Last week I decided to end The North Haven Way. Rather than do a countdown or prolonged farewell, I simply decided on Jan 21st to end it all, leaving only behind a metaphorical tombstone and the North Haven Citizen articles about the blog to keep the memory alive....and to also ensure that no one can take the domain name. But it was a hasty move and I feel you, the loyal readers, deserve an explanation.
Truth be told, I was growing tired of the blog. It was becoming more a chore than something I enjoyed doing. If the town is going to have a political blog, it should be a good political blog. My schedule had become to busy for me to do that. I am told there is a new blog forming around the issues that parents face in town, so I'll be an interested reader of that blog. I was asked to plug the page. That blog is apparently being called The North Haven Parent. Here is the link. http://northhavenparent.blogspot.com/. I wish whoever the author is, the best of luck. Blogging ain't easy.
I won't say that I'm done doing this forever. You never know, I may come back on here or in some other fashion. But for now, The North Haven Way's time is over.
It's been truly a blast and I really had a wonderful time bringing issues to you on this forum. Thank you for reading for the past 5 1/2 years. I'll see you soon.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
The North Haven Way
May 12 2008 - January 21,2014
"It was fun."
From The North Haven Citizen
Back in 2008 the effect was largely unspoken, even deniable. Today, there is no doubt — Chris Peterson’s conservative-focused website The North Haven Way, and similar citizen blogs across America, make a permanent and consequential impact on local opinion and politics.
Our lives are influenced daily by internet content – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Online opinion sources, specifically Peterson’s site, have affected North Haven government and the voting constituency. Recently, First Selectman Michael Freda began a question-and-answer feature on The North Haven Way.
“I truly believe in today’s society with the public having so much accessibility to so much information,” Freda said. “The leaders of companies and municipalities should be aware that the need to communicate has gone far beyond traditional mediums.”
“In the past, traditional mediums have been, let’s say, town meetings in North Haven, or a newspaper article. Now we have Facebook, blogs, the emergence of North Haven TV — which I think is great — and the public-speaking aspect of our meetings,” he added. “Municipal leaders need to plug themselves into all of the new outlets that people can capture their news from.”
Freda said he would continue to answer questions on The North Haven Way, as well as participate in live video chats held by the New Haven Register. “I like this,” he said. “I like being in the spotlight. I enjoy being held accountable. My goal is to properly communicate with everybody we can, and answer all the public’s questions.”
Freda reads The North Haven Way. “I look at it, not every day, but occasionally,” he said. “I read all of North Haven’s news outlets.”
In elections, every ballot counts — blogs can offer viewpoints and insight for uninformed and independent voters.
Challenging former First Selectman and Democrat Janet McCarty last year for Town Hall’s top position, Freda answered questions on The North Haven Way. McCarty did not, creating a backlash of negative comments online. Steve Fontana, who lost his reelection bid last month for state representative, declined invitation for comment on Peterson’s site.
In unseating Fontana, a 14-year incumbent, Dave Yaccarino answered queries put to him on The North Haven Way.
Technology has transformed how voters learn about candidates, Yaccarino stated, but constituents’ desire for honest responses from politicians has not altered.
“Everything has changed,” he said, “but, whether it’s from a blog or newspaper, you should always answer questions, no matter where they came from.”
Yaccarino is unsure of The North Haven Way’s exact audience size, but counts himself as a regular reader. “I look at it once a week,” he said. “But Chris is the only blogger I read. I think he does a really good job as far as the facts.”
“Yes, the blog affects things somewhat,” he added. “But, like anything in print, you have to digest it, take it with a grain of salt, and look at it from both sides.”
Blogs have a place, according to Yaccarino. “Like anything else they are a good piece of the puzzle,” he said.
Peterson believes his site carries local significance. “I think my blog has made an impact on public opinion and local politics,” he said. “The candidates I’ve made a point in not supporting, they’ve all lost, even for smaller boards and commissions.”
To produce his long-lived and well-read site, Peterson keeps up with bloggers from all over. “I read a good dozen blogs,” he said, “ones from Hartford, Norwalk, Norwich, ones from all over our political spectrum, both liberal and conservative sources.”
Additionally, posts from national blogs are common content on The North Haven Way, depicting blogs as influential voices countrywide.
Precisely how many town officials read The North Haven way is unknown to Peterson. “I’d say a good dozen,” he said. “But, honestly, I think they all do. Many times I’ve written something and was told by one town official that it was read by three others.”
