Service of Drastic Measures that Saved a Newspaper Section: How Long Can It Last?

January 17th, 2019

Categories: News, Newspapers, Subscriptions

Sarah Mervosh’s New York Times article about the creative marketing measure The Portland Press Herald took to preserve its regional book reviews intrigued me as much as I worried that the rescue will last only a year. The dwindling number of these sections around the country is appalling and indicative of the poor health of the newspaper industry.

After reading that the largest circulation newspaper in Maine was going to cancel the section, best-selling author Stephen King, known for his horror books, asked his 5+million Twitter followers to “tell the paper DON’T DO THIS,” according to Mervosh. The paper challenged King—who worried that the lost publicity would rob local writers of the ability to buy bread and milk—to ask “his followers to buy 100 digital subscriptions.” They would reinstate the local reviews if he did and they did.

The Press Herald ran with the ball and this Twitter conversation took place with King:

  • TPH: “We’d be willing to bet a retweet by @StephenKing would get us over the threshold.”
  • SK: “Sales pitch? Blackmail? Either way, 71 people have subscribed so far. Are there 29 more Twitterheads out there who want to ante up? just asking.”

Photo: pinterest

The paper’s staff created a deal—for $15 you get a 12-week subscription. Chief exec of the Press Herald‘s publisher Maine Today Media, Lisa DeSisto “credited her employees for asking the community to pay for the journalism they want.”

They ended up with 200 new subscriptions in two days. The paper “pledged to continue the reviews of books about Maine or by Maine authors.” In addition, Joshua Bodwell with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance raised enough money to pay for ads to cover the book reviews for a year.

This rescue happened as the newspaper reporter hemorrhage in this country continues unchecked. Mervosh wrote “the number of journalists across the country dropped by nearly half from 2008 to 2017, according to the Pew Research Center.” Recently 20 reporters were axed by the Dallas Morning News and almost all reporters are gone at The East Bay Express, she wrote.

A reporter with The Sun Journal in Lewiston, Steve Collins, wrote that it was “encouraging” that people saved local book reviews “But seriously folks, the chief reason to read your local newspaper is you need local news.” He added “Imagine a Maine where you know nothing about anything that goes on. That’s a real horror story.”

Given that most communities don’t count a popular author like Stephen King among their citizens to tout their cause, would such a tactic have legs elsewhere? Would crowdsourcing work for other newspaper sections? Should a community’s residents have to pay to ensure the survival of their favorite newspaper sections? Was the tactic blackmail or business today?

Photo: tulsahistory.org

Service of Questions—Does Google Have All the Answers?

January 14th, 2019

Categories: Lost and Found, Pets, Questions, Traffic

Photo: Machinedesign.com

Questions, without immediate answers, often pop into my head. Every post has them of course and I’ve also focused on the topic several times before.

Here are some recent ones:

  • How do commuters fill the time and not go crazy when a traffic reporter tells them it will be 80 minutes just to get on a bridge or in a tunnel to NYC during morning rush hour–which happened last week?
  • How do pet owners of average means pay the vet bill when they have more than two love-animals?
  • I’ve lived in a moderate sized house and apartments ranging from very large to moderate size and now I live in a small apartment. Why is it that my husband and I lose as many things in the small space as in the large?

Photo: scmp.com

I asked Mike, a millennial and techy and my office next door neighbor, if unanswered questions like these pop into his head and did he think about the answers. He said, “I Google everything. I’d rather know.”  The child of the Internet added, “Google has never steered me wrong.”

I use Google a lot but hadn’t thought to do so regarding this crop of questions and when I did, it satisfied a third of them.

  • Commuters in traffic: I’d already thought of learning a language or listening to an audio book which I also read about as a result of a Google search. To address the stress I hadn’t thought of wearing comfy shoes as that would be automatic for me before a potentially trying drive, or loosening clothes and stretching before heading home after a difficult day. None addressed how to tackle the surprise of an extra one hour plus to a commute.
  • Pet owners paying vet bills for many pets: I didn’t find a satisfactory answer to my second question though I admit I didn’t spend a long time looking. I read about what percentage of pet owners have pet insurance; How much should pet owners spend on a sick pet; How much is the average vet bill and How much does a dog cost monthly? I suppose the answer to my question is “these owners don’t go to a vet for routine care.” [Our bills upstate ran on average $350 for such care for one cat especially if a blood test was involved.]
  • Losing things in big and small spaces: Results for question number three were equally unsatisfactory. Response categories covered how to stop losing things at home and a prayer to find a lost item to how to find something you love.

