Archive for August, 2008

Oops, pardon my error.

Every one has an opinion when it comes to the content of the newspaper. How can we let so many errors get by us? Don’t we proofread? Why don’t we put corrections on the front page?

Errors are the bane of my existence. People call in and complain when it happens to them. The problem is that we are humans and humans make mistakes. It isn’t going to change until human nature does. It affects us as well.

The post I did just before this one, about my niece, ran in the paper, it came in as a press release in an email. I didn’t even see it until it was printed, the email went to my editor and she just copied it and pasted it into Quark, our publishing software. The problem is that the email had an error; it identified my niece’s husband as Rowann, who is her mother-in-law. The form the public relations guy used to put the information in had her husband, Rodney, listed just above Rowann. When typing the press release he evidently looked at the wrong space.

I got a call the day it ran in the paper. “Hi, this is Leona.” It threw me for a loop. The only Leona I knew was out of the country in Kosovo. I stammered a bit and then I realized it was her. She was using one of those internet phones to call (which, by the way, was very clear. I’ll have to see about getting one.) She told me about the error and if you think it is hard to take when a stranger calls to complain think what it’s like when it’s your niece you’re trying to apologize to.

Well the fact is that newspapers are a business and like all businesses they are in it to make money. That’s not a bad thing, all business people are in it for the money, if not they wouldn’t do it. Not because they are selfish people but you have to make money to continue to stay in business.

In our case we have to pay for the people who create the content of the paper as well as the paper (and ink) itself. Between the newspaper and the shopper (ironically named The Nevada News since there is no news in it) and the printing we do for others we go through a lot of paper. We get a semi load of paper, from Canada, at least once a week. Each roll of paper weighs in at a little more than 1100 pounds, and we get at least 20 or so a week. It ain’t cheap.

It used to be that at least seven pairs of eyes looked at every word printed in the paper. Now, if we’re lucky, there are three. In order to keep costs down and productivity up we make do with fewer people. Part of that is in using more modern methods to produce the paper. Even with computers there were too many inefficiencies. When computers first came in they were used to print out small pages that were cut and pasted onto layouts and a picture was taken. The film was developed and then photo sensitive plates were exposed using the film as a negative. We do a little better now, we print directly to film, but we still have to expose the plates.

There is a newer method but we haven’t switched over to it. We’re a small outfit and the equipment is expensive so we have a way to go before we get to the direct to plate printing. With that you don’t have any intermediate steps and no unnecessary film and the processing that goes with it.

It would be nice to think that would solve the problem but the fact is that costs continue to rise and advertising revenue is flat or on a downward trend. Payroll has to be cut – it’s that simple. So now errors have even better chance of slipping in. We’ll continue to try to minimize them but nobody is perfect.

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August 28, 2008 at 9:48 pm Leave a comment

My niece, the warrior

Working at the paper you see a lot of press releases, some about local matters but also a few about what’s happening further away from home. You get used to seeing familiar names, names you can put to faces you see in the grocery store or at work, in the local press releases but when it comes to the press releases from Jeff City or even Washington you are used to floating in a sea of names that you may have seen before but rarely the people those names are attached to. When you get a press release from out of the country and it’s not just someone you know but are related to it really jumps up and gets your attention. Let me introduce you to my niece, Leona and see what the gubmint says about her in the press release.

Sgt. Leona Bastow tests a sample of MOGAS at the Camp Bondsteel Fuel Testing Facility. Bastow is responsible for ensuring all fuel that enters Camp Bondsteel meets all U.S. Army standards before the fuel trucks are unloaded…Sgt. Ty Stafford, public affairs specailist/National Guard.

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — Sergeant Leona Bastow, a resident of Nevada, Mo., was recently honored for her achievements in the renovation of the Camp Bondsteel Fuel Lab by the Multi-National Task Force (East) commander Brig. Gen. Larry D. Kay.

Bastow is currently on deployment with the Kansas City-based 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, in support of the NATO-led peace keeping mission in Kosovo.

