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Scott Sines, ©The Green Rocket News
Scott SinesI think they’ll go to small startups.
To communities of readers, businesses, community organizations and journalists who all share a common passion. Readers, businesses and non-profits will have to fund these new news outlets. They will be extremely lean and only grow as big as the community of interest will support. Nobody gets rich but it’s meaningful work.

Since 1989 the American Society of Newspaper Editors reports that nearly 1 in 3-newsroom jobs have been eliminated.The Newsosauer blog estimates the number of jobs eliminated in 2011 alone rose by nearly 30% compared to 2010. A survey by the ASNE reports 2600 job cuts in 2012.

It’s even bleaker for visual journalists. The ASNE survey says that the numbers of visual journalists have been trimmed 43% since 2000. For comparison, full-time newspaper reporters dropped by 32% and copy editors by 27%. On May 30, 2013 The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its entire photography staff.

Most news corporations invest in increasing flyby web traffic of eye-candy slideshows rather than an engaging local visual report. According to an article in Adweek, Washington Post President Steve Hills claimed that slideshows could cure the newspaper’s circulation problems. He’s quoted as saying, “… awards ‘don’t matter,’ and urged more traffic-driving slideshows, over original Post photos…”

Visual journalists have been rightly criticized for prize chasing. It was not healthy and led to copycat journalism instead of innovation. But apparently that time is over. I’ve recently been honored to judge two of the most prestigious photojournalism contests in the business and participation is really low.

I can only conclude that many photojournalists and editors are not taking pride in their work. Nothing saps a creative soul more than feeling like you’re doing meaningless work. Yet news executives clamor for vacuous slideshows and more video, any video, regardless of its storytelling quality. They beg the public for freebies.

Why? Because they know that pictures bring audience and they’re right. They know that a compelling narrative can be riveting. That is why storytelling, visual and written, will endure. A well told story lasts forever, broken business models don’t.

Two new guys in the garage

A report in the Nieman Journalism Labs describes a likely scenario. It comes from Ben Thompson, author of the blog Stratechery writing about the future of newspapers. “… More and more journalism will be small endeavors, often with only a single writer. The writer will have a narrow focus and be an expert in the field they cover. Monetization will come from dedicated readers around the world through a freemium model…”

Joshua Benton, author of the Nieman article expands Thompson’s vision … “Who will do the long, inefficient-by-nature investigations and the watchdog coverage of the local governments too boring for most people to watch? My guess at the answer to that question is some combination of (a) nonprofit news outlets reliant on the philanthropic market rather than the advertising or subscription ones, (b) the rumps of old newspapers, smaller but still intermittently fiesty, (c) some for-profit local startups, but very unevenly distributed. And (d) plenty of stories will be missed along the way.”

Groups of readers and businesses with shared passions are finding one another through the web right now. Journalists who share their passion need to engage and start explaining their issues and telling their stories. Social media experts need to begin building networks.

The model will have to be sustained by readers, businesses, community groups, foundations and income earned through media services to clients who are willing to support the mission. The size of the organization will depend on the size of the community and their degree of commitment .

It will require journalists to become savvy about approaching these groups for funding. Marketing strategies will need to be developed for each interest group and platform. Winding through all various licensing agencies, tax implications and all it takes to offer 501c3 benefits to foundations is daunting as well. I hate the word re-invention because it conjures memories of endless meetings with “innovators” who never invented anything but a sharper scalpel. It confuses invention with cost cutting. Journalism needs real inventors.

In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. He had experience teaching deaf people. His mother and wife were both hearing impaired and he was searching for a way to better communicate with them. One hundred years later, two guys in a garage invented a computer and named it after a fruit. They brought the power of computing to our desktops with an easy to use interface. It changed the world.

Come to the garage.

Scott Sines, editor, The Green Rocket News

Scott is the former Associate Editor and Managing Editor of The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal and former Managing Editor of The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review. During his time as managing editor twice The Commercial Appeal was recognized as the best newspaper in Tennessee. In Spokane, the newspaper was a Pulitzer finalist for its coverage of white supremacists. Six times the newspaper placed first in the Pictures of the Year Contest for its use of photography. Twice he was named editor of the year. Four times The Society for News Design named The Spokesman-Review one of the World’s Best Designed Newspapers in their international competition. Columbia University identified The Spokesman-Review as one to the top twenty-five in the country and a newspaper to watch.

