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Report to Readers

Report to Readers: ‘The Insiders’: equal-opportunity jokesters

Last Tuesday, The Insiders poked gentle fun at Concord’s would-be thespians and let readers know about tryouts for a Community Players production.

On Wednesday, The Insiders made a little joke at the expense of poetry (and, weirdly, Justin Bieber) and then let readers know about an open-mic poetry night at Gibson’s Bookstore.

On Sunday, The Insiders mocked Tom Cruise and then let readers know about an Oscars celebration at Red River Theatres.

So far, so good. But the Saturday edition of our new column rubbed at least a few readers the wrong way.

“The Insiders,” for the uninitiated, is published six days a week on the Local & State news page. It’s written by Ben Conant and Keith Testa, whose day job is publishing the weekly Concord Insider. The idea was twofold: to bring their bright style to the daily newspaper and to tell readers in a consistent way about fun or interesting events going on in and around town.

On Saturday, Conant and Testa wrote about the “Day of Resistance” rally planned for the State House plaza that afternoon. They gave readers the time and location – but also joked a bit about the participants. This struck some readers as inappropriate.

The column started like this: “Do you hate President Obama? Maybe you think he was born in Kenya. Maybe you think he’s coming to pry your guns from your cold, dead fingers. . . .”

One participant in the gun rights rally from Deering sent a letter which will be published later this week. “I heard very little anti-Obama rhetoric,” he wrote. “I did hear eloquent speakers present evidence that our local and federal governments are working actively against the Second Amendment and private possession of firearms.”

And a reader from Plymouth, who described the rally itself as “hate politics,” had this critique: “An amused, flippant invite to attend a rally that encourages angry protest against our president (including references to .223 weapons) seems a mismatch for a respected newspaper.”

I’m glad the column has caught readers’ attention because it’s something new for the Monitor. Mainly, the tone is quite different from our straight-ahead news stories. That teasing voice would be inappropriate for a news reporter covering the event but, we think, is right for a column that, in addition to highlighting the day’s activities, is intended to be entertaining in and of itself. The column is clearly marked with a title (The Insiders) and a photograph of the authors, both of which are intended to set it apart from our more serious coverage of the daily news.

There’s more going on in Concord than sometimes meets the eye, and we’re hoping the column helps readers learn about happenings they might have otherwise missed.

(For the record, our coverage of the Second Amendment rally also included pictures by photographer John Tully; one of his images appeared on the front page of the Sunday Monitor, and a collection appears today on Page A5.)

My suggestion: Give The Insiders some time. Their bad puns and goofy humor will grow on you. And (be forewarned, liberals) you’ll find them to be equal-opportunity jokesters.

As always, let us know what you think.

(Felice Belman can be reached at fbelman@cmonitor.com or 369-3370.)

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