What kinds of questions pop into your head? Do you resort to Google for responses? If not, how do you satisfy them?

 

Photo: dogster.com

 

 

Service of Grudges—Helpful, Joyful or Best Forgotten?

January 10th, 2019

Categories: Anger, Grudge

Photo: livescience.com

A friend fed her hatred of an ex spouse with such vigor it ruined much of the rest of her life. I learned from watching her and thankfully avoided the same pitfall, one so easy to drop into.

Jenny Allen’s Wall Street Journal book review of Sophie Hannah’s “How to Hold a Grudge,” [Scribner], caught my eye and interest. It’s a book about how to handle anger, Allen writes.

Photo: verywellfamily.com

Hannah comes up with 20 grudge types and Allen covers a few. She illustrates one, “Unreasonable Imposition Grudge,” by one friend putting another friend in charge of third friend who is an emotional mess while she’s out of the country. These two don’t know each other.

The “Ingratitude Grudge” is next. Two friends live in a house the parents of one have bought for them. When the friend whose parents did not buy the house take the girls out for a meal, the second set of parents never treat the other girl whom we assume lives rent free. Allen goes on to describe the “Assuming the Worst Grudge,” and the “Ill-Judged Joke Grudge.”

 “I recognized all of these, alas,” wrote Allen. “As I read through them, I found myself going over my own grudges. Then something happened, something Ms. Hannah promises her readers: The grudges started bothering me less. Some were just too ancient, or petty, or based on my too-harsh interpretation of someone’s behavior.” She described a minor grudge she tossed off but noted she didn’t feel better about a deeper one—a friend blabbed she was getting a divorce when she asked him not to. It taught her one lesson: Nobody can keep a secret. [Most of us know that, don’t we?]

“That’s a painful lesson,” Allen wrote. “It also points to the less-than-honest thing about this book: Ms. Hannah assures her readers that examining their grudges will bring not only insight but a kind of joy. Now that her own grudges have been properly ‘processed,’ she tells us, none of them involve ‘a shred of anger or unhappiness.’ I don’t believe it. An incident involving her brother and his crazy-sounding then-wife—he bullies Ms. Hannah, who’s barely moved into her new house, into rooting through all her unpacked boxes to find and hang a picture his wife painted so that the wife won’t get upset—‘permanently affected the degree to which I feel I can trust and rely on him.’ There’s no joy in knowing something like this.”

While Allen says that Hannah’s “resentment stories,” were fun to read because “they remind us of ourselves,” I’m not so sure they’d put me in a good mood. While I like helping others—and myself—out of emotional pickles, reviewing 260 pages of a strangers’ grudges, some of which remind me of things I’d rather forget, is too much sloshing in misery for me. One more time my mother’s saying works for me: “Bury the bone–just remember where you buried it.”

Do you find it beneficial to chew over old wounds and grudges for years or do you prefer to tuck them away and move on so as to clean the slate for a better day? Some grudges creep up and seep into memory though I prefer to recall happy ones and think I’m better off doing so. Acknowledging grudges is fine but nurturing them isn’t helpful or joyful—do you agree?

Photo: treehugger.com

 

 

Service of Some of My Best Friends Have Been Office Friends

January 7th, 2019

Categories: Friends, Friendship, Loyalty, Office

Photo: sheknows.com

I’ve often told the story of an office friend at my first job after college who called in sick for a week and returned to the office with a nice tan. She’d spent seven days in Florida. We worked in NYC and it was winter. I knew her plan and was relieved that the boss didn’t ask me anything about her absence or state of health. I’d never have the nerve to pull such a ruse then or now and wouldn’t have been thrilled to have to cover for her. We were close enough that we attended our respective weddings.

Melissa Dahl wrote “Why Work Friendships Can Be So Awkward” pointing first to a set of ex friends. Why?  One felt betrayed when the other voted against his proposal in a meeting. Another example: friends tired of fixing the mistakes of a pal who is terrible at his/her job.

Photo: nudge.ai

In her New York Times article Dahl quoted Rutgers associate professor of human resource management Jessica Methot, PhD, who said: “You’re co-workers first and friends second.”