Walter Spader, author of the liberal-based blog North Haven Democrat, believes Peterson faithful readership is politically savvy. “Everyone who has an interest in local town politics clearly reads Chris’ website,” Spader said. “He has the hyper-local market cornered. People visit to disagree with him or agree with him. He has a loyal following on both sides.”
“People who disagree with him can vilify him,” Spader added. “I think he’s a good guy. His blog is a labor of love. And Chris doesn’t shy away from letting his personality be known.”
Accordingly, The North Haven Way can be a factionalizing force, generating both genuine appreciation and sharp contempt for its presence. One factor which could cause censure, a feature ubiquitous across innumerable websites, is the ability for any user to comment anonymously. Such posts are opinions authentic to their writers, who have full right to personal expression, but are not necessarily truthful, despite the fact that comments can influence others.
“People who comment on blogs don’t always have all the information to draw a reasonable conclusion or offer possible solutions,” said North Haven’s interim superintendent of schools Patricia Brozek. “I think that without that information, sometimes the comments are not healthy for the community when they don’t have all the facts.”
“Everybody has an opinion,” she added, “which is their right, of course, but when you try to draw resolutions, you need to have all the appropriate information and facts.”
Freda concurred. “There has to be delineation between protecting the First Amendment and not allowing baseless and vicious accusations,” he said. “In my opinion, baseless and vicious accusations should not be protected. They create reckless forms of opinion that only form polarization within society.”
Like countless town officials, and McCarty before him, Freda receives anonymous praise and disapproval on The North Haven Way. “I don’t mind the criticism,” he said. “I’m always looking for constructive criticism.”
“Somehow, there has to be a distinction between constructive commentary and reckless commentary,” he added.
Peterson stands by his blog’s anonymous comments, which can total over 100 for a single day’s entry. “I present the comments, but give opportunity for people to counter them,” he said. “If something up there is inaccurate, I want to be able to open the floor for people who do know the facts to counter them.”
Spader is not a fan of anonymous comments. “I think they are bad,” he said. “At town meetings, you have to stand up during public comment and say ‘Here’s my name and address.’ It makes the person a little bit more responsible with what they have to say.”
From The North Haven Citizen
According to Chris Peterson, author of influential, polarizing and conservative town blog “The North Haven Way,” the average blog lasts only two years. That his website recently surpassed three years is but one sign that it continues to be well-read, and, arguably, capable of altering North Haven’s political and cultural landscapes as much as any municipal board or commission. We recently sat down with Peterson to discuss his blog, particularly in light of the understatedly contentious June 21 superintendent of school’s public forum and the approach of election season 2011.
Q: How do you explain The North Haven Way’s consistent popularity and success?
A: Relevancy — there’s always an issue coming up which needs to be discussed. My blog really took off two years ago during municipal elections. And referendums always provide a spike in popularity. There are always things which pop up in North Haven that people want to talk about.
It’s pretty interesting — when I started out I did so without long-term goals. The fact that I can look back and three years have gone by pretty quickly, that’s amazing. I started the blog on May 13, 2008. I started it because I was angry about another blog that was going on in town, a blog which was left-leaning and no longer exists.
Q: In that municipal election two years ago, every candidate you supported won. Much of last month’s furor over the Superintendent’s special education proposal began on your blog, which undoubtedly helped prompt the emotionally charged atmosphere of June 21’s forum, where hours of impassioned public comment seemed to sway Board of Education votes against the Superintendent’s intentions. As such, what role does The North Haven Way play in a municipality with a town meeting form of government, where more power is placed in the overall public?
A: That [Superintendent] meeting was a fantastic example of what happens when people are informed, and my blog helps keep people informed. And it’s not just from me, but from all the comments, too. I had parents, students and special education teachers coming on my blog and commenting. For people who may not be knowledgeable about what’s going on, they can come to my blog and gain that knowledge on the situation and decide for themselves. My blog is a place to learn. You could see at that meeting the direct result of that.
It started out with me hoping that people would look at my blog for information before they attended public meetings. Now I get 1,800 hits a day and I know it’s a factor in elections. I truly feel that if you want to get elected in town, you need to embrace this blog.
Q: How do town politicians perceive your blog?
A: Depending upon which side of the isle you’re on, I’m loved, hated, or feared. I had one Board of Education member tell me, “When I go home after a board meeting, I check your blog to see if other people are talking about me.”
