Column: Summer 2022 Has Arrived, Use Caution When Traveling

By: Forrest R. Church, Publisher

It has been a few weeks since I have had time to complete a column. I’m currently sitting on the porch with perfect Friday afternoon weather, with the laptop, to jot down some thoughts before our next edition. I had a reader reach out to me on social media making sure I was not giving up on blabbing about my thoughts since the last few newspaper editions did not contain a column, so I guess at least one person reads this piece.

We just accomplished getting through the busiest stretch of the year at the newspaper with a few at the office breaking triple digit work weeks in late May and almost everyone dedicating higher than normal hours. It takes a lot to pull off graduation previews, publish all the year end school news, followed by Memorial Day activities and of course the graduation ceremonies themselves each year. We always find ourselves professionally and personally playing “catch up” in June, gaining our breath a little. With a family that includes three youngsters, my wife who holds down the newspaper office during the day and I try to catch up family time as much as possible in June and July.

I was proud of our hard-working team who helped publish the biggest (a tie for the biggest) newspaper in our history, 76 pages a few weeks back. We have a truly remarkable crew.

Now that things have slowed down a bit, I hope we can all enjoy the warmer weather as summer has certainly hit Northwest Ohio with a few days of extremely high heat indexes last week with more in the forecast. It seems like many of us went from complaining “why do I live where my face hurts” (due to the cold) to “I can’t breathe in this heat and humidity”. At least today (Friday) is near perfect with low humidity and lower 80 degree weather.

FACEBOOK – For those that follow my column you know by now I tend to rip on the social media giant. I really have no regret as they continue to state many of our newspaper community posts violate their policies. Those running the social media platform are simply out of touch.

Facebook notified us that the first Special Olympic athlete in Williams County (last week’s feature) is in violation of their policies. I share these violations with readers in many of my columns to try to shed light on how Facebook seems to try to dictate what it’s users should see. Likely some out of touch Facebook employee in “make believe land” wrote a line of code that flags our community posts as being terrorist related or politically motivated I guess. Weekly, several of our stories are flagged with no human interaction response, even when we appeal. I could say more, but I won’t, my morning devotion more or less said to keep my mouth shut when I get irritated (so I write instead). LOL

I still hope an unbiased platform comes along eventually lifting our dependence on just a few social media giants that clearly have an agenda. There are a few smaller platforms that I have checked out in the last year or so, but they simply do not seem to be catching on, I believe in large part because people are afraid of losing their memories that Facebook shares, which I will admit is one of my favorite features.

There is something special about seeing one of your children pop up on your Facebook memories from ten years prior. Yet I’m convinced Facebook staff knows how important these memories are to users, thus users will accept biases on the platform in order to keep the special memories arriving.

I love how social media allows us to keep closer relationship with one another, but silencing news is clearly does not sit well with me.

GRADUATION TRIBUTES: We always receive some criticism of our efforts to honor local graduates which is a tough pill to swallow. As mentioned above we work hard to provide the best coverage possible. Often disappointment shared by readers is out of our control as students do not turn in requested forms, though on occasion we do have human error which did happen at least once this year as a Hilltop graduate had his parent’s names and future plans wrong (we corrected in the next edition). I thought the following comments and staff answers may answer questions other readers may have pondered themselves, though not contacting us.

COMMENT (1): In regard to last week’s Graduation Tab – Looking through the paper today, I noticed on the extra-curricular activities for certain Edon seniors, several students’ names are missing.

COMMENT (2): The Village Reporter only included certain Swanton seniors in their graduation tab.

ANSWER (1): Students not featured are those that chose not to submit forms. Unfortunately, we can only print those students who return forms as requested (some only partially fill them out). I know teachers and secretaries reached out to students on different occasions & several times to try and obtain them all, but unfortunately, we still struggled to gather them for some of the students.

ANSWER (2): Each school in the Fulton County – Williams County area is given a form for seniors to fill out (along with a request to submit their senior photo). This is done 4-6 weeks before graduation. We include those seniors that participate by turning in the requested materials. We have done this every year for two decades. Every achievement, photo, future plan, etc published is directly from students, class leadership and/or senior class advisors who participated – thus those you see in the newspaper tribute sections those who turned in the requested material; those who did not turn in materials do not appear. Unfortunately, every school tends to have a handful of seniors who never turn in these materials despite the request being made several times by newspaper staff and school faculty who oversee the senior class, including at Swanton. We cannot strong arm students into turning in voluntary information.

