In my haste to get the tough little quiz into your clammy little hands, I forgot to harass a would-be blogger and demand a recitation of the First Amendment.
Alas (not a word to use in a news story) I guess I will have to write the blog entry today.
Class started with a quiz that came from the Style Book, the Meet Mr. Comma handout, the textbook and the news. These quizzes should be a reminder to you that I am not handing you reams of paper just so I can kill trees. They are for you to read and study and lovingly admire.
After the quiz, I returned some pretty good homework on the snow that snarled traffic. All managed to get the news in the lede and I didn’t get to make fun of any of them.
Then we handed in homework (two assignments, so I can spend the rest of my life grading) and moved on to read and write obits.
Yes I know, its kind of creepy but it is a good exercise because you have to dig for a good detail and then remember to put in all the other stuff that obits require. By the way, writing obits sets us up for the next thing we’ll be writing: features. As in obits, profiles require that you home in on one aspect of a person and tell the story about them through that angle. For example, an AP reporter many, many years ago was assigned to do a profile on then-vice president Harry Truman. One thing this reporter noticed was that Truman had a cup of pencils on his desk and on every single one, the eraser was used up. In other words, Truman was doing a lot of second-guessing of himself and revising and editing. That need to rework, revise or second-guess became the angle for the story. It is one telling detail just as the obit in the book showed in one example that eating fried eels and telling stories was a key part of one person’s life (Fried eels? Argghh, no wonder he died!)
In class we looked at obits, read about them, then took information from a Funeral Home about a retired schoolteacher (middle name: Loretta – love that!) who died.
We contacted her surviving daughter Emma (who looked and sounded a lot like Paul) who answered all of our questions with one-word answers. While we learned she liked to garden, that daughter was pretty worthless. We called the other (Alex) who gave us great quotes about how the dead lady loved kids and always sacrificed for her family. (I for one was reaching for the tissues, so sad.) Good stuff but we wanted more. For example, the old girl was only 69 so we had to call Rose Hill at the Rose Hill Funeral Home to find out how she croaked. Rose (with a surprisingly deep voice, kinda like Joe’s) said she overdosed on drugs. Well that changed the story a bit. Rose tells us the coroner ruled the death accidental, apparently Jessica Loretta didn’t read the dosage instructions and took too many pain meds after hip surgery (I hate that when that happens.)
We called the school where she worked and found an amazingly chipper sounding friend of her’s named Sarah (with an “h”) who said she had been at the high school where JL worked for 52 years! Even though Sarah didn’t know her good friend was dead, she seemed to take it in stride. She recalled meeting her in Yoga class and said she was a great teacher (blah, blah, blah – we were playing Angry Bird and didn’t get all the gush about how great she was.) When Sarah handed the phone back to the principal (we didn’t get her name) she said the great JL thought the lunch lady’s food was so bad that she brought in tomatoes from her garden for all her little biology students.
Then I gave you about 10 minutes to sweat the details and write something and then I made fun of what you wrote. A great class.
Your assignment for Thursday is to write your obit. I am sorry to tell you this but you all died at the end of class, except Michelle who was given a one day reprieve so she wouldn’t pull a Tom Jefferson and die on her birthday. The rest of you, ta-ta. You can come up with a cool death but you must give actual details on the rest of your life and remember, you want an eel-eating thing for us to read so you don’t sound like every other college student who meets an untimely end. (I got to say that being the grim reaper is kind of fun. Those of you who missed class, you’re dead to me too.) Enjoy yourselves.
See you Thursday.