"Prosperity always inflates the imprudent, and worldly peace weakens the vigor of the soul." - Peter Abelard

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Public Meda Blog: Post # 5

Yesterday, the Supreme Court declined to review a Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision which had upheld an injunction against the streaming TV service ivi.

In plain English, this means the service will essentially be shut down. The Seattle-based service - which sold worldwide access to 28 broadcast signals without asking for permission or even informing the stations - launched in late 2010, and almost immediately drew the ire of public broadcasters like WNET in New York City and KCTS in Seattle.

WNET and WGBH in Boston were among 11 stations that sent cease and desist letters to ivi soon after its inception, and the service was in legal hot water from the very start.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, the original injunction (which has been upheld) was based "...on the grounds that programmers were likely to win their challenge on the argument that ivi was not a cable system entitled to a compulsory license, and that those programmers, which included major studios, networks and broadcast groups, would suffer irreparable harm."

This fits into the larger trend of broadcasters battling against what they see as unauthorized or illegal re-use of their signals online, with the continuing legal battle over Aereo - a similar streaming service - as another example.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Public Media Blog, Week 4: Zombies Plague PubTV Stations

An unexpected foe arose, well, from the dead this week for several public television stations across the country. For WNMU-TV in Marquette, Mich., KNME-TV in Albuquerque, N.M., and KRTV in Great Falls, Mont., it was an especially spooky Feb. 11.

In what MNMU-TV later determined was a hack coming from an undisclosed "overseas" source, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) of the various stations were compromised Monday afternoon, and viewers were loudly warned - via a robotic voice and an on-screen ticker - that the dead had risen and had started attacking the living.

According to TV News Check
, the EAS was compromised only because the default password on the stations' EAS had not been changed since installation.

“Quite simply, someone made an unauthorized access to the stations’ firewall and somebody logged into the system using a default username and password,” said Ed Czarnecki, senior director of strategy and regulatory affairs for Monroe Electronics, the main manufacturer of EAS systems across the country. “This is a simple matter of operational security best practices. You have to change your default password on any new device," said Czarnecki.

As the NY Daily News reports, KRTV had to personally reassure viewers that "there is no emergency" after the phony alert warned of an impending zombie apocalypse.

The situation may be humorous on a surface level, but after the uproar and turmoil caused by this security breach, one would hope public television stations across the country are making sure that their EAS systems are fully protected and functioning properly. One of public television's most important functions is to broadcast emergency signals and messages to areas under-served by regular cable and satellite TV. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Public Media Blog, Week 3: PBS Drone Story

Instead of a usual blog post, this week I bring you my completed story for COMM-425 about PBS and their recent kerfuffle with a Nova program about drone warfare:

