As we were the first to report last night, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will stop by Fresno between San Francisco and Washington, D.C. as part of a 10-day state visit.

PGMA sets 10 day visit to U.S.

From San Francisco, the President will proceed to Fresno, California, a four-hour drive from San Francisco, to hear mass and interact with the Filipino community before proceeding to Washington D.C.

Meeting members of Filipino communities in the countries that she visits is a standard feature of the President�s trips abroad in an effort to keep them posted on developments back home and to encourage them to invest in the country, as well as thank them for their remittances that had helped improve the economy.

When we first started this blog, I suggested the name “Ships in the Night” because that’s how I often see the Valley. It’s full of interesting and fascinating people and happenings that no one sees because we’re all ships in the night. That name was a bit too esoteric and confusing in the end but “A Summer with goats” blog is what I mean.

It’s written by an organic farming intern who is studying divinity in New York City, but she’s spending the summer in Firebaugh! I love this fresh perspective on the Valley. Seems like she likes what she saw in Fresno, especially the Farmers Market at Shaw and Blackstone. Welcome!

What a great window into an aspect often ignored by Valley city life. Farms!

today, i was outside by 7:30 and ivan and i picked about 5 lbs of purple beans. this involved picking the pods, opening the pods and dumping the little beans into the bucket. each pod had 2-3 beans inside. we worked on this for about an hour and a half and had only 1/8 of a bucket full.

Good for you, and good luck with your adventures in the San Joaquin Valley.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines, plans a visit to the Central Valley Sunday morning

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

According to closely-hugged sources– Tatay and Nanay Valley Notebook– Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will visit Fresno for a few hours Sunday morning, partaking in a Catholic ceremony at the Exhibit Hall in Downtown Fresno, and likely visiting with local leaders at Fresno’s Community Hospital. She’ll fly from the Bay Area and proceed to Washington, D.C., sources say.

Many Filipino expatriates (particularly Filipina nurses) work in the American health care profession, and our closely-hugged sources say she would like to see their working environments.

The Philippines, like the Central Valley, has a severe brain drain problem–an estimated 121 Filipinos leave the homeland every hour– and it helps fill our own shortage of health care workers.

Gloria’s second visit to Fresno

This will not be the first visit to Fresno for the diminuitive and controversial President, who is a former classmate of our former President Bill Clinton at Georgetown University.

She visited about eight years ago when she was Vice President of the Philippines. She slipped in and out without any media attention during that visit, but then-Miss Valley Notebook was in attendance.

Macapagal-Arroyo (who IS as cute as a button in person) spoke of the important ties between Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. She gave much credit to the Filipino-American community for sending money back home.

People are country’s most valuable export

Instead of cars or iPods, the Philippines’ main export for decades have been its professionals and not-so-professionals. The country relies heavily on money sent home.

Many Filipinos work abroad in the middle east in the oil industry. Although the country would like to shed this image, many Filipinas work in homes across Asia and Europe as nannys, domestic helpers, and entertainers.

This policy of exporting its best and brightest has caused a cascade of economic and social problems back home in the Philippines, including a generation of children raised by extended family in exchange for financial stability.

In America and the Central Valley, many Filipino immigrants are nurses and doctors due an immigration policy in the 1960 and 70s that encouraged foreign professionals to move to the United States. Nurses are still particularly recruited.

A few “famous” Filipino-Americans on the Internet?

Blogger David Lat of Above the Law and conservative Michelle Malkin, both children of Filipino-American doctors.

A few famous Filipinos in Fresno?

TV news broadcaster Dale Yurong and Fresno Bee writers Joan Obra, B.J. Anteloa and Tracy Correa.

Not so trivial trivia on the Philippines?

The US colonized, controlled, the Philippines for the first half of 19th century. Among other effects, the culture is very Americanized and American English is widely taught and spoken.

Recommended summer reading on Filipino culture and diaspora:

Dogeaters by Jessica Hagedorn

Small town news for a small town girl

I got my first paycheck from the Clovis Independent. They hired me the summer after high school, and I remember feeling both humbled and haughty (like all recent high school graduates–I was pretty darned important). I didn’t do very much as their news aide, and wrote only two articles I think, but I kept this summer work on my resume as long as I could. I always made room to describe my contribution to “The Bee Swatters,” the summer softball team: “Maintained positive attitude despite zero-win record.”

