about this sitesee Meranda's resumesee clips and work sampleskeep in touch

Archive for the 'News' Category

Micro-blog political reporting gets NYT nod

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Did anyone else catch that Twitter went mainstream today? Kind of.

Though I’m still defending myself from the Twitter jabs my peers pour on — even the most tech-savvy of them doesn’t “get it” — The New York Times, thankfully, does.

The NYTs’ fourth most e-mailed technology story of the moment is this gem, Campaign Reporting in Under 140 Taps.

It’s a look at several political reporters micro-blogging the presidential campaigns through Twitter and the like. Nothing particularly enlightening, though a few comic anecdotes.

As Mr. Knox makes clear, news has always come in different sizes. Despite the new gadgetry, these journalists are actually rediscovering telegraphese — the clipped (ideally witty) style that flourished because of word limits imposed by an earlier technology, the telegraph. Today, it is the limits imposed by text-messaging.

“It’s a sign of just how impatient this generation is,” Ms. Cox said. “I don’t have to open up a computer, and it’s no more than 140 characters.” …

To Josh Tyrangiel, the managing editor of Time.com, “the business thinking is the same as almost all of my business thinking: Why not?” The more exposure to Time.com’s material, the better, and no one can afford to be choosy about the setting. So Ms. Cox also has a Flickr feed for her photographs from the campaign trail that Mr. Tyrangiel is happy to promote. Ultimately, he said, it is a hopeless fight.

“If you tell people how to consume their content, they will ignore you,” he said, a truism that experience had taught new-media executives. “Let people do what they want to do and try to be in their circle of choice.”

Why it matters though is, and I have no idea where this ran in print or if it did, this will get Twitter before a mass audience of people who may not even be as tech-savvy as my peers who tell me “Twitter just sounds like a dirty word” or joke when I ask if they read an interesting story about whether I saw it on Twitter.

I just laugh. Roll my eyes. Give them a plea to try it out. And then succumb to the inevitable “Dear blogger” jokes that aren’t far behind it. But they mean well, and one day they’ll get it, too. I’m not giving up on trying to win them over just yet.

BTW: You can follow me on Twitter here. My updates are protected, but I’ll add you. (Since it’s mostly personal observations, I want to know who’s reading.) They’re also fed to my Facebook status, where you can also add me by searching my name.

Report card, report card, what did we get?

Monday, January 14th, 2008

I meant to note this before, when we got the news a few weeks back, but I got caught up in other things and well now there’s a convenient column from the publisher summing up the highlights of the report card the J&C received.

Overall? It’s hella good news for any newspaper (and its subsidiaries, which is probably the wrong word) to be growing readership these days. Here’s what he says:

Publishers, editors, online directors and all of our employees receive another report card every few years.

That report card is the results of independent market research on readership of the print Journal & Courier, jconline and reader answers to questions about their satisfaction with our news coverage.

So, I figured losing a few percentage points in print market reach would be a major victory in a time when many newspapers are losing much more ground than that. Maybe, just maybe, we could come close to making up those print losses with our surging Internet site — jconline.

So we were stunned when we got our report card.

Readership of the newspaper each day was up slightly from our last research in 2005. Seven-day readership of our newspaper (the percent of the market reading our paper at least once each week) was up slightly to 75 percent.

On top of that, our reach of the local market though jconline each week had grown to an impressive 31 percent.

I expected growth in this area, but not to that extent. In fact, the market reach of jconline is No. 1 in the entire Gannett Company (owners of the Journal & Courier). Total combined print and online reach had increased to 82 percent each week.

The researchers told us that reader satisfaction with our coverage of local news and other topics is high, well above most newspapers our size.

They also told us that readers’ reaction to the new newspaper was overwhelmingly favorable.

There’s more. Even more than he wrote in the column. But even without anything else, that’s impressive and happy news. As one of my profs noted when I was home this weekend about the fact that they bought a new press: “It’s a good sign that they’re investing money in your paper.”

And as I told another friend when I forwarded her a job opening here. Those numbers don’t just mean we’re doing a good job reaching our audience, which is true apparently. They also mean something else vital: job security. (OK, I know no job is “secure,” but I’d rather be at a paper that’s growing and making progress than, well, anywhere else.)