[First Selectman] Michael Freda has embraced it. He has kept up his commitment to do question and answer sessions on the site.
Q: How do you feel about one of the more common criticisms of The North Haven Way, the aggressive, sometimes-scornful tone with which you write about local people and events?
A: I’ve always been about that if you feel strongly about something, your words should match your emotions and convictions. As such, I’m not always going to be polite or nice, but I think people need that voice, that tone, because if we’re just nice about everything, then nothing ever gets done. Nothing ever gets moved ahead if everybody is getting too polite.
Q: What’s next for you and The North Haven Way?
A: I’m definitely keeping it as local as it is now for a little bit longer, but when the national political scene heats up soon, you’re going to see much more of a national focus. It started out as a Republican blog, and it’s going to go even harder right.
Right now, I’m smack dab in the middle of writing a book about the blog. At first, I thought writing a book was going to be much more boring, but now it’s become much more interesting. The book starts on election night two years ago, when Mike Freda won the First Selectman’s office.
Q: Speaking of Mike and municipal elections, North Haven is quickly approaching another election season. Do you have any early predictions or feelings?
A: Mike is going to walk. When it comes to measuring Mike’s success in his first term, if he simply stopped any major problems from happening, then Mike had a good first term. Sure, he’s short on major accomplishments, but he’s maintained the town well. North Haven is not in a worse place than when he started. His first term was all about cleaning up messes and making sure messes he inherited didn’t get bigger.
Three people are coming up for election on the Board of Education, and I’m not supporting any of them.
From The North Haven Citizen
What began as a civic forum has blossomed into a powerful, polarizing blog, capable of shifting local sentiment while garnering 20,000 hits per month – The North Haven Way.
Many love it. Many loathe it. Chances are you’ve at least heard of it. For hundreds of people, checking the website, which examines issues, mainly political, from municipal to national levels, is a daily exercise.
Begun two years ago, The North Haven Way is authored by Republican blogger and former town resident Chris Peterson. “It started as a place where people could come and talk about issues facing the town and state,” he said. “Now it’s gotten beyond anything I could have imagined or dreamed of.”
Since March 3, 2009, The North Haven Way has been visited 225,159 times, an average of 422 times per day. “The site really picked up over the last 12 months, since last summer,” Peterson said. “That’s when town elections were really heating up. There was something to talk about every single day.”
“The blog came on at the right time,” he added. “It’s just basically exploded. I’ve heard that even more and more high school students know about the site.”
An early discourse with a local parent alerted Peterson to his blog’s potential. “I received this email from a parent six months after the blog started,” he said. “She had serious concerns about the school system and wanted questions answered. My site answered her questions, and she wrote me a long email about what the site means to her, how she checks it every day, and tells her friends to do the same. That’s when I knew it could be more than a discussion board, and could serve the purposes of town residents.”
Once an aspiring blogger, Peterson is now recognized in public. “That’s been the most interesting experience,” he said. “I can’t go somewhere without somebody coming up to me and knowing who I am because of the blog.”
“The response, for the majority, has been very positive,” Peterson added. “They like something I wrote, or a question I asked about town. Very seldom does somebody come up and say I’m a jerk.”
Peterson said his blogging motivation also was to provide an online, Republican voice in North Haven. In his first-ever post, May 12, 2008, Peterson writes, “I am a registered Republican and I will be the first to admit this is a right wing themed blog. One of the main reasons I started this blog was to respond to the northhaveninfo.org blog which is heavily liberal.”
To this day, Peterson’s site has stuck to his conservative charge, understandably putting him at odds with certain viewers. Further, others have criticized his sometimes scornful writing style, especially when he targets individuals. Peterson actually attributes part of The North Haven Way’s success to those two distinct aspects of his blogging voice.
“People want a personality on the blog,” he said. “That’s why I bring an opinionated approach. And that’s more fun. I’d rather be that than an information-spilling robot.”
“The question I get asked most often is ‘Why are you so mean to people on your blog?’” Peterson added. “If you’re somebody who puts yourself in the public eye, you shouldn’t be offended when someone comes back and criticizes your actions. I will criticize people who make public comments at town meetings. That’s my principle – if they’re so willing to criticize someone else, they should be able to be criticized themselves.”
Peterson is no stranger to censure himself. Posters on The North Haven Way have labeled him everything from a bully to a narcissist. And those are the vulgarity-free comments he allows.
