Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sit... Stay... Good Boy.

Forced to sleep on a twin bed at my parent's house for the holidays, I was able to convince my dog to sleep on a couch instead of on the bed with me. Ah, leg room.

We often talk about "training" our sources and readers/listeners/viewers in the news biz. It sounds like we want Fido to do a new trick, or at least be obediant when guests are visiting.

It can be difficult to train sources and readers. Like a dog, it requires patience and persistence. Again, like a dog, it pays off.
You know when you've got that feeling the dog may be getting the command or trick, but it's not quite where you want it to be. That's how I'm starting to feel. After more than a year and a half at this newspapers and I have confidence that some of my sources and readers are on the brink of being "trained."
Yesterday, the city manager called my cell phone at 10 p.m. to tell me about a boil order, thinking I may want to put it on the Web. I did. By 9 a.m. the next morning (less than 12 hours since the post) the story had nearly 150 hits.
Even just six months ago I don't think the city manager would have thought to call my cell phone to tell me something like that. And just six months ago, even if we had the boil order up promptly, I doubt we would have seen 150 hits - especially overnight like that.
It just goes to show what, like a dog, constant reinforcement can do. It goes beyond the teases to the Web in the print product. I tell people all the time that we had that on our Web site, or that we'll get that on the Web soon if it's urgent. As a weekly, the Web becomes a resource to make the newspaper a nearly daily product (just weekdays unless there's breaking news, of course).
You don't have to have a full list of stories everyday on the Web, just one update a day and telling people about it drives traffic over time.
Alright, time to end the blog, I think my dog needs to go outside... where did I put that leash?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Of blogs and councilmen

It's 9 a.m. three days before Christmas. I'm a journalist working feverishly on an early deadline. And my coffee is cold.

I think a little humor is good for a blog - a professional blog, not an anonymous personal blog. But how far is too far?

I have two blog thoughts I'm holding back on for the moment.

Following a recent city council meeting, I asked an incumbent if he was going to file for reelection. All other incumbents had filed and he had toyed with the idea of running for state rep. in the past. So really I was just fishing for the scoop.

When asked if he was going to file for reelection, he replied, "I'm not up yet. It's not my year."

I replied, "Yes it is. It was in the paper - twice."

"Hey, Mayor," he asked, "Who's up this year?"

"Well, it was Bill and Ted last time," (names changed to protect the innocent) the mayor replied, "So it's you and Jill."

"Oh," the councilman said. "I'll be in City Hall first thing in the morning to file."

I wouldn't go into that much detail for a blog on my newspaper's Web site, but I think it would be humorous to mention that he didn't realize he was up for reelection.

Would I be burning a bridge with a source? This is a pretty easy-going councilman and it looks like he may run unopposed. But would I have a headline in the paper soon 'Councilman forgets to file, launches write-in campaign' if I had not said anything?

Other thought on a blog: I've been toying with a blog that is a spoof on a Christmas song. The spoof could go two ways: poke fun with a reflection of the year or make it timeless to suit the city. Would the "funny" one make too many people mad?

Oh blog, how you vex me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

To join or not to join...

...that is the question.

We've had some slight "restructuring" in our division of the company recently.

The publisher for my newspaper was moved to another office to fill another role. In interest of the bottom line, the "publisher" position at this location will not be filled at this time. According to upper management, we're a pretty self-sufficient crew in this office and should be fine without a publisher.

I'd rather have a publisher here, but that's neither here nor there at this point.

Among the publisher's unofficial job roles, as is the same with me, was to be face for the newspaper in the community and enhance networking for the company. I do this by being a reporting editor and attend events, meetings, etc. The publisher did this by attending an occasional event, but mostly be joining groups. He was a member of Rotary and a local business networking group. He invited an ad rep to step into the business networking group role and she has done so (it provides good networking for ad sales).

The question left to me is do I want to join Rotary or another similar organization. Rotary is really the big one. There's Lion's Club, too.

