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January 13, 2022 - 12:00pm


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January 4, 2022 - 3:55pm


Paid summer internship available. Intern at one of the news industry's most respected online new websites! To apply send a cover letter and resume along with at least three news-related writing samples to: [email protected].

May 3, 2020 - 8:00am

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Local news sources are vital to the safety, security and knowledge of our communities, never more so than in these difficult times. We encourage you to find a local news organization you trust and support it at:   nytimes.com/supportlocaljournalism. #worldpressfreedomday

April 2, 2013 - 6:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in journalism, Orleans County, OrleansHub.

For 17 years, Tom Rivers soldiered on in small-town, print journalism, honing his craft writing about pinewood derbies, high-school graduations and new varieties of cucumbers.

All that changed over the past 30 days. After 15 years at the Batavia Daily News, he quit. He quit to become an online news journalist in Orleans County.  OrleansHub.com officially launched today.

Rivers did it, in part, because, "it seemed like the county would benefit from having a locally owned, locally run news site."

It's a big step and an unusual one, to go from a steady job at a daily newspaper to a locally owned, online-only news start-up. (There are nearly 100 successful locally owned online community news sites in the nation, and perhaps without exception, all founded by out-of-work journalists who started their ventures as much out of necessity as passion).

Rivers has the passion, but he also has the financial backing many locally owned start-ups lack.

Karen Sawicz, owner of the Lake County PennySaver, is providing the resources necessary to get OrleansHub off the ground.

While Rivers is the editor, reporter, photographer and public face of OrleansHub, the PennySaver is supplying technical, advertising and back-office support and Sawicz is paying his salary until online advertising revenue can carry the site on its own.

The 38-year-old journalist, who is married with four children, said he couldn't have carried out the vision for OrleansHub without Sawicz's support.

It's clear Rivers admires Sawicz. They're both Rotary Club members and have known each other for years. 

"One of the things I liked about her is she's in charge of the hot dog stand at the strawberry festival," Rivers said. "In terms of the thankless job that no one wants, she goes and deals with the health department, gets all the stuff, cleans it up, puts it away. I just thought that showed something. She's also willing to do the heavy lifting. When I first came out here, there were two chambers (of commerce), Albion and Medina, and she was willing to be kind of the leader to bring those two together."

Sawicz's parents purchased the PennySaver in 1960 and she bought it from them in 1989.

Rivers said locally owned businesses in Orleans County have never had a bigger cheerleader than Sawicz.

Sawicz chaffs at the idea of county governments giving out government contracts to non-local businesses and Rivers opposes tax subsidies for national retailers.

They have a mutual passion for Orleans County that brings them together as a publishing team.

They both think existing media outlets weren't giving Orleans County the coverage it deserved.

"There's more that happens in Orleans County than just the bad stuff," Sawicz said. "We want good stuff to be told, too."

Rivers thinks the Daily News does a better job than other news outlets of getting beyond the murders and the weird crimes, but there just wasn't enough news getting published about his home community, he said.

In a way, Rivers is now competing with his former employer, but he is not about to say anything negative about the Daily News. While he acknowledges the newspaper industry as a whole is struggling -- part the reason he wanted to give online-only news a try -- he also thinks small-town papers will survive.

For the Daily News, however, the launch of OrleansHub puts the Johnson family, owners of The Batavia Daily News, the Livingston County News and the Watertown Daily Times, in a unique position.

Where the vast majority of online-only news sites are in urban or suburban settings, the Johnson's rural newspapers are likely the only ones in the nation facing competition from multiple start-ups in rural communities.

Besides OrleansHub and The Batavian squaring off against the Batavia Daily News, there is the Genesee Sun in Livingston County and the aggregation site NewzJunky.com in Watertown.

Only time will tell how all that shakes out, but for Rivers, he's just focused on making his new venture a success, and he knows that will take hard work.

And he's OK with that.

"(Being a journalist) is actually a fun job and I wanted to do more, to work more than just 35 hours a week," Rivers said. (Daily News staffers are limited to 35-hour work weeks these days, according to Rivers.)