“I think with a blog, you need to have an open mind, thick skin, and show commitment,” he said. “If you don’t have those three qualities, you’re not going to be successful, and you won’t last long.”
Commitment, as in sifting through 50 to 100 comments registered on his blog each day, selecting, he said, approximately half for publication, only those on-point and free of obscenities. Some of Peterson’s posts have alone attracted over 100 worthwhile responses.
Comments run the gamut, from conservative to centrist to liberal, from agreeing with Peterson to questioning his sanity. To Peterson, employed by the Quinnipiac University admissions office, such partisan divide is welcome. As posts accumulate in response to one another and his own blog entries, political debate and participation in town is spurred to unquestionably high levels.
“Voter turnout has definitely increased since the blog became more active,” Peterson said. “Attendance at board meetings has increased. I’ve been told all the other sites in the area, North Haven TV’s and Chris Kirby’s North Haven News, have all gone up as well.”
Peterson’s site has even inspired others to begin their own local blogs, including “North Haven Parent,” a regular commenter on The North Haven Way who briefly produced her own page, and Democrat Walt Spader, who seems more serious with his site, North Haven Democrat.
“I think it’s great,” Peterson said of Spader’s blog. “I know Walt Spader. I think he’s a great guy, and somebody who is very involved locally and state-wise with the Democratic Party. Walter has thick skin, an open mind, and a high commitment level. I love that there is now a second viewpoint in town.”
Undeniably, Peterson’s political stances have altered local thought. “In last year’s town elections, every single candidate I knocked lost,” he said. “Was that because of me directly? I’m not sure, but I certainly played a part.”
“When I come out against a case, action, or person, results follow,” Peterson added. “I’ve been told by both political parties in town that I’m the most hated, feared and loved political person in town. That’s a very interesting thing.”
“I received calls from every single Republican gubernatorial and senatorial campaign, asking for more exposure on my blog,” Peterson said. “I’m happy to do it if it coincides with the town and my own interests.”
“It’s very flattering and humbling,” he added. “Anybody who does this thing definitely has a political impact.”
During his successful campaign for first selectman, Republican Mike Freda replied to Peterson’s and his readers’ concerns on The North Haven Way. Local Republican State Representative candidate David Yaccarino has also answered questions on Peterson’s blog.
“For any politician in town, it would definitely be intelligent to embrace this blog,” Peterson said. “Even Democrats whom I may not agree with – that would go over very well with the people who follow the blog.”
“I like how this has become the blog, the source in town,” he added. “Interestingly, I criticized David Yaccarino’s campaign website heavily. I made specific suggestions. Within a couple of days, every change I suggested was made.”
Peterson is looking to expand his sway beyond governmental and similar realms. “I’m posting more notices about non-profit and charity opportunities,” he said. “If I can serve a higher purpose than politics, all the better.”
Producing a product capable of attracting and affecting such an audience is time-consuming. “It’s a part-time job, basically” he said.
Peterson said he begins his day by surfing other local news sites. Articles that catch his eye are copied and pasted onto The North Haven Way. Then he goes through comments left for his blog. At night he puts together his blog posts. Advertisements on his blog generate Peterson a small amount of revenue, but nothing significant, he said.
Months ago, Peterson broke news that he would be moving to Hamden, causing some to question his blog’s future. “I’m right on the other side of the boarder now,” he said. “I don’t think it’s changed the way I’m commenting on things. I’m no longer saying how the present administration is personally affecting me. I just comment on town.”
The North Haven Way will continue to evolve, Peterson said. He has already explored live-blogging and podcasts, and is planning to offer taped talk shows before election day. Publishers approached Peterson a few months ago about writing a book on his experiences, something he said he is not seriously considering just yet.
Above all else, Peterson said, he will continue blogging with the hope of stoking the fires of local debate. “This is a diverse town,” he said. “We don’t have just one political party dominating another. There are a lot of people involved.”
“North Haven is perfect for the blog,” he continued. “Because we have a lot of Republicans and Democrats, people always want to talk about the issues on both sides.”
Politics have never, and will never, be Peterson’s blog’s only focus. Instead, he said, he will continue to examine any issues regarding town. “The most important thing is, with growth, to make sure that this remains a North Haven blog,” he said. “This is not going to be regional. It’s always going to be about North Haven.”
“The limits are endless,” Peterson added of his blog. “It’s already grown 1,000 percent more than I ever thought it could.”