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Suffering with a slow news week

By Staff | Aug 28, 2011

When we had our editorial staff meeting last week to plan for this week’s paper that you are now reading, one thing popped out.

A lack of news story ideas.

Oh, we knew that we would have our annual fall sports preview stories (which take a lot of time to produce).

And, we knew there would be photos from Kernel Days, Quilt and Woodcarvers Expo and the Kids Triathlon. (We had a photographer at all those events.)

But, what about hard news stories?

There were no meetings scheduled for last week. Wells, Winnebago and Blue Earth City Councils were not meeting. Well, Blue Earth was set to have a five-minute meeting, but that hardly counts.

So, we had to try hard to come up with story ideas. We used our contacts from the various government units we cover and tried to come up with something.

Plus, we put our energy into writing some feature-type stories that we have been thinking about doing.

The result is what you see in this paper. All 24 pages are filled with some pretty interesting reading, and a lot of good photos, if I do say so myself.

My favorite is, of course, the story of the house that is to be torn down and the history behind it.

I can’t take full credit for the story. A.B. Russ has spent about three years researching it all.

Several weeks ago he came into my office and plopped down a mountain of paperwork – the result of his research.

It took me several evenings just to wade through it all. Then several hours taking notes on it. A few more hours trying to figure out how to tell the story.

I found this story of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Franklin to be fascinating, on so many levels.

His loss of limbs, her running a boarding house. Her divorcing him, and his subsequential ‘disappearance,’ never to be heard from again.

Let’s be blunt here. This is a man who would have trouble fending for himself without the help of someone else. After all, with no hands or feet, his abilities had to be very limited.

Someone probably had to feed him, bathe him, and even dress him.

For 30 years that someone was his wife. Perhaps after 30 years she was tired of tending to his every need while he just laid on the couch watching sports on TV – or whatever it was men did in those days to lounge around while the womenfolk did all the work.

The question is, what happened to him? Did he go into a veterans home somewhere? Find someone else to take care of him?

And, where is he buried? A good guess would be Riverside Cemetery in Blue Earth, somewhere near his ex-wife. But there seems to be no record of it.

See what happens on a slow news week? We get a little silly.

Just after we finished this week’s paper it was already time to start on next week’s edition.

Guess what? Not much happening this coming week either. And, because of the upcoming Labor Day weekend, we have to have the paper off to the printing plant a day earlier.

So we have to come up with some interesting news stories for next week – and we have one less day than normal to do it.

All newspapers suffer from this dilemma once in while. The panic of ‘what will we fill the pages with this week.’

In the daily newspapers’ newsrooms, they call it “feeding the monster.” They have to grind out a lot of news each and every day to fill their pages.

I guess even the Minneapolis Star Tribune can have slow news days.

On Saturday, the Strib sent both a reporter and a photographer to Wells Kernel Days – not to cover all the events, just to cover one.

The Cow Plop Bingo contest. You know, where you bet which marked square a cow will, er, “plop” a cow pie on.

Must have been a mighty quiet news weekend in the Twin Cities.