slyvermont: (Default)
Pete Hartt, the former sports editor of the Times Argus, died yesterday. He was 52. He had a heart attack while working out at a fitness club. 

Pete was a very big man, overweight -- although apparently he had lost some weight recently. But 52 is still much too young. 

He was a great deal of fun to work with -- he was one of the reasons I looked forward to going into the office. He was a journalist with his priorities in the right place. He sat across from me, and I enjoyed catching his eye about things that were absurd. 

And he’s the second Vermont journalist to die this year – Peter Freyne died recently, too. Peter was very sick; he had quit his job a while ago. He was such a staple of Vermont journalism and politics that it’s hard to imagine that he’s gone. 

He wrote a weekly column called Inside Track that was mandatory reading for every politician and journalist in the state; one of his hallmarks were the funny nicknames he gave politicians. Howard Dean was HoHo; Gov. Madeleine Kunin was Queen Madeleine; Patrick Leahy was St. Pat. He also covered the state's media, calling them out for mistakes and following who was fired and hired. For a long time I'll bet every new reporter in the state was told on the first day on the job about Peter and the necessity of reading his column. 

Peter Freyne was young, too, just 59. 

Here's an article about Peter Freyne and one about Pete Hartt

slyvermont: (ritaskeeter)
This photo:


Was taken by a Maine photographer last week of a man jumping from a third floor balcony while being chased by police. It was one of my favorite stories we ran, so I thought I'd share.

Here's the rest of the story:




slyvermont: (ritaskeeter)
Here's my favorite cop brief of the night (and there is a Berlin in Vermont):

Man stopped with $30,000 in cash
BERLIN – Vermont State Police found $30,000 in cash and a small amount of marijuana on a Berlin man after they stopped him while driving to New York City.
Police said Anthony Larosa, 20, of Berlin was stopped on Friday Nov. 24, while he was on his way to New York with two New York residents. Trooper Vincent Dimauro discovered approximately 3 grams of marijuana which, police said, Larosa said belonged to him.
Dimauro said Larosa told him he was headed to New York City for a family celebration. “Then after we found the money he said he was going Christmas shopping in New York,” Dimauro said.
According to Dimauro, Larosa explained that the money was his life savings, but Dimauro said Larosa does not have a job. While police continue their investigation, the money is being held at the evidence room at the Royalton barracks, and Dimauro is preparing an affidavit for a federal forfeiture of the money through the US Drug Enforcement Agency, because, after consulting Montpelier Police, Dimauro believes Larosa is a drug dealer.
“Those dealings lead us to believe that he sells marijuana for a living,” Dimauro said.
Montpelier Police said Larosa has not been arrested for drug activity, and declined to discuss their knowledge of Larosa.
Larosa was cited into court for possession of marijuana for early January and the two New York residents who were with him at the time of his arrest were released, according to Dimauro.
slyvermont: (ritaskeeter)
I feel a need to talk about the pig and the drowning incident. Or, how our small-town police chief may need to find a good PR person.

slyvermont: (ritaskeeter)
The people who write obituaries need some rudimentary lessons in English.

This is verbatim from an obituary I edited tonight:

“Currently, he was enrolled in the External Degree Program in Business at Johnson State College, working toward his Bachelor's Degree.”

Cringe.

I know it’s morbid, but I’ve started to truly enjoy reading the obits. People do amazing things, have bizarre interests; the typos and grammar errors can be amusing. I should start compiling the more interesting ones – there’s one in today’s paper about someone who liked to “dance the night away.”

However, I need to add an addendum to my will that someone with good writing and grammar skills writes and edits my obituary. Given what I do now for a living, I would hate to have a blatant grammar error in my obit. I’ve also come to the conclusion that including something like “She loved Star Wars and Harry Potter and enjoyed discussing her fandoms with her virtual friends on Livejournal” is no stranger than many of the obits we run regularly.

(I shouldn’t complain too much about the state of the obits given what our Monday paper looked like. There was a huge typo on the main headline on the front page (pediatrican instead of pediatrician), a story that somehow lost  two paragraphs midstory, a wrong obit photo ran (not sure how we managed that one), a photo ran B&W instead of color … a mess. I didn’t work, so at least none of it was my fault.)

Plagiarism

May. 2nd, 2006 12:02 pm
slyvermont: (oy vey)
A Harvard student got a book contract and wrote a novel about a high school student who is trying to figure out how to be accepted into Harvard. It turns out she plagiarized numerous sections from other books. She claims it was “unintentional plagiarism” because she has a photographic memory. Her publisher has withdrawn the book from stores.

As a writer, I really hate plagiarism. My work’s been plagiarized: when I worked for the Free Press, a reporter for a small paper took a story of mine almost verbatim, ran it under his byline, and then submitted the story for a statewide contest. Plagiarism is not a welcome form of flattery. As a teacher, I’ve dealt with five cases of plagiarism in four semesters of teaching. Because of the Internet, I think plagiarism has become even more common and an acceptable practice.

