Posts filed under ‘All I know I read in the paper’

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

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

Word trivia

A British academic has come out with an idea sure to be a hit with the poor spellers in his class – he suggested it may be time to accept “variant spellings” as legitimate. Reuters link here That’s shore to gitta lotta folks upset. However, his idea is by no means unique, no less an American figure than Noah Webster proposed something similar more than two hundred years ago.

Webster’s musings on the matter were chronicled in his 1789 “An Essay on the Necessity, Advantages, and Practicality of Reforming the Mode of Spelling and of Rendering the Orthography of Words Correspondent to Pronunciation,” Dissertations on the English Language: With Notes, Historical and Critical, to Which is Added, by Way of Appendix, an Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling, with Dr. Franklin’s Arguments on That Subject” The whole shebang here

Webster got some of his reforms through:

gaol – jail
mould – mold
travelled – traveled
honour – honor
centre  – center
humour  – humor
masque  – mask
publick  – public

But not all of them:

women  – wimmen
determine – determin
cloak  – cloke
tongue  – tung
sponge  – spunge
sleigh  – sley
soup  – soop
ache  – ake
OK, English is a strange language. I’ll give you that. But as far as I can see the guy (Ken Smith, a criminology lecturer at Bucks New University) calling for the variant spelling is doing it because he’s too lazy to mark his students papers wrong for their mistakes, not because, like Webster, he wishes to improve the language.

Kudos to Webster but nothing less than a Monty Pythonesque “I fart in your general direction” to Smith.

August 11, 2008 at 9:10 pm 6 comments

Dear Abby and other fictional characters

Working at the newspaper there are some things that I can’t avoid, however much I’d like to. Dear Abby is one. As far as I’m concerned it’s just the Jerry Springer show on newsprint.

A few years ago I was proofreading a page Dear Abby was on and I couldn’t help laughing at the woman who wrote in. She said she had been married for 25 years and her husband couldn’t remember to put the toilet seat down. Abby clucked along with her and blamed the man of course. They agreed the man seemed incapable of learning anything.

I had a different take on it. She was the one who was sitting down on cold porcelain, not her husband. She is the one who had the constant reminders. Why didn’t she put the toilet seat down before sitting? As far as I could see she was the one with a learning disability.

Yesterday another in the never-ending horde of people who shouldn’t be allowed out without a keeper wrote in. He complained that people tended to stare at him and ask questions about the 20 something piercings he has. Link

“Eight of the piercings are in my face, and most of the others are in my ears. My main ear holes are stretched out to a half-inch.”

Now why would anyone look twice at someone like that? I just can’t seem to understand why.
Wonder of wonder Abby started to give an answer to Future Skin Artist that made sense, then she reverted to normal and went off the deep end of wacky.

“You have chosen to look different, so you shouldn’t be surprised at the staring and the questions. . . Perhaps in the future you should consider moving to Los Angeles. In this town everyone has seen almost everything, and people who are different are less shocking.”

Why would Abby pick Los Angeles to suggest as a location for unusual people? I feel I must go to the defense of all those other idiocracies we have in this country. Why San Francisco, just up the coast, is as fine an example of stupidity in action as can be found anywhere. California must have a good score or so of towns where Skin could find himself a slew of idiots just at dumb as he is to run around with. Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire to name just a few have plenty of communities where he could fit right in.

I would have answered him differently but I would have started out similarly. “You’ve decided to alter your appearance and people are going to notice. Some of them are going to be curious enough to do more than look, they will ask questions. There is nothing illegal about what you are doing and you have a perfect right to pierce your body anywhere you want to. Don’t be defensive. Answer their questions courteously and you might find that you have met a new friend. It’s your decision and you should own it, man up and walk proud. Skulk around and avoid eye contact and people will think there is something wrong with you, whether you have piercings or not.”

Then again I wouldn’t solicit letters from anyone seeking advice anyway. It is so old-fashioned and Victorian. This is the age of the Internet, surely there are better ways to find advice than writing to some busybody with nothing better to do than tell everyone around them what to do.

I guess Dear Abby performs a public service but so does the guy who unclogs the sewers. I don’t want to watch him work either.

August 9, 2008 at 2:16 am Leave a comment

McDonald’s – home of unicorns and rainbows?

I took a picture for work of a building going up. Nothing special, just one of hundreds of pictures I’ve taken over the years at construction sites letting people know what’s going on around town. I never guessed when I snapped the picture it would generate so much controversy on our paper’s Web site. It was just a picture of a new McDonald’s going in where one had been for at least the last 25 or 30 years.

Micky Ds construction

Micky D's construction

Story here

However some people took it on themselves to start commenting on McDonald’s corporate policies and others started calling them names. It escalated to the point where people were telling each other to “Shut the Hell up!” – literally, which is why I used the quotes.

The local McDonald’s is owned locally. The owner has absolutely no control over McDonald’s corporate policy. His business, which he and his family have built up over the years is being threatened by this.

I don’t like the new policy the corporation has put in place, or what I understand the new policy is, but I don’t think it is something that deserves such vehement condemnation and actions as have been advocated.
The term collateral damage refers to what happens in war when military action results in civilian casualties and I think it is appropriate to use it here. The collateral damage could be the loss of a business. A business that isn’t harming anyone or isn’t involved in the actions that have brought the condemnation. Sure, be upset at the McDonald’s corporation but don’t let your actions hurt anyone else.

I happen to think that homosexuals deserve the same respect as anyone else. They deserve the right to have the same service in the same manner as anyone else. I just don’t think they deserve to be classified as a protected class of people. If someone assaults me because I’m a Missourian or because I’m white or because I drive a big car, it is just as much a hate crime as if they assaulted someone because he’s homosexual. Equal treatment under the law. That’s an American tradition and that’s what every American deserves.

If we do something else besides equal treatment we stray from what the founders were trying to accomplish with this nation. It was wrong to treat blacks and other minorities in the shameful way they were treated in the past. It would be just as wrong to go overboard the other direction.

What about those minorities that have successfully integrated into the American culture? Asians come to mind. No one seems to push for any affirmative action programs to get more Asians into college. They are as much a minority as Hispanics or blacks why should they not get equal treatment?

The answer is simple. Everyone deserves the same amount of respect as everyone else and not one iota more. We are all human with human failings and to say that this group or that group deserves special treatment is wrong, whether the treatment is positive or negative.

August 5, 2008 at 11:53 pm 2 comments


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