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Bill Delbrugge Joins FlaglerLive Board; Here’s Who We Are

| June 27, 2010

The Seven (minus one: David Wiggins was on the road): From left, Merrill Shapiro, Linda Lowen, Bill Delbrugge, Jim Guines, Don Musser, and Pierre Tristam. (© FlaglerLive)

If you’ve been reading FlaglerLive since it’s been up for the past three months or so, you have a good idea of what we’re about: reliable, rich, immediate and exciting coverage of Flagler County. If it’s important, if it’s relevant, if it’s interesting, if it’s essential, it’s covered. If it’s not, it shouldn’t be. The most important thing about this site is that Flagler County finally has its own news service, keeping up not only with the news, but with the times: it’s not enough to read about it in the papers (if it makes it that far) the next day or the following week, especially when—irony of ironies—newspapers are limited by space and resources, as the web is not. We like to live up to our name: Flagler is live. It deserves to be covered that way, which is the way of future journalism anyway. We’re getting a jump-start.

I’m sure we’ll disagree over degrees of separation between the relevant and the irrelevant. But just as there is no secret standard that declares a Bach cantata more valuable than a scream by Lady Gaga, there is no secret journalistic standard that declares the words of a Rotarian with a spiffy title next to his name inherently more valuable than the actions of a roller derby gal with tattoos for her dialect. Which explains the mix of stories you read (and hear and see) on this site.

We’re also not big on merely transcribing events and quotes by the usual titled and self-important suspects and calling it news coverage. In an age of spin that thrives on too little or too much information, analysis and perspective matter. So does putting the lie of “fair and balanced” in its place—a lie that continues to damage journalism’s credibility more than any occasional error of fact or judgment. Those errors can be fixed. A fixation on “fair and balanced” undermines the very purpose of honest journalism. We always strive to be fair. But we never put balance ahead of truth. Some stories are one-sided. Most stories have more than two sides, historical memory being the perpetually ignored third side to every story. And no one or no single institution can cover it all. That’s where judgment and subjectivity come in. It’s also the story for another day and another column.

You know roughly what we’re about. It’s time to introduce you more familiarly with who we are.

The CFO

I was a columnist and editorial writer at the News-Journal for 10 years. Like many of my former colleagues, I knew that my days were numbered when the new, more reactionary and eventual owner set his sights on the Davidson family’s newspaper. My wife Cheryl had thought for a couple of years that I should take to the web and create my own organization regardless. She was tired of reading gossip posing as news online locally, or not finding local news in our paper . We’ve lived here for 10 years, I’ve been mucking about journalism for 20 (the first five in Robert Byrd country), my upcoming firing from the News-Journal was to be the third in as many jobs I’ve held in this beleaguered industry, for the same reasons. I’d resisted Cheryl’s idea, thinking it outlandish until reality grounded me: what else is there but doing what I’ve always loved, more experimentally and innovatively?

And not that innovatively after all: web-based news sites are Internet kudzu. They may be more weedy than proven. But sooner or later they’ll be the only weed in town. Might as well try to graft the experiment into something more vine-like. Having decided to create a non-profit organization (market-driven journalism being one of the essential problems with journalism these days), I set about recruiting a board of directors and an ad director, and paying my wife with a meaningless title. It was “office manager” until the chairman of my board anointed her chief financial officer, which removes the need to pay her for at least two years.

Kathy Tiller

One of my first recruitment calls was to Kathy Tiller, who spent more than twice the years I did at the News-Journal in advertising, marketing and special projects before she chose to leave. She agreed to join, giving us a huge advantage in experience and more strength locally: Kathy lives in Flagler Beach, she’s well known around town, and she has none of my interrogatory approach, which I hear might be helpful with advertisers.

What about that board? If you’ve lived in Flagler for a few years, you know most of them. The savvy ones among you have already looked up their name from our state incorporation documents on the web. But one name was missing until now, and I’m very happy to announce it: Bill Delbrugge, outgoing Flagler County superintendent, incoming FlaglerLive board member. Yes, he’ll be in Cairo most of the time, and part of his duties will include skipping over to my native Lebanon to check on one of his schools there (more ironies). But his home, and we think his heart, will always be here, and his words will be on FlaglerLive: Bill will be contributing an occasional journal from his Middle Eastern digs.

We elected Bill to the board moments before this story went up. His contract with the school district ends Wednesday.

The chairman of the board is Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, who’s also president of the national board of trustees of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, among a series of affiliations too long to mention (that’s the case with every board member here: more details will be posted in their bios on this site soon.) Merrill is the congregational rabbi at Temple Shalom in Deltona, and a champion of free speech and full-throttle journalism.

Jim Guines was a Flagler County school board member—its second elected black member after Theda Wilson—for most of the past decade, and assistant superintendent of Washington, D.C. schools from 1970 to 1988. Jim is one of the few people (and locally, probably the only person) I’ve covered over the years whom I’ve let myself befriend: I respect and love him that much despite our ongoing debates that make Buckley and Vidal look like lovers. (Cheryl is just as close with Jim’s wife LaVerne).

