Death of the Times Union community blogs

Information without the Bun

times unionI got this intriguing email from Casey Seiler, the editor of the Times Union, the local (Albany, NY) newspaper, a couple of weeks ago. “Nothing urgent, but please give me a ring if you have a few minutes — cell is … Thanks.”

He’d never contacted me before, so I was most curious. The purpose of the contact was to tell me that the entire page of community blogs located on the TU website would be going away on Friday, February 5.

The Community Blogs started early this century, in 2006, I’m told. But even before that, I had been participating in a program of community websites hosted by the TU. I was creating the ones for my then-church, Trinity UMC, plus Albany United Methodist Society, the FOCUS churches, and one of the other member churches of FOCUS. Since I left Trinity in 2000, this would have been in the late 1990s.

Mike Huber, who had been running the community websites became the majordomo for the blogs. Since I had started this blog in 2005, he knew that I could create content with sufficient frequency. He nagged me regularly, and in January 2008, I finally capitulated.

But what to write? I didn’t want to necessarily replicate this blog. So I tended to post things that were Albany-centric and/or ephemeral. Say an event at my church or offered by the Albany Public Library.

Information without the Bun
ROGER_GREEN_3
Courtesy of the Times Union

There were definite upsides. I could plug events important to me. Occasionally, on the front of the B section of the print newspaper, the TU would print a pull quote from my post. I’d generally learn about this before I saw it. “Oh, you’re in the paper again.” While mildly ego-boosting, it was occasionally frustrating that some people didn’t recognize that it was only a small part of what I wrote.

And the bigger the platform, the more chances for the blog trolls. I’ve seldom experienced this on rogerogreen.com, but a fair amount on Information without the Bun, an obtuse referral to me being a librarian and eating hamburgers. Even when the content was exactly the same, the nasties would always come from the TU audience.

Still, it was fine. I’d write something a couple of times a week. And the newspaper seemed to care about their unpaid community bloggers by sponsoring an occasional event. I remember one at the College of Saint Rose maybe a decade ago where there were short videos of each of us. They created bios of us for the print version of the paper.

The interesting thing was that the agreement read that the TU wouldn’t edit what the bloggers wrote, as long as what we posted wasn’t libelous or profane.

Herder of cats

Then… stuff started happening. J. Eric Smith, who has been blogging since the word was invented, had made what seems to be a reasonable request to keep political mads out of his blog space. It could have jammed him up at work. He explains this in a series of posts here. He ended up leaving in 2010.

In January 2017, Mike Huber, herder of cats, left the Times Union. I’m left to wonder how events of that year would have otherwise played out.

Chuck Miller had a clearly marked April Fools post in 2017 involving Kellyanne Conway which got pulled down, despite eight previous 1 April posts, at least one of which had been picked up by Washington Post. He departed, but he subsequently was always the instigator of promoting local bloggers on his site, and meetups, at the Gateway Diner, a pizza joint, and even at Ken Screven’s lovely apartment.

#Metoo

I was most infuriated when Heather Fazio’s post about sexual assault from October 2017 was deemed too graphic. Or was it libelous? The narrative kept shifting. Chuck and I both reposted Heather’s words: my version is here. Chuck quoted her response to the TU here, and you should read the comments.

I even complained about Heather’s treatment on my Times Union blog, because I could. The headline, I believe was, “Rex: you’ve got a lot of ‘splain’ to do.” Rex being Rex Smith, then editor of the paper, and a guy I actually liked the few times I’ve met him. But this was a crappy decision which he felt obligated to defend. Heather, of course, left, and she too has her own blog.

Yet this conspiratorial flake – whose name had fortunately been exorcised from my brain, Donna something, I think – kept writing absurd post after post for months until even she crossed the line. She was actually brought on board to provide a more conservative position, which I endorsed, but she was a true wingnut.

By then, I had really lost my TU blogging mojo, even as the newspaper abandoned the community bloggers. Periodically, I would literally forget I still had the page, and my recent spotty posting there was proof.

The long goodbye

What seems to have been the last straw from the Times Union’s POV was the Lale Davidson post about Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY). The member of Congress “demanded the Times Union retract what she called a ‘heinous and wildly inappropriate’ blog post. Apparently, the work of fiction pushed a button, not about Stefanik’s absurd challenge of the 2020 election, but her being described as “childless.”

As TU blogger Lawrence White wrote: “I think most people had no idea this was going on. The blog in question does not have a vast readership and nothing had been posted on any of the social media sites I frequent. Clearly, the sting of the original piece would have gone away with only a handful of people even reading it if Ms. Stefanik had let it slide, or dealt with it in a more private manner.”

When Casey Seiler called me to tell me the TU had put the kibosh on the community blog pages, he noted this story. Last spring, one of the bloggers had “swerved from their totally innocuous chosen topic to instead use his platform to spread the looniest conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19 that you can possibly imagine. We shut it down immediately.”

So the TU community blogs are dead. Actually, it’s been dying for a while. Of the 80 or so blogs on the page as of January 30, including the staffers’ pages, about a quarter had not been updated in over a year. It seems as though the TU stopped caring about the blogs, and maybe vice versa. While I feel a little wistful, the demise was no surprise.

Underground Railroad Ties, Blackness Project

Years after his retirement from WRGB-TV after 38 years of telling stories that touched everyone, reporter Ken Screven remains a fixture in his community.

