Sunday, March 27, 2016

Understanding and explaining 'normal'



The hardest part, I guess, is understanding and explaining "normal."
As Dr. Seuss notes, "Being crazy isn't enough," and  “The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over,” says Hunter S. Thompson in "Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, according to Thompson. He should have known.
Figures from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI), say "One in four adults — approximately 61.5 million Americans — experience mental illness in a given year. One in 17 — about 13.6 million — live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder."
The first memory of an encounter with mental illness that I can point to, is when I was very young.
Carl and Fay Massey were "Salt of the Earth" people that lived behind the house I grew up in in Dolores in small little house of their own. Sometime in the late 1960s, a nephew or some relative visiting them had a terrible episode of substance abuse and was up on the hill raving at the neighborhood, threatening suicide, homicide, etc...
Police were called. Maybe mental health professionals, too? I don't know.  But, he was talked down off the literal and figurative ledge, and neighborhood normalcy was soon restored.  It did, however leave an impression.
The raving, incoherence, and sense of something amiss, I came to understand later in my own family.
At least twice in my childhood, my mother suffered "episodes" and was committed (I think voluntarily) to the Colorado State Hospital, in Pueblo.
This is the same place that sported the original cornerstone reading "Colorado State Insane Asylum," which now resides in the museum there.
Aside from the strangeness of the experience itself, there was also stigma attached to having 'craziness' in the family, and all of us were reluctant to talk about it. We still don't, really.
I remember one misguided childhood acquaintance telling me, that he didn't think my mom was "crazy," but the rest of us in the family were.
He never saw her wind up after sundown, however.
"Every person is distinctive, a particular individual with his own ideas and his own ways of doing things. The mentally ill seem special only in that they are more distinctive," writes Dr. Fredric Neuman, M.D. in Psychology Today. 
"They are idiosyncratic or eccentric, even peculiar; yet in their strangeness there is nothing unrecognizable. They experience no impulse nor longing that is foreign to a normal person, and they suffer no illusion that a normal person has not known. The symptoms of mental illness are embedded in, and grow out of, the normal personality. Since life is varied and complex anyway, it is hard to determine where normal behavior leaves off and abnormal behavior begins. In retreat from this tantalizing ambiguity, some psychiatrists have chosen to take the position that there is no such thing as mental illness. In similar argument, one might contend that since orange blends closely into red, there is no such thing as orange," Neuman says.
After all, orange is the new black.
Perhaps it is easier to say what is not meant by normal than what is.
One of my strongest influences as storyteller comes from fellow Colorado native, Ken Kesey.
Kesey famously volunteered to take part in what turned out to be a CIA-financed study known as Project MKULTRA at the Menlo Park Veteran's Hospital as a night aide. The project studied the effects of various psychoactive drugs, and his experiences there fueled the muse for writing "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Kesey's experience with patients, sometimes under the influence of the experimental hallucinogenic drugs, led him to believe that society had pushed them out because they did not fit conventional ideas of how people were supposed to act and behave. 
Still one of my favorite depictions of mental illness, I identify with the idea that sometimes, the treatments are worse than the "cure."
But knowing just how someone deviates from the average is important in understanding, I guess.
Dr. Nueman says that is true for three reasons:
"1. Although a particular behavior may not be in itself abnormal, it may be part of a pattern that reflects an abnormal process. Sleeping less than average, for instance, is sometimes associated with severe depressions and other psychoses. Also, if someone is extremely far from average in some respect of behavior or attitude, it is likely he will turn out to be emotionally ill by some other criteria.
2. Someone who is significantly different from other people may be under special strain as a result, for in order to be with people, it is necessary to do pretty much the things other people do.
3. But most important, an individual is most himself at just those points where he is different from others. Knowing what is special about someone is knowing, at least, what is worth paying attention to for a therapist and what to ask about."
My father, who in many ways and for many years, administered to my mom and her mental illness, late in life suffered from his own. In the form of dementia, or just general confusion, he became unsure of what was real, and what was Memorex.
A pillar of stability for most of his life, I never really understood that until he complained of the county moving the roads on him. Maybe the county did, but somehow I knew then, he was descending into a place he had never been.
I think I am like a lot of people, in that, is where the fear resides.  What if I go there, too?
Perhaps that is the edge that Thompson speaks of.  'Normal' doesn't mean you are adjusted, and perhaps it doesn't even last forever.
Even if it does, is 'normal' all it is cracked up to be? Or, is mental illness something we all should talk a little more about?

