Ponderwell, Xpress finalists for city community media proposal ***UPDATED 12:41 p.m.***

The city of Asheville has named two finalists for its request for proposals for community media: Web development-and-design firm Ponderwell and media outlet Mountain Xpress. Here’s all the submitted proposals, including those two.

The full text of all the proposals can be viewed below.

Both companies are based in Asheville. Ponderwell was founded by Michael Tracey and Martin Haywood. Xpress is an independent media outlet owned by Green Line Media, Inc.

The winning project(s), which will receive $120,000 over a three-year period, will likely involve some form or forms of media to achieve its goals, do so by partnering with other organizations, and be self-sustaining within three years. The complete request for proposals is available as a PDF here: http://ow.ly/5vnuL.

According to this summary obtained by Xpress, city staff evaluated each applicant on a point system. This report lists only the top six.

Ponderwell’s proposal rated a 78.9 out of 100, and Xpress’ a 66.8. Ponderwell’s proposal involves building a “web-based community-driven local news outlet to showcase events and news as presented by local writers, photographers and videographers.” The proposal also includes partnerships with local schools, a tutoring program for inexperienced contributors and a linked community guide. Ponderwell’s put up more information about their proposal on their website.

Xpress’ proposal is to use the grant funds to create “a central resource for everyone in our community to share” content online.

“Our project will allow users to: follow, post and curate breaking news about a fire in Kenilworth; search restaurants’ lunch specials within a few hundred yards of their current location, and recommend today’s dish to their community; and post a video resume in reply to a want ad for a job in Montford,” the proposal reads.

Representatives from both companies are scheduled to present further details to city staff on Thursday, Sept. 22.


Before you comment

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64 thoughts on “Ponderwell, Xpress finalists for city community media proposal ***UPDATED 12:41 p.m.***

  1. bill smith

    LOL. MX, we love ya, but you are clearly not a good choice. Most of the MX higher-ups appear severely and woefully limited in understanding of the intertubes, besides amateur links to social networking.

  2. Curious

    Could you provide the proposals that the two finalists (or others) made, so readers can see what MX, Ponderwell, et, al. want to do?

  3. zen

    To me, 2 very good choices, tho i gotta admit i’d sure like to see Ponderwell get this one!

  4. Margaret Williams

    Curious, we’re trying to get copies of ALL the proposals.

  5. mat catastrophe

    All 9 proposals are a matter of public record. I’m sure by now someone’s put them up online.


  6. public information

    I’m sure MX has put in an public info request with the city & all proposals will be forthcoming.
    Just give it a few days.

  7. D. Dial

    Aren’t the nine proposals a matter of public record? They should all be available. Surely a local news outlet like MX can get them.

    • Steve Shanafelt

      We’ve added a viewable PDF of all the proposals in the post.

  8. glolady

    Mountain Xpress was instrumental in the negative slander of URTV. Now we see why they continually trashed the Western North Carolina Community Media Center…. they had vested interest in the downfall.

    Where is truth in reporting? We do not get it from any of the local media. The misquotes run rampant. Where can the public speak their truth for more than 3 minutes? Where can the public go to expose the corruption in their Government?

    How sad that the majority of the people never knew the valuable asset that URTV was.

    Here is a link to the proposals:

    • zen

      To me, the biggest group involved in the downfall of URTV was the URTV board. I was there during the Kurt Mann days and it seems to me the board did everything possible to offer good equipment while stifling creativity. Just my opinion, of course.

  9. mat catastrophe

    Glolady, in the interest of playing nice, I am going to continue not really responding to you.

    But, I will ask this: If there was ever any slander whatsoever by any media outlet or other group or individual against URTV and/or any of its producers, then where’s the lawsuit?

    If you have a case, file it. Otherwise, stop crying foul and playing the victim, it’s just not good public relations.

  10. D. Dial

    Slander is spoken, libel is written. It is not libel if what was written was a true account of what occurred.

    Beside that, this new “idea” has nothing to do with what URTV was “supposed” to be.

    Let the sun shine in.

  11. glolady

    Taking away the people’s 1st Amendment rights is like telling our kids to play in the streets… what are we fighting for if not for our rights and freedom?

    Go Back through all the Mountain X articles and forums regarding URTV and let the facts speak for themselves. View the Buncombe County Commissioners meetings and compare quotes in the local media. http://www.buncombecounty.org/Governing/Commissioners/meetings.asp#archived

    I think the people should be educated on the facts not slander and libel fiction.

    Greed is forefront of much corruption. Why is the Mountain X not investigating and reporting on the corruption that is presented at County meetings?

