Sunday, January 31, 2010

Together we can make this the best summer ever for some youth

This first appeared in The Record.

Among my favorite childhood memories is the weeks spent at an assortment of summer camps over more than a decade through my late teens.

First were the years being bused to a day-camp outside my hometown to a reservoir for a few hours of swimming and crafts. When that site was deemed unsafe and closed, the bus ride became longer – we rode a half hour in each direction to a state park for similar activities. This was overlapped by the years spent at an Adirondacks camp sponsored by Catholic Charities. Later I graduated to a camp run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and finally, an out-of-state football camp.

Whether I was making a boondoggle thing-a-ma-jig, singing songs with a camp counselor, learning the fine art of hunting for snipe at night, or getting instruction from an NFL player such as Joe Namath, the camps kept me outdoors, active, learning new skills, and growing my circle of acquaintances and friends. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, and I made sure that summer camp was an option made available to my kids each and every summer, even at times when my wife and I weren’t entirely sure we could afford it.

If I were to create a Bill of Rights for children, I might borrow a phrase from the U.S. Constitution and amend it to say that summer camp is an “unalienable right of childhood”. Such a universal right seems even more important today than when I was a child in light of technology that keeps kids glued to screens, indoors, and often secluded from face-to-face contact with kids outside their immediate circle throughout the summer.

Unfortunately, there is no such right for every child to have access to a camp experience. Many kids spend the summer home – in some cases without supervision during the day because a parent has to work – and without the organized activity, camaraderie and just plain fun that comes with camping. Much of the time, the sole reason for not participating is family finances.

To that end, The Record is going to organize a drive this spring to fund summer camp scholarships for needy area children. This will be a mid-year effort similar to our Clothe a Child fundraising activity each fall. All monies raised will go to summer camping.

Our planning is in its infancy. If you and, or your company or organization is interested in helping us raise funds, please contact me. To others looking for information on how the monies raised will be disbursed, please look for an announcement in The Record in late March.

Together we can make this the best summer ever for a significant number of local children. A worthwhile cause … I hope you agree.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Developments portend good things for our readers in 2010

The following first appeared in The Record.

Now that the holidays are behind us, the staff of The Record is looking ahead and 2010 is already shaping up to be a great year. There are four developments that portend good things for our readers in 2010.

The first is something we have already shared - that we are making an investment to install computer-to-plate (CTP) equipment designed to make the newspaper’s printing operation more efficient. CTP is a prepress process in which a digital image is transmitted directly from a computer to a plate used on a press. It eliminates the need for producing film or negatives, stripping and shooting plates. The technology reduces costs, increases productivity, and offers better consistency and higher quality.

We have made significant progress since the announcement Dec. 4 in renovating an area of our building where this equipment will be housed. The equipment is due to be delivered in the next two weeks and will be fully operational by mid-February. There will be significant cost savings with no reduction in staffing.

The second improvement is the growth of our editorial staff. Currently we are filling four news writing positions: one to cover business, a second to cover education, and two others to write news and feature stories. These are all new.

The business writer will focus on trends and developments shaping our community within the small business, technology, health, education and non-profit sectors, as well as coverage of some of the organizations charged with economic development.

The education reporter will focus on developing good human interest stories from our local schools, as well coverage of issues such as budgets, construction projects, and trends in education. Emphasis is not only on school districts in our core market but our local colleges and universities.

The other two positions will be assigned some specific responsibilities but be flexible to cover breaking news and feature opportunities that present themselves.

All four positions should be filled by the second week in February.

A third development here is a repositioning of our three weekly newspapers - our Latham, Greenbush and River Life products. Beginning Jan. 21, Greenbush Life will move from carrier home delivery to being made available in news racks throughout the community; the other two publications move to rack delivery Feb. 11. This change is designed to make sure the newspapers get in the hands of those who want it. They will remain free but mail delivery will also be available for a nominal charge. We will begin publicizing the locations where these will be available, as well as how to order mail delivery, later in the month.

The weeklies will also transition from a broadsheet to tabloid format and be designed in a more attractive format. Studies show the smaller size is preferred by readers, and it will make it easier to buy advertising across our product mix since The Record is a tabloid.

Another change to the weeklies: All three will be distributed on Thursdays; currently they are delivered on different days.

One last advancement: I mentioned in a recent column we were looking to expand our arts coverage. Our goal is to give more visibility to the artists who live in our coverage area, as well as some of the other arts professionals (everyone from sound engineers to gallery owners). We’ve been advertising the last few weeks in The Record for freelancers to write occasionally for us in the visual arts (ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, printmaking, photography and filmmaking) and contemporary music (rock, pop, country, hip-hop, Christian, folk, jazz and rhythm and blues.). The response has been terrific. We’re hoping to try a few people out in the next 30 days and you should see more diverse arts coverage beginning February.

All of these changes are designed to ensure we deliver better hometown journalism in the coming year. We hope you enjoy the improvements.