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Gifts from the "Yoda" of community journalism


A number of years ago, in late December of 2000 to be precise, long-time newspaper publisher J. Tom Graham sent me a package with collection of giant postcards from the old Sanborn Souvenir Co. of Denver.

Sanborn was a publisher of books and postcards of the American West from 1920 to 1976, but mostly of Colorado and Wyoming. They first produced real photo postcards carrying the Sanborn name. They later went on to produce tinted halftone postcards and eventually photochromes. 
J. Tom, my good friend and mentor, told me he had bought them at yard sale in Pasadena, Texas, if I remember correctly. 
I was publisher of the Courier at the time, and he said he thought I could possibly get some use out of them. He was Chief Operating Officer of the 60-plus newspaper group we were owned by at the time. J. Tom was a charming character, that had written for the Stars & Stripes while in the service during Korea. 
He also had worked for Rupert Murdoch in the Australian outback, written the popular book "Quaint, We Ain't," ran papers of almost every size, and even made a living for short while as a stand-up comedian. 
I still, to this day, relish telling J. Tom Graham stories of my own, and ones that he told me over time. The old newspaper editor, publisher, self-described sweep-out boy, lost a long battle with cancer in October and I was thinking of him when I ran across these. 
For about 15 years, I wrote a monthly column for the trade magazine "Newspapers and Technology. " J. Tom Graham always encouraged that practice and even helped me get a few speaking gigs in Boston and California. I wrote the following column about him when he retired from A.S.P. Westward in 2005, and as mentioned earlier, I have more than a few memories, as well as the  generous image keepsakes that call to mind his wisdom for the ages.
Photographer Harold Sanborn amassed thousands of images showcasing scenes in Colorado, Wyoming, and other Western states, starting about 1920. His son Bill took over the business from the 1950s until 1976.
The postcards were created in the tradition of William Henry Jackson, frontier and train travel photographer who created the tradition and carried it on for more than half a century beginning with the U.S.G.S. survey in the 1870s for Ferdinand V. Hayden, M.D., and on through his work with the Detroit Publishing Company well into the next century.
As mentioned, my good friend J. Tom Graham, appreciated my appreciation of such efforts, and gifted me with following prints many years ago. The images are only representative of the many benefits and other gifts I realized from my opportunity of knowing and listening to such fine newspaper man.

The following column first appeared in Newspapers & Technology in February 2006.

Advice for the ages



An old friend, mentor and survivor of nearly five decades in the community newspaper business, J. Tom Graham, retired at the end of 2005.
Graham is the former chief operating officer of ASP Westward LP, the company that signs my paycheck. But I can’t resist repeating a few “J.Tomisms” from my sounding board of nearly 10 years.
No. 2 on Graham’s “12 tactics for surviving the community newspaper business” was “The Old Man Hanks’ Find-Something” tactic.
The Abilene, Texas, founder of the Hart-Hanks Group had two inviolate rules, wrote Graham. “The first was this: All male employees had to wear hats.
“Forget that rule.
“The second, however, withstands the decades: ‘For every person who comes in the building to give the (Abilene) Reporter-News a story or a tip, the result must be a story in the newspaper.’
“He was adamant,” Graham said. “If an editor could not use what the reader brought in, he had better find something. Every visitor could [then] point to the newspaper and say, ‘That little story was the result of my visit to the paper.’”
 
Redefine relationship
Today, we need to redefine what an actual reader’s visit is because not too many people have time to come down to the paper anymore. But they will e-mail information to us, and give us phone calls, fax us info, and draw us aside at the chamber mixer.











The rule still holds in principle even if it needs adaptation. A newspaper must engage in some type of conversation within the community to survive in today’s world of blogs, instant feeds and explosion of information.
The art of conversation requires an exchange. As a paper, we have to listen well, write it down correctly and present it attractively.
Almost more important, we must provide an easy feedback loop to know how we are doing and how we must change and adapt to current conditions.
Design elements of your paper and its accompanying Web site should encourage this feedback.
To fuel participation, papers should end columns and stories with the writer’s e-mail address. E-mail and Web addresses should be institutionalized in page headers. Surveys asking readers for their opinion about how the paper is doing should be frequent and easy to respond to.
We need to make it easy for anyone to get involved in this newspapering thing.
 
