September 2009 Archives

I spy - THREE

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From a glimpse at the Top Ten Front Pages three caught my attention as something I'd consider reading based on the layout and images:


The bright colors in the photo covering almost the entire page of AM New York shouts, "Look at me!"  My eyes were drawn to it before any of the others, due to the large, red lettering.  Red is one color that commands attention.  Above the image is an AT&T poll that allows readers to not only learn about the issue of "Lane Pain" but contribute their own opinions by texting in a response.  Beneath, however, is an advertisement for parrot training, which is kind of silly; but maybe New York has a higher percentage of bird owners than that of Westmorland and Fayette counties. 


The next front page I noticed was The Ottawa Sun - which also contained some red but to a smaller degree.  It wasn't so much the image that drew me to it as the words: "WE ARE NOT AMUSED."  After I read the red price tags and the yellow bar beneath, well, I was amused.  The only dispute I'd have is the cover too closely resembles something you'd expect from tabloids; it lacked a seriousness that news typically conveys. 


The South African Times was the other cover, because it also had an interesting image.  How the photographed Jordanian woman related to the story beneath I'm unsure but it is a striking picture. All that can be made out is her long eyelashes and the somber suggestiveness that looms in her downcast stare.  It doesn't seem likely she was involved in the Jet-ski story.  Why is that?  Why not either A, pair the eyelash photo with the corresponding article, or B, replace it with an image to match the Jet-ski article?  Isn't that how stories are normally laid out? 


Additionally, anyone interested in how color affects our perception check out "Colors may affect performance, studies suggest."  Here is a little snit-bit about RED:

Participants performed tasks in which words or images were displayed against red, blue or neutral backgrounds on computer screens.
Red groups did better on tests of recall and attention to detail....


What does the class think?


On the spot brings it home

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Skimming through fellow student blogs, everyone seems to have picked-up upon the idea of a more grandeur picture painted by these journalist made personal by a single subject.  In the case presented for the Golden Gate Park article, we can see how one state's issue can span across a country; because the problems threatening the San Francisco park could very well become problematic for other national parks.  For instance, Michelle Tantlinger blogged about Pennsylvania's own Linn Run State Park being short on funding. 

Also, both articles begin by concentrating on one individual's relationship to the issue being mentioned. In doing so it creates a more relational atmosphere for the reader.  People can better connect with Steve Zadig, even if they're not Indy drivers, than an impersonal discussion on the environmental benefits of biofuels.   I think whenever some people hear the word "ECO" attached to a topic automatically become deaf and blind, due to the amount of attention recently focused around eco-friendly everything.  It's just an over mentioned subject that has even become merchandisable.  But people do like Nascar--I'm not sure if Indy racing falls into that category, probably not, but its still within the same element of interest.  My point is the writer made the story more relatable to a larger scale of people that might not have otherwise remained tuned in. 


Other Comments

How the news relates to "THEM"

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"Readers or listeners often want an explanation of why crimes happen. They ask: 'Could it happen to me?' They may want to know so that they can prevent a similar thing happening to themselves. " - From The News Manual

With the recent focus on editing, it is easy to forget the reason news is written and become wrapped up in the technicalities of the technique.  How will what I'm writing affect my audience, and what reason are they reading for?  Boil it down, and those inquiries listed in the handout are the sole purpose of news.  Sometimes it's imporant to step out of the authorship stance and reconsider the reader's position.  Shift our thoughts out of "How the news relates to ME (The Journalist)" to "How the news relates to THEM (The Audience)".



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In "Would-be robbery victim fights back" the writer writes, "Police said he had a dark bandana covering a portion of his face, police said." When you said "free of errors," I doubt this is what you had in mind, huh, Dr. Jerz?  Redundant? Obviously this reporter and his/her editor were rushing to publish the article by Sunday morning. I do see a lot of detail included, despite how short the story is, and the exact time is saved for the second paragraph rather than put into the lead.  The robbery occuring less than 24 hours before publication makes the time substantial, I assume. 