Not usually the domain of scandal or controversy, PBS has been exactly that since the Jan. 23 broadcast of an episode of Nova examining the rise of drone warfare.
“We always have an eye on PBS,” said Peter Hart, the activism director at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog group. “That night, I noticed people commenting about the episode on Twitter, and I thought it was curious,” Hart said.
What Hart and other viewers noticed that evening was a simple error on the part of Nova: they had failed to adequately disclose that Lockheed Martin was an underwriter for the episode. Even worse, Lockheed Martin is a major drone manufacturer. The resulting fallout has caused hundreds of displeased viewers to write to PBS, and has, in the opinion of several alternative media experts, shaken the foundation of public service, independent media that PBS is supposed to stand for.
 “This particular program would have been much better off without Lockheed Martin’s support,” said PBS ombudsman Michael Getler. “It was a good and useful program, but the sponsorship should have been more clearly identified,” said Getler.
The program, called “The Rise of The Drones,” was an in-depth look at the emerging military technology. It featured an interview with Abe Karem, often dubbed the “father” of the predator drone. According to Hart, PBS completely failed to mention that Karem’s current company has a business relationship with Lockheed Martin.
Though the TV broadcast included a brief underwriting message about Lockheed Martin at the start, that credit was removed from the webcast, and the company was not credited on Nova’s website for the program. After the ensuing kerfuffle, Nova retroactively added the credit to the webcast and their website.
According to Kevin Gosztola, a journalist at the progressive news site FireDogLake who was the first to write about the Nova controversy, PBS has a publically stated three-pronged test for assessing bias. The test determines, first, whether the underwriter has exercised editorial control, second, whether the public might perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control, and, lastly, whether the public might perceive that the program is on PBS mainly because it promotes the underwriter’s products.
 “Judging by the high-minded and unusually strongly-worded ethical standards PBS has set for themselves, this is an absolutely clear-cut violation,” said Hart. “ The question is really whether PBS believes its own rules – and I don’t think they do,” said Hart.
Gosztola concurred, and said that the increasing scarcity of revenue for PBS has hamstrung the public broadcaster. “I am a supporter and lover of public media, but parts of what PBS is producing these days can look like propaganda for their sponsors, and that is what parts of the drone program reminded me of,” said Gosztola.
According to Getler, the PBS ombudsman’s office has received just under 1,000 viewer complaints about the drone program to date. Getler said the number of complaints ticked sharply upwards after Gosztola and Hart posted critical reports on their respective websites within days of each other.
Producers at PBS and Nova reacted defensively to criticism, writing in Getler’s ombudsman column that “Lockheed Martin’s sponsorship of Nova is not a violation of PBS underwriting guidelines,” emphasizing that the corporation had no editorial input on the program, and stating that PBS takes “our public trust responsibility very seriously.”
“Unfortunately,” said Hart, responding to PBS’ statement, “the appearance of a conflict of interest, according to PBS guidelines, is, in of itself, a conflict of interest. Just saying ‘we’re Nova and no one controls us editorially’ is not enough: you have to either not broadcast the program or change the rulebook, but you can’t just do neither,” he said.
 PBS, beset by the dual plagues of declining viewer support and declining government allocation of funds, has increasingly turned to corporate sponsors and underwriters in recent years for a reliable stream of income. While many argue this has been a necessary shift to keep PBS afloat, Gosztola and Hart said this is an action which has also alienated PBS from its core value of public service broadcasting that is commercial-free and independent.
 “PBS is strained for cash, and Lockheed Martin has a lot of money,” said Gosztola. “Nova has to defend their donor, and that’s why I think they were so defensive in their reply to criticism,” he said.
“It’s inevitable; this kind of ethical crisis is going to happen again. I think PBS likes the philosophical idea of what their underwriting rules stand for,” said Hart. “They would rather stick with those rules and deal with the occasional underwriter hypocrisy than work to find new revenue resources,” he said.

Source List

1. Kevin Gosztola (Journalist for FireDogLake.com’s “The Dissenter”)
·         574-261-4465

2. Michael Getler (PBS Ombudsman)
·         703-739-5768
·      ombudsman@pbs.org

3. Peter Hart (Activism Director at FAIR)
·         212-633-6700

Supplementary Links

·      Nova page for the drone program: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/rise-of-the-drones.html

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Public Media Blog: Week 2

On Sunday, Feb. 3, PBS - and its star program, Downton Abbey, went up against the TV ratings behemoth that is the Super Bowl. Surprisingly, the historical British soap scored a 4.4 Nielsen household rating, averaging around 6.6 million viewers.

Those audience numbers - up 69 percent from the same Sunday last year - were actually good enough to put the program in second place for all of television that night. Meanwhile, the Super Bowl averaged around 108.4 million viewers, down slightly from the record audience drawn in by last year's game.

In addition, PBS struck social media gold during the 34-minute Super Bowl blackout, garnering over 3,500 re-tweets from this post:


According to Paid Content, a site that covers online business models, "PBS was one a handful of brands, including Oreo and Audi, to “newsjack” the so-called #BlackoutBowl. These nimble moves on social media typically garner a flurry of free publicity but it’s unclear how much they change people’s intention to purchase or watch something."

Judging by the better-than-expected ratings, this tweet may very well have had some impact on the programming decisions of some impatient football fans.

PBS is not a media outlet known for its hipness, ability to cause a social media craze, or ability to draw big ratings, so Super Bowl night was a bright light for the public television leader on several different fronts.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Public Media Beat Blog: Week 1

For my blog this week, I want to discuss the fire that PBS, and specifically the Nova television program, has come under for its Jan. 23 broadcast - "Rise of The Drones."

Nova describes the program as an investigation into drones: "...cutting edge technologies that are propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history."

