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Swine ’09

These days, we are over-saturated with news 24/7. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish facts from hype. There has been plenty in the news about H1N1 (Swine Flu), but I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it. Remember all the hype surrounding the Bird Flu? Then all of a sudden, some sort of flu-like virus started spreading like crazy at Grafton High School where the twins go to school.

Every day last week, more and more kids and teachers were out sick. My boys were out Wednesday with upset stomachs, which I think had more to do with my cooking than any type of flu. By Thursday, 236 students (about 36 percent of the total student body) were out sick. Friday, 46 percent of students and 43 percent of the faculty were sick.

Since the regular seasonal flu was nowhere in the area, it seemed pretty clear that it was the Swine Flu spreading throughout the high school. The school had to be closed early at 11am on Friday and will remain closed until at least next Wednesday. During these four days, the school will be thoroughly cleaned and the students were told to not mingle with other students in order to try to halt the spread of this virus.

On Friday, two students tested positive for H1N1 flu, which means that this is the most likly cause of all the absenteeism.

Grafton High School is the only (or at least the first) school in the entire state that was forced to close because of the Swine Flu. What are the odds that we would be right smack in the middle of this epidemic? So far all three of my boys are fine.

I also got a call from the collaborative where Anthony goes to school. They asked me not to send Anthony to school on Monday and Tuesday, because his brothers attend Grafton High School. So, all three boys will get a mini-vacation. Well, it will be a ‘vacation’ assuming that they don’t get sick…

It is so strange to see our small town the focus of all the local news surrounding Swine Flu. Here are some links to some of the stories coming out of Boston and Worcester:

Suspected H1N1 Outbreak Closes School WCVB-TV 5 Boston

Possible swine flu cases close Grafton High School Boston.com

Grafton High to close Monday and Tuesday Telegram.com

Videos from NECN.com:

New video from News 7

Oh and this was all going on while President Obama was visiting Massachusetts. He got back to Washington and declared a national emergency!
New Oct 24: Obama declares swine flu national emergency

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The Grafton News

The Grafton News
The Grafton News

This blog – along with most of my other leisure internet activities – have taken a back seat recently, because I’ve been working on a new project. I’m helping our local newspaper (The Grafton News) build a website. This is a difficult time for printed newspapers. The extinction of newspapers across the US has been in the news quite a bit lately. The younger generation is not that newspaper-oriented; the Internet tends to be their major news source. This, along with the recession has decreased newspaper circulation and so advertising (revenue) has declined. Also, sites like Craig’s List have taken much of the classified ad revenue away from printed papers. Why pay for news or classifieds when you can get it online for free?

That said, small town newspapers seem to be doing much better than big city papers. This is certainly true for the Grafton News. I think there are a number of reasons for this. Small towns focus on local news, which doesn’t typically have to compete with the internet. Small town populations tend to be older and less addicted to the internet than large metropolitan areas. Small town papers cost less and their advertising is more affordable. They also have less over-head than the bigger papers.

Ergonomics is another advantage for the printed news. When I read a paper, I want to sit back, put my feet up and relax. I don’t want to be sitting in front of a computer. And who wants to drag their laptop into the bathroom? E-books like the Sony Reader and Amazon’s Kindle might solve these problems eventually and of course, that would be good news for the environment. But for now, I think the printed newspapers still has plenty of life left, especially in the small towns.

But even small town newspapers can not afford to ignore the internet. These days, every business needs a web site. But how much content do you put on-line without competing with yourself? This is the current dilemma for many newspapers. For now, thegraftonnews.com is an extension of the printed paper, which can evolve over time. Some of the things you will currently find online include feature articles and time-sensitive information. We also have a Grafton News blog and lots of photos from the Grafton News archives, as well as color photos from the printed paper and many extra photos that did not appear in print. We are building an online community forum and are also taking advantage of the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace. We have photos on Flickr and videos on Youtube and of course we are active on Twitter.

Our local paper is currently playing a balancing act between creating an on-line presents and keeping the printed paper alive. The newspaper is over 50 years old, and the original owner is still at the helm. So the paper has a loyal following. The content of the paper is community driven and relies on an active community to tell their stories and accomplishments. This is similar to public access TV, the content comes from the local residents, so the people have control and “ownership” of the content. The printed newspaper has always been a vital and cherished part of our community and I’m so happy to be a part of the Grafton News.

So, this is what has been keeping me busy lately. Stop by thegraftonnews.com and let me know what you think.

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