In his time with the Daily News, Rivers won several statewide writing and reporting awards. He also published a regionally successful book based on his series of articles about working in GLOW-area farm fields called "Farm Hands."

Rivers has a new book out, a collection of his columns written for the Daily News, called "All Ears." Rivers said the book is "a love letter to the Daily News." (For more on Tom's books, click here.)

It also served to close one chapter on the professional career of Tom Rivers and now he's excited about the unlimited possibilities of being online news site owner.

The efficiencies of online publishing means Rivers will be able to produce more news than a print news staff produces and he'll get it published quicker, with more real-time news reports than Orleans County readers will be able to get from any other source.

Rivers is also an avid photographer and is looking forward to publishing more photos with his stories than he could publish in print.

And he's passionate about Orleans County and plans to be an advocate for growth and community pride in the area.

He hopes OrleansHub will energize younger readers to get involved in their community.

"They're not newspaper readers," Rivers said. "They might realize they can get plugged into the community with the history society or youth baseball. As you show them more of the community, they will see more ways to get plugged in, and I think that's what we need to be a viable, vibrant community."

One of the things that gave Rivers the courage to make the leap from being a print employee to an online journalist was covering the ag beat for so many years.

He would see farmers, many in their 50s or 60s, hit hard times or a changing market place and they would totally reinvent their businesses.

He mentioned LynOaken Farms in Lyndonville, which had a thriving Empire apple business that was a century old when storms nearly destroyed the farm. The owners came back from those difficulties to move into heirloom apples and open a winery and become one of Orleans County's agricultural success stories.

"You have to be able to change," Rivers said. "Even though you might be growing the best Empire apples, if they're not paying the bills or if long term that's not the way to do it, you have to switch."

Rivers made the switch and Orleans County is likely to be better off because of it.

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September 14, 2009 - 1:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in journalism, media.

pew_news_trust.gifMore people than ever distrust traditional news media, according to a new Pew study.

In this year’s survey, 63 percent of respondents said news articles were often inaccurate and only 29 percent said the media generally “get the facts straight” — the worst marks Pew has recorded — compared with 53 percent and 39 percent in 2007.

Seventy-four percent said news organizations favored one side or another in reporting on political and social issues, and the same percentage said the media were often influenced by powerful interests. Those, too, are the worst marks recorded in Pew surveys.

Of course, part of the problem is unbiased reporting is humanly impossible. We're all the products of our backgrounds, experiences and education that shapes our perceptions, our own sense of reality. News reporters make decisions every day based on their own perceptions. What is objectively true to one reporter is not necessarily true to another. Yet, news consumers have been educated to believe news reporting should be objective.

Because objectivity is impossible, people tend to believe the only objective news reporting is that which conforms with their own views. That's why so many Republicans believe Fox News is "fair and balanced," and on the left, only MSNBC tells the truth.

One of the enduring questions of the electronic-news era is this: are we deeper into an age of greater acrimony amongst partisan combatants because they see only one version of truth; or will the opportunity for more voices to be heard eventually lead to more open dialogue and a greater understanding of the issues of the day?

August 30, 2009 - 10:36pm
posted by Robert Harding in The Batavian, journalism, howard owens, media, Blogs, New Media.

Earlier today, Howard authored a post entitled, "The Batavian is an open forum" that discussed, in my view anyway, the current state of The Batavian and the evolution of The Batavian. It was an interesting take by Howard, but I think he missed the mark in a few areas.

I have been a fan of this blog since its inception. It is because of The Batavian that the Daily News (who had long been without a website) decided to join the rest of the newspaper world in introducing a website to the fold. The Batavian also proved to be key during the 2008 elections - a perfect year for a blog such as this one to start and get off the ground running.

But I do take issue with a few things Howard said in his post. In discussing the political leanings of readers and contributors here at The Batavian, Howard said the following: 

There was a time when Republicans thought The Batavian was hostile to their positions. Many of the original members of the site were active in local Democratic politics, and I think Philip Anselmo leaned a bit to the liberal side. 

While I espoused a localist-libertarian position, I was (and am) non-partisan.

In this environment, Republicans didn't see many of their ideas being put forward and thought their viewpoints would be unwelcome.

