It was a little less than a year ago that I spent a couple of days on my back porch setting up the web site that would become Talk of the Sound. At the time I made a conscious effort not to advertise or market the site. The plan was to simply write blog posts and encourage others to do the same in the hope that over time the site would grow organically.
Having surpassed 100,000 readers in our first year, I would say that we’ve exceeded expectations. Or as the BoE might put it, we’ve made “Adequate Yearly Progress”, every contributor is “highly qualified”, every blog post has been “exceptional” and the entire site a testimony to our “celebration of diversity”.
To gain some awareness for the site, I employed the old P.T. Barnum adage, “if you want to draw a crowd, pick a fight”. The worked pretty well with the school district and city officials providing useful foils.
I want to express a special word of thanks to Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak and the members of the Board of Education. Their bumbling, inept and, at times, criminal handling of the school district has provided endless fodder for this site — please keep it coming. Of course, the District might not share my enthusiasm. At various points the District has vacillated from having their lawyers call and threaten my web hosting company in order to shut me down to hoping Talk of the Sound would go away to petulantly ignoring me to engaging in unlawful efforts to prevent me from obtaining public records or expressing my point of view at public meetings.
Our contributors broke some significant stories which gained national and even international attention such as the “Girl, Interrupted” book censorship story, the dodgeball incident at Webster School, the state takeover of the Thomas Paine museum, and the school guard “sexting” story, as well as, important stories such as the “sudden retirement” of Bernice Shapiro, the special treatment of the “McKnight children”, the tragic death of a Salesian high school student, no-show jobs at the BoE, obsolete jobs at the BoE, misappropriation of school vans and equipment by BoE employees, sexual harassment at City Hall, the appointment of the new principal at Trinity School, the part-time mayor issue, the MacMenamin’s Grill fiasco, the arrests of New Rochelle High School students at the New Rochelle Public Library, the arrest of a student at Isaac Young for selling drugs, the marijuana “bust” at Albert Leonard, the arrest of four students for assaulting and robbing another student at NRHS, the New York State Comptroller questioning “emergency” purchases by BoE, and many other widely read stories, the principal at Isaac Young violating the NYS Clean Indoor Air Act by smoking cigars on school grounds, NRHS Health Department giving out t-shirts with ads for a cigar lounge and a discount cigarette store as part of Fitness Week, the phony Fire Inspection Safety Report filed by the BoE with NRFD, and much, much more.
Talk of the Sound has been foremost in pressing the issue of non-resident students attending school in New Rochelle leading to a showdown at a recent school board meeting and the phony budget claims of the school district in the run-up to last May’s school board elections, and the obscene payments to school union boss Marty Daly – a full salary, benefits and pension for teach one class a year, and the phony Stimulus Wish List announced by Mayor Bramson.
Perhaps my favorite story came after we ran our investigative report into the misappropriation of school district vehicles:
Along the way, the goal has been to show the people of New Rochelle how a hyper-local community site like this works so they might register and begin to report their own stories. No one individual can possibly report everything happening in New Rochelle — the good, the bad, and the ugly — but together we can report just about everything worth reporting. We have made excellent progress in that regard: over 400 registered users, who have helped publish over 1,000 articles generating over 8,000 comments. That’s a pretty good start but as we approach our second year we would like to take things to the next level.
New for Year Two:
- We will soon be adding a community calendar.
- We will expand our efforts at training people in the community how to blog through courses offered at the New Rochelle Public Library (we ran two courses this spring).
- We are adding a tumblr submission site for people with smart phones like the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm Pre and so forth.
- In order to cover the expense of hosting and managing the site, we will start to advertisements and offer sponsorships.
Over all, it has been an incredibly successful first year but the future of Talk of the Sound is really up to you — the readers — to take advantage of the audience catalyzed by the site. We need to see more people registering, to write most stories about upcoming events and to provide photos and articles about events that have taken place. If there is something else you would like to see please let us know. If you find there is something we are not covering that should be covered please go ahead and register for an account (it’s free). In a hyper-local community site YOU are the reporter!!!