EDITORIAL: How much mulch is too much mulch

A LAWN CARE COMPANY removed the leaves from our small yard late this season. The warm weather didn’t fool the maples that surround us on three sides. The foliage hung around way too long. But the professional lawn care crew arrived with the technology to wrangle the stragglers to the edge of the sidewalk, just as good citizens are instructed to do.

Or kind of. The leaf raking law tells us where to put the leaves but as far as I know the law is silent when it comes to how high the pile can be. Exaggerating just a bit, the first day it stood six feet tall. With parking on the other side of my village street there was just enough room for one-way travel through the leaf-created bottleneck.

My dog Pinky, who stands a strapping eighteen inches, sniffed something in the pile. He stepped off the curb and disappeared. He popped out again at the property line, where he marked his territory and continued our walk, undamaged despite his narrow escape from Leaf-ageddon. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Is it a scam?

HOW GOOD ARE YOU AT DETECTING strangers trying to steal money from you? How long has it been since somebody tried?

It used to be that thieves left evidence of their crimes. Now, if you have any kind of device connected to the internet, you have to learn to be wary of digital scammers who enlist your help ripping you off.

But what if you only read a newspaper to get your news. Surely you’re secure from online bad guys, right? Yes and no. Here’s what happened to The Columbia Paper in the last couple of weeks.

We received an email from a person requesting a classified advertisement. The text of the ad the advertisement offered two golden retriever puppies to give away—one puppy to each of two homes. In addition to the email address and a phone number that indicated messages could be sent via text. Normally we don’t accept classified ads without advance payment except in the case of lost pets (those are free), but the advertiser requested and we accepted the ad for publication.

Unlike our letters policy, which requires that the writers of all letters to the editor be verified, we make exceptions for ads, especially classified ads, which are the least costly type of ad in the paper. But as of right now, the policy has changed. Why? Read on. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Who is that candidate?

DON’T GET ME WRONG, but I just love political postcards—especially the kind that demonize an opponent. I save some of the best ones and advise others to do the same. I have 13 of my favorites on my desk right now.These mini-masterpieces of contemporary art represent a small sample of a huge harvest.

Postcard portraits come from both sides of the Major Party aisle but the ones I have added to my collection this year favored the work of Republican artists and Democratic Party subjects. The palette and canvas of choice is a computer program called Photoshop, the artistic challenge is to evoke the darkest side of the subjects’ soul.

The masters of Photoshop can create works of neo-fake realism with a swipe of the mouse and suddenly it’s not just the gloomy lighting; there’s something about the look of the subject. Notice the subtle touches like the shape of a subject’s (or call them “an opponent’s”) teeth, the curve of his or her smile, the set of eyes. It’s the magic of suggesting that a genuine candidate might be a vampire if only you let yourself believe it. One talented disinformation artist deftly grafted a new right hand and wrist for Democrat Josh Riley and, in another delicately depicted odd creases in his pants. Read more…

EDITORIAL: From before the count

THIS IS A WEEKLY NEWSPAPER which, in this case, means that as these words are written the polls for New York State voters have just closed. Now comes the drizzle of Election 2022 results on countless stations and digital platforms as well as in newspapers, all competing to provide what is too often described as context but is better known as data.

There’s plenty of blagh-blagh to go around, most of it aspiring to be post-election analysis, but that will have to appear in letters to the editor in future weeks. We’ll print the unofficial results that are available in this issue and the official results of close races once winner are named. Otherwise we’ll get back to covering other local news.

But our limited resources don’t prevent us from reminding readers what a complex undertaking it is to manage an election, especially in a time when so many voters are opting to vote remotely. So perhaps before the inevitable legal challenges to ballots begin is appropriate point to praise the county Board of Elections and the poll workers for the amount of work they have done and the way they have done it: with honesty and skill. Thank you. Read more…

EDITORIAL: You call this news?

A NEWSPAPER EDITOR ASKED me if I support the policy adopted by other papers that no longer endorse political candidates. I said, No. If newspapers expect the First Amendment of the Constitution to protect us, we ought to test that theory… frequently. And what better way than to recommend how others should vote.

The contemporary bargain between readers and newspapers is that readers should expect to find fair and accurate reporting on news pages. On the editorial page you get opinion. Editorials at larger papers can be a team effort that reflects the views of the owners. At smaller papers it’s more likely that the owner also serves as the editor and janitor. Here, for instance. So if you’re serious about delivering news to your neighbors, you have to enforce the separation between news and opinion. It’s an evolving challenge with no certain outcome.

Here a few more opinions for this election cycle. You’ll know where I stand. Read more…