On Jan. 28, five days after the program had aired, the progressive press watchdog group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) came out with a report criticizing the Nova drone program, most importantly noting that the Nova episode was underwritten by Lockheed Martin, a major drone manufacturer.

According to the FAIR report, "The program’s sponsorship tie to the drone industry were never mentioned — though there were opportunities to disclose that relationship."

According to FireDogLake, a collaborative progressive news site, PBS' test for underwriting bias is supposed to cover three areas:

  • Editorial Control Test: Has the underwriter exercised editorial control? Could it?
  • Perception Test: Might the public perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control?
  • Commercialism Test: Might the public conclude the program is on PBS principally because it promotes the underwriter’s products, services or other business interests?
The answer to the first test is unclear, but PBS appears to be failing on the other two test measures. According to a post at Current, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler had already received over 550 comments about the program as of Tuesday morning, and response from PBS is in the works.

Even more so in public and alternative media, readers expect fair, balanced, and impartial information. The thought of public media news being unduly affected by politics or business connections is particularly slimy for the American consumer.

Clearly, though, as revenue sources dry up all around the media landscape, content-producers are increasingly hesitant to turn down scarce sources of revenue. Take, for example, The Atlantic's recent fiasco that came from running a controversial "advertorial" for the Church of Scientology on a prominent spot on their (usually) venerable website.

Media organizations are almost always caught and somewhat shamed by these run-ins with bias and unscrupulous monetary involvement, but, yet, the problems seem to persist. Following why, how, and how often these mini-scandals pop-up will certainly be a worthy topic when considering the problems facing public and alternative media. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

D.A. Drops Charges In Wellesley Prostitution Sting

This is part one of a two-part investigative story published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman. The stories investigate a undercover prostitution bust made by Wellesley police and NORPAC detectives on Aug. 11, and the subsequent fallout from that bust. The story has since been picked up by WCVB (Boston Channel 5), and can be read here.

A still-existing sign inside 120 Cedar Street advertising the Aroma Spa, an alleged house of prostitution. Photo by Rhys Heyden.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - A masseuse was arrested after she allegedly massaged an undercover officer’s genitals during a prostitution sting last week, according to police reports. But late Wednesday afternoon, the Norfolk County District Attorney’s office said the charges had been dropped and the case is no longer pending. They did not elaborate.

On Thursday, Aug. 11, officers arrested Aiying Qiao, 52, whose only known address is 120 Cedar St., after she allegedly accepted $40 from an undercover police officer to perform sexual services in a “massage” parlor in the building. The building is located just off Route 9, near the newly renovated Cedar Street bridge.

Qiao was arrested on three counts: engaging in sexual conduct for a fee, keeping a house of prostitution, and having an unlicensed massage/bath house. She pleaded not guilty to all three charges, and was bailed on personal recognizance the next day at Dedham District Court, according to court reports.

The sting marks the fourth time since 2008 that Wellesley police have busted what they allege is a prostitution operation. In 2008, Wellesley police shut down unlicensed massage businesses on Linden Street and Cedar Street in January and June, respectively. An alleged brothel was also shut down on Grove Street in March of 2010.

The Sting

According to Wellesley Police reports, Qiao’s arrest was the culmination of a month-long investigation by NORPAC task force officials, who, in July, first noticed a suspicious neon sign advertising “Aroma Spa Massage” in the window of the building.

NORPAC is the Norfolk County Police Anti-Crime Task Force, a multi-agency unit comprised of police detectives from 15 police departments in Norfolk County, according to its website.

According to an Aug. 8 online posting on craigslist, Aroma Spa at 120 Cedar St. was advertised as a place to “relieve your stress and tension” that had “service in clean, quiet and private rooms.”

A separate post on “Rub Maps,” a website that compiles reviews of “erotic Asian massage parlors,” also listed Aroma Spa at 120 Cedar St. in Wellesley. The site added that the business takes cash only, and listed hours as 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

According to police reports, investigating Wellesley Detective Robert J. Gallagher later determined that no massage license existed for the Aroma Spa. On Aug. 11, Gallagher and Detective Domenic Tiberi, a detective working with NORPAC Task Force, devised an undercover operation. That evening, Tiberi made an appointment with Qiao over the phone via the number posted on Craigslist for 5:45 that night.