Bastow works as the petroleum laboratory specialist at the Fuel Lab and is responsible for grading the quality and usability of all fuel that enters the base.

After all fuel testing is complete, Bastow gives the go ahead to the Kellogg, Brown and Root workers at the fuel yard to release the trucks to begin downloading the fuel.

Normally from start to finish, Bastow says the whole testing process takes a little more than an hour to complete.

“It’s a lot of responsibility, but if we have bad fuel or fuel that doesn’t meet the minimum requirements then that directly affects the mission,” she said.

To date, she has not turned away any fuel.

Her military career spans four years. This is her first deployment.

Bastow and her husband Rodney are residents of the southern Missouri area and she is a graduate of Nevada High School.

The MNTF(E) operates under the flag of the Army National Guard’s 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the first non-divisional unit to assume the leadership role for the mission, and is part of the larger NATO-led international force known as the Kosovo Force. The KFOR is responsible for maintaining peace and security in Kosovo.

Bastow, who deployed along with over a 1,000 other Missouri National Guard Soldiers, is expected to return to the U.S. sometime in March 2009.

Kosovo Forces 10 (KFOR 10), Multi National Task Force East is the 16th rotation of United States Forces in Kosovo since 1999 — when the organization entered Kosovo under the United Nations mandate –two days after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

United States forces include the 110th MEB, along with National Guard and Army Reserve units (from seven states), the Air Force, the Regular Army and civilian contractors. Units from Armenia, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine form the international portion of the Task Force. Brig. Gen. Larry D. Kay commands MNTF (E) as the senior Army Commander in the Balkans region.

August 27, 2008 at 2:51 pm 2 comments

Just another day in paradise

Some days are diamonds and some days aren’t. You get used to it and move on or you wallow in teen angst until the day you die still an immature teenager, no matter what your actual age. Its been a string of less than diamond days for me lately, not that I’m wallowing. Things will turn around and some of the incidents of recent days will make for good stories.

Like the 28-year-old girl who drove her car into the side of a building. Yes I said it. She named her daughter after a character in the X-Men movie, she’s a girl – I don’t care what her chronological age is. I was getting ready to leave the office so I could take a picture of some teddy bears a local chiropractor’s office had collected for children who have to go into the hospital when a call came over the scanner about a car stuck in a building.

Uh, people, that’s not stuck. It’s on the sidewalk and the car did touch the building but wasn’t even close to going fast enough to punch out the bricks. On the bright side the accident was on the way to the chiropractor’s office so I still made that OK and I took the pictures which will make them happy when it comes out in the paper.

Then I talked to the sheriff about a teen party that got out of hand. They were drinking liquor – imagine that. Why in my day we sipped lemonade and attended cotillions for entertainment! What made it sad was that – like in so many cases of alcohol mixing with young people there were some fights and even a sexual assault. Things haven’t change that much since I was a teenager, it’s just that now I see the damage that can happen and cringe when I think of some of these kids trying to make it in the big wide world with the foolish idea that life is just one big party.

While talking to the sheriff he said a witness saw someone dump some dogs out in the county and got a license plate number – the case is in front of the prosecutor for action. One thing sure to tick me off is some jerk who can’t take the time to run the dogs to the animal shelter in town but has enough time to run them out to the middle of nowhere and turn them loose to live or die without any compassion.

Saturday I went out to the grand opening of a new biodiesel plant and listened to politicians. I try to avoid listening to politicians every chance I get but unfortunately with my job it comes with the territory. It wasn’t too bad. I actually agreed with some of what was said but a lot of it was just the usual pap I could have done without.

The city is redoing the curbs and gutters along my street and they ripped out the old ones in April. Since then I’ve been living on what is essentially a dirt road right in the middle of town. Dust coats my car every morning and lately there’s been dew and the dust really sticks when that happens. Washing does no good, by the following morning it’s covered in dust again. It looks like we might be getting pavement again soon so I’m cautiously optimistic.

The wheel of life keeps turning so I look forward to a change. I want a diamond of a day soon.

