When the newspaper closed, this town library started one

Librarian Aroostine Brown, left, and library director Michael Sullivan, right, fold editions of the "Weare in the World" are stacked for distribution at the public library in Weare, N.H., Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Updated 06 February 2018
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When the newspaper closed, this town library started one

WEARE, NEW HAMPSHIRE, US: Weeks after Weare’s only newspaper shut down, a resident in came to librarian Mike Sullivan with a proposal: Why doesn’t he start one?
Sullivan jumped on the idea and, for the past year, has been producing Weare in the World.
The four-page publication comes out every week and is heavy on community events and calendar listings. The front page of one paper had a short story about an elementary school Lego team, a police association scholarship and details on a local bar’s Super Bowl party. There is also a popular crossword puzzle that has clues for local businesses or other landmarks in the town with 9,000 residents.
The goal is to create a sense of community and local pride, more civic engagement and “more energy around things that do happen around town,” said Sullivan, who produces 200 copies of the newspaper by himself in his tiny office crowded with boxes of donated books and several guitars he uses for music lessons.
He estimates each issue costs the library about $25, not including staff time.
The newspaper is the latest example of a library stepping into what Sullivan describes as a news desert to cover community news.
David Beard, a journalist who is finishing up a Harvard University research fellowship and has written about the paper for the Poynter Institute, said similar projects have been undertaken elsewhere. In South Dakota, there is the Black Hills Network that takes information from 13 libraries. NOWCastSA , which describes itself as public television for the Internet, is run out of a San Antonio, Texas, library.
“It’s more like a first step — listing and covering events, town histories, showing what makes a place unique and distinctive,” Beard said. “So many places in America don’t even have that now. If it stokes the need for greater news coverage in the town, all the better.”
But some suggest library newspapers are a poor substitute for the real thing, since they often lack fully reported stories, actual reporters and independence from town institutions.
Tommy Thomason, director of the Texas Center for Community Journalism, said the trend reflects residents’ desire for information but also exposes the unique role that newspapers play in gathering it.
Librarians are experts in curating information that is already out there, not going out and getting information, he said.
“I can’t see a library ever sending someone to cover a school board meeting or a City Council meeting,” he said, “or, ‘Hey, there is a fire on the other side of town. We need to roll a librarian.’“
Sullivan is quick to acknowledge the shortcomings of his newspaper — call it a newsletter if you want, he says — but insists it is providing a much-needed public service. The quarterly that served the town, the Weare Free Press, closed last year and reporters from nearby dailies and weeklies rarely cover the town, he said.
“This has an awful lot of similarities to the early, early community newspapers,” Sullivan said. “It is a bit of a throwback and it’s meant to serve the people who don’t get their information through Facebook” or other online sources.
Boosters of the paper, including many town officials, said it is the only place residents can get information on events such as the annual Christmas party, the Weare Patriotic Celebration or town meetings. They say attendance at such events is up since Sullivan’s paper started publishing.


Arabic cinema wins over movie-goers

Updated 17 September 2018
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Arabic cinema wins over movie-goers

  • Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, ‘The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,’ at the Venice Film Festival
  • Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film ‘The Insult’

