local media landscape, the departure of Bob Cilman and the arrival
of Diane Welter as editor of Elder Vision went virtually unnoticed
and certainly underreported.
because the tabloid-style newspaper serves a community - the
nearly 5,000 Northampton citizens who are at least 60 years
old. - that is pretty much invisible as well in this self-defined
hip city of 30,000.
of us who are 65 and getting a monthly Social Security check
tend not to think of ourselves as elderly, and probably not
involved with the Council of Aging, which publishes Elder Vision
from the basement of Memorial Hall every other month. And we
probably donít think the newspaper has much to tell us.
started the newspaper in 1987 with the page one headline - "Move
Over Gazette, New Paper in Town" - admits that in the community
as a whole Elder Vision "is under recognized." Yet,
among many seniors the response and enthusiasm for the publication
is robust, he says.
In an interview
with downstreet.net, Cilman, now director of the Northampton
Arts Council, seemed both pleased with the track record of Elder
Vision during his 14-year tenure and confident of its future.
big fan of Diane," he said. "Sheís going to do a great
job with the paper, she has that old-fashioned caring about
has already produced two issues of the paper, will have to balance
the half-time editorís job with her position as assistant director
of the Council on Aging and program coordinator.
great to have this thing handed to you," she said in an
interview. "Itís wide open, it has endless possibilities."
And as if she
had overheard Cilmanís comments about her, Welter added: "Bob
made it what is and itís unique in the state."
With the thank
youís taken care of, Welter, 56, hinted that she would like
to take Elder Vision in slightly new directions, perhaps even
delving into issues that might spark some controversy.
of the writing is wonderful," she said, with a particular
nod to long-time contributors Bette Ondras and David Kopko.
But many of the writers understandably donít have a zest for
stories that could be controversial. "Their manners are
too good to get involved in controversy," said Welter.
we had a few people who were eager to ask harder questions and
to explore difficult issues," she said, while recognizing
that as a branch of the city government the Council on Aging
operates under certain self-imposed restrictions.
tour as editor, Cilman, 48, said the "biggest struggle
with Elder Vision was that the writers wanted to write about
the past and write about themselves." Pushing writers to
function more as reporters was always a challenge, he said.
good at finding the quirky interesting articles to write about,"
he said, and while some columnists would take a stand "we
were careful not to push one point of view too much."
the publication cycle works against Elder Vision having a sharper
edge. "Itís is hard to have breaking news every two months,
to cover something and still be relevant and not out of date
by the time you come out." she said.
One of her
principal tasks, she said, will be to cast a wider net to find
writers and contributors to Elder Vision.
to recruit people, " Welter said as the laughter of the
Wednesday afternoon cribbage players reverberated outside her
office. "There are lot of writers out there who donít think
to get involved in Elder Vision. People who meet the definition
and donít regard themselves as elderly. Itís writing, itís putting
out a newspaper. I would hope that would appeal."
and Welter recognize that there is resistance among the non-elderly
and even those who meet the age test to either take Elder Vision
seriously or even bother to thumb through it. "People who
are younger who actually read it find interesting stuff,"
boomers really refuse to see themselves as elderly," says
Cilman. He called the attitude of the AARP, the national organization
that represents older citizens, "obnoxious" for presenting
in its publications elderly as looking very young. "They
donít honor aging, they honor the ability to stay young."
that the name Elder Vision may work against attracting younger
readers. "We thought of it as respecting your elders and
also as you live longer you gain wisdom. Age is honorable, as
Asian cultures honor older people."
much of the paperís coverage is aimed at those topics that are
critical for an older population, such as the "the whole
health-care issue, which is a life and death matter for seniors,"
total circulation is about 6,000 - 4,500 of which are papers
sent directly to the homes of anyone 60 years old based on information
provided by the Registrar of Voters, with another 1,500 copies
distributed through various other outlets, such as stores and
is free. Its production costs for printing and postage for mailing,
which amount in total to about $1,500 and issue, are covered
by paid advertising and donors who give $5 a year to have their
names run on the donorsí page. The cost of Council on Aging
staff time, such as the salary for the editor, is not covered
by advertising income.
had a problem getting ads," said Cilman, "but we never
overdid advertising." He said ad revenue and donations
"go well beyond" covering production costs.
Since it began
in 1987, Elder Vision has come out like clockwork, six times
a year. "We never missed that deadline by more than a week,"
says Cilman, who presided over the publication of some 90 issues.
In the beginning,
he said, it was necessary to actively recruit staff to write
for the paper, but then "people came to us." The staff
at one point reached 15. "Weíve had some interesting characters,"
writer, Bette Ondras, has been on board since the beginning
of Elder Vision.
said she is in her 80s, has written for each issue of the paper
since 1987, although "I might have missed a couple because
of deaths in the family." Despite her age, she said: "I
still have all my buttons" and the work "keeps me
Born in Hatfield
and a resident of Florence since 1953, Ondras said many of her
articles were profiles of community members, who she would interview
in their homes. "Interviews over the phone didnít work,"
to get it right and have it right and to go to the source,"
she said. Her articles, she said, are written out in long-hand
on her kitchen table. "People tell me they like what I
do, old folks do." Former residents who have moved away
send notes from as far away as California and Texas commenting
on her Elder Vision articles.
basic information for seniors, says Welter, "Elder Vision
is the Councilís only direct connection with each and every
person over 60. We come into their homes, itís like a first
hand out - an offer of friendship and service."
And that, she
said, furthers Elder Visionís role as community builder, a link
between Northamptonís newcomers and its hometowners. "I
always liked that idea."