Editor’s Column: The winter doldrums, words we cannot print, filter bubbles and that conflict of interest thing

January is a tough season, hence the 12-page paper this week. From what I can surmise from my predecessors, this is par for the course. It’s the January doldrums. In sailing terms, the doldrums refer to a “calm period when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sailing ships for days or weeks.” Can you imagine being trapped on a ship with a limited amount of drinking water, food and rum, and no clue when your only source of power for transportation would return? Every business owner reading this is nodding their assent. The winds might be calm, but nothing else is. Town might be “dead,” but the bills are screaming.
Which brings us to advertising. In my “other job” as an author, I’ve been dealing with advertising. Gone are the days when publishing houses do your book marketing for you. Today authors have to do most of their own marketing. In the last few years I’ve tested every kind of free online marketing out there. It’s only been in the last few months that I’ve succumbed to paying for marketing through various outlets. Paid advertising works, and it works well, and the more you spend the better results you get.
But you can’t just throw an ad out there and expect it to keep performing. Advertising is an art form. Successful art attracts attention, which garners results. People sometimes say, “My ad isn’t working,” and assume it’s the medium that isn’t working. But is it the medium, or is it the ad itself? Just an FYI, we are happy to work with any of our current or future advertisers to create newspaper-friendly ad campaigns to help your business grow and succeed. As we crawl, again, out of the doldrums, let us help you come up with fresh ways to advertise the essential services and products you provide to our local community.

It’s an interesting time to be a journalist. Years ago, and I cannot remember why it was up for debate, we were discussing whether or not we could print words like damn and hell (Biblical words, worthy of ink, in my opinion) when quoting someone, or in a letter to the editor. These days the ante has been raised significantly. The words to be quoted now are guttersnipe words. Do we stoop to that level? I think not. There’s a place for those words, but not in newsprint. All I can say is I’m glad I don’t live in Washington, D.C., and I don’t have to cover national news.

Facebook changed its algorithms this week to the benefit of individuals and to the detriment of pages and brands. Despite the fact a hefty chunk of our website traffic comes from Facebook and this change may well squelch some of that traffic, I hope Zuckerberg’s plan works: we’ll all stop spending so much time passively absorbing information on Facebook. The Herald Times does have a website and a print version and an online version where folks can find the news. Facebook is not the be-all, end-all of information, thank goodness.
Whether this change starts popping “filter bubbles” is to be determined. What’s a filter bubble? It’s when you live in a bubble created by your filters: conservative, liberal, independent, etc. All the information you receive agrees with your filter, so you see carefully controlled information, and that’s all you see. The problem with filter bubbles? If you live in a bubble, you’re eventually going to run out of fresh air and die.

We’ve talked about conflicts of interest before, and it appears we need to bring it up again. There are multiple seats open on appointed and elected boards. It’s great to see multiple applicants. It’s disconcerting to see the same names on multiple lists.
As we all know, we live in too small of a fish pond to totally avoid all potential conflicts of interest. There just aren’t enough people willing to serve to go around who aren’t related by blood or money.
Perhaps the best we can do is agree to hold one another accountable in situations where decisions are being made by our elected and appointed officials that could profit said officials personally, or situations which smack of cronyism, which is “the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.”
Holding one another accountable means we have to bold enough to ask the hard questions. Thus far I’ve found that the answers are pretty straightforward.