Rotary is much more social. They meet for lunch once a week and typically have a presentation. They do some planning, usually a service project once every other month or so. Rotary is full of the younger- to middle-age business professionals int the community.

Lions Club meets monthly in the evening to plan their next service project or fundraiser. It's also a much older crowd.

Here's the problem: I am not a fan of the Rotary organization. I mean, I like what they do. They do some great service projects in the community and fundraising for some good local, national and international things. I just hate their meetings. And you get roped into doing so many things you don't have time to do or care to do.

I'm also worried about the conflict of interest. Both Rotary and Lions Club do several things throughout the year that are newsworthy including briefs, wild art and full-blown stories. This would all have to be taken on by the part-time writer. And it would be hard to make sure it wouldn't seem like things at Rotary or Lions Club would be covered on the editor's whim because he's a member.

The positives: it would be great PR for the paper, good networking opportunities and an avenue to find more story ideas or sources. It could also create some good fodder for columns.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I used to work in radio and at an afternoon daily.

Do I miss it?


Do I miss it that much?


It snowed last night. I just got out into negative wind-chill temperatures to scrape ice and snow off my car and my girlfriend's car. But now we're sitting on the warm couch making fun of the TV people because we're in no hurry.

I did have to get up early to update the Web site for the TWO school districts (public and private) that we cover. Then I was done ... for now.

When I was in radio I had to be in there early, one time digging my car out of nearly a foot of snow. Why did I have to be there? Because I had to help compile and distribute the list of school closings and report snow news.

It was a similar situation with the afternoon daily newspaper. We had to not only get to work in the snow, but we had to get there early so we could get the carriers sent off early. We also had to get some snow photos and maybe a quick weather story to let people know how long this would stick around.

Now, at a weekly, I've updated the Web site, I'll want to get some snow photos, but other than that I'm good. I've got a meeting to go to tonight, one of three evening things I need to attend this week, so even without snow I wasn't concerned about getting in too early anyway.

So at the weekly, so far my job is done. I don't have to leave super early to do extra work and get it done early.

Do I miss the adrenaline rush of getting the snow news out first?


Am I glad I didn't have to go in early today?

You betchya!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'm feeling much better now...

I'm in a slightly better mood now than I was earlier - and have been in the past few days.

I'm still disgruntled about many things, but I spent a few minutes looking at previous blog posts about the good community journalism days. That helps. It just seems there have been far more negative moments than gratifying moments lately. It wears you down.

All work and no play... ah, forget it, I need more coffee

In the spirit of this blog's title, let me address coffee for a moment. Apparently my roommate made a second pot of coffee yesterday and drank one cup. When I picked up the coffee pot this morning, it felt full so I assumed it was fresh. I poured it in my travel mug left for work. I typically don't drink coffee in the car on the way to work because I just brushed my teeth and I'm waiting for the toothpaste taste to settle. So I get to work, get some stuff done quickly then go for my first sip of coffee for the day. It's cold. Great way to start things off. Around 9:30 a.m. I mosey over to the coffee shop, pay for my coffee with a debit card then pull out my frequent-buyer card. I'm due a free one, but the card has already been swiped. I take that coffee to my office. It's now 10:35 a.m. I haven't been too busy to drink coffee, in fact I've done little of anything, and my coffee is already cold. That's pretty much a summary of the past couple weeks.

Let's get into the community journalist side of things now that we've got that anecdote out of the way. (One more side note, for some reason I've been saying "anecdote" lately when I mean to say "antidote." Anecdote = a humorous story. Antidote = medicine for poison. One of my favorite Ron White jokes is "My friend Billy would still be alive if I had known the difference between antidote and anecdote. He got bit by a snake and I kept reading him stories from 'Readers Digest.'")

OK, I digress, again. You've got to love a little word humor.

It's been a crazy few weeks around here. The football team won its state championship. We went all out. We had a four-page wrap around the sports section and made it the A-section. We bumped "A1" to "B1." We did a photo page in the double truck of the wrap and sold ads around it. We sold out. Overall, a pretty successful venture.

