The Votes have been Cast

January 23, 2008

Tuesday’s mock presidential election at Bowling Green High School (about which a story appears in today’s Daily News) featured more than just the question of who students and staff there want to see in the White House in 2009.

Preliminary results indicate that more people who participated in this mock election voted for Barack Obama than any of the other candidates in either major party, with the Illinois Democratic Senator nearly winning a majority among the 10 Democratic and Republican candidates.

BGHS literacy coach William King told me yesterday that whoever wins among the candidates in the mock election would likely stand to do well in the remaining primaries and the general election this November.

However, I am more interested for the purpose of this post in another question that was asked of BGHS voters:

If miracles could happen, which one of the following Presidents would you want to lead the nation in 2009?

The options presented included these former presidents:

Bill Clinton
Dwight Eisenhower
Thomas Jefferson
John F. Kennedy
Abraham Lincoln
Ronald Reagan
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
George Washington

It’s a good historical exercise and I would be interested in learning whether a student’s preferred former president would be a good indicator of who that student would vote for in the general election on Nov. 4.

Since this won’t be asked of me or any other voters on the actual ballot this November, I feel comfortable pulling the proverbial lever on this issue.

Out of all the former presidents mentioned above, I would give FDR another shot at the White House.

Thinking of the rural Kentucky town in which I was raised, there are probably as many tangible reminders in Flemingsburg of FDR’s policies as there are of any other former president.

The building that served as my middle school and my parents’ high school was the product of the Works Progress Administration, the largest of the New Deal public works projects. The post office in my hometown features a mural on one of the inner walls painted during the Great Depression, part of a WPA art project. Of course, there is also a dwindling but passionate population of World War II veterans who for the most part are only too happy to offer their recollections of that time in history.

To think that so many of those things are still, several generations after the fact, a part of where I grew up makes me curious about how well FDR would fare in the modern world of presidential campaigning, how he would withstand the scrutiny of the 24-hour news cycle and how voters would react to the polio that disabled him (presuming it weren’t vaccinated, he could not possibly hide that particular disability in today’s world). Also, I’m curious about how he would govern under the two-term limit the Constitution set for presidents after he died in office during his fourth term.

Could he be as effective in eight years today as he was in 12 back in the 1930s and ’40s?

I’ll now open the polls to anyone reading this — of the former presidents listed above, who would you like to see come back for another chance at the White House?

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MOVIES: The Oscar Race is on

January 23, 2008

One of my favorite mornings of the year is the day when Academy Award nominations are announced. I’m always fascinated to see how months of speculation can be confirmed or destroyed in a matter of minutes.

Tuesday morning’s nominations proved to be more of the latter, with the announcements going pretty much as expected. I correctly called 24 out of the 30 nominees in the six major categories , with half of those nominees really not surprising me that much.

Here are my initial reactions to the announcements. I will save my actual picks for my usual Thursday column the week of the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24.

I’m really pleased with the overall strength of the best picture nominees. I think ‘No Country For Old Men,’ ‘There Will Be Blood,’ and ‘Juno’ are the top 3 films of 2007 and ‘Michael Clayton’ isn’t too far behind. ‘Atonement’ is probably the only movie I couldn’t make a case for and it was still pretty good. I’m also very happy to see Paul Thomas Anderson finally get a directing nomination and I am elated over the inclusion of a song from ‘Once’ in the best original song category.

The biggest surprises had to be Tommy Lee Jones’ nomination for ‘In The Valley of Elah’ and Laura Linney (for ‘The Savages’) and Cate Blanchett (for ‘Elizabeth’) finding their way into the best actress race. Jones was good in an underrated (and underseen) film and I’ve always been a fan of Linney, so I can live with those.

Blanchett, however, should not have been nominated for a movie that was bad melodrama at best. Why not reward someone like Angelina Jolie (who gave her best work to date in ‘A Mighty Heart’) or Amy Adams (absolutely delightful in ‘Enchanted’) instead. Blanchett’s nomination, along with the inclusion of ‘Surf’s Up’ in the best animated feature are probably the two-least deserving of all.


