What’s Going On Here?


Dear Readers,

If you thought strange things have been happening at the Observer in recent days, I’m here to tell you they were worse than strange.

You see, our old WordPress system required the services of a webmaster. The long-time person in that role lives and works in Ft. Lauderdale. When Suanne Thamm and Susan Steger persuaded me to take over the Observer two years ago, I inherited the webmaster.

He combines high intelligence with a difficult personality. In my many years of media management, I met quite a few such people and learned how to work with them. We got along pretty well until I told him we were installing new software that would not require his services. The relationship became rather strained after that. We just had one issue to resolve: When he set up our URL, he put its ownership in his name. We asked him to transfer ownership to us. We asked many times, and finally, grudgingly, he agreed. But he didn’t follow through with initiating the transfer. Then he took down the old system and plugged in a couple of design examples of the new site that were totally out of date.

That’s a pretty effective way to express his feelings, I suppose.

We scrambled, updated those pages and protected them from the webmaster. As a backup, we have bought a new URL (fernandinaobserver.org, possibly replacing fernandinaobserver.com), which might require a tedious updating process in our archives, but will allow us to charge ahead safely and quickly with updating the last two or three months of content.

As you will quickly see, the new software will allow us to control our typography, do things with color photography that celebrate the beauty of this place and – are you ready? – begin adding video content.

One project right now is creating a new place for commentary and new rules for commentary. If you want to be involved in comments, you’ll have to register, and do so with your real name and real email address. I know that some commenters have enjoyed their clever pseudonyms, but a few people have been slipping in with truly nasty comments, hidden by pseudonyms. No more. Commenters will have to re-register with their real names, and all comments will be checked before they are posted. People who can’t comment in a civil way will be banned. We’ll also discourage some of the confusing back-and-forth that the old system supported. Speak your piece, speak it well and move on. 

Meanwhile, I am looking for people who are willing to sit down and pen letters to the editor that dig deeper into important issues. I know of several who will be hearing from me. I hope we can have this new approach to opinions up and running in a week or two.

An interesting idea comes from Lauri deGaris. She has been making short nature videos for years. They are quite charming, and they will become our first regular video feature. No matter how grim the news, they will be cheerful moments for all readers.

Over the next few months, you’ll see many additions to our content. Simple but useful things like a community calendar and adding dates to each article showing on the home page. Complex things like narrated tours of threatened waterways.  And for business people in our community, who have limited and often expensive opportunities to advertise their goods and services, we’ll have the ability to provide attractive, inexpensive exposure.

We also will not be charging for obituaries submitted to us in publishable condition. That starts now.

And do you know what? I’m not mad at the old webmaster. He did us a favor. The new Observer is off and running,

Mike Phillips