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June 29, 2007


Dean Shareski

There are so many issues that are worth exploring after watching this. I like your take on the kids not editorializing the footage.

I would consider this a primary source and allows for discussion and insights. I would argue that while we don't have the footage that leads to the ruckus, there's enough here to engage in intelligent discussion about rights and authority.

See you in Boston!

Christian Long

Dean -- Said much better than I attempted. But I really do think that the kids' choice to just post and let the world decide is the most powerful part of the entire situation. Once they offer opinion, they lose 50% of the audience in this situation. Now, however, it's up the world to decide on their own terms...and I don't think the adults come out looking solid here.

Also agree that because we lack a full perspective (i.e. all the footage before, for instance), we are automatically biased towards the skaters. Because traditional power structures have typically had the upper hand here, I'm not too worried about having missed the 'full' story. But it is a huge point to bring up with students (or anyone) along the way.

Thanks, friend!


What an unfortunate situation to have occured in such a hospitable town as Hot Springs, Ark., host to nearly 3 million visitors a year.

Tourists particularly enjoy our historic downtown district, stretched primarily along a 10-block section of Central Avenue. Sandwiched between two mountains, a row of eight bathhouses - named a Historic Landmark District - faces dozens of shops on the opposite side of the street. Hot Springs National Park, celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, comprises the entire area.

To protect pedestrian safety, the City of Hot Springs passed an ordinance prohibiting bicycles, skateboards, rollerskates, rollerboards and any similar apparatus in these clearly marked areas. Tom Daniels, president of the Downtown Merchants Association, says despite strategically placed signs designating the no-wheels zones, skateboarding violations have been an ongoing problem.

Most of the time, local police just ask the skoarders to move on, and they do. This time, however, at least one of violators had already been asked to leave Exhange Street Parking Plaza before he joined the group of two adults (ages 21 and 19) and four juveniles (three 16-year olds and one 13-year old) on Central Avenue. According to newspaper interviews, several of the group knew they were violating the ordinance, but were prepared to lose their boards and possibly pay a fine. After they taped the event.

Did the arresting officer perform his job appropriately? We'll see. Should young teenagers be hanging out with 19- and 21-year old adults who have nothing better to do than skate through downtown during the summer? Probably not. Hello p-a-r-e-n-t-s? Does Hot Springs need another skating venue to add to the nine parks and Hot Springs Greenway where skating is already allowed? That's being discussed.

Thanks for helping us let the world know this video is neither a complete account of the skateboarding incident nor an accurate portrayal of Spa City, America's first resort.

Rebecca McCormick,
Travel Journalist and Photographer

Chris Lehmann

What is really a shame is that Ms. McCormick is now going around posting the exact same comment on everyone's blogs, which of course, has nothing to do with engaging in conversation, but instead has everything to do with PR and spin.

Christian Long

Rebecca -- My overall reaction to your comment is one of disappointment, sadly, but let me get to the positive side first. After all, you took the time to write. Have to take that sincerely.

I was impressed when I first read Chris Lehmann's blog entry that you had taken the time to write a thoughtful comment that also offered insight as to the impact such a video might have on the town's reputation.

Quite logical and appropriate.

I was, however, a bit disappointed/surprised that you wrote the exact comment on my blog as well, word for word. Strikes me that this is traditional 'marketing' via a 'press release' than it is a legitimate conversation element. In fact, you'll notice above that Chris Lehmann wrote very much the same thing above. I found that striking. Even more so? That you lost two potential allies in the choice to co-publish the same thing on both blogs, word for word. What could have been positive spin is seen instead as business-as-usual.

While I appreciate you can't write lengthy entries on every conceivable blog that might try to add a positive take on the skateboarding situation, you are 100% capable of simply leaving a few 1-2 sentence reactions that point back to an original rather than giving the impression you're leaving 'original' material.

Finally, to the actual elements of your writing, there are a couple of disconnects from what we wrote and what you seem to see as having in common with us. First, the "unfortunate event" centers on the hired professional under the city's watch that escalated a situation well beyond what any reasoned adult would have chosen to do. Ordinances are ordinances. If it is an offense worth an arrest, arrest the kid and move on. The level of force demonstrated by the officer suggested something less than noble -- at best. Second, the issue of age is irrelevant in terms of who spends time with who. Suggesting that kids should not be spending time with 'adults' seems at best naive, at worse a real mis-read on the real world. Since the officer took no concern in using such physical force on a minor, it seems strange that in return that we should consider a minor spending time with other skaters who are older than 18 as irregular.
Third, and most importantly, you thank both Chris and I for "helping us let the world know this video is neither a complete account of the skateboarding incident nor an accurate portrayal of Spa City, America's first resort." I'm not sure there was even single casual statement to that effect in either one of our posts. Again, more PR spin on your part...and simply lazy communication.

Sadly, your voice confirms the lazy assumption that adults in traditional power positions can take when confronted with new forms of media/communication (blogging) or behavior they see as unacceptable (skateboarding). The video demonstrates what happens when such a power-based assumption is captured. And your comment suggests yet another.

