Blog Edition: Readings, Ct. Center For The Book

January 14, 2007

Readings is a quarterly literary publication

Center for the Book site:
ww2.hplct.org/cfb/

Center for the Book Mission – Celebrate books, writers and readers who engender and sustain the life of the imagination. Highlight authors, illustrators, printers and the literary heritage of the State of Connecticut.

The Hartford Public Library created the Connecticut Center for the Book in 1997 to celebrate books and to act as a catalyst and a source of ideas for the community of the book – artists, writers, readers, librarians, publishers and printers.

Over these past several years we have enjoyed remarkable success in connecting readers to programs that enhance their enjoyment of books. The Connecticut Center for the Book has established the annual Connecticut Book Awards, the World of Words, a state-wide celebration of international literature; and a quarterly literary newsletter, Readings; and promoted the national Letters About Literature program in Connecticut.

In 2002, the CT Center was awarded the Boorstin Center for the Book Award for its World of Words program and other innovative and cooperative projects that stimulate public interest in books and reading throughout the state.

Readings, Fall 2006
Q & A
Andy Thibault

By KURT OPPRECHT

Andy Thibault is a seasoned journalist in the muckraking tradition who has served as editor at the Commercial Record, the Hartford Courant, the Stamford Advocate and the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre. At the other end of the periodical spectrum, he serves as consulting editor of Connecticut Review, and he is the author of Law & Justice In Everyday Life. Andy is currently an adjunct lecturer of English and a mentor in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. He also happens to be a licensed private investigator and a professional boxing judge. Andy has served on the Connecticut Center for the Book Advisory Council since 2003.

————–

Blogs are being hailed as a democratizing influence in a world where
respect for the news media is waning, or alternatively they are frowned
upon as a dangerous co-opting of the editorial process. Where do you
come down on that spectrum?

I come down on the side of free expression. The more voices heard, the better for all of us.

Sometimes free expression and investigative reporting make it into newspapers. This does not happen as often as it should. It never happens enough.

Newspapers and blogs have to earn the trust of readers. Blogs have gained prominence because newspapers have failed readers.

A newspaper should be the equivalent of the town green. Decades ago, the town drunk, the mental patient, the cop on the beat, the rabbi, the failed playwright and other assorted rabble rousers loitered in newsrooms. Today, security guards slow them down or keep them out. Some reporters live cloistered lives and seem comfortable with the insulation. Some editors shovel data and produce mass quantities of whatever. The bean counters are happy.

Where can citizens go to fight corruption when the system fails them? They used to go to newspapers. As newspapers increasingly turn a deaf ear, some citizens now go to blogs.

There seems to be a nexus between the elitism of newspapers and incompetence, that is, the more incompetent they become, the more they support the status quo.

I tell my students that to become reporters they have to be able to write simple declarative sentences and hang out with people. It is a noble vocation. Anyone with the inclination and a conscience should be up to the job.

The danger for readers lies in any limits to information. Readers-citizens must challenge government and the press – in whatever form – whenever information is withheld. Readers-citizens must also view news with a critical eye: Know the track records of the bloggers, the reporters, the editors and the owners. What kinds of stories have they published and, perhaps more importantly, what kinds of stories have they refused to pursue?

Still, even newspapers with diminished reputations have some good reporters left on the team. They can do a good job when they are turned loose.

Maybe the blogs will provide checks and balances and a kick in the behind for the established media. Readers will have to provide their own due diligence while sorting out the mass of information that is thrust upon them.

Blogs have carved out a new niche for themselves, but at the expense of
which media?

How much media can we absorb simultaneously? Clearly, the tree killers are hurting. Scoops would bring print readers back, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Tell us about your blog and what got you started blogging.

One of my students in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Ron Samul, taught me how to blog.

I started to read blogs as the Ned Lamont Senate campaign took off. I thought these bloggers were very cool. They made a difference.