    URTV was the best public access station in the State and a model for the Nation in public access potential. The organization and the people should have been commended on the accomplishments. Not distracted by slander, libel, court, 7 audits in 5 years to consistently prove the organization was properly managed and flourishing.

    As soon as a reliable attorney steps up to the plate the Law suit will be filled. Until then the evidence piles up.

    Let facts speak for themselves. Sometimes, Truth is Brutal. Fair is fair.

    • mat catastrophe

      I’m sorry. That was snarky. Let me tell you how I really feel. I don’t think you’ll like it. You’ll probably want me to go back to ignoring you.

      Glolady, you’ve been crying about your First Amendment Rights for ages now and, frankly, it’s boring. Until the jackbooted thugs show up at your door and tell you to shut up or else, it’s all just pathetic drama.

      You are still as free to speak about whatever you want to as you were when URTV was in operation. Clearly, in fact, since you’re still in here posting about it. Again, let me know when the men in black show up and muzzle you.

      Until then, try to realize that there is a huge difference between losing an outlet of expression and losing your only outlet of expression.

      Crying out about your lost rights when you haven’t lost them is a true slap-in-the-face to those people around the world who don’t even have rights yet, and those currently in a struggle to gain or keep them. Don’t ever place yourself on the same level as those people. It speaks volumes to your own megalomania.

      As for “best in the State and a model for the Nation”, this is a claim I’ve heard you bandy about for ages as well, without any citation of source.

      You know what “model” means, glolady?

      “A…representation of a person or thing or of a proposed structure, typically on a smaller scale than the original.”

      So, there you go. You can say “template” from now on and mean what you say.

      Truth is Brutal, Fair is Fair, that’s the only thing you’re right about.

  12. Don Yelton

    Actually the commissioners have accomplished what they want. Fighting. I dropped by the CTS-EPA meeting yesterday afternoon. I was greated by this is not a public meeting and follow up was said by the PR lady that they divided up into small groups and were getting along fine with the community.

    Wake up you all- this is about getting fighting going betweem themselves. Just look they have accomplished that.

  13. Margaret Williams

    Having covered, for Xpress, the city, county and cable negotiations that created all three PEG channels some years ago, and having admired the spirit, passion and goals that fired that creation … let me ask all to stick to the current topic: a new, Internet-based, multimedia way to provide public access.

  14. mat catastrophe

    I thought we were talking about the RFP and the proposals, which do not actually mention a “new…public access”.

    It is meant to address future job creation, something precious few of the nine proposals actually do. In fact, almost none of the top six address job creation in any measurable way.

  15. Illuminatti_01

    To my understanding, the RFP is asking for and most proposals look to being simply some sort of news aggregator…how does that benefit the community in a new way?

    Do we need another one? Why do we need to spend $120,000 of taxpayer monies for an experimental news aggregator when we already have several sources already doing this. (Including MXP)

  16. D. Dial

    My observation of the RFP was it was so vague, it was hard to figure out what the City was actually looking for. It must have been hard for the proposers to figure out too, because none reached the City’s 80 or above criteria for proposals to pass muster. So rather than re-issue with more clarity, the City dropped the standards to 50 and above. Most proposals scored below 60. That tells me the City was not at all clear on what the proposals should cover.

    BUT, rather than correct their vague RFP, the City lowered the standards. That does not bode well for our community on this new Community Media endeavor.

  17. Curious

    Thank you to Mountain Xpress for providing copies of all proposals. I’m curious about where the money the City is providing for this grant is coming from? Are these the funds that Charter Communications customers are paying to Charter, which then are passed through to the City, or are these from tax revenues?

  18. Margaret Williams

    Admittedly, the jobs-creation part of the RFP was a challenging requirement. I agree the RFP was vague. I would also love to know how some of the scores were arrived at.

  19. D. Dial

    I am mystified at how this is supposed to benefit the community in any new way. Whoever gets the “contract” will simply combine resources we ALREADY have to put out a report, a video, a podcast with a link to our own Blogs for further elaboration without have to be filtered through a moderator….as is done here on MtnXp. Not saying anything against MntXp’s moderation policy….but it is not without it’s detractors.

    I had a very hard time figuring out what the City’s proposal encompassed…now it appears to be merely a web based portal that is similar to many already available, but with the filter of a moderator. How’s that a benefit and worthy of $120,000?

    Here’s a link to what is occuring nationally.

  20. glolady

    The reason public access is so important, is for the people in their communities to be able to present important information that other mass media outlets choose not to report.

