Friday, April 26, 2013

#eWave: The Digital Revolution, @projo series

The entire ongoing series is now in one place on The Providence Journal site: the place for the stories, polls, graphics, video, stills and The Journal's eModule, a new way of storytelling for the digital age. I will be updating this page as the series unfolds throughout the year, with links to stories and more. Or you can visit the eWave series site.

Here's a breakdown, week-by-week. Don't forget to follow our Tweets -- #eWave Also, visit our eWave Facebook page. And we are now also on Tumblr.

 -- Part One, Sunday, April 26:
Complete with interactive graphics, an innovative timeline, a reader poll, video, still photos and more, The Providence Journal on Sunday, April 28, began a continuing series about the impact of technology on people where they live, work and play. The first installment of #eWave: The Digital Revolution is available online.

Dawn Glasberg and her family, Part One of #eWave: The Digital Revolution.
Journal Photo/Steve Szydlowski

And our #eWave Facebook page is now live. We invite you to Like it and join the discussion. And please Tweet, using our hashtag, #eWave

Along with the main story, the first-day package includes:
-- Five reader surveys about your own digital use, spending and habits that you can take, embedded in the main story.
-- An interactive graphical snapshot of everyday people's tech use in years from 1984 to today, by my colleague Paul Parker, Mr. Data himself.
-- A very cool timeline of tech milestones, large and small, from the first computer, the ENIAC, in 1946, to April 2013, when smartphones and surveillance cameras helped identify two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.
-- A fine video by my colleague Steve Szydlowski of a day in the life of Burrillville residents Dawn Glasberg and her family, whose story will be told in the main article to be published on Sunday.
-- A sidebar about Dawn's personal tech evolution, which began with a high school computer class in her 1992 - 93 senior year at Burrillville High School and continued with the early days of AOL. 
-- projo social media director Pam Cotter's advice on keeping kids safe in the digital era.
-- Colleague Kate Bramson's story about a new app started by some Providence entrepreneurs.
-- An editor's note on why we decided to devote so many precious resources to this topic.
-- Part Two, Sunday, May 5:
The data dig: Researchers mine mother lode of tweets, posts for clues about what makes us tick

Looking at ourselves...
Journal Photo/Steve Szydlowski
The second-day package includes:
-- Several polls, embedded throughout the main story.
-- First responses to the #eWave series.
-- R.I.-area tech meet-ups.
-- Part Three, Sunday, May 12.
Safety vs. privacy: New technology a boon to law enforcement, potential threat to civil liberties.
Jason Wayne Pleau at his arraignment for the 2010 murder of David Main during a holdup at a Woonsocket, R.I., bank. Pleau's lawyers asked that his statements to police after his arrest in New York City be thrown out because authorities had zeroed in on his location by tracking his cell-phone’s “pings” off cell sites without a warrant. Journal Photo/Mary Murphy
The third-day package includes:
-- More polls throughout the main story.
-- A precursor to our #eModule, a new way to tell stories. Full eModule coming May 26.
  Part Four, Sunday May 19.
 -- Providence Chamber of Commerce's tech-savvy Garage.
Part Five, Sunday May 26.
-- Your Brain on Digital: Rewiring the modern brain

Tom Murphy and Sandor Bodo/Providence Journal
 -- eModule, a new way to tell a story. Stay a minute, an hour, or more... up to you.
-- Brown professor Dima Amso on young brains, older brains.
-- Wheaton College professor Rolf Nelson on the virtues of video-gaming.

Part Six, Sunday, June 2.
-- An online badge of success. The digital badge movement.
-- Another eModule: digital badges.
-- How one family with members from Denver to Dubai stay in touch.
-- Photo gallery of this family, whose matriarch is in Providence.
-- Balancing social media, and in-person relationships.
-- Pam Cotter with some more great advice.


Let me thank my many colleagues at the paper who joined together in true collaboration to conceive this series and bring its debut to fruition -- print, visuals, social-media, online, design, tech people and more, from front-line reporters to editors at the top. Folks, this is journalism in the digital age.

Technology, of course, has profoundly transformed media and the newspaper industry. Below is a montage of how The Journal and long-gone Evening Bulletin were delivered in decades past. I love the biplane, vintage Charles Lindbergh, but have to wonder if it was a Journal promotional stunt...