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ARKANSAS DELTA: Cradle of Civil Rights (multi-media)

” … a policeman will jest stand there an let a banker rob a farmer, or a finance man rob a workin man. But if a farmer robs a banker — you wood have a hole dern army of cops out a shooting at him.” — Woody Guthrie

© By Scott Sines
The movie Selma deserves our attention. If it wins every single Academy Award it won’t be nearly enough. But before Emmitt Till was brutally murdered for whistling at a white woman; before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat, black and white tenant farmers in northeast Arkansas were organizing. They drew the blueprint for the non-violent activism that followed in the 1950s and 1960s. Today the museum dedicated to the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, and other historical sites, are faced with an uncertain future. “We are in a tough funding situation,” said Dr. Ruth Hawkins, executive director of Arkansas State University’s, Arkansas Heritage Sites program. (Multi-media links are in blue boldface)

Getting organized
The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 made the miserable lives of tenant farmers on the Delta even worse. Planters were paid not to plant. Existing crops were plowed under to limit supply and raise commodity prices. The government paid subsidies to the planters who were supposed to share the money fairly with the tenant farmers. It didn’t happen.

At the time opposition to labor unions was white hot and so was the culture.AR_elaine_riot Still, farmers on the Delta, black, white and women organized. White businessmen Harry Leland Mitchell and Clay East knew that to have a chance at success the union had to be inter-racial. Otherwise the planters would play black against white and incite racial violence. It had already happened in Elaine, Arkansas resulting in the massacre of hundreds of black sharecroppers.

The organizers made sure that black and white farmers sat side-by-side in photographs to show unity. The movement was deeply rooted in the Baptist Church so women were major players as years later they would be an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement.

The planters reacted violently. When Mitchell, owner of a dry cleaning business in Tyronza, met at the home of E.B. McKinney, a black socialist, the planters shot the place up with machine guns. Mitchell’s business in Tyronza neighbored Clay East’s gas station to the north. East was the distributor of the socialist newspaper “The Guardian.” To the south of the dry cleaners and the gas station was the city bank. The small cluster of buildings becametenants9 known as “Red Square.” “The only reason (the planters) didn’t burn the place down was because of the bank,” said Linda Hinton, director of the Southern Tenant Farmers Musuem.

With leadership from Mitchell and East, 11 white men and seven black men met in a small schoolhouse near Tyronza in July 1934 and formed the Southern Tenant Farmers Union committed to non-violent opposition to the planters. The STFU became the blueprint for later civil rights activism.

Today “Red Square” is home to the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum a rich historical archive of one of the earliest bi-racial, bi-gender labor unions in the country. The knowledgeable and friendly staff gives intimate,STFM informative tours. The building is full of historic pictures and artifacts including a grainy newsreel prominently featuring songs by John Handcox the “Sharecroppers Troubadour.” Allow about an hour, unless you just want to visit for a while. The museum is much smaller than the history it tells.

Forty acres and a mule
Take a left out of the museum and navigate a few dusty miles to the Dyess Colony. It has to be your destination because the road leading into the colony ends in the colony. Named after William Reynolds Dyess, a local plantation owner, it was part of the Roosevelt administration’s reliefdyess theater efforts and considered an experiment in American Socialism. It was intended to operate as a cooperative, where seed was purchased, crops were sold communally, and families shared in profits. But it ran into the self-sufficient nature of Delta farmers. “The farmers they recruited were too independent to throw their lot in with others,” Hawkins said. “They did operate the commissary as a cooperative, but little else.” Still, it was the biggest agricultural, cooperative effort of the federal government during the Great Depression.

Open only to white people (a separate colony was developed for black people), 500 farm families qualified and were advanced the money to buy a brand new, bright white, five-room house, twenty to forty acres, a mule and supplies, and a promissory note due when their first crop came in. The colony was laid out like a sliced pie. The individual farms were slices that led to the colony’s community center, movie theater, bank, store and other businesses.

Ray and Carrie Rivers Cash’s family qualified. They moved the family and their kids Roy, Margaret Louise, Jack, J. R., and Reba onto a twenty-acre tract. Joanne and Tommy came along later. tommy cash
J. R. and Tommy worked at the theater, J.R. took tickets and Tommy ran the huge projector. Today you can see Tommy’s name (top right in the picture) carved into one of the huge movie reel holders on the projectors. Today the Administration Building has been restored as an interpretive museum, the facade of the movie theater has been restored and the post office and cafe are up and running.

How high’s the water Momma?
Down a dirt road just a couple of miles from the Dyess Community Center thecash restoration Cash family home has been restored and stands as it was when the family lived there. J.R. served in the Army and eventually moved downriver to Memphis. He signed a recording contract with Sam Phillips and Sun Studios under the name Johnny Cash.

He was a member of the Million Dollar Quartet along with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Together they mixed Rockabilly sound with gospel into classics like “Down by the Riverside”. Cash’s ability to cross genres earned his induction into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame. Many of his songs reflect on his years growing up on the Delta including “Five Feet High and Rising” which recounts the 1937 Mississippi River flood that inundated the farm. cash homestead

His kids continue to pass his songs along including his daughter Rosanne’s albums “The List” and her Grammy Award winning new release that retraces her dad’s upbringing”The River and the Thread.” Rosanne and her brother John Cash Jr. are active caretakers of the family’s rich musical tradition and hard scrabble beginnings.