UPDATED: Reprinting yesterday’s news? That’s odd

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

I noticed a weird headline among the IndyStar‘s top read stories tonight: “Note to Sunday Newspaper Readers

It said:

Due to massive computer problems, several news stories planned for Sunday’s newspaper did not appear this morning. The problems, related to computer storage issues, required us to reprint some stories from Saturday’s newspaper, and leave out stories we had planned to publish.

We apologize for the problems which we believe are now fixed. Local news and sports stories we had planned for Sunday’s paper will be published in Monday’s Star.

I guess there’s always that risk, right? The problem with computers is that they crash sometimes. But the paper always comes out right? Right. At least the ads did in this case. I guess that says a lot. Not necessarily good things, either. They can’t get the news out, but the ads can be delivered to your front door step packaged in yesterday’s news. Oy vey.

It just strikes me as supremely odd that they would opt to reprint stories that already ran. How does that make any sense? If anything, just run wire. Or take some of the stories slated to run in the other papers in the chain (there are several in Indiana, including the one where I work). Or reverse publish some of your blogs. Or shift around some of that advertising and tighten the paper to make it seem less empty.

I remember how much we used to curse and cry and freak out when the system would eat our stories on deadline at the Stater, and before we replaced the printer, when we couldn’t get the proofs to print and had to rely on our eyes looking over the screen. And when the PDFs wouldn’t FTP to the printer and we were already past deadline? Oh those nights were a blast, too. For all the ease technology has allowed, it hasn’t been without its own problems.

I don’t pretend to be as smart or experienced as the folks at the Star. But I’m just baffled — as too, apparently, are the readers — as to why you’d re-run yesterday’s content?

To their credit, it does appear some of those stories are online today. But there’s the rub. Tomorrow’s paper will be full of yesterday’s news, again. The news that should have run but didn’t will run a day past its prime. Not as bad as a complete reprint, but an odd conundrum to be sure. I’ve never heard of anything like this, though certainly it can’t be unprecedented?

On the other hand, though this isn’t a correction, I think I may forward it on to Regret the Error because it’s just so odd.


Editor & Publisher wrote about the glitch in a piece I just stumbled upon. I do feel bad for the Star. I mean, yikes, you can’t access your content? What do you do?

The glitch resulted in numerous pages worth of news and advertising planned for the Sunday paper being left out and replaced by other content, said Managing Editor Pam Fine. She said the problem occurred after the paper’s CCI Publishing System went down and content placed in it was not accessible.

“We wound up running a lot of wire we would ordinarily not run,” Fine told E&P, citing as an example a Page One wire story on the Blackwater security firm and a Web story about a local congressional caucus that ran inside. “We also had a place holder for an enterprise piece that will now run on Tuesday.”

Telling the “good news”

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

A few weeks ago, maybe not even, we received one of those random calls you often get in a newsroom. The long-shot “this happened, and I think it could make a story” type of tip. But it was from a woman in Texas. And it was just crazy enough but also “feel good” that we pursued it.

You can read my complete story or find the AP version of my story pretty much anywhere by Googling the woman’s name (or on CNN.com to make it easy for you).

Basically, the woman took off her rings to make homemade fudge for a company bake sale. Forgot about the rings until several days later, when she discovered her mother’s diamond ring was missing. After searching every where, even emptying the garbage, she tracked down the name and e-mail of the woman who’d purchased the fudge thinking it a long shot. The buyer, meanwhile, had given the fudge to her sister-in-law’s father in another city. He had discovered the diamond ring during a midnight snack. The woman who bought the fudge got the ring from him, noticed the similarity to her own mother’s diamond ring and set out on a quest to find its owner as well. Though the two worked in the same office, they were in different departments and merely knew of each other before. They exchanged e-mails and the woman got her mom’s diamond back.

So, that’s a funny and heartwarming story, right? Yet, when I was finally able to track down e-mail addresses and phone numbers for the women — not as easy as it sounds — and they called me back they were like, “I don’t really see why this would be a story.” And I explained to them that, well, people just don’t do that. Not everyone finds a diamond and then goes hunting for its owner. At first reluctant, they gave me the interview but declined a photo.

My story ran on our front page and, as I noted above, the wires picked it up (tightening and rewriting a bit, but using my reporting and quotes, etc.). It spread to pretty much … everywhere. (Which hey is cool by me!)

My ME flagged something for me today on our opinion page. The woman who lost the ring wrote a letter to the editor praising us for the story (which led to several TV appearances and the articles spreading around the world). That made me feel good. As she notes, she now realizes why it’s important to tell these feel good stories. Here’s her letter:

Public eager to hear positive news stories

When Meranda Watling contacted me about how I lost my ring in a batch of fudge, I thought she was making a mistake (Journal and Courier, Dec. 29). Who would care?

