EDITORIAL: What happened last week?

AN APOLOGY is due those of our subscribers who called us this week to report they did not receive last week’s issue. That would have been the paper published August 11. But they did receive it, even though they didn’t know it. Their confusion wasn’t their fault. It was mine.

The contents of our August 11 issue of The Columbia Paper were bundled with the previous issue (August 4) into our Annual Summer Double Issue. It gives us a sort of mini-vacation. We want readers to know about our double issue and we did advertise it in advance with a sizable color notice on the first page of the Events Calendar in the July 28 issue.

The August 4/August 11 Double Issue was 28 pages, which is considerably larger than the papers we’ve been running, and that’s a welcome bit of news at a time when the newspaper industry is struggling with big increases in printing costs and competition from other media, including truly fake news. I even wrote an editorial alerting readers of our of the upcoming double issue. Sad to say, that doesn’t appear to have helped much. Read more…

EDITORIAL: We’re taking time off

DO WE NEED A SUMMER VACATION? Wouldn’t that have been a nice student essay in high school. But it was never the title of part of a writing exercise in my school days. Probably still isn’t an acceptable topic for a final exam now. What if students like me said what we really thought?

Imagine how the topic could serve as an important teaching tool. Kids could consider climate change, workers’ rights, public health and the role of unions (historical and present), not to mention the impact of pandemics on society, and thoughts on romance, ice cream, fashion, music, sports and kind of, you know, like, everything. (Did I mention romance?)

So even though we don’t have the benefit of what’s really on kids’ minds, we do have the duty to remind our readers that we strongly believe in the benefits of time off. And the way we express our belief in the importance in summer vacations is to publish a “double issue” this time of year and then return two weeks later to our regular weekly schedule. Read more…

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: He’s still sharp, really sharp

LOOK, THIS JUST ISN’T RIGHT. When I was a kid on Fire Island, there were two things that would get the life guards—under Chief life guard Buck Wright (if it rained his house would be called “All Wrong”)—to put out the red flags. A red flag meant that you were not allowed in the ocean. One reason was that the ocean was so rough that you might end up drowning, as in dead, and the other, more unusual circumstance, was that there were sharks in the water. It is not unusual these days to hear that someone has been attacked by a shark. It’s never a nice thing to be hurt by a shark and with some regularity, it has been happening.

This has got me to thinking that we might consider putting up some red flags in politics. After all, there are some terrible politicians out there and while they might not bite off our arms or legs, it seems to me that we need red flags to warn people that they should stay out of the political water. Just take a look at Donald Trump. In his case, there should have been red flags all over the place. Remember when he walked down that staircase to announce that he was running? At the time, people who should have known better seemed to think that Trump was a different sort of politician, so they signed on. He was different, alright, but not in a good way.

People really got snookered. Just how did that happen? Were people that stupid? Where were the lifeguards? The guy was, and still is, a dangerous, terrifying jerk. Some people actually liked that. They responded to his crudeness—he said out loud what they were secretly thinking. Others fell for him because he was a so-called TV star. Read more…

EDITORIAL: How many messages?​

I TAKE NO PRIDE in sharing this, but at some point during the last two weeks the unread inbox of my email silently blinked to reveal that I have 10,000 unread messages. All I can say on my own behalf is that my failure to manage this digital deluge is nowhere near the record for the world’s worst email squirrel.

In my defense I swear that I never tweet nor do I hang out in the social media sphere. I don’t have the time. Most of my considerable online hours are spent sifting through sources that suggest stories about people or organizations in this county whose activities enrich or diminish the quality of our lives. And I have the privilege of working with a small group of talented people who tell you fact-based stories each week—stories you might otherwise have missed.

Many of you, our readers, have told us you approve of what we’re doing. We deeply appreciate your support, but I’m concerned that some of your suggestions or questions may be languishing in the cyber limbo known as my unread inbox. So here is some guidance on how best to reach us. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Is this good data?

ONE OF OUR EMAIL inboxes received a message a couple of weeks ago that appeared to come from a well-known international company. It said our account was experiencing some suspicious activity. The sender asked whether we had recently purchased a truckload of consumer entertainment devices. The contents totaled several thousand dollars and the well-known company wanted to be sure we had received the items.

Near the bottom of the screen were the names of two guys whose collective identity was “Service Department” and a phone number. No visible email address. No website. Just the number. The message was so transparently fraudulent that I thought it might be from kids pulling a summer camp phishing scam. But what if it was just some nerdy good old boy trying to make a few bucks while practicing his language skills. At that point I deleted the email.

That email came to mind again this week as I was looking at the data provided about our website, www.columbiapaper.com , by Google Analytics, a Google/Alphabet subsidiary. Google Analytics offers “free” digital tools to measure how many people visit our website and more. A lot more. For example, it collects information on the kind of device you use to connect to www.columbiapaper.com Read more…