August 27, 2008 at 8:30 am Leave a comment

Old school people

I just brought home a Pentium 133 laptop from work that they threw out. I don’t know why but I like to tinker with the things and since it is not working I can’t hurt it. I can actually get it to boot from a diskette but not the hard drive.

I have a Windows 95 CD I can install but it the laptop doesn’t have a cd drive. I have a backpack cd-rom that runs on a parallel port but don’t have the drivers for it. I guess I’ll Google it and see what I find. That made me think about how I used to do things and how we have changed what we do, even while we stay the same.

In the early days of the twentieth century people didn’t have stuff we take for granted, and it is so ingrained we don’t even think about it. Radio, TV, movies, computers; just to name a few. Telephones were around but were so expensive only a few families had them, they were mostly in businesses that needed to communicate with someone outside their area.

By the time I was a kid just about everyone had a phone in the house but some of them were local only, and you had to pay for all calls you made on it or they were on party lines and you had to share the line with the neighbors you knew who the call was for by the rings. It used to be just the geeks and other early adopters but now just about everyone has a cell phone and you can personalize the ring tones so you know who is calling you without looking.

Even as times change and we get used to newer and newer technologies people stay the same. Sure, individuals change over time but personality types don’t. There were geeks when I was a kid, there were geeks when my parents were kids and there were geeks in the stone age.

“Hey Og! Look at this. I took a rock, which we have used for a long time to bash things with and a stick, which we have also used to bash things with and I put them together and they bash things a whole lot better than either one separately.”

Og, being somewhat jealous of the attention his geek friend is now getting from the women of the tribe waits until he is asleep and bashes his head in with a rock.

“Ah, nothing like doing things old school,” Og says.

Did I mention that people haven’t changed that much?

August 21, 2008 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

DSL modem problem

Arrrgggggghhhhhhh!

A wire on the cable on my DSL modem broke and my Internetubeywebsurfy experience has been nonexistent of late. Long story short Wal-Mart is not the home of low prices for computer cables. $14 for a cable that should only be $3 or $4 solved the problem but not before I went half insane trying to figure out why I couldn’t get on the Internet in the first place. It was an intermittent problem and every time I thought I had it corrected it came back and bit me it the butt.

I had to buy a 9-volt battery for my little multimeter but a continuity check of each of the wires on my
network cables revealed one of them had a break that would open when moved. I’ll be back with more later, now it’s time to get the cobwebs and dust out of my hair from climbing around on the floor. You’d be surprised how much dust and stuff is in the undisturbed area behind a computer.

