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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Writing Wednesday: There are eight million stories in the naked....newspaper.

Not long ago I was reading the weather page in my Pittsburgh Post Gazette. After I checked the five day forecast for western Pennsylvania, I also looked at the daily listing of highs and lows across the United States.  On this particular day, the high temperature for the previous day was recorded in Wink, Texas while the low was recorded in Embarrass, Minnesota.  Wink and Embarrass, I thought? Really?
A poem about the citizens of Wink, who just have to be known as Winkers, was born.

Coincidentally, the names of of some of those town's newspapers are fascinating as well.  In Massachusetts, the town of Sandwich publishes the Sandwich Broadsider.

Imagine a weather report turning on that light bulb over your head.  Newspapers are full of ideas for stories.  Where else besides the weather are these nuggets hidden?

The classified section is a treasure trove:
     "Grand Piano for sale. Child won't play..."
     "Warehouse Worker Wanted.  Must be forklift certified..."
     "Player Piano. Asking for $200 and TLC."
     "Furnished Room for Rent: Couple has empty nest syndrome, cable and wifi..."
I confess my ignorance about pets, but who is in the market for a morkie, maltepoo, chiweener, or pygmy Nigerian Cross goat??? Without a picture I am not sure what kind of a creature is for sale.

Science articles also inspire- how about some "de-extinction" drama?
     "...a novel approach to ecological conservation is gaining wider public attention; the resurrection of extinct species, like the woolly mammoth...aided by new genomic technologies developed by the Harvard molecular biologist George Church."
     Or the fact that Mammoth Cave, Kentucky (which once rivaled Niagara Falls as a top U.S. tourist destination) has 400 miles of explored passageways and may possibly have up to 600 more miles yet to be discovered? It is the longest known cave system in the world.

I hesitate to mention my next category- I mean no disrespect, but the obituaries are a great source for names:  Garth Bigbee, Norman Bornhorst, Clete Kaup, Royal Losh, Dewey Newhart, Providenza Vullo.  The marriage license and divorces granted listings are full of characters as well.

What about sports?  Did you know that the Pittsburgh Pirates once held spring training in Havana, Cuba? Do you know who Lester Biederman or Branch Rickey are?

The Police Blotter in small town papers is worth the comic relief alone.  I particularly recommend Southern Florida newspapers, as I am certain they are the source for most of Carl Hiaasen's books.  Floridians have called the police about: people serenading them in the middle of the night off key, shoplifters stuffing 20 pairs of sunglasses in their sweat pants, restaurant patrons ordering 6 orders of onion rings and leaving without paying, underwear found in mailboxes, homeowners finding burglars asleep in their closets, the alligator in the toilet tank, and many, many more.

The next time you are reading a newspaper, watch out for that light bulb. 

Submitted by Andrea Perry

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