Other Projects

So I’ve got a few other projects on my plate for the next couple weeks, which will probably end up on here. The first one I start tomorrow and ought to be pretty interesting. The second one I’m still in the process of figuring out. But I thought I’d give a little preview:

  • Food For Thought — Steve Dupuis is a stone mason who lives in Evan’s Notch on the border of Maine and New Hampshire. This past Spring, as he geared up to start a $50,000 job, the client called up and canceled. The job that was supposed to last Mr. Dupuis the summer didn’t last a day. Not one to get pinned down by circumstances, Mr. Dupuis cleared some land, expanded his garden, bought some chickens and some pigs and started raising his own food. He was looking for high yield on small money as an alternative method to feed his family. He said he’s not some back to the Earth hippy; this is just what he had to do. And, he said, it’s been a wonderful experience.

I’m trying to pitch it to NHPR for their Working It Out series, but because Steve actually lives on the Maine side of the border I’m not sure they’ll go for it. I might try MPBN, or for This American Life, but that’s aiming high. I’m going to mix the audio, and I’m also going to shoot a bunch of photos to create a multimedia presentation. I’m hoping it comes out well; I meet with Steve tomorrow morning for the first interview.

  • Beyond Brown Paper — The photograph archives of the Brown Paper Company are at Plymouth State University. I want to partner with them to interview people from around Berlin about the mill and life in the city before it closed. I want to take the photos and lay them over the audio, again creating a multimedia project that will tell the history of the city.

I’m not really pitching that to anyone; I just think it could be a pretty amazing compilation. I’ve talked with dozens of Berliners about the city’s past. That is a record that shouldn’t be lost forever. StoryCorps captured some of this history, but there is so much more waiting up there.
Those are my latest ideas for side projects. I’d love to hear any ideas people have for interesting stories and interviews in Northern New Hampshire, and I promise to post them here when (if?) I finish them.

Craigslist? An Enemy?

Posting on New Hampshire Craigslist Rants & Raves section, July 5 (unedited):

  • I am thinking about buying a multiunit property in berlin and wondered about the town and the people there? Would this be a mistake?

Responses, same day:

  • Berlin NH is the Black Hole of NH…………..it consumes money, lives, and souls…..it’s appetite is insatiable, Great deals on multi multis, usually means evil surrounds them.
  • You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You must be cautious.”
  • Was a nice town long ago.Now the prison is being built every scumb,welfare,loser is moving in here to live off the state.Unless you are already loaded w/ $$ it’s a bad idea there is NO jobs here no $$ .Every day we see more & more freaks ,scumb,etc here this is why we are moving out .This town turned into a hang out for low income people w/ 10 kids no job losers & once the prison is in all the Rif Raf from the prisoners will be moving in to be closer to them losers in jail.DON’T DO IT.Drive around every other house is for sale NO ONE wants to live here any more !!!!
  • Berlin WAS a nice place once, but with the paper mill that failed, it was the was the begining of the end for that one companey town, now its looking more like west hollis st in nashua, sad.

And the response, again, the same day:

  • thank you for the info, i will not invest in berlin

This is Berlin’s biggest challenge. In one day the possibility of investment in the city evaporates because of a few online posts. If the only word about the city of Berlin comes from the people denigrating it, the city’s future is lost. Councilor Tim Cayer said today he isn’t sure who is concentrating on change Berlin’s image down south. Shouldn’t someone be? Beautify Main Street, complete the ATV park, develop hiking and rafting; all of it is pointless if people aren’t willing to come up here.
How beautiful is Berlin? Yet it is the mill that dominates the city’s self-image. Councilor David Poulin suggested the city seal should lose the smoking stacks, two years after they came down. The city needs a makeover, bad. Not in substance, because what the city has is valuable. As Councilor Dick Lafleur said, the city should be proud of its history. But the pride, at this time, doesn’t extend to the web, and the city has no voice out there to counter detractors.
Who’s job is it to convince the world Berlin doesn’t stink? Who’s going to blog, and tweet, and post on Craigslist constantly, to change the perception of Berlin, New Hampshire?
A federal prison is moving into town. It will bring 300 jobs, starting pay around $37,000. The city’s fortune will improve, there is no doubt. Real estate investment right now would probably be brilliant, a year before the prison opens and people start coming. A five minute conversation should be able to point this out. But what does the investor hear?
“NO ONE wants to live here anymore!”
And what’s the argument from the city?
Silence.