I do have a question about the "serial-coma" and when it's necessary in lists? For example, "Would-be robbery victim fights back" writer uses it:

The would-be robber is described as having dark eyes and dark hair, wearing a tossel cap, shorts, dark socks, and "skater-style shoes."

But Paul Paterra in "Plea deal reached in Jeannette enslavement, kidnap case" uniformly does not:

Jonathan Pollard was charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual Intercourse, sexual assault, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, interference with the custody of children, aggravated assault, simple assault, corruption of minors, terroristic threats, recklessly endangering another person and criminal conspiracy.

Would the first example be too confusing without it because of the quotation marks?

            Additionally, I was confused about the enslavement article's statement as to not giving out victim names; afterwhich, they provide the full name, location and age of the victim in the proceeding paragraph.  Anyone?




EXTRA, EXTRA: Portfolio 1 Hits the Stands

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Portfolio 1: EL227


read-the-newspaper.jpgNews Writing has, interestingly, shone new light on the grey areas in my writing.  Coming into this, I expected to gather skills relevant to producing good journalism.  What I'm discovering is the techniques that deliver quality news are not exclusive to journalists and news stories: These concepts request a deliberateness that is fundamental to anyone who considers themselves a writer, no matter what sort of writer they intend to be. 

So, my expectations have evolved.  I am anticipating big changes in areas I've not previously thought to correct or give much concern.  In Basic Comp. and STW, we learn longer sentences don't necessarily have more to say than shorter ones.  News Writing takes that idea and makes it LAW.  English majors love words, so it makes sense we would want to parade them around in a glorious manner.  However, too many sentences bloated with beautiful, extravagant and creative thoughts might overwhelm our audience--the writing equivalent to a sugar-comma.  I'm appreciating the power behind fewer words.

These blogs chart my progress in gaining this new understanding:

Less in-depth entries that pioneered the way to stronger connections with course concepts.

Hazards of the Job: Arriving at a Solution in Print


Newsworthiness Audio Clip

I haven't mastered a rhythm, yet, with the blogging this time around.  All of my entries made deadline before class, but my comments flagged slightly.
Rather than post them all, here are a handful of examples proving timeliness:

Editing Practice


It's Bacon...

News Worthy?

Entries others could relate to, disagree with, or expand on.

Derek Tickle said, "I like how you specifically said that journalists avoid vagueness."
Get to the Point

Jessie Krehlik said, "I'm not saying that you guys are wrong here, I'm just saying..."
Bite-sized News

Aja Hannah said,"Yeah! I had that problem too."
Decisions, Decisions

Angela Palumbo said,"Oh my goodness, yes! That quote really resonated with me as well."
Curiousity that carried the reporter

Subjects I found useful and pondered over longer.

"When was it decided that every single news reporter had to don the same verbal etiquette?"
Talking the Talk

"TV news subscribes to the same agenda as any other television show, each being a primarily visually driven media."
How do I look?: Journalism close up

"There are no absolute rules of good writing." - Rene Cappon
Rule #1: There Are No Rules

My contribution to classmates blogs.

I was first to comment on Jennifer Prex's blog No One Is Perfect.

Jeanine O'neals blog, Profile Writing: When do I make a paragraph break?, gave me some insight into the structure of news articles.

I helped clarify something for Jeanine O'neal in her entry, Always in the Spotlight: Getting People Interested in YOU.


Gave credit where credit was due.
News Worthy?

I was first to comment on Derek Tickle's blog, Artistic Expression in Journalists.

I offer a link to a site related to Matt Henderson's topic in his entry, Just Like Writing a Play!(Only with Real Life).

Other Student Portfolios

Rule #1: There Are No Rules

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"There are no absolute rules of good writing--generalizations are instantly riddled with exceptions--but the principle of the 16-word average comes closest.  No other single principle you can follow will yield such quick results in clarity and vigor." - Rene Cappon


I must say, I'm lovin' Cappon.  His advice is straight forward.  When reading Clark and Scanlon, I remember thinking how absurd it was that they provide a list of "do's" for writing a lead then renege on it by saying good writers will break all of the above.   I prefer Cappon's method: explanation followed by example.  He doesn't just tell us we must be clear and concise, but shows us how to make that happen.