Of course, you've got cynical me ready to point out the problems.

1. We have a sticky note ad on the front page. I loathe sticky note ads. I abhor them so much that I did an informal study last year on various papers and front page ads. My results are another blog on another day. So, this sticky note ad. The only word above the fold (besides the flag) is "CHAMPS!" with a celebration photo spanning the front and back of the section (it folds out to be a poster). The sticky note is slightly off center, covering part of the only word on the front page. The word we put on the front page to sell the newspaper. As I look at the front page now, all I can think is it must say "CHUMPS!" or "CHIMPS!" under that ad.

2. There are many photos in the sports section, several side bars to the main story, stats, etc. Everything you'd want in a commemorative edition, right? Except a roster. Or maybe team photo. One parent complained, despite her son being in the celebration shot on the front, he was nowhere to be found inside. She said he flipped through the paper, put it down and said, "It's like I wasn't even there." I'm sure he was being over dramatic and I'm sure the mother amplified that drama, but it raises a good point.

3. I went to the game to work on a couple sidebars. I told our sports writer I was not driving across the state the day after Thanksgiving if we didn't need or have a good place for what I was going to do. He said if I wrote something, it would get in. I was sure it would. And it did. But we've got a mediocre crowd shot (compared to what I saw at the game) with a small story I wrote about fans making the trip to the game. And there's a petty column by me about the experience at the game. It's pushed back to A8 run alongside my fan story and on the same page as "other" sports news. We had two non-state-football stories: a baseball college signing and girls basketball season opener. I felt like my work just got shoved to the back. And I'm not complaining because it's "me." It's because we could have filled that space with something better and I could have lounged on the couch eating turkey instead of driving four hours, sitting through a three hour game then driving four hours home.

So those are my complaints. Would you like to hear what some in the community think? You betcha! Compliments were scarce. Criticism ruled. Especially from cross country parents. The girls cross country team won its first state title. We did a lot for it. We could have done more. But the cross country parents think they deserved a wrap. I disagree. I'm grappling with the best way to tell the following (in a polite and professional manner):

1. We are responding to what the public wants. We are not dictating what the public should read. Several of those cross country parents who are complaining are at the football games. Don't they look around? How many of those thousands do they see at their kids' cross country meets? Thousands turn out for the game. When the football team had a playoff game 2 1/2 hours away, the school sent a spirit bus and city chartered two fan buses. When the football team went to state, the school sent spirit buses and the city sold out of tickets for four 55-passenger buses within 24 hours. Thousands attended the game four hours away. Following the victory, the mayor made proclamation to declare it Bulldog Day and the school held a pep rally.
Cross country got none of this. While it is a great accomplishment, it's not what the readers want. It's not a spectator-friendly sport for many reasons. It doesn't impact as many people. In football, about 30 players on a 100-man roster are on the field for more than two snaps during each game. Think about how many parents, friends and relatives that affects. In cross country, you have five runners and an alternate compete in state. You don't have more than 10 on varsity running in a race. The impact is less.
It's not there fault. It's an admirable sport. It takes guts and endurance. I know. I ran cross country and track in middle school and high school. I've completed four marathons. I know about running. I empathize with runners.

2. It's not a money maker. We sold out of football state coverage sponsorship within a couple days: 30 spots at $35 a pop surrounding a photo page. Could we have sold that for cross country? I doubt it.

3. There's not that many diverse photo opportunities in cross country.

Those are the top three reasons. I'm sure I can think of more if I put my mind to it.

So that's just some of the issues we're facing.

The holiday season is upon us. That means everybody wants us to cover their holiday-related event in the next three weeks. If we say no, even if we ask them to submit photos, it's like we're Scrooge saying "Bah! Humbug!" to the holidays. A full-time writer/editor (that's me!), a part-time writer and a shared (with other weekly newspapers in the region) photo staff of two. Apparently as editor of a small-town newspaper, you are not allowed to have weekends off. Or weekdays. Or any time, really. You should be ready to go to any event that pops up at any time or write any feature story someone suggests and if you can't do it you should have a staff ready to deploy at a moment's notice.

