Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rensselaer County Dairy Princess and Hoosic Valley student Leah Remington Says Farewell

Princess Leah Remington
I wrote in December, how since being named Rensselaer County Dairy Princess in July, Hoosic Valley High School junior Leah Remington religiously emailed The Record every week with her dairy princess update. Well, the Hoosic Valley High School student's reign is coming to a close. Below is her final missive. We wish her all the best!.

From Princess Leah:

Eighty-five thousand servings, that’s how much dairy the average person should consume during their lifetime. My goal, as Rensselaer County Dairy Princess, was to encourage a bunch of kids to become lifelong dairy consumers.

 During my reign, I’ve had more than 80 newspaper articles published in The Express, Eagle, Pennysaver, Agricultural News, Country Folks, Eastwick Press, Troy Record and Times Union. Each weekly article not only contained a dairy recipe, but a paragraph or two on what I was doing as the Dairy Princess, a dairy update or personal thoughts on my life or life on the farm. I wrote several detailed articles for Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Agricultural News. The Times Union also did an extensive interview and article about me and the Dairy Princess program.

I attended more than 75 community events. I proudly contributed to a Wegman’s Cooking Demonstration disaster with Melissa Osgood (ADADC) and State Dairy Princess Katie Brosnan at the State Fair. I spent numerous sweltering, dusty hours in the judging arena, observing kids proudly showing their dairy cows. I’ve explained to students that being the Dairy Princess does not, unfortunately, entitle me to special privileges at Cinderella’s Castle. I hosted, with other Princesses, the banquet at State Fair where Battenkill Dairy won the prestigious award for the highest quality milk in the State. I scooped hundreds of ice cream cones. I can’t recall one event that I attended where I didn’t have a great time.

One of my favorite experiences during this year was visiting ARC’s Brunswick Center Services, a school for the disabled. I explained to the students how to make milk punch and we worked together on the recipe…laughing, visiting and making a mess along the way. They were so excited and happy to have me there and I was just as thrilled to be there. I realized during that visit, that those students stole a little bit of my heart. They gave me something valuable in return. They made me realize that not only do I want to be a teacher, but I would like to major in special education.

We put lots of mileage on, and spent countless hours in, the car. It was worth every minute and every mile. I know many farm businesses are closing and it hits close to home. I can relate to the farmers and the families who have had to sell their cows or even their farms. So many people are so far removed from farming that they don’t realize the farm’s importance to their lives and those of their family.

I have reached out to the young, the old, and everyone in between; to teach them the importance of supporting dairy farming and understanding the effort farmers make to provide them with nature’s most perfect beverage. I’ve tried to instill in them the huge benefits of consuming three servings of dairy every day. I could go on forever about it, but then I’m preaching to the choir…

My reign as Rensselaer County Dairy Princess has come to an end. It has been a busy year and it has gone by fast. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful people and made some friends that I can’t imagine my life without.

I want to thank those that supported me since the day I decided to pursue this journey. I have been encouraged by those that have read my articles and taken the time to drop me an email or letter to tell me I was doing a great job, stopped me at an event to tell me that you appreciated my efforts, or invited me to an event where I could spread the dairy message.

As I say goodbye, I’d like to thank the Rensselaer County Dairy Farmers. Without the support of our farmers, there wouldn’t be a Dairy Princess Program. I feel honored and privileged to have served you. You have, what I consider, one of the toughest, most underappreciated jobs in the world. I hope I’ve left a positive mark on your industry.

I am so fortunate to have had this experience; it has helped me become a better person. Not many people can say they are a Princess, but now I can (I’ve got the tiara and pictures to prove it)!

I encourage anyone interested in serving your community and your dairy farmers to consider getting involved in your local Dairy Princess committee. The Dairy Princess program is made possible through the support of the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council – the local planning and management organization funded by dairy farmer check-off dollars.
I had many opportunities to teach children, as well as adults, about the importance of milk and dairy products, farming and our dairy farmers.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Empire State College holds grand opening for downtown offices in Troy, N.Y.

