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Archive for February 18th, 2007

QOTD: If the world should blow itself up…

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

“If the world should blow itself up, the last audible voice would be that of an expert saying it can’t be done.”
— Peter Ustinov

Moral of the story: You can’t always trust the experts.

one story, retold several ways

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

I have a google alert on my name. Yes, I am weird. But I am also curious to see where my name pops up. After all, if some day someone important googles me, I want to have a sense of what they’ll find. (And I bet most people who think I’m weird are the same people who just never thought to do it for their own name but, starting today, they will.)

Sometimes my name comes up in strange far-flung places. A recent story I wrote about how the cold weather can make pipes freeze and cause all sorts of havoc has been interesting to follow. It was picked up by Gannett News Service.

What’s actually been interesting is how much it’s been rewritten. It’s the same general reporting (same sources, quotes and sidebar). But I’ve seen several different written versions of it still under my byline. Here are the first five paragraphs of my version and some others:

My original:

Kevin Gutwein was dealt a double dose of bad luck Monday night.

As temperatures fell to seasonal lows, the Lafayette resident realized both his furnace was broken and a water line into his house had frozen and burst.

“It was one of those times you stand there and look at each other and say, ‘Why did we buy a house that was built in 1880?’ ” Gutwein said.

It actually wasn’t the first time his family dealt with frozen pipes. In fact, when he realized the water pressure in the sink had fallen, he thought, “Aw man, this is what happened last year.”

Gutwein was not alone in his troubles. Suzie Kelsey, dispatcher at Brenneco Inc. plumbing company, which serviced Gutwein, spent Tuesday morning trying to keep up with all the customers with frozen pipes.

At the Citizen-Times in Asheville, North Carolina:

After a brief warm spell, the deep freeze is back in Western North Carolina. Temperatures are dipping into the teens at night and hovering in the 30s during the day.

Better check out your pipes and prevent a costly break.

“When weather like this occurs, we go into emergency mode,” says Randy Lynch, service manager for Brenneco plumbing in Lafayette, Ind.

But when temperatures ease, the problems won’t go away.

“Whenever a pipe freezes, if it’s copper especially, it expands and splits the pipe,” says Reggie Roy, owner of L&R Plumbing. “When it thaws out, that’s when you find out.”

And up at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, my story takes on the following:

For Kevin Gutwein, history repeated itself on a frigid morning.

As he turned on the faucet in his kitchen, he found that the water had slowed to a trickle and realized a water line into his house had frozen and burst — just like last year.

“It was one of those times you stand there and look at each other and say, ‘Why did we buy a house that was built in 1880?’ ” Gutwein says.

But houses built more recently aren’t immune. Any home with pipes in an unheated crawl space, set in concrete beneath a garage floor or in an attic where temperatures fluctuate is vulnerable to frozen pipes.

“When weather like this occurs, we go into emergency mode,” says Randy Lynch, service manager for Brenneco plumbing in Lafayette.

Now, I don’t care so much about the ledes being changed or reworked or the stories rearranged. I’m not one of those people who is married to her ledes. Sometimes other people have better ideas and what works for me might not work for them. It’s the message that matters. In fact, on shorter items, even getting credit seems unnecessary for me. After a summer where at least half of what I did went without a byline, I realized having the byline glory was not what it was about. My editors are trying to re-train me to put a credit on the quick-hit shorter stories.

My point isn’t so much, therefore, that these stories were rewritten while retaining my byline. I don’t care. It’s just interesting to me as I don’t think it’s ever occured on a story by me before. (Granted, most of what I write has a smaller, local scope.) So I don’t know if this is common or normal practice, but my hunch is it must be. Either way, it’s an interesting phenomenon.

talented editorial cartoonist, teacher?

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

I just saw the latest editorial cartoon from the Stater’s own Chris Sharron. Here’s what it looks like:

Kent State had a snow day, what?

I love it. Kent State students, like many Midwestern counterparts, got a slight reprieve from the bitter winter this week when they had a snow day. Remember how I blogged last week about their whining because of the cold? I’m sure they’re still not happy but maybe a little more complacent. Although, I hardly think the futile protests had any impact on the decision to cancel classes this week. I just loved Chris’s “hell freezing over” metaphor here because, every time a major university cancels classes for the weather that’s how it feels: Can it really be happening or was I imagining things?

Chris is a ridiculously talented editorial cartoonist. That’s hard to come by, especially at the collegiate level where kids who think they can draw far outnumber those who actually can. That was why when Chris walked into the newsroom a few summers back we snagged him. I was the managing editor that summer, and I remember the editor telling me some kid had dropped off some sketches and now was going to be our illustrator. Just like that.

Matt, the editor, had a way of getting super excited about other people’s talents. He was never jealous, but he was always impressed by good work. “Man, this guy is so good,” I remember him commenting about one of my reporters that summer, saying that he “loved reading his stories” because they were so well written. I always admired Matt’s ability to be awestruck. So, when that “kid,” at the time only a junior in high school taking post secondary classes at Kent State, produced some awesome illustrations that summer, I was more than happy to join in the revelry. Our annual orientation issue that fall would not have been nearly as awesome without Chris’s helpful hand. Two of our four section fronts were pretty much dominated by illustrations with content overlaid.

Chris has only gotten better since then. This isn’t the best editorial cartoon I’ve seen from him, but it is a good sampling. He’s tackled some pretty big topics and keeps up on current events in politics, entertainment and local affairs probably better than most of his j-school counterparts. The thing is, he’s not in the j-school. Although he works for student media in production and as an editorial cartoonist for the Stater, his major is actually middle-childhood education. I asked him once why he was choosing to do that when he had such potential (imagine if you’re this good at 18 how good you’ll get). I forget his exact reasoning, but I believe it was something about having a career to fall back on and being realistic. :shrug: Either way, just as Matt was always amazed by other’s talents, I continue to be amazed by Chris’s wit.

Ding dong the paper clip’s dead

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

ding dong the paperclip's dead

Perhaps the most annoying feature of Microsoft Office was that stupid paper clip. Although I realize the little Einstein guy and the dog were essentially the same program, somehow it was less annoyingly helpful when it wasn’t “clippy.”

A few weeks ago, I was in a computer lab where the teacher was attempting to teach the kids to compose a letter. The little paper clip kept popping up on them, and you could hear her frustration when she tried to explain to the fourth graders: “If a little paper clip comes up, just ignore him.” Haha.

The comic is from userfriendly.org, but I saw it linked from Journalistopia.