According to the report, that Thursday night Qiao charged $60 for a massage, and Tiberi asked if she would “take care of him,”and she nodded yes. Tiberi paid with a pre-marked $100 bill, and Qiao proceeded to give him a 45-minute massage, according to the report on file at the Dedham District Court.

During the massage Qiao allegedly placed the $40 change on a table, the police report states. After Tiberi gave it back to her, the report notes, she allegedly placed it in her bra and began massaging Tiberi’s genitals. This, the report states, was interrupted by a pre-planned call from Wellesley Det. Gallagher, pretending to inform Tiberi of a family emergency.

(Tiberi's actions have since been called into question, and you can read the Townsman article here that investigates his actions.)

The report goes on to state that after Tiberi left the building, a cohort of Wellesley and Needham police officers entered the business, recovered the marked bills, and arrested Qiao. She was then taken to the Wellesley police station, processed, and read her rights, the report states.

The Aftermath

Qiao, who speaks primarily Mandarin Chinese, needed a translator for both her interview with Wellesley police and arraignment at Dedham District Court.

According to the report, Larry Ng, a local business-owner, served as her translator at the police station. During this time, Qiao allegedly claimed she had no massage license because she only did “bodyworks.” She also had no identification with her.

Along with signs in the lobby of 120 Cedar St. and keys to the business, Wellesley Police seized six pages of customer record sheets, according to the report.

If convicted of all three charges, Qiao could have served up to three and a half years in a house of correction and paid a penalty of up to $600. She had a pre-trial hearing originally set for Sept. 9, and would have been represented by attorney Frank DiMento Jr., according to reports from the Dedham District Court.

The building at 120 Cedar St. is owned by the E. Reynolds Realty Partnership.

Raymond Reynolds, the owner of the building, declined to comment for this article. According to the police report, officers apprised Reynolds of the situation on Thursday night after making the arrest.

Phone calls placed to the craigslist number for the Aroma Spa by the Townsman were not returned, although a voice-mail was set up.

Roy Switzler, of Switzler Realty, was the listing agent for 120 Cedar St. He said he never met the tenant, and the leasing in this case was done by a local co-broker, Marta Malina. The name on the lease was Hong Tao Shao, of Connecticut, Switzler said.

Switzler said the second floor, where the Aroma Spa was located, had been empty for almost two years, and Reynolds was pleased to finally have a tenant when Qiao moved in roughly a month ago.

“The [lessee's] background and credit both checked out and she had good references but, evidently, something happened along the way, said Switzler. “It’s just a sad thing, and it’s a total surprise for me.”

In the report, Detective Gallagher wrote about “ongoing investigations” that started in 2007 among many Norfolk County communities. These investigations have focused on identifying prostitution businesses in the MetroWest area.

Such businesses have become increasingly common in suburban communities like Wellesley, where detection can be more difficult for law enforcement officials.


Was Officer's Conduct In Wellesley Sting Operation Appropriate?

This is part two of a two-part investigative story published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman. The stories investigate a undercover prostitution bust made by Wellesley police and NORPAC detectives on Aug. 11, and the subsequent fallout from that bust. This part of the story was co-written with Teddy Applebaum, a reporter with The Brookline TAB.  The story has since been picked up by Boston Channel 5 (WCVB) and can be read here.

The building, 120 Cedar Street, that housed the Aroma Spa Massage, where Aiying Qiao was arrested on Aug. 11. Photo by Rhys Heyden.
 WELLESLEY, Mass. - - An undercover officer who allowed his genitals to be massaged by a woman who was the target of a prostitution sting operation may have gone too far, according to a criminal defense attorney.

Aiying Qiao, 52, who was arrested on Aug. 11 during a prostitution sting at 120 Cedar St., was facing several charges, including keeping a house of prostitution, before the case was dropped late Wednesday afternoon by the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Peter Elikann, a Boston criminal defense attorney with over 30 years of experience with prostitution cases, told the Townsman that sexual contact like what Domenic Tiberi allegedly allowed is “extraordinarily unusual.”  Tiberi is a detective with the Norfolk County Police Anti-Crime Task Force.

“Generally speaking it’s enough for the alleged prostitute or masseuse to simply solicit and to make the offer,” he said.  “Once there is an agreement to commit the crime that’s all that is needed to make an arrest.”