Ancestry Railroad TiesYou can and should watch, at this link, the 23-minute film Railroad Ties, presented by Ancestry® and SundanceTV.

“Six descendants of fugitive slaves and abolitionists come together in Brooklyn to discover more about their lineage. Documenting each person learning about their ancestors, and featuring renowned historian, Henry Louis Gates Jr., the film interweaves powerful personal moments with contextual historical anecdotes.”

Here’s the CBS News story about Railroad Ties.


In Buffalo, NY, The Blackness Project is helping people talk about race.

It is “a featured length documentary film about culture and race from the perspectives of African American and other minorities. The film was inspired from conversations about the “Whiteness Project” which is a similar documentary discussing race and the perceived loss of white privilege by white Americans. The main purpose of The Blackness Project film is to bridge the gap between white and black Americans with in depth interviews on race.


My buddy Ken Screven Remains Active, Despite On-Air Retirement

“Years after his retirement from WRGB-TV after 38 years of telling stories that touched everyone, reporter Ken Screven remains a fixture in his community, from his Albany Times Union blogs to his active social media following. This Black History Month, we take an in-depth look at the trails he blazed to become the first black on-air reporter in the Capital Region.”


Weekly Sift: I See Color

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“We sat down with Leslie Odom Jr. to talk about Alvin Ailey’s powerful legacy in dance.”


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Nicknamed Newk, he played for the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles and was the first black pitcher to start a World Series game, in 1949.


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November rambling #2: The Road to Unfreedom

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Dunn lumber signNATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT (it ain’t good)

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Ken Screven: Breaking Stereotypes | Out in Albany

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West Virginia Democrat announces 2020 presidential bid

Walter Ayres: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a pastoral letter against racism – Open Wide Your Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love

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HAIRMERGENCY!

Noun. alexiteric (plural alexiterics) (medicine) A preservative against infectious diseases. A preservative against the effects of poison. (HT, Dan)

Bill Gates is obsessed with redesigning the world’s toilets

Dustbury turns 65 and thinks he’s Sinatra

SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg has died at age 57 of ALS

Tributes to the late magician Ricky Jay

RIP William Goldman the Oscar-winning screenwriter who penned classics such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, and The Princess Bride

Greg Burgas: Some more olde-tymey movies I’ve had the chance to watch or re-watch recently

Kelly Sedinger: Prologue to his forthcoming supernatural thriller, The Chilling Killing Wind

CGC 9.2 Overstreet #1 Hits $9K at Heritage

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MUSIC

Coverville 1239: The Joni Mitchell Cover Story III

Roy Clark: I Never Picked Cotton and 12th Street Rag and Yesterday When I Was Young and Malagueña from The Odd Couple

Roman Carnival overture – Berlioz

YOU MAKE MY DREAMS Aubrey Logan feat. LaVance Colley – Hall & Oates

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After this


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Walter Ayres: Pope Francis and the death penalty

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Ohio – John Batiste, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr

Vasily Kalinnikov – Bylina, an overture

“Africa” le Toto as Gaeilge

Summer Wind- Willie Nelson

I greet my country -Ahoulaguine Akaline featuring Bombino

Feel The Love – Rudimental, featuring John Newman

In the Mood – Glenn Miller (see Sonja Henie!)

Stand By Me – Bootstraps

Fur Elise – pianist Lola Astanova

The Place Where Dreams Come True and End Credits – James Horner, scoring Field of Dreams

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The niece Rebecca Jade will be singing at five Sheila E shows this month, in Michigan and the Northeast

How the Beatles unravelled: Hunter Davies, the band’s official biographer, recalls the tensions that led the Fab Four to split

The Top 60 Female Artists of All Time

The amazing power of Santa Claus

Chuck Miller, the guy in the plaid shirt, organized the event,


More than once, someone, almost always unknown to me, has referred to me as Santa Claus. Big man, white beard; I get it.

Interestingly, it’s usually done by women, especially young women, and it’s almost always said in December. I might have the same beard length in March, but it never engenders a St. Nick comment.

I was at my allergist back at Corporate (frickin’) Woods, where I used to work. Well, I know the bus schedule for the #737. I left the building in plenty of time to catch the 9:45 a.m. bus, but either it arrived early, or didn’t come at all. This means walking out of CW, because there’s not another bus downtown for four hours. I trudge up the hill- beware of the speeding cars going down since there’s no sidewalk and the grass is covered with snow and ice.

As I’m finally on the mostly straightaway of Albany Shaker Road, this woman, driving the opposite way from where I’m going, stops and wants to know if I’d like a ride. It was cold out, and I had maybe a mile to walk on roads with no sidewalks, so I said yes.

She was a photographer for children, sometimes with Santa Claus. She just couldn’t bear to see Santa walking, so she turned around, gave me a ride down Albany-Shaker, and just after she makes the right turn on Northern Boulevard, I see the #182 bus that would take me downtown, and she gets me to the stop, near the WTEN-TV station, just before the bus gets there.

The power of Santa Claus.

Oh, this is a picture, taken two days later, at the home of retired newsman Ken Screven, the guy front and center, with a couple of Ken’s friends, Denise and Arnelle, and a coterie of Times Union bloggers, including Chuck Miller, the guy in the plaid shirt who organized the event, Aaron Bush, Judi England, and Walter Ayres. Unfortunately, Michael Rivest had departed before the camera came out.