But this defense of “unintentional plagiarism” is really interesting. There’s no question that paragraphs of her book resemble paragraphs of the other books, almost word for word. (The Harvard Crimson has done a really good job of showing that here and here.) And while the plots are somewhat similar (how different can stories about teenage girls be?), she does not seem to have plagiarized the plots.

One scenario: She’s sitting in her dorm room at Harvard with five or so novels spread out in front of her, flipping through pages searching for appropriate phrases to steal.

Another scenario: She’s writing away and her photographic memory dredges up a phrase from a book she’s read, so she uses that without realizing that its not original.

Which is more realistic?

I don’t have a photographic memory, and can’t regurgitate anything word-for-word (even my own writing – if my computer crashes in the middle of something I’ve written, I have to start from scratch). So it’s hard for me to understand the situation she claims, although I suppose it’s feasible. Certainly if scenario one is the case she deserves the worst.

A third type of plagiarism is sloppy note keeping – the Doris Kearns Goodwin excuse. I think a lot of people fall into this category – they take a lot of notes and forget to properly indicate where they come from, and then mistake the notes for something of their own they jotted down (one of my plagiarism cases claimed this as an excuse).

The type of plagiarism that bothers me the most is someone who is just too darn lazy to do their own writing, and so uses someone else’s work and just puts their name on the top.

If it was unintentional – should she be excused? Is this the fault of poor editors? Should I feel less disgusted by this type of plagiarism? If her story is true, how does someone with a photographic memory avoid this situation on a regular basis? Or wouldn’t your photographic memory also show you where you saw the words originally? Or is this just a nice excuse she's come up with?

I'm struggling with this one, since my own kneejerk reaction is to feel no sympathy for a plagiarist. Other thoughts especially from other writers? In fact: Is plagiarism ever a problem with fan fiction?
slyvermont: (ritaskeeter)
This brief is appearing in tomorrow's paper.

"An Eden man who walked into a Dunkin Donuts wearing nothing but a long black T-shirt and high heels was jailed on $2,500 bail at his arraignment Wednesday.

Police say Bruce Podbielski, 49, walked into the Route 15 establishment in Morrisville shortly after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and ordered donut holes. Asked where his undergarments were, police say, Podbielski advised they were in his RV parked in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot."

I'm sure some papers would have a blast writing headlines for that.

At least he was fashionably dressed in black.

Capote

Feb. 8th, 2006 03:06 pm
slyvermont: (Default)
Last Saturday I saw “Capote,” the movie, which is all about Truman Capote’s research for his book, “In Cold Blood.”

I read this book at Columbia, which was enough years ago not to remember it in detail. But the eerie tone lingers in my memory.

The movie was fascinating on many levels. The actor captured Capote and his eccentricities. The other main character is Harper Lee, the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is probably tied with “The Great Gatsby” for my favorite novel.  I always thought she was something of a recluse, which is not how she is portrayed in this movie. She and Capote grew up in the same town, and Capote is the model for the character Dill in her book.

As a journalist, I am troubled by and intrigued with the portrayal of how he conducted his interviews with the murderer, Perry Smith.

Discussion includes spoilers )
slyvermont: (Default)
I’ve been watching a lot of the New Orleans news today, in my usual addicted-to-the-major-news-event fashion. And reading stuff online.

One of the scariest things I found online was at the New Orleans Times Picayune website (www.nola.com), which is finally running news after being down for two days. (I always try to read the local newspaper's coverage in situations like this, figuring it will have the most complete information.) There’s a section where friends of people who need to be rescued are writing in, describing their plight. Specific addresses are given; these are often people who are ill, infirm, on medication, elderly, etc. – and have been without food or water for days. I can’t read too many of these, because they are so upsetting, but it points to how slow the rescue effort is.

The future of the newspaper is interesting to ponder, too. There’s a comment from the publisher that the paper will continue to publish, but it’s strange to think of a newspaper covering a city that hardly exists anymore. The advertisers are under water and readers are scattered in other cities. Its circulation used to be about 250,000, and while I’m sure many of its readers lived in the suburbs, which may still be intact, the majority of its hard-copy subscribers must not be around to pick up a paper. It can keep posting stories on its Web site (its presses are currently under water), but is it still a newspaper if it does that? New Orleans desperately needs its newspaper coverage, but how can a newspaper continue to survive when its community vanishes?

And a little thing that bothers me: when the people move onto the busses that are taking them away from the Superdome, they have to first slosh through a foot of water. There is something so demeaning about that, that no ramps are provided. People are starting their 12-hour bus ride with soaking wet feet.
slyvermont: (Default)

The news coming out of New
Orleans
is just unreal. The newsroom came
to a standstill tonight and we watched the evening news, something we don’t
typically do. When there was a story about the deteriorating conditions in some
New Orleans hospitals,
I had trouble staying calm. Especially after that story, I am really worried
about Bobbi. I hope someone gets in touch with her soon.