Was I wrong.

After the story ran here, we saw the article online all over the world: China, Australia and Germany. I have done interviews for WLFI and Fox & Friends so I could publicly thank Linda Rhoades and Red Matson for their kindness, and have now been contacted by a national talk show.

This tells me people want to be told that good things still happen in this world. We hear so much negative news that we forget we are surrounded by wonderful people every day.

I just wanted you to know how right Meranda was in choosing to write a positive, up-lifting article. All the attention has reaffirmed to me just how starved we are for positive news.

We need to be reminded that most people are honest and willing to be good to one another. How many acts of kindness occur daily that we do not hear about?

I am so very grateful to have my mom’s ring back. To me, it is my own personal miracle. I feel very humbled and blessed by this whole experience.

I know this story brought joy to many people, for I have been inundated with e-mails and phone calls. So, please, keep up the good work by including other positive stories in your paper on a regular basis.

Linda Vancel
West Lafayette

I am constantly reminding people who complain that we’re always slamming this or writing about the negative that most of what I write is positive (or at the least and most often, neutral). For every story you hear about low graduation rates or a failing school, I probably write three times as many “this great new opportunity is being offered to students,” or “third-graders at City Elementary School are learning about engineering as part of a grant the teacher received …” you get the idea. But, yeah, people remember the negative. Which makes it all the more imperative that we do strive to balance it with these stories that just remind you there are good people in the world and in our communities.

The 100-year flood wake-up call

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

It seems as if every time the clouds around here even think they might let moisture escape, the rivers flood. I swear, it seems as if Lafayette is in at perpetual flood-stage, though usually not significant. (For those not familiar with the topography of this area, basically the West Lafayette levee area and um, downtown Lafayette, are built down in the valley right on the Wabash River.)

But this was different. Not here, but in parts of our northern coverage area, on the Tippecanoe River that feeds into the Wabash, the river was flowing so high and so fast that it was about as close as possible without going over the 100-year flood level. (That means, for those keeping score at home, the likelihood of such a flood happening in a year is about 1 percent. That is, it might happen once in 100 years.)

I should have taken it as an omen when I woke up at 6 a.m. to howling wind, rumbles of thunder and glints of lightning. I never wake up in the middle of the night. I know 6 a.m. isn’t night. But when you go to bed at 2 a.m. or later and set your alarm for 8 a.m., that’s the middle of the sleep cycle. I remember thinking at that point even how weird it was I was woken up by the weather. Little did I know, I wasn’t the only one. I went back to bed.

When my alarm went off for real. I hit snooze, and then reluctantly got out of bed at 8:15 a.m. thinking I would have plenty of time to shower, eat breakfast and iron the outfit I picked.

Not even five minutes after I crawled out of bed my phone rang again. I thought I must have hit snooze or set a second alarm on accident. Then I saw it come up from the paper. My immediate reaction — which is horrible but true — was “Oh, crap. I got something wrong in my story.” I had written the lead story on front for Tuesday after chasing down details and documents and squirreling some information, reluctantly, out of officials. Though I thought it solid, there was always that chance as a pit in my stomach, “What if I got it wrong?” Well, I didn’t. (Though I did get a call from a less than pleased official re: that story.)

The call was actually my editor. His plea, which he was sending out to every reporter at that moment, was I needed to get in ASAP. We had major flooding and need to mobilize. I told him I could be there in 15 minutes. He told me to wear boots.

So, without a shower and throwing on jeans and a sweater under my coat, I headed out into the drizzle.

I didn’t even have my coat off before I had orders and assignments. (I was among the first reporters to get there since I live closest.) Over the first hour and a half, I called the National Weather Service and the emergency management agency directors in three counties and the power company that owns the dams and I don’t even remember who else trying to find out where everybody was working from, where the flooding was at, how much flooding, what else was coming and more. As reporters came in, they were dispatched, some with photogs and others with point & shoots, to the places we were hearing were worst affected. Meanwhile, I was being handed releases as my editor got them and hearing things on the scanner to check into.

I wrote three Web updates before I even got in my car to head out to the flooded lands. Before I left, we probably had a dozen updates, easy. All told, I don’t know, we had at least 30 related updates today. Plus photo galleries and call-outs for stories and pictures.