Utilizing the Net

January 21, 2008


On Monday, we were in the unenviable position of missing MLK parade activities in Bowling Green. They began at 10 a.m. and we had to opt for Tuesday coverage of the event.

It had become an off-cycle event for us, so we had Page 1 coverage Monday of national MLK news, plus coverage from Sunday that focused on local educators honored by a local MLK committee.

Luckily, we have the Internet to give our readers more to chew on before Tuesday’s coverage rolls around. We videotaped the Monday morning event, and, as I type, we’re preparing a video to be posted later today on the Net.

Using the Internet gives newspapers a much stronger avenue to keep up with developing stories. We’re using that tool more and more and hope that you, our readers, enjoy the extra work we put in.

But don’t forget, we have second-day coverage that will provide many more details of the local MLK Day activities, so keep reading.


I’ll meet deadline if you provide the lifeline

January 18, 2008

Justin Story

It happens more often than we’d like:

One of us in the newsroom gets a call about an event, something with large turnout, maybe even a famous guest speaker, probably a great chance for a photographer to snap some colorful pictures.

Me: “Sounds great! I’m definitely interested in covering this; tell me when it’s happening.”

Caller: “It’s starting in 10 minutes.”

Me: (Frantically shuffling papers, practically realigning the planets to make this event fit into my packed schedule) “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

To the outsider, it seems one of the lasting characteristics of the news industry, regardless of medium, is that its reporters are there when the story happens.

What gets lost in the wave of advertisements touting this or that news agency as “first on the scene” is that a great deal of our reporting is the end product of ample, careful planning.

Consider this paragraph a public service announcement: If you are organizing, or know of someone scheduling an event that you feel is newsworthy, let us know at least a couple days in advance. Doing that enables the reporter to obtain some additional background on the event in question, so that by the time he gets to the event, he will know what to expect and will have a broader knowledge base from which to ask additional questions, resulting in a more in-depth story. A couple days’ lead time also allows editors to make their news judgment about the event (i.e., where in the newspaper the story should appear.)

Granted, it won’t be possible to do this with every story; I can’t reasonably expect someone to call me to tip me off about a 15-car pileup happening next Tuesday on I-65. Besides, if the pileup does happen, then the story is less about the accident itself than my source’s amazing powers of clairvoyance.

As reporters, we try to be everywhere for everybody, but there’s no way in the world for us to do this without the help of you out there to let us know what’s happening. In any case, if you know that something newsworthy is happening next week, let us know well in advance — a much better story will come out of it if you take this step, I assure you.


Behind the AG/Chamber Story

January 16, 2008

 

When someone says, “This is not a story,” 95 percent of the time, it really is.

 

It’s appropriate to mention the randomness of the news cycle since writing about the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce’s committee restructuring 

 

I was at my desk one morning and someone called me to tell me the agribusiness committee was being taken off the table and that person explained why that wasn’t a good thing – and so my search for what was going on began. 

 

I talked to my editor to let him know I was walking down to the chamber – and low and behold when I arrived, people got nervous. Some wanted to talk and be all-smiles – others quickly walked by me to avoid having to discuss. Sounded like a story to me. 

 

It’s at these times that I hit the pavement a little bit harder to find out what is really going on. I don’t take sides but try to see what’s happening from both points of view. 

 

But when there are closed meetings – people will continue to question and ask even more what the intentions of any entity are- whether it is the chamber, city or county government. 

 

I have to talk to the chamber almost every day – obviously they’re one of my go-to sources, but when folks in the farm community called me to express disappointment, anger, and a few unmentionables – I listen – that’s my job, and they, too, are a trusted source. 

 

With that said, as the discussion continues about the chamber’s role in promoting and recognizing agriculture in Warren County and southcentral Kentucky as a whole, here’s a few Warren County agriculture statistics to think about:

 

—The 2002 Census shows the number of farms has decreased 8 percent from 1997, dropping from 2,048 to 1,881 farms. Despite the decrease, more cropland – about seven percent – has been harvested in that time. 

