Blogs > Ivan Lajara

Daily Freeman Life Editor Ivan Lajara talks about journalism, living in the Hudson Valley, language, the Web, cats and even politics. But he shouldn't.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A day is a day, right?

National Trails Day is Saturday.

And Sunday.

This craziness will be in Life as a brief on Friday, and will make readers question the lucidity of the section’s editor.

That’s me, by the way.

Cedar Grove, Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, is having a plethora of events this weekend, which apparently the site couldn’t fit into the day they were trying to celebrate.

Cedar Grove’s official celebration is Sunday, according to its news release. the American Hiking Society’s utterly made-up holiday is Saturday (the society’s Web site has only Saturday’s events for Cedar Grove).

So when you read the item tomorrow, who’s going to end up looking like an ass’ buttocks?

(Correct language usage there, be gay and don’t send me hate mail).

And what’s up with these “(enter disease name) Awareness Day/Week/Month”?

Are we supposed to be only “aware” of a particular disease on a particular date?

It’s all in the name, of course, the way the Hudson Valley’s Walk for Autism last month in Dutchess County was not really FOR autism (I hope).

Maybe I’m being too literal. But if a “day” is two days and walking “for” something is really to fight it, what’s next?

TANGENT ALERT: Now that we are in this topic, Kingston's Benedictine Hospital is having a National Cancer Survivors Day celebration on Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the hospital's auditorium. Registration is required by today. Call (845) 338-2500, ext. 4453.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

home schooling?

Update on the entry about homeschooling.

In a further attempt to make my life miserable, the Associated Press updated its style book and decided on the following:

•home schooling

•home-schooled

•home-schooler

Some of this contradicts the style we had decided for the story we ran. Further, it still is a bit confusing (I’m guessing home-schooled is the adjective, but what if people use it as a verb in a quote?)

Bear in mind that this is from the people who brought you the one-worded “stylebook,” the two-worded “Web site” and not so long ago dropped the hyphened “teen-ager” and “fund-raiser” but added a hyphen for “best-seller.”

My head hurts, again, so I’ll see you to-morrow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What’s in a name? Again

Army Pfc. Doron Chan of Highland died serving in Iraq in March 2004. He was 20 and the third casualty that town suffered in that war. Political Editor Hugh Reynolds wrote about the hamlet honoring its fallen on Monday.

According to our story (and the U.S. Defense Department, The New York Times, The Washington Post and countless other sources), his name was Doron.
But the photo we ran with a plaque on Black Creek honoring him -- along with U.S. Army Sgt. Eugene Williams and Cpl. Michael Oremus -- spelled Chan’s name “Doran,” as does the high school, The American Legion and many people in the small community.
The plaque at the cemetery -- we also ran a photo of that one, by the way -- says "Doron." The monument at the American Legion Veterans Park says "Doran."

SUNY New Paltz has "Doron" in its records. But his high school superintendent's office said the name is Doran.
The town did not return a call for clarification.
Chan’s parents no longer live around here. And a translator we had used for a story once was not sure about the spelling.

Who’s right?

The name is Chinese. So here’s it is.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I suspect somebody’s going to have to change a plaque or two.

UPDATE: The town's clerk called back, with "Doran" on military and burial records. Go figure.

Monday, May 28, 2007

What's in a Memorial Day?

Today in Life, there is a story about the birthplace of Memorial Day in Upstate New York's Waterloo.
In your face, Carbondale, Ill., and Boalsburg, Pa.!

I am, of course, kidding, since the holiday is not about who came up with it, but to honor Americans killed in military service.
There were a lot more towns celebrating "Decoration Day" before it became official (thankfully, the name was changed, too -- "decoration," to me, sounds like "makeover," not "memorial").

TANGENT ALERT: Today, nine Southern states celebrate "Decoration Days" to remember fallen Confederate soldiers (according to the U.S. Army, not me).
Memorial Day was originally set to honor Union soldiers.
Discuss.

Now you've got something to talk about at your cookout.

(Tasteless jokes aside, do remember the fallen -- we've got our share here in the valley).

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Clothes and cat hugs

When at an office, there is a certain expectation (I would hope) for proper office attire.

What proper office attire is, however, is never explained.

So, on most days, I wear a shirt-and-pants combo, just to remind me that I am actually a professional newsman (pat, pat, pat on the back).

Yet, every now and then, I wear a T-shirt and jeans, usually on my self-imposed casual Fridays (more like I-run-out-of-shirts Fridays, but the end result is the same).

If I have to come on a weekend day and is sunny out, you can bet I’m coming to work wearing shorts (if they’re clean). The office is closed to business, after all, leaving only the newsroom staff.
And since I’m working in the Life department, well, I think I should look like I have a life (which I do, I think).
I also have a T-shirt with cat hugs, even though people keep calling them holes (some people are just crazy).

All of this is just a lengthy reminder for you to wear sunblock when you are out this weekend.
You certainly don’t want little sunburn spots that made it through your cat-hugged T-shirt.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What's in a name?

Every day, we receive a gargantuan monstrosity of mail, faxes and e-mails. And one of the things that always brings a crooked smile to my face is the many ways people spell my name and the many people the correspondence is addressed to.
I say “crooked” because such mail immediately makes me wonder what else could be misspelled. And I say “smile” because I’m crooked (but in a good way).

For the record, my name is Ivan (pronounced “E-van” or “Eeeee-vaaaaaaaaan” as some like to do), not Yvonne, Evon, Evan or the many alternate spellings (I won’t even get into my last name). And now that we are on the topic, I’m a dude, not a damsel, and you don’t have to speak to me SSSSLOWWWWLY just because I have an accent.

