Opening The Observer

Workshops for becoming a true Observer

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:

  1. People don’t want to take the time.
  2. 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.

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Volume 3, Issue 9, Posted 10:55 AM, 08.23.2010

Opening up the Observer: It's a soapbox, not the soap

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.

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Volume 3, Issue 8, Posted 4:12 PM, 07.28.2010

Opening up the Observer: local businesses team up


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.

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Volume 3, Issue 7, Posted 4:10 PM, 06.30.2010

Opening up the Observer

I find myself on a lot of unofficial e-mail lists. Like the one that circulates around my neighborhood sharing information about break-ins and other crimes that arrive in occasional dispiriting spurts. Or the list of concerned parents weighing in on proposed changes in the way the middle schools are scheduled. Or the list of ideas for preserving 140 acres of green space that started soon after Oakwood Country Club went under.

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?
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Volume 3, Issue 6, Posted 11:35 PM, 05.24.2010

Opening up the Observer

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.

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 1:18 PM, 04.25.2010

An anniversary gift of research

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.

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Volume 3, Issue 4, Posted 4:04 PM, 03.23.2010

In support of local businesses

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.

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Volume 3, Issue 3, Posted 11:53 AM, 02.21.2010

How to get your agenda covered

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.

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Volume 3, Issue 1, Posted 12:11 PM, 02.21.2010