There has been some great news this week about investments in Troy: a $2 million project at the Troy Boys and Girls Club; the start of work from another $2 million project - this one repairing the streets, sidewalks and curbs of South Troy; and the grand opening of a downtown branch of Empire State College.

I attended the grand opening of college's new offices at the historic Rice Building at 216 River Street last night. The offices will bring some much-needed foot traffic to the riverfront area.

As an aside ... Visitors to the site will have a birds-eye vista from the third floor to view the demolition this summer of the former city hall across the street and then, at least for awhile until redevelopment occurs, a nice view of the river.

Welcome to downtown Troy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Record's own Lisa Robert-Lewis is honoree at 10th annual tribute to the late Jack Dwyer

The Record's own Lisa Robert-Lewis, editor, is this year's honoree at the 10th annual tribute to the late Jack Dwyer, a former Rensselaer County undersheriff who passed away on Jan. 5, 2001.

The event is 6-9 p.m. Thursday, June 2 at the American Legion, Main Avenue, Wynantskill. Cost is $35 per person; proceeds to Capital District Cancer Resource Foundation. For info/tickets call Nora @ 518-527-1705.

Troy Boys and Girls Club plans $2 million make-over; local businessman Scott Earl offers matching funds

Scott Earl hugs Troy Boys and Girls Club Executive
Director Sharon Smith after meeting with club officials
about a matching gift to completely refurbish the
organization's building in downtown Troy.

In the midst of reports from a local double murder trial and the usual other bad news of the day, it was gratifying to be present yesterday when Scott Earl sat down, reviewed architect plans and cost estimates to completely renovate the Troy Boys and Girls Club in downtown Troy, and opened up his checkbook to offer the club a matching gift to fund the project.

It was an extraordinary gesture by a man who was simply moved to tears on a previous visit by the condition of the club, and the desire to ensure youth have a better facility for generations to come.

The club's board and executive director Sharon Smith now have to set to work to reach out to the community at large to solicit donations to fully fund the estimated $2 million renovation (full disclosure: I am a member of the Troy Boys and Girls Club board). Construction won't be delayed however; Earl, who recently sold a company he founded, County Waste, is providing immediate funds to renovate the first floor this summer while the club's youth are transported daily to its Camp Barker. Phase 1 is expected to be complete by early/mid-September.

This gift was made possible by the board's vice president Dan Crawley, who invited Earl for a club tour earlier this spring.

The timing coincides with an effort by The Record, Camps4Kids, to fund scholarships for youth wishing to attend Camp Baker. The newspaper started Camps4Kids last summer as a spin-off of its long-standing winter Clothe A Child effort. Fundraising for the scholarships begins later this month.

For more on the story, see link 1 and link 2.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

San Francisco Giants bring trophy 'home' to Troy, NY for a visit

Dignitaries at trophy presentation including
The Record sports editor Kevin Moran
(second from left).
The Record launched an online petition late last fall asking readers and fans to sign in hopes of getting the San Francisco Giants - whose origins are in Troy - to bring the trophy "home" for a visit. The Tri-City ValleyCats called upon their major league baseball connections to help bring make it happen; the collaborative effort resulted in a two hour visit by the trophy on Thursday.

For background on Troy's baseball history and the petition, click here.

For Editor Lisa Lewis' blog on the event, click here.

To see a video from the live-streamed coverage, click here.

For video of the trophy event, click here.

For coverage and photos, click here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Making The Record newsroom the center of the Troy, N.Y. community

A colleague of mine, Matt DeRienzo, publisher of The Register Citizen and Foothills Media Group in Northwest Connecticut, was kind enough to highlight some of the great work the newsroom at the Troy Record has accomplished in the past six months. Please read Matt's story about our Community Media Lab effort.

Matt is a leader in the Journal Register Company on community outreach and citizen journalism and inspired us in our efforts. Read about his innovative work.

