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One Moment Please: Obituaries and E-mail Alert System

Fri, Jul 10th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

Over the years, I've heard a few people say the Internet is a bad thing. And, I've heard the flip side from people stating the Internet is the next best thing since the toothbrush.

The individuals who are concerned about what the Internet introduces into our lives usually make the claim that there are bad things coming from the Internet.

For example, in an anonymous letter directed to me with a date of April 15, 2009, someone took the time to express their concerns regarding my "apparent addiction to the internet, and [my] desire to draw others into the same," quoted from the letter.

The writer went on to make comparisons to our human nature being drawn to the Internet as a close comparison to the price we paid with "Hiroshima."

This person continued expressing their concerns by stating that "the primary uses of the internet are: pornography, gambling, chat rooms, and exercises in vanity called Facebook and MySpace."

I debated on how or whether to respond to this letter at all, since it was anonymous. However, recent developments have led me to believe this is the perfect time to demonstrate how the Internet can be helpful.

First off, if you only see all of those negatives coming from the Internet, I'm sure a psychologist would be more than happy to tell you to get your mind out of the gutter -- putting it bluntly.

A person could make those same arguments with vehicles or kitchen knives.

Vehicles can be very dangerous if not operated properly, and people have died as a result.

People use kitchen knives to chop up fruits, vegetables, meats and other food items, and yet these same devices can cause harm.

As I flip through the channels on my television, I see content that I don't care for and I don't feel would be appropriate for my family to watch.

I simply exercise judgement.

To say the Internet is a bad thing because of the items aforementioned is an extreme generalization. There are some bad things on the Internet, but you need to educate yourself and other impressionable individuals on how to avoid those things.

Respectfully, I sense this individual has had some bad experiences with the Internet. Everyone has different life experiences which sculpt their personality, character and beliefs.

Before you throw in the towel on the Internet, consider this.

At the Journal, we have recently had funeral directors tell us that every daily newspaper in Southeast Minnesota is now charging a minimum of $100 for an obituary to be published in those respective newspapers.

Knowing that obituaries rank among the fourth most-viewed content on our web site, we saw an opportunity to better serve the public.

Since our newspaper comes out once a week, it's inevitable that our time line isn't going to match up with the schedule of funeral services. So, we end up running a percentage of our obituaries after the funeral service has already passed.

With all of this taken into consideration, we have decided to post obituaries onto our web site as soon as we receive them from the funeral homes in Fillmore County. This way, anyone accessing the web site can find out when the funeral services are taking place in advance. And, we will still print the obituaries in the newspaper for those who prefer receiving their information in that manner.

There's another example that I think will be even more significant, long-term.

On Wednesday, July 8, I met with local law enforcement, including the police chiefs of each town in Fillmore County along with representatives from the Fillmore County Sheriff's Department -- Sheriff Daryl Jensen included.

We've had a number of crimes take place in Fillmore County, with some of them extending over several jurisdictions. This requires an intense amount of collaboration, as referenced in the July 6 article, "It's highway robbery."

Interestingly, for the past few months, our Journal staff has been exploring the use of an e-mail alert system.

I have even purchased a scanner so I can keep posted on developments throughout Fillmore County at all times.

Anyone could subscribe for free to receive e-mail updates from the Journal.

Let's say there is a trend in stolen items, or maybe a vehicular accident on Highway 52 that will impede traffic, or even an Amber Alert.

This e-mail alert system will only be used when there is a situation that warrants the transmission of something significant.

In addition, anyone signing up for this free service can also sign up for the "daily headlines" so they can be the first to know what's on the web.

To sign up for this service, go to, and you will see "E-mail Updates" located on the left side of the home page, below "Letters to Editor" and just above "Calendar of Events."

I should also indicate that this feature will be used on a limited basis, so you won't be receiving e-mail SPAM as a result of this new alert system.

I've had people ask me why we would put so much effort into developing our Internet presence.

I'll tell you why we do what we do -- in print and online.

We are a communications company, and our communication methods are rapidly changing.

From our vantage point, our newspaper and our web site have the perfect marriage.

We can do things on the Internet that we can't do in print, such as videos, reader polls and online comments. All of these things I mentioned essentially create interactions, and we can reverse publish online content in the Journal.

If you have any questions about these new web site options, you can reach me on my cellular phone is 507-251-5297.

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