Day: April 6, 2008

The bile stops here

I find it distressing that some discussions on issues on this web site cannot continue because too many people cannot debate without calling other people names. 

I am a passionate person with strong beliefs and I have no hesitation when it comes to expressing opinions on issues that I feel concern our community. It is a trait that has served me well over many years as a newspaper columnist and later as a web-based one. It is also a trait that attracts strong opinions that sometimes support and more often oppose my positions. 

But I try to never made it personal. I question people’s actions but not their beliefs. I try to not call them names, question their intelligence or belittle their heritage and I have little patience for those who cannot argue without resorting to name calling and personal attacks.  Unfortunately, I sometimes fail to live up to that standard and cross the line. When that happens, I try to pull back and apologize for my actions and words. I’m human. I get mad. I make mistakes.

This past week, a discussion over my observation of what I saw as the unprofessional actions of a small number of Virginia State Troopers who serve on the tactical squad was viewed by some as a condemnation of police officers in general. That was neither what I said nor was it my intent. If some took it that way  I apologize for that misunderstanding.

But too many responses to those observations turned into hate-filled tirades on both sides of the issue. Those who posted the comments used the discussion as an excuse to insult others. I had to shut several discussion threads down because of the increasing level of bile.

This web sites exists to discuss issues. It does not exist to allow people to anonymously call people "morons" or "liberal agitators" or to claim association with Floyd Countians lowers their IQ. Those who find it impossible to discuss an issue without calling other people names are not welcome here.

Effective immediately, any post that includes a personal attack on someone else will be removed. Those who continue to hurl insults will be banned from making future comments.  If it continues I will start moderating comments before they are posted.

I encourage open discussion of issues on Blue Ridge Muse but I cannot, and will not, allow this site to become a place where people can insult others and hide behind anonymous screen names. That ends now.

Any reader of this web site who feels I have crossed the line is encouraged to challenge me on that point but I would appreciate it if those who wish to question my integrity also have the integrity to do so openly and with their names.

If you are skittish about using your name on this web site, you are welcome to discuss this with me personally. I eat breafast most mornings at the Blue Ridge Restaurant. My office address and phone number are on this web site. If I am not in my office there is usually a sign on the door that says where I can be found. I am more than happy to sit down over a cup of coffee and discuss any issue with anyone, even those who disagree with me

You can also email me at and I will respond to anyone who uses their name. However, I do not answer anonymous emails. I never have and I never will.

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Newsroom? We don’t need no stinkin’ newsroom

Spent two days this past week at Duke University participating in the "Next Newsroom" conference, part of a series of conferences around the country on designing the next generation of journalistic newsrooms to take advantage of both the technology and the 24/7 news environment that now dominates our lives.

This panel at the conference took advantage of Twitter to bring questions and additional points of view into the discussion. It worked pretty well until Twitter’s server went down and we had to revert to the old fashioned way of taking questions from the floor.

But in dealing with all the questions about designing the newsroom of the future and talking about how technology frees us from our desks, the obvious question was soon posed:

In this age of wireless, wi-fi and laptops, do we really need a newsroom?

Good question.

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Death by blogging

Something to think about from today’s New York Times:

They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.

Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.

“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

“This is not sustainable,” he said.

Sleep? I have sleep up for Lent.

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Branscome captured in Texas

Steven Dale Branscome (right), wanted for shooting a Virignia State Trooper, has been captured in Texas — hundreds of miles away from the most intensive manhunt in the history of Floyd County.

His capture brings to an end a weeklong saga of roadblocks, house-to-house searches and stories of local residents terrorized by some Virginia State Police tactical team members wearing fatiques and carrying automatic weapons.  At one point, close to 400 police officers from 16 different agencies were deployed in Floyd County in a search for a fugitive who, as it turns out, was long gone.

UPDATE: Virginia State Police released the following statement at a press conference this afternoon at the Floyd County Courthouse:

The multi-agency, multi-state search for a Southwest Virginia man accused of shooting a Virginia State Police trooper March 28, 2008, is over. Steven Dale Branscome, 32, was apprehended Sunday morning (April 6, 2008) following a brief standoff at a Texas hotel.

A U.S. Marshal’s Service SWAT Team took Branscome into custody at approximately 12:40 a.m., central time, at a hotel in New Boston, Texas. Through the use of advanced tracking methods, investigators were able to locate Branscome in the New Boston area. As the SWAT Team made entry, Branscome at first refused to cooperate and then surrendered without incident a short time later. Branscome is being held at the Bowie County, Texas Jail pending extradition.

A 1999 Chevrolet passenger van stolen from a Statesville, N.C., church on Wednesday (April 2, 2008) was also recovered in the hotel parking lot. New Boston is located in northeast Texas near the city of Texarkana.

“This is the safe resolution that we were hoping for,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “By increasing police presence in the Floyd County area, we were able to force Branscome out into the open and away from the support network that enabled him to elude investigators for the past week.”

“The Virginia State Police wish to express our sincere appreciation to those citizens in Floyd County who provided us with assistance and information during the course of the investigation. We are also most grateful to the U.S. Marshal’s Service, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, West Virginia State Police and the multitude of local police and deputy sheriffs that aided us in this extensive search and investigation,” continued Col. Flaherty.

Branscome will face numerous charges in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, including grand larceny for at least four auto thefts. In West Virginia, Branscome already faces charges of malicious wounding and wanton endangerment in relation to the shooting of a Virginia State Police Trooper.

Police have been searching for Branscome since the Virginia State Police trooper was shot Friday afternoon (March 28, 2008) just inside West Virginia, across from the Giles County, Va. line. Trooper R.W. Hughes was shot in the neck while pursuing Branscome on foot following a short vehicle pursuit near the Glen Lyn community in Giles County. The trooper was not seriously injured and has returned to work.

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