 In chapter 4 he uses the period as a solution to over-indulgent sentences.  It's an easy fix--break them up.  Remove the conjunctions and commas and insert the simplest form of punctuation, one with the least room for misunderstanding, a period.  I wasn't expecting such a simple solution for shortening sentences. I anticipated agonizing reconstruction, something like total sentence-overhaul. 

Period placement isn't nearly as problematic as other punctuation marks can become.  I use thoughtful consideration whenever dealing with the "comma," and even still I'll find I've sloppily thrown an unnecessary one in here or there.  Interestingly, Cappon has an additional book The Associated Press Guide to Punctuation that I am considering purchasing, on Amazon, for about 4 bucks. Consider a stolen excerpt, courtesy Amazon's "LOOK INSIDE" feature:

In the word business, punctuation is considered a given (it isn't and actually takes thought).  So perhaps it's true, as has been long rumored, that some respected authors leave punctuation to such inferior beings as editors and proof readers.

Cappon notes that punctuation is not "the peaceable kingdom where everything is settled" and goes on to quote Theodore Bernstein.  Bernstein says writers and editors only ever agree about where the period and the question mark go.

 It would seem Cappon was a writing guru of sorts.  I was sorry to learn he died in 2007.  His obituary heads, "Rene J. Cappon, writing ace, dies." I wonder if he would have been satisfied with it.


Peer Thought on the Period

Decisions, Decisions

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"The lead writer must first decide what the most important news is, which can be difficult in situations where much is happening"(Cappon 24).

I found this decision tough when writing the assigned Accident Report.  I came to the conclusion that both events were significant enough to include in the lead, but I don't know how well I combined them to be received effectively.  One thing I've grasped thus far is that detail is critical.  The problem I'm now having is deciding which details are most valuable and where do you put them. I suppose my understanding of this will gradually improve as I read more news stories with an attention to their structure and content placement.  I like whenever things are laid out plain and simple (news readers likely appreciate this, too), so I was grateful for the short list of reasons Cappon gave for ineffective leads:

·         Secondary detail

·         Abstract general language

·         Vagueness

·         Stress on how something is announced rather than what is said, or how news originates rather than the news itself.

·          Entanglement in the chronology of an event

Now if I can just resolve the difference between minor and crucial details.  For instance Cappon says if "bank robbers escaped in a baby blue Mercedes, that small fact belongs in the lead." If you're cutting words for the sake of brevity, and there are a plethora of other details, such as those in our recent exercise, does the car's description merit lead status?  See, that's my trouble. I don't know!


Injury and Theft at Elizabeth Mount College

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Elizabeth Mount College (EMC) - Karl Klaushammer, a currier for Cairo Transport, was robbed after hitting a student pedestrian Monday, Sept. 14.

EMC Security Chief Robert Chase witnessed the events. Chase reported, in a press conference held shortly after, that at 8:25 a.m. Klaushammer struck Sharron Peirce, a fourth year undergraduate, as she exited Collins Hall and crossed the street about 15 feet north of the crosswalk. Peirce apparently received medical treatment at the scene but declined hospital transportation.

When Klaushammer left his vehicle to check the victim, a package was removed from his backseat.  Chase noticed an unidentified man wearing an EMC hoodie running from the scene. "The suspect did not comply with verbal orders to stop," said Chase.  Chase and Officer Clare Catcher pursued the suspect on foot but were unable to apprehend.

According to faculty member John Cartin, the stolen package contained research material intended for the Pennsylvania State Museum of Antiquities.

There is no indication charges will be pressed at this time.

Klaushammer was advised to keep valuables stored safely, and students were urged to use the crosswalk.