Hopefully we'll see better in the future.

Christian Long

This is the email I sent to Rebecca who commented earlier (it was CC'd to Chris Lehmann, too):



Both Chris Lehmann ("Practical Theory" blog) and I ("think:lab" blog) were pleased -- at first -- to see that you took the time to write a lengthy reply on both of our blogs re: the YouTube video (skateboarders, police officer) reflections we wrote recently. In fact, he even added an update on his original post that you had written.

Sadly, seeing that you cut-n-paste the exact same response -- word for word -- into both of our blogs disappointed both of us. Even worse, the actual response had little to nothing to do with what we wrote in detail nor in spirit...suggesting you used it as a platform for marketing, rather than to actually engage the conversation.

When you wrote, "Thanks for helping us let the world know this video is neither a complete account of the skateboarding incident nor an accurate portrayal of Spa City, America's first resort", it implies that there is at least a subtle connection between our own writing and what you wrote. If you actually took even a cursory glance at what Chris and I both wrote, you'd see we neither condemn nor endorse the town -- let alone "let the world know" what it says about the town. We spoke about the police officer's actions. And also the take-away's in terms of education and society. You have made it about the reputation of your city instead by focusing as such, therefore calling even more negative attention to Hot Springs in the process. Ironic.

Frankly, the police officer's actions do far worse damage to your city's reputation than any collection of young skateboarders could do from a visitor's perspective. Having been in Hot Springs in the last 2 years, I can say that choosing to return with my wife/son ranks very low on our wish-list given how kids are treated there...and how the adult leaders respond to challenging situations. On a subtle level, your comment reinforces this for me. Your choice to simply cut-n-paste the same editorial under the guise of blog 'conversation' suggests that the city's leaders -- and marketing agents/journalists -- aren't spending much time listening nor paying attention.

Finally, in the blog comment, you identify yourself as a " Travel Journalist and Photographer". While I can't comment on the validity of that, I was struck curious when I went to your linking site -- "Hot Springs Life and Home" magazine -- that you are listed as an "Account Executive" which places you as a sales person for the magazine...and the city by relation. I wonder why you elected to describe yourself in a much more universal sense professionally rather than to write out your actual title and the name of your magazine when you spoke about the city's reputation. Yet on your company's site, you are clearly in a marketing position for the magazine (and city, by default).

Chris and I are both educators who work on a local/national/international level to work with conference participants, school leaders, educators, and students. We're also English teachers by training. One of the most obvious things a journalist does -- which you identified yourself as -- is to attempt to achieve accuracy. It is also something we teach our students to strive for. Your blogging comment will undoubtedly become a striking example of how "not to blog" and how traditional power/media structures continue to miss the opportunity for building legitimate conversations via blogs...and as the video showed, on city streets.

Christian Long
"think:lab" blog

Rebecca McCormick

As noted, I posted the last comment as an email to Rebecca as well. She was kind enough to reply by email to Chris Lehmann and I this morning. I am reproducing her email with her written permission:


Dear Messrs. Lehmann and Long,

I apologize for having used a cut and paste method on your blog forums to express my concern that outsiders who view one edited version of the skatebaording video may infer the actions of one police officer somehow represent the general spirit of Hot Springs, where tourism is our primary industry. My hope is your readers will be discerning as you have been to isolate the actions of one man from their overall opinion of the city. Thank you for encouraging all of us to pay closer attention to developing more effective ways to listen.

As for having identified myself as a travel journalist with a Life & Home magazine link, well, that was sort of silly, wasn't it? It's not clear, except for maybe in the masthead on page 9, that I am the staff writer for the publication -- even though I am a freelancer, not an employee. When the publisher came to town four years ago, he contracted me as a freelance writer. But because the magazine is direct-mailed at no charge to the readers, he and I had to sell advertising to pay ourselves!

As of August 1, I will no longer write at all for Life & Home, because I'm usually out of town half the month, researching stories for regular travel assignments from other clients. Have I given up my book of contract advertising business for which I am still earning commissions? No way. Most of the artwork is done by advertising agencies, and the legwork is done by my secretary. It's a nice residual income for having pounded the pavement the first couple of years.

I must clarify, however, that Hot Springs Life & Home magazine is no more connected to, or representative of, Hot Springs city government than is the local newspaper. Each of the publications is a private, for-profit entity.

And although it wasn't front-page news last week, the Arkansas Press Association did award me third place in the Better Newspaper Competition in the category of Promoting Tourism for my bi-weekly travel column in the Hot Springs Village Voice. (The link shows a clip of Door County, Wisconsin, where I'm headed this Friday for another week.)

Here's another of my favorite travel clips, this one about New Orleans, from a Gannett newspaper in Louisiana. I have been writing monthly columns for them the past six years.

One last thing, please. If you still choose to use my cut-and-paste comments as a striking example how NOT to blog, I hope you'll also consider using clips from another blog, which I maintained for 16 months while my son served with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Finally, thanks for taking the time to email. Once again, please accept my sincere apology for not having been more sensitive to the intent of your blog pasts.

Best regards,
Rebecca McCormick

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