Now, I'm hearing the Democrats are thinking of The Batavian, especially since Philip left,  is hostile to their party and positions.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Naturally, I'm going to be critical of big government programs being pushed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand or more taxes and spending from David Paterson, but that's because as  a libertarian, I think those are bad policies. It has nothing to do with party affiliation.  I'm critical of Republicans when they espouse more government solutions to problems.

I don't know how accurate it is to say that Republicans "thought The Batavian was hostile to their positions." Let's be real: The Republicans weren't reading. There were a few Republican contributors, including Genesee County Legislator Jerome Grasso, but the Republicans weren't represented here. It is one thing to claim hostility. It's another thing to be not active. The Republicans weren't active. The Democrats took advantage of having a new medium and did what we do best: We used it. We didn't see it as something foreign.

The Republicans weren't posting any of their ideas. And to say that their viewpoints would be unwelcome is a joke. If they aren't posting and aren't trying to post, how can we make such a statement and claim it as fact?

I'm not sure where Howard gets his facts about Democrats labeling this blog as "hostile to their party and positions." That word "hostile" is getting tossed around rather liberally (no pun intended) and I'm not sure where the perception of hostility is derived. I think the belief is that Howard has tried a little too hard to try and erase and previous views that this blog was friendly to Democrats. He might not agree with that view, but that is something I have noticed over the last several months and I know I'm not the only one who shares that view. Does that mean we believe that this blog is anti-Democrats as a result? No.

It is no secret that Democrats/progressives have had great success in online organizing and with the blogosphere. The Republicans/conservatives haven't had the same success. If that is what they consider "hostile", then maybe they need to be more proactive than reactive. I recall Grasso mentioning this same point. He called on his Republican friends to contribute. Apparently, instead of showing up, they chose to stew about it and allege "hostility."

Unless a blog has a certain identity (progressive, conservative, libertarian, socialist, etc.), then there really isn't a need to worry about who is utilizing the blog more than others. If there are more conservatives utilizing a blog like The Batavian, all the power to them. The Batavian isn't targeting one ideology over another. So there is no reason to try so hard to balance things out, nor is it necessary to try and debunk any claims by one party or another about one side being favored over another.

December 1, 2008 - 1:28pm

Clocking in at No. 7 in the Twenty-Five Things That Made Genesee County Famous is Terry Anderson, America's longest-held hostage in the Middle East, whose release set off a media blitz upon the city of Batavia, the likes of which Genesee County had never seen.

Holland Land Office Museum Director Pat Weissend:

On March 16, 1985, former Batavia resident Terry Anderson had just finished a game of tennis in Beirut, Lebanon when three gunmen pulled up in a green Mercedes and kidnapped him. This was day one in a 2,454 day ordeal that captivated the City of Batavia, Genesee County, the United States and the world.

[...]

His captors were a group of Shiite Muslims. During his captivity, Anderson was tortured and beaten. He didn’t know from one day to the next if he would be released or killed. He turned to the Bible for peace and wrote poetry.

After being imprisoned for nearly seven years, Anderson was released on December 4, 1991. After his release he spent a few days in a hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany before returning to the United States. 

For more on Terry Anderson, visit the museum's Web site.

In a side note: This terra cotta sculpture here of Anderson was dropped off at the Holland Land Office Museum last week and should be up on display for folks who want to check it out up close.

Comments
May 1, 2008 - 11:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in launch, thebatavian, journalism.

"Officially," today is the launch day of The Batavian.

That may not mean much; we've been up and running for a week and a half.  The only thing that has really changed from yesterday to today is that starting this morning we're running ads on WBTA.  (Ads start in the Pennysaver this week, as well).

You might be wondering, "what is this thing called The Batavian?"

It's an online news site. It's a community site. It's an information site.  It's an opinion site. It's an online place for Batavians to meet and share information, ideas and view points.

Our one paid staff member is Philip Anselmo.  His job is to keep tabs on Batavia, post interesting stuff and help host the conversations that take place on The Batavian.