Making things difficult
How hard is it now to fill out a wedding, birth, death, engagement and anniversary announcement in your paper? How difficult is it to place a classified for a garage sale next week, or to make sure everyone knows there is a scout meeting? Can you do all of that at 2 a.m. when you bolt upright from a sound sleep because you forgot to take care of it during the day? Can you easily take care of it in your underwear? Can you let those guys at city hall know how you feel about the new sign regulations?
If you can’t, maybe your paper is a little one-sided in its conversation skills.
And yes, there is a proper way to manage this flow of information.
J. Tom Graham’s Rule No. 6: “Keep the In-Baskets Empty” tactic goes as follows:
“Brock, the world’s most disorganized editor, would swear on the Bible he knew everything in the three-foot pile climbing out of his in-basket. But, quite mysteriously, stories kept getting lost. When the third obit disappeared into his teetering piles, Brock took his journalism degree and became a clerk in a liquor store.
 
Hats in the newsroom
“One veteran deskman described newspapering as an ‘organizing contest,’ and he wasn’t far off the mark,” Graham wrote.
“The walls may be stacked and the drawers may be overflowing in a newspaper, but the copy flow system must be meticulously maintained with the in-baskets cleaned all the way down to the wire and not treated as pending files or ‘maybe tomorrow’ stacks.
“The community newspaper version of ‘wire services’ is input from the community. The best way to build input is to get the stories in the newspaper every time, without fail.”
We need to keep that advice in mind. The way this business is changing so quickly, failure to adapt could mean that newspapers will go the same way as hats in the newsroom.
 
Rob Carrigan specializes in prepress systems for weekly newspapers. He is the publisher of the Ute Pass Courier in Woodland Park, the Gold Rush in Cripple Creek and the Extra in Teller County, all ASP Westward LP weeklies in Colorado. 



The next column first appeared in Newspapers & Technology in May of 2004


Understanding the 3 Ps




Every headline-writing hack succumbs at some point to the temptation of alliteration.
I am no better or worse. All things required to run a little newspaper might be boiled down into the “the primary three Ps” - product, people and possibilities.
Product, the most important, focuses on what you should be providing your customers. It has many aspects and includes everything from customer service and content development to production flow and packaging: everything, in fact, to delivery of the final product.
Storing so much under the product umbrella makes the rest of the would-be publisher’s job easier. Even the other two “Ps” have ramifications in the final product. Indeed, product is the ultimate periodical publisher’s pigeonhole.
 
Consider cost centers
Consider some additional alliteration governing the three major cost centers facing small newspaper publishers: payroll, printing and postage. If you navigate these centers correctly during the budgeting process, chances are you’ll have successfully charted your expense side of the business.
Back to the primary Ps: When focusing on product you must have the most relevant content, the most cost-effective delivery, results-focused advertising, attractive news presentation, an interested readership and a sustaining business model.
And that’s where people come in. People make all of this happen.
In the words of my friend, longtime publisher J. Tom Graham, newspapers will always be a people business.
“We are labor intensive,” Graham said. “If you have good people, you can be a good newspaper. If you don’t, you won’t. So staffing is the most important thing we do as managers.”
 
Common problems
Graham identifies some common problems community newspapers face when staffing:
*Rewarding too many key people not to get their job done.
*Hiring too few salespeople. You should have at least one for each writer. Salespeople should bring in three times as much revenue as their cost to the company. Keep hiring and firing until you reach that point.
*Recruiting key people instead of promoting from within. New management hires have no better than a 50-50 chance of success; those promoted usually are successful between 80 percent and 90 percent of the time.
*Under-challenging key people. To us the world looks busy because we are. Most of our best employees could do much more.
*Giving an employee responsibility without authority. People make the difference.
With product and people now addressed, that leaves “possibilities” up to you. Technology, training and trying out new things might all offer additional possibilities. Another great lesson of the newspaper industry has to do with avoiding assumptions. Don’t assume anything. It is your safest bet in this business. Things change and what worked before may not work as well the next time.
 
Simple ideas
Good ideas can come in the simplest forms. In a recent conversation with Steamboat (Colo.) Pilot & Today Editor Scott Stanford, an idea to share local news budgets with other ski-area newspapers has offered him the opportunity to print more skiing-related content popular with many of his readers.
To do that, each day he e-mails newspapers a copy of his rundown of local stories and photos. The other newspapers return the favor, and then each selects the stories it wants to exchange. This sharing occurs despite the fact the papers are owned by different companies.
The swap is simple, via e-mail. Stanford said both the WorldWest LLC-owned Pilot and rival newspapers benefit from the arrangement.
The relationship also allows Stanford to rely on the resources of those newspapers when circumstances warrant. Instead of sending a Pilot & Today sports reporter to cover some far-flung high school basketball game, Stanford can print the game wrap-up filed by the cooperating newspaper.
 