    To deny public access is a 1st Amendment rights violation to cover up the corruption in the local government.

    There were several people at URTV who started small businesses and had jobs working for other producers. One of which was me. How would you feel if someone took away your job and destroyed your business? That has happened to me too many times. Now, I will continue to stand up for what is right. The people are losing their rights in this Country because no one is willing to stand up and fight for them. Ignorance is Not Bliss, that is how control is maintained.

    Facts are:

    All the audits confirm the the Western North Carolina Community Media Center was properly managed.

    Benefit to the Community was over $1,000,000 worth of services provided.

    URTV was being utilized, seen by the diverse community programing submitted.

    Slander and libel from certain persons set to destroy URTV was sensationalized to capitalize on the story.

    Until it is proven what was wrong with URTV, there is fiduciary responsibility due to the people because of the intentional destruction of such by the County Commissioners.

    As we see by the non disclosure of factual evidence presented at County Commission meetings, the people are being denied knowledge regarding the corruption in their local government. WHY???

    If people are so willing to give up our rights then why do we keep sending our kids to war? What are they dieing for?

  21. ashvegas

    and is there an ethical concern about a news organization taking money from a governmental entity which it is also charged with covering, watch-dogging?

  22. Margaret Williams

    Thanks for that link, Ms_Magnolia.

    Glolady, I’m sorry for your experience in the URTV saga, and I respect your passion for public access and the 1st amendment. It is sad that, apparently, many people didn’t see the value of URTV, but that isn’t the topic of this article.

    The city has proposed something radically different and funded at a fairly low amount. (We’ll get some clarification on where the $120,000 is coming from.) We have many questions about it, as all of you do and have expressed here.

  23. glolady

    Margaret… I am not sorry for my experience at URTV. It was a great facility with great people who came together as a family. Respecting the voice of others even when we did not agree with what was said.

    The City has proposed to take away the people’s voice. WHY??? Why has the evidence of corruption not been reported by local media? Did Mountain X have vested interest in the downfall of URTV? Is that why the negative reporting?

    Listen to the City Council meeting discussing the RFP to see where the money is coming from.

    Closing URTV negatively affected my ability to produce media for distribution to the public. This new media center is not conducive for me to start over again. It is cost prohibitive and selective in public participation. Only the rich will have a voice.

    BCTV (Buncombe County TV) channel 2 on Charter has cost the people almost $1,000,000 in four years. What has been the benefit for the people? What has their budget been used to buy? Where is the paper trail?

    Why does serving four years as a Buncombe County Commissioner get you a retirement plan and who put this into effect?


    That is what moves me…. uncovering the truth from the crap others try to cover up.

  24. mat catastrophe

    First, a bit about the seed money:

    The money ($60,000 each from city and county) is not part of the PEG funding and is from another part of the respective budgets. I’d have to go back and look through my notes on exactly where this money is coming from, but it was already set aside for spending in a manner similar to the one covered by this project.

    The PEG money is still a matter of a great deal of speculation and controversy. There are contradictory measures of both how much money is out there and to whom it is owed. I do think part of the aim of this RFP was to distract people from these facts, as those funds are seen by both the city and county as free money to expand their own ‘E’ and ‘G’ channels, pretty much carte blanche.

    Now, for the next bit, which I was hoping to hold off a little longer on but I don’t see at this point why it even matters that I should:

    I’ve got a proposal in there. It’s one of the three that didn’t even reach a score of 50, much less the magic (and not explicitly stated) 80. The vagueness of the RFP is something I didn’t see it as particularly difficult at all. It took a read-through or two, sure, but this is essentially a project looking for simple management of a rather expansive idea and not attempting to fund pre-existing projects already in certain private pipelines. The eventual winner of this bid, based on the RFP, wouldn’t even have to be someone who was particularly savvy to the internet, just a good project manager who could build and work on a number of different projects at once and do it with fairly limited funds. I felt I could do that pretty easily.

    What the city and county ostensibly want is something that will both create jobs & act as a community involved point of interest in the new media world. Most of the proposals submitted are essentially the pet projects of each of their respective submitting organizations (news sites/new media software, music and children’s television, public access 2.0, a creative arts center, film/documentary production, etc).

    And all of them essentially put all the eggs in one basket. They speak to very specific, niche concepts in answering a very broad RFP. How any of them scored more than 50 is beyond me.

    Two of them, however, explicitly mention the concept of a small/new media business incubator in addition to building up community networking and blogging. One of those talks of luring a major IT firm to the area. And yes, one of these is mine. Neither of them is in the top 6.