There was no censorship. Writers could report, “So and so is a liar. He said this on such and such a day, denied it later and we nailed him. Here’s the video to prove it.” The bloggers filled a void left by the mainstream media. They had guts. I liked that.

Around this time I was on a heavy remigen of high-octane chemotherapy, unable to do much — including typing. I could type for a while, sort of, with gloves on. The juice – while saving me — left me with nerve damage. As I couldn’t travel far around the house or anywhere else, it was easy to get hooked on blogs.

My column in The Connecticut Law Tribune, Cool Justice, had run its course after six years. As I like to tell people, I knew I was doing a good job right from the start because virtually all the judges canceled their subscriptions. I wrote about cops and courts, usually from the point of view of those who got the short end of the deal.

Blogging seemed like a good venue. Just as other papers ran my column, papers and other media picked up items from the Cool Justice Report, http://www.cooljustice.blogspot.com

I began with an unfortunate classic, the beating of a black Stratford girl by local police. A series of stories focused on the follow-up brutality that resulted as a black Stratford councilman witnessed the incident. He was also roughed up and arrested after he told the officer to stop.

Another series examined the Waterbury police investigation of a person who has been missing for more than two years. After the stories were published and Freedom of Information requests filed, the local police department admitted foul play was suspected and sought assistance from the FBI.

Branching out, I posted items from other blogs and news about poets and writers in Connecticut. I filled the links column with sites I read for fun.

The strange saga of the Enfield Montessori School developed into a series about the disgusting antics of local politicians. I had wondered for a couple years why the town of Enfield waged an intense legal battle against the Felician Sisters who run the school and the families who entrust the well being of their children to this very special place.

It’s the same old story, the way things can go wrong in any town when greed, power and unmitigated gall go unchallenged.

Turns out the mayor’s family was developing land by the school that would be worth a lot more if the school would just go away. Powerful business interests also lined up against the nuns and the schoolchildren, trying to shut down a parking area that had existed for more than 50 years.

A judge who threw out one of the pending legal actions against the school was befuddled, asking “Is this entire dispute about a load of gravel being placed on the area of which no one complained for eleven (11) years?”

How has your blog changed the way you do your work?

I haven’t been able to do much since the fall of 2005, but with the help of friends who do the grunt work of researching and posting, we’ve been able to have some impact and deliver a few stories to the public.

Has it changed the way you write? Do you write differently when you
know it’s for your blog?

No. I had plenty of freedom at The Law Tribune. In six years there were only a couple of times I had difficulty getting something published. Now, as then, I’m lucky to have friends who help edit my work when I get into delicate areas.

In terms of writing short or in blogspeak, any change is not apparent. We just post stuff we think is good. If it doesn’t hold the reader’s interest, then it doesn’t deserve to be read.

What about the interactive nature of the blog. Do you engage in
back-and-forth postings with other bloggers or readers who comment on
your blog?

The comments — negative and positive — are lots of fun. Sometimes I feel like Godzilla getting shot. But, as I remember, Godzilla always came back for more until the end. I figure I’ve had my way with the postings and the readers have their final say with the comments. So, I don’t react to the comments. Sometimes they give me new story ideas. Also, sometimes we post collections of comments on a hot topic.

What are some blogs you visit regularly?

CtWeblogs has all the major stuff going on in Connecticut. I like that, as well as MyLeftNutmeg, CtNewsJunkie, ConnecticutBob, HuffingtonPost and the DrudgeReport, among others. Many of my favorite sites are posted in the links at The Cool Justice Report.

YouTube is kind of a video blog site. Is this the future of blogging?

The short answer is yes – as far as I can see, anyhow. Right now I am hooked on the mystery writer and former cop reporter Michael Connelly. Connelly has some great stuff on YouTube about his scenes, themes and characters. He’s my latest link.


Readings, entire blog edition

  • Find the Book:
    Law & Justice In Everyday Life by Andy Thibault at Amazon.com

    Barnes & Noble

  • Andy Thibault
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