Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oh, for the love of a plow and '30 Seconds' too

UPDATE: Thursday, Feb. 18: E. 12th St. east from Crater Ave. is now rut-free, thanks to the hard work of city plow operators over the last 24 hours. I can't speak for everyone, but I suspect the neighborhood appreciates the effort.

* * *

OK, I know that this might sound like whining or sour grapes or something, but don't count me among those handing out kudos to the city of Dover for its snow removal strategy.

I know we've had an incredible amount of snow over the last couple of weeks and that salt is expensive and hard to get and all that.


While the main streets are clean, many of the sidestreets are nearly impassable. Case in point: E. 12th St. east of Crater Ave. into Becker Creek, a relatively new housing subdivision. Navigating E. 12th St. from that point has to be a lot like driving a Humvee on the moon. Look out for the icy ruts and pray they don't damage your tires.

I don't want to belabor the point, but I am thankful that I have a four-wheel drive vehicle at my disposal. It helps.

* * *
"30 Seconds" was back in the news recently as the newspaper wanted new input on whether it should keep it or lose it.

A little history: "30 Seconds" can trace its roots to a similar feature in the Trentonian daily newspaper in Trenton, N.J. I don't remember what the Trentonian's version was called -- probably something like "Sound Off" -- but it was touted as a feature that all Journal Register Co. newspapers might employ.

Purists didn't like the feature because it allowed callers to remain anonymous. But at the time -- I believe it was 1991 -- talk radio was becoming wildly popular and callers obviously remained anonymous. What was the difference?

The Trentonian set aside a specific time and day for callers to phone in their "whines" to feature. A clerk would transcribe the comments.

Because The T-R never had the luxury of clerks sitting around and waiting for something to do, we employed an answering machine. The comments would be transcribed when it was possible.
We called it "30 Seconds" as a subliminal suggestion to readers to keep it short.

As we were setting up the feature, one of our editors proclaimed that it wouldn't work, that no one would call. Obviously, he was wrong.

The key to "30 Seconds" success has always been careful editing. While one editor selects the comments for publication, at least one or two other editors also would read the final offerings and strike those comments that would be considered cheap shots or mean-spirited.

Some comments got through that shouldn't have and I'm sure that's true today.

What was fascinating to me was how "30 Seconds" was taken so seriously by politicians and officeholders. My advice to offended public servants was to get a thicker skin. "30 Seconds" was the least of their worries.

"30 Seconds" will run its course eventually. You can bet that most of the comments today are coming from older readers, who unfortunately will fade in due time.

See you next time.


Melvin said...

Cities and towns south of the Mason Dixon line don't have snow plows, salt trucks, or any real way to deal with snow. Every once in a while they get an inch or four of snow and it brings them to their knees. Citizens call for the mayor to "do something" but what can be done. If the week before the storm mayor had purchased snow removal equipment, stored rock salt, and beefed up the city payroll "just in case" there was snow, the citizens would have been outraged and called it a waste of taxpayers money, union featherbedding, and launched a recall.

The snow we have now is the worst I've seen it in recent memory. I believe city crews (Dover, Phila, et. al) have done the best they can. It just keeps snowing every day and the side streets are going to be bad...for a while to come I'd guess. If you want side streets to be plowed clean and kept that way then vote for the city income tax to go up another 1/2 percent to buy the equipment and hire the men to use it to keep your street pristine evey 15 years when we get a snow like this. They can spend the rest of the 14 years and 11 months leaning on shovels.

And 30 seconds sucks. That's why I like it.

Sally said...

I'm glad to stumble onto this blog. (thanks to a facebook prompt)
I've missed reading your musings