I’m trying to contact the original poster to see what other interactions they had besides the posts listed above. Hopefully they’ll talk to me and I’ll be able to make a story out of it. But the story is already clear: Berlin lost the battle because it didn’t show up. What’s the plan for the rest of the war?

Update: The woman who posted the original question on Craigslist got back to me and her story will be in next week’s Berlin Reporter.

I Take It Back!

Ok, it’s time for me to backpedal.
I thought, less than a week ago, that capitalizing on ATVing and snowmobiling was pointless, because it was focusing on something citizens of the city were more interested in than people from around the state and further abroad. After several days discussion, however, my perspective has changed.
I don’t think ATVs are the silver bullet for Berlin, but I don’t see another industry that will allow the city to build needed infrastructure faster.
Maybe a casino would have, but New Hampshire doesn’t allow gambling. What the state does allow is off-roading, and people are flocking to Berlin to do it.
I spoke to a man from Deerfield who was up with his son to take advantage of Jericho Mountain State Park. He spent $500 for a two day trip, all of it in Gorham. That is the market Berlin has to tap into.
Berlin got $60 of his money because he broke his clutch lever twice, but otherwise he didn’t spend a penny in the city. But he brought his money up, and so do other people.
I was at Jericho Motorsports, across U.S. Route 110 from the park, and I met a couple from Massachusetts who came up for the day to ride. They rented ATVs and spent the day in the park. That was another $150.
With this money is coming to town, how can Berlin get its cut? The ATV businesses are actually doing a good job of it, but there is so little other infrastructure in town it doesn’t spread to Main Street.
But it will. The park has been there for three years, and Councilor Tim Cayer said the Blue Line, that will provide access between the park and Success, is almost complete. This will significantly increase the number of trails available without reloading the trailer. When all this is complete even more riders will come.
And then the hotels will come, and more restaurants, and more stores. Right about the same time as the new prison. Everything, in fact, is looking up.
I don’t ride ATVs or snowmobiles, but I can’t argue with the transformative potential of motorsports. Don’t believe me? Go to Jericho Mountain and ask where people are from; they are from Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut. People come to Berlin for this, and it’s time to capitalize.
Again, I’d like to see rock climbing and paddling take over as the draw, but there isn’t the traffic yet to build a hotel for those people. The ATVs, however, are there in enough numbers to do it. Someone with an entrepreneurial spirit would be smart to do it now. And Berlin would be smart to embrace it.

21/21

No, I didn’t make up the title.
That’s the name of the initiative put forth by Norman Charest, Berlin’s economic development director. It is a proposal to replace Berlin’s failing manufacturing sector with infrastructure to make the city an ATV recreation destination.
“This is not strictly a tourism initiative,” he said in tonight’s city council meeting. “The old Berlin is dead and gone. We need to reinvent ourselves, and this is the low hanging fruit.”
Mr. Charest said the city has already felt positive economic impact from the ATV park at Jericho Mountain, with businesses relocating to the area specifically for the proximity to trails. The city needs to capitalize on this, he said, and then push the capitalization into high gear.
This hits close to one of my posts last week where I said the opposite — that Berlin needs to diversify its recreation opportunities, not focus them, as part of a complete package for tourism. I listened to Mr. Charest speak tonight, and I heard the echo of a hole in his thesis. Two actually.

  1. Mr. Charest said if Berlin creates the infrastructure for ATVing, manufacturing jobs will follow. That was shortly after he said manufacturing jobs are migrating overseas, fast becoming only a memory in the United States. ATV park or no, it isn’t cost effective to manufacture goods in the U.S., and there is nothing Berlin can do to change that. Mr. Charest is working to bring recreation to the area in hopes that new jobs will bring the old jobs back. But he said the old jobs aren’t coming back. Where that leaves Berlin is a mystery, but certainly without a strong manufacturing sector. The city still has to find the jobs somewhere else.
  2. Enough with the power sports. Mr. Charest mentioned outdoor recreation, hiking, skiing, rock climbing and kayaking in his presentation. I could add to those: ice climbing, mountain biking, road biking, cycle touring, trail running, rafting, canoeing, bird watching, caving and geocaching. There are literally dozens of outdoor activities that could take place around Berlin; there is land enough for all of them. Unfortunately, there is only one in the 21/21 initiative: ATVing.

