Monthly Archives: December 2011

How Tupelo is dealing with changes in the public schools.

December 30, 2011

How a community solves its problems or deals with serious issues says a lot about a place.  Tupelo, Mississippi is one of the best at this of any community I have dealt with. No matter the issue, public dialogue is a major part of the process.  The key is to get problems out in the open and to provide forums where people can discuss the issues.  There is an art to public forums.  People must feel that they can speak about their true feelings instead of what they think other people want to hear.  Tupelo’s success at this is a result of various local organizations, including local government, providing such opportunities.  Another factor is the local newspaper.

Tupelo is now addressing the issue of some changes in the public schools, many of which are rooted in local demographics. For example, when Tupelo’s schools were integrated in 1970, 80 percent of the district’s students were white.  Today, 56 percent of those students are minorities.

The local newspaper is providing a perspective that is thought-provoking, informational and non-patronizing.  The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal’s “Bridging the Gap” series is well worth reading for anyone involved in education or community and economic development.


England, Mendenhall and Stone named in South’s Best Economic Development Law Firm list

Congratulations to  Bill Mendenhall of Baker Donelson, John England of Butler Snow and Ben Stone of Balch and Bingham have been listed in Southern Business and Development‘s list of The South’s Best Economic Development Law Firms.

Are newspaper copyright notices worth the (digital) ink on which they are printed?

There are those of us who like to share information that we think will be useful to others, and there are those of us who like to receive information that others share with us.  For example, I follow Richard Florida on  I am interested in his links to stories about creative communities, etc.

This sharing is all very good for the most part because much of it is sharing of articles in newspapers and other media.  I’m told that newspapers love it because it drives traffic to their websites, and therefore can be useful for commercial purposes.  But when I read the small print on some newspaper websites it becomes very confusing.

For example, today a Google news alert linked to an article in the  Hattiesburg American that is entitled “Achievement gap threatens city, schools’ future.”  I clicked on it and read a very interesting article on a subject that is of interest to me and presumably those who follow my tweets (@philhardwick) on  It appears that the article is a repost of an article written by Chris Kieffer of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, and reprinted in USA Today.  I was just about to tweet it when I read this copyright notice at the bottom of the page:

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Uh, oh.  Being a writer myself I am sensitive to copyright issues so I immediately moved the pointer away from the Tweet logo hyperlink at the bottom of the page.  I wondered whether the newspaper wanted me to retweet, but that AP did not – and wait, wasn’t this from USA Today?  Obviously, there is a trail here, and at some twists and turns along the way the copyright notice got amended, discombobulated or simply not reposted.

I clicked on the home page of the Hattiesburg American to determine what a story written by one of its own reporters revealed about copyright and tweets.  The article I viewed was entitled “Auditor: USM has 3 weeks to gather tablets.”  At the top of the article were the usual tweet, facebook, email, and share icons.  Hmm.  I decided to check out the newspaper’s copyright notice found in the “terms of service” section of the website. Here’s what it said:

Your Limited Right to Use Site Materials. This Site and all the materials available on the Site are the property of us and/or our affiliates or licensors, and are protected by copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property laws. The Site is provided solely for your personal noncommercial use. You may not use the Site or the materials available on the Site in a manner that constitutes an infringement of our rights or that has not been authorized by us. More specifically, unless explicitly authorized in these Terms of Service or by the owner of the materials, you may not modify, copy, reproduce, republish, upload, post, transmit, (emphasis added) translate, sell, create derivative works, exploit, or distribute in any manner or medium (including by email or other electronic means) any material from the Site. You may, however, from time to time, download and/or print one copy of individual pages of the Site for your personal, non-commercial use, provided that you keep intact all copyright and other proprietary notices. For information about requesting permission to reproduce or distribute materials from the Site, please contact us.

In short, it appears that one the one hand the newspaper encourages redistribution while on the other prohibits it. Back to the original article about “Achievement gaps…”.  I would love to share it with you, but I don’t know whether I can do that or not.

Obviously, the practice of sharing articles via social media is immensely widespread and encouraged by media websites.  That is a good thing.  It just appears that the copyright notices have not caught up with the practice.

By the way, feel free to share this blog post.  Just attribute it to the writer in accordance with the copyright notice on the left column of this page.

Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo

After reading the book and seeing the Swiss version of the movie I wondered if the American version would be up the task of capturing this story.  And for the first five minutes of this film all I could think was that I felt sorry for anyone who was watching this who had not read the book.  They surely must be lost and confused about who was whom and what was happening.  Those thoughts were quickly erased.  
After watching the movie, all I can say is, “Wow”. Not only is this movie a superb adaptation of the book it even adds to it with outstanding cinematography, casting and direction.  The visual effects capture the mood of a wintry Sweden.  This one gets two thumbs up.
Now that you know how much I liked this movie I should warn you that it is VERY explicit and will be offensive to some people.  Sometimes, nudity, offensive language and violence distract from a good movie, however in this case it is part of the story.  Here is a link to an interesting story about the cast and the making of the movie:
‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’: An Interview With Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, and David Fincher 


Plot, character,writing style – or story?

In the writing world there is always much discussion about whether plot or character is more important. Proponents of both sides can make a compelling case by using examples that illustrate their point of view.  There are also those that who maintain that writing style is more important.  Many who take this view cringe at some – maybe much – of commercial fiction that makes the best seller lists.  Certainly, some of the worst writing can be found in books on the best seller lists.
I think worthwhile writing begins and ends with the story.  What is a story?  One definition is that a story is, “… a narrative designed to interest, amuse or instruct the reader.”  A story must first of all be interesting. A good story is often told, instead of read.  Some of the best stories I have come across in my work are those in which I interviewed someone and was told a story.  Such stories were not necessarily well-told, nor did they have a plot or were focused on character.  They were simply interesting.  

A great story has all of the elements.  It is interesting, it is about character, it is about plot and it is written in a beautiful style.
I mention all of this to say that I am about to go to see  “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo,” the American film version of the book by Steig Larson.  Larson’s writing style has been widely criticized. Even his characters and plot have been discussed negatively.  And yet the book has sold millions, and is as of this writing the number one all-time seller on the Amazon Kindle sales list.  How can this be?  I think it is obvious.  It is a good story.
I’ll post a review of the movie in the next couple of days.
Happy writing!

No-Littering Signs Have Opposite Effect If There’s Already Litter

It’s the time of year when some people are in such a rush that they just disregard signs.  These same people also seem oblivious to trash receptacles.

Sometimes the blue handicap space zone does not stop some people from parking there.  These same people seem to have no problem tossing their litter in the parking lot.  So would a no-littering sign help solve the problem.  Not if the below research is any indication.

This from The Harvard Daily Stat:
When an anti-littering sign appeared on an alley wall, the proportion of people who littered there declined from 47% to 39% if the alley was clean—but rose from 61% to 70% if the alley was already strewn with soda cans and candy wrappers, say Kees Keizer, Siegwart Lindenberg, and Linda Steg of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. A prohibition sign can become counterproductive if people see that its instructions have already been ignored, the researchers say.
Source: The reversal effect of prohibition signs

Mississippi’s new Congressional Districts (map)

Mississippi’s new Congressional Districts