The way the paper used to be delivered. Photo of montage that hangs on Journal cafeteria wall.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Nearly Perfect Summer

 Thirteen years ago, The Providence Journal published my tenth major newspaper series, A Nearly Perfect Summer: Travels Through Old-Money Newport, about the time I spent immersed in Newport Society. The six-part series, which ran from July 2 - July 7, 2000, was the basis for my 2010 documentary movie, Behind The Hedgerow.

The late (and last) grand dame Eileen Slocum, central character in A Nearly Perfect Summer, the series, and Behind The Hedgerow, the documentary movie.
In our fickle world of technology, the series has disappeared from Journal servers (though it remains internally in our archives). So I was pleased to find a copy of Chapter Three, the whimsical 'Midsummer Nights,' on The National Museum of American Illustration site, virtual home of the museum that is owned and operated by my Bellevue Avenue friends Judy and Laurence Cutler.

So take a look at 'Midsummer Nights,' Chapter Three, in its original form.

Because he is retiring as Journal executive editor this week -- his last appearance in the newsroom is this afternoon, in fact -- I must mention my friend, colleague and mentor Tom Heslin. Tom edited the series, helping transform it with his exquisite touch into one of my most popular works ever. Thanks, Tom, and best of luck!

Tom Heslin, as we remember him from his three decades in the Projo newsroom

Saturday, April 13, 2013

1st Story in Public Square Conference a Success!

Jim Ludes, me, Dana Priest, and Sr. Jane Gerety, president of Salve Regina University.
 More than 150 people braved a wet and windy spring Friday in Newport, R.I., to attend the launch of the Story in the Public Square program, a year-round initiative of Salve Regina University's Pell Center and The Providence Journal that will feature more events in months and years to come and an active ongoing online resource and presence, After more than a year of planning, Story co-director Jim Ludes and I agreed our launch was a success.

Dan Priest. Journal publisher and CEO Howard Sutton, and Gary Hart. Journal reporter Paul Grimaldi, who covered the event, is in background.

The conference featured the inaugural award of the Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square to The Washington Post's Dana Priest, above, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. Former Colorado senator Gary Hart, below, delivered the keynote address in Salve's Bazarsky Hall.

Gary Hart. "We need stories to tell us where we are [and] where we are headed," he said.

In the morning panel, print and broadcast storytellers, a community leader, and a best-selling novelist discussed ethical storytelling -- and told some compelling stories of their own.

L to R: Moderator Karen Bordeleau, executive editor of The Providence Journal; novelist Karen Thompson Walker; BU professor Chris Daly; URI political scientist Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz; WBUR's David Boeri; and the NAACP's Jim Vincent.

The afternoon session included a screening of The Providence Journal's award-winning documentary, "Coming Home," and a discussion moderated by Salve professor Donna Harrington-Lueker with panelists Iraq war veteran John DiRaimo, a central figure in the film;  the Rhode Island National Guard's Lt. Col. Richard Duffy; Journal columnist and film narrator Bob Kerr, a Vietnam veteran; Elizabeth Roberts, lieutenant governor of Rhode Island; and me.

We also honored the winners of our first annual student storytelling contest. First place wen to Sophie Zander, a junior at Ursinus College in suburban Philadelphia. Honorable mentions went to Ron Farina, a student at Central Connecticut State University, and Madelin Schlenz, a student at Community College of Rhode Island.

The conference was blogged and with the hash tag #SIPS13, got a lot of Twitter traction.

We urge Friday's participants to take a brief survey. 

And we hope to see everyone at our fall event, topic TBD, and our 2014 spring conference. Please send any suggestions on topic, speakers, panelists, potential award winners and anything else to my email.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Three-camera setup for Story in the Public Square

Salve Regina University is pulling out all the stops to ensure great coverage of the Friday, April 12, launch of the year-round Story in the Public Square program, a partnership of Salve's Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy and The Providence Journal, with major grant support from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.

Pell Center  head Jim Ludes checking the stage at Bazarsky Hall on Wednesday.

 The day-long program will include a keynote address by Gary Hart, an award to Washington Post staff writer and two-time Pulitzer winner Dana Priest, two panels, and announcement of winners of the student story contest. Setup began on Wednesday...

Salve Regina's Jamie McGuire, teacher and filmmaker, video production chief, on Thursday.