Additional Student Accident Reports

Audio for Fake Press Conference

Comparing Bus-Plunges

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The pieces are so brief there isn't much room for subject depth, obviously. They immediately begin with the number injured and killed by the accident, announced in the headliner and then repeated in the lead. You're getting the basic gist of when, where, why and how the bus plunged, along with who (in number form) was hurt.  There is a conclusion for "20 die in Nepal bus plunge: police," which is not always necessary in news, as we are learning, that blames the tragedy on "shoddy vehicles, reckless driving and bad roads." Is that reiteration even necessary? The driver is already blamed as being reckless in the previous paragraph.

The plunge stories include only one or two contributing quotes. For "8 injured as bus plunges into canal" posted on the Daily Star there is only one quote from the Officer-in-Charge.  Would this be the correct way to write the officer's title? Or is this an attempt to cut words in a tight format? Also, the message from the officer is unclear:

Officer-in-Charge of Hathazari Police Station Mohammad Ismail told The Daily Star that the bus was salvaged but they did not find any body inside it.

Are they saying there were NO BODIES or NOBODY inside the salvaged bus?  Time is clearly a determiner for "bus-plunges." They are so empty in content for something that had it happened in our country would be a front page story.  As I said in my other entry, I think the idea of quick information is good, but it should be something that committing to fewer words wouldn't devoid of purpose or meaning.  If a bus accident in Nepal isn't worthy of more in depth coverage, maybe it's a topic that shouldn't be addressed at all.   



Bite-sized News

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In Jack Shafer's article "The Rise and Fall of the 'Bus Plunge' Story," he talks about a now­­ extinct genre of news writing that was used as filler text in the days of "hot-type," meaning before the digital era, to take up newspaper space whenever a story ran short. 
It is sad to see such tragedy reduced to a three sentence summary, but even more horrid that these fillers were a running joke among journalists. 

That said, I do agree with one aspect Shaffer got at, "The abundance of bite-sized pieces scattered about gave readers multiple points of entry into yesterday's newspaper." With pieces that are short and informative the reader can easily take them in and come away knowing some facts about world news. However, for the filler to be a beneficial contribution to the paper it would need to broaden the subject matter beyond that of bus accidents.  Maybe today's paper could reinvent the bus-plunge, taking out the "bus" and put more relative world news into this summary-type format.  Why increase font size and add even more advertisements when more "news" could be inserted instead? I can already hear the response to that inquiry, but ideally newspapers would be about quality content not just content that sells.

For further info on the "plug" story:

Dr. Jerz's News Writing Webpage

Other Student Thoughts


Editing Practice

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"Use 'said.'  A news article is a record of something that has happened.  Those events may be recent, but they are definitely in the past. The present tense 'says' is inappropriate." From Dr. Jerz Copy Editing handout


Uh-oh, I do believe I used "says" a couple times in my peer profile.  I think I had immediacy on mind while writing and "says" just seemed more in the now.  I did have an inkling, perhaps, it wasn't suitable.  Maybe it was because of the way we're taught to write about literary works in the present that influenced my choice.  No matter, I know now to stick with "said."


I liked the section on dates and times, because I felt unsure about these when writing the obituary.  It also states in the stylebook never to use st, nd, rd, or th.  I should've consulted the stylebook more closely earlier, rather than try and rationalize what may or may not be the correct format on my own. 


As for the examples:

1.      Assistant News Editor, Anne O'Nymous read the article.

The comma would be unnecessary here, because "Assistant News Editor" is part of her title.

2.      She was highly appreciated by Jameson for solving the problem. "I really appreciate her work ethic and problem-solving ability," said Jameson.

Redundant. Either use the first sentence alone or use the actual quote from Jameson.

3.      Spunky Inkworthy has only written for The Setonian this year, but Obituaries Editor, Lazarus O'Mortigan, was very complimentary towards Spunky's contributions.
"The" doesn't require capitalization, because it's not part of the paper's title.  Remove the commas from around Lazarus O'Mortigan. Would it be Obituary, Obituaries or Obituary's Editor?  And, "Spunky's" should be replaced with "Inkworthy's," since he is not a child and no other source shares this last name.

4.      In a telephone call from Head Librarian Marian Paroo, she discussed Inkworthy's contributions.
First, this statement is unclear as to who is discussing contributions. Second, would you need to capitalize the title Head Librarian? Would it be better put Marian Paroo, head librarian, etc.? 