As I was driving toward the staging area in a nearby county to find some personal stories and see with my own eyes how bad it was near the dam, I heard the radio come on with “the latest information we’ve gathered.” Only, they didn’t say where they gathered it from. It had been our Web site. I would have been suspicious anyway, because it was information I got from one of the emergency directors as he was leaving a meeting and fueling his truck, not something he sent out in a release. But when they read, verbatim, the quote he said to me (and it was pretty distinctive, which was why I used it), I had to laugh out loud. But I figured, whatever, I’d rather people be aware. Still funny though.

So I drove along the river and through a few water-filled/covered roads (that my mom would not like to hear about and my editor pretended not to approve of either, though they were between me and the story). I spent about an hour and a half talking to people coming off rescue boats or standing on their property watching as the water level rose and came literally to their door. As shocked as these people were, for me, it was my first time ever seeing this type of disaster in person.

Floods are one of those things you hear about elsewhere. And even here, as much as we hear about roads closed due to flooding or the river at flood stage or even as high as I see the water creep into the tree line, this was different. I mean, I was standing on a bridge with water crashing into it and a boat tethered to it. I was told there was a boat dock below that bridge off to one side. But you couldn’t have gotten a toy sail boat between the river and the bridge when I was there. And in the distance, I could see the dam just gushing and gushing. On the other side of the bridge, downstream, I could see homes submerged as far as my eyes allowed me along both sides of the river. It was a site for me to take in as much as it was for anyone else. I had to force myself to pause and breathe and acknowledge the “Wow” factor even before I started flagging down people getting off the boats.

I don’t know who said it, but someone once described a journalist as someone who runs toward what everyone else is running from. It might be stupid or dangerous, even. But I won’t deny it is fun to be right there, to see it in person not just on the news or in the papers. But more than any of those things, it’s important. For the stranded families who needed to evacuate or know when to evacuate and to where, and for the drivers looking to avoid getting swept away, and for the family members near and far who wanted to make sure their loved ones were OK, the information we could only get by being there was worth it.

As rumors swirled — would the dams hold? — and unexpected problems occurred — a fire in a home where the fire department had to be “shipped” in? — a voice of calm and reason was needed. That’s kind of what I saw our role as being. We didn’t need to sensationalize the flood of the century. We just needed to get the facts out, as quick as possible, to as many people as possible. And we did. So I’m heading to bed now, wiped out, but proud of our work today. And hoping tomorrow doesn’t bring the flood downstream.

More: jconline is “flooded” with flood-related coverage now and will be for awhile. Also, take a look at the editor’s take on covering the flood in her blog.

Midday media traffic spike?

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

The NYTimes has a story today about how media outlets are dealing with a new trend: People “video snacking” at their desks at lunch.

It’s an interesting phenomenon I haven’t heard of before. Though, apparently several newspapers and TV stations, as well as big online ventures like Yahoo/AOL, are responding to this increased noontime demand for fresh video.

The midday spike in Web traffic is not a new phenomenon, but media companies have started responding in a meaningful way over the last year. They are creating new shows, timing the posts to coincide with hunger pangs. And they are rejiggering the way they sell advertising online, recognizing that noontime programs can command a premium.

In 2007, a growing number of local television stations, including WNCN in Raleigh, N.C., and WCMH in Columbus, Ohio, began producing noon programming exclusively for the Web. Among newspapers, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., and The Ventura County Star in California started posting videos at lunchtime that have young journalists as hosts and are meant to appeal to 18- to 34-year-old audiences.

The trend has swept across large as well as small independent sites. Yahoo’s daily best-of-the-Web segment, called The 9 and sponsored by Pepsi, is produced every morning in time for lunch. At MyDamnChannel.com, a showcase for offbeat videos, programmers have been instructed to promote new videos around noon, right when the two-hour traffic spike starts.

I was unaware of this jump. Granted, reporters/newsroom staff here are only sent the basic stats report e-mail for each day. So I don’t know the exact numbers for each hour. But our traffic very clearly seems to spike around 8/9 and then again at the end of the work day. I’ll have to look back through a few days when I’m at work again to see if this midday trend holds true here. If it does though, it begs the question of whether we should and how we should cater to that demand? And if it doesn’t, it still leaves open the question of whether we could compete for this attention, and of course, how.

