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Up the hill backwards

My local newspaper, the Olean Times Herald, routinely prints things that leave me shaking my head in disbelief.

The banner headline on today's top story on page 1 was a head-shaker. It read:

Remember when ... Olean was Ski City?

The headline did its job. I didn't remember, so I began to read the story. It was about people skiing on a local hill in the mid-1930s. The skiing ended in the late '30s.

Let's do the math. Let's assume skiing stopped in 1940, just to be on the conservative side. That means local downhill skiing ended 73 years ago.

So, to answer the headline's question: No, I don't remember. And I'd wager most of the newspaper's readers don't remember, either.

Running a feature story as the main story on page 1 also leaves me shaking my head, but that's a topic for another time.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 24th, 2013 05:42 pm (UTC)
My local newspaper (as they laughingly refer to it) is in a town that has seen tremendous growth in the last 30 years. I'd guess 60% of the population is not "from here." So when they talk about the palm trees that used to run along North Market, or Kiddieland in the park, or life before Interstate 5, they're talking to an ever-diminishing audience.

My mother was born in 1916 and especially in her later years would refer to local places as the name they were known by 80 years before. "You go past the old Woodfill place..." and I would point out that there hadn't been anyone alive named Woodfill since 1920 and the place was now owned by the Peltiers and had been since the 1950s. She agreed I was right, but it didn't stop her.

And often now I look at a place and think of it as whatever it was 40 years ago.
Mar. 24th, 2013 11:32 pm (UTC)
I often talk to my students about a concept called "radical clarity." It means the writer provides enough information to make the story clear enough to be understood by someone who has never heard of the topic. Too many reporters simply go through the motions, though, leaving readers puzzled at best and frustrated at worst.

Mar. 24th, 2013 05:47 pm (UTC)
Now see, if this were a conversation with my mom, it wouldn't have ended with a simple shaking of my head, "No..."

She would've insisted that I DID remember. "You know, they sat at that one table at your wedding with those other people that you'd never seen before nor since. You remember..."

Oh yeah. No.

But what a nice story for the seven readers over the age of 90 whose memory hasn't been ravaged by dementia.
Mar. 24th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
It's tough to go wrong with local history stories, but many a good story has been sunk by a less-than-good headline.

Oh, and those people from your wedding reception? I sat with them. In one of the couples at the table, the husband spoke only Hungarian. He spent the entire time telling vulgar jokes in Hungarian.

His wife translated. It was almost as entertaining as hanging around with this guy:

Mar. 27th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
Hey, I have written some pretty good features for the front page of that paper over the years!

Of course, I wasn't on the payroll when I did them....
Mar. 27th, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)
And they love, love, love the fact you're *not* on the payroll. Quality copy for free! A publisher's dream.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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