On Being Open: An Open Letter to Bloomsburg, PA’s Press Enterprise

On Being Open: An Open Letter to Bloomsburg, PA’s Press Enterprise

To the Editor of the Press Enterprise,

I was going to post this to your Facebook wall as I am a fan, but the character limits of that environment forced me to do it in my own space. I am hopeful you will see my letter in the spirit it is offered — as a concerned and compassionate plea for action.

First, I want to thank and commend you for opening the online edition of the Press Enterprise in the days after the flood. It was incredibly important to so many people coast to coast. We all have friends and family who have been impacted by this disaster in so many ways.

With that said, I want to understand your decision to close access to the online edition during the days following the disaster that is unfolding in our communities. I believe you should be providing free and open access to your online edition for as long as it takes for people outside the area to know what is happening — there is an obvious lack of national attention to this tragedy. I would also urge you to maintain open access to the archives of the digital issues so other news agencies can cite and point to your reporting. Maintaining an open and searchable archive of the paper in an accessible format will be critical for other news agencies, scholars, and historians in the near to long term.

I have been gathering and posting photos online at Flickr to share with people who want to be connected to Bloomsburg and the surrounding areas. For the last two days alone, I have had over 65,000 views of these photos. I’ve never had more than a 100 views in any given day — ever. My photos are open, licensed as Creative Commons, and will continue to be available as a set on Flickr.

I have talked to friends in other parts of the country who haven’t heard about what has happened and are completely unaware. Who else is going to report this other than our local news? The national news has ignored this event. The Press Enterprise represents our local news and because of that you represent our communities. Please do the right thing and open access to the paper for others to see what has happened and what continues to go on. I seriously doubt it will limit your paid subscriptions in the long haul and sincerely hope your decision can transcend financial issues.

I say this as a Bloomsburg native and as a friend to the Press. Please let me know if I can help or if you’d like to talk about a strategy over the short term. We want you to know that we will support you going forward. Please do the right thing.

I sincerely appreciate your consideration in this matter. Please know that I am posting this widely in hopes that you will consider the imperative.

Cole W. Camplese

55 thoughts on “On Being Open: An Open Letter to Bloomsburg, PA’s Press Enterprise

  1. This is a great letter, Cole. Without your Flickr images and links to the Press Citizen, I wouldn’t really have any idea what was going on in Bloomsburg (and I only live a few hours away). I hope they re-open their website until the disaster is over.

    1. I agree. I live out of state, with family and friends in Bloomsburg and I greatly appreciated the free access to the Press Enterprise on the days following the flood.

  2. It would be great if you would open the paper up again, there are many people out of the area that would love to be informed.

  3. I subscribe to the Press and appreciated being able to read it when it was not available for delivery due to the flood /road conditions. I prefer to hold the paper in my hands while I drink my cup of tea.I’m sure the displaced flooded residents would appreciate being able to go back and look at the pictures and coverage later when they have time as they are currently scrambling to salvage their lives. Looking for houses to rent or buy etc.

  4. Agreed. My friends can’t believe the devastation when I show them your pictures, Cole, and I’m only a few hours south of Bloomsburg. The coverage of the damage in the area by the national media has been minimal and the Press Enterprise could be missing a great opportunity.

    Sarah Ausprich
    Philadelphia, PA

  5. Well said, Cole. Living out of the area, I don’t have many options for seeing the news from my hometown. I really appreciated being able to check in on the Press Enterprise when the flood hit, but the real news is taking place now. The damage is unbelievable and there is simply nobody else covering it.

  6. My Comment on Cole’s letter left on the Press-Enterprise Facebook page:

    I wish I could express myself to the Press-Enterprise with as much grace as Cole Camplese has with this letter, but all I feel right now is anger and disgust

    I never pretended to understand why the original design of your site makes people pay for a PDF version the Press-Enterprise, but your decision to close off even this small source of information at a time when your fellow citizens need information the most is completely reprehensible.