Mr. Charest is right; Berlin needs to figure out the next step in its evolution to a sustainable economy. And he’s doing more than most people: he’s working on a solution. The problem is residents of Berlin, Mr. Charest included, know how to do what they know how to do and don’t know how to move beyond those activities.
Can Berlin build an ATV park? Sure. As Mr. Charest said, “What we did for fun we now have to do for business.” But how does Berlin develop those outdoor recreation draws that Berlin residents don’t do for fun? How does Berlin develop Mount Forist for rock climbers, and plant caches in the woods for geocaching, and set up good trails for hiking and trail running, when these aren’t the recreation activities the city is familiar with? Where is the plan for that?
Mr. Charest’s plan addresses a need, but it unlikely ATVs, snow mobiles, hiking trails or anything else is ever going to bring back enough manufacturing jobs to return Berlin to its former glory. The 21/21 initiative, however, will undoubtedly bring jobs into the city and be an important part of moving the city towards the twenty-first century. It is only a sliver, however; as Mr. Charest said, “It is the low hanging fruit.” It is time for the city in general, and Mr. Charest in particular, to look for the things the city doesn’t know so well, to see what they can do to revitalize the local economy. The city needs to look beyond what its residents like to do on weekends, to what it has to offer to people from other backgrounds. It needs to start peering around the tops of the trees.

I’m interested in what people have to say about this. I’ve made it clear I think Berlin needs to do more to shed its blue collar image if it wants to thrive instead of just get by, and I don’t think more ATV entertainment will work toward that end. But I don’t have any answers, just questions. I’m going to pose those questions to local business people to see what they think the 21/21 initiative will do for them. The results will be in next week’s Berlin Reporter.

I also pose those question to you. What activities should Berlin be encouraging? Where will the city see the most benefit? Does outdoor recreation sans gasoline fit with the city? Is the current plan comprehensive enough? Who’s duty is it to see the plans come to fruition? Is there a blue collar mindset? What does that mean for the city’s future? What will have to change for the city to thrive, not just get by?

I’d like to hear what people think. Where should Berlin go next? What does 21 really mean for the city? Will the city need a 22/22 initiative, or can it find its way in the dark?

Our Town

My story on Our Town Biodiesel aired this evening on NHPR News. It profiles Forrest Letarte, the 25 year old founder and CEO of Our Town, which takes waste vegetable oil and turns it into home heating oil fuel. It’ll be on tomorrow morning as well, and you can listen to it on NHPR’s website. Check it out.

It isn’t a video at all — it isn’t possible to upload MP3s to Blogger, so I set it to photos. I only had two from this project, so they repeat. Listen anyway.

Repeat Repeat Performance

I was talking about Twitter with someone and they pointed out something wonderful: while there might be trending topics, it’s possible to read about whatever interests you through a simple search. There may be a saturating conversation that day, but it doesn’t extinguish everything else. Twitter is not a zero-sum game.
Radio, however, is.
I love radio. Some of my first reporting was for WMPG, the community radio station in Portland, Maine, and today I freelance for NHPR News. I listen to the NPR all the time, and I love it — most days.
The last few weeks have proved one of the biggest problems in media, perhaps the reason journalism is failing. I’ve heard more about Michael Jackson, the moon landing, Walter Cronkite and Henry Louis Gates Jr. than I ever heard about the Uighurs, that is until the Uighers hit Guantanamo.
On three different shows on NPR today I heard about Professor Gates. I agree it’s news, but has even NPR been so sucked into the 24 hour news cycle they have to beat stories to death? Is it really necessary to have multiple hours about the moon landing, fresh news 40 years ago?
It isn’t that I’m not interested in these stories, but I’m not interested to the exclusion of other news. What else is going on out there? Nothing? Or just nothing the media thinks we’ll care about?
A diversity of news, opinions and stories are what I turn to news sources for, but unfortunately the product is homogeneous, the same news hour after hour day after day.
And it isn’t limited to radio. Particularly television, but also news papers and website are prone to the same problems. They all cover the same thing, and not necessarily from differing perspectives.
It is easiest to understand in television and radio, where airtime is limited, but then some of the best shows out there disprove the myth that these mediums are bound to such a model. PBS’ Frontline and Frontline World, and PRI’s The World prove the over-saturation model isn’t the only one out there. They cover unique stories, featuring people, places and events not tackled by most outlets. If these programs are doing it, why can’t others?
The last few days I’ve heard about Cambodian fish, learned about Afghan MPs and seen the Somali stock exchange. These stories that connect to the world, and they need to be told. Niche sectors of public broadcasting are the only ones bringing it to us.
The most obvious argument why these programs are so much better: they aren’t built around the profit motive. The journalism world is falling apart, sure, but if coverage of Michael Jackson is all we’re getting I’m not sure its a horrible loss. When the New York Times covers Cronkite’s death almost a week afterward it’s easy to understand why people are leaving.
Newspapers have lots of real estate for stories, so they have to have a wide range. Many, like the Times, usually deliver breadth and depth, but the web offers even more real estate. Television isn’t totally lost, but many times it seems close. Radio has grown into it’s lower tier status, and therefore has learned better how to capture listeners attention. The World and This American Life bring stories, powerful and quirky, exactly what I expect from reporters. It doesn’t have to be with the same stories everyone else is doing — in fact it shouldn’t be.
Twitter lets me chose what I want to learn about, even if the main subject is the same as the headlines. But what if I don’t know what the stories are? What if I don’t know where to look? The headlines and the trending topics both let me down. I expect journalism and the media to fill that void. Maybe until it does I won’t be disappointed its crumbling.

