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Archive for April 1st, 2007

April Fools Day and stupid pranks

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

I am very much a jokester. Always have been. I was just reading the hilarious pranks pulled on members of my community as pulled together into our April Fools Day package.

My personal favorite is this one:

Ed Bumbleburg of Lafayette swears by this prank:

“Write the following on the front of an envelope and place under the windshield wiper of a friend’s car: ‘Sorry I scratched and dented your car. You should be able to get it fixed for very little.’

“Inside place a piece of paper with the words, ‘April Fool!’ “

That is one of the best jokes I’ve heard. So simple, yet I can totally see the person picking up the envelope and then circling his or her car several times before opening it. I would seriously laugh. Plus, it doesn’t hurt anything or take a lot of planning. I’m definitly filing this away for future April Fools jokes.

The best “prank” anyone pulled on me was not on April Fools day. It was last November. I almost had a heart attack because of it. Although at first I was a little upset, in the end it really was a hilarious prank. In the spirit of the day and because it’s journalism-related, I’ll relay it here:

In November, my top editors, reporters and I headed to Detroit for a job fair. I was nervous as it was leaving the paper without any top editors in town, even if it was just one night. We even had a morning meeting at 5 a.m. before making the drive to Detroit.

So that night, we were all hanging out in different rooms figuring out what we wanted to do that night. It was around 9 p.m. when my phone rang. I didn’t hear it at first. When I checked my message, it was from one of my professors saying the former (by about five months) president of the university had been in a car accident — and it may be life threatening. Note that this is a professor. I stood bolt upright and told everyone in the room to shut up.

I called the newsroom to find out what they knew. One of the copyeditors picked up the phone. I wanted to talk to one of the supervising editors (two of the few editors still in town and the people in charge!) but “they went to go grab dinner, now that you mention it, they’ve been gone awhile.” I start freaking out. I ask if anyone’s heard anything about the accident, and the copyeditor doesn’t know anything. So, I hang up and call the most senior reporter still in town and tell her what I know and to get to the office and find out what’s going on. She sounds freaked out like me.

Then, I call the professor back. Meanwhile I walk out of the hotel room to the hall where, from all different directions and rooms, my top editors are heading toward me and converging. Each of them has just been on the phone with someone, either a professor or another staff member, and we’ve all heard the same thing: life-threatening crash, Cartwright.

Finally, I get a hold of the newspaper adviser, who apparently had been the one to call the M.E. while I got the call from a different prof. He confirms what we’ve heard. I keep him on the phone while all the top eds in the middle of this bustling hotel try and hash out a plan of attack for covering the story and ripping apart the paper on deadline. (Keep in mind, we still haven’t established contact with the supervising editors.)

I tell Rachel, the news editor and former administration reporter, to put a call in to the university spokesman and another editor to call Cartwright’s house and cell. And that’s when Carl can’t stand it any more. He tells me it’s all a joke. I can’t believe it, and for a few minutes I’m seriously pissed. Carl is not a joking person, so his confirming the story was part of the reason we went into crisis mode. He apologizes profusely. I hang up, and stand in disbelief. Then, I call the newsroom and demand to talk to the sports editor (who was supervising that night and the person who planned the joke, which included the entire newsroom, several other staff members and professors).

When I tell him I know it’s a joke, he just laughs. And I turn the joke on him. “Well, Cartwright didn’t think it was funny when we called her house to ask about her condition.” And his laughing drops immediately. At this point, I’ve already resigned that they did get us pretty well, and in hindsight, it was kind of funny. Carl pulled the plug just in time to stop us from making a complete fool of ourselves and our organization. Then, to the sports editor I throw in a joking, “That was not funny. You’re fired.” But then Carl calls back on the other line, so I quickly let the editor go and say I’ll talk to him later.

About three hours later, I get a call from the sports editor. They sent the last page and got the all-clear from the printer. But he wants to know if he’s seriously fired. I had completely forgotten about saying that and had been entirely joking. But apparently, as the assistant news editor (who was supervising with the sports ed that night) told me later, as soon as I said that his face dropped and he went into my office and kind of sat there worried until he eventually called me. I felt kind of bad, until I remembered how much he had almost caused a heart attack for me. And then, I figured we were about even.

There you have it. :) Hope it makes you laugh as much as it made me laugh in hindsight. But then, I laugh at everything.

Being entrepreneurial in journalism

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

Both Mindy McAdams and Howard Owens have great posts about what it means to be entrepreneurial in journalism and why it’s important.

Howard has a list of traits he sees as being entrepreneurial and explanations about what he means. Among them:

  • Be resourceful
  • Think forward
  • Take initiative
  • Be an optimist
  • Have a sense of urgency
  • Be goal oriented
  • Don’t let the bastards get you down
  • … and about a half dozen more

My personal favorite:

Be a self-learner. You should never stop learning, and the most efficient way to learn is to teach yourself. Try new things, read lots of books, be curious, ask questions, read blogs, set learning goals, be resourceful about what you learn and how you learn it. Among the things you should be learning, even if you’re purely a content person, is business, especially strategy. It will help you come up with better ideas.

His whole list is worth reading. But I think in particular being self-motivated is absolutely essential in today’s world. Nobody else is going to take responsibility for teaching you everything you should know, and nothing will more impress your employer, future employers or even yourself more than learning a new skill on your own just because you were curious or wanted to better yourself.