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

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.

Arab films set for Red Sea Film Festival screening

Updated 24 February 2020

Arab films set for Red Sea Film Festival screening

  • MBC Group to support young film makers with training from industry professionals

LONDON: Young Arab film makers will have the opportunity to have their work showcased at next month’s Red Sea International Film Festival as investment in Saudi cinema gathers pace.

The Red Sea International Film Festival has announced a partnership with MBC Group, which will also broadcast the event’s opening ceremony on March 12.

As part of the deal, MBC Al Amal, MBC’s corporate social responsibility arm, will hold a Shorts pitch competition.

Ten short film projects will be selected from Saudi Arabia and the MENA region, with filmmakers being given a one-day workshop to prepare for a pitching session. 

Italian director and producer Stefano Tealdi will train the candidates to strengthen their skills and give them tips for better pitches, MBC said.

“We strongly believe that this new generation of talent is key in influencing change and creating the difference to the region’s media and entertainment content landscape, which of course includes independent film and mainstream cinema,” said Peter Smith, managing director of MBC Studios.

The region’s biggest broadcaster will also host talent days on March 17 and 18 to support Saudi scriptwriters, directors and producers.

The inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival takes place March 12-21 in Jeddah Old Town, under the theme “Changing the Script.” It aims to support and help grow Saudi Arabia’s emerging film industry which is attracting a slew of investment from homegrown dramas shot in the Kingdom to the construction of cinemas countrywide.

Real estate broker CBRE estimates that 45 new cinemas are expected to open this year.

The boom in cinema construction coincides with a push to develop the domestic Saudi film industry.

That is being driven by both the big and small screen as video-on-demand players that include MBC, Netflix and Amazon compete to deliver content that speaks to a young Arab audience.