“I like to use the phrase ‘paper on glass’ to describe this method of getting out information. It’s the printing press sitting on your desk, with not much technical information needed to get things started.”
Adelman talking with the MGP, April 2009
Written for the MGP by Michael Rosenhouse, student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, April 2009
BarkingDogs.org is essentially a neighborhood crime watch newsletter for the 21st century. At the heart of the site is owner/creator/editor/publisher, Avi S. Adelman. Adelman is a community activist trying to show his point of view of the Lower Greenville area of Dallas.
BarkingDogs.org started in 1998, first as an e-mail service, and then later that year as a website. Adelman says,
"The purpose was to focus attention on the issues created by nearly 50 bars all located in one area of the neighborhood (Greenville Avenue) and the problems they caused in the surrounding residential area. Issues such as parking, noise, fights, trash, and whether these bars are in fact legally operating in an area designated as Community Retail zoning."
Adelman says the website averages 5,000 hits per week. Although one of the main goals of the website is to educate the neighborhood and others about Lower Greenville's issues, he does have his message. He responds,
"It's an information site – local news (very local) on the issues that impact the 35,000 residents in the area. I do have a point of view and have no problem using the site to push it out. Many of our readers are at City Hall and the media, and they act/react according to their niche issues."
Adelman doesn't make a profit on the website, saying it's completely out of pocket. Even though it may not be a moneymaker, Adelman feels a sense of duty to the community, saying, "How long can I go on?? There are days but then I realize someone else is going to come along and try another way to mess up this area."
While the financial risk is minimal, Adelman says the personal risk is very real. The site has provoked multiple threats and he believes those won't go away any time soon. He notes,
"My livelihood has been negatively impacted by the number of appearances I have made on TV newscasts.
"If I get into a blog chat, or if a story about my involvement in an issue is posted with comments on, the viciousness of the comments is just frightening. Most of them are written by people who do not live in this area, feel that I am denying them a chance in the playbox (the bars), and usually do not care that people live in this area who do not like their behavior."
Adelman champions the website as a way to get out a message in the modern era. He says activists used to only be able to push for coverage in the mainstream media or to pass out flyers. Now, the Internet has evened the playing field, as local citizens can get their ideas out to thousands of people instantly.
"I like to use the phrase 'paper on glass' to describe this method of getting out information. It's the printing press sitting on your desk, with not much technical information needed to get things started."
The BarkingDogs editor and publisher says the web can foster public participation if there are issues in a community, it's up to neighborhood citizens to take action and websites can be a great way to publicize positions. Adelman says,
"The current media – for better or worse – simply cannot push out superlocalized information like this. It's not affordable and sometimes goes against entrenched interests that pay for advertising and other expenses. We need a free press, we just need to make sure it includes non-traditional media – websites, youtube, etc. – if the people who care about an issue are going to find the information and points of view they need to make decisions that impact their quality of life."