LONDON: Arabic cinema has increasingly captured the imagination of movie-lovers around the world this year, with Arab film-makers winning award nominations and securing high-profile screenings at major film festivals.
This month the Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, “The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,” at the Venice Film Festival. Al-Mansour previously wrote and directed the film “Wadjda,” which was the first foreign-language Oscar entry from Saudi Arabia in 2014.
Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film “The Insult.”
“Arab cinema’s profile has been on the rise. There are several different Arab movies being shown at Venice (film festival) this year,” said Joseph Fahim, an Egyptian film critic and the curator of this year’s London-based Safar Film Festival, which runs on Sept. 13-18.
Daniel Gorman, the director of London’s biannual Shubbak festival, which showcases mainly contemporary Arabic culture, art and film, said he that has seen the appeal of Arabic film grow in the UK.
“There is a huge interest and appetite for creative work coming from across the Arab world and there is strong interest in the UK to hear the voices of people from across the region, in an area that is generally represented in headlines in newspapers. Film is an excellent way of doing that,” he said.
Festivals have played a vital role in boosting awareness of Arab film, he said.
“(They) are able to bring new audiences to new work as they bring this concentrated moment of activity. A festival tends to have a bit more reach in terms of media coverage and audience awareness.
“(It) brings people along to something which they might not go to as a one-off screening,” Gorman said, explaining how the Shubbak festival also works with local schools and community groups to increase access to Arabic film and art.
This year’s Safar film festival — which is in its fourth year and organized by the Arab British Center — has focused on the theme of literature and film in the Arab world.
Fahim has created a program that includes movies dating back to the 1960s that have been buried deep in their respective country’s archives, as well as new films that have not been screened in London yet.
One of the films included is the Tunisian “In the Land of Tararanni,” originally released in 1973 and based on a collection of short stories by Ali Dougai.
It was one of the more tricky recordings to track down, said Nadia El-Sebai, executive director at the Arab British Center.
“There are films in this program that audiences will have no idea how many people it took to get that film,” she said, explaining the lengthy negotiations with ministries of culture, national archives and old friends and contacts to track down the much sought-after recordings.
There were other movies they had to give up on ever finding, including those lost in Syria or Iraq, or old versions of films that have not yet been digitised by national archives, she said.
More recent festival entries include this year’s Egyptian film “Poisonous Roses,” adapted from a 1990s cult novel, as well as the European premiere of the work of an Iraqi filmmaker — “Stories of Passers Through” — which traces the stories of Iraqis exiled from their country during the Saddam Hussein regime.
The literary theme of this year’s festival was chosen as a reaction to the growing popularity of contemporary Arab cinema, with the event’s organizers wanting to delve into the history of Arabic film.
“We are delighted by the increasing access to Arabic cinema. There are more films plugged into the London film festival this year. We have other other festivals — the Shubbak festival (in London), and the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival,” said El-Sebai.
“For this year’s edition we thought we would like to take the opportunity to go a little deeper into the history and heritage of Arabic cinema, and the industry,” she said.
“Safar is taking place just before London Film Festival (LFF), which was another motivation for us to look at something a bit different as we are definitely going to see really amazing contemporary films at the London Film Festival,” she said.
The LFF — which begins on Oct. 10 — is set to feature work by Syrian filmmaker Soudade Kaadan as well as the Saudi Arabian director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s latest dark comedy “Amra and the Second Marriage,” among other Arab productions.
Fahim was also keen to use the Safar event as a way of bringing audiences’ attention to a broader range of Arabic movies, highlighting the heritage of the film industry.
“It is reminding people that Arab cinema did not spring out today — there is a long history,” he said, adding that he wanted to question audience expectations.
“There have been a flood of amazing images from Arab cinema being displayed at festivals and most critics had no idea what they were. The more I spoke to people, the more I realized that there is a certain expectation of what Arab movies should be,” he said.
“We wanted to challenge what people expect from Arab cinema … I am tired of seeing Lawrence of Arabia a gazillion times on the big screen,” he said.
He said the selected films in the festival will hopefully challenge preconceptions. He referred to the inclusion of the 1964 Egyptian film — “The Search” — based on the writer Naguib Mahfouz’s novel. “It is a crime noir. It is essentially an existential noir and I don’t think many people will expect to see that,” he said.
Arabic cinema, however, needs to be better promoted, he said, noting a dearth of adequate film critics.
“At the big festivals it sometimes feels like Arab cinema is the bottom priority for critics,” he said.
“We need more perceptive writing. I could name you on one hand the film critics who know their stuff. That needs to change. Maybe we need to have more different voices. Film criticism is still being dominated by white male writers — although it has been developing — but that is still the norm,” he said.