5.      "Here is a quote", said Bill Jones freshman.

Comma should be enclosed within quotation marks. Let's try this solution, "Bill Jones, freshman (major)(school), said, 'Here is a quote.'"






Get to the point

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"A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, bluring the outlines and covering up the details" (Clark & Scanlan 297).

This great anology requests journalists avoid euphemism, question-begging, and vagueness.   These sections helped sketch a map for comparison whenever I examine my own writing.  I need to, probably, reread it everytime I start writing, though.  In theory anything seems easily feasible; in reality ease always follows after effort.   The most benificial advice , I think, given was held in this sentence :
"If meaning is created by a subject and verb, then a sentence that begins with a subject and a verb makes meaning early" (298).
This was discussed in class already, however,  Clark & Scanlan did a nice job  laying it out there--immediacy of words isn't only important on a paragraph level but on sentence level as well.  "All other elements brank off" from the subject and verb.



Presentations Summed Up

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Group #2 composed of Megan, Jessie, Katie, Kaitlin, Richelle, Cory, Angela, Matt, and Ashley. Each gave thoughtful contributions to what makes the news relational or not.

Angela revamped a LIFE cereal box to express her experiences with the news.
Katie wrote a short story describing how the news can be hurtful.
Kaitlin talked about the fact she has never had a strong relationship with news.
Jessie, although a journalism major, expressed her lack of interest in news writing.
Megan, also a journalism major, felt similar to Jesse, but noted she accepts news for what it is.
Cody discussed the effects 9/11 had on how he appreciates broadcast news.
Matt acted out a monologue to convey his opinions on news.
Ashley, another journalism major, said she catches the news on a need to know basis.
Richelle was a sports editor and got her news habits from her family, who watch the new often.

  Only Angela appeared to be very connected to news, clear from the stories she held in her box.  Overall the theme held that most everyone understands the negative elements in news, but also comprehends there is value in it.  It was shocking to see all the journalism majors didn't love the "news" aspect of their career choices.   I think this class might broaden our ideas on news, and perhaps remove or lighten our biases.   


Be Succinct

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"Reporters are obligated to translate gobbledygook into plain English" - Rene Cappon, The Associate Press Guide to News Writing

 You must love the way Rene tells it.  These chapters are interesting and helpful.  Rene says, "Our treasury is words." She meant we shouldn't squander them in "flowery," as Dr. Jerz might put it, or ineffectual ways.  Although I don't intend to become a journalist, I already see numerous ways this class will help my discipline as a writer overall.  I don't expect it to be easy, either; it requires great attention to detail.  But I am hopeful. I am begining to notice "of" as my habitiual evil, whenever I write my tendancy is to "of" sentences to death. The first step to improvement is realizing faults. 

"Writing is the art of the second thought" (Cappon).   

Class Thoughts

How picturesque should journalism be?

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"Three times a week, a truck putters 45 miles south from a farm in Sonoma County, headed for Berkeley's North Shattuck neighborhood, filled with plump, corn-bred, nine-week-old ducks." - John W. Cox

For a lede this was slightly deceiving.  I was expecting a focus on the animals themselves.  It isn't until the end of the second paragraph Alice Waters is introduced.  This profile is very descriptive, which I thought nice.  You can almost smell and see the foods and people he writes about.  Those are things that make a great story, but I wonder isn't it excessive for journalism, where fact takes precedence over all other aspects.

Class comments

News and other related things

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Ex 1: The News and I

I had a remote relationship to the news before EL 227.  Political debates and financial affairs never captured my interest and typically newspapers give you just that:  A mayor said this and money went there and people opposed that and it's all jazzed up for us to read about today.  The only time I've ever been excited about the newspaper was when I waitressed at Denny's on saturday Late Nights.   You see, there is something wonderful inside a Sunday news edition--coupons!  Tucked between the nasty debates and the comics, you will find a pamphlet full of money saving oppertunities.  Oh, the little things in life that bring joy.  