Ask for help
When trying new things, if you don’t know how to do something, ask somebody who might. Help can come from the strangest of places but the obvious starting point is newspaper directories and entries for operations that are similar in size and function to your own.
One final thought. The primary three Ps can go a long way to solve the most pressing publishing problems, but, personally, publishers should probably plan to punish all annoying alliterating authors.


 
Rob Carrigan specializes in prepress systems for weekly newspapers. He is the publisher of the Ute Pass Courier in Woodland Park, the Gold Rush in Cripple Creek and the Extra in Teller County, all ASP Westward LP weeklies in Colorado.  

He can be reached by e-mail at robcarrigan@yourpeaknews.com

Saturday, March 5, 2016

From hoof, to hook, packed on ice, railcar shipped




In the fall, cattle ranchers around Monument would drive their herds off the range and into town to ship them on the railroads to markets in Denver and beyond.


The Denver and Rio Grande arrived in 1872 and the Santa Fe in 1892, and both railroads had stockyards in town.

Many ranchers had their cattle on government range all summer, and a fair amount of time and effort was involved in checking brands and other busy events of the fall drives.

Several days before cattle were driven in, rail companies would line up cattle cars on the sidings, and almost everyone would ship the same day.

A switch engine would move cars around as the cattle were loaded, and preservation of local meat stocks were also a part of the process.

Several hundred head of cattle, men on well trained horses, local butchers, barkeeps, and ice contractors, and railroad employees had a busy few days.

When automatic blocks became available in the 1940s, the process that went on at the two depots in Monument, Pring Station, Greenland, Palmer Lake and Husted all changed.

For several years afterward, northbound trains all ran on the old Santa Fe tracks and southbound ran on the D&RG. Santa Fe tracks were eventually torn out in the late fall of 1974.
But in the early days, Monument was a meat-eating, beef-producing, package-it-up-and-keep-it cool kind of town.

"Chas. Allis had a butcher shop on the corner of Second and Washington Streets in the 1890s," noted Lucille Lavelett. "George Betz and John Boling operated a meat market and delivered meat by wagon for several years.

“There was Paul’s Meat Market operated by Paul Close and Paul Valentine. When meat was delivered by wagon, the back of the wagon was closed in, with hooks to hang the meat on, a meat block and scales. In the summer time, large tubs were filled with ice to keep the meat cold."

That is where the local ice business came in.

Fred Lewis’ wife, Myrtle McKee Lewis, was a teacher in the Lewis Consolidated School (and namesake for Lewis-Palmer District 38). She was the brother-in-law of W.E. Doyle, and went to work for him at the ice company in 1910.

Doyle and a partner, Thomas Hanks, had leased what is now known as Monument Lake (then State Reservoir) and built the original ice house.

Doyle bought out Hanks in 1909 and improved the operation with new ice houses and a chain-operated conveyor system powered by a steam engine from an old threshing machine leased from Charlie Schubarth. Doyle continued to operate up until the early 1940s.

“A spur railroad track was put in to load ice directly into the railroad cars,” wrote Lavelett. “Harvesting at that time was done by man and horses. Power conveying the ice up in houses by horses.

“Ice harvest began in the middle of December and the cakes of ice were 24-inches thick after being planed. Twenty-thousand to 30,000 tons were harvested. Four-thousand tons were stored in the houses and the balance shipped to Pueblo and Denver.”

But the ice business was risky, subject not only changing times, but forces of weather including wind,  changing climate, water — not to mention transportation and refrigeration technology modes.

Still, for a time, the floor of the butcher shop always had about three inches of clean sawdust, changed every week, to keep the ice cold and absorb any spills.

And every store, hotel, restaurant and some homes had their own ice house. As a result, Monument was a “meat and potatoes” kind of place.

But for the potatoes, that is a different story. 




Photo information:

Photo 1: Betz Meat Market in Monument with Betz' chain-drive delivery truck out front.

Photo 2: Meat Market with prominent Monument meat moguls including  Chas. Allis, Mose Chandler, Dan Davidson, George Betz  and Charlie Schubarth.

Photo 3: Charlie Schubarth's steam engine used to power ice conveyors.

Photos courtesy of The Vaile Museum.