On this day

I can’t remember what the feature was called, but one of my favorite things to do was to find items for its 5-year, 10-year and I think 50-year “Remember when’s” or “On this day…” I’d go to the Clovis library branch and heave down these giant binded copies of the paper, and get lost flipping through small town history. At the time, I tired of the Clovis “way of life,” but I couldn’t help loving the stories behind the stories of city politics or high school champions. The ads were as fascinating as the news. The price of beef and cans of peas were often just a few cents.

Senior Stars

I also liked proofreading (and typing into the computer) the Senior Star features, where senior citizens narrated their lives with simple profound statements like: “I married my sweetheart at 17 and left Oklahoma,” “I worked there for 43 years,” and “after my husband died.” I’m a sucker for personal histories, and hidden behind my partition, I would shed tears reading them.

As a reader

In high school, I wondered why full-grown adults with all their faculties would bother with the piddly-lives of students. I saw reporters like Jenny McGill (recently laid-off from Coalinga’s shuttered paper) and Denny Boyles (now working for the Bee) taking serious interest in things like what my tennis coach Dick Ramage had to say about our upcoming match. Apparently, I thought, there was enough paper in the world to publish that trivia.

What I never appreciated at the time was how tremendously fact-checked and fair that public service was. It wasn’t out there to upend the political system, or dig through government records to get dirt. Its mission was to document the everyday folksy life of its residents. I read about the elderly man who walked everyday on Shaw and Temperance Ave. I read about the little kid who made friends with the janitor, after it was discovered that his dad was a custodian before he died. I read about my friends and the high school stars winning things like “All-star super student…of the Valley!” Did anyone else save these clippings from the Clovis Independent?

Back to the present

Before I get even more carried away– and believe me, I can– I ask myself: But, do I read it now? No. If its death wasn’t imminent, would I have noticed? Probably not. If I lived in Clovis, I might subscribe if it were cheap enough, but then again, not until I had kids in school. According to Ulrichs periodicals (which I accessed through a library) the Independent had a circulation of 5,000 paid subscriptions in 2007.

Last night, I told a few of my Clovis expatriate friends about the paper, “Who will write about entitled students and athletes?!” I typed, semi-seriously.

And they were all shocked, as anyone can be shocked on IM.

“What?”

“You’re kidding!”

“I was on their police blotter.” They wrote.

“Really?” responded one skeptically, followed by a long pause. “I didn’t see anything about it on their website.”

At any rate, what’s done is done. Good luck Patti, who I think is still the editor of the Clovis Independent. She may not remember, but she was my boss when I was there, and I admired her and her life. What’s next for newspeople? Who knows. Maybe it’s into the blogosphere for all of us. But on this day in history, this week? A small town girl once again shed tears over memories in the Clovis Independent.

South Valley bureau, Clovis Independent and Madera’s Sierra Star take hit for the rest of the company

Someone just punched me in the stomach.

I’m winded because The Fresno Bee is laying off 44 of its staff to keep pace with McClatchy’s directive to cut 10% of its workforce. But more personally, it’s because the Bee is concentrating that pain on the Clovis Independent, Madera paper, and the South Valley bureau (Visalia) where I worked for two-and-a-half years as a business reporter.

Those were the days

I was there at it’s zenith. Just a few years ago, at the height of the real estate advertising revenue, the Bee was pushing hard to conquer new territory in the South Valley. Visalia, bursting with new housing developments and served by the Times-Delta (known for overworked and inexperienced reporters) seemed like good pickings. At one time, I think we had almost as many journalists (13) working in the bureau as the Times-Delta did for its daily paper. The competition was fun and friendly. But the competition made everyone better.

Down to 3 journalists

In 2006, as the economy and advertising revenue slowed down, the bureau stopped filling positions from attrition. The bureau, as of today, is almost half that size: 4 reporters, two photographers, and one editor. In a few weeks it will be down to three. Two photographers and two undecided reporters will be laid off. Its editor is being transferred to Fresno.