Dr. Methot observed that office friends “don’t address problems they have with each other.” She found “One of the problems we see is that people who become closer with each other don’t actually communicate well. We see this with spouses really frequently—they expect the other person to read their mind and we see a watered down version of that in friendships. ‘You already know this about me, do we really need to talk about it?’”

Did any of your office friendships last after you changed jobs? Have you succeeded most easily in the workplace when you made no office friendships? Were you ever placed in an awkward spot involving an office friend? How did that impact the relationship?

 

Photo: express.co.uk

 

Service of a Surprise Ending: Books Win, E-Books Lose

January 3rd, 2019

Categories: Books

Photo: teleread.com

I wasn’t tempted by e-books. I stare at a computer all day and when reading for enjoyment, I prefer holding a book. Further I can find a comfortable position on a train or in a pile of pillows at home and balance the book on my lap.

“According to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), a non-profit trade organization for indie book shops, its membership grew for the ninth year in a row in 2018, with stores operating in more than 2,400 locations. Not only that, sales at independent bookstores are up approximately five percent over 2017.” So wrote Joshua Fruhlinger in observer.com.

Photo: quotemaster.com

He reported in November 2018 that e-book sales are stagnant. “E-book sales have slipped by 3.9 percent so far this year, according to data from the Association of American Publishers, while hardback and paperback book sales grew by 6.2 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. During the first nine months of 2018, hardback and paperback sales generated nearly $4 billion combined; comparatively, e-books only raked in $770.9 million.”

Photo: amazon.com

Simultaneously, he noted, Barnes & Noble is limping, even though it put so many of the small booksellers out of business. (Remember the movie “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?) “According to the ABA, the number of independent booksellers increased by 35 percent from 2009 to 2015—the same years that Amazon was pushing the Kindle and Barnes & Noble was pushing its own e-reader, the Nook.”

He added “The numbers are indeed bad: According to Nielsen, 2016 e-book sales among the top-30 sellers were down 16 percent from their 2015 numbers. E-books’ share of all books sold is also on the decline, accounting for 27 percent of total sales in 2015 compared to 23 percent in 2016.”

Alexandra Alter in The New York Times used the word blockbuster to describe 2018 results for book publishers. “Hardcover sales are up, and unit sales at independent bookstores have risen 5 percent.” She mentions three books–“Fear,” “The President is Missing,” and “Becoming”–that passed the million-copy mark. Sales of some books were so brisk that they were out of stock at the height of gift-giving time. That’s not so hot for the authors who lose in both royalties and ratings.

Photo: visitlondon.com

The reasons for the book revival? Fruhlinger attributes it in part to “the simple joy that comes with scanning bookshelves and the subsequent, sensual act of reading an actual book. It seems that of the very few things people want to shop for in-person, books are one of them.” And he feels that hearing of the death of the book industry electrified fans into action.

He’d end up with nothing to read if he’d forgotten to charge his Kindle before a flight and resented that he couldn’t lend a book he loved. Twice he lost his Kindle when he left it behind, first in a plane’s seatback pocket and then plugged in for a charge in his hotel room.

I’d like to add that wrapping and giving a book as a gift is more satisfying than giving a virtual book.

Fruhlinger is a fair and balanced reporter. He wrote about a friend who tears through many e-books a week on his phone which is always with him. “Perhaps after years of e-book hype (and/or fear-mongering), we have finally arrived at a middle ground. When it comes to travel and convenience, it’s hard to beat e-books. But when it comes to a cozy book shop visit on a Sunday afternoon followed by a cup of coffee and your favorite author, nothing beats the real thing. And it appears that after years of experimentation with e-books, many people are realizing the same thing.”

Do you prefer e-books to hardcovers or paperbacks? Why do you think e-books are losing the competition in this all-things-digital-are–super-age? If you’re planning to write a book would you try to publish an e-book or a traditional one?

Photo: pinterest.com

Service of the Race to Add Electric Scooters: Who Gets the Bike Lane? Where do Pedestrians Walk Safely?

December 31st, 2018

Categories: Bicycles, City Living, Civility, Electric Scooters, Transportation

Photo: qz.com

It doesn’t take much to inadvertently kill someone. A few weeks ago a man in his 80s was knocked to the ground exiting a subway run into by another passenger dashing to catch the train. He hit his head and died a few days later.