For a timeline about our Community Media Lab and some related blog posts of mine, follow this link.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jay Rosen shares what he knows about journalism

One day after posting a link to thought-provoking blog on the economics of journalism from one Journal Register Company (JRC) advisor, Jeff Jarvis, I find myself posting a link to a second blog by another JRC advisor, Jay Rosen.

In "What I Know About Journalism", Rosen reflects on his 25 years on the faculty of New York University and lists four truths he has come to know during his tenure. The first of them - that "the more people who participate in the press the stronger it will be" - is an important building block of JRC's "Digital First" focus. Hence our Community Media Labs and efforts at citizen journalism.

The third is one that has struck more than a few people in our field as essential; witness the Newspaper Next effort by the American Press Insititute that subscribes to the philosophy that we should devote resources to - to paraphrase - "news readers can use". It is a task we fall short of at most newspapers, mine included; while chasing what editors and reporters consider are the big stories of the day, we too seldom reflect on what is our readers seek from our products. As Rosen states, we need to starting asking the right questions if we want to know.

Thank goodness Rosen, Jarvis and others keep us on our toes. It is too easy in the course of the day-to-day to stop pondering the important questions.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Newpaper industry's 'hard economic lessons'

Jeff Jarvis succinctly explores the "hard economic lessons for news" in his blog today. Must-read for anyone employed in the business or fascinated by it.

Disclaimer: Jarvis is an advisor for the Journal Register Company, parent company of New York's The Record, Oneida Daily Dispatch, Saratogian and Daily Freeman.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Middle schools newspapers eligible for Newspaper Association of America grant

Grants are available to middle schools for their efforts to support or start a printed or digital school newspaper. For more information follow this link.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The challenges and opportunities of 'disruption' to daily newspapers such as the Oneida Daily Dispatch

The following are my notes for a speech delivered April 21, 2011 to the Oneida’s Club on the future of the Oneida Daily Dispatch.

During President Barack Obama’s talk at Facebook headquarters yesterday he spoke about how “we've got all sorts of disruptions, technological disruptions that are taking place, most of which hold the promise of making our lives a lot better, but also mean that there are a lot of adjustments that people are having to make throughout the economy.

And I thought I couldn’t open this talk today in any better way today than to say that, well … “there are all sorts of disruptions, technological disruptions that are taking place” for those of us in the journalism and in the media industry. And that “the rapid technological changes we face hold a lot of opportunities, but create some real challenges" for media companies. President Obama’s words can be adapted as a pretty succinct analysis of our industry today; it captures much of our current reality.

And yet …. I recently saw another quote attributed to an America writer Irene Peter on change that in some way demystifies some of the transformation happening in local journalism today. Peter said, “Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed.” And that is so true. We are using all kinds of technology to report news to different audiences in different ways. But our journalists’ contribution to our community essentially remains unchanged: we’re telling the narrative of a large slice of our collective experiences every day. It is really exciting the ways in which we can tell that story now: not only in words and still pictures but with video and slideshows and Twitter’s 140 characters. And the promise of technology is that we can do a better job telling more stories, more completely, in more timely and in more diverse ways.

There is a lot of ground I could cover today on the trials befalling my industry or the resources we’re amassing to address them. But I thought it more important to talk in more simple, more direct terms about the Dispatch and what you can expect from us in the next 12 months, and then to open this up to a discussion and question-and-answer period.

So … you might have noticed a few changes at the Dispatch recently.

For one, you may have seen articles and ads demonstrating that we’re reaching out more than ever to engage you in what we call our Community Media Lab. Recently our sports writer David Johnson held a class on Twitter at the Oneida Public Library and at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 7 our online editor Leah McDonald is going to hold a discussion there on Twitter. On June 6 at 11 a.m., our editor Kurt Wanfried will return to the library to discuss the art of blogging and how to build audiences for your blog.

