By John S. Frum, Publisher | March 23, 2019
We at the Milton Observer are coming up on our first anniversary, which naturally occasions some questions.
As its publisher, I first had to ask myself, “Is the game worth the candle?” I think so.
Why the Observer?
Mr. Brown once made a strong case for the Milton Observer in a Public Comment before an October Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting. He spoke to a desperate need for local papers as a watchdog on the doings (and takings) of local government. I very much doubt that he meant the Milton Observer specifically. He cited Foster’s Daily Democrat as his exemplar but, in fact, they barely notice Milton’s existence even a few times a year.
I resolved early on that we would take little notice, as do some publications, of the foibles, failings, and arrests of private persons: they are innocent until proven guilty and are often not in a position to speak for themselves as they might wish. And there are so very many bad laws. (We are said to be all unknowingly committing “three felonies a day”).
Social media and other venues deal thoroughly with Milton businesses and social events. I am as interested in those as anyone else, but felt that they get the coverage they need.
The Milton Observer has established its own eclectic niche. And I do not think we are fully formed even now, a year later.
We have enjoyed some measure of success in our niche. I do glance at the statistics occasionally. The Milton Observer‘s content has had many thousands of views. We have even had some few foreign visitors. (Sorry, no Russian “Bots”).
I asked our writers whether we should persist. (After all, they do most of the work). Ms. Bristol, Ms. Starr, Mr. Forrester, and Mr. Plissken, (their pseudonyms or pen names), have all expressed a desire to continue for the time being.
Ms. Bristol feels that her foray into Milton history has been fruitful. She has managed to correct several errors in familiar standard histories and has even managed to supply some original material never before covered.
It has been largely a documentary history so far, although she did break new ground with her early census analysis (1790 and 1800). My personal favorite was the Milton Schoolteacher of 1796-05, but her pieces on Milton’s Railroad, Ice Industry, and Rusticators have proved quite popular. (She should finish Enoch Wingate’s tale).
She feels too that she may try to connect up all her Milton historical documents as a new history. I would like to see that. And maybe I can, but only in the Milton Observer.
Mr. Forrester has still a universe to explore. He has hardly begun to cover the cycle of constellations and other phenomena visible from Milton. I have long been able to recognize the Big and Small Dippers, and thereby the North Star, as well as Orion, but he has enabled me to leverage that knowledge to find Sirius and other celestial objects too.
Now, the sky from Milton is much the same as the sky from Farmington, or Dover, even the whole northern hemisphere. It might surprise you to learn that Mr. Forrester has several fans in other parts of the world as well as Milton.
Mr. Plissken is, well, Mr. Plissken. His articles do occasionally get shared elsewhere, which he does appreciate. Sometimes a disclaimer is attached, which always makes us smile.
Some might regard Mr. Plissken as being a bit of an iconoclast. Perhaps. He does try to address the arguments, rather than the man (or woman). You will have noticed that he frequently reproduces the things that are said exactly (and even links to the video). No one but the public officials themselves put those words, arguments, or justifications into their mouths.
He has of necessity focused in this last year on what has seemed to be the font of Milton’s political and economic errors: its Board of Selectmen. It is certain that we have been poorly governed for quite some time. But hope springs eternal: it might be that our wise overlords will introduce reforms any time now, or as they used to tell me, “straighten up and fly right.”
I do wish I could duplicate Mr. Plissken’s coverage across all the offices, boards and committees, even those as far away as Concord, or even Washington, but he can only be stretched so far and we are, after all, the Milton Observer.
Ms. Starr has not been able to contribute as much as she had hoped. That is fine. Her occasional observations have been interesting. We might hope to hear more from her in the future.
I do wish to enlarge our pool of writers. I am trying to persuade a particular movie buff that they need to write for us. I envisioned a broad survey of the “great” movies available on DVD or through streaming services, rather than the latest film releases at the box office. Something we might have overlooked or never even known about. But this writer I have in mind might have their own ideas.
Ms. Bristol has occasionally shared historical recipes that she came across during her researches. (See the Milton Mills Oyster Fritters Recipe of 1895, and Milton Cookies of 1895-96). Maybe someone could give us more.
I have considered changing up the paper’s physical format too. I am still thinking on that.
Maybe You Have Something to Say?
I created a space for guest writers and have occasionally offered to publish (and have even published) pieces by others. It might be that you have something interesting that needs to be said. Or something of general interest. Or a rebuttal. I do favor Milton writers, but Strafford County, New England, and the world are out there too. The content should be such as would interest Milton readers, but that takes in a lot of territory. I recommend the use of a pen name.
I do not interfere much with what writers might say, but we do have an editorial point of view. You may say whatever you like – even that the Observer is a hopeless scandal sheet full of unsubstantiated rumors – but you should expect that there may be some pushback or rebuttal from other writers. That is how free speech works.
I ask primarily that a writer not get us sued, if such a thing is even possible within the parameters I have set. It is necessary also to support or enlarge upon any facts cited in concluding References.
We try to avoid criticizing or even mentioning “civilians” by name, but the public pronouncements of our wise overlords are fair game. (They are asserting a right to rule over us, and to realize their fevered dreams at the public expense).
That gentile avoidance sort of includes you too. Your work might not be quite as relevant, or interesting, if you get too personal. (We might be embarrassed). Try to speak to wider interests, topics, and concerns. You might ask, as they do with children, “Did I bring enough for everyone?”
(In terms of textual presentation, I prefer full justification; I do not care for left justification).
So, the Milton Observer and its writers have contracted for at least another year. And it might be that some of you might have something suitable for us. (You may reach me by e-mail, which I check at least occasionally).
Do not expect to get paid. Well, maybe some experience and satisfaction will be forthcoming.
Laissez Faire Books. (2012, March 25). Three Felonies a Day, a Review by Wendy McIlroy. Retrieved from lfb.org/three-felonies-a-day-reviewed-by-wendy-mcelroy/