By the way, many of these same people making these demands have cut back on their advertising, yet don't understand our budget woes.

As you can tell, I'm a little disgruntled, cynical and grumpy about everything that's going on in this town, at this publication (there's issues with staff disagreements that can be another blog), in this business (again, a whole other blog) and everything else around it in general.

I didn't even want to be at the city council meeting last night! I follow municipal government like some people follow sports. And they were talking TIF with upset residents. That's like the playoffs for me! But I just wanted to go home and crawl in bed.

Don't worry, the holidays are almost here! Yay! My family defines awkward holidays. We wrote the book on boring. So I'm not really looking forward to a few days off. It just means I have to get more than usual done in a shorter amount of time then play catch up when I get back. Ugh.

So there's my long, ranting blog. Glad I got it off my chest. I think I've got a ribbon cutting or something like that to go cover.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Making a difference

Yesterday was a good community journalism day.

Yesterday I really felt I made a difference.

A TIF Commission member who had a potential conflict of interest in the proposed project resigned. It was announced immediately at a meeting that included a public hearing. This came after a story and editorial in the previous week's paper about it.

Prior to the meeting, a couple of elderly women clutched their newspaper clippings about the TIF project, with certain parts highlighted, pointing and discussing the plans. Later, when one realized who I was, she grabbed me by the arm as I walked by to stop me and thank me for the articles. It was the only way they could keep up with local government, especially this big project.

Another resident, one who sits on a couple boards and commissions in the city, also told me how much he appreciated all the articles in the newspaper.

Throughout the five-hour meeting and public hearing, people would come talk to me during the breaks and ask me questions about the TIF, articles in the newspaper, etc.

This is the mark of good community journalism: people coming together with educated opinions because of something you wrote and action following an editorial.

I also knew I was doing my job as a journalist as one of the family members of the commissioner who resigned turned around and said, "That's him" when he heard me introduce myself to someone. Another family member then turned around and told the person I was talking to, "Careful, he doesn't write what you say."

That's not true, though. I recorded the phone conversation with this man while taking notes. I told his brother what he had said and he didn't dispute it. I heard from other community members that members of that family had told them similar things. They can be mad if they want, they can think I misquoted them, but what I wrote was correct. It just put them at the center of controversy.

I stuck it out through the long public hearing as I formulated the best way to convey this in few words to the absent readers.

That's a good community journalism day.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Electing to not elect

As usual I have a lot to do, but have decided to tend to my personal blog instead.

This issue is timely because it's an election day, albeit a small election day. A year ago we were voting on a president, members of congress and the statehouse. This year it's sales tax renewals and smoking bans in the area. For my newspaper, all we're covering is the law enforcement sales tax renewal.

I'm not voting this time around because I'm not registered. I haven't voted in the past couple elections. It's mainly been because I've been moving around too much or just too darn lazy to register. I voted in the presidential primary in another state, then a few months later moved up here. This combination of moving around and laziness for once worked to my advantage.

Long has there been the debate about whether journalists should even be registered to vote - let alone carry out their civic duty. My personal belief has been we should exercise that right. I don't buy the "You can't blame me because I didn't vote" excuse. You had an opportunity to affect the outcome. I think we have to be careful with local elections when voting as journalists, but national elections never bothered me.

Back to my point, electing to not elect enhanced my work performance. We'll get to that in a moment. First, some background.

I've always felt like I'm a pretty non-partisan guy. When I was 18, I registered as a Democrat - much to my father's dismay. In college, I voted for the failed Green Party. Later in college, I registered as a Republican. I've always felt it's more important to have a good leader surrounded by sound checks and balances than to vote purely on political affiliation. I assume everyone has the best intentions (unless otherwise uncovered), so throw that part out of the equation. Political affiliation does not make someone good or evil. A good leader will listen to the people, follow the checks and balances; therefore make the best decisions. If an idea on their platform does not suit the constituents or gets booed by the checks and balances, it will get thrown out and the best idea comes to fruition. A bad leader can have the best ideas, but with poor execution can never get it done or not do it right.