“There’s absolutely no requirement that they have to consummate the act or that the person has to be touched illegally,” he continued. “In all my years I haven’t heard of an instance like this.”

According to the police report, Tiberi obtained a non-verbal agreement from Qiao regarding sexual services to be performed, and then paid Qiao $100. After a 45-minute massage, a nude Tiberi paid Qiao an additional $40, which she accepted, and sexual contact ensued.

Early on Wednesday, before the charges were dropped, Police spokesperson Lt. Marie Cleary said she wouldn’t comment on the incident because it’s department policy not to discuss open investigations. Deputy Chief Bill Brooks, who was involved with the sting, was on vacation.  Police Chief Terrence Cunningham defended the operation, saying case law supported it.

Cunningham said later in the day he had not yet had an opportunity to talk with the D.A.’s office about why the case is no longer pending.

According to Elikann, generally an undercover officer will simply discuss a desired sex act with the alleged prostitute, and once they reach an agreement, make the arrest.

And, he said, to avoid claims of entrapment the best practice is to wait for the alleged prostitute to bring the illegal act on his or her own, instead of having the officer raise the idea. According to reports officer Tiberi first breached the idea by asking Qiao if she would “take care of him.”

“Generally you want the masseuse to be the one to make the suggestion rather then you,” Elikann said. “In all the cases that I’ve seen that’s how it generally works.”

In fact, for prosecution purposes the officer will generally try to get the suspect to clarify exactly what they plan to do, and for how much it will cost, during that initial conversation, Elikann said.

“It’s usually put in so many words,” he said. “If the masseuse were to suggest [the act] very subtly at the beginning the police officer will want a little bit more clarification.”

In summation, Elikann said the situation was definitely odd.

‘This is a first,” he said.


Mobsters And Losters: Wellesley Duo Launches New Boston Trolley Tour

This story was originally published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

Tour guide Tom Collins with the trolley. Courtesy photo.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - Wellesley residents Marcia Weaver and Jack Keating have what seems to be one of those meant-to-be business partnerships, but it took sheer coincidence to bring them together.

The two became friends when their paths serendipitously crossed at South Station. Jack, a locomotive engineer for Amtrak, and Marcia, an entrepreneur with a concierge business at the station, realized they had something important in common.

Keating, who grew up in hardscrabble South Boston in the late 50s and early 60s, had a plethora of gangster stories from his childhood. Marcia was a published author with a passion for stories about Boston’s underbelly.

The two immediately saw the potential for combining their skills. Their first venture, the “Mobsters and Lobsters Trolley Tour,” launches on Aug. 18.

“We tell about 16 stories over the course of a few hours,” said Weaver. “They take place all over the city, and people will get to see the places where a lot of these things happened; the Boston Strangler, Whitey Bulger, Sacco and Vanzetti, the jewel heist at the Parker House Hotel, all that good stuff.”

The trolley, which seats 40 and is chartered from City View Trolley Tours, departs from the waterfront Boston Aquarium. The tour ends with an Italian seafood dinner and wine tasting at the Venezia Waterfront Restaurant and Boston Winery in coastal Dorchester (thus the “lobsters” in the title).

Tom Collins, another South Boston native, will lead the tours. “He’s worked on a lot of the Boston-made movies, and he has an appropriately gritty persona,” said Weaver.

Weaver wrote the script used for the tour over nearly three years, consulting with Keating frequently about his firsthand stories.

“Marcia tells me that I’m her inspiration, growing up in Southie,” said Keating in a textbook Irish Boston accent. “That was a wild time to grow up. The gangsters were who you looked up to.”

Keating started shining gangsters’ shoes in bars on Friday and Saturday nights at the tender age of 12. A couple of topsy-turvy years later, he remembers a Boston judge telling him, “Go find somebody in armed forces that’ll take you, or I will.” Jack served in the Navy for 4 years, and put his former life of crime well behind him. Many of his childhood friends, however, ended up running with Whitey Bulger.

“My mother knew Whitey, and thought he was a gentleman and a wonderful man. He was brilliant, and really could have done anything with his life,” said Keating. “It’s sad that he chose the evil side, and I just can’t glorify that kind of criminality.”

A portion of every ticket sold for the tour will go to the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, an organization that works to decrease violence in Boston.