Linda Lowen is—now with Bill—the only out-of-towner in the group, but physically only: Linda’s mastery of web journalism and communication is complete. Linda is a radio, TV and web journalist who just last year won the Exceptional Merit in Media Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus for her work on gender-biased media coverage of Sarah Palin, the 2008 vice presidential candidate. Linda is the Women’s Issues Guide at About.com, where she and I have been colleagues for three years (I’m the Middle East guide there), and where I discovered her voice and perspective to be invaluable. She has also started and run non-profits.

Don Musser, once a chemical engineer for the Hooker Chemical Corporation and for Exxon (but not BP) was ordained in 1968 and has been teaching in the Department of Religious Studies at Stetson University since 1978, specializing in Christian theology and the role of religion in culture. He chaired Stetson’s Values Council for five years, inviting me twice during that time to be a lecturer in the council’s lecture series. He’s authored and co-authored several books and holds a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Chicago: If I can be intimidated, it’s by someone with so much as a BA from the University of Chicago, so with Don it’s especially challenging.

And finally, but only alphabetically so, David Wiggins: My editor at the News-Journal for the past ten years, where he was the editorial page editor and editorial board chair for the last third of a 33-year journalism career that had him involved at every level of the trade, from reporter to publisher and everything in between. He’s also run his share of non-profits. I owe my weekly column to him, as well as the protective shield he kept up against many a badgerer through the years, without which I’d have been silenced much sooner. Our days at the News-Journal ended the same day, as did the first day of our new ventures: David runs Choice Words, a writing/editing service, and The Little Shop That Wood (“Building Tomorrow’s Heirlooms”).

I’m also a member of the board and FlaglerLive’s editor and chief executive officer, and I’m proud and lucky to be surrounded by a board of such a high caliber and independence. These six individuals have experiences far richer than mine and a proven devotion to intellect, universal liberal values and journalism, which we intend to convey in the work of FlaglerLive day in and day out. They know me, and they know the risks and bothers involved in an operation of this sort. They also know the value of an operation of this sort, and its potential rewards.

They also know what you should, too: As editor of this site I don’t take my editorial orders from the board. Oversight, in other words, is not dictation. FlaglerLive is here to cover Flagler and to do so, as Adolph Osch’s most famous line goes, “without fear or favor, regardless of any party, sect or interest involved.” (The line appeared in the very first editorial under his management, when he took over The New York Times in 1896.) Which is to say we’re here to get under people’s noses, not help lift them up higher than they already are. Journalism is changing. Its fundamental values shouldn’t be.

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14 Responses for “Bill Delbrugge Joins FlaglerLive Board; Here’s Who We Are”

  1. elaygee says:

    Please expand to cover Volusia as we now have a right wing Fox style newspaper (DBNJ) as our only media outlet.

  2. Marie Clark says:

    Thanks for the background. This is a fantastic resource.

  3. Michelle says:

    Love the site!!
    Everyone should check out all the links here too, wealth of info!

    elaygee:
    look under ‘All Else’ at the far right, Volusia is the first choice on the drop down list,
    articles for Volusia are there!
    Cheers!

  4. LorCor says:

    Love this site! I’m surprised and so happy to see Bill Delbrugge’s and Jim Guines’ names attached to this publication. I admire and respect both of them as a Flagler County School District employee. Congrats and all good luck to FlaglerLive.com!!

  5. Rickg says:

    Flagler Live is a great source of news. I try to get my information from multiple sources and just love this site. I love the thoughts, incantations and insight provided by Pierre Tristam.. I miss him here in Volusia. it would be great if you could include Volusia in your news reporting.

  6. revenge of the nerds says:

    Revenge of the nerds.

  7. dlf says:

    Keep up the good work,you are doing a great job. However, I do have some concern on the reporting. First, you state there are two sides to every story, I beg to differ: in some caes there are three, Your story, my story and the truth. The other concern which I see appearing on your site all ready is the lean toward the left in your reporting. I think that was a factor in the the downfall of the Daytona News, many people were growing weary of the one sided reporting and as you told me the reason your position was done away with, “the”new owners fired all the liberals” I have no problem reading and understanding the left view and in some caese agree, but as you state there are two sides to every story. My question to you as CEO is who out of your staff will report the the other side?

  8. Pierre Tristam says:

    Thanks dlf. I appreciate the good words. Just to be clear, I did not say that there are two sides to every story, but that “most stories have more than two sides.” (Every story is its own Rashomon). I don’t know what a “lean toward the left” means exactly, considering that so far the people who’ve been most severely criticized on this site have been Democrats. News stories are news stories. They’re presented with a perspective, sure, but whether it’s “left” or “right” is itself pretty subjective and mostly irrelevant. Feel free of course to let me know what you see as “left” or “right.” FlaglerLive is all about starting debates, not ending them.