Entrepreurial Spirit in Hard Times

Berlin usually lives in a different time than the rest of the county. In the last year the country has caught up to Berlin, but for a long time the two were speaking different languages.
Money flowed freely around the U.S. for the last decade, but not in Berlin. The mill has been gone for years, and crowded streets, secure jobs and a thriving city went with it.
The first drive through the city it looks dead, but that cursory view is incomplete. Go to city council meetings, and walk around town, and it feels like everyone 18 to 40 has left, but that impression isn’t right either.
There are businesses, started and run by 20 and 30-somethings, that are trying to pull Berlin out of its malaise. They are struggling yet surviving in this city that has brought down so many. They are the shoots of grass after the forest fire.
I’m working on profiling these success stories in the Berlin Reporter. The first installment will be next week. It will be a conversation with Stacia Roberge of Rumorz Boutique. In the coming weeks there’ll be profiles of the TexMex Cafe, across from city hall, Seventh Street Graphics, the owners of the movie theater and more. There are failures in Berlin, but there are success stories as well. It is important to notice them, to see what the city and its residents can do to support the young entrepreneurs trying to lift the city up. So stay tuned, and check out the Berlin Reporter.

Images of Disaster

This weekend saw more traffic in Berlin than the city has seen in a long time, including out of state license plates. But did into translate into more money for local businesses? Not as much as might be hoped.
Thunder in the Mountains and the New England Forest Rally certainly brought crowds, but it takes more than crowds to support a city. It takes money. And it’s unclear how much money came into town.
Richard Tessier of the Great Northern Moose Lodge said he didn’t see a real impact from the rally race. The fans watched the race and then followed the racers north without ever really opening their wallets. Not the best outcome for the city.
Thunder in the Mountains was bound to be a little more successful because it lasted two days, but because the city lacks the necessary infrastructure for tourism it still missed the largest portion of attendees’ dollars.
Where are people coming in for these events supposed to spend money? Where should they stay? Where should they eat? Berlin doesn’t have what it needs to make these events successful; it needs to figure out how to get them.

The city council is hoping the state will make the Budget Inn remove its rusty old sign. It is the only sign to the only hotel in town. Councilors Ryan Landry and Tom McCue made a point that they aren’t against business, but every councilor agreed the eyesore at the southern entrance to the city had to be addressed.
But what needs to be addressed more immediately is that the Budget Inn is that it is the only place to stay in Berlin. If someone chose to come up for both days of Thunder in the Mountains they have to head to Gorham to sleep. And on the way they probably bought dinner at J’s or Libby’s.
Berlin has worthwhile restaurants. TexMex, across from City Hall, has good food for cheap, and the Northland Dairy Bar is a North Country legend. But no one stops on the way to Gorham because there are so many more options once they get there.
Gorham, however, has done some things wrong. Burger King, MacDonalds, Subway, and Pizza Hut dominate the strip. Libby’s and the White Mountain Cafe own the high end market, but otherwise the food options are disappointing.
Berlin, in contrast, doesn’t have chain restaurants. Aside from Dunkin Donuts and Quizno’s, every eatery is a local establishment. Many people don’t understand how important this is to tourists, particularly to the ones with excess money to spend.
There was a discussion at city council several weeks ago about convincing the 99 or the Olive Garden to move into the Rite-Aid building the is being donated to BIDPA.
NO! Maintain the aesthetic of the city and lure an independent restaurant owner to town, as Mayor David Bertrand suggested. The image of a Berlin downtown overrun with chain stores is less appealing than a downtown with a biomass plant. Neither is a good vision for the future, but Wendy’s is a bigger turnoff than renewable energy.