 “I would say that most of the events that I’ve planned in my life, I’ve tried to do them with a social conscience. It’s good to be helping other people when you’re having a good time,” said Weaver.

Weaver said the tours will run approximately once a week, and that scheduling will be based on demand, which is still an unknown.

“I think there are always interesting stories about the places we live that we don’t really know about. A lot of people don’t know about this stuff about Boston. It was kind of a wild time in Boston, and it’s really amazing how it all turned out,” said Weaver.


The inaugural “Mobsters and Lobsters” Boston trolley tour departs from the Boston Aquarium at 6:30 pm on Aug. 18. The cost of the tour is $99, which includes the price of dinner and wine tasting. For reservations and questions, call (617) 274-4715.

Q & A With Jamie Chisum, New Interim Principal at WMS

This story was originally published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.

Jamie Chisum at his new home, Wellesley Middle School. Wicked Local photo by Kate Flock.

The Townsman sat down and caught up with Wellesley Middle School Interim Principal Jamie Chisum during his preparations for the 2011-12 school year.  
Townsman: What was your journey to this position?
Chisum: Well, I’m nearly 42 years old, and I graduated from college in ’91, so it’s been a few years. I did a little bit of substitute teaching, I did some track coaching, and then I went to grad school. I thought I wanted to be a writer, I was actually studying English at the University of Oregon, but then I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do for my career. I moved back to Massachusetts, went to UMass, and got my masters degree. I taught 9th grade English for 5 years at Taconic High School in Pittsfield, then I met my wife, who was living in Wayland at the time. I decided that commuting all the way from Pittsfield was too far, and so I looked for a teaching job here. I was really fortunate to get hired as an English teacher at WHS, which I did for 7 years, and then I applied to be the assistant principal, and I got that job 6 years ago. In June of this year, Superintendent [Bella] Wong tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I would be interested in serving as an interim here at WMS, and I said yes.
Townsman: What interested you in the interim principal position?
Chisum: I love Wellesley, I wanted to be a principal, and this opened up and it allowed me to be a principal and stay in Wellesley, and that really appealed to me. I was curious, I guess, was the largest thing. I’ve never worked at a middle school before, and I just thought it was a neat opportunity to learn more.
Townsman: How has your summer been? What kind of prep work have you been doing?
Chisum: My summer has been a lot of learning. I’ve been doing a lot of listening, and a lot of interviewing of folks because we’ve had a lot of hiring to do. I’ve also had to learn about this place, learn about this age group, and learn about the people – where they’ve been, where they want to go, and what they might need from me. I’m going to continue to do that for a while, the school year is going to start and I’ll still have a lot to learn.
Townsman: What are you looking forward to most about being WMS principal?
Chisum: I’m excited to work with this age group. The Guidance Director said, you know, what you need to understand about middle school kids is that some of them still sleep with stuffed animals. When the 6th graders come in, they’re just bridging the gap. It’s a marked difference and, I can’t help it, it makes me smile when I just start to think about how eager and curious and cute they’re going to be. People in this building just love this age group.
Townsman: What do you remember of middle school? It’s kind of stereotyped to be a very tough time, a lot of social problems and bullying and such. Did you have any particularly tough experiences as a teenager?
Chisum: Middle school is tough; I remember it being hard and awkward. It was hard to fit in. I grew up in the Berkshires and I went to this regional middle school where they combined eight towns into one school. I remember coming in and just being terrified, this big building and I didn’t know my way around, and all these other kids knew each other. By the time we were eighth graders, though it seemed like everybody got along just fine.
Townsman: What do you think will be your biggest challenges with this new position?
Chisum: One of the roles that I have to play is to help this middle school community prepare for their search for a full-time principal. We’ve got to make sure that this year isn’t just treading water; people should still be challenged professionally. We don’t want to take a step backwards.
Townsman: How does the whole interim role work? How long will you be here?
Chisum: I could be the new permanent principal, but that’s not my choice. They’ll have a full search, and that the way it ought to be. It’s what the middle school deserves, to cast the net. At the end of the day, if that person happens to be me, then awesome for me, but it needs to be awesome for the middle school first and foremost.
Townsman: What do you think the main difference will be between the middle school and the high school?
Chisum: Developmentally, obviously, the kids are at a different place. It seems to me that [middle school] is more a time of exploration then the high school tends to be. That’s refreshing to me.
Townsman: Are you still planning on being involved with the track team, as you were at WHS?
Chisum: Oh, I’m going to be a big fan, but I can’t coach. It’s too much time. What’s crazy is that I’m also in a graduate program at BC, getting my doctorate and I’ve got three kids at home. Personally, that’s a very difficult thing for me to give up. I love coaching track, and I’m going to miss it terribly.
Townsman: Did your predecessor, Josh Frank, give you any advice about the position? Are you trying to emulate any of his initiatives or perhaps looking to make changes?
Chisum: What Josh told me is that this is a great place with passionate teachers and that the kids are awesome, he loved the kids here, and I think that would be something I want to continue to do. The trap, I think, is to get caught up in this office. There are a lot of important meetings and no one would blame me for spending lots of time talking to adults, but you need to know the kids. We should never lose track of that.
Townsman: How would you summarize your personal teaching philosophy?
Chisum: I think I’m a relational teacher and relational learner. That’s why I’ve been wading in and listening and being as patient as I can this summer. You need to build relationships with kids. They need to know who you are. It’s the same thing as a leader, you build relationships first and it’s easier to handle difficult things. I would also say I try to be proactive, not reactive, and trust is definitely a big component.
Townsman: Any closing thoughts? Have you been able to find your way around the new building?
Chisum: I’d just add that we’re going to continue and try to be an excellent school. You know, one of my biggest fears is that some 6th grader is going to come up to me with one of those floor-plan maps of the middle school, and he’ll ask me how to get to Room 245, and I’ll just have no idea at all. I’m working on getting to know the building better.
Jamie Chisum discusses his future at WMS in an Aug. 15 interview with the Townsman. Wicked Local photo by Kate Flock.

