Saturday, August 01, 2009

Life with newspapers... and without

Technology PR and marketing consultant and blogger Renee Blodgett still dreams about newspapers, and has written an essay about their role -- in England, at least -- in defining social class and community and meeting other needs: Down the avenue: Who Shot the Paperboy?

Her column, in turn, inspired Chris O'Brien to write a piece encouraging news organizations to focus on local community via the Web and somehow reinvent enough of a local marketplace to support multi-platform professional newsrooms, "as part of local news ecosystem": How Passion for Newspapers Points to a Way Forward.

Since I taught a media history class last semester, those two blog items reminded me of something has preserved online. For a look at newspaper audience dedication the Web -- and before TV -- see what happened when New York delivery drivers went on strike 54 years ago:
Internet Archive: 17 Days: The Story of Newspaper History in the Making.

Do watch it... You'll be struck (no pun intended) by not only how many people were willing to line up around the block for a paper during the truckers' strike, but how many papers there were, each with its dedicated audience, much like the London scene Renee describes. That strike, during the last summer of World War II, inspired some serious studies of the audience view of a newspaper's varied "uses and gratifications" -- most of which are met by many different media today.

The 1945 model was still good and strong 20 or so years later when I delivered the Daily Hampshire Gazette around the edges of the Smith College campus. Now I live in an even smaller college town, where the local twice-weekly paper has dropped its price to 25 cents and its reporting staff appears to be one person. The bigger regional paper doesn't seem to give any reporter time to get to know the community. (There have been four in the two years I've lived here.)

Historically, what has been important to readers? Using the headline examples from Renee's London paper for examples, even the 1945 New York crowd was interested in news-you-can-use like "Quest for the perfect bottom," and in being entertained by crime-story sensationalism like "Bright City Star in Death Plunge." Those probably were all higher on the audience agenda than investigative reporting or watchdog coverage of government and big business. So were the "hatched, matched and dispatched" stuff of community (births, weddings, obituaries), the local police blotter and court coverage, along with local help-wanted ads, apt-to-let ads and car-for-sale ads.

Putting that all in one dead-tree package with national and world news sold papers, and it sold local display ads, enough to pay the salaries of a large enough staff to do more civic-minded, public-service investigation, fact-gathering and reporting -- if the publisher was so inclined.

We still have all the pieces... some being taken by blogs, TV (online or off), CraigsList, Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter... but figuring out where to put the rest, and how to pay for it, is quite a puzzle, especially on a local and regional level.

NPR is often mentioned as a model of non-profit funding that might be adapted by local news websites and citizen journalism projects. (The New Haven Independent is still my favorite.) It will be interesting to see what NPR itself accomplishes with its new

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Workaround for archiving my "Other Journalism" blog

As discussed at Workaround for lack of sftp in Radio Userland

This is more technical than most things I post here, but it may help some folks who find themselves in a similar situation.

I've been using another blogging software, Radio Userland, for seven years, but the company's "" hosting service and its software updates are both being discontinued in December. Rather than have seven years' work disappear into the cosmic bitbucket, I decided to archive the site as

( is a shortcut to this current blog -- and in the future will remain a shortcut to whatever blogging site I'm using most.)

As mentioned below, none of this would have been possible without help from Richard Silverman, the keeper of the server that hosts my pages.

I tried to post this whole description in Userland's support forum, but either a momentary Web glitch or a length-limitation gave me an error message... so I posted a shorter message and linked it here.

The details:

If someone snuck an sftp function into Radio Userland and I never found it, don't tell me... It would have saved me the day's work described here.

Radio Userland was a pioneer blogging package, but has become old-fashioned in a few ways, most notably its lack of support for secure file-transfer with SSH or SFTP. Meanwhile, my personal Web domain's sysadmin hasn't allowed plain FTP on our server.

That's perfectly understandable: He's a card-carrying security expert who has written two books on the subject ( for one).

So I've used Userland's hosting all these years. After all, it was already included in the annual $40 license for the software -- quite a bargain by any standard.

Now, with Radio apparently headed off the air for good, I wanted to at least archive my old posts for future reference. I do link to some of them now and then. This post is to share the results.