That—and the fact that pedestrians and bicyclists haven’t yet learned to play well together in Manhattan at least—means that the addition here of electric scooters, that go 15 mph, has zero appeal to me.

Photo: executivestyle.com.au

There are too many accidents with good old bicycles: nine deaths and 1,260 injuries to biclcylsits in 2017 according to nyc.gov. That year one pedestrian was killed in a bicycle crash and 172 people were injured by bicycles according to police reports. These stats may be conservative. Read on.

Another website, nationswell.com, reported “dozens of bicyclist are killed by motor vehicles every year in NYC.” While I’m most concerned about pedestrians, the numbers of people opting for electric scooters will clearly add insult to injury for all.

Photo: cycle-space.com

And how many people didn’t report their confrontations? Daily either I or other pedistrians shriek at bicyclists who don’t bother using the [intrusive bicycle lanes] and chug by in a car lane; ignore traffic lights; ride in the wrong direction or zip by on sidewalks.

Scott Calvert wrote “States Race to Catch Up With Electric Scooters California– lawmakers passed bill on new two-wheeled vehicles; more states planning legislation.”

Quoting “Douglas Shinkle, transportation program director at the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “Only about 10 states currently have laws that apply to vehicle categories that appear to include e-scooters, he said, and only California’s legislature has passed a bill specifically addressing them….. ‘These e-scooters are being used. That tells you they’re filling a need.’”

The electric scooter discussion in venues such as curbed.com is focused on pilot programs and safety by rejiggering street design with repaving programs. Shouldn’t there also be a safe pedestrian lane? And who gets the bike lane—electric scooters or bicycles or will already stretched avenues and streets give up yet more space to alternative vehicles to cars? What are your thoughts about electric scooters in cities?

 

Photo: thelocal.fr

Service of So Much Cheese When Many Have Nothing to Eat

December 26th, 2018

Categories: Cheese, Food, Hunger

Photo: myrecipes.com

I have never understood why in all these years someone hasn’t figured out how to take a surplus of cheese in this country to feed the hungry here and all over the world. Wouldn’t this be better than to toss the cheese once it is no longer edible?

According to Heather Haddon in The Wall Street Journal, “About 1.4 billion pounds of American, cheddar and other kinds of cheese is socked away at cold-storage warehouses across the country, the biggest stockpile since federal record-keeping began a century ago.”

Her headline covers it: “America Can’t Move Its Cheese–U.S. stockpiles of American, cheddar and other varieties continue to set new records as trade slows and tastes change.”

We still like and buy plenty of cheese. Haddon reported that last year we each ate about 37 pounds of it. “I don’t eat any cheese,” say you. That means someone else eats even more than 37 pounds! Wow.

Photo: italianfoodforever.com

As her headline indicates, trade tensions—retaliatory tariffs—have “tamped down demand” especially from Mexico and China. At the same time Americans favor more sophisticated varieties accounting for an additional reason for the glut. “Per capita consumption of mozzarella has topped cheddar since 2010. Consumption of processed cheese spreads per capita is about half what it was in 2006.” Robust pizza sales account for mozzarella’s taking the top spot.

Nevertheless, if you’re hungry, a piece of tasteless orange cheese can be welcome and lifesaving.

Photo: alltech.com

Cheese makers aren’t alone to suffer. “Milk prices are down around 40% from a 2014 peak that encouraged many farmers to expand their herds. Now dairies are going out of business as prices crash. More than 600 dairy farms have closed this year in Wisconsin alone.”

Do you eat cheese? What is your favorite? Can you figure out how the cheese surplus here might be put to good use before it spoils, especially to feed the hungry? Have you noticed that milk prices have decreased at the grocery store?

Photo: about-france.com

Service of Hidden Talent & Passion—Just Look Around You!

December 24th, 2018

Categories: Creativity, Games, Language, Photography, Politics, Talent

Photo Hiddentalents-uk.com

I’m in awe of the talents and interests of people I know that stretch well beyond their day jobs. Here’s a preliminary list:

Elizabeth, a former newspaper reporter and office administrator whose dance card is currently filled with countless charitable projects is also a master bridge player.

Martha, who owns a Boston art gallery, speaks Italian, Greek, Portuguese, French and Japanese. She is also a news junkie.

Photo Personalcreations.com

Homer, a retired international banker, has been a skilled genealogist for 40+ years with several books under his belt. He has also become a talented and inspired cook.