Longfellow Pond, Wellesley Industry, And A Mysterious Gravestone

This story was originally published in the August 18th issue of The Wellesley Townsman.
The mysterious Hastings burial plot by Wellesley's Longfellow Pond. Photo by Rhys Heyden.
WELLESLEY, Mass. - - Today, Wellesley’s Longfellow Pond is a tranquil spot crisscrossed by hiking trails, where the most prominent residents are a flock of quacking ducks.
However, back in the mid-1800s, the pond was the closest thing Wellesley had to an industrial epicenter.
Over 170 years ago, the pond area was home to the Charles Tetti Nail Factory, a Crane Paper Mill, and an icehouse that used the pond for ice during the winter months. All of these businesses are gone today, and the sole remaining testament to the area’s residents is a mysterious gravestone marking the “Hastings Burial Plot.”
Why is the gravestone there, and what does the Hastings family have to do with anything?

According to Beth Hinchliffe, Wellesley’s town historian, Longfellow Pond was an artificial millpond created in 1815. Hinchliffe said the nearby paper and nail factories ran off waterpower from the pond.
“Back in the early 1800s, Wellesley (then West Needham) was a very sparsely populated farming community,” said Hinchliffe. “Aaron Hastings was one of the first settlers who was drawn to the area by this small industry. The Hastings family was very prominent in West Needham, and actually dates back to the Revolutionary War.”
According to Hinchliffe, Hastings built a homestead next to Longfellow Pond in 1833, and lived there for many years. Nathan Longfellow bought the Crane Paper Mill in 1836, and the pond was subsequently named after him.
As the railroad came to Wellesley and other businesses began cropping up, all the industry around the pond gradually died out, and was completely gone by around 1870.

Sometime during this period, Aaron Hastings passed away, though it’s unclear exactly when. According to Janet Bowser, director of Wellesley’s Natural Resources Commission, Aaron’s son, John Hastings, also took up residence in the homestead.
The area was no longer an industrial center, and the woods began to reclaim much of the area surrounding the homestead. John lived in the crumbling house until he passed away in 1930. Later, the house burned down.
The Town of Wellesley purchased the homestead during the 1940s, adding its acreage to the now-200-acre Town Forest, which was designed for recreation and aquifer protection.

When the homestead area was designated part of the town forest, the woods began reclaiming the old house in earnest. Today, the stone foundation of the Hastings homestead is barely visible and completely ensnared in poison ivy.
Still surviving, however, is a more-recent stone that was placed there in the 20th century, with the inscription, “Hastings Burial Plot, 1837.” According to Bowser, it is unknown who exactly is buried at this site, but it is likely the final resting place of one or more Hastings family members.
The Hastings name lives on today in the form of Wellesley’s Hastings Street, home of Fiske Elementary School.