Basically, I found a way to create a copy of the rendered site on my own machine, zip it up, SFTP the .zip file to the server, and unzip it there. I used a Mac; I assume you can do something similar with a PC. Most of these details will make sense only to other users of Radio Userland with the program open in a browser window. (Good bye to the rest of you reading.)

In Radio, I edited the preferences within the blog to turn off commenting, since I won't have a comment engine attached to the archival copy. I also edited the main template to identify the site as "2002-2009 blog page archive." The rest of the instructions below use the Radio page "Preferences > Basic Preferences >
FTP option"

In the Mac's System Preferences for Sharing, I turned on File Sharing and set its Options to use FTP. (That's the part that must be different under Windows.)

Then I followed these steps:

1. I set Radio to ftp to the localhost Server "" with a folder Path of "/users/bob/oldblog/" on my Mac. (If I remember correctly, Radio created that folder for me when the process began.) I identified the eventual destination URL as "" -- clicked "Submit" to save those preferences, then (to be on the safe side) quit and restarted Radio to make sure the setting took...

2. From the Radio menu, chose "Publish/Entire Website" -- which took a long time. (I left home while it worked.)

The resulting collection of nested files looked complete.

3. After some trial-and-error, I used BareBones' free editor TextWrangler's multifile global search and replace to change all the embedded explicit href links within the blog, changing them from to

I also used a series of global searches to correct a glitch that left out the slash between ...oldblog/ and subdirectory names like .../oldblog/stories/... or .../oldblog/categories/... (Probably my fault: I left out the slash at the end of ".../oldblog/ in Radio's "Path" setting above.)

(Aside: I bought the same company's more powerful BBEdit for my other Mac, but just had TextWrangler on this laptop and was pleasantly surprised to find the full search-and-replace command.)

4. I used the Mac's built in archive command to turn the whole file structure into a zip file.

5. Then I used (also free) FileZilla to upload to our Linux server,

6. I used the Mac's Terminal and SSH to log into the server and unzip the file, then..

7. Returned to FileZilla to set world-readable privileges through all those folders. (The Unix equivalent, I guess, would be a recursive "chmod" command.) In FileZilla you Right-click the main folder's name to get to the privilege-setting menu.

FileZilla took a very long time -- more than an hour! -- to work its way through the site, since it sets each individual file. A more experienced Unix commandline user probably has a faster way, but I had bothered Richard enough for one day.

In fact, there may be ten easier ways to do ALL of this, but for a not-ubergeek, my approach seems to have worked.

Meanwhile, I've already had this Blogger blog for years, so I'm using that (with an alias of At some point I may install WordPress on my server at that address. I may even explore the arcane rituals involved in exporting the Radio blog to a MoveableType file, then importing it to WordPress. There are instructions for those things floating around the Web, thanks to other former Radio Userland users. But I've had enough geek-type summer fun for now.

Stop in and tell me if you see anything missing!

formerly (and until December)

Monday, July 27, 2009

They is coming! They is coming! Or is they?

"The case of the singular 'they'" sounds like a Sherlock Holmes story.

After discussions of the same subject on Twitter and CNN, here's some fascinating history of English grammar in The New York Times: On Language - All-Purpose Pronoun.

The authors, subbing for William Safire, are Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, who once titled a book “Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language.”

"They," they say, was once acceptable as an indefinite singular pronoun.

The surprise: The authors blame an 18th century feminist grammarian for our abandoning a once-acceptable "they" in sentences like, "We don't know the murderer's identity, but they may strike again." The result was years of misleading (and sexist) use of "he" as a synonym for "he or she."

However, O'Conner and Kellerman say it looks like "they" may be on its way back:

" many people now use they in the old singular way that dictionaries and usage guides are taking a critical look at the prohibition against it. R. W. Burchfield, editor of The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, has written that it’s only a matter of time before this practice becomes standard English: 'The process now seems irreversible.'
"Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) already finds the singular they acceptable 'even in literary and formal contexts,' but the Usage Panel of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) isn’t there yet."

If asked about this by [a student] (students), I probably would tell (them) [her or him] to listen to the sentence and make up (their) [his or her] own mind (minds) about "they" -- or consider rewording everything to avoid jarring people whose ears are tuned to one sound or the other.