The city doesn’t have much ability to recruit businesses, but the city could work harder to invigorate its tourist industry.
First, the city needs less rally, more Thunder. Host events that draw people to the area for more time. It may be more work, but events that have people come in and leave the same day don’t sustain hotels and restaurants, which in turn bring in people who support other businesses. The change to a two day motorcycle rally was a great step. Bravo.
The city should also eliminate transient events. Motorsports are great, but what is the best thing about being on a motorcycle? The open road. Berlin knows motorcycles, snow machines and ATVs, but that doesn’t mean they are the best attractions to Berlin. The city needs to encourage events that bring people to Berlin and then keeps them there, instead of events based on motion.
What about a music festival at Northern Forest Heritage Park? A three day bluegrass, jazz or blues festival would encourage people to come to town and stay, not to circle the area for two days then go home. People would need a place to stay and food to eat, which local vendors could supply. Growing an event like this could put Berlin on the map, and at the same time involve local businesses.
Berlin needs to change its image. Not the look of the city, but its image around the state. What is Berlin known for? Defunct mills, a logging park, an ATV park, a motorcycle rally, a rally race, an antique car show and snowmobiling. Does that strike anyone else as one dimensional?
I know there is art in Berlin. St. Kieran’s Community Center for the Arts had a wonderful retrospective on Robert Hughes, a local artist. Why is there no artist festival in the summer? Berlin is on the Androscoggin, with whitewater to the north and flatwater to the south. Where is the big push to draw kayakers and canoe paddlers?
Don’t forsake internal combustion recreation, but Berlin can’t cling to it alone. The city is at the foot of the mountains, along a river, only a few miles from the Appalachian Trail, with a huge cliff in the center of town. Is anyone trying to draw people in for outdoor recreation?
Berlin is a mill town, maybe to its core. But in figuring out what it will be next requires the city diversify. It has to offer entertainment even to people who do not share its residents’ vision of fun. Berliners love motorsports, but motorsports are not enough to sustain the entire tourist industry. The city is not in short supply of culture or character. It does not lack creative people with new ideas. It just needs to start implementing them.
The biggest challenge is the city’s marketing. Councilor David Poulin said he wanted to see the stacks removed from the city seal. That’s a start to revamping the city’s image, but how aggressive is the city working to that end? Most of the messages the city sends out are, “Send us your prisoners (state and federal). Send your trash to our landfill. There’s cheap rent for welfare families. Oh, and we have redneck powersports too.”
That’s the city’s image in the south. There are a few people challenging that perspective, but they’re losing. It isn’t an accurate reflection of the city, but it’s the most vivid picture out there. Until that changes it’ll take more than a restaurant or a new motel to get people to spend money up here. It’ll take a miracle.

Up, Then Down

Unfortunately, about the time it seems Berlin is scoring a hit, it gets hit instead. Main Street is the heart of the downtown, and residents have been working hard to improve it. The last thing it needs is one more empty building. But Morning Lane Photography, owned and operated by Paul Charest, is shutting its doors. Mr. Charest said one of the hardest things to do was to write “Going out of business” on the windows. He said he apologized to the surrounding business owners before he wrote it. He is trying to sell the building too.
Mr. Charest said he thinks photography isn’t going to be viable in the long term. Too many changes with digital, now everyone is a photographer.
As I stood talking to him I felt the weight of my Nikon D200 on my shoulder. It, and the newer versions of it, are exactly what he was talking about. It is smarter than me when it comes to taking pictures and makes most of them come out well.
Of course it and I are not immune to the forces he talked about. My D200 three years old and already is obsolete. And I am writing for a newspaper, another medium that might soon fall by the wayside. I understand his frustration and his exasperation. I live it just as he does.
And just as Berlin does. This is exactly what this blog is about: Change. Berlin in changing. What will the city do about it? Journalism is changing. What will reporters, the public and society do about it? And photography is changing. What will Paul Charest do about it?
Paul is doing something about it. He admitted that it was hard to close a business after 21 years, a business he’d put countless hours into, but he’s training to become an X-Ray tech. He is moving forward, looking to what he can do to keep himself afloat. He said he’s excited to be able to spend time with his family, to take advantage of not being a photographer.

