Stringers, Surfers meet on new Rye enterprise
... New Hampshire group draws on Mirror experience
from the SilverStringers
FLOOR-UP JOURNALISTS: One group ten years old, the other on the doorstep. The Rye, New Hampshire group (seen mixed with a contingent of Melrose SilverStringers) plan to go into the publishing business, mimicking somewhat the Stringers' Melrose Mirror. From the left are Tricia Quinn, Laurence Gillis (beret), Joan Dawley (behind him), Margaret Carroll, Martin Zivic, John Averell, Juliette Zivic, Jack Driscoll, Russ Priestley (foreground), Mary and Fred Walter, Natalie Thomson, Marion Dunn, Jim Driscoll, Ella Letterie, Bob Dunn and Kay McCarte. SilverStringer delegation included Averell, Priestley, Thomson, Jim Driscoll, Letterie, McCarte and Don Norris, who took this photograph.
Nobody has an exact count of how many copies of the SilverStringer's Pluto software are now in use around the world, but an educated guess is close to 6000 -- the first of which was our Melrose Mirror.
And the word continues to spread, both here at home and in countries around the globe.
Latest to taste the wine is a group from Rye, a town some 50 miles north of Melrose, on the rocky shores of New Hampshire.
When the SilverStringers of Melrose visited with the Rye group recently, they found a mirror image of what our group was almost a decade ago. Anxious to get involved, wary of the technology, eager to learn and willing to take a chance.
It appears, even at this early stage, that a new community electronic "newspaper" will come to life in the very near future. It will tentatively be called "Rye Reflections".
That's John Averell and Jack Driscoll, movers within the Melrose group. At the right are Mary and Fred Walter of Rye.
Seven Stringers from Melrose met with some 15 members of the Rye group in late April, at the Rye Public Library, to deliver what amounted to an impromptu pep talk. Chairman for the day was former Boston Globe Editor Jack Driscoll, who asked the Stringers to describe their journey in what he terms "the people's journalism".
Their enthusiasm flowed. One after one, they told of the often rough-road in the development of the Mirror. They noted that the Rye group will have an advantage in that at least half of them are familiar with computers
When the Stringers began in 1996, two of the original 25 novices could operate a computer. One had been in public relations and another was a retired journalist. Otherwise, few had prior experience writing for publication.
Melrose writers and editors include Ella Letterie, Kay McCarte, Natalie Thomson and Jim Driscoll, brother of Jack. At the right are Editors Russ Priestley and Ella.
At that time, Jack Driscoll served as the team advisor while MIT graduate student Marko Turpeinen, from Helsinki, was student advisor. It was Marko who taught the Stringers both how to operate a computer, and how to run the then-new software.
"The Rye group hopes to publish its first edition in June," Jack told us. "They started just before Easter, took on the name of SilverSurfers, and began writing some stories.
"They are using Melrose as a model," he continued, "but I note that many are experiencing anxiety about entering the world of online publishing. The two hours spent with the Stringers provided a tremendous boost."
Jack has been the Editor in Residence at MIT's Media Lab for the past ten years. A native of Melrose, he is now a resident of Rye.
Taking notes are Laurence Gillis and Tricia Quinn, a staffer for the Rye Public Library, where the group meets. At the right is Earl Rinker. All are with the Rye group.
Asked to describe what it was like starting out with the Mirror, each of the seven Stringers told of their experiences, and then fielded dozens of questions from their Rye hosts:
"What are the obligations of the editors, and how deeply are they involved in re-working a member's material", one asked. The answer came from three of the Stringer editors, and took five minutes to deliver.
"How do you function, organizationally?" another asked. "We are an extremely democratic group, and even go so far to change chairmen every two weeks," came the response. "That way, everybody gets a chance to participate -- and it works."
"How many take an active part," one Surfer asked. "There are always about 25 active members, and some 15-to-18 usually attend the weekly meetings."
"You meet weekly?" one amazed woman asked. "Every Wednesday, unless there is a holiday," a Stringer said. "If the building is open, we're there at 1:30 every Wednesday."
That's Juliette and Martin Zivic at the left. On the right is Bob Dunn, who operated the Boston Hill ski area on Route 114 in North Andover, Massachusetts.
At one point a Rye member mentioned that she had "read every word" of a Mirror story about a retired nun. The interview had been conducted by a team of two members, using a tape recorder. It was a long story, and the Stringers were surprised that someone could recall the two-year-old piece.
One Rye member confessed that he was not a writer, but an artist, then asked if there would be a place for his skills. Certainly, the Stringers replied, for they have at least two artists among them. One now does much of the layout, but both serve to illustrate various articles.
"There's a lot of give and take," commented Stringer Jim Driscoll. "We have scraps, but we are a seriously democratic organization."
There was good advice from senior editor Kay McCarte:
"We don't take it too seriously," she said. "We have fun with it. And that's the way it's been for ten years now."
May 6, 2005