Barbara, a retired physical therapist, is an accomplished baker and an expert at all things stitch-related from cross and tailoring to a range of crafts.

Nancie, one of her industry’s crack publicists, is the first to know about and attend blockbuster exhibitions, cultural, sports and fun events in NYC and around the globe.

Marketing and communications specialist Erica is a culture vulture. You’ll see her weekly in theaters and at concerts, ballets, movie houses and exhibitions.

Daniel is an administrator, pet caretaker and actor.

Photo: Joshua M. Cintrón

Edward, auto body shop owner, is active in local politics, an avid Facebook poster and remodeler of distressed properties.

David, the principal of his PR agency, is a jazz aficionado.

Josh, an IT-expert, has many passions in addition to his day job. He is also a photographer, [photo above], and amateur radio operator whose fascination covers  trains, especially subways.

Can you add to this list of remarkable people? How do they find time to work while nurturing their other talents and interests?

Photo: windowsreport.com

Service of Perspective: No Right to Complain, Things Could Be Worse

December 20th, 2018

Categories: Bad Day, Perspective

Photo: guywithbowtie.com

It was only lunchtime and I’d already had one of those days in which bad news was followed by disappointment and I figured nothing else could go wrong but it did not only for me, but for several friends. I was paying for lunch at my favorite deli next to my office and the young cashier asked me “How’s everything?” and I replied with a sad sack expression, “Could be better.”

Photo: infinite-beyond.com

She smiled and said, “You are alive and you are in good health. That’s all that’s important.” I thanked and agreed with her. Her job was to stand in a drafty spot for hours, she spoke with a strong accent so she was most likely living in an unfamiliar city and I was complaining? I felt ashamed.

Some believe that everything happens for a reason and I have a vivid example to illustrate it. When a large antique desk didn’t sell at auction, we had it delivered back to our apartment. [Wood is “out” don’t you know.] We’d tried to sell it for lack of space but nevertheless found a place for it and kept it empty. When we subsequently moved boxes of belongings to the apartment we had just the place to store the contents–in this desk!

The same day the conversation at the deli happened a friend sent me this photo of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. [Photo below]. Looking at all those names and recognizing that I was to enjoy another Christmas with my dear husband and family my predicaments and frustrations shrank into perspective.

It is in this spirit that I will end the week.

Does it help you to pull yourself out of a glum mindset by acknowledging others have it much worse than you ever will?

 

 

 

 

Service of Employee Behavior: It Reflects on a Company’s or Organization’s Image

December 17th, 2018

Categories: Behavior, Follow-Up, Interviews, RSVP, Uniform

Photo: perfect.image.co.uk

Brearley girls date unknown. Photo: fadepop.top

Most organizations diligently protect their images but it’s not always clear to members or employees how important each person can be.

I was first aware of this as a young child. We wore school uniforms. Students were asked to behave  in public to reflect well on the school. “You represent us out there.” Made sense to me. [Many of us graduated from the school bus and took NYC public transportation as early as 5th grade.]

What about corporations? Just last week a friend told me that she’d had a few good job interviews via Skype with various people at a company and never received a response when she followed up with one of the staffers to see if she was still in the running. Such thoughtlessness on the part of a company’s employees reflects poorly on it.

Photo: careeraddict.com

How difficult is it for someone to draft a simple note–approved by the appropriate entities–to send any candidate the  moment they are no longer being considered for a position? It took less than one minute to write this rough draft: “Hello________. Our job search took a different direction since we spoke. We enjoyed meeting you, thank you for your time, and have kept your resume on file. We look forward to being in touch again should the right position open up. We wish you all the best.” It’s important to keep up the spirits of anyone looking for a job and to make every candidate feel good about themselves. It costs little to do and reflects well on a company if its employees show empathy.

Photo: psychologies.co.uk

In my line of work following up is my middle name.  I don’t expect to hear from people I pursue in my PR and fundraising efforts unless they are interested in my client’s product or event or in participating in a fundraising project. If the answer is “NO,” I am grateful to be told and think well of the person [and by extension, their company] for taking the time because they have been mindful of mine.

Are there other subtle ways that employees and students can boost—or detract—from the image of the company or organization they work for or attend? Is caring about such details passé?

Perfect image. Photo: richardaustinimages.wordpress.com

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