Internet is answer to city’s distress

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 20, 2009

When I was a child, I wanted to be a superhero. Mild-mannered schoolboy by day, I imagined my self turning into Batman or Green Lantern at night.

I wanted to save that damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks.

Amazingly, with the power of the Internet at my fingertips, there are days when I truly feel like a superhero.

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That is what the power of the Web can do for you. It makes you think about the world from a different perspective. It helps you see things unconventionally. And sometimes that is what is needed to solve most problems — a little thinking out of the box.

Such was the case Tuesday night when I heard warning sirens coming from the Natchez Board of Aldermen meeting.

Aldermen Ricky Gray started it when he said his constituents were complaining that the board meetings were no longer being televised.

“They’re getting upset that the TV is not here,” Gray said.

In recent weeks cameras have been removed from the meetings as an effort to save money.

Evidently, the broadcasting fees were too much for the mayor to stomach.

“As chief executive officer, the one who takes the heat for the money being spent, I don’t think it was money well spent,” Mayor Jake Middleton said.

Funds for cameras came directly from the mayor’s budget. At $500 for one three-hour meeting, the cost for broadcasting meetings was becoming too exorbitant.

What ensued was a heated discussion among aldermen about how to get the cameras back into the board room. Things quickly became personal and got out of hand.

Hearing the sounds of distress from the newsroom Tuesday night, I wanted to leap from my desk with a mouse in one hand and a camera in the other.

The Internet has revolutionized everything from the living room to the business office. It is about time that it revolutionized the city council chambers.

Searching the Internet, you will discover that towns both big and small are broadcasting their town hall meetings live to Internet users. From Shreveport, La., to San Fernando, Calif., municipal leaders are using the power of the Web.

Unlike cable stations that only broadcast meetings at specific times, users can see all or part of the broadcasts at anytime they like. Better yet, these videos can be archived.

And the great thing about it is that it is easy to do. All it takes is an Internet connection. In 2007, The Natchez Democrat broadcast two Trinity playoff games live from the Trinity football field with just a camera, a tripod and a laptop computer.

So here is where the superhero part comes in.

In the coming weeks, The Natchez Democrat will begin broadcasting Natchez aldermen meetings on the Web.

If there is an Internet connection available at the council chambers, these broadcasts will be live. Otherwise, they will be recorded and be posted on our site for viewers to watch whenever they want.

Best of all, this service will be of no cost to the city — save the Internet connection.

In the end both city residents and city leaders win in the end all with the help of the Internet.

Sometimes it feels good to be the superhero.

Ben Hillyer is the Web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at