So what's new in the news media?
* Crucians found a couple of weeks ago that they could no longer pick up St. Thomas radio station JAMZ 105.3 at the old WAVI position on the FM dial. That's because Knight Broadcasting stopped simulcasting on the St. Croix station and now broadcasts only on 105.3.
Michelle Maulden of Knight Broadcasting explains that the company did not buy St. Croix's' WAVI when it bought St. Thomas sister station WVGN from John Galansis. When WVGN, renamed WVJZ, went on the air last year, Randy Knight agreed to simulcast over WAVI "as a favor to the owner to keep him from going dark until he sold it, which he recently did," Maulden said.
* The old WAVI is now the new WYAC. It's owned by Luis Mejia of Puerto Rico, who owns several other radio stations over there. The programing is a simulcast of one of those stations, a staffer on St. Croix said it's "80 percent Spanish ballads, 20 percent English music, plus a morning talk show in Spanish."
* AM radio station WRRA has come a long way in the last year from the little local Frederiksted signal that hardly anybody else could pick up, or wanted to. Now owned by businessman Hugh Pemberton (who also owns Rotating Equipment, a Christiansted restaurant and a new St. Croix hotel), WRRA has gone from a one-room operation in Frederiksted to production, newsroom and studio facilities in Castle Coakley.
Herb Schoenbohm, who's running the news department, says the station has FCC approval to begin broadcasting at 1620 kHz with 10,000 watts of power, compared to the 500 watts it has at 1290 on the dial.
"We'll simulcast at first we can do that for up to four years," he says. Start-up will be "within the next six months."
Meantime, Schoenbohm says, he persuaded Pemberton to take the station on the Internet, "streaming" the data as an alternative to traditional analog transmission on the airwaves.
"We've had difficulty getting a good signal to St. Thomas," he says, and "interference from high-powered stations in South America at night" affects all of the local AM's. The response has been excellent, he says "from Australia, India, the mainland U.S. People tune in for the programing and the weather reports."
"Digital" is where the station is already at. "All of our music is stored in computer, transferred from CD to keep the sound quality good," he says.
"Lots of what we play is straight digital music, MPG files. It's how Sony plans to distribute its music on the Internet for sale."
Here's Schoenbohm's explanation of streaming: "Analog music off a CD through the console is digitized, then compressed so it doesn't take up so much of the spectrum, then transmitted through a phone line, which does not care about the frequency response, then decompressed and reconverted on the other end. It's an electronic bucket brigade. By streaming, you're not sending in real time, so you can send more information quicker, then play catch-up."
He says there's a delay of about 4 seconds between the radio signal and the Internet sound.
Meantime, the station is selling space on its website just as it sells time on the air. Want to know more? Check out www.wrra.vi.
* The Daily News recently adopted a dress code. Nothing like three-piece suits and ties or pantyhose, mind you. But no shorts, not even for those who work at night and on weekends and have virtually no contact with the public except on the phone.
This rubbed some editing personnel the wrong way, especially one who was sent home to change - and his wife, a fellow layout editor. Deciding they could do without the new demands of their job, they resigned.
"The advertising people always dress to impress," one reporter observed. "But the newsroom editors do tend to be more relaxed."
Word circulating unofficially was that blue jeans were about to be banned, too. "It's a lot like being in school," one reporter under the age of 30 commented.
* Former Radio One news director, then newscaster, then V.I. Legislature
public information office director Rick Ricardo is starting a new job soon.
It's not news media, and it's not government, he says, adding, "I'll be sure to have them give you a call."
* Onetime Channel 10 television newscaster, then legislative public information officer, and most recently WTJX-TV staffer Lee Vanterpool is freelancing. An encounter comin' around the curves of Haypiece Hill in a Channel 12 company vehicle had a lot to do with it.
He's reporting for WSVI-TV and covering the society circuit for the V.I. Independent.
* Michael Burton, senior reporter for the Independent for much of the last year, left the paper to become press secretary to Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II. Sighted at the recent Business After Hours at the Reichhold Center for the Arts sporting a dark suit and tie, he said his new job is proving to be
"a good way to find out how things work."
* Through no fault of her own, Daily News executive editor J. Lowe Davis was a minor player in the melodrama of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr vs. President Clinton. It has to do with Linda Tripp, the onetime White House employee who, to quote The New Yorker, "drew Monica Lewinsky to prosecutorial attention," having taped their lengthy telephone talks.
In 1969, a teen-age Tripp was charged with grand larceny in a youthful episode of no particular note. But 18 years later, filling out a federal security clearance form, Tripp answered "no" to the question of whether she
had ever been "arrested, charged, cited or held" by authorities for a crime. When Tripp's credibility came under fire vis a vis Lewinsky, the veracity of her response became an issue.