The first reporter at my paper starts posting around 6 a.m. daily (8 a.m. weekends — but both shifts seem ungodly early when you’re the one on them), and throughout the day local and state, and sometimes big national, stories are posted. On bigger news, the No. 1 slot or the No. 5 slot (that is the top slot w/a photo or the top slot sans photo) will get swapped out or updated and timestamped breaking news. Often, those stories are among the most read. After the 4 o’clock meeting each night, they post a PM Update with four or five teasers for the top stories in tomorrow’s paper. That is also usually well read.

But if there’s a group of people or even a growing appetite for a noontime video/news bite, it’s worth considering what type of demand that is (seems from the NYTimes story that lighter fare is popular) and then how to cater to it. (Wow, so many food cliches.) Here’s some very preliminary ideas I have off the top of my head, or as Carl (former prof/Stater adviser) used to say: I’m thinking out loud here…

  • A noontime round up of odd news off the wire. These are generally short, and pulling out three or so each day would probably be a cinch. People like weird stories. If you want this to be video, grab one of your more camera friendly staffers and get him or her to quickly tell the stories. Throw in a few stock photos/screen grabs/whatever for effect if you want.

  • A midday news synopsis with very brief (think news tickerish) bits about the stories we’re working on or even the biggest national stories — with links to more details for any stories that are already posted, of course, even if it’s a link to CNN. This could easily be paired with a noon-time 2-minute newscast. I don’t think you need glitzy here, down and dirty headlines could suffice.
  • Maybe like our PM Update a Midday Update. Promote the top stories, video, galleries, forums, whatever on your site to let other people know what their peers are reading. Kind of, “Here’s what’s generating the biggest buzz on (your site).”
  • Get an employee who’s always finding cool stuff online (there has to be at least one) to do a round-up of stories, videos, Web sites, whatever people are talking about online today. Maybe it’s just a quick round-up of the top stories on other sites, like YouTube’s most popular item or whatever is out there on Digg or just whatever cool or crazy news/fun item he or she stumbles on that day. This would probably work best as a blog that you promote or cross-post at noon each day. I’m thinking kind of an “in case you missed it” blog. Something along the lines of Clicked over at MSNBC, with a dash of USA Today’s On Deadline or a more focused version of Pop URLs. I could spend hours following all those links. The benefit of doing this locally (instead of Clicked, etc.) would be it would focus the local audience on the same items. Fostering that communal experience, “Did you see…?”, and community conversation on the comments.

I’m sure there are plenty of other more innovative and effective ways to capture that noontime media consumer. Those are just some initial thoughts. I’ll have to look around to see if anyone out there has come up with some cool ideas. If you know of one, pass it my way.

What were your top news stories?

Friday, December 21st, 2007

It’s that time of year when journalists reflect on the top stories of the year. Today, I saw Time’s edition on the newsstand blasting its top picks. And the J&C exec. editor’s Sunday column this week was about how the top story really differs from person to person.

The top picks we have were up for debate via a poll at the bottom of jconline. My vote — in agreement with more than 50 percent of the about people to vote by the time I did (I can’t find the polll or its results now to compare) — is the Wade Steffey story.

That story began just as I started here. He went missing the day I moved to this town. Though my part in the ongoing coverage wasn’t much, I do feel proud of all our efforts and the work we did on that story and my own work on it. I just think it touched so many people here in so many ways — from volunteers to friends to Purdue policies to just casual readers, students and strangers — and went on for so long, that of the list it probably left the biggest impact.

It’s not that I don’t think property tax is a big issue. It’s huge. Even though I don’t pay the taxes, the delays here are wreaking havoc on the schools I cover. Plus it’s just an ongoing mess. I just don’t think we’ve actually gotten to the crest of that story. There’s a lot more to come. I’d keep it on my list of stories to watch in ’08 — which is where I’ll throw Iraq — which would, for the record, be my No. 2 pick among the list. (I would place it No. 1, except that by this point many people have sadly become immune to the news.)

I also think a change in leadership at Purdue is a big deal for the school and I guess the community at large. But really, not as big a deal as we and many others made it out to be. And the ongoing financial troubles at area non-profits is sad, but isn’t financial trouble for non-profits practically the norm? Ditto on the health insurance debacle.

Local municipal elections, eh. Though there were some interesting results and some changes worth watching, it’s not such a big deal to me. Vote centers and a smoking ban, likewise, seemed much ado about nothing.