    Only a few hours after the flood waters washed over Bloomsburg, Royce Conner started an open Facebook group that has been the source of much desperately needed and timely news. Funds were raised, information and pictures were shared, stories were told. Simply having an open space, I believe, started Bloomsburg PA on the road to recovery early.

    The Press-Enterprise should reconsider its approach, re-open its paywall, and let the public see what is going on around them. People need information now and teasing print articles in tweets and Facebook posts that people have to pay for is not responsible on your part. Ladies and Gentlemen, you are not in the newspaper business. You are in the information business and information is what your neighbors need the most.

  7. I have been appalled at the lack of national coverage. I wholeheartedly support your statement.

    Gretchen Kuldau
    State College

  8. Thanks Cole. Great article. I read the paper online while it was available and have missed it since it went private again.

  9. Please reconsider your decision to close the online edition of the PE; I have been referring both individuals, and corporations including the International Disaster Corps of Habitat for Humanity to view images of the devastation in the region on your online site. I would hate for them to be unable to have access to the state of affairs in Bloomsburg and surrounding communities, leading them to make the wrong conclusions about the need for assistance in the region. I wholeheartedly agree with Cole: please reconsider. There is virtually no coverage of the NE flooding in the state of Colorado, where I currently reside.

  10. I agree, Cole. Even those of us who live close to the affected areas need access to information so we can understand, empathize, and help.

    PSU Hazleton students will be in Bloomsburg to drop off donations and pitch in with cleanup efforts. Open access to the unfolding narrative will sustain such efforts.

    Pete Froehlich
    Mountain Top, PA

  11. I will also say that I had no idea of the magnitude of the disaster in Bloomsburg until I started seeing reports from citizen journalists like Cole. The flow of information should be open – especially as disaster relief efforts are needed. After that the longer examination of what openness means to the practice of journalism can be undertaken.

  12. The devastating flood has impacted not only residents of Bloomsburg and their extended families, but also the families of BU students from outside the region. The newspaper’s coverage of the days, weeks and months of Bloomsburg’s recovery will serve to reaffirm our faith in the community where our families live. Please reconsider your decision to restrict access to the information the public craves and needs.

    Bloomsburg is a wonderful community, and you have the opportunity to publicize how any community can come together as one in the face of inexplicable adversary. Please take this opportunity to be a leader in media.

    Thank you,

    Steve Sheldon

  13. I am a PA resident and didn’t know what had occurred in Bloomsburg until Cole started posting his photos and updating Facebook. Without open access people will not know there is a need to help the residents of Bloomsburg.

  14. Well stated, Cole. I believe that the PE should be open online during this time so that the latest information on the recovery and rebuilding of the Bloomsburg community can be shared with the general public.

    Beth Bailey

  15. Cole, thank you for your leadership and asking the Press to do the same, be a leader. It’s a daunting job to serve and sometimes comes at a cost. Decision makers of the Press Enterprise, remember who it is you serve, and the value that is derived from this service.
    If you choose not to serve your community in a manner your consumers deem valuable: by either eliminating the cost to access information at this time, or redirecting profits from sharing said information to the community, you may find yourself with a diminishing value proposition. People will find other means to get the information they need. That is without a doubt, a statement you can take to the bank.

  16. At the heart of this request is the sheer need for the PE to consider it’s fundamental role in what will be a monumental effort in the rebuilding of the community it serves. The PE needs to see itself as a conduit to the world for the Bloomsburg community at a time like no other in the town’s history. Opening the PE to the world will provide untold opportunities to acquire the resources that the community needs in it’s effort to recover. This is the time to to provide thought leadership in communication and technology to serve the greater good. From a business perspective, what is more important to the PE than a Bloomsburg that not only recovers but then flourishes?

  17. Cole, what you’ve said is so true and I couldn’t agree more. Living outside of the area in NH, the press enterprise is the main source for local news during these tough times when family and friends have been affected by this natural disaster. Thank you for your continued diligence documenting the flood, especially through the photos you’ve taken and the audio documentary of your experience. All greatly appreciated by both residents as well as those outside of the area in an effort to raise awareness and get additional help for the town and its citizens!

