Occupy Your Town
Occupy Wall Street is not just about Wall Street. How to track similar protest movements in your town? Look at this list from Occupy Together. The site says there are organizers working in 1,271 towns (now 1,302 towns), including major metros but also smaller towns from San Luis Obispo, CA, to Greensboro, NC, from Allentown, PA, to Springfield, MO.
Twitter is one of the best listening posts. Here is a list, from Listorious, a web company that pulls together guides to related material on Twitter, of many of the Occupy Twitter feeds.
Do a Twitter search: http://twitter.com/#!/search-home
Enter "occupytownname" all as one word, using your town and nearby communities. Example: http://twitter.com/#!/search/occupyallentown
Many communities have seedbeds of anger over high unemployment rates and a sense that immoral financial activity enriched a privileged few while knocking millions of others into poverty. There is an equally strong sentiment that more government intervention or higher taxes will not solve the problem. Are you tapping into the strong feelings on all sides of this issue? Put up some prompts on Twitter and Facebook, with references to what is happening from Seattle to Fort Lauderdale.
A sign that organizers of these modern-day Hoovervilles are planning for the long term? Have they made provisions for toilets, hygiene, and bad weather?
Teens and tanning beds
Now that California has banned anyone under 18 from using a tanning bed, teenagers and parents in your area may have strong opinions on the role of government and the health impact of indoor tanning.
Possible prompts: Should our state ban tanning beds for anyone under 18? Would you allow your teenager to use a tanning bed? California has the highest age limit. Other states have bans for under 14 year olds or for different age groups.
Parent unions are another California idea that may be taking root in your town. This weekend, the AP ran a piece about a new type of parent group organized to push for fundamental change in local schools. 'Parent unions' spring up in school districts from San Diego to Buffalo, N.Y., pushing for academic reform: http://apne.ws/pvf8V8
Is there a parent union in your area? Do parents want the ability to force change through petition? What role should parents have in running local schools?
From the article:
Behind the parent empowerment movement is a feisty Los Angeles-based nonprofit, Parent Revolution, which in 2010 pushed through a landmark law giving parents authority to force turnarounds at failing schools through a petition.
Known as the "parent trigger," the California law was the first of its kind in the nation. It inspired Texas and Mississippi to adopt similar laws and legislation is under consideration in 20 other states. Two states have voted down parent trigger bills.
Lee Cowan of NBC Nightly News covered this last month: 'Trigger law' put to the test in Compton, Calif.
On its face, the idea sounds so simple: if a school is persistently failing, give parents the power to change it. But the reality of putting that notion into practice is proving challenging, at best.
In the last two years, California, Texas and Mississippi have passed so-called "parent trigger" laws. In each, the law stipulates that if at least 51 percent of the parents of children enrolled in a school sign a petition, they can trigger change.
Diane Ravitch, a professor at NYU, attacks what she calls a "deceptive scheme" in this letter about the trigger laws, published in the Washington Post.
The experts are solidifying their views. What do your readers think?
Traffic and Real Estate
Readers are always fascinated by traffic and the status of major commercial real estate properties. As the experts of their own realms, they are also vocal. Here are examples from the Centre Daily Times page on Facebook that showed good social media instincts and good reader engagement:
Traffic: A reporter and photographer are on the scene. We'll have updates online. Crash closes U.S. Route 322
Real estate: Wonder why the former A&P has been vacant for all of these years? Today's story provides the background.
By including Facebook as a conversation platform, the CDT involved readers in the conversation.
Follow the Money
Looking to learn more about money in politics? @OpenSecretsDC Resource Center has guides for beginners, FAQs and more http://ow.ly/6LUTP
Much of what is published here for voters is very useful, too, for reporters.