Different people have different recollections of what actually happened in
1969. One of them is the woman who was married to Tripp's father, Albert Caro, at the time - J. Lowe Davis. She recalls being with Caro when he got a frantic call from his first wife, Linda's mother, asking him to bail their daughter out of jail. Last year, Davis, long since divorced from Caro, told The New Yorker that she had met Caro's daughter only twice and didn't even recognize her married name when "Linda Tripp" began making headlines.
If you really want to know any more than this, see The New Yorker of last June 8.
Editor's note: Jean Etsinger is "the" journalism faculty at the University of the Virgin Islands and has worked as a writer and editor on St. Thomas for 16 years. She was formerly an editor at The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald and The Brazil Herald in Rio de Janeiro.
So what's new in the news media?
Rumors that the VIP FreeNet is dead are greatly exaggerated, according to founder Peter de Blanc, whose company, COBEX, provides the Internet connection, system administration and maintenance.
"The FreeNet modem lines were shut off for about five days, due to a large Vitelco bill outstanding," which in turn was due to FreeNet user contributions not keeping pace with phone line costs, de Blanc said Sunday.
As the bill mounted, the number of V.I. Telephone Corp. lines had been cut from 13 to 11, and then down to five, he said.
With the total cut-off of service, the "resultant media exposure and the fact that users were suddenly aware what the lack of service meant to them caused a flurry of contributions - about $500 in a few days," de Blanc said.
COBEX contributed $2,000 to make up the shortfall and paid Vitelco, "and the service is back to normal, albeit with fewer lines," he said.
During the down time, he said, "users with Internet access could telnet to virgin.usvi.net or vip.vi to access their mail."
Many FreeNet users are high school students who use the service for e-mail, according to de Blanc. "The schools may have some Internet access but do not provide a post office server," he said.
The FreeNet has been, is and will continue to be available to students to get their basic Internet e-mail and for other services "at a price they can afford - free," he said.
FreeNet policy is to allow V.I. residents full services free, with a voluntary contribution of $25 per year recommended. Off-island users must pay $25 a year for an account.
John Ackley, director of information technology at the University of the Virgin Islands, says he was glad to get the news, because loss of FreeNet "would have been a loss to the community."
He pledged to check out the prospects of a UVI contribution, if not in cash, then in services computer science students might donate "to answer help calls and do some routine system administration."
"Supporting the FreeNet on behalf of our students who cannot afford unlimited access," Ackley said, "solves one of our potential problems and gives a regular month-in, month-out support to the FreeNet."
Meantime, several businesses have come forward with offers to subsidize the switched T-1 lines from Vitelco and assist in equipment upgrades and acquisitions, de Blanc said.
The next project for the FreeNet "is full PPP access, with POP mail," he said, so that mailbox users can POP mail and deal with it off-line.
There is a nice present Gov. Turnbull could give the people for the millennium. Won't cost that much money, either.
The Virgin Islands needs a new flag.
Let's face it, the current model — the first official flag of this territory — just doesn't make it. It's too militaristic. There's too much of the United States in it. And it doesn't tell what the Virgin Islands is all about.
The governor should appoint a small commission to design a new flag. Run the winning design past the Legislature, see how many senators salute it. If enough do salute it, and the governor approves it, the territory has a new flag. Could be done in time to hoist the new banner over Government House next Jan. 1.
A little history is in order here.
The current flag was adopted in 1921. It was designed by a U.S. Navy sailor, a yeoman. His boss, an admiral who also was the governor of the Virgin Islands at the time, liked the yeoman's design and ordered it into use as the official flag of this territory.
Given that background, is it any wonder that the flag is dominated by that fierce symbol of American might, the great bald eagle? On the eagle's breast is the red, white and blue shield of the United States.
When was the last time you saw a bald eagle, or any eagle for that matter, in the Virgin Islands? (We're not advocating the use of an iguana or mongoose in the new flag.)
The eagle is clutching in one talon three green arrows. What's he going to do, hurl them at the enemies of the Virgin Islands? Incidentally, the three arrows represent the three main islands of the territory. Arrows depicting St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John?
The Virgin Islands can do a lot better than this. One attempt was made in the early 1950s. There was a commission, whose membership included J. Antonio Jarvis. The commission's design for a new flag was too complicated to be described here. It did contain a "modified" Danish flag at the bottom.
The bill authorizing this flag was vetoed in 1956 by Gov. Walter Gordon on the rather specious grounds it was illegal to incorporate the Denmark flag without getting permission from Copenhagen.
From that point forward, the matter languished, despite occasional efforts to revive the issue.
The millennium is just 10 months away. (Disregard those purists who insist it's one year and 10 months away; sensible people have concluded that if you change the first digit in the year from a 1 to a 2, it must be the millennium.)
