this evening by e-mail, I'm delighted that people find my coverage useful, and appreciate the recognition and exposure.

Editorial note: Written substantially from a press release. This was unsolicited, and I had no knowledge of this, nor contact with anyone at Stateside Associates prior to this evening.

Localblogging, 02871, RI, navelgazing, News

Happy holidays; harddeadlines on hiatus (with obligatory EOY Top-10 stories)

Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season, and best wishes for the New Year. With the holiday crunch, posting will be spotty (well, okay, spottier than usual) for the next week.

Thank you, everyone, for spending some of your valuable time in this little corner of the web. As all news sites are virtually required to do, here's a look back at the big stories of the past year... Arsenic, Dan Gordon, and the School Committee all made the top ten. Heh.

Want more? You can see the rest of the year's stories, in a sortable list here.

Care for a stroll down memory lane? You can find the top stories of the past five years of harddeadlines at these links: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007.

Localblogging, 02871, News

harddeadlines goes iOS and Android with Google currents (and more)

harddeadlines on Google currents

Google launched a new digital content subscription app (what we used to call, in the old days, a "magazine") for iOS and Android devices this week, and harddeadlines is now available on this spiffy new platform. In addition to the long-form content, currents is also a slick RSS reader that works, out of the box, with all your Google Reader subs. And it's got all sorts of social goodness, too, with trending topics and one-click sharing to Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, Google+.

If you're on an iPad, iPhone, or Android device, just browse to this url: If you don't already have the free currents app installed, it will take you to the download page in the appropriate app store.

And if you prefer a different app, no worries. You may already know that the harddeadlines feed (copy this link: plugs right in to news readers like Google Reader or MyYahoo. It also works great with other dedicated tablet and smartphone reader apps like Flipboard.

Would love to hear any thoughts or feedback if you try these out.

Localblogging, 02871, media ecology, News

Buh-bye, ProJo. And take your ugly teaseware with you.

We're talking Ark of the Covenant ugly
Feast your eyes, glut your soul upon my accursed ugliness! (1)

Rhode Island's newspaper of record has announced plans to vanish into the black hole of a paywall, leaving behind a hideous, malformed shadow of news lingering at the event horizon.

The free site,, is a catalog of things not to do in news 2.0: enormous adware, a center column width that defies logic and best practices (MORE ROOM FOR ADS!), an apparent inability to use bulleted lists, automatic reload scripts to boost their page views, and no interaction beyond commenting and uploading photos (that is, providing free content to a newspaper that charges you for theirs. Nice, huh?)

You can't read their e-Edition without offering up your e-mail address for their spambots, and the interface is a painful Flash-driven clickfest.

This make three redesigns in the past week, and while one of them, got it exactly right, ProJo joins the Newport Daily News in showing their cluelessness about the digital.

What's their strategy? In a front-page story, publisher Howard Sutton said, "The Journal is moving to the paid eEdition to protect the investment it makes every day in gathering and publishing Rhode Island news."

And here's my ultimate bone to pick with those who seek to prop up old business models: they are *business* models, not ways of serving the information and connection needs of the community. Look at everything EastBayRI or Patch get right. Now look at the ProJo.

Or, rather, don't look at the ProJo. Unless you're willing to pay.


(1) Lon Chaney, Phantom of the Opera, Universal, 1925.

Full disclosure: As a citizen journalist, I obviously have a significant axe to grind. And I'm a-grindin' it.

Localblogging, 02871, media ecology, News

EastBayRI redesign rocks so hard it hurts

East Bay redesign
Redesigned Sakonnet Times landing page

The web site has been redesigned, and it is a pitch-perfect implementation of everything a "news 2.0" site should be. Go look at the SakonnetTimes landing page to see what I mean.

Look at the information architecture: big, clear section heads, visible but unobtrusive top menus, a logo header that takes advantage of every pixel, and ad space that respects the content. It's a thing of beauty: you can scroll down the page, take in all the stories, and get the headlines from all sections at a glance. Brilliant.

But the awesome doesn't stop there: the site is packed with interactive goodness. You can sign up (either anonymously or as a verified "real name") and you can comment and blog, sign up for e-mail alerts, and upload photos. It does an e-mail validation and you're off and running.

And it's FAST. The page loads and page-to-page speed is outstanding, compared to other local interactive sites (sorry, Patch).

Congratulations to the EastBay team for a site which will meet the needs of our community and make them competitive in the digital space. They have made it look effortless, and it's not. Folks in the web world know just how hard it is to get all this stuff right (and how easy it is to get it horribly, horribly wrong.)

I love it so much, I just renewed my print subscription as a gesture of support, and I hope you'll consider doing the same.

Localblogging, 02871, media ecology, News

Partial transcript of Portsmouth School Committee Budget workshop

Portsmouth School Committee hool Committee Budget workshop
12/1/07 Hampton Inn Conference Center

School Committee: Chair Sylvia Wedge, Finance subcommittee chair Dick Carpender, members Michael Buddemeyer, Terri Cortvriend, Jamie Heaney, Marge Levesque, Doug Wilkey

School Department: Superintendent Susan Lusi, Assistant Superintendent Colleen Jermain, Finance Director Chris Tage, and Principals Bob Littlefield, Bob Ettingeringer and Joseph Amaral.