It’s hard to imagine such third-world conditions here in the U.S., but that
seems to be the case. Apparently CNN had a split screen today, with one half
showing a Bush administration official saying the government had everything under
control, and the other half showing a bare-chested man breaking a store window
with a baseball bat. Conditions at the convention center sound incredibly
scary.






Anti-Bush people can follow this link to an interesting photo of our
in-charge, in-control president.






On a more humorous note, here is a new ad that my newspaper is running:






There is a picture of a gorgeous woman hugging an attractive man. The
text (which was clearly not proofed first – copy editors don’t read ads!)
reads:






“Joe, you just got a great new job, your fiancé is a Nobel Prize winner
… and a super model, and you bat .400.




“How do you do it?”




“I read The Times Argus, Fred. In the 21st Century, knowledge is power,
my friend, and nobody informs
Central Vermont like The
Times Argus.”




“A newspaper makes you smart, sexy and successful?”




“Sure Fred, the newspaper, the Web site, timesargus.com, the whole
Times Argus package.”






Then, at the bottom of the ad:




DISCLAIMER: The Times Argus guarantees to make you better informed
about politics, business, sports, health, arts and entertainment, and just
about everything else. It can help you buy a car, find a new home or land a
job. The Times Argus does not guarantee that you will ever bat .400 or date a
supermodel.






Well, she may not be a supermodel, but we can get you a Nobel Prize
winner, apparently.






Nice to know I work for a paper that has a sense of humor.

Katrina

Aug. 31st, 2005 01:39 am
slyvermont: (Default)
I just came back from work. I designed the front page, which meant having to sort through the hundreds of photos from Louisiana and Mississippi of the damage caused by Katrina.

The devastation is quite sobering. That storm unleashed a lot of power. Pictures of I-10 in pieces … boats piled on top of each other … the missing Superdome roof … the flooded streets of New Orleans. The city is under water, and I am concerned about the handful of people I know who live there.

Then, there was the photo of this guy calmly paddling down Canal Street on a piece of Styrofoam, using a green umbrella as an oar.

It’s going to take a long time and a lot of money to clean this up.

ETA: Here's a page with the photos we chose, including the "styroman," as we so affectionately called him at work: http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050831/NEWS/50831003/1002&template=morephotos
slyvermont: (Monet)
In the summer of 1973, I was 15, a mother’s helper, and addicted to the Watergate hearings.

I watched them whenever I could. I read all the newspaper coverage – I think this was about the time we started getting the NY Times in addition to the NY Post. I don’t remember when the story first broke, but then again, few people paid attention in 1972. But that summer, I was riveted during John Dean’s testimony. I vividly remember the Saturday night massacre that fall – I was babysitting, and I can still visualize the decorating scheme in the apartment where I was watching the television. I know that one of the reasons I became a journalist stems to that experience. I may not have wanted to bring down a presidency, but All the President’s Men, book and movie, formed the backbone of my career and politics.

Deep Throat has been named.

His name means nothing to me. I don’t know much about the man – he was number 2 at the FBI at the time. As what is often the case, the mystery is what is intriguing, and the solution becomes anticlimactic. Thirty-two years later, he’s a 91-year-old feeble man.

At work last night, I got to design our front page. I got to select the Deep Throat story we used (I had about 10 to chose from). Now that was pretty cool.
slyvermont: (Default)
About 11 years ago, a bunch of people started a newspaper just for Montpelier called The Bridge. The idea was to cover Montpelier in a way that the Times Argus (local paper, one I now work for) doesn’t. The Bridge is slightly above a PR rag, which a lot of people look at because it prints real estate sales.

About a month ago, the entire front page of the paper was devoted to a fund-raising pitch – its own fundraising. The paper needs to raise $35,000 to stay afloat.

I have two problems with this. First, it seems crass to devote your entire front page to your own financial problems.

Second – and more significantly – this paper is a FOR profit! And this fact is not made clear at all.

I have a real problem with a for profit raising money like this. I wonder if people realize when they give money ($8,000 has been raised so far, a fact announced on the next issue’s front page) that this is not a tax deductible donation.

In the last year, we’ve had two local arts organizations threaten to disappear because of shortfalls in funding. I would hate to think that people are diverting their charitable giving to a for-profit organization while legitimate 501C3 groups are going wanting.
slyvermont: (Default)
And I don’t mean that astral event.

Joy and relief spread throughout New England, as the curse finally lifted. (It only took 86 years!)

I think the Boston Globe web site expressed it very nicely:

AT LAST!
Pigs can fly, hell is frozen, the slipper finally fits,
and Impossible Dreams really can come true.
The Red Sox have won the World Series

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