TITLE SURFING – I’ve included in my column before that I know it is common for readers to “title surf” news on the internet and social media. Some in this industry know how to “play” visitors perfectly with catchy titles – another column for another time. I also think most of us are guilty of this from time to time, including myself.

I have read comments on stories on our social media pages where I know the reader never actually read the article. Many of our news stories are protected behind a website paywall. Newspaper subscribers have full access to all our stories, but they have to log in to read them. Yet non subscribers sometimes state their opinion on the story shared on social media based solely off the title as the story itself was not read, it couldn’t have been without logging in first which I see on the administrative end of our website.

Sometimes I get a chuckle out of the comments as they really do not relate to the article. How can you understand fully what a story is about, when our newspaper was given an interview and no other media outlets covered the story (exclusive)? All I can conclude is they read the title and assumed the rest.

Side note – I have noticed Facebook has implemented a feature when sharing a news stories where the social media platform asks if you want to share a story you have not first opened to read? I believe this is due to the fact so many people title surf, assuming they know what is in the story itself and then want their friends to do the same thing.

MORE TITLE SURFING – In late May we had a bit of a flair up concerning a Montpelier Village Council story in which the title indicated the village was working with the township on road repair and that a local resident wanted prayer before meetings stopped. The social media posting showed in three spots that the individual in the photo on the post was with the township concerning the road issue, yet sure enough, readers read a few words, made incorrect assumptions, with a few making derogatory comments about the photo. Note – they were from the Christian perspective that prayer should be allowed while the comments rude and insulting – as a person of faith myself, I think that is a bit counterproductive personally.

The post was just about as clear as possible, stating in three locations that the picture concerned the township and village working together on road repair, yet, well no need to go further. Below is a note I placed on our website and social media page on the matter.

Publisher’s Note – A concern has been stated that a few people have confused the photo that appears in this post. A few derogatory comments were made on the post, referencing the photo, in which they have since been deleted by those writing them during the overnight hours after I pointed out they were being disrespectful towards an incorrect individual and that attacks on individuals would not be allowed on our posts. The social media post, the website article (which I made free), and clarification comments made yesterday under the post clarified that the two major points of the meeting surrounded (1) Superior Township working with the Village of Montpelier on a road repair and (2) a local resident expressed concerned that meetings should not be opened in prayer. Despite stating in three locations between social media and our website that the picture referenced Superior Township addressing the road repair situation, some assumed/associated the picture of the township trustee with the anti-prayer concern.

The full caption on the story (beyond the shortened Facebook caption appearing above), which can be read for free via one click, stated: COOPERATION … With open communication and good attitudes, Montpelier Village Council agreed to fulfill a request made by Superior Township representative Dave Apple, to pay for half of the bill to bog seal Creek Blvd.

On our end after reviewing the concern, there is little we can do to publish differently beyond the title could have been reversed to mention the prayer concern second and the road repair first (possibly causing less confusion) in the title. It was also pointed out that mobile phone apps cut off some of the social media title which may have also led to confusion on the matter (desktop web browsers showed the full story title). The Village Reporter generally only publishes one photo with council meeting stories. Example: If ten people address the council, only one will be used. Since this road repair was positive cooperation between Superior Township and the Village of Montpelier, that photo was used.

We encourage people of all perspectives to comment freely on our social media posts, no matter their opinion on subject matter. However, we will not accept personal attacks on local residents who are working to better our communities or anybody. I would encourage those that only read 50% of a social media title, to spend a few more seconds reading the entire social media post to avoid incorrect future assumptions.

OPINION – Yes, I know this is a sensitive subject and I’m sure a small percentage of readers will bash me. Hollywood actors who rally against gun violence would have a less hypocritical stance if they did not make millions off acting roles that display “gun violence”. One of the many reasons I watch little that comes out of Hollywood anymore. Even if I agree with some of their stances personally, I cannot listen to them knowing they became rich, in part, off the very thing they are now fighting against in the public’s eye. Reference Matthew McConaughey, one of my favorite actors, in the White House last week.

