Press Enterprise and Openness?

I and others have been critical about the lack of open and available news in and around Bloomsburg, PA over the last several weeks. It has been widely documented that the Press Enterprise offered two or three days of free digital distribution following the flood — primarily because they couldn’t deliver the physical paper to residents in flooded areas. After those first three days, the Press went back to posting daily stories behind a paywall.

Since the flood that has so devastated Bloomsburg, PA there have been several Facebook pages started to try and organize help and information for the people in town — many of whom have lost everything. Demands to the Press Enterprise to open their flood related information has been met with silence from them. Amazingly there have been so many people who have defended the approach by the Press, saying it is a business and we can’t expect them to give away the paper. That has been a faulty and mismatched argument from the beginning as I haven’t seen anyone demanding that all of the Press be opened, instead the focus has been on flood related images and news.

I haven’t been shy about sharing the numbers of views I’ve received for the 373 photos I posted openly to Flickr in the days following the flood. As a matter of fact, in a presentation I gave at the PA Newspaper Association’s Advertising Conference last week I shared that these photos were viewed 153,650 times from 9/11/2011 through 9/28/2011. What that tells me is that there is a market of need that wasn’t being filled by traditional channels.

Today, my wife shared with me a new page that appears in google search results for an open archive of 30 pictures from the Press Enterprise. The photos are shared in a gallery outside the paywall and are openly available to view and download. Like we have hoped from the beginning, the photos are excellent in that they are taken in the moment by newspaper professionals. Is the Press Enterprise listening to the pleas and (in my opinion) appropriately toned criticism? Perhaps, but either way we now have access to at least 30 images linked from the official newspaper site of the greater Bloomsburg area. I call that progress by any measure.

Bloomsburg: One Week Later

I have so much to say about what I continue to see in Bloomsburg, PA but I will leave that for tomorrow after I’ve had time to properly reflect. For now I wanted to share another set of photos I took while making a quick trip into to town to take supplies. I wish I could say it looks remarkably better, but I cannot. Progress has been made, but it is still a very difficult sight. I talked to several residents, especially in the west end of town, and people are very tired and weary of the thought of dealing with another flood like this. Still so much kindness everywhere I looked — people helping each other in terribly filthy and dangerous conditions. I wish I could do more. I did do a few personal item drops and delivered a huge haul of cleaning supplies my wife, Kristin collected from friends in State College. From what I am hearing, AGAPE will put them to great use … the help they are providing (along with so many others) is inspiring. Please consider giving more to our town if you can — it is in need. And if you can’t do that, please take a look at the pictures and help us spread the word of what is happening. My last set of photos had nearly 110,000 views last week … I can’t even tell you how many people have said to me that they wouldn’t have know what was happening in town without those photos and the Facebook group that has been created. Have a look …