I don’t have details, but I have also heard that The Clovis Independent–a fine, weekly publication that gave me my first job– will be completely shuttered by the end of June and that Sierra Star in the North Valley will go from twice a week to once a week starting the first week of July.

Why am I writing this? No, I’m not a vulture, hungry for a juicy scoop. I’m not that kind of journalist anymore. I’m writing this because this is information that in today’s media environment, is begging to be released. As librarian Meredith Farkas says, “Information wants to be free.” If I don’t write it, someone else will and should. This is news in today’s times. The Bee and McClatchy in general has been struggling to make a transition to online journalism. Although Fresno’s online community isn’t developed enough to have a dedicated blogger serving as a watchdog on traditional media, it’s only a matter of time before someone takes up that necessary role.

Another reason is to list, as an outsider now, my ideas on how I’d like to see the Fresno Bee evolve to serve my current needs as a news consumer. This list is short. I’m not a futurist, and I’m also hampered by my history. I think like an old-fashioned journalist. I encourage anyone who is reading this to also send ideas to the Fresno Bee on what they would like to see in its news outlet of the future. If the Fresno Bee is to survive, and believe me, it may not, they need to give us what we want and need.

All these suggestions could have been made in 2007, but here are some ideas inspired by what I’ve experienced as a consumer trying to READ the Bee, and also heavily influenced by USC’s Online Journalism Review, which for some reason is ALSO shutting down today…(Is nothing sacred in online media?)

Ten ways I’d like to see the Fresno Bee improve online:

1. The entire website needs to change. It makes no sense to me, I see national stories on the front page, when I have already seen those played out everywhere else and on my news feeds. It’s a major turn-off period. Even when I figure it out, I can’t bear to navigate past the first page.

2. More in-depth packages like the Saroyan package. Unlike the birth of Christ, multimedia packages should not arrive just once a year. But also, write more about less, like McClatchy’s DC bureau recent work on Guantanamo. Leave the minutiae for bloggers.

3. More user-generated content. The Bee should have gotten the hint from one-man-band Adrian Rodriguez at Lateupdate.com on how possible it is to be a hub for Fresno-made YouTube, blogs, etc.

4. Create deep, informative pages where I can see past coverage of what a reporter has written and what beat he or she covers. Reporters such as EJ Schultz, the Sacramento correspondant, should have his own page where I can see at a glance the status of 5-10 different bills pertaining to the Valley. And a running list of stories he has written about them. Or for Mike Oz fans, how about a page dedicated to all things Mike, music and more Mike.

5. A better pipeline of citizen bloggers. Online Journalism Review does a good job of explaining how to encourage them, but the Bee should anoint someone to be a head blogger/volunteer coordinator inspiring, motivating, and rewarding quality posts. There are SO MANY smart, inspired professionals already blogging: scientists, policy wonks, food lovers. Wouldn’t it be neat to read blogs from homeless people in Fresno, or teenagers, or farmers? I’d like to see all these blogs collated at Fresnobee.com.

6. More transparancy. The Bee should be frank with its readers about its challenges. Why, for instance, is it taking so long to redesign the site. And why is it so hard to find the “news” beehive–the blog for most of the news reporters? If there’s a good reason, let it be known, otherwise, please make it easy to find. I LOOK for it, and I still can’t find it sometimes.

7. This is also an idea I’ve seen on OJR, but I’d like to see “evergreen” stories updated and maintained by reporters or copyeditors, maybe on a wiki. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see the most recent update of the Fresno mayoral race without gerrymandering a google search for “fresno mayoral AND race site:fresnobee.com” and “fresno mayoral race site:fresnobeehive.com”?

8. WRITE FOR THE WEB!!! There aren’t even any hyperlinks in the online version of the news stories. Add the recommended reading that served as the foundation for your reporting.

9. Make the archives free. Sure you can find it at your local library, but it’d be nice to be able to search without the hassle. It’s also silly to let all those in-depth articles wither away because it’s past the two week searching period. How can anyone link to them from their blogs, knowing that they’ll be inaccessible in a few weeks?