Bare minimum gun violence in movies does not help. I can remember a movie in the 90s that came out where actors car surfed at a high rate of speed, sure enough, the evening news a month or so later reported several deaths as teens were trying to suddenly car surf themselves. 99.99% that watch gun violence in a movie will never act out in a similar fashion, but when you have tens of millions (or more) of people watching a movie, take out a calculator and see how many of the 1/10th, 1/100th, 1/1000th of 1% that consider and/or do it adds up to be. Add in the mental health issues of a large portion of our population that are not receiving help, it’s a bad recipe.

I’ll listen to Hollywood’s activist stances personally when they stop cashing in off these very stances. I’m right in the middle ground personally on the gun control debate and everyone should be talking about it, but don’t preach to society Hollywood elite while cashing in yourself on death and violence. Do not sponsor recovering alcoholics in the afternoon AA meetings then turn around and have your own line of liquor you promote the rest of the time. Lead by example and weed out violence in movies Hollywood (I do not believe it will ever happen) and you will have my attention.

OPINION – I read a good AP article titled: Inflation divide: The wealthy splurge, the poorest pull back.

I’ve heard some experts say that inflation can be a good thing. Example home values are increasing. I’m guessing those feeling positive in today’s economy have their investments in real estate (some feel a real estate crash is coming) or in oil, which to their credit may have been a smart investment.

Most of us are experiencing this economy differently. While its true home values are going up, I know of several people on the edge of losing their homes as they can no longer make their mortgage payments due to an extra $400-$600+ in their monthly expenses solely due to inflation costs. With grocery prices at least 1/3 higher than last year (some say double) and gas more than double I believe this AP article is spot on.

If you are in the top 1% this is a time many can increase their value/investments, those struggling and putting nothing away in savings continue to get hurt by prices that have increased spending 20, 30, 40, 50% of paychecks (at least what I am seeing/hearing locally). Good to know home values are going up while many are looking at living in a van down by the river while eating ramen noodles that are now over $1.00.

My son and I went to the grocery store just last week and I estimate our bill was $125 higher than this same time last year and we bought mainly sale items. I won’t mention what our traveling cost increases at the newspaper are to send writers and photographers across the large Williams County – Fulton County areas (Indiana line west to Toledo border east). A simple ribbon cutting photo may involved 40 miles of driving, do the math x hundreds of stories per week with gas prices double what they were a year ago.

PLEASE USE CAUTION – A story for those driving in the Pioneer / Holiday City area (social media post I made a week ago). Though this is based on a local intersection I drive past commonly, really this social media post I am also sharing here applies to any of our local roads as summertime sees a high increase in fatal accidents.

We all know there are a lot of fatal accidents on St. Rt. 15 at the intersections of US 20, 20A and County Road Q in Williams County. Today, with my 15 year old son as my passenger, I was heading south with a 14 foot box trailer at full speed. In all I can say was a God moment, a voice in my head said that semi is going to pull out in front of me. From 75 yards the truck pulled across the intersection. I hit my brakes as hard as possible, sliding my SUV into the oncoming lane with my box trailer sliding behind me in the lane I was driving in. I stopped 12-18 inches from his front tire on his trailer. If I would have hit anything but those tires we would have been under the trailer.

The rest of the story did not involve me displaying a lot of godly reaction as I tracked him down on the county road and then to the factory he was dropping his load. (I will leave the rest of this interaction to the police report and my family, it took an hour for me to cool off).

Tonight I talked to the driver to reinforce that he will kill the next person he does this to, he admitted he never saw me including when I was sideways in the road using both intersections and he slowly drive past me. He apologized endlessly. I think what ticked me off the most was my 15 year old sitting in the front seat, possibly being hurt.

The point of sharing this post is we have a bad accident on this stretch of highway every year. Please use extra caution in the area and realize because of local industry, many on the road are not from the area, as this truck driver admitted.

Note – unfortunately within 24 hours of this post there was a fatal accident nearby. Please use extra caution this summer, give an additional look before proceeding into an intersection.

Do you agree or disagree with, as my wife says, long winded comments? Have thoughts? Send a note if you like anytime,

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