Our goal is to create an oft-updated online site that Batavians appreciate and use frequently. We intend to be a part of the Batavia community for a long, long time.  If that happens, we will grow and we will hire.  Our intention is to hire people who live in and love Batavia.  Part of Philip's job is to help recruit his replacement. 

For too long, community newspapers have lost their way because they are often staffed by people who don't feel they have a long-term stake in the community.  The best and brightest reporters and editors eventually move on to better paying jobs in bigger cities.

We want The Batavian to be different.  We want to find good reporters who understand our content strategy and who would enjoy covering Batavia for many, many years.

What is our content strategy?  Simply put, to use the Web the way it was intended.

We write in a personal voice. We share about who we are and what interests us.  A common myth about the Internet is that it depersonalizes human interaction.  People who use the Web often know this isn't true.  Web communication is more personal, more human. 

You won't see us refer to this site as a "virtual community" (a term common for sites like this a few years ago).  There is nothing virtual about online communities.  Online communities are just as real as anything that happens offline, because the friendships and alliances formed, the tasks accomplished and the good done are just as real as anything that happens on Main Street, a board room or in a Rotary meeting.

Of course, when you start using personal pronouns, you'll likely stray into the area of sharing your own opinions.

In old-school journalism, expressing opinions is a sin. In online journalism, it's a virtue.

American's distrust of the media is at an all-time high.  A big reason for this distrust, we believe, is that reporters and editors often boast of their objectivity and lack of bias, but we all know that objectivity is impossible and bias is the natural human state.

American journalism often puts on a false front of objectivity, but every reporter and editor comes to a story and its set of facts with a specific mindset, a specific context.

Facts do not mean much outside of context, and context is always subjective. That's why two groups of people can have completely different views on what facts in a particular narrative are important, and which facts can be ignored.  The debates around the Iraq War illustrate perfectly how facts can mean different things to different people, and also how different contexts can cause some people to believe things other people are convinced are not true.

We believe a more honest form of journalism is to let you know what our context is as part of our coverage.  Rather than pretend to be objective (which, again, is impossible in the common journalistic meaning), we'll share our opinions when we have them (not that we will always have them on every story).

When we don't know something, or don't understand, we'll admit it and ask for your input and help.  We've already seen an example of how this works on last Tuesday's Daily News Roundup.  Philip had questions about a story, and Council President Charlie Mallow jumped in with answers.

That's a new kind of journalism, but one we believe is much more effective in serving a community and more benefitical to civic discourse and democracy.

We ask of ourselves and everybody who participates in this site:

  • Honesty in identity and context (please register with your real name, or with your organizational name if representing a group of people)
  • Accuracy in the facts and representations
  • An abhorance for personal attacks — no name calling, please
  • Value and seek truth
  • Give credit where credit is due (we always cite our sources, and if possible, link to those sources).

We hope that you value The Batavian and visit the site often.  We promise to work hard to keep the site updated frequently with the latest news and information.  We will do our best to keep the conversation civil.

We have many new features coming — before long, you will be able to set up your own blog on The Batavian — so keep in eye out for updates and new additions to the site.

You can also help to promote The Batavian

  • If you have a Web site, link to us. 
  • If you have a blog, please tell us about it and link and comment on our posts. 
  • E-mail all of your friends and associates who would find value in The Batavian and let them know about the site.
  • Register and leave comments.  The more conversation, the better for everybody.
  • Include a notice about The Batavian in your school, organization or business newsletter (please).

The more voices heard on The Batavian, the more useful the conversations will be to Batavia.

BTW: If you don't know what a blog is — blog is short for "Web log." It's both an online publishing platform (just a tool, or technology), but also a mindset about how to communicate online.  Posts appear when the blogger has something to say (no deadlines), often (but not always) contain opinion, are written in a personal voice, appear in reverse chronological order and rely on links with other Web sites to facilitate conversation.  If you don't have a blog and want one, and don't want to wait for The Batavian to make one available to you, visit WordPress.com, where you can set up a blog for free — just let us know about it when you've got it going.

A word about news tips:  Soon, we'll have a way for you to submit your own news, or tips, on this web site.  In the mean time, send your tips to philip (at) the (oneword) batavian dot com.

Philip will post something later today introducing himself.

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