    But there’s no question that FlaglerLive is editorially and philosophically (and unapologetically) liberal. I’m not about to write columns celebrating the degeneracy of the Reagan years or the hysteria of the Bush years, considering the price we’re paying for them now (though I haven’t been kinder to Obama’s efforts to out-Bush Bush), although I’d be happy to run some by others: we don’t fear opposite opinions here. We don’t pretend to be what we’re not, either. You should be glad for that since we’re in a swamp of conservative media–or rather reactionary media: let’s not pollute the word “conservative” more than it already is by its current leeches, who are as conservative as I am Hannity. If you know of a single other liberal media organization within a hundred miles of us, let me know. I’d love the company.

  9. Anita N. says:

    Thanks for the information, Pierre. I see you’ve culled the cream of the crop for your board and I’m particularly happy to see the resurrection and inclusion of David Wiggins in your group.

    Since giving up my subscription to the DBN-J, my primary sources for news have been 1. NY Times, 2. Huffpo, 3. KOS and 4. Daily Beast/ or Drudge agitprop., time permitting.. Recently, however, FlaglerLive has been my first stop on the information highway. You’re doing a fine job of keeping us informed on a daily basis about what’s going down in our community and, rather than mincing words, you’re doing it in an honest, straight forward fashion. I cheerfully suggest to your right leaning readers that if they’re not comfortable with the editorial views presented here, there are many other options available in St. John’s and Volusia County papers. Liberals deserve a voice, too.

  10. ??? says:

    “Liberals deserve a voice” -Anita N.
    They already have just about every voice at ABC, CBS, NBC/MSNBC, and most of the other members of the alphabet soup. It seems odd that, to liberals, if they are not the only ones talking, than whatever is being said is racist, bigoted, and otherwise stupid.

  11. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Thanks for starting off the new year with a laugh.

    The N-J fired lefty writers? If they were downsizing, what other bent of writers could they fire? Everyone on the staff is/was a lefty. You want lefty company, pick up any news magazine, newspaper or TV or cable newshow. Fox News is no different. They have a few opinion shows which are less left leaning and some with a conservative point of view, but even those present both sides on issues.

    It’s telling and tiresome that critiics of conservatism seem to have no where to go other than name calling — I offer as reference some of the comments above.

    I check over here to find out what’s happening locally, not to get another dose of lefty propaganda, and I’ll bet a lot of other people feel the same way.

    In the interests of truth in advertising, you should either remove your banner or live up to it.

    Have an opinion column if you like, but please keep your political views out of news items. As Sgt. Friday famously said, “Just the fact, ma’am.”

    Restore the RSS feed to comment strings for a less one-sided conversation.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      libidinous, you do your sniping your way, and I’ll handle reporting mine. That your political literacy is such that you can’t distinguish between analysis and opinion, or still think that duality is everything, is your fairly unbalanced problem. But please: take your lecturing elsewhere. As for the RSS feed for comment strings, it’s working fine: it’s never been altered from this end, nor would it be, since it would discourage readership. Keep in mind too that as long as you hide your small-caliber sniping behind your fake name, the credibility of your criticism is about on par with that of a nameless critter in the night.

  12. NortonSmitty says:

    OK, so the Liberal Left runs all of the media except Fox. Let’s see NBC is owned by General Electric, the worlds largest defense contractor. There’s a red (Commie) flag for ya. CBS owned by Sumner Redstone’s Viacom, one of the Republicans most reliable donors. ABC by Disney, we all know where Mickey Mao-se allegiances lie. And the radios are owned almost entirely by Clear Channel, Sinclair and other radical right wingers for at least twenty years.

    So when all you buffoons out there parrot-squawk about all of the vast Left Wing media that is brainwashing our great country, where are you getting this bullshit from? OH YEA, the vast RIGHT-WING OWNED Media that really owns and is brainwashing little tiny brains like yours, patting them on the head and telling them to go spout forth their bull to other outlets and each other all day long. It’s what any good patriotic Law Abiding Citizen would do. Poltroon!

    Know who else thought everyone else was a lefty? Hitler. Just sayin’

  13. DWFerg says:

    Just catching on to the foundation and core of this web masterpiece—Flagler county and its surrounds have not been known for progressive ideas- rather for, fully formed opinions by people with largely grey ,or perhaps, lacking hair. I find this web site to be the leading or perhaps co-leading web publication available for covering the local, state and national political scenes.The print media from Jacksonville down to Orlando hardly has much of a future—therefore, the value of your enterprise should continue to evolve favorably.I would enjoy meeting Mr. Tristam and Mr. Musser as I have a similar resume in the chemical field .
    Regards,
    David W Ferguson Resident of NE Florida for 30 years and part time resident here in Palm Coast for ten .

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