Newstrack 03/23

State: Tree-cutting to aid Maine wildlife area going well, may be ahead of schedule

In terms of media, this article had a photo up top which directly showed what was being done in this wildlife reserve, which was beneficial in the sense that the reader could more or less see the result of the tree clearing plan. A gallery could have given a more comprehensive view or the process, or more recent photos also would have been a plus. There was also a map included to show exactly where the trees were being cleared in Maine. It would have been nice to maybe have a highlighted area on the map instead of just a point to show just how much land they are clearing of trees. It would have been more impactful and useful if visually represented in this way.

As far as content, I found the story a bit one-sided. They did have 2 or so quotes from a single person who opposed the tree clearing, but they were outnumbered by the quotes from multiple sources that supported the tree clearing. It is worth mentioning, though, that the reporter provided links to previous articles that covered the criticism that plan initially spurred.

Newstrack 03/16

Maine keeps attracting visitors in steadily growing numbers–nearly 36 million

This article offered a really rounded view of the tourism industry in Maine. It referenced the numbers, cited popular destinations tourists go to (and where they are from), and even  explained some of the marketing strategies that the state has moving forward to make Maine seem more appealing to tourists.

The article included photos of Acadia National Park and Old Orchard Beach. I felt those were necessary to include because Acadia played a role in increasing the amount of tourists in Maine due to its 100 year anniversary last year, and Old Orchard Beach, from my experience in Maine, is where a majority of the Canadian tourists seem to go (when compared to Portland, for example). So those were visual pluses of the article.

However, what I found disappointing about the article was the lack of graphs, tables, or some sort of visual representation of the rise in tourists. The article states the numbers (which tend to get lost when they’re just listed off), but a line graph or some similar visual showing a positive, increasing trend would have been a convincing complement to the article.

I also had a problem with the lack of actual quotes coming from tourists. Granted the article was written in the off season, but the reporter just seemed to generalize what tourists say about Maine or what they want out of a vacation without giving an actual voice to them.

Newstrack 03/02

Environmental groups to make hard push to reverse Maine’s new solar rules

This article is particularly compelling because of the topic of the Public Utilities Commission being able overturn rules, and essentially work against protecting the environment. What’s even more interesting is the widespread backlash that the change in solar power rules received. Besides environmental groups and Maine residents, Gov. Paul LePage also was disappointed, which seemed to be uncharacteristic given his very conservative stances on other issues.

The topic was certainly newsworthy and relevant, however, I think the multimedia aspects were lackluster. There was one photo of a home with solar panels, which was presented as a tiny thumbnail on the side of the web page. I think the article would have appeared more appealing even if that one photo was put up at the top of the article. A man-on-the-street sort of video could have been interesting too, considering that it seemed like most people were not happy with the overturning of the rules based on what the article was saying. Seeing those different perspectives from residents, environmental advocates, business owners who have or who planned on having solar panels, and government officials could have been a compelling supplement to the article.

As Boston changes, local bands forced to become musical migrants

By Olivia Gehrke

On a Sunday night at the Middle East Upstairs, locals gathered to hear the jagged, jangly rock of Philadelphia’s Palm, supported by local rock band Kal Marks and Boston indie pop band Bat House. The edgy guitar riffs and sporadic drum beats cut through the hum of locals laughing and swaying along to the music. The small dark room filled with the smell of cigarette smoke coming through the door tucked away in the back, as the resident show promoter, Alex Pickert, looked on at Bat House’s guitarist, Ally Juleen, who soloed to an applauding crowd. The show was electric, but the local bands responsible for generating these energetic shows in Boston have been changing.

A year before, the bill might have been complemented by IAN SWEET, a melodic art pop band hailing from Boston. The three-piece would play a show what seemed like every other week, whether it was in a dim, grimy basement in Allston, or on the humble stage of the longstanding pub, the Great Scott. Nowadays, IAN SWEET playing a show in Boston is a celebratory homecoming rather than a usual installment in the weekend’s events. This is due to a recent exodus of Boston DIY bands to other cities.

In the past year, Boston lost bands like Steep Leans (Philadelphia), IAN SWEET (NYC), Ursula (Philadelphia), Guerilla Toss (NYC), and the now-defunct TeleVibes (who had planned to move to Austin, Texas shortly before taking an indefinite hiatus). Some say this is making the scene slowly lose its characteristic eclecticism. Between the expensive costs of living and booking shows in Boston and artists feeling like art and culture is being undervalued, the city has started becoming less and less of a musician’s haven.

“There was a lot more wacky, wild, extreme music happening five years ago than there is right now,” said Jeff Somers of the band Steep Leans.

Somers started playing as Steep Leans in 2013. His first album, Grips on Heat, came out in 2015. A few months and one U.S. tour later, he moved to Philadelphia. A Temple University graduate, he knew the city and wanted to go back and try playing music in the more “human” scene there.

“[In Boston] everything is so safe and so controlled—there’s no room for punk rock. You need some sort of lack of structure for that to exist,” said Somers. “Philly’s DIY scene, there’s less paranoia about noise complaints, pissing off your fancy neighbors. You can just play music in your basement all night.”

Jilian Medford of IAN SWEET also felt that Boston had been losing some of its “weirdness” the past few years and, as a result, has become less musically accessible.

“After a lot of the house shows shut down, a lot of the weirder, avant-garde generally slightly out-of-reach music started to disappear. I feel like a lot of people did move to New York, or get out of Boston,” said Medford. “People were discouraged and didn’t want to go to shows and stuff anymore.”