 

—Warren County ranks 12th in the state of Kentucky for its cash receipts for crops and livestock, which total almost $75 million, according to the Kentucky Agricultural Statistics and Annual Report for 2006-2007. 

 

—Warren County places 2nd in the state for its number of cattle and calves (69,800), and beef cows (34,500) as of Jan. 1, 2007, 6th for 2006 milk production (54,500), 4th for its barley for grain crop production (98,000 bushels), 3rd for its “all other hay” crop production (139,200 tons), and 5th for its wheat for grain crop production (almost 1.1 million bushels). 

 

Not to mention nearby Barren County’s state dominance for its livestock and dairy industry — the ag communities in Logan, Simpson, Todd and Hart are also worth mentioning. 

 

The Chambers of Commerce in both Louisville and Owensboro have agriculture-related committees, though they’re bigger cities and have more development that Bowling Green for now — but the whole situation with the chamber is wait-and-see. Ultimately, actions speak louder than words. 

 

One thing is for sure – I will be listening to readers and those in the community who have something to say about it all. 


The error – an abomination

January 15, 2008


The following comes from Poynter Online:

“Each misspelled word, bad apostrophe, garbled grammatical construction, weird cutline and mislabeled map erodes public confidence in a newspaper’s ability to get anything right,” a 1998 study commissioned by the American Society of Newspaper Editors concluded. “Even seemingly small errors feed public skepticism about a newspaper’s credibility.”

Errors are a part of the newspaper business. Even the world’s greatest metro papers are peppered daily with corrections, clarifications, etc. It is just the nature of the business.

However, great pains must be taken to minimize errors. There is absolutely no reason to ever misspell a name. Ever. But, it happens through carelessness.

The editing process here is as follows:

•First edits are by senior editors.

•Second edits go to a team of copy editors, known as a copy desk.

•Three edits on each story is the norm.

•Mock ups of pages are then edited two – and sometimes more – times.

The most important edit, however, comes from the reporter editing his or her own copy before submitting it for publication.

We strive to teach the importance of accuracy. Our reporters and editors know how important it is to get the facts and report them.

Credibility is crucial and a closely guarded part of a newspaper’s personality.

Our policy is to correct errors that occur on Page 1 on Page 1. Errors that occur on inside pages are corrected on Page 2.

Sports errors generally are corrected on the Sports section front.

Know that we and all newspapers battle this problem and are aware of the impact errors can have.


Rid yourself of errors

January 11, 2008


So you have a few short minutes to proof that term paper, project, newsletter or Dear John letter.

How can you concisely tell John he’s no longer in the game, a jerk, a loser – a has-been? He stinks and he needs to learn, via your letter, EXACTLY how you feel about him, or her.

Recipe for disaster, errors … for example:

“Dear John: I can’t stand the sight of you. Your habits are causing me such grief that I could spontaneously combust! I must have you!”

In your haste, you typed ‘have’ instead of ‘leave.’ These things happen. Even to polished editors. We’re human, you know, regardless of what those close to us might tell you.

Simple copy editing tips:

1. Crazy but true, make the copy larger on your screen. I keep mine at a large size, one, because I want to see every word – drive-in movie large – and, two, I wear bifocals.

2. Use your cursor to slow your eyes as you read. After editing for a while, your eyes tend to get lazy, as well as your mind, and it’s easy to bypass errors. Slow down and use the cursor as your word guide.

3. After you’re satisfied the copy is perfect, go back and re-read it. You’ll be surprised. And go slow again. The cursor is your guide.

4. Turn off the TV, the radio, muzzle the dog and try to focus on the job.

5. Spell check, spell check, spell check. Then when you’re finished, spell check. Then spell check one more time. That way, you know you won’t forget … to spell check. But beware of reign, rein, rain … affect, effect – if you’re unsure of the correct word, check a dictionary.

These are just a few tips. Let John, or Jane, as the case may be, know the accurate score. You don’t want them coming back, knocking on your door with flowers because your editing skills need refinement.