10. Make more mistakes. Take more risks online! Would readership drop any more?

So I’ve just blown this out of my a$#, really I’m just shaken up about my poor colleagues–both victims and survivors– that I could think of little else to do. I really loved working with my colleagues and professionals at the Bee.

What ideas do any of you have? I’d really like to see the Fresno Bee around for years and years. Writing this blog reminds me of how time consuming it must be to produce one story and to fact check (which is pretty much absent from blogging, including this one). At the same time, I find it shocking how out of touch its online presence is. I hadn’t visited in two years and when I returned, it seemed like I had never left. In the meantime, I am encouraged by the aggressive and relevent work of bloggers like Mike Lukens at San Joaquin Valleyfornia. That’s a citizen journalist that makes me hopeful for the future.

Editors’ note:

We found a very special treat in our in-box today, yet another reader submitted survey for our on-going series of posts on the central valley brain drain. We are exploring why people leave and what would help them move back home.

If you are part of the brain drain and would like to participate, answer the questions you see below and send them to valley.notes AT gmail DOT com.

Reader surveys help us increase the diversity of our interviewees. We’re never going to be scientific, but we’d like to include a variety from all ages, neighborhoods, interests and backgrounds. Thank you Tom for taking the time to share your perspective!

Name: Tom

Age: 63

Where did you attend high school? Tulare Union High School

What is your educational background? BA Asian History UC Santa Cruz; BFA Photography San Francisco Art Institute. Also attended Fresno State, College of the Sequoias, Mills College.

What is your current occupation? Semi-retired

Where and how long did you live in the central valley? From 1955 to 1976 in Tulare, and Fresno.

Where do you live now? Oakland.

Why do you (don’t you) live in the central San Joaquin Valley?
1) Never had much luck finding work.
2) Frustrating creative environment.

What are the secondary reasons?
The Bay Area is a nice place to live. Great weather. Good art scene. More liberals. More book stores and theater.

What are the top 5-10 adjectives that come to mind when you think of the central valley?
Limited, Hot, foggy, fertile, reactionary, narrow (at least then), xenophobic.

What changes/acts of God would need to occur in order for you to move back?
People joining the world of the 20th Century, their reaching the 21st is too much to hope for.

What price would make it worthwhile to move back?
Being able to make a decent living from my art…

Feel free to add any comments.
I still have friends from those days in the valley. It might be a nice place to visit, but it’s been 20 years, so I’m not likely to do so. I doubt that any of us will be living there much longer (age).

Editors’ note:

This is part of an on-going series of posts on the Valley’s creative movement and its counterpart the central valley brain drain. We are exploring why people leave and what would help them move back home.

If you are part of the brain drain and would like to participate, answer the questions you see below and send them to valley.notes AT gmail DOT com. This is our second reader submitted survey, and our first from a Tulare County native.

Thank you Dan for taking the time to share your perspective!

Name: Dan
Age: 43
Where did you attend high school? Tulare Union High School
What is your educational background? MS in Engineering, San Jose State; BS in Mathematics, University of South Carolina. Also attended Fresno State, College of the Sequoias, Chico State, and Shasta College.
What is your current occupation? Software engineer at a Motorola subsidiary.

Where and how long did you live in the central valley? From 1973 to 1985 in Hanford, Tulare, and Clovis, 1987/88 up norte, and also in Yosemite from 1990 to 1992.

Where do you live now? San Jose.
Why do you (don’t you) live in the central San Joaquin Valley?
1) Not enough jobs, good or otherwise.
2) My wife has zero interest in the Valley, and she probably couldn’t get a good job within her specialization there.
3) Honestly, I would be concerned about the impact of air pollution on my kids.
What are the secondary reasons?
The Bay Area is not a bad place to live. Great weather. Nice trails. More liberals.Roads with curves.

What are the top 5-10 adjectives that come to mind when you think of the central valley? Nevada (that’s the adj in “Sierra Nevada”), Hot, foggy, fertile, reactionary.

What changes/acts of God would need to occur in order for you to move back?
The real miracle would be convincing my wife.
What price would make it worthwhile to move back?
Two good jobs, I suppose.
Feel free to add any comments.
I would love to live among the grove on the eastern edge of the valley. It’s a genuine fantasy, but maybe not very realistic.
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