The clearing where the gravestone has been placed. Photo by Rhys Heyden.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On A Mission: Seven Members of Sherborn's Pilgrim Church Complete PMC

This story was originally published in the August 11th issue of The Dover-Sherborn Press.

All seven members of the Pilgrim Church's Pan-Mass Challenge team. Photo courtesy of Pastor John Hudson.
SHERBORN, Mass. - - This past weekend, seven parishioners from the Pilgrim Church in Sherborn rode the 163 miles from Wellesley to Provincetown in the 32nd annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, raising money for loved ones afflicted by cancer.

Riding on the team helmed by Pilgrim Church Pastor John Hudson were parishioners Carol Austin, Jeff Moore, David Boyles, Don Spongberg, Steve Solomon and Brooks Zug.

“For me, riding in the PMC was all about converting my faith into action. I was using muscle and bone to make love real, and raising funds for a very important cause,” said Hudson.

“I’d have to say in many ways, it was a ride of a lifetime. Given my age and so forth, the ride was something I had always wanted to do. I wasn’t sure whether I could make it, but I did it. I just had a terrific time,” said Steve Solomon.

Hudson, who had been training with his church’s team since April, was riding for three women from his congregation affected by cancer. He attached a laminated picture of them and glued it on his bike, using it as inspiration to get through the tougher stretches of the race.

Solomon was riding for former Pilgrim Church Pastor Ken Powell, who succumbed to cancer in 2007, as well as two family members who had been affected by the disease.

The Wellesley-to-Provincetown route is designed to take two days, and the Pilgrim Church team rode for 7 1/2 hours on Saturday and seven hours on Sunday.

“By the end of the day, your legs and backside are sore. But you can’t get off the bike, you just have to keep going,” said Hudson. “It’s about endurance. I’m far from a world-class athlete, but I can push through the pain.”

On Sunday morning, the Pilgrim Church team hit a low point. Exhausted from the previous day’s ride, they were forced to rise at 3:30 a.m. to get into place at Sunday’s starting point, the Mass. Maritime Academy. As they left the house where they were staying, it was raining heavily.

“We were just dreading being on the bikes for seven to eight hours in the pouring rain,” said Hudson. “All of the sudden, the rain just stopped. There was this big, dark cloud looming the entire seven hours, but it didn’t rain one drop. Literally as soon as we finished, the skies opened up.”

“As John would say in his ministerial way, that was our PMC miracle,” said Solomon. “We’re looking forward to doing it again next year.”

This year, the Pan-Mass Challenge featured roughly 5,100 riders and had a fundraising target of $34 million, all of which will be donated to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Also riding in the PMC were seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, and U.S. senators John Kerry, (D-Mass.), and Scott Brown, (R-Mass.)

The following list is a compilation of all Dover and Sherborn participants in the Pan-Mass Challenge:

Dover Riders: Kit Beaudouin, Mark Beaudouin, Susie Caspar, Joan Davenport, Thomas Davenport, Benjamin Dawson, Klarina Donoghue, Andrew Epstein, Elizabeth Freeman, Michael Hanley, Robin Hauck, Steve Hauck, Carol Hollingsworth, Val Hollingsworth, David Kasparian, Lisa Kasparian, Bob Kelly, Holly Kelsey, P.J. Kelsey, Adam Liebhoff, Alan Lisbon, Robert Litle, Gilbert Menna, Michael Menna, David Mittelman, Michele Mittelman, Douglas Novitch, David Perini, Michael Picard, Stephen Pratt, Ted Saraceno, John Shue, Matthew Stover, Payson Swaffield, Tom Swaffield and Marko Zatylny.

Sherborn Riders: Carol Austin, Matthew Bergstresser, Chris Decker, Anthony Downs, Robert Eckert, Jonas Geiger, Sandra Geiger, Margot Hahn, Daniel Holland, John Hudson, Naomi Kooker, Dave Morris, Patrick Olski, Robert Rosenthal, Steven Solomon, Dan Sunderland, Danny Sunderland, Bill Thornton.