  18. Press-Enterprise, this is a formative moment for our town and your business. It’s not just Aunt Addie’s Attic, 30 seconds, and the local sports scores at stake now. Rise above your concerns about your bottom line and show yourselves to be a part of this community.

    -Jen Ralston, Bloomsburg

  19. The future of journalism depends on us as journalists being open, integrated and co-dependent with our community. If our community can’t depend on us to be there for them when they need us most, what good are we?

    Jonathan Kealing

  20. Cole, you are speaking for so many of us through this well written letter. Thank you. Having an open archive is imperative to keeping the narrative of this event alive. My dad, a Bloomsburg native, is currently stationed in Afghanistan. My words alone could not describe the devastation that occurred here, so I sent him the link to the PE site while it was open. He was thankful to be connected to a story that is so close to home and I’m sure he is disappointed he can no longer access the unfolding story of recovery. I support you in your appeal to the PE and am willing to help in any way I can.

  21. I agree also. I was born and raised in Bloomsburg but now live in OH. Almost all of my family still lives in Bloom. If not for the paper I wouldn’t have any clue what was going on. No one here has even heard anything about what has happened there. Excellent coverage so far and I don’t read any other paper but yours (I better not lol, my husband used to work for the PE). Our paper here has nothing on yours!

  22. I agree. I don’t see how revenue from current subcriptions would be compromised by providing temporarily open online access. If the concern is over stunted subscription growth, well, I do think the Eyerly brothers and anyone else holding stock in the P.E. will remain financially stable. After today’s editorial rant on how the Bloomsburg Fair should be cancelled this year basically because it’s the right thing to do, how about taking heed the same ideology?

  23. I admit it: I have used my dad’s info to log into the PE. Sorry, just not going to pay $2.50/week for PDFs for info that should be free.

  24. But Cole, it’s only 2.50 a week!

    *sigh*

    Couldn’t agree more. At the minimum, at least open up all content related to the flood, its victims and the rebuilding efforts.

    Another concerned Bloomsburg native,
    bart pursel

  25. Friends, family and The Press Enterprise,

    We left Bloomsburt and NE PA but Bloomsburg never left us. Our memories, our friends and contacts always are with us. We appreciated the PE opportunity to connect and follow but disappointed with the quick disappearance of that connection.
    We agree Cole and all, it should have continued.
    Love and support to Bloomsburg.
    Blair and David

  26. The internet has been a knife in the heart of traditional journalism, and newspapers with online editions are a little like prostitutes in a college town: they suffer from too much amateur competition with bloggers and others posting information and photos, often pirated from the online editions of newspapers. Hundreds of private listservs contain information taken off press sites by Google News crawlers. Everytime that happens the money that would be available to pay the reporters who track those stories and write them is lost. The only way the newspaper can insure that its online edition is provided to people who are paying to keep that paper in business is to close it and require subscriptions.

    If you understood, even generally, what a debacle the internet has been for traditional journalism you would understand that free newspapers don’t pay for themselves. Give the newspaper a break. If you or people outside the area are interested in what’s going on, buy a subscription and keep local journalism alive. To do otherwise and request otherwise is to destroy the foundation for local news.

    Anthony L. DeWitt
    Jefferson City, MO

    1. Hi Anthony. I appreciate your comment and I think I may need to share a more complete view of what I am requesting. I am not asking for the Press Enterprise to become a free online newspaper without some sort of subscription model. I am requesting that the PE provide a model that allows for open dissemination of information related to the flood that is reliable and written from the perspective of a journalist. I am not asking them to become “prostitutes in a college town,” instead I am asking them to act in a way that provides the citizens of our community with a long term record in the digital world.

