Monday evening at the Woodbridge District office conference room, the Woodbridge Board of Education Committee met to review the monthly financial reports and discuss what metrics are most useful in understanding the proposed 2010/2011 budget. For the month ending December 31st, 2009, the school is running approximately ten thousand dollars over on its $11.9 million dollar 2009/2010 budget. The largest over budget items included $66 thousand due to additional transportation needs and $63 thousand due to additional tuition costs for unanticipated special needs students. This was offset in part by changes in teaching and custodial staff which occurred after the budget had been finalized.
Committee member Steve Fleischman inquired about the status of the funds set aside for GASB, asking about how that money was being invested and what sort of returns have been received. These funds are being handled by the Woodbridge Investment Committee which meets on an as needed basis. The most recent meeting of the Investment Committee, as listed on the Town Website was March 31, 2009. Those minutes report the recommendations of the committee to the Board of Selectmen to adopt an ordinance to establish a Town of Woodbridge Other Post-Employment Benefits Trust Agreement as well as the Trust Agreement itself. There is no information in the minutes about any investment decisions.
It is believed that the Investment Committee will be meeting soon and it is hoped that more information will be available from the committee at that time.
The administration reported that the proposed 2010/2011 budget as approved by the Woodbridge Board of Education calls for a 2.47% increase. A discussion followed about the importance of the administration communicating to the town what the value proposition of the school budget is to help people understand some of the different cost structures in the Woodbridge Board of Education budget when it is compared to other school districts.
It is also worth noting that the Superintendent is giving back his 2% salary increase for the year with the money being made available to support professional development for teachers as well as to provide instructional resources for the children of Beecher Road School.
The results of the Finance Committee meeting will be discussed at the next Woodbridge Board of Education meeting.
(Cross posted at the Woodbridge Citizen.)
Today, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism issued a new report, How News Happens: A Study of the News Ecosystem of One American City. Here in Connecticut, Rick Green posted about it on his CT Confidential blog at the Hartford Courant, Where does news come from? From the NEWSpaper. He highlighted:
Fully eight out of ten stories studied simply repeated or repackaged previously published information.
To this, I added the following comment:
It is a fascinating report. Good job for repeating or repackaging it! Your decision to repeat it, shows, I believe, that repeating other reports is important.
That said, the report has other very interesting aspects. The LATimes repackaging of the Pew report includes this:
About two-thirds of articles that did break new ground came from newspapers. Television news accounted for about 28% of the stories that offered new information, with radio providing 7%. The study included websites affiliated with these traditional media sources.
Digital-only outlets accounted for just 4% of original pieces of reporting: One report came from a local blog, and the other was breaking news disseminated by a police Twitter feed.
My concern is that with newspapers accounting for the breaking of most stories, what happens as newspapers cut back staff, or spend more time repackaging stories? The public will know less, and that is bad for democracy, unless something else can come and fill in the gap.
Personally, I think volunteer local citizen journalism may be an important part of this. That's why I set up the Woodbridge Citizen this weekend, to get people in my small town to start writing about things that the newspapers are missing.
I also find it interesting that one of the examples of breaking news came from a police department Twitter feed. Today, the Hartford Police added me as a friend on Facebook. It is great to see them making good use of online media to better get their message out.
They have also recently agreed to start sending their press releases to the CT News Wire, a Google Group that I set up where community spokespeople can send press releases and media advisories to bloggers and citizen journalists. Tools like the CTNewsWire can also help with the repeating of important stories.
All of this brings me back to a discussion on the Journalism That Matters mailing list. Recently, Clyde Bentley, an associate professor in Print and Digital Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism, and fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute wrote a comment on the list which he expanded into the blog post Journalism’s dreamers must keep their eyes on the statistics. He suggested
The issue here is how to tweak a media system — a massive, interconnected system of information providers, marketers, Main Street merchants, and just plain people.
The Pew Report and the various reactions to this help illustrate Clyde’s comments and I encourage you to go out and read his whole blog post. Newspapers, police Facebook pages, mailing lists and citizen journalism sites are all important parts of the massive interconnected media system. It is a vibrant system that is constantly changing, and those that care about media and democracy need to join together in the efforts to keep tweaking the system so that we do not lose access to important breaking information.
On Monday, the Library Commission will meet at 6:00 PM. The agenda is not currently available. However, from the previous meetings minutes, it appears that the Friends of the Library will be holding a book discussion on Monday as well. At 6:30 in the Presentation Room in the Amity District Offices, the Amity Board of Education is scheduled to meet. Included in their agenda is a discussion about a proposed cell tower. Starting at 7:00 will be a finance committee meeting of the Woodbridge Board of Education. Their meeting will take place in the Conference room of the Woodbridge District Office.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at the town hall and will discuss a request for variance to allow a larger sign for the Crest Auto Group as well as a variance for a house to allow the addition of a porch and a handicap ramp.
At 8 PM, the Democratic Town Committee will meet. Besides the normal items of the meeting, there will be a Democratic Caucus to choose members to serve on the Town Committee for the coming two years.
On Tuesday, the Connecticut Siting Coucil is holding hearings concerning a proposed cell tower at 1900 Litchfield Turnpike. At 2 PM, a balloon is supposed to be floated which will illustrate the height of the cell phone tower. At 3 PM there will be a hearing at the Center Gymnasium. This will be followed by an opportunity for public comment, also at the Center Gymnasium at 7 PM.
Also on Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen are scheduled to have their semimonthly meeting starting at 6 PM at the Town Hall. At present, an agenda is not available.
On Wednesday at 7:30 PM at the Pepper Pike City Hall in Ohio, Jill Miller Zimon will be sworn in as City Council member. Jill grew up in Woodbridge and her parents live in town. She has set up a blog In The Arena, to write about events from a City Council members perspective.