And yours truly is the Life Editor, not Claude Dixon (now in Ohio), Sid Leavitt, Edwina Henderson (both retired and having fun) or Modele Clarke (who is now giving the “good news” as the reverend at the New Progressive Baptist Church in Kingston). The list of names goes on, but I don’t even know who some of our former workers are.

By the way, Tempo magazine no longer exists, and the Freeman moved from the Rondout in the mid-’70s, when I wasn’t alive.
So feel free to send items to Preview magazine at preview@freemanonline.com or to us directly at 79 Hurley Ave., Kingston, N.Y., 12401. If you have Web access, go to the Freeman’s site and click on “About Us” on the lower left of the page. Or, you could get a copy of the paper (that might be too crazy for some of you, but I warned you I was crooked).

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A call

A very proud Kingston parent called to let us know her daughter was in a production of “Hamlet” in New York City's Boys and Girls Harbor this weekend. He wanted coverage.

Without making any promises, I asked him if he could put something in writing, and send it our way.

He was immediately frustrated that I couldn’t take information over the phone (Our reporters do when they’re working on stories; but I can’t - I would be on the phone all day if I did that).

I asked him to send me an e-mail, a letter or a fax.

I could sense the frustration growing over the line, along with the tone of the reader’s voice. He couldn’t send an e-mail or a fax - he didn’t have all the information either — he wanted me to do that.

Unfortunately, at that point, his anger was unstoppable. He was a reader, for many years, he told me with a loud, demanding voice. I had to send somebody down there to cover this event, he informed me. Limited resources was my problem, not his.

By then, of course, there was no longer a conversation.
So I couldn’t tell him that, in the Life department, we require at least two-weeks notice for listings and ideas (feature stories are written in advance; News reporters do daily coverage).
I couldn’t tell him I only had two reporters, already working on 20-plus stories (really, ask them if you can catch them on a break).
I couldn’t tell him I was myself immersed in editing as many stories and pages for our upcoming editions.
I couldn't him tell him that even with such limitations, I was going to do everything in my power to get this item published.

I did get to ask him to help me help him, but he wasn’t listening.

I had to hang up.

Lost in the discussion was her daughter’s accomplishments.
I’ll be waiting for a fax, a letter or an e-mail. But I have a feeling I won’thear from him.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What’s more important?

Who, what, when, where and why. Every journalist knows this simple rule of what to include in the story’s first sentence.

So does every public relations outfit that sends news releases to us.

With that in mind, two recent releases come to mind:



• “WOODSTOCK FILM FESTIVAL, HUDSON VALLEY PROGRAMMERS GROUP UNLEASHESTHE MITCH SHOW IN JUNE” (annoying all-caps theirs, not mine). This release goes on about the screening “sponsored” by Kevin Cahill (meaning “paid by the state taxpayers”). But all that is irrelevant. As in, isn’t the whole thing about “The Mitch Show”?

Let me explain this further.

When you go see “Pirates of the Caribbean” this weekend, I’m pretty sure you won’t care what movie studio paid for it or who Johnny Depp voted for. Same goes for “The Mitch Show.” As for the Democrat assemblyman being at the screening, I would put that as a warning more than a highlight.

We in Life want to keep politics out of our events. After all, Republicans also watch movies. And there is a whole other department (I think it’s called News) which handles politics.



• Then there is this gem: “Judges for the Beta Sigma Phi Beautiful Child Photo Contest focused on selecting winners in three age categories at the Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union.”



What’s beautiful about this item was that the photo attached was not of the babies who won, but -- you guessed it -- the judges.



Here they are.



At the bottom of the release were the winner’s names and the fact that the contest benefited the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

You do this one for me, what’s more important?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Day or night?

Remnants of bygone years at the copy desk on the News side have turned my biological clock upside down. I never got over the night shift, which used to go from 4 p.m. to 12 p.m.

So I am still a night owl, with baggy eyes to prove it.

And although I am used to a daily paper routine, I recognize that a blog is a different beast (ARRGH!). I’m gathering the blog should be posted in the morning, to complement the paper better.

But as anybody who’s been unlucky enough to see me can tell you, in those evil hours I am a growling zombie working on autopilot until enough caffeine has marinated my body (sorry about the mental picture).

In the afternoon, after enough coffee and Mountain Dew, you can see me running up and down the newsroom working like a madman (I’ve always contended that you have to be a madman, or a madwoman, to be able to work in this crazy industry -- but that’s just insane me).

What I’m trying to tell you in this verbose entry is that I’m going to be posting my items early in the morning or, most likely, extremely early in the morning --as in just past midnight.

Now is time for me to go back to this beautiful craziness.

ARRGH!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Homeschooling, home school and home-schooler

Ouch!
This is one of those language problems that will surely incur the wrath of English departments in the Hudson Valley, no matter what we settle in.
Reporter Bonnie Langston was tasked to explore the growing trend of homeschooling in the region for our Sunday edition of the Freeman.
But how do you spell the different occurrences of the word as a noun, adjective, verb?
“Homeschooling” is the only entry in the dictionary, and it is one word. The Associated Press Stylebook and the Freeman style rules -- our reference guides -- were silent on this issue.
After much sweat and consultation, we came to a decision.

• “To homeschool,” (the verb that doesn’t exist in the dictionary, but people use anyway) is one word, since the gerund “homeshooling” is one word.
• Since there is no entry for the noun, “home school” has to be two words.
• The noun “home-schooler,” however, is hyphened