And the snowstorm in February that practically shut down everything in the county except the J&C was a huge inconvenience at the time, but it came and went. No lasting impact. As evidenced by this weekend’s wintry blast, no lessons learned either. It will go down as nothing more than a punchline to tales of “This is nothing compared to the blizzard of ’07” during future storms.

In considering the top stories the J&C covered and also thinking about what the heck I did this year worth even mentioning (it’s hard to remember all the stories I wrote even in the past week!) I’m going to list what I think are/were my 10 biggest stories (or more so issues since it’s hard for anything to be taken alone) I covered this year on the education beat:

  1. School funding issues: A new state formula meant some districts (big, growing ones — like TSC) benefited and saw more money, but left others (ones with stagnant, declining enrollment — almost everyone in this region except TSC) to adjust to less state money. Also, the property tax delays are going to cost tax payers hundreds of thousands of additional dollars.
  2. Changes in school leadership: West Lafayette has a new superintendent, who has come in and recently proposed some ideas that could be construed as radical. That will be fun to follow. The search for him was not so much fun on my end. Likewise, Benton’s superintendent has just a few weeks left before his replacement steps up to bat. And the county’s largest district is searching for the perfect new guy to fill the very big shoes of the current 18-year incumbant when he retires this summer.
  3. Consolidation talks: The three Tippecanoe County districts commissioned a study to look at whether it would be feasible, cost-effective or in their best interest to consolidate resources. Pretty much what came out of it is a collaboration committee to meet annually. This year they met, rehashed what they already work together on and discussed the possibility of a joint charter school. Schools in White County have commissioned a study to look at the same issues. And a recent state report is encouraging these discussions, even suggesting such consolidations (for districts smaller than 2,000 at least) ought to be required. Definitely a trend to follow in 2008.
  4. Full-day kindergarten: The legislature offered it to more students than ever this fall as the governor pushed it through. More implementation is on the way. This has caused a glut at some of our local space-starved schools. But generally has good support. Will be an ongoing issue.
  5. ISTEP/NCLB/PL221 fall-out: Seems every month or so someone was failing at something according to these numbers/results. I’m working on a few bigger stories that look at some of what the numbers mean — achievement gaps, how poverty/transiency/race affect them, etc. The implications of these numbers, what they say about the schools and the community and what they may mean for both’s future, is interesting and telling about how well students are being reached. Again, something to keep an eye on.
  6. Teacher contracts: Benton and WL both finally came to an agreements after a few years of ongoing disagreements as teacher’s finally backlashed. TSC had a relatively minor (compared to those) scuttle with its teachers, approving a contract they rejected, but it did take state intervention to settle 3/4 through the first semester.
  7. Graduation rates: Too low in this city, according to the state’s formula which was used for the first time in the rates released in 07 for 2006. Disparities not just between our city high school (which posted a 65 percent) but surprisingly also among two otherwise equal and pretty similar county high schools.
  8. School construction, renovation, reuse, demolition: To build or not to build. If not, to put portables outside growing schools or renovate and add another wing. To consolidate schools and close some or restructure/redistrict. To refinance old bonds or not to. What to do with buildings no longer of use/when to just tear them down. What old schools are being/can be used for. What to name new schools as they come on line. Etc. I wrote all those stories, mostly within this county but also in some outlying counties. I suppose this is an always ongoing issue. But taken all together, it is crazy to think how many different hands are being played all at once and how vast the differences between each player (i.e. district) is in their approach.
  9. Private/charter schools gaining traction: The one charter in this county is growing. So are all the private schools — especially one of the high schools which of late has become a major player. Another small private school is seeking a charter — from a school district that’s never done it before. Virtual schools were OK’d, then denied, then … well who knows where they’ll end up eventually.
  10. School safety: “Hit lists”, accidents and more sprinkled the year. Additional security cameras went up in several schools. Grants for more sidewalks and cross walks were won. Crossing guard times were reconsidered after a fatal accident on the way to school.

So as you can see, I would say I got a pretty amazing schooling on the education beat this year. (That pun was entirely intended, how could I resist?) I’m looking forward to following these and other stories this coming year with a little less “Wait, what does this mean? I’ve never covered this before can you start at zero?” and a bit more in-depth probing on my part.

In addition, I could write a novel of “firsts” I covered this year off my beat — from bank robberies to court sentencings to county commissioners and enterprise looks at some of those non-profits’ issues. I won’t, but the point is, I have grown a lot this year. In a good way.

Enough about me: What were your top stories or projects this year?