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.


Barack and Michelle’s next act: TV deal with Netflix

Updated 22 May 2018
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Barack and Michelle’s next act: TV deal with Netflix

  • The Obamas will have hands-on involvement in producing content and will appear personally in some of the shows while curating others
  • Under the name Higher Ground Productions, the Obamas have the option to produce scripted and unscripted series, documentaries and feature films

LOS ANGELES: Former US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, have struck a deal to produce films and series for Netflix Inc, the streaming service said on Monday, giving the former first couple a powerful and unprecedented platform to shape their post-White House legacy.
Under the name Higher Ground Productions, the Obamas have the option to produce scripted and unscripted series, documentaries and feature films, Netflix said in a statement.
The Obamas will have hands-on involvement in producing content and will appear personally in some of the shows while curating others, said a person familiar with the deal.
Terms of the multi-year deal were not disclosed and the first of the programming is not expected to reach viewers until about May 2019, the person said.
The agreement between the Obamas and Netflix, which boasts some 125 million subscribers worldwide, is a first for any occupant of the White House.
The closest comparison is former US Vice President Al Gore, whose global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Oscar in 2007. Gore also launched a youth-oriented cable TV network, Current TV, in 2005 but it was sold to Middle-East based Al Jazeera in 2013, which later shut it down.
The Obamas gave no details of the topics they planned to cover but the content is not expected to be directly political.
Barack Obama in a statement recalled the “fascinating people” from all walks of life that he had met during his eight years in office, ending in January 2017.
“We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world,” he added.
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement that the Obamas are “uniquely positioned to discover and highlight stories of people who make a difference in their communities and strive to change the world for the better.”
The deal with the Obamas also marks one of the biggest coups for Netflix in drawing top-level talent away from traditional Hollywood studios and television networks.
In the past year, Netflix has cut deals with Shonda Rhimes, the woman behind hits like “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and Emmy-winning Ryan Murphy, who created “Glee” and directed the TV series “American Crime Story.”
Netflix, which has budgeted $8 billion for programming in 2018, is also producing Martin Scorsese’s next film starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Barack Obama was the first guest on David Letterman’s return to television in an extended talk show format with Netflix that debuted in January.