      I am afraid that I do understand the disruptive nature of the Internet on many of the things called, “traditional.” I would say that the Internet has not been the “knife in the heart of traditional journalism,” as you assert. Instead I would counter that journalism, by hanging onto their traditional views has been the problem. No one made the major or local presses make all their content free. That was a choice they made without thinking through new and highly disruptive models. The Internet has disrupted nearly everything — education, commerce, communications, even political systems. Either industries (or governments) deal with the disruption or they die.

      What I am urging the press to do is be responsible in the way it collects, sells, and maintains content online. A PDF is not the way to sell news — especially in a world that is now dominated on reposting and remixing content to new embedded audiences and networks. To bring attention to a specific article should I post the whole PDF to Facebook and tell people to navigate to page 12? What about the ability for individuals with disabilities who require screen readers and other assistive technologies to consume news? These are real issues that a responsible news agency needs to deal with.

      I also want to make it clear that I am a paid subscriber to the Press Enterprise Online. Personal consumption isn’t the issue I am trying to shed light on. I am concerned with the notion of openness as it relates to long term, accessible content.

  27. The whiteboard was a knife in the heart of the blackboard.
    The automobile was a knife in the heart of the horse drawn carriage and passenger rail.
    The word processor was a knife in the heart of the typewriter.
    Netflix was a knife in the heart of Blockbuster.
    iTunes was a knife in the heart of the record store.
    MP3 was a knife in the heart of the CD.
    MP3 players were a knife in the heart of the Sony Walkman.
    GPS is a knife in the heart of atlas producers.
    Wikipedia is a knife in the heart of encyclopedia producers.
    Online shopping was a knife in the heart of the Sears Catalog.
    Amazon was a knife in the heart of Borders.

    It’s progress. You either get on board or get left behind.

  28. A short-term resource of photos and journalism related to the flood is beyond reasonable. As the primary source of local news for Bloomsburg and the surrounding communities, the Press Enterprise should consider their reporting on this emergency as something more than an asset that they can charge a fee for. They should consider it a resource that everyone living in the effected community and beyond could use to keep connected and also to keep some spotlight on the extent of damage and recovery efforts.

    The Press-Enterprise has every right to charge subscription and limit access on their day to day news, but this event was very far outside of the ordinary “news events” of a small town newspaper and effects people far beyond their delivery range.

    Why wouldn’t they put their resources to good use in this time of need? In the long run, they would provide an invaluable service to the community, including the far-flung friends and family of their local subscribers. Isn’t this just good service for the customers who have bought their paper for years or even decades?

    I live in Colorado, but I have many family members who live in Bloomsburg or nearby. There has been NO dependable place to go online and keep up to date. Youtube should NOT have been my primary source of reporting for this event. A local paper should consider an event like this as an opportunity to show their own stewardship and not as source of profit. The 2.50 weekly subscription rate they want to charge outsiders would be better spent as a donation to the Red Cross or some other local charity that will immediately put that money to use.

  29. A 2-3 week period of open access during a disaster of this magnitude would not sink the paper. In fact, it might encourage people to see the paper’s site and perhaps even sign up.

    That’s where a lot of media cuts off their nose to spite their face. Giving a sample actually encourages people to sign up later.

    And this is not even addressing Cole’s overarching point – this is a gesture to the community, to raise awareness of just how bad things are.

  30. I concur with Cole. Dearest Press, withholding this information at a time of such mass tragedy does more harm than good.

    Your pages have recently chided the town for pulling dumpsters too soon. We feel just the same about your choice to end free access so soon.

    Another topic preached among your pages is the need for volnteerism, donations, and sacrafice. Please lead by example.

    If expenses matter most, consider seeking the difference from your advertisers. WHLM and The Daily Item have been taking care of the consumers near and far via the web. We beg that you do too.

    Thank you,

    Eileen Cizewski

  31. It’s all about money. They used to give free online access to anyone who subscribed to the paper addition for one year. Now they charge if you want the online edition. The PE said that they are a business and that it cost money to produce the online edition. I don’t think it cost a lot of money to produce the online edition. They online edition likely just a copy of how they produce the next days paper. So the online edition is just the information put online. It’s all about money. $$$$$$$$$

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