Has Berlin taken advantage of not being a mill town? Has journalism taken advantage of not being confined to print? Berlin and journalism: to entities rooted in trees. What will it take to move beyond them?
For Berlin at least, salvation lies in technology. City councilors are always complaining about not having a highway to Berlin. Why? So Berlin can wind up like Gorham on U.S. Route 16 just south of the city line, a corridor of low-rise big box stores with low wage jobs? If Wal-Mart and Tractor Supply Co. are the best of Berlin’s future the city is aiming too low. There are better opportunities out there for the city and its residents.
New highways are made of fiber optic cable, not pavement. If credit card companies can reroute telephone calls to Bangalore on cable laid across the Pacific, it shouldn’t be hard to run cable to Berlin. More and more people in Berlin are using the Internet. More and more people are creating careers for themselves while living in beautiful rural settings like Northern New Hampshire. The city has to facilitate that process and work to get city wide wireless, not pave over its historic buildings.
What else does the city need to do? The same thing Mr. Charest did — get an education. The job landscape isn’t changing in Berlin, it has changed. For a city with a blue collar mindset, there aren’t many blue collar jobs left. Even positions at the prison are easier to get if you have a college degree. Residents have a wonderful resource in the White Mountain Community Center; it would behoove them to use it.
Everyone could use more education, but Berlin is used to the work harder model, not the work smarter model. Residents have to get over that and learn all the things they don’t know. It is possible to do some jobs from anywhere, but it means knowing how to do those jobs. Berlin residents need to get an education in 21st century careers, because the ones that sustained them in the 20th century are gone forever. They are living in change, and they must decide if it will be a good change or a bad one.

Back Twitter

I was on Twitter last night just looking around when two bombs exploded in the capital of Indonesia. I noticed a post from an Indonesian that included some photos, so I started following the story and retweeting posts I found.
It was strange to be talking to people who live in Jakarta, witnessed this and were scared. They answered my questions, explaining what time it was there and translating earlier messages to English. They were getting information out to a world hungry for news. They helped me understand what was going on, and I tried to pass that knowledge on.
But there were also people posing ideas as to who could have set off these bombs. They were tossing back ideas, in some ways pulling the usual suspects out of a hat. Maybe some of them were informed opinions, maybe they weren’t. On my Twitter application, Journotwit, there is a box called “Chatter.” That describes much of what is on Twitter. It highlights both its uses and its limitations.

There is no editor on Twitter. As Jeff Goldblum might have remarked, and to paraphrase Mark Twain, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” That is much of what Twitter is — exaggerated reports. I had a brief instant where I thought the wire services like AP and Reuters were doomed by Twitter, but the moment someone started throwing out that Al Qaeda might be to blame I new that wasn’t a worry.
Today I noticed a Twitterer who reported breaking news. I looked through all the Tweets and wondered how anyone could have access to so many stories. Then I realized there were no links to other news outlets to elaborate on the reports. Suddenly I was thinking how easy it would be to make up each and every one of those headlines. I’m not sure if this Twitterer was, but I had no way of determining one way or another.
I work as a reporter. One of my jobs is to be skeptical. If someone tells me something, one of the best questions I can ask is, “How do you know that?” On Twitter, when news is breaking, it is hard to ask, “How do you know that?” I was able to do it at the beginning, before #Jakarta started trending, with hundreds of new posts every minute, but soon it was information overload. Soon I had too many questions to ask too many people. It was mayham, and no one was there to create order.
At that point I started looking for links to real stories, links to stories printed by reputable news agencies. The AP and Reuters were quick to get information out, and I am much more confident in what they print than I am what some random person in Germany, Georgia or Gorham writes about Jakarta. It was exhilarating to be there for the beginning, but too quickly it degrades into madness.

How was it good? I was talking to Indonesians. I heard from a woman who was there, a young mother. It grounded the story more than any video of smoking buildings could. I talked to someone affected by the bombs. I was scared for her. I had empathy for Indonesians. That is what good journalism should do. Twitter did it. That is impressive.