So this is a fine time to change the flag into something more meaningful. But what?
Although the eagle must go, there should be something in the new flag that says America. But, most of all, the flag should portray in some way the heritage of Virgin Islanders — mainly African, but also Hispanic, French, Danish and the other islands of the Caribbean.
We're no flag designer. But tell you what. Write down your ideas, maybe draw a rough sketch, and send them to The Source.
E-mail us at email@example.com.
FAX us at (340)777-8136
Write us at P. O. Box 505, St. Thomas 00804
We may publish your idea. And we promise that all ideas will get to the right people — if the governor acts favorably on our proposal to appoint a commission.
Editor's note: Frank J. Jordan is a local radio commentator, former UVI journalism professor, and former NBC news executive.
Applications from local non-profit organizations for the federally funded Section 5310 Grant Program for the fiscal year 1998-99 are to be submitted to DPW by March 25.
The grant provides funding to non-profit organizations to purchase accessible vehicles and related equipment to transport the elderly and persons with diabilities.
For further information, contact Constance E.H.Gumbs or Verne Callwood,Jr. at 776-4844, est.257 or 260.
Residents of the territory who are seeking licenses as insurance agents, adjusters and brokers are advised that the next insurance exam is scheduled for Tuesday, March 30.
The exam will begin at 10 a.m. at the Division of Personnel Testing Room of the GERS Building in St. Thomas and at the Division of Personnel Testing Room in St. Croix.
The $15 registration fee is required before the March 29 deadline.
For further information contact Claudette Georges at 774-7166 in St. Thomas or Martha Francis at 773-6449 in St. Croix.
A team from the Middle States Association is in the Virgin Islands this week to determine whether three of the territory's public high schools will be accredited.
At this point the schools have temporary accreditation, but are under pressure to fix major problems involving student and teacher attendance, substitute teachers and school control over purchasing.
The Middle States officials are in St. Croix through Tuesday and move to St. Thomas from Wednesday to Friday, according to a press release Monday from acting Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds.
The accreditation team will visit each school and meet with administrators, teachers, parents, students and union representatives.
The team will wind up its visit by meeting Friday at Government House with Simmonds, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James and senators.
Simmonds said she met with principals of the three schools under review — including Charlotte Amalie and Eudora Kean on St. Thomas — and got assurances that some progress had been made in the four areas of concern:
— Student attendance. All principals said this is the area of greatest improvement, and credited block scheduling for the change.
— Substitute teachers. Simmonds said that in addition to identifying funds to create a substitute-teacher pool, she and the principals agreed on a plan to create an in-house substitute pool at each school using teachers on staff. She said she will work with the teachers' unions to implement the plan.
— More site-based control of purchasing. Simmonds said funds have been appropriated to replenish checking accounts for each school and she is working with the Office of Management and Budget to release that money. But the lack of revenues remains an impediment.
— Teacher attendance. Simmonds' release did not address this longstanding problem.
Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, voiced hope that the accreditation team will put stock in the territory's "collective commitment" to improve conditions in the high schools.
Jn. Baptiste said Turnbull administration officials have pledged to follow the Middle States' recommendations, and he hopes the accreditors will be content with a greater "commitment to improve," Radio One reported.
"We can find money for other projects but for the youth we give only lip service," Jn. Baptise said.
If the Democratic Party Territorial Committee has its way, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull will stop the longstanding practice of rehiring government retirees who are already collecting pensions.
"Retirees cannot take the jobs in times of deficit and then tell the young to tighten their belts," said Luis "Tito" Morales, president of the Central Labor Council, who offered the resolution at a Territorial Committee meeting Saturday.
"These are yesterdays problems and they require new problem solvers," Morales said.
After much debate, the committee voted to express its desire to limit the hiring of retirees in government positions, according to Radio One.
Morales' original proposal for a resolution requested that retirees return only long enough to train new persons with limits on the number of persons and the amount of salary.
He also said he hoped the Senate would put his resolution into law. Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen suggested that such a law would probably be unconstitutional.
Sen. Lorraine Berry took issue with other committee members, saying the governor should make hiring decisions and shouldn't have his hands tied.
Two of Turnbull's key assistants, Juel Molloy and Rudolph Krigger Sr., are retired from government service.
James OBryan, another of the governors assistants and chairman of the Territorial Committee, offered a motion to make the committees sentiments known to the governor.
As is usually the case at its meetings, the University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees got good news and bad news about the school at its session Saturday on the St. Thomas campus.
In terms of capital development, the most recent news was dramatically positive. Fresh in the minds of some trustees was the groundbreaking a day earlier for the new Sports and Fitness Center on the St. Thomas campus. Board chair Auguste Rimpel was among those who had donned golden hard-hats and grasped gilded shovels to turn a symbolic bit of "dirt."