Either on your way to the Museum, or on your way home the Tyboogie is worth a visit for a bite to eat. Local farmers Keith and Jill Forrester own it. They were some of the originals in building the popularity of farmers markets inTYpalettes Memphis. Now they’re bringing their fresh produce a little closer to home, the Tyboogie is just four miles down the road from their farm. The produce they don’t grow and the meats they don’t raise are purchased from local growers.

Keith gutted the old grocery store building in the heart of downtown Tyronza and rebuilt it with recycled bricks from old crumbling buildings and wood recycled from an old rickety barn in nearby Frenchman’s Bayou. The menu goes from traditional Delta fare, to Chicken Fried Chicken, burgers, sandwiches and sides and specialty pizzas. Everything except the large pizzas, and they are large is under 10 dollars. They have live music on the weekends, a patio built from reclaimed barn beams and sell merchandise from local artisans. Every bit Delta folks they’re opening a roadside stand for fresh produce and offering tours of their farm this fall.

You can catch it all in an afternoon from Memphis, or a day trip from Little Rock. The history is incredibly close to the surface, rich, and accessible. The Heritage Sites are remarkably restored and some are in jeopardy. The Delta was never flooded by money. The area needs people to come visit; they need school field trips, and tour buses and believe it or not… signage on the major interstates to let travelers know that they are there.

If you’d like to donate or need more information on how to keep these historical sites alive contact:
Arkansas Heritage Sites
Arkansas State University
Telephone: 870-972-2803
Arkansas Heritage Sites
To donate, go to https://secure.astate.edu/Donations/ and enter “Heritage Sites” or a particular Heritage Site on the “Other” line.
To arrange school tours and see curriculum guides go to:
http://arkansasheritagesites.astate.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Southern-Tenant-Site.pdf

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Scott Sines, ©The Green Rocket News
From cars to cantaloupes, my family has always bought locally if we could. Still do.
When we moved to Memphis many years ago, Lindsay Chandler was one of the first people I met at the Farmer’s Market. It simply wasn’t possible for me to walk by his tables of gladiolas and not buy a few. . . Okay a dozen. They were that pretty. I went, and still go, to the market every single Saturday for fresh vegetables, but I kept going back for flowers just for the conversation and the fellowship. Yes fellowship, because if you knew Lindsay you knew everybody.

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OShole3
Scott Sines, ©The Green Rocket News
She was working at the Yum Burger
in Kramer’s Junction, California. He was a long-haul truck driver from Arkansas. The Yum Burger became a regular stop for him and one thing led to another.

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©Scott Sines, The Green Rocket News
When Ray passed away the Great Depression was well underway, breaking up families all across the country. Melinda was left with eight children and no job. It was not unusual at that time. She couldn’t possibly support the family. She took a job in a garment factory in Grand Ledge, Michigan, and the family scattered. That wasn’t unusual either. But her youngest son Bobby, about thirteen, wasn’t quite ready to make his own way.

Bobby wasn’t totally homeless. He had an old car he called home. When his older brother Bill heard about Bobby and the car, he immediately found his younger brother a job working on Andy Christensen’s farm just outside of Portland.

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Scott Sines, ©The Green Rocket News
Osceola, Arkansas — Osceola is impatient. Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River, 40 miles north of Memphis, the little delta town has reasons to hope. But they won’t get carried away. They’ve been burned by false hopes before.

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“When I got off the plane at Detroit Metro I had an odd moment. I’d left Detroit in 1971 and when I left … I left.”

I grew up near Pontiac in Waterford, Michigan. I can name the starting lineup for the 1968 World Series Champions, including the starting rotation, the bullpen, the manager and the announcers. I know the names of the Lion’s Fearsome Foursome.

But after Dr. King was assassinated hell broke loose. Long-simmering racial tensions boiled over and it was bloody and fiery and left the city deeply scarred. There was so much tension even among friends. Some marched against the war and some didn’t. Passions were so high we were tearing one another apart.

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Scott Sines, ©The Green Rocket News
You gotta earn it on the Delta.
Hammering mortar off bricks in the Delta sun is not for everyone. On a hot September day Keith Forester is checking on a crew of three local men he’s hired to reclaim bricks from a collapsed building. He acknowledges that, yes it’s very hot, banters with the crew, then rides them a little, “Don’t wear out the seats of your pants sitting in the shade over there.” He knows they may, or may not work the whole day. Still some work will get done because they need the money.