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Times Beacon Record News Media

Dave Morrissey Jr. returns as Benjamin Tallmadge in ‘Traitor.’

Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook will present Times Beacon Record News Media’s latest film, “Traitor,” on Sunday, June 23 at 7:30 p.m. The special screening is preceded by the award-winning “One Life to Give” at 6 p.m. Admission is free, TBR’s gift to the community. Call 631-751-7744 for more information.

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Today I am going to pull back the curtain and let you see what is going on backstage at the newspaper office. To begin, there is the issue of the newspaper that you are now holding in your hands. You have probably noticed that it looks different from the typical weekly offering. Almost the entire edition is devoted to a single concerning theme. We did this last year for the first time, devoting space to the opioid epidemic that is affecting the ranks of our young. We had hoped to get the conversation going in our communities about this troubling scourge, which too often is hidden away for its stigma. The resulting issue was so positively received that we decided to pick some of the other urgent subjects and, likewise, concentrate attention on them individually from time to time. It is our belief that when the community is unified at recognizing and dealing with a challenge, we can overcome.

The current issue deals with climate change. We are not entering into discussion here about whether or not it is real. Instead we are reporting on changes to our local environment that are taking place, organizations that are tracking and dealing with those changes, governmental programs that have been formed in response to weather-related events and some of the economic effects of the above that touch all of us. We are especially interested, as always, in finding out what our residents are thinking and feeling, and helping you to understand the many aspects of the subject.

We hope we have done that this week. Look on our website for a video that accompanies this theme at tbrnewsmedia.com. We welcome your responses, via email, texts or letters to the editors.

On a more joyful note, we partied hearty Sunday night celebrating the 2016 People of the Year. As you know, we fill the last issue of each year with profiles of those working hard to make our towns and villages the wonderful places that they are. Some of those we salute are rather obvious, some are hidden from sight and largely unappreciated. You, our readers and our reporters who are covering the news have nominated most. We offer the spotlight of publicity to help the winners in their efforts and also to express our appreciation for their ongoing work. We limit the candidates to those who work here, live here or are doing something valuable that makes our lives better.

Then, the following March, in a grand hands-across-the-community collaboration, the Three Village Inn, Stony Brook University and Times Beacon Record News Media throw a fun party for the winners in Brookhaven Town and their guests, along with community leaders and some previous winners. Framed certificates and explanations are offered at that time. It’s a perfect setting for productive cross-pollination of ideas and resources, and sometimes the Inn has to urge us out because guests are reluctant to leave the conversations at the end. Normally we would run some of the photos from the party kindly taken by Setauket resident Bev Tyler in the following issue to remind readers of the winners, but that feature will have to await next week’s edition.

Also, did you know that nine first ladies among the 45 so far were born in New York state? That’s a concentration of 20 percent born in what amounts to 2 percent of the union. And they are a fascinating bunch, with stories surrounding them all. We have made a video of them, “The Ladies of Liberty,” narrated by Elizabeth Kahn Kaplan, complete with photographs and artifacts, and we showed a bit of it at the party. If you would like to use the video at fundraisers or other group meetings, ask us for the link. It’s free, it’s a service we offer, it runs for about an hour and it’s engaging for the history painlessly learned. Or you can view it soon on YouTube or our website.

So that is some of what has been happening in our world.

  

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“News” is one of my favorite four-letter words. Since I was a kid and watched the newsreels that preceded the feature films at movie theaters, before television, I have been engaged by the events that unfold around us on a daily basis. When they installed the public address system in my elementary school, instruction would stop for a half hour every Friday morning as “Let’s Look at the News,” a New York City-sponsored program, was transmitted to all the classrooms. The format involved student panelists each week, and I listened with great interest. I was even on the panel at the radio station when I was in fifth grade, which necessitated my reading the daily newspapers throughout the week. So in hindsight, I guess it is not so surprising that I wound up being a newspaper publisher, despite my teenage plans for a different direction. Hearing the news and interpreting its implications are as much a habit for me as breathing.

So you can understand my distress at the current tsunami of fake news that has overtaken us. News, by definition and tradition, must be factual. If not, it is either a parody in the guise of news; or it is opinion or partisan, clearly presented as such; or it is propaganda, to be thus evaluated by the viewer. Now, those in the business of offering the news can certainly make mistakes, sometimes colossal ones, as in telling us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction rather than emphasizing the fog and controversy surrounding that conclusion. Respected journalists told us that as fact, and though they believed what they were sharing, they were wrong.

That is different, however, from the plethora of so-called news stories that are deliberately fabricated and shared every day with millions thanks to access to social media. Everyone with a digital device can now become a publisher and disseminate half-truths, conspiracy theories and flagrant falsehoods as news, without any form of vetting. The more gullible or, perhaps, less informed, or those enjoying the partisan slant, like tabloid readers, are rapt viewers. Sometimes they respond, as did the North Carolina guy we heard about who shot up a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C. because he heard that there was a child-abuse ring operating there. While extreme, it is not any more false than the news that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump before our recent election. Regardless of one’s political orientation, that sort of phony and hyperpartisan stuff is alarming — or should be. Further troubling is how to deal with the question of vetting versus censorship.

Worst, as a result of the proliferation of so much fake news, is the confusion it sows about all news. What’s true, what’s a lie? Whom and what to believe? The marvel of the internet and mobile phones to bring inside news about brutality of dictatorships or other previously secret horror stories to the world’s attention and thereby reduce their occurrence has now been inverted. All sorts of false horror stories can now be broadcast as truths. The impact on the real news is to diminish the effect and value of good reporting.

