Bottom Lines and Headlines

The New York Times takes a look at SPT’s model: DURING the next year or so, The St. Petersburg Times plans to continue pursuing deeply reported, long-term features about such topics as Florida’s property insurance crisis, complex tax issues, public education at all levels, and wildlife and endangered species. It will balance this slate of stories against all the other bread-and-butter issues it covers everyday for its readers: politics, business, sports, community affairs, culture and more.

“We’re going to invest the time and energy and the resources in these stories because the question we’re always asking ourselves is what matters to our audience,” said Stephen Buckley, the managing editor of the newspaper. “And that’s the question that really drives our organization: Are we doing work that matters?”

Such ambitions were rare enough in the good old days of gumshoe journalism, when newspapers were cash machines. Now, as more readers and advertisers migrate to the Internet, this kind of enterprise reporting has become harder to find at many papers. And in that context, The St. Petersburg Times is itself an endangered species — an independent, privately owned daily that continues to serve up quality journalism. Many owners of other daily city papers sold them off years ago to try to avoid inheritance taxes. But The St. Petersburg Times was not sold; to guarantee local ownership and independence, its owner, Nelson Poynter, gave it away upon his death in 1978 to a nonprofit educational organization now called the Poynter Institute.

Best line: “We don’t put out a newspaper to make money,” says Paul C. Tash, the chief executive of the Times Publishing Company, which oversees the paper. “We make money so we can put out a great newspaper.”

Iron Fist

C.J. Chivers: GROZNY, Russia — In the evenings, unexpected sights appear in this city, which less than two years ago seemed beyond saving and repair.

Women stroll on sidewalks that did not exist last year. Teenagers cluster under newly installed street lights, chatting on cellphones. At a street corner, young men gather to race cars on a freshly paved road — a scene, considering that this is the capital of Chechnya, that feels out of place and from another time.

Throughout the city, local officials, most of them former rebels who waged a nationalist Islamic insurgency against Russia, lounge in cafes, assault rifles idled beside them.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

In All Fairness

Gangrey.com has become a consummate inventory of off-beat articles about fairs. We all gotta cover them at some point, right? Keeping with that tradition, here’s Richard Lake: It is, in short, the lust for life that nothing but 100 acres of rides and games and deep-fried goodness can satisfy.

This is not news, of course, to the hundreds of thousands of Magnolia Staters who attend the Mississippi State Fair every year. These people already know the fair kicks off Wednesday and will run for 12 days. The fair, clearly, has meaning for them.

It might not be news, either, to some of the world’s great philosophers, many of whom have opined at one time or another on the kind of bliss that defines this annual pilgrimage to downtown Jackson’s fairgrounds.

And so we present important quotations from some of the greatest thinkers in history as archived at about.com, the repository of all that exists.

We also provide fair-specific interpretations of these metaphysical ruminations, because it is more fun that way.

Wedding and Spaghetti

Alex Zayas: The flier taped to the door of a small Italian deli on Florida Avenue says it all:

Mixing it Up At Merino’s. Come join your neighbors and business owners at a FREE!! FREE!! FREE!! spaghetti dinner. Bluegrass music. Caricature artist. Prize drawings.

And tucked on the bottom, right corner, something else. Wedding?

Jennifer Whitehead to Jose Ortiz, it says, above clip art of two doves.

“It’s going to be the Today show on Florida Avenue,” owner Mike Merino promises.

The aisle will stretch across the parking lot the deli shares with agarage. Seats will fill with family and friends. And rubberneckers who turn off Florida. And strangers who like free spaghetti.

And four hours after she finishes her shift as a sandwichmaker inside, 30-year-old Jennifer will marry 28-year-old Jose under the arch on the asphalt.

They decided to marry this way three weeks ago. Why? Get to know Jennifer and Jose, and maybe you’ll understand.

‘With Eyes Wide Open’

Tyler Kepner is one of the very best on the baseball beat, and this is from yesterday’s NYT — just a really, really fine example, I thought, of deadline work on a game story that wasn’t just a game story, showing people moments they didn’t see on TV while giving all of it context and meaning.

A 9/11 Tale

Read this now. David W. Dunlap: Tania Head’s story, as shared over the years with reporters, students, friends and hundreds of visitors to ground zero, was a remarkable account of both life and death.

She had, she said, survived the terror attack on the World Trade Center despite having been badly burned when the plane crashed into the upper floors of the south tower.

Crawling through the chaos and carnage on the 78th floor that morning, she said, she encountered a dying man who handed her his inscribed wedding ring, which she later returned to his widow.

Her own life was saved, she said, by a selfless volunteer who stanched the flames on her burning clothes before she was helped down the stairs. It was a journey she said she had the strength to make because she kept thinking of a beautiful white dress she was to wear at her coming marriage ceremony to a man named Dave.

But later she would discover, she said, that Dave, her fiancé, and in some versions her husband, had perished in the north tower.

As a matter of history, Ms. Head’s account made her one of only 19 survivors who had been at or above the point of impact when the planes hit. As a matter of emotion, her story deeply moved audiences like college students to whom she spoke and visitors at ground zero, where she has long led tours for the Tribute W.T.C. Visitor Center for visitors including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Gov. George E. Pataki.

“What I witnessed there I will never forget,” she told a gathering at Baruch College at a memorial event in 2006. “It was a lot of death and destruction, but I also saw hope.”

Much of Ms. Head’s account was posted on the Web site of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, a nonprofit organization for which she served as president and as point person for corporate donations.

But no part of her story, it turns out, has been verified.

The Ballgame

The Rays play their last home game tonight. Reminded me of this classic by Dan Barry, which Kruse and I have relived many, many times: MR. MET does not have the ability to speak. This could be related to his hydrocephalic condition, or to fear among his handlers that if he ever brought foam tongue to palate, he might sound like Anna Nicole Smith, or some tapped-out denizen of a Flushing boardinghouse who gargles with gin.

Whatever the reason, it is probably best that he remain mute. For if Mr. Met could speak, he might release a bansheelike wail that lasts through the day and well into the night, long after the lights at Shea Stadium had stopped illuminating the latest crime committed in the name of baseball.

The sleepless children of Queens would ask: ”What’s that sound, Daddy? It’s making me sad.” Their fathers would answer: ”That’s Mr. Met, my child, crying for us all. Now let’s sing that lullaby you used to like.”

And, with voices trembling, they would sing: ”Meet the Mets, meet the Mets, step right up and . . .”