On Friday, there will be a reception with Dan Malloy at the house of Nan Birdwhistell for Women Opinion Leaders. According to an announcement on Facebook, the reception is not a fundraiser.
The Woodbridge Citizen website lists each of these events and will add more events as information becomes available. In addition, each event is open to comment for registered users.
(The part above was also published at the Woodbridge Citizen.)
Beyond Woodbridge, Tuesday arguments will be heard on the Doninger Case at the Second Circuit of Appeals in New York City. This will be followed on Wednesday by arguments in the Citizen’s Election Case. Also, during the week, arguments will be heard in the case over the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in the Ninth Circuit. These arguments are expected to be made available on YouTube.
It is also worth noting that Tuesday will see the special election to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. Various people from Connecticut will be heading up to Massachusetts to help get out the vote.
For over five years, I’ve been gathering my writings online into the blog Orient Lodge. When I moved to Woodbridge, I started writing about what is going on in town and over the past year, the Woodbridge section of my blog has grown considerably. Yet recently, I received a request that planted the seeds for creating the Woodbridge Citizen. A fellow townsperson asked if she could write an article for my blog about Woodbridge. She pointed out that she was an experienced journalist and that she had valuable insights about what was going on in town beyond what I knew of. Orient Lodge has always been specifically for my writing, but I recognized that she had a point, so I have created The Woodbridge Citizen.
In December, I attended one board meeting in town where a board member offered his opinion to me, starting off with “from one citizen to another” and ending “and you can put that in your blog”. It seems like this is a good tag line for the Woodbridge Citizen. It is intended to be from one citizen to another and to be shared online.
Another person has suggested that the focus should be on Woodbridge residents. It is the residents of Woodbridge that get to vote in local elections. One of the most important goals of the Woodbridge Citizen is to help residents become more informed voters. I struggled with whether the site should be called the Woodbridge Resident. However, I think it is important for the people of Woodbridge to hear the voices of people who are not necessarily residents. Employees that work in Woodbridge should be able to have a voice here. People who have moved out of Woodbridge, but still have family here should have a voice. So, the focus is on providing better information to the residents of Woodbridge, but any citizen of our great country that has some sort of stake in Woodbridge should have the opportunity to make their voice heard.
With that, the initial policy of the Woodbridge Citizen is that for people to write on this site, they must fully identify themselves. This matches requirements for speaking at town meetings and is also based on the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.
Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
There are cases where anonymity is necessary, especially in a small town. However, the goal is to keep the unsourced information to a minimum. There is a section on the Contact page where anonymous tips can be provided, and tips will be looked into and written about if appropriate. People wishing to publish their articles on the Woodbridge Citizen are encourage to register, providing full information.
I encourage anyone who considers writing for the Woodbridge Citizen to read through the SPJ Code of Ethics. While I hope that there will be a great volunteer citizen journalism effort here, I hope that it will also be as professional and ethical as possible. I also encourage people who are interested in writing for the Woodbridge Citizen to be acquainted with the basics of laws about online media. There is a great online course about online media law provided for free by News University made possible by the Media Bloggers Association, the Citizen Media Law Project, which is jointly affiliated with Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Center for Citizen Media, the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism and Baruch College, and Media/Professional Insurance.
The goal of this is not to try and recreate traditional journalism online. Writers do not have to write in the AP style. In fact, a more breezy and personal approach is encouraged. Likewise, instead of feigning false objectivity, writers are encouraged to make their opinions known. At the same time, this should be done in civilly as possible. Opinions should be backed up with facts supporting the opinions and they should be expressed without unnecessary vulgarity or personal attacks.
The goal of the Woodbridge Citizen is also to promote a diversity of opinion, so it is my hope that those with opinions different from my own will write articles for the Woodbridge Citizen. For more information on how to get involved, please use the Contact form.
I look forward to an exciting future for the Woodbridge Citizen.
(Cross posted at the Woodbridge Citizen.)
Woodbridge, CT is a small peaceful New England town. There isn’t normally a lot of news coming out of the local Police Department. However, last month, I was forwarded a press release about some local burglaries so I contacted the Police Department to ask to be put on the Press Release email distribution list. Things move slowly in a small New England town, especially in a state known as the land of steady habits, and I eventually received a response denying my request.
Well, another trait of small New England towns is that their residents can be pretty stubborn and I was not going to take no as an answer. I contacted various people in various media advocacy organizations, and everyone was lining up to support me in whatever efforts would be necessary to obtain fair access to the press releases.
The Woodbridge Police Commission meets on the first Monday of every month and I saw that this month’s agenda included a discussion about press releases. So, I attended and presented my case. In response, the chief of police informed me that Woodbridge Police Press Releases would now be available on the Police Department website and that they would stop mailing the press releases to the commissioners. They would call them instead if there was anything they needed to know.
Sure enough, the website now contains links to six recent press releases. This is a step in the right direction. I did note that I saw no reason to discontinue sending the press releases to the commissioners. In addition, I suggested that the police department might consider using the town’s mailing lists to send press releases to commissioners, members of the press, and any residents of the town that are interested in receiving them.
I believe this would create less of a administrative burden and provide better access than the website does. Instead of having to check regularly for press releases that are few and far between, but should be read as soon as they come up, people could receive them immediately. We shall see if this gets addressed in the future.
I also now note that the press release about the burglaries does not show up on the website. I am hoping this is just a small oversight as they get this process in place. This again illustrates why using the town mailing lists might be more effective.
Even in a small peaceful New England town in the State of Steady Habits, the Internet is bringing change. It is bringing about a more open and transparent government, and in this case new ways in which the Police Department can work more closely with the residents of the town to improve the public safety and keep the town peaceful.