If you notice … there is a pattern there - several workshops on social media. But our Community Media Lab is much more than that … we looking to lead a discussion this summer on local involvement in the Civil War and we’ve got the beginning of an idea of capturing local resident stories on video about their life in the area and their remembrance of important events like what it was like to grow up in Oneida in the 50s, and life on a local farm a half century ago, and what our readers remembered about shipping off to serve in foreign wars.

As a further extension of the Media Lab and related to my earlier mention of the “slice of our collective experiences” that the Dispatch reports on each day … we can only make the “slice” of the community we cover significantly larger by opening up the pages of our newspaper and our Web site to you, our readers. Currently we have 12 blogs – five staff-written and seven written by community members. Our goal is to expand the number of community participants by more than seven-fold to over 50 by the end of the year. We can’t be everywhere, we can’t have all the expertise and access, and we can’t represent every point of view locally … but collectively we can capture life here more accurately, more fully than could any newsroom. If you are interested please see general manager Karen Alvord or me after lunch today. It only takes a couple simple steps for us to get you ready to blog with us.

You may have also noticed we post videos on our site most days now. This has added a whole new element to our storytelling. Soon we’ll offer a feature where you, too, can upload videos to us for posting on our site. So that junior varsity or Little League sporting event, or dance recital or science fair, or public meeting or news event you find yourself at – to be frank, we don’t have the resources to cover them all – can still be shared with the community on our site.

You may have also noticed we have expanded the content on our site – for instance, we now deliver a lot of business news online with our media partner, The Street. This content will make its way into our print products as well. And look for an announcement soon on expanded regional, national and international sports coverage as well.

Another new feature you’ll see information about in the Dispatch over the next few days is SMS text alerts. If you’re not familiar with the phrase … these are the text messages that about three-quarters of cell phone users can receive. If you have a phone that has text messaging, you can sign up for alerts that our reporters will send from the field to cue you in on local breaking news as it happens – before the story can be written or the video posted. We won’t send them too early or late in the day so that the message alert doesn’t wake you if you use a sound prompt … and we won’t send more than a few each day. But if you who like to be among the first to know the outcome of a municipal board vote or important trial, or the development of a major crime or fire or accident as it is happening, or other events of importance, this feature is for you …. And it is free. It is part of our fast to slow philosophy to news coverage. We’ll send you important updates via text, post more information to sources such as Twitter and Facebook, and then roll out stories, videos and photos to our Web and mobile products – more on the latter in a minute – and finally, publish a print version of much of the news we cover.

I mentioned mobile briefly – the text message alerts are the first step in a mobile strategy we are rolling out this year. This is an important development for us – roughly half of mobile phone users access news online. We will also optimize our Web product for your smart phones, roll out mobile video capabilities, and develop smart phone and tablet applications that deliver news, as well as offer electronic versions of our newspapers.

I am talking a lot about our new digital platforms but we also have something you may be familiar with called  the Oneida Daily Dispatch, our print product that you may have home delivered or pick up on a newsstands. A lot of the buzz about the Dispatch lately has been about changes we have made to our print edition:
  • The fact that we are now printing color on every page.
  • The fact that we are now outsourcing printing the the Dispatch and our Oneida-Madison Pennysaver, Rome Observer, and Southern Madison County Living to the Syracuse Newspapers.
  • The fact that we no longer contract with carriers to deliver the Dispatch; we now contract with Syracuse Newspapers as well to deliver it.
These developments have been the source of endless speculation locally as to what they signal; despite the fact we have tried to be transparent about these changes. Our CEO John Paton has repeatedly blogged about the changes going on in the Journal Register Company, and I have written about them as well in my blog at We’ve also written about the changes in our news products, and have addressed them in public forums such as these.

So let me address some of the rumors head on – and then I will it open this up to take your questions.

Have we been sold? No, we contract with the Syracuse Newspapers to print our newspapers because it is no longer an efficient use of resources for any newspaper to use their press just a few hours a day. These partnerships are happening all over the place – sometimes they are internal developments. At The Record in Troy for instance, we print two sister dailies, the Saratogian and Daily Freeman from Kingston, as well as six weekly newspapers and a Hispanic newspaper. Sometimes these relationships are between two newspapers who do not share a common owner; a well-known example is USA Today, which for more than 25 years has contracted with newspapers outside of its parent company, Gannett, to print and deliver its daily product in areas around the country.