Footage from the conference will see a variety of uses, including a PBS broadcast and more. Jamie McGuire is using a three-camera setup, in Bazarsky Hall; another setup will be used in beautiful Ochre Court for interviews of key participants. We also expect good media coverage and lost of Tweeting -- hash tag for the event is #SIPS13 As in Story in the Public Square 2013, first of a series of annual spring conferences. Other events are planned throughout the year, and we have already established a vigorous online presence, please visit

Two of the three cameras under Jamie's control.

Checking the equipment late Thursday afternoon.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Novel 'Asylum' published: in memory of Frank Beazley, and to benefit Zambarano Hospital

Crossroad Press has just published Asylum, the second book in my Thunder Rise trilogy (stay tuned for book 3, Summer Place). Asylum is available as an Amazon exclusive on Kindle. Proceeds will benefit patients at state Zambarano Hospital, in Pascoag, R.I., home of the late Frank Beazley, inspirational artist, poet, champion of the disabled and my dear friend (proceeds will go to Patients for Progress, the fund Frank started). The story of Frank, in my 12-part 2006 Providence Journal series, is my favorite of the many narratives I have written. Frank died in 2012.

I hope Asylum will appeal to readers of horror and mystery -- who may already have been drawn into the vortex of the mountain I call Thunder Rise, in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. The trilogy stories begin in my first novel, Thunder Rise, first published in 1989 and recently re-released in digital format, and soon also to be an audio book.

Here is the blurb for Asylum on Amazon:

With the support of his wife, Sharon, young neurosurgeon Nick Emin has left medicine to pursue his longtime dream of architecture -- and now he has just won his first big contract, to design a luxury resort from the remains of an old state psychiatric hospital that lies in the shadow of Thunder Rise. It seems his decision to quit operating was wise, after all, despite the criticism he endured when he put down the scalpel.

Taking up temporary residence near the long-closed Elmwood State Hospital, Nick is slowly drawn into the institution -- and back in time, to when Nazi-inspired experimental surgery on the mentally ill was conducted behind the old brick walls of Elmwood. And not just lobotomy, once so widely practiced in America...

The pull of Nick into Elmwood’s past is no random development or horror-novel cliché. With his neurosurgical expertise, Nick has been called for a specific reason, by a specific person he will come to know well -- someone of great importance to him. When Sharon becomes pregnant with their first child, Nick begins to understand.

But first, the enigmatic Saint Peter and his friends have a mission for Nick that pits him against Elmwood’s inhumane administration -- a mission of salvation with terrible consequences if it fails.


Asylum is fictional, but its essential elements are real: the long, tragic history of institutionalizing the mentally challenged and disabled, and others society deemed as "unfit." This history spans America (and many foreign nations), and Rhode Island, where I live, has its own shameful past. Some of my earliest stories for The Providence Journal were about abuses at the Ladd Center and Institute of Mental Health. In part because of the public-service writing of The Journal, both institutions are now closed. I invite you to read more about the impact of public story on public policy.

And take a moment to read the essay with which I introduce Asylum:

A note to readers

This is entirely a work of fiction. I created the characters and events.

But I did not create the historical circumstances in which Asylum is set.

Not so very long ago –– within my memory as a journalist who covered their dying days –– American institutions for the mentally ill and disabled were as depicted in these pages: warehouses that often became laboratories for the mistreatment of our fellow human beings. Residents suffered needlessly, and endlessly. Time dragged. The real world faded until it was gone. Hydrotherapy, insulin, electro-shock treatments, lobotomy, forced sterilization, all of which are mentioned in this book -- all were real. All were commonplace. Untold numbers of lives ended beneath unnamed concrete markers in potter’s fields.

Since the 1980s, when I began covering these issues for The Providence Journal, many of these institutions have closed. I would like to be able to report that our society’s treatment of the people who once filled them has become more enlightened. And while there are some communities where this is indeed the case, and while I know of one institution where care is compassionate and first-class –– Zambarano Hospital, in Pascoag, R.I., where Frank Beazley, to whom this book is dedicated, lived for so long –– overall, little has changed. Many of the mentally ill and disabled are now imprisoned –– one institution having replaced another. Many are on the streets, lost, abandoned, and often abused. Some are war veterans, which adds an additional layer of national shame.

And all remain subject to ugly stigma that pervades our society. Stigma that is based on the absurd notion that disorders of the brain are somehow different than disorders of any other organ. 

Are we so lacking in compassion?

Have we learned nothing?