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Nov. 30, 2008 - A Cleansing Breath
   Neighbors To The North: About a 15-minute drive north from Whale City is Taunton, a place I only could have found on a map as a kid because I was a weather dork and that's where a lot of releases about severe storms would be datelined.

   Somewhat inexplicably gives its size and the climate of the day, Taunton still has a daily newspaper, the Taunton Daily Gazette. In brief, it is not very good, which probably speaks less to its employees and more to the realities of crap ownership and rudderless leadership. (This man is the editor. His columns are not good for the reasons he may think they are.)

   Anyway, the Taunton paper unveiled a redesign not too long ago.

Taunton Daily Gazette

   It's a redesign not unlike what the big-city dailies are rolling out: more color, more vibrant, more like TV and magazines.

   Problem being, those bigger papers have the sort of content that can catch someone's eye. Taunton? Well, when you have no staff, you do things like run the City Council agenda verbatim and call it local coverage.

   Regardless, this is the idea they're going with, and thus they have space to fill. Namely, that rail that goes down the left side of the front page. They could put news briefs there, but the editors apparently demanded something local. (In an of itself, not a bad idea.)

   Here's what they came up with for below the fold.

Taunton Daily Gazette

   I'm not going to touch "I'm Smiling," touchable as it is. Not when "Subscriber of the Day" sits there so proudly.

   Please notice the subscriber of the day doesn't win anything. It's not a contest. It's simply an opportunity for Dora Ashley to have her home address printed on the front page of the newspaper for no discernable reason other than people like to have their home address published on the front page of newspapers.

   (Shockingly, the next TDG I saw left out the street address of that day's shining star. It did, however, feature a breakout box from a story that listed "6 Main St." as the first of a series of "Key Numbers."

   Can't jam a finger into every hole in the dam at once, you know.)

   • This is how it ended.

S-T -- Nov. 29, 2008
-- The beauty of only having six Thanksgiving games to cover.

   With that cover (and the 13.5-hour Thanksgiving shift that preceded it), I got to have two days off after 35 straight days of work.

   The "weekend" (which I'm told isn't a special treat, but something mandated by labor law) is due in no small part to the paper hiring a new sports editor ... this guy, who made one of his more defining career decisions seven summers ago by giving a wet-behind-the-ears scrub in his first job of college a weekly sports column despite his having little-to-no sportswriting experience.

-- And look where that got him ... onto a
now-dissolving regional cable network!

   So not only do I get my old boss and the man largely behind my career back, it happens in the same week as my 10-year high school reunion, an event I've spent a chunk of the last five years eagerly waiting for.

   Among the highlights:

   -- Not being the guy escorted out drunk after knocking over a table full of drinks.

   -- Not being the guy who drank too many White Russians for the second straight reunion and again threw up all over a bathroom. The same guy, mind you, who's been tasked with organizing the 15-year reunion.

   -- Inexplicably winning a game of beer pong (with Julie's help) where the prize for winning -- as set up by me -- was not being forced to buy Red Sox tickets for the other team. I wasn't drunk, just illogically charitable.

   -- Again experiencing that sort of out-of-body reunion vibe where everyone gets along and looks back at high school with a sort of, "Can you believe how important all that bullshit seemed like?"

   -- Actually getting to see the people I've seen far too little of in the last decade, the ones who get the only logical response to a girl like Julie marrying me is, "How the hell did that happen?"

   There are pictures up on my newly-minted Facebook, created for a reason I forgot between the time I created it and the time I got the confirmation e-mail. Whatever ... that geography trivia game is a huge self-esteem builder.

   In the real world, I've found no one cares whether or not I can identify Myanmar just by its shape.
Nov. 23, 2008 - A Sensitive Q
   Upon Further Reflection: The self-congratulatory letters from my bosses after our election night paper were a lot less goofy on a second read. However, I maintain we needn't be making space on the bookshelf.

   Also, roughly 60 percent of communications coming from higher up the corporate food chain make reference to the same Chinese proverb: "A crisis is an opportunity riding a dangerous wind."

   Sure, it's relevant. I just wonder which Chinese restaurant they went to when they were discussing things. Did they all get the same fortune in their cookies, or did they pass the one fortune around?

   • We're one month in. Thirty-one days, in more than one manner of speaking. Outside of cycling through these 48-hour cycles where I'm sick, then fine, then sick again, things are OK.

   Two days off are upcoming ... not only could the hiring process be ended any day, I have my 10-year high school reunion on Friday. It seemed like the most logical time to return to normal life, even if only for 48 hours.

   Some things have happened of note in this latest stretch. Why wouldn't I relate them through the sports section?