We also have the Syracuse Newspapers deliver our daily print edition for the same reasons and again, this is a common development in our industry. The Times Union in Albany, for instance, delivers 19 titles for 12 different companies, including the aforementioned Troy and Saratoga daily newspapers. These are just some of the ways newspapers are addressing the disruptions in our industry … which include technological developments as well as economic concerns such as rising fuel and health costs, among many others. It no longer makes economic sense to leave a printing press idle 16 or more hours a day and it no longer makes sense – with gas $4 a gallon - to pay a carrier to deliver just a single product to your neighborhood.

Another rumor: That by printing elsewhere and having a partnership with another company to deliver our newspaper that we are somehow de-investing in the community. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Again, the conversation returns to those disruptive technologies I mentioned. Media is rapidly fragmenting – the economics of TV station or network ownership, of radio station ownership, and all other forms of traditional media has evolved rapidly in the last decade. We still have profitable businesses. We still have loyal audiences. And some of us are forging ahead in this new environment in exciting ways. But there are developments that have in layman’s terms, really rocked our world in the past couple years:
  • Our financial “challenge”? Newspaper advertising has shrunk by half since 2005, for one. Another is the investment required in product development while we strive to improve our traditional ones.
  • The “opportunities”? Digital ad revenue now exceeds print ad revenue nationally and more people are accessing our news than ever.
So the discussion can’t be framed any longer about what we are not doing – i.e. printing and coordinating distribution of our print products at 130 Broad Street. The conversation is about how we are investing in the people and the work we produce at that facility. We have given our reporters netbooks to write and distribute news electronically from the field. We have given every reporter a Flip camera to shoot videos. Some have been equipped with smart phones. There are new front-end systems coming to make it more efficient to produce content. We will invest in redesigning the paper, and expand the content we deliver.

Not everyone is impressed with the changes. We have some readers who only value the print product – the same newspaper we have delivered to them in many cases for decades, and in some cases, for several generations to their families. We understand that and will continue to deliver you a newspaper. But we are in an age where news is becoming highly customized. Some of us want it delivered only via the Web and smart phones, some of us only use the print product. Some of us want it all. The fact is that this “disruptive technology” we have talked about has grown our audience to perhaps its largest ever. We now have over 98,000 people reading the Oneida Daily Dispatch and/or each month, and more reading the Oneida-Madison Pennysaver and our Southern Madison County Living monthly. In Rome, where we have the weekly Rome Observer and a companion Web site, our monthly reach exceeds 30,600 adults each month. These are huge audiences we can’t reach in print alone … and here is that word again … it presents a huge “opportunity” for local businesses as well. These products deliver terrific results for advertisers because of the expanded reach, the increased frequency and the level of reader engagement we offer.

This is an exciting time at the Dispatch. We’ve entered a new age in community journalism and we are working to make our coverage more compelling and more complete than it has ever been before. The changes you have seen in the first quarter of this year are the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Our goal is to cover the news – not necessarily be making it. But there will continue to be developments we share with you throughout 2011 and beyond.

We hope you see each of these changes in a positive light – we’re working to bring you more news, in a more timely way, using all the technologies you might employ to access our coverage. We believe, to paraphrase President Obama from yesterday, that these “disruptions that are taking place ... hold the promise of making our lives” a little better. These “disruptions” are making us journalists be more nimble, more targeted, more thoughtful, more creative, and less complacent about how we deliver news.

And yet, as I also stated at the top of this talk, “Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed.” We have chronicled the lives of the members and institutions of our local communities for over a century, and that isn’t going to go away … the coverage in fact, we know, will continue to get much better.

Now I would like to open the discussion. Who has questions?

To read a related talk to the Oneida Rotary Club in February 2011, click here.