    What the city has clearly chosen are two prospects that don’t speak to the broadness of the RFP, that in fact fulfill a rather narrow spectrum of the RFP and are also items which are already out in the open in numerous places and which would face significant uphill challenges in finding their place.

    The city itself isn’t even looking at the RFP at this point. It’s made some kind of bizarre decision to A) admit that none of the nine proposals passed its own internal threshold for acceptability and B) go ahead and send one or two onto Council to review and vote on. This is potentially damaging both to the community and to the credibility of whichever project wins the bid.

    Now, this last part is actually the crux of a letter I am currently drafting to send to members of the City staff who have worked on this proposal process, and the members of the Finance Committee, who rather offhandedly reviewed all of this on Tuesday.

    After all, I am primarily disturbed more by the fact that I think the process of selection has broken down more than I am disturbed by the low score of my own proposal. I would much prefer to lose out to proposals that scored in the 80-90 range than ones that did not.

    And I would think any winning proposal would prefer to win a tight race between high-scoring proposals than a lackluster, half-assed race between proposals that the review panel couldn’t even get behind.

  25. D. Dial

    I attended the City Finance Committee meeting in June where this was discussed. There is $30,000 i in the City that was earmarked for a public access facility (formerly URTV). Since they shut down. The money is still allocated, so they’re using that $30,000 and the County is matching it. Ostensibly this was PEG money.

    Since the channel is no longer certified, PEG funds for the “P” of PEG is no longer being distributed by the State Revenue Dept. But “E & G” are still distributed. So perhaps we can get a “truthful” answer from City andCounty managers where the other money is coming from.

    It seems to me that a group of proposals that did not meet the 80 or above in scoring is problematic/…either in the way the RFP was worded, or in the way the committee that reviewed the proposals scored the proposals. Either way, something is awry here. And the community needs to be asking why.

  26. mat catastrophe

    I was certain that this initial $30,000 (first year) and the rest was not from a PEG fund – but, I gladly defer to your info.

    As far as the certification…well, there ya go.

  27. Margaret Williams

    Glolady: Mountain Xpress “had vested interest in the downfall.”

    No, we did not.

    “Why has the evidence of corruption not been reported by local media?”

    We have reported what we can verify.

    “Did Mountain X have vested interest in the downfall of URTV?”

    No, we did not.

    “Is that why the negative reporting?”

    We have reported what we can verify; we reported the facts at hand. As for your other questions about city-county motives, I cannot answer that. And I’ll repeat: This thread is about another topic; please stick to it.

    Mat, and Ms_Magnolia: Thanks for that information.

    Ashevegas: “and is there an ethical concern about a news organization taking money from a governmental entity which it is also charged with covering, watch-dogging?”

    I and other senior editors/staff have asked the same question; the conundrum was discussed; MX went forward with the proposal. We also discussed whether to report the latest news about the proposals (I recommended reporting it as we would have handled any other such news, and we will continue to do so). None of the editorial staff are directly involved with the project.

    • Steve Shanafelt

      “None of the editorial staff are directly involved with the project.”

      To clarify that point: I am involved with the project, but not part of the news staff. The news reporters and editors on the Xpress staff have not been involved in creating this proposal.

  28. I just don’t believe any type of publication that covers Asheville City Council, City news, City anything should receive a grant from Asheville City. I’m old school and the two should remain separated. Can’t trust that there won’t be favors called in and some City issues never reported. That’s just how I roll.

  29. D. Dial

    No need to defer…cuz I could be wrong. But why I’m thinking that initial $30,000 was PEG funds, was due to what was mentioned at the June Finance Committee meeting. Ms. Bradley said there was a $30,000 payment left to be sent to the facility. But since they had closed the doors she wanted to inform the Committee that they would not be sending the check. Then she went on to present the new Community Media rfp information. I have that meeting recorded and would need to go back and review, to be absolutely certain, but this is my memory of what transpired.

  30. mat catastrophe

    Well, how could anyone get anything wrong from the Finance Committee? They’re remarkably cogent.

    • D. Dial

      City officials can be very clear , when they want to be. When they’re not it’s because they want to obfuscate. jmho

  31. glolady

    Ah yes… control of the public’s voice.

    NO…. I am Not voting for Mountain Xpress!!!

    You can lead a horse to water but, you can’t make it drink. Even when facts were placed into the hands of MountainX reporters the information failed to reach your pages.

    Verifiable facts are not criteria for printing.

    • bill smith

      “Verifiable facts are not criteria for printing.”