As Thomas Jefferson preached, without an informed public, democracy is not possible.

Ironically, speaking of Jefferson, he or his supporters placed deceitful and, in today’s view, libelous stories in early newspapers when he ran against John Adams for president, and Adams’ followers did the same. So this fake news epidemic is not something new; only having so many decentralized outlets for transmitting the lies is. Somehow we will sort this out, just as they did two centuries ago.

Meanwhile, read the hometown newspaper. We never lie and while we are not always accurate, publishing corrections for our inadvertent mistakes in the following issue, we hold fact to be sacred.

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This is a big THANK YOU to the Village of Port Jefferson and all those who worked hard to transform the village into the Charles Dickens Festival. For the 21st year in a row, the seaside village came to life in the time of Dickens, with decorations, lights, greenery and especially costumed characters roaming the streets and welcoming visitors. This year, a second THANK YOU for naming us, Times Beacon Record News Media, the honoree for the event.

The entire weekend was a thrill, for us and for the thousands of people who chatted with the characters, shopped in the many varied stores, ate in the wide selection of restaurants, rode in the horse-drawn carriage, enjoyed the festival of trees and took in the harbor views. How do I know? I asked the festivalgoers, because I was there every day from Thursday to Sunday, and they told me how they decided to come into the village. Some came from Connecticut, enthusiastic about the magical event because they had visited before and knew of the many fun activities. It also helped that Port Jefferson ferry general manager, Fred Hall, offered a two-for-one price special during the weekend. The 10:30 a.m. boat on Saturday morning had 300 walk-ons alone, and they came without cars so no parking problems, and they had money in their pockets to spend for a good time. And people came from towns to the east and west, responding to the publicity and reputation surrounding the annual fantasy on the Long Island Sound.

Everyone might take the festival for granted after all these years, but I know how it came about because I was also there at the beginning. It was the brainchild of Jeanne Garant, the mayor at the time and mother of the present mayor, Margot Garant. Jeanne, a woman of vision, wanted the many organizations and groups to come together and work as a whole on a project to strengthen the sense of community and to celebrate the village. And she figured it wouldn’t hurt if the project helped the local businesses. So the first weekend in December was designated as the ideal time to capture some of the holiday shopping, and the theme was to be the Dickens stories and characters, who would come alive during those couple of days. And so it happened.

This was no small project to get the organizers’ arms around. Among those invited to offer their talents and to hold special events was the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, which would become the managing body alongside Port Jefferson Village, the historical society, the school district, the churches, various cultural paeans like Theatre Three (“A Christmas Carol”) and Harbor Ballet Theatre (“The Nutcracker”), the chamber of commerce and the civics, the constables, the ferry company, music groups, the harbormaster, the individual businesses and the residents just for starters. Events were designed for all age groups.

Eventually the Currier & Ives-like ice skating rink — another Jeanne Garant idea — joined the enchanting picture. And a special THANK YOU to nationally famed and charming confection artist, Pat Darling, for once again creating the whimsical Santa’s Workshop in the historic Drowned Meadow Cottage on West Broadway.

There are new offerings each year, and this past weekend Mrs. Cratchit’s Colorful Christmas Crafts was one such in the Village Center, along with an expanded Festival of Trees that each sponsor creatively decorated.

Port Jefferson Village was rich with events running through Saturday and Sunday. Indeed, it required more than two full pages in our Official Festival Guide just to list them in their many different locations hosted by the various community groups. So the original vision of a unified village has once again been realized. And the businesses were delighted with the results. “Never had an empty table all weekend,” one restaurateur said. “Shoppers buying all afternoon,” a jewelry store owner said.

Dickensian pleasure will go on throughout December this year, with the decorations and specials. And I would like to end on a personal note. I have watched countless parades in my lifetime as a child, a mother and a grandmother, but until this weekend, I had never been on a parade float. As the honoree of the Dickens weekend, I got to ride atop the ferry float and to wave at the thousands of people and shower them with (artificial) snow as they waved back, calling out greetings. What fun! We are deeply honored to have been appreciated in this way.

Yow-Ning Chang of East Setauket is TBR's 3rd Adult Coloring Contest Grand Prize Winner!

By Heidi Sutton

Dear Readers, We recently held our second adult coloring contest, asking adults 21 and over to color in Karin Bagan’s nautical-themed graphic and the response was overwhelming! We received many colorful entries from readers all along the North Shore who used many different types of mediums, including colored pencils, markers, paint, stickers and glitter to create their masterpieces.

Along with her online entry, Laura Star of Setauket commented, “This was fun! I’m going to hang [the coloring page] on my fridge, alongside the kids’ works! And why not?” Why not indeed!

Although it was extremely difficult to choose a winner as every entry was unique in its own way, our three judges, Port Times Record Editor Alex Petroski, Managing Editor Desirée Keegan and intern Nicole Geddes, ultimately decided that Yow-Ning Chang’s interpretation stood out above the rest.

“We selected this particular coloring page because, in addition to the appealing pastel colors, the artist’s interpretation looked like it was sent by sea as a message in a bottle,” stated the judges, adding, “It was the perfect blend of bright and colorful along with a weathered, parchment feel that distinguished itself from so many other great submissions and gave it a unique element of texture. The combination was too catching to be denied.”

The East Setauket resident will receive a three-year subscription to the Times Beacon Record. All other entries will receive a one-year subscription. Thanks to all who entered and for sharing your talents with us!