For Medford, a Berklee College of Music graduate, New York City was the logical next step in her creative musical career after graduating in 2015. She said she has been able to meet other people in the music industry helping her to “acknowledge everyone that has a part in music, even if it’s not on the creative side.”

“Boston is an incredible place to start a creative project, because people will really hop on and support it no matter what, but…at a certain point you do feel like you’re in a loop and coming back to the same place, playing at the same venues, playing with the same bands,” said Medford.

Venues like Shea Stadium—a show space up some creaky stairs in an abandoned warehouse building in the hidden depths of Brooklyn—that are not quite a DIY basement venue or a legitimate club venue, bur rather somewhere inbetween, allowed for Medford to see a lot of different music” and “constantly be playing with new bands and creating new things” which wasn’t necessarily possible in Boston.

Despite the advantages of other cities’ music scenes, some say Boston’s still has its perks.

Like Medford, Somers appreciated the musical community and opportunities that were available in Boston. In fact, he returned to Boston in the latter half of 2016 after his third tour with Steep Leans to continue making music.

“I realized I had way more connections and just more accessibility to playing music, and devices, tools, spaces,” said Somers. “All the things you need to play music were actually here in Boston.”

However, Chris DeCarlo, a promoter who books shows through the collective and blog Kids Like You and Me (KLYAM), noted how money, or the lack thereof, is making it difficult for anyone involved in the city’s music scene to be able to make art while simultaneously being able to live in Boston.

“I think, unfortunately, the city really doesn’t value art, at least in a monetary sense. It boils down to that. It’s tough in general, even booking shows, where a lot of the places have these huge rental fees you have to pay for,” said DeCarlo. “And then most of the bands don’t really make that much money, because they’re constantly spending money on different things, like recording and buying instruments and everything. It’s tough.”

The average rental price for an apartment in Boston averages around $2,700 a month, up nearly $1,000 since 2011, according to Zillow. To compare, apartments in Philadelphia rent for just under $1,500 a month on average.

Paying rent, working a job to pay for that rent and then still having the time and energy to make art is a near impossible feat, according to Somers. But the musicians who have remained here have relocated to areas just outside the city like Somerville and Jamaica Plain, where Somers currently resides, to be able to take advantage of what the city still has to offer. Or it’s become increasingly likely that they relocate to more affordable cities altogether.

Though the housing market is projected to be just as difficult for musicians moving forward, there continues to be local artists who are sticking it out. And with organizations and promoters like Boston Hassle, Allston Pudding, KLYAM, Illegally Blind and Deep Shred (to name only a few) that are dedicated to supporting Boston’s DIY artists in any way possible, perhaps musicians will hold their ground despite the otherwise unfavorable changes the city has been undergoing.

“The community is definitely strong,” said Medford. “It’s a very special place.”

Quotes from Upcoming Profile: Part 3

I talked to local show promoter Chris DeCarlo of Kids Like You and Me (KLYAM) about the impact of bands leaving Boston, and why that has become a common trend recently.

“From what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, the biggest thing is that it’s really expensive to live here, and that people can find cheaper cities to live in where they can still do their art. It’s really tough here for people to thrive, so that really is the biggest thing—the money factor.”

~

“I think, unfortunately, the city really doesn’t value art, at least in a monetary sense. It boils down to that. It’s tough in general, even booking shows, where a lot of the places have these huge rental fees you have to pay for. And then most of the bands don’t really make that much money, because they’re constantly spending money on different things, like recording and buying instruments and everything. It’s tough.”

Newstrack 2/23

1. Podcast: Protest marches send message about Trump. Where does that energy go?

In this podcast created by editorial staff at the Portland Press Herald, the rallies that arose in response to Trump’s inauguration were analyzed. Cynthia Dill, a columnist, kept an eye on many social media forms as the rallies were taking place to gauge the response among the Trump administration as well as activists. The staff pondered what the rallies would achieve as a movement going forward. They also touched on local political happenings afterwards.

2. Podcast: Maine’s delegation engaging in politics in Washington.

This podcast focused on local politics on a national scale, and again, it discussed the actions of the Trump administration. As journalists should, they take a very unbias stance. They look at the issues and analyze the “Trump philosophy” from a logical standpoint by looking at the causes and effects of Trump’s decisions and actions. They also predict what will happen as a result. Occasionally they will offer an opinion, but they’ll try to connect it directly back to the facts and arguments they had previosly discussed. Outside of the usual columnists in this panel, there was an expert on rural Maine economy to offer perspective for a certain segment on the people in rural Maine and how they are affected by national and local governmental policies.

 

Like most publications, the Portland Press Herald has an active Twitter account in which they tweet their articles with relevant hashtags and retweet articles pertaining to Maine, often tweeted by other Maine news organizations. In addition, PPH retweets news updates tweeted by their reporters. The tweets tend to be follow ups to articles in the Press Herald. At the bottom of every article on the publication’s site, they include the Twitter handle for the reporter who wrote the article. They also offer an option to tweet out the article from your personal Twitter account via a button under the headline/at the bottom of the page.

Quotes from Upcoming Profile: Part 2

More quotes from Jeff Somers for my upcoming profile on the exodus of Boston bands.

Philly feels more like a city because you have diversity and culture. It’s culture—that’s all it is. When everything is a state-of-the-art, modern condominium, that’s the death of art.

~

I think [Boston] is pushing artists out. I don’t think people want to leave the place where their network is and their friends are.