S-T -- Nov. 19, 2008
-- The MVP Day.

S-T -- Nov. 23, 2008
-- The less-dramatic local feature day. (Plus anonymous Cooch diving story!)

   It remains incredible to me how designing a cover, despite the limited audience, continues to have its own distinct effect. I've written some very fun stories over the years. Stuff that got me noticed in places a pasty kid in Whale City with a bad goatee should not get noticed. And those are great moments. (Speaking of, the writing page has all the pertinent links.)

   Sadly, it does not have the audio of the voice mail I got from a reader who didn't leave his number, but did want me to call him back to discuss the Coco Crisp trade with him.

   Yet when I came up for the idea for the Pedroia cover sometime on Sunday, I get this, "Man! I can't wait to make that" kind of feeling that's just completely different. That, more than anything else, concerns me about where the profession is headed.

   Whenever the print newspaper finally goes south, I'm going to need to get that from somewhere, and that college design class I took as a senior taught me that magazine design is a genre where I have no place.

   Seven years later, that class still chaps my ass, especially since I just looked at my transcript and saw what I got in it. (My other three grades were A, A- and A- that fall, which believe me never happened again.)

   I more or less did every assignment under the guise of "Well, I think this is good, but she won't." And that's usually what happened ... I'd be pleased, I'd present my work to the class, it would get shredded and I'd sit down wondering how I had missed all these problems I'd never considered.

   On the plus side, it gave me the story I keep telling despite its relative pointlessness. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I woke up at 6 a.m. to buy an eXacto knife at Staples so I could complete a project about the emotional impact of certain letters. As in, "Show me a powerful 'A'" or "a sensitive 'Q'."

   That was not something that held up well in the face of national tragedy, let me assure you.

Nov. 13, 2008 - We Did Get Free Quizno's
   Election Night: There were a couple highlights. Not enough to belabor a whole night's worth of stuff, let's single them out.

   -- The hologram woman on CNN. Seriously. You're going to try to sell me that this is anything other than technology for technology's sake?

Yellin, who claimed she was the first person to be beamed in a "hologram" on live TV, explained for the audience how this was done. She said she was standing in a tent outside of the Obama headquarters in Chicago where the CNN crew had set up 35 high-definition cameras in a ring. She stood in the center of this ring and the cameras picked up her every movement and transmitted the image in 3D to the studio in New York.

   Well, thank God, because clearly just one camera would have missed all the nuances of Wolf Blitzer going "I want to talk to you as I would talk to you if you were really face to face with me."

   Or as you would talk to her like you've talked to every on location correspondent, ever.

   Hell. Maybe, if it's not too much of a luddite move, you guys could point one of those 35 cameras at the scene so significant, you sent her to report from it. Then, instead of asking her, "Hey, what's happening out there," you could actually show me.

   -- The contest. Early in the evening, our editor in chief sent out an e-mail soliciting ideas for our banner headline on A-1. We were going to be putting out a very significant, very historic paper. One that would be kept by people for generations, and thus, he was offering $50 to whomever came up with the chosen one that best captured the moment.

   This spawns what you would expect from the night crew: a consistent stream of joke headlines, most of which are probably offensive, and a handful of serious ones actually e-mailed in for "the contest." So, 11 o'clock hits. The election is called. The headline is settled upon.

Barack Obama makes history

   Doesn't it just send a tingle down your spine with its deep everything?

   He won his own contest, which doesn't bother me (though he's apparently yet to deliver on a promise to spend the $50 on drinks for the night crew). I just wish more work had gone into designing up a cover that didn't look like it was done on the fly. There were exactly three likely outcomes to the whole affair: Obama wins, McCain wins, nobody wins yet. Couldn't have mocked something up last week?

   -- The congratulations. That last point strikes me as all the more notable given the next day, we received fawning, over-the-top e-mails about that day's paper. (And as someone who wrote this, I know over the top.)

   You would have thought we'd cured cancer. "Created a historic keepsake," "perfect captured the emotion," etc., etc. I would post them, but I'm both reasonably certain I'm not supposed to and I'm honestly embarrassed by them. They reached the point of being offensive, as though it's not equally historic we produce a newspaper people choose to buy every day with increasingly dropping resources.

   I have no doubt it's a perfect storm of things. We're in the midst of some pretty serious changes to how we do business, morale is probably not all that high (even if we're in good shape compared to some peers) and the powers that be are generally proud of what we do. This was the perfect time to gush, and that's fine.

   But keep it in your pants, for Christ sakes. Forget it. I'm posting the letters.

   We did our jobs. If that's reason to celebrate, some people are going to get pretty tired typing fingers.

   • Tonight, the Boston Bruins bludgeoned the Montreal Canadiens, 6-1. It was Boston's biggest win against its rival, a rival whose fans treat Boston's home ice as Red Sox fans treat Camden Yards, since Dec. 20, 2001. It also featured this fight:

   which apparently sent the already buzzing capacity crowd into an absolute frenzy.

   I had tickets to this game. I bought them for the wife and I before the season began. She had an incredibly good time tonight, regaling me with stories about the French Canadian couple sitting next to them who were none too happy about the proceedings.

Habs Fans
-- She's sleeping. He's ... I don't know, dreaming about burning police cars?

   I probably would have had a very good time too. Instead, I simply watched the game on television because I was in the newspaper office.


   For the 21st day in a row.

   That is not as bad as it may seem. Some of those days were half-days, and some didn't involve being in there until after midnight. I am getting some semblance of overtime pay during this "interim sports editor" period, and my initial panic has eased into the realization that I probably could do this full-time and not be homocidal about it.

   And yet, at the same time, I have to assume it's a little worse than I actually think it is. Because as much as it gets easier when your brain just stops assuming you ever get days off, that's probably not the most healthy track to be on.

   The real issue that actually prevented me from going to the game was the Patriots playing a fucking inexplicable game on a random Thursday night. Obviously they didn't make the schedule, but I really wish I could have taken more glee in their losing despite that.

   I could have been part of a crowd of 16,000 chanting "You're gay, you'regayyou'regayyou'regay" (think the Ole chant and it makes some sense). Those are immature opportunities that only come along a couple times in a lifetime!

Nov. 3, 2008 - Massachusetts Is Not A Swing State
   Remembering When: Four years ago, I blogged a Presidential election from the newsroom. I was in much better shape then, though ... who knows if my fitness remains up to those heady standards?

   • I received two e-mails of some note today. The first was from a deputy U.S. Marshal in Virginia who, logically, read my Red Sox report card from Monday. (Man, do I love the Internet and the insatiable desire for Red Sox news.)

   Julie pointed out that people should not be using doj.gov e-mail addresses to send notes to sportswriters about whether Curt Schilling ripped off the Red Sox. I pointed out that people who are nice to me and write using punctuation are allowed to spend my tax dollars on said action.

   I believe that's in the Constitution. Toward the end.

   The other was this:

The Daily Free Press

   It's the old friends at the college newspaper, sending out a "Breaking News" alert.

   About a ballot question.

   That's been public knowledge for ... months? More than a year?

   That appears to be just a entirely depthless "Hey, this vote is happening." Happening tomorrow, making the "OMG ALERT!!11" system largely overkill.

   I'd like to say I would have expected better, but by this point in the semester, the people in charge are probably approximately 1,400 hours behind on sleep. Stuff like this is bound to happen.

   Now, you start sending out breaking news alerts for hockey games, the game results for which aren't published generally until days later because the DFP doesn't do weekends? Now we're getting somewhere, next generation. Earn the pittance that pricks like me will be paying you after graduation!
Nov. 1-2, 2008 - That May Not Be His Real Hair
   Halloween: I wore my super-kickass Sidney Crosby Winter Classic jersey to work and called myself an athlete, definitely a costume.

Matty Cooch, Halloween '08
-- My brother went a different direction.

   Not only did he go that direction, he took a picture of it and sent it to me. Little did either of us realize it would become simply another chapter in his burgeoning cult-figure status around the Whale City newspaper office.

   OK, maybe I realized it when I made it a co-worker's computer wallpaper. But said co-worker's later work printing the picture out and tacking it up in a third person's cubicle caught me a little by surprise.

   • Work is better. Thank you for asking.

Sarasota's Sox Hopes Take Hit With Fort Myers Proposal

Sox Opt For Fort Myers, Sign New 30-Year Deal
-- Thus completing Whale City's predominant local interest in the story.

   The new stadium may not actually be in Fort Myers, but south of it in Estero/Bonita Springs. The story makes that a little more clear.

   A while back, this story about a PeTA intern changing her name to "CutoutDissection.com" was moderately news-worthy. It came during one of my increasing dark periods, so I obviously didn't say anything about it. (Though really, what can you say? She changed her name to a Web site that she didn't even make, a little bit out there.)

   I only bring it up now because I notice that next to the computer, there's a note left by one of Julie's friends.

Sports. Girl changes name to CutoutDissection.com.
Sports, sports, sports. That is all.

P.S. I'm helping!

   The support system has always been the most critical part of pointless Web site development.
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