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Archive for June 21st, 2007

I should know better, and now I definitely do

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

So, I post this as a warning. And as an admonishment on my part. For, I made a seriously huge mistake this week, and I’m glad my boss took it in stride.

I have been working on this package about the state of superitendency in our region. Several of our superintendents are retiring this summer or have announced their intent to retire within the next year. More than two-thirds of our superintendents have 30+ years of experience in education (translation: it won’t be much longer).

As a part of my package, I wanted to see how long each of our local superintendents had been in his or her position. This involves calling out to 26 different school corporations. My everyday coverage usually encompasses three of them, with a bit more emphasis on one other. But for the most part, I don’t stray too far out of this county except to monitor the boards and make sure nothing crazy or important happens.

So, imagine my shock when I call one of the distant corporations Tuesday afternoon and am told by the secretary: “He’s no longer the superintendent. So & So replaced him — in April.”

I almost cried. It was all I could do to stifle my shock and stay composed enough to ask for the spelling of the new guy’s name and what happened (at least it was retirement, not something else crazy).

The problem, as if dropping the ball and completely missing a new superintendent in one of my districts wasn’t big enough, was my boss wasn’t having the best of days. And I was NOT going to break the news that I’d missed that story to him while the odds were stacked against me. I asked another reporter for her advice, and she concurred. Come in early the next day and catch him then.

The next morning, I rolled in about half an hour early. Sat down, turned on my computer, checked my e-mail and glared at the notebook with the superintendent story notes. Ugh. I knew I had to tell him, even though every ounce of me wanted not to know how disappointed he’d be.

I wanted to check and make sure I wasn’t catching him at a bad time, so I went to send the reporter a note via iChat, which is on each of our computers. It read: “Is (he) in a good mood today? Or is now a bad time to tell him about the new superintendent in (that district)?”

Two seconds after I hit send I look up and realize, to my absolute horror, that it said across the top: “Chat with (My Editor).”

I could have cried, and those tears would have been much worse than the ones about a missed story.

I jumped up immediately and dashed across the office to his desk, where he was sitting and as I approached reading my iChat to him.

Ugh. Talk about odds stacked against me. So I had to apologize profusely and truthfully not only for dropping the ball on the story but also for the misdirected im.

Luckily, I guess, though the discourse did involve at least one profanity and a pen being thrown at the desk a little harder than necessary, it softened the blow on the superintendent being named months ago without my notice. And, to be honest, my editor did get over it relatively quickly. Though, because another reporter made a similar mistake a few weeks ago in an im intended for me, I think he probably thinks we talk about him all the time. We really don’t. (I swear!) I was just trying to test the waters to make sure it wasn’t bad timing.

The point of relaying this is to warn you all. I am about as tech-savvy as they come, and it was a stupid mistake. But, as those of you on my facebook or twitter friends list know, “Meranda is never talking about her boss on iChat again — especially if it might accidentally be sent to him, oops.”

You’ve been warned. Though my co-workers all had a great laugh about it, I’ll bet that goes on my review. Eep.

Cute animal stories

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

I and the reporter who sits across from me are constantly telling our editor that we should run more photos of cute animals. People love cute animals, right?

I just happen to love animals, especially cuddly, furry, bouncy, shaggy, big — OK, pretty much all — animals. It’s annoying to walk down the street with me. Every dog I pass gets an, “Oh, how cute! Can I pet him?!” And then five minutes of behind the ear treatment as I crouch low to the ground. If the dog is big and it’s toungue hangs out of its mouth to the side while its tail wags, so much the better. Aw, I’m smiling just thinking about cute dogs.

The other reporter is more of a cat lover, especially the alley cat she likes to run after by the J&C yelling “kitty!” But I digress.

Thing is, we both spend time on other newspaper’s sites looking at cute animals. Me at IndyPaws.com and her at the Chicago Tribune.

Other than our anecdotal, “We could be clicking around on jconline instead of going to other sites looking at animals” pleas, we never had empirical proof. Until now.

We ran a story this week about a local high school track coach who has nurtured a squirrel back to health and keeps it as a pet. Yeah, a pet squirrel. The photos were ADORABLE, and we had a whole gallery with the pictures of the squirrels progress.

As I flipped through the online gallery on Tuesday, my “aw”‘s were mixed with “I hope this gets a ton of hits and they realize that pets are the way to go.”

Even our often-feisty online posters couldn’t find anyway to turn this discussion into an assault on our journalism skills or a discussion of how illegal immigrants signal the end of the world. Several read like this one:

First, thank you J&C for running some very good animal stories lately!!
I loved this story!! I laughed all the way through it! It’s so nice to see people caring for animals of all kinds. I wish this family and Rocky the best. Good luck Rocky!!!!

The next morning, I opened the readme memo and lo and behold: The squirrel gallery got 16,000+ page views that day. The story got nearly 3,000. But the squirrel gallery was by far our top page-grabber that day.

The victory came later that day in my e-mail. I’ve recently been asked to join the New Product Development committee here. And that e-mail was a few items we’d be talking about at our meeting this morning. Number two on the list? How to capitalize on the interest in pets, as evidenced by that photo gallery and the success of other sites, such as IndyPaws.

Tonight, I watched as our entertainment reporter edited a video about animals at a new farm animal exhibit at the zoo. The little goats and chickens were humorous to watch, especially the little goats. A-DOR-ABLE. I think that will drive some traffic, too.

Score one for the Lafayette animal lovers. And expect a lot more girly squeals of “How cute?!” from me.