So, I like the Sunday news for it's perks.  I will also tune in to the TV news whenever I've been warned by my mom, who watches everyday to see"The Pennsylvania Lottery" drawing at 7pm, that a bad weather is headed our way.  In her motherly tone she will say, "You better be careful going to school tommorow, April.  I mean it; they said we are supposed to get 3 inches of snow, and you can't see black ice.  Why couldn't you have went to Penn State, Fayette?  It's so much closer"  I am what my fiancee calls a "non-driver," and that's without challanging driving conditions.  If you think I exagerate, I did this on a wet road in 2001. 

I recall, several times on Saturday mornings, in  the first few months of the year waiting for Channel 4 and their sophisticated weather system to tell me it's safe to drive to class.  This is why my exercise showcases news weatherforecasts.  I learnt in Greg Byron's essay that weather is often exaggerated in the news to elicite an emotion--fear.  All I could think after reading that was how cruel.  Can you imagine, many memebers of the older generation, like my mom, needing no help reaching a panic over icy roads, are being emotionally solicited to ensure they stay tuned.

My posterboard  is walpappered in upside-down newspaper print to represent how sometimes what we watch is non-sense, like trying to read upside-down.  Inside I quoted statistics on Doppler Radar, showing how expensive it is and what it actually does.  There are comic cartoons that make fun at news forcasters.  And choice quotes from Byron's article.    

How others relate to the news

How to be remembered

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This was a decent way to commemorate a life. It showed who Marie Byrne was without sugar coating her life, yet making her admirable and honoring her memory all the same.  Most readers are likely to value sincerity over obligatory glorification, any day.  Composing an obituary could be intimidating, I'd think, on the reporter undertaking the task (Oh, no pun intended).  They're making a final statement on the deceased's life; it's almost like mounting the podium at the funeral and delivering the last words. I liked the quote Nicholson wrapped-up with: "...'charge up everything and if I die, you don't have to pay for it'" (Clark & Scanlan 72). He didn't have to say, or quote others saying, she was perfect in order for people to like her. 
The only quip I do have is why they memorialized her as "Tastykake Retiree"? She retired in 1974; this obituary was dated April 2, 1986.  Twelve years later and she is still the "Tatsykake lady".  Maybe, Marie wouldn't have minded the title; after all she was a loyal employee for 20 years.

See what the class thinks

Newsworthiness audio clip

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I'm glad Dr. Jerz offered this information, even though it may seem somewhat like common sense: Extraordinary over Ordinary.  Having the clear division helps to see what is in and what is out, as far as news.  For instance, I would have believed something never known for 200yrs and recently uncovered could qualify as newsworthy.  I can see now how it wouldn't be suitable for news.  Let's summarize!

What equals Newsworthiness?

1.    Extraordinary events

2.    Notable people

*More is better for 1 & 2

3.    Events impacting many

4.    Proximity determines relevance

5.    RECENT, not ongoing

6.    History is not news

Class responses

One compliment too many

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"Profile Article of Delancy Street's Director, Dr. Mimi Silbert"

by Halle Stockton


Wow, Mimi is a saint!  The saint who saves the damned, apparently: with her following of "gang members, heroin and crack addicts and prostitutes" (Stockton).  After Mimi read this she probably had to be tied down to her desk chair, so that she didn't float away from an inflated ego. Seriously though, it's very possible Mimi Silbert is the kind, generous humanitarian we see in print off paper as well.  But as a reader, I personally thought the other profile, on Dr. Seuss, was better executed.  Not because one was written by a more experienced journalist, but because Stockton's piece is just too littered with exaltation, for me.  People usually only divulge this much appreciation for someone in an eulogy. Half way in I was like, "Okay! We get it; the woman is a godsend, enough." 


I don't mean to undermine this person's accomplishments or generosities, nor Halle Stockton's writing skills--the article did take a First Place.  It just didn't do it for me.  I'm curious why Stockton didn't interview Silbert for this.  Perhaps, she wasn't available to be interviewed.

Other opinions on this article


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