I digress.

With all the town hall meetings and tea parties full of angry Republicans, I found myself faced with people looking at me with distrustful eyes. I am, after all, part of the "Liberal media."

At one local tea party rally, I took a photo of a man wearing a patriotic shirt and a flag pole with two flags: the United States flag and a "Don't Tread on Me" flag. When I asked for his name, he replied, "Depends, who did you vote for?"

To me, it doesn't matter. To him, it's a matter of whether he trusts this journalist. What "slant" am I going to take on this story? As they stated many times during the rally, the media has been "downplaying" these rallies. I'm holding back obscenities here, but that makes no freakin' sense to me. Anyway, I told him I didn't vote.

I was met with more skepticism and distrust by him.

"Why not?" he asked.

I explained the aforementioned. I also told him I'm a non-partisan guy and here for unbiased reporting. Still seeming skeptic, he told me his name and thoughts on the situation.

That leads to another problem. There is also mistrust when you don't vote. Especially among some the Republican crowds. To many of them the mindset is, "Don't you know how many people have died for your freedom to do this? So go vote!" They can't comprehend why we would need to stay unbiased, until we vote for someone they don't agree with.

It's usually a lose-lose situation.

But in this case, I guess I won.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Variety show

One of the comments following a set of awards mentioned my newspaper had a good mix of content and it was relevant to the readers. I had more pride in those comments than the award.

And it continues. This week's front page: follow up on plea hearing for a crime, school board action for additional certification, community theater play and economic impact of a TIF plan. Other news: law enforcement sales tax on county ballot, new business feature, calendar of Halloween/fall related events, fundraiser Halloween event, fire safety week in schools and a nearby town mimicking our city's efforts for growth.

I'm writing this blog because I'm waiting on several people to call me back. Here are some stories I'm waiting on: more on the TIF plan front, mountain lion sightings, ghost hunters, tax collection, another new business feature, a business closing and a high school fundraiser.

You want variety, you've got it!

There have been times in my career when I wanted to cover a statehouse - and I still think it would be fun. I have spent time as a city reporter, being dedicated to just one beat for a daily has tremendous advantages. But the variety sure makes it fun.

Of course, I always like to tell the story of the time I was a city beat reporter and at 7 a.m. I was sitting next to the city manager at Rotary listening to a State Rep. speak and at 3:30 p.m. that same day I was getting peed on by a dog in a park. But I don't think I've ever covered economic development, wildlife and paranormal activity all in a day.

OK, I'm rambling now. I've got some ideas for other blog posts, just need time to work on them.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The lighter side

How about something refreshing?

At the risk of sounding like the readers, how about some good news for a change? I know, if it bleeds it leads; and there is plenty of "good news," you're just not looking for it.

Well, it's time for one of those feel-good stories.

I was at the homecoming parade today. I don't think I've ever been as connected to a community I cover as this one. While I've seen many people I recognized or knew from my beat and reporting at events in the past, it wasn't until this homecoming parade that I could look around see so many familiar faces in one place. That probably has a lot to do with it being a small town. The part that makes me feel old is seeing the students in the parade and thinking, "That's so-and-so's kid" or "They look just like their parents."

Keep in mind, I'm making these comments after being here less than a year and a half. I think there are more connections in a smaller town. If Joe Schmo is a regular on my beat, in a smaller town it's more likely that his child will be the one involved in school. It's also more likely that you'll cross someone's path more than once in small town.

I grew up in a similar-size town. I knew a guy in high school there that had a theory: you never see any person only once. He believed that everybody would cross paths with everybody multiple times in life. Never a one-time deal. Poor guy. He had no idea how big the world is outside that small town.

But when you're here in Smalltown, USA, that's the way it can feel at times.

So that's your feel-good moment of the day. Now I've got to go make some calls to find out why some guy was found dead in the truck stop shower.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Broken news

When light features go bad....
I was writing this blog in my head yesterday afternoon, but the ending was different than I wanted or expected.

