The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

September 12, 2009

Springsteen, breaking news and 'roll' models

Do you know The Daily Star is probably the only newspaper in the world that has had a front-page photograph carrying a Bruce Springsteen photo credit? And I'm the one responsible for it.

In a long newspaper career of more than 32 years, there are always characters, stories and events that stand out. But also stuck there in your memory banks are some of the stupid errors _ which, after all the years, you now can laugh about _ that made into print.

Back in the mid-1980s, I was doing the front page five nights a week and we had a sports editor who was a big Springsteen fan. On deadline, he was going on about the musician's latest album while I was writing a caption for a Bruce Endries photo. Inexplicably, Springsteen appeared instead of Endries.

And it was there the next morning on 20,000 copies of The Star.

Back in 1979, as editor of the weekly Steuben Courier-Advocate in Bath, I got a phone call one morning from a guy who asked if he could order a dozen of those sex rolls. He hung up before I could say a word, so I figured it was a crank call.

A short time later, I got another call from someone asking where he could buy the sex rolls. They sounded good, he said.

The paper had just hit the newsstands that morning and it struck me what might be wrong. I grabbed a copy and, sure enough, a front-page story about changing gender roles in schools had a headline that included the words "sex rolls'' instead of "roles.''

I had checked the page the day before and missed it. And with a weekly, you have to live with it for seven days.

I should have known there'd be days like that when, on entering an editor's office for my first newspaper job interview, I noticed the barren desk held only a cup of coffee, a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of aspirin.

However, what lingers most in a career are the people encountered and the kind of news that led you to be a journalist in the first place. Nothing gets an assignment editor's blood flowing faster than big, breaking news, when you summon a few reporters and photographers and get them going on coverage.

And, yes, big news is usually bad news. Murders, fires, accidents and scandals. They are not what we live for, because tragedies are never anticipated. However, when they do occur, it is a newspaper's job not only to state factually and perhaps coldly what happened, but to give such events a human face.

One of the good things about a rural area is that big news doesn't happen every day. That's why the daily and long-term focus of The Star's coverage for the past 25 years has been three-pronged.

There's news of record to keep citizens informed about what their local government is doing and how their tax dollars are being used, about what going on In their schools, about who's getting into trouble with the police, and about who has passed away.

Community news has been vital to The Star's mission to keep readers informed about what's going on. Many people are more concerned about where they can get a good chicken and biscuit dinner on Saturday than about a proposed power line or industrial wind turbine several towns away.

And that's OK. The newspaper provides at least two pages of community news each day.

Taking a step back and looking more in-depth at trends such as in housing, jobs, development and taxes is another important role of The Star. Such stories go beyond the facts and help explain the factors influencing changes in the region.

Of course, putting out the finest compilation of news possible each day does not occur in a vacuum. Over the years, I have worked with _ and learned from _ some of the best editors, reporters and photographers around.

I'll mention Editor Sam Pollak and former editors Gary Grossman and Ken Hall, because their knowledge of good reporting and writing was reflected in their daily critiques of the newspaper. The critiques were invaluable for me, who as an assignment editor was always focused on the next day's _ or the day after that _ news.

It was always fun or challenging or satisfying to work with such reporters and writers as Tom Grace, Denise Richardson, Lisa Miller, T. and B. Hallenbeck and Neil Cunningham, and photographers Julie Lewis, Bruce Endries, Brit and Evan. And that's just to name a few of the dozens with whom I have worked here at The Star.

No doubt, I'll miss the thrill of grabbing a few reporters and photographers and jumping on a big, breaking news story, or just putting out the best news report we could each day. But I won't miss this column quite yet, because for a while you're going to be stuck with it _ every three weeks.


Cary Brunswick, former managing editor of The Daily Star, is a freelance writer and editor in Oneonta.