The Heights Observer is now on Twitter.com. We started Tweeting in early February, and send out messages when new stories go online, or if we stumble across anything of local interest to Cleveland Heights and University Heights.
Opening The Observer
Is there a blogger in you waiting to get out? Can you write with insight and passion about Cleveland Heights and/or University Heights?
The new Heights Observer/Blogs is looking for people to offer regular commentary, analysis and musings on the people, places and events that define the Heights.
At a party not long ago, I met a woman who, after hearing my name, said, "I want to get involved with the Observer."
"That would be great," I replied.
"There are all sorts of things that go on here that people ought to know," she said, waving her arms, "and I’m not afraid to say any of it."
The Heights Observer is happy to accept and publish letters to the editor.
We don’t get very many of them. Maybe that’s because letters to the editor usually represent the only way an ordinary resident can contribute to a newspaper. But the Observer’s articles and columns are also written by residents, and with so many ways to contribute, letters may somehow seem unnecessary.
But they have an important role. Letters represent the community dialogue that the Observer and its parent organization, FutureHeights, seek to encourage.
News articles and opinion pieces don’t really count as a conversation until someone else responds. That’s the purpose of letters.
We’re pleased to announce that the Observer has launched the only online business directory dedicated to Cleveland Heights and University Heights.
Offering listings from accountants to variety stores and everything in between, the directory is one more way the Observer facilitates the connection between residents and the businesses that serve them.
The directory is available through a link in the left-hand menu at www.heightsobserver.org, the Heights Observer website.
It has been launched in support of the new Heights Independent Business Alliance (HIBA), of which I’ve written before. HIBA was founded with urging from the Observer’s nonprofit owner, FutureHeights, to help keep local, independently owned businesses foremost in the minds of residents.
There are two noteworthy events related to the Observer this month.
First is the FutureHeights Auction. It’s one of the primary fundraisers for the organization that produces the Observer each month. FutureHeights is all about civic engagement, and the Observer is its largest project–giving voice to anyone who wants to lead or participate in dialogue about the community.
The auction is conducted online, so you don’t need to dress up or put on a party smile. The bidding runs from Oct. 15 to Nov. 21, at www.BiddingForGood.com/FutureHeights. If you appreciate the Observer, then please support FutureHeights and the auction. There’s some neat stuff to bid on, as well.
The Heights Observer, published by FutureHeights, is about engagement: helping to keep residents of University Heights and Cleveland Heights informed, and providing a platform to actively share information about community issues and organizations.
It’s a chicken-and-egg proposition: The greater the engagement, the more contributions the Observer receives—and the better informed people will be.
I observe two common barriers to this process:
- People don’t want to take the time.
- People don’t know how, or don’t feel qualified, to contribute.
There’s not much the Observer can do about the first barrier, except perhaps to convince people that sharing their knowledge doesn’t take a lot of time. We’re addressing that, and tackling the second barrier in depth with a series of Tuesday-evening workshops to help residents figure out what, and how, to contribute information to the Observer.
Retailers spend the year preparing for the holiday shopping season. For accountants, the big month is April. For newspapers, it’s whenever there is a major election–which is how I’d classify the selection of Cuyahoga County’s first county executive and its new 11-member council.
The election is in two parts: a partisan primary on Sept. 7, and the general election Nov. 2. Voters will cast two ballots – one for the county executive, and another for a single district representative. Cleveland Heights is in District 10; University Heights is in District 11.
As an entity that relies almost solely on submissions from community members, we’re not covering the election like a traditional newspaper, which would present a “comprehensive package” of interviews and insights on every candidate.
When in the course of human events, it becomes appropriate for communities to assert their independence, to denounce uniformity and celebrate their uniqueness, a respect for freedom and human creativity requires independent businesses and peoples to declare those elements which make them interesting.
Some of these lists are small—15 or 20 people. Others consist of a close circle of people who are likely to share similar viewpoints, because what’s more gratifying than a one-sided debate?
The good news is the bad news: The Observer now receives many more contributions each month than the print edition can hold.
Until now, that situation has been handled by trying to prioritize the importance of each submission, which inevitably leads to the conclusion that they’re all important. And editors are instructed to cut large portions from dozens of stories to fit the available space.
Such cutting has been a necessary evil as contributions have continued to multiply, but it isn’t an acceptable long-term approach. It’s tough on the writers, who feel their hard work is being disrespected; it’s tough on the editors, because cutting stories by half or two-thirds is difficult and unpleasant. It’s also tough on the readers and the story subjects, because the nuance of the information can get lost.
This issue marks the second anniversary of the Heights Observer.
A few months ago, working with two marketing classes at John Carroll University, the Observer conducted a readership survey. Here are some highlights of what we learned from the 172 respondents.
One reason FutureHeights launched the Heights Observer was to encourage community dialogue and engagement among Heights residents—engagement with the local government, community and businesses. Another reason was to serve those businesses.
The local commercial base is a big part of what gives the Heights its unique character. By helping those businesses thrive, the thinking goes, FutureHeights helps maintain the community’s charm.
Perhaps the most frequent compliment I hear about the Heights Observer is that so much of its content is worth reading and important to the community.
For those who have been most involved in producing the Heights Observer, one frustration arises every month: Readers have a lot of great suggestions for topics we should cover, and we want to pursue them.