At first it was a great small-town journalism day. I was driving around to different things yesterday when I noticed three different produce stands in town with pumpkins and gourdes among other veggies. Well, I thought, this is a story.

The first one was OK, I got some good information, but no dazzling quotes. The sellers were from a town about 40 miles north, but they're here selling every week.

The next one was pretty much the same: from almost an hour away and not much to say.

The third one was jackpot! Everything was locally grown and the seller had great, colorful quotes:
"Once Oct. 1 hits with the cooler weather it's time to decorate the porch and make chili," said the man selling pumpkins, gourdes, tomatoes and a variety of peppers.
"They're just so ugly they're pretty," he said about the gourdes.

It was great. Then he wouldn't give me his name. Just the name of his business run by him and his brother. I have the two brothers' first names, but no last names and I don't know which one he is. Turns out one of them may have been convicted of a couple crimes - but nothing in the past 5 years and no outstanding warrants. So why did he want his name left out?

It's raining today, so I probably won't have luck with going back, but I do plan to go back. I want to convince them to give me names. It may mean the story is lame, but no names and no free publicity. That's how it goes, folks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Photo 101

I broke my own rule.
I do that sometimes.

I was at a school board meeting - very routine - without a camera. I know what you're thinking, "You don't need a camera at a meeting."

Well, generally, you're right. I'm going to have to refer to Perry White in "Superman III" when Jimmy Olsen misses the shots of Superman saving the day because he was getting a hot dog and didn't have his camera.
"A photographer eats with his camera. A photographer sleeps with his camera," the editor drones on.
"Glad I'm a writer," Lois Lane mutters.
Back to my point, you never know what's going to happen. I decided this about four years ago while covering a school board meeting in another district for another newspaper. It was a routine meeting that included a report from the middle school administrators. They were talking about this problem-solving activity day. To better demonstrate some of the activities the students would be doing, they had a couple board members volunteer. So we went from paying the bills to several board members on their knees building a balloon tower. And no photos from me - no camera.

Since then it's been my philosophy that reporters should take cameras with them everywhere - even if it's a routine meeting. You never know what's going to happen. Like at the last school board meeting when the junior high cheerleaders demonstrated their routines and showed off their trophies. It would have got a few more faces in the paper and demonstrated that we do cover more than just meeting motions.

Checkin' da e-mail, checkin' da e-mail...

Anybody get the Strongbad reference in the title? No? Never mind then.
It's been a while since I've blogged here.

I'm getting closer to my wit's end here. I keep getting reader-submitted content after deadline for time-sensitive events. I also keep getting things submitted that I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with, like a group photo with a date stamp covering some people in the photo. The group photo isn't anything significant either, it's from a club's regular meeting, nothing special.
At least the photo was e-mailed (which took several attempts over the course of two days).
I had a "story" pre-written about the club dropped off for me. Why wasn't this e-mailed? So, assuming I wanted to use the pre-written article they submitted word for word - or close - I'd have to sit down and retype it instead of giving it a quick edit and save. Oh, and it was all after deadline. Thanks for making the situation worse.

So this leads me to my first dilemma: at what point do we bend over backwards to squeeze in this club's activities yet again after deadline? They've purchased an ad, which some would argue puts more pressure to give them the free press. But this cynical journalist thinks, "Good, it'll be in the paper, people will know about it! Why be redundant?"

Next: in a small-town weekly newspaper that has to beg the community for submissions, where do we draw the line? Do I print a random group photo they want with an announcement about their club's activity (let's ignore it was after deadline and has a big ol' date stamp on it)? Are we compromising a standard of excellence or quality here? I mean, this is a small town, but I don't think it's podunk. Compounding this situation is the fact we've had an continually shrinking paper meanwhile wild art, vacation photos and other content is continually held as space becomes a premium.