      Weren’t you just complaining about libel?

  32. Margaret Williams

    “Verifiable facts are not criteria for printing.” Hmm. I’m speechless on that one. Glolady, I’m asking nicely that you respect that we’re not going to agree on some of these points. And last time I checked, you’re a member on these mountainx.com comment boards

  33. bill smith

    Hey, how come i cant click on someone’s profile through this feature?

    • Steve Shanafelt

      It’s part of our redesign process. We’ll be adding that functionality back in soon, and it should be more useful and feature-robust than it was in the last version.

    • mat catastrophe

      Since Bill’s completely off-topic, I’ll just add that the new system of threading comments and replies is a bit confusing.

    • Margaret Williams

      Hmm, I really want to reply to the reply … perhaps we need to tweak the nested replies …

    • Margaret Williams

      (Yes I’m off-topic & experimenting). We’re adding features every day …

    • mat catastrophe

      I’ve told Steve before: Might be time to consider slashcode as the CMS.

    • Steve Shanafelt

      We started with one-level threading, but it’s possible for us to have these nest even deeper. I’ve had sites that go five levels of threading deep, and it’s not terribly confusing.

  34. glolady

    Ah Margaret… someday we shall sit down and have a cup of tea together. In looking at the “New MountainX” I was lost to where comments are to be submitted. Since time on the internet has been short my participation has been brief. Nice to see you have changed! Not what besides the new website has been created that would also warrant my support?

    Bounty County commissioners give themselves health insurance bonus | The Asheville Citizen-Times | citizen-times.com http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20110918/NEWS/309180034/Bounty-County-commissioners-give-themselves-health-insurance-bonus

    How nice of Citizens Times to follow up on the public comment at Buncombe County Commissioners meeting. I asked for the BCTV budget in January and have been given one paper with a total of 8 numbers for 4 years. Where is the paper trail and are all budgets managed in that manner? That is a RED Flag in Fraud Audits!!! Wanda Green is a “Certified Fraud Examiner” and knows this fact. Would you not like to know where your money goes?

    When I have more time I will come back and play on MountainX. If I see things have changed… Credit is where credit is due.

  35. glolady

    COOL Margaret… I see your article…. I am liking you more and more!

  36. Margaret Williams

    Thanks, Glolady. Be nice to me. I have a birthday soon. It’s a larger one than I like to think about. :)

    our publisher likes to say that I have “institutional memory.” I remind him he’s older than ME.

    • glolady

      Since my time online is severely limited…

      and many more…

      I am not getting older…only wiser…

  37. bill smith

    While we’re being off-topic, how come I can’t open articles I want to read in a new tab?

    It’s quite annoying.

  38. cecilbothwell

    For my part, I don’t see anything in the proposals that offers anything not currently available elsewhere on the Web.

    My goal in “replacing” URTV (given its collapse – and let’s not go back to rehashing that), has been to use the equipment the City purchased to enable citizens to continue to create content. I don’t understand why we would need to fund a new aggregator. Content can be uploaded to YouTube, to Vimeo, to wherever, and easily linked anywhere else. Programs can be linked by tweet, blog, FB, blogwire, whatever.

    IMHO the RFP didn’t address the issue at hand. But maybe I’m missing something.

  39. Margaret Williams

    One major difference in both proposals is that their locally driven, locally produced, locally managed. Local matters!

  40. REHASHING…. Like duh….. Why did URTV collapse?
    Still waiting for an answer as to what URTV did wrong.

    Because Government wanted to shut up the people who were exposing the corruption in local Government. Keep watching for all the indictments they have just started!

    Buncombe County received over $7,000,000 in Four years from the video sales tax and PEG supplemental funds. Then said they had no money for URTV. BCTV has cost the taxpayers almost $1,000,000 in four years. URTV saved the Community over $1,000,000 in services in four years. Seven audits in five years proved the money was correctly managed at URTV.

    Yes anyone can upload content to the internet…. IF they have the equipment to do so. So now only the rich can afford their voices to be heard?

    Disgusting is more like all those who want to jump on the band wagon now that it will directly profit them.

    We will keep missing things as long as the people are denied their voices to be heard. Mention Wanda Greene sitting with a smile on her face and you get evicted from a Buncombe County Commission meeting. Even if she was mocking the person speaking. The people have no rights for their 1st Amendment when King David sits on his throne.

    • bill smith

      You are delusional and beating a dead horse. URTV ‘collapsed’ because those running it didn’t have their #### together enough to file the right paperwork. Simple. Now drop the nonsense about your persecution. It’s pathetic.

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