August 20, 2008 at 2:11 pm 1 comment

Obama, patriotism and the great American barbecue

Obama has had a hard time with the perception people have about his patriotism, or lack thereof. Whether it is true or not that he is less patriotic than anyone feels he should be isn’t the subject of the post but his actions concerning his use of the flag do bring up some related questions.
Should people wear the flag on their clothes? Now I’m not talking about law enforcement, emergency medical workers, firefighters or someone in the armed services wearing an arm patch or people wearing flag lapel pins but shirts that have the flag as a part of the pattern of the cloth.
Frankly, I’m not for it. The shirts can become dirty or ripped and pants definitely shouldn’t have a flag printed on them. I just don’t think it shows the proper respect for the flag to wear it like that. It’s one thing if the flag is worn on clothes as part of a uniform and quite another if it is incorporated into and becomes a part of the clothes.
As far as I’m concerned there is no question about having the flag printed on napkins, cups, paper plates and other food containers – it shouldn’t be done. I know that on every Fourth of July there are millions of Americans out there eating baked beans and potato salad off of plates with a flag printed on them but I think it is wrong and the U.S. Flag code specifically says it shouldn’t be done.
I know the code isn’t an actual law but those guilty of violating it are the very people you would think would follow the code whether it was law or not. Aren’t they attempting to show by the use of the flag how they revere it? Doesn’t using the flag in such a manner show disrespect for it?
I remember seeing the story of George M. Cohan with the incomparable James Cagney. In one scene, I believe that it was around the turn of the century (19th to 20th), an actress he is attempting to get to star in one of his plays says she doesn’t go in for gaudy displays of flag-waving, or words to that effect. I agree, flag waving should never be gaudy.
September 10, 2001 I was working at Digital Lighthouse in Fort Scott, Kansas, which was a call center for Sony products. I worked in a big room that held about 200 employees. We all worked at octagonal pods, each of the eight workspaces narrowing toward the center. That day there were exactly four American flags in that room and I had provided all of them. I put one on each side of my workspace and gave the other two to friends of mine, Dave and Will Bishop, father and son, and they put them up at their workspaces.
After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon flags sprouted up like mushrooms in that room. I heard some people talking about it and saying pretty much the same thing that the actress in Yankee Doodle Dandy said. I heard people on television talking about people who started hanging flags on their houses and how they were hypocrites for not having done so before.
I disagree. People show their patriotism in many ways and sometimes, in the daily grind of life, people don’t show a lot of enthusiasm for anything, even patriotism. It doesn’t mean they aren’t patriotic, it just means that displaying that patriotism outwardly isn’t a priority. An attack like September 11 can change priorities, it doesn’t mean a person is a hypocrite if they decide to start showing a flag afterwards.
A flag is flying from the front of my house as I type these words. It really wouldn’t matter if there weren’t one, my patriotism doesn’t depend on having the symbol of my country attached to my house. What matters is what is in my heart and I’ll let God be the judge of that, and no one else.

August 14, 2008 at 11:18 pm 1 comment

How to scare the bejeebers out of an Obama supporter

The publisher of our paper set up an appointment with an Obama supporter who had called her at home. The time for the appointment came and the publisher walked into the newsroom with the supporter, introduced herself as the publisher and me as a reporter. We all sat down and I got out a digital voice recorder and turned it on.
We talked for a few minutes and she told us a little of her story and why she was an Obama supporter.  She was a college student from Nebraska who came down to Missouri to organize some campaign offices in Vernon and surrounding counties.
She said her mother was a single mother and while she was growing up things were good because Bill Clinton was in the White House and he took care of people. She said things were different now, she was away from home and that when George Bush came into power he cut welfare and caused her mother to have more difficulty raising her younger sister, who was still at home.
After about 10 minutes the publisher asked why Obama didn’t support community newspapers by advertising in them. Apparently this triggered something because the girl became very upset and said that she couldn’t comment on the record about anything and didn’t realize when she came in that we would record her and she said we would have to talk with a representative of his media team.
She said she didn’t have the name of the person we needed to talk to on her but she could get it out of her car. She buzzed out of the office and the publisher and I sat there for a couple of minutes and both of us wondered aloud whether she would be back. Some of my co-workers came in and asked what that was all about. They could see her in the parking lot talking on her cell phone. She eventually came back in with a number and gave it to the publisher, then left.
Now I’m not going to vote for Obama, but I wasn’t sending off any negative vibes or anything. I was hoping to do a story on the girl anyway, not Obama. It would make a nice human interest story and when it comes to something like that it’s easy to be objective and do it without becoming personally invested in the story.
Thinking it over I’m convinced she didn’t think about it as a newspaper but as an opportunity to talk with a Democratic supporter (the publisher had worked on (Democrat) Bob Holden’s unsuccessful attempt for Missouri Attorney General several years ago) and she got the publisher’s name from a list of past Democratic campaign workers.
I really felt sorry for that girl, but honestly, there I was with a recorder in my mitt the entire time, what did she think I was recording the conversation for?
I wish she would come back, I’d still like to do that story, it’s the kind that little old ladies like. They come up to me on the street and go on and on about some of the ones I’ve written in the past. It sure beats getting yelled at because you wrote about someone’s brother/sister/father/mother/uncle/aunt, etc. etc. etc. getting caught doing something illegal. All in all I much prefer the human interest stories, I’m no Woodward or Bernstein.

August 12, 2008 at 9:57 pm 4 comments

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