More: how do I get people to understand e-mail? Often times the response I hear from people is, "I'll have my son/daughter e-mail it." This e-mail concept escapes so many people in this small town. I typically type things in, gracious they'd even send it to me. Meanwhile, some weeks I could save significant time by just a quick edit and save thanks to a document attached in e-mail.

I think that ends my rant for today. Ready for the cliche? I've got more questions than answers here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


What an emotional journalism day.
It started out simple - write stories on my laptop while archiving photos on my desktop. Add writer's block with a touch of error messages while burning CDs and you've got a big heap of mounting frustration.

Perks - The boss did bring in a box of leftover coffee from a meeting this morning. Free refills all morning - now jittery from caffeine.

Comic relief
- cow at large. Do I go cover it? I've got enough to do and we're not that kind of newspaper. Although it times I wish things were slow enough around here we could be.

More frustration
- My mother caught a spelling error while reading a story online. It was an error that made the print edition that I THOUGHT I had caught and marked in the proof reading process. Top that off with glitches throughout the Web site anyway and no time to post any updates.

More comic relief
- a local man who had run for state office comes in with a complaint. He showed up on the arrest report - taken straight from what the police department gives us. He didn't deny the crimes, but claimed he wasn't actually arrested, just issued citations. He then goes on to talk about a restraining order against him. Assault and trespassing charges. Restraining order. Then, as he's walking out, in all seriousness, turns and says, "You know, I think I will run again in 2010."

Back to frustration
- with the Web and writing. Oh, and I have to go to special olympics - NOW. Rush out the door.

Less stress - Special Olympics is one of the those feel-good stories - both for you and the reader.

Back to the office
- It's almost 5 p.m. and I haven't accomplished half of what I hoped to today. Deadline looms tomorrow. A quick scan of the e-mails before plugging away at the paragraph factory again in hopes of getting out of the office soon. Then the reminder it's not just a paragraph factory.

The payoff
- There's an e-mail from a high school senior who just graduated. She's thanking me for talking to her journalism class and giving her an opportunity to have her columns printed in the paper. She thanked me for giving her confidence.
Is the cold coffee supposed to taste salty - or are those tears?

Thursday, May 7, 2009


We recently switched to paid obituaries. You get the first 70 words free and then we charge after that. This means we, the editorial staff, do not touch the obituaries.
As an editor it irks me a little that there is no consistency on style, but I can get past that.
It has caused a few problems though.
One person came in and complained about the names we left out and we should have put so-and-so's half brother once removed from California in there - or something like that. We tried multiple times to explain we print exactly what the funeral home gave us as is. We can check to see if something was inadvertently omitted, but it should be exactly as they gave it to us. So if there's a problem you need to check with the funeral home or the members of the family who worked with funeral home to writ the obit.
"Oh well, I guess maybe you didn't have enough space to list all the names," she replied with sigh - as though we did something wrong.
Some people just don't get it.
Then there was the funeral home that misspelled the name of the cemetery in town, but insisted it was the correct spelling. I drive by the sign everyday and have looked it up in the past. Sorry, funeral home, you're wrong. We have to change that one.
Really, you can't win with obits.


Some people think the name of this blog is stupid. But I don't. So I stuck with it.
I chose "Cold Coffee" because often times, when I'm trying work work, news happens. There's a flurry of activity of an exciting - or sometimes painful - news day. And at the end, I realize I haven't had time to hardly touch my coffee. I reach for the mug, put it to my lips and realize how frigid it has become.
It's cold coffee left for me as I reflect on the news day.
So there's your title explanation.
The URL explanation: "coldcoffee" - catchy, I think, so do others - was already taken. So I needed something kitschy instead. Enter mugsofvalor.
No the reason to start the blog. It's something I've always wanted to do and feeling overwhelmed I needed a release - Yahoo games are getting old. I feel this could be a more productive way of procrastinating work than word games. I'll let that sink in a moment...
Also, I was so inspired by a photo Mike Ekey posted - Wednesday Weekly - I decided to base many of the posts on Shoe comic strips.
OK, back to work and my coffee - before it gets cold.