Foundation work on the 60,000-square-foot facility is under way and expected to take about three months, with work on the structural steel frame to follow. However, the steel-frame package had to be put out for re-bid because of "excessively high bidding," the Business and Financial Affairs Report to the trustees stated.
And on St. John, repairs to the dock of the V.I. Environmental Research Station have also been put out for re-bid because "the contractor previously selected is no longer operating," the report said. The research facility is owned but is not at present operated by UVI.
Meantime, a project to move electrical lines underground on the St. Thomas campus, using Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hazard mitigation money, is moving forward. But its counterpart on the St. Croix campus has been held up because it was determined that "bids were non-responsive and exceeded the budget." The project was re-advertised and a bid award is planned for mid-March, the report said.
Other good news:
In addition to the existing three classrooms on each campus equipped now for videoconferencing, at least three more sets are to be in place by the end of September, using federal Title III education funds. The teleconference rooms are used primarily to enable a faculty member on one campus to teach a course simultaneously on both campuses. However, the systems have the capability to connect with any other similar set-ups in the world.
Meanwhile, the Academic Affairs Report noted that faculty and pilot course development is under way in the area of "asynchronous distance learning." The term refers to a concept that virtually all educators in the region consider the wave of the future for the Caribbean accessibility for students to take courses via computer without physically being at an institution.
And at UVI itself, a major revamping of the general education curriculum those courses required of all undergraduate students, regardless of major is proceeding. "Six new courses have come on line this academic year," the Academic Affairs Report states, in the disciplines of communication, algebra, natural science, health, French and Spanish.
Development is proceeding for new courses in these areas as well as world literature, social sciences, critical thinking, information management, and leadership/team skills. Computer equipment to support the new foreign language courses is on the way for both campuses.
In a collaborative arrangement with H. Lavity Stoutt Community College on Tortola, UVI began providing the faculty for upper division teacher training last fall. Two courses are offered on the Tortola campus each semester, with 23 students enrolled in the program.
In terms of enrollment, the message was mixed. From last fall to this spring, graduate enrollment is up 9 percent and on the St. Croix campus undergraduate enrollment is up 4 percent. But on the St. Thomas campus, which has about twice as many students as St. Croix, the undergrad numbers are down 8 percent.
Dormitory occupancy is disappointing on both campuses. This is the first semester that students have been able to live on campus on St. Croix, but the new residence complex, with a capacity for 102 students, attracted just 15, according to the Student Affairs Report.
And on the St. Thomas campus, the number of students living in dorms dropped to 173 from 192 last fall. "As a result, the Housing Supervisor closed one male residence hall," the report stated.
Drops in both enrollment and on-campus residence translate into drops in the projected revenues for the period.
The trustees got good financial news in the Institutional Advancement Report: Giving to UVI is up this year over last, with total response to 1998 fund-raising appeals at $554,324, compared with $416,224 a year earlier. And donations for scholarships for this semester total $63,990, up from $50,000 a year ago.
Grants awarded for specific projects since last September total $375,862. The largest by far is one for $342,967 from Johns Hopkins University for UVI to conduct an assessment of health needs in the territory. The others consist of $5,000 from the V.I. Council on the Arts (VICA) to the Reichhold Center for the Arts for seasonal support; $3,000 from VICA to the Reichhold's Digital Video Institute; $3,000 from VICA to the Music Area for a jazz clinic and show; and $2,000 from VICA to the Reichhold Youth Theatre for production touring.
For residents of Estate Ross on the hillside above Hospital Ground on St. Thomas, being left high and dry is neither a metaphor nor a joke.
The neighborhood surrounds the dead-end of the road that passes the Bethel Baptist Church. The Water and Power Authority ran potable water lines into the area a few years ago from above, the V.I. Independent reported, but stopped at the top of the hill above the neighborhood. And because of the steepness of the narrow road and the lack of a turn-around, most water-delivery firms won't take their trucks in to fill residents' cisterns.
The result: Residents flush their toilets with dirty water, bathe in bowls and buckets, and stop at the store every day to buy gallon jugs of purified water that they heft home for drinking and cooking.
In addition to posing health concerns and personal inconvenience, "The place is a fire hazard," 20-year neighborhood resident Bonadine Thibou said. "There are no fire hydrants. This is an area that has many households being run by women with small children, and there's no access to water."
Residents who complained to WAPA were advised to circulate a petition to have potable water service extended to the area. They did so, the Independent reported, but there has been no response by the utility or the government.
"We've been going back and forth to WAPA," Thibou said. "We went to senators, we went to different people at WAPA, but no one would give us any attention." Now, however, Sen. Roosevelt David has pledged to approach WAPA on their behalf, incredulous at the need "in this day and age to have people carrying water on their heads."