The advent of blogs has been a wonderful thing for writing teachers (such as the one who writes this blog).
As some of my students and former students take up writing blogs, it gives me an opportunity to see them grow as writers and as human beings.
Two of my favorite former students, Alicia Bradley and Michelle Nickolaisen of Diamond, have been blogging since spring of 2003. Their blogs have often been witty and insightful. You can find Alicia's blog at writingkills.blogspot.com and Michelle's at secedingfromsociety.blogspot.com (At some point, I am going to set up links from this page and I will put them on there.)
I have had other students set up blogs from time to time but none of them have done them with as much dedication and Michelle and Alicia. Hopefully, the new one that just started this week will also be updated on a regular basis.
Brittany Harmon's blog, "My Thrilling Life" has rapidly become must reading for me. Brittany was one of the students in my advanced communication arts class at South last year. In fact, she was the winner of my Top Writer Award that I have given every year since my first year teaching. She is probably one of the two or three best opinion paper writers I have had and she has an equal flair for writing fiction...and for blogging.
Brittany has a wickedly sharp sense of humor and I will miss having her in class this fall. I know she is going to do well at Joplin High School. You can find her blog at email@example.com
The return of Sarcoxie minister Don Peckham, safe and sound, has been one of the top local stories today. Peckham vanished several days ago. leaving his car behind the Book Barn in Joplin.
Regular readers of this blog (both of you) know that I enjoy critiquing local news coverage and that's what I'm going to do on this one.
The way the newspapers and the area stations covered this story was fascinating and revealed a lot about each of the news outlets. The Globe thought the story was big enough to add it to their website at 10 a.m. today. I agree with them. The Globe should do that with a lot of stories. Why let the local TV stations have the advantage when it comes to breaking news and scheduled events. The Internet makes it possible to update immediately when you have news. You don't have to wait until the next morning.
The Carthage Press was able to put a bulletin about Peckham in their briefs column on the left hand side of page one. In the old days, The Press would have been able to have a big page-one writeup, but once the presses were sold and the paper was taken to Neosho, the early deadlines have almost totally eliminated comprehensive breaking news in The Press.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the TV stations' take on Peckham's discovery. Both Channel 12 and Channel 16 went with the Carthage Police Department news conference and did absolutely no digging on their own. (Investigative reporting is non-existent at the local TV stations and is pretty rare at the area newspapers.)
Channel 7 was the only one that had something that did not come out of the press conference. Channel 7 reported that Peckham recently had a judgment against him in a local court for $10,000. Apparently, the minister had ran up a large credit card bill. The Channel 7 anchor, Dowe Quick, said, "Channel 7 has learned that..." and then continued with that tidbit of information. What Dowe Quick didn't mention was that Channel 7 learned it...by reading it in The Joplin Globe a few days earlier.
It reminds me of what happened several years ago when I was managing editor at The Carthage Press. At the time, we were breaking one big story after another. I believed then (and I still believe) that breaking big stories, featuring excellent writing, and providing in-depth coverage of local news is the only way an afternoon newspaper can survive in this day and age.
It occurred to me that we could get more mileage, and more readers, from our scoops if we could get them promoted on local television. I can't remember now what the story was that I decided to try my theory on, but one afternoon, I faxed our story to each of the three television stations, pointing out they were free to use the story, but they needed to note that it was copyrighted by The Carthage Press. Now if they had been able to independently verify the information, there would have been no ethical problem with them leaving The Press out of it, but I didn't leave them enough time to independently verify the story.
Channel 16 didn't use it all.
Channel 7 used it and credited The Carthage Press.
Channel 12 used it and acted as if was a Channel 12 story. It was the last time I tried that experiment.
Double feature night at the old Turner Apartment. The first movie was an obscure 1964 movie, "The World of Henry Orient." This is about the fourth time I have watched the film, which stars Peter Sellers and Angela Lansbury.
The main characters in the film, though, were played by two unknown teenage actresses, Tippie Walker and Merrie Spaeth. Miss Walker played a 14-year-old gifted student, Valerie Boyd, whose parents are never around. She creates an elaborate fantasy world, into which she drags Marian Gilbert, played by Miss Walker. Marian has a more stable home life, living with her divorced mother.
Valerie develops a crush on a terrible concert pianist named Henry Orient, played by Sellers. She and Marian begin researching him and following him around as if he were a rock star, and often wind up causing him problems as he unsuccessfully tries to seduce a married woman.
The most unsuccessful parts of the movie are when Sellers uses his trademark slapstick humor. What works in his Pink Panther movies just gets in the way here. This movie is at its best when it sticks to getting its humor (and drama) from the characterizations. The girls are naturals, while Angela Lansbury and Tom Bosley are great as Val's parents.
Anyone who thinks Angela Lansbury is only good at nice roles like Jessica Fletcher in her long-running "Murder She Wrote" series should know that she made her mark as an actress playing a series of wicked women. She's at the top of her game in this movie.
The director, George Roy Hill, went on to direct two Oscar winners, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting", both starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, but I prefer this one and a movie he made in the late 1970s called "A Little Romance," which starred Sir Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane.
I heartily recommend "The World of Henry Orient." The novel it is based on, which has the same title, is excellent. I hope it is not one of those I donated to the Diamond Middle School Library, since it probably never made the shelves. I need to read it again this summer.
The second movie was the rousing 1951 John Wayne western, "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," the second of director John Ford's trilogy of movies about the U. S. Cavalry, which started with "Fort Apache" and concluded with "Rio Grande."
This movie is considered one of the all-time great Westerns and featured one of Wayne's best performances. (And though later generations derided Wayne for his hawkish views on Vietnam, he was an incredible film actor.) In "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," Wayne plays Captain Nathan Brittles, who is only six days away from retirement when he has to deal with an Indian uprising. The movie takes place shortly after General Custer and his troops were massacred at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
Wayne is solid and so are the rest of the actors, many of whom were featured in several John Ford films. I have never been big on westerns that feature Indian battles, but Wayne can make any movie worthwhile and this one is much more than that.