For quite some time now, I have been sending gentle rebukes to my hometown newspaper ‘s Facebook page. I briefly worked for the Clinton (Iowa) Herald as their city hall reporter and weekly opinion columnist from January to September 1993 back in the days when Bill Baker was the editor, Jack Dermody was the publisher, and Ev Streit was still alive as editor emeritus. We were never the New York Times , but we were a decent little newspaper with a respectable circulation for a small town.
After I left the Herald to go to work for one of the local radio stations (that was one of my beefs with the Herald… if I ever appeared at some sort of event or fundraiser or as a speaker, they would identify me as “local radio host Bill Schmalfeldt” without identifying what station I worked for… as if they would lose an advertiser who would, for some reason, jump from the newspaper to the radio station if they saw the call letters in the newspaper), I would occasionally pick little fights with the paper for being not much more than the public relations newsletter for the local Chamber of Commerce . One would rarely see a negative word about the city in the news, and CERTAINLY not on the editorial pages.
Then, they started using a little one-column filler house ad that said…
Get the Clinton Herald!”
Now… let’s see hands from everyone who sees what is structurally wrong with that first sentence?
RIGHT! There’s a VERB missing! “Need to Be Refreshed?” Of course, this raises the issue of how a newspaper can possibly REFRESH a person. Now, “Need Information?” uses 1 more character than “Need Refreshed?” You can make it fit a one-column filler, AND IT MAKES SENSE!!!
I used to mock them and mock them and mock them for this. “Need Grammar Lessons?” “Need Verb? “Need Proper Use of the English Language ?”
For some reason, the Herald ignored me. In fact, the more I mocked them, the more they ran the freakin’ one-column filler!
From 1993 until 1999 the Herald ignored me. If I did anything special on the radio, it was ignored. When I won First and Second Place in the Iowa Associated Press Broadcasters Awards for Editorial Commentary, the Herald ignored it.
In fact, my last contact with the Herald was in January 1995 when I called editor Bill Baker to talk to him about a nice little front page story they wrote (without fact checking) about a nice 94-year old man who wanted to be an “adopted grandfather” to middle school children because he had no family members living nearby. It was a lovely human interest story. The problem? The “nice little old man” was my grandfather. He had PLENTY of family members living near by. Grampy had a “thing” for the young’uns and was clearly trolling for new prospects. I informed Mr. Baker that he should inform his readers of this fact… that none of this “nice old man’s” family would feel comfortable leaving THEIR younger children alone with this man, and if others chose to do so, it would be at their own risk. To his credit, Baker contacted the middle school principal and then the police. The police paid a call on the old man and told him they had their eye on him. He changed his will, leaving EVERYTHING to this little 18-year old big-haired cutie-pie that he called “Stinky Poo”, and she collected on it a month later when he died in his bed.
But even now, the ignoring continues. I still take pride in having worked for the Herald. Since then, I have written and published several books of fiction and non-fiction. I have sent press-releases to the Herald. They’ve never printed a word. If some local schlub self-publishes a book of misspelled poetry, the schlub gets front page coverage. My books raise money to help in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. Nary a word.
Fine. Old grudges die hard, I guess.
But now, they have a Facebook presence. And this…
…is their profile picture. This is the face of the Clinton Herald. A fat, chubby, bald guy wearing sunglasses. The inside joke is, I guess, that the mascot’s name is “Herald.” But if you have to explain it, it doesn’t work.
Yesterday, they replaced “Herald” for a couple hours with a picture of their current editor. Then they went back to “Herald.” (I’ve since spoken to Charlene Bielema who has edited the paper since 2002. She said she had gone to a Iowa Newspaper Association Conference and they suggested using a face as a Facebook avatar. That would be fine, I guess, if the Facebook account were under the name of “Charlene Bielema, Editor of the Clinton Herald.” But if the out-of-town page viewer has to ask “who dat?” when you look at the picture, then it doesn’t work!)
I have been hectoring the newspaper for YEARS about their choice of a Facebook profile pic, and not once have I received a response. So, today, I put my money where my mouth is and DESIGNED a Facebook profile pic for them. Free of charge. To use as they choose.
I guess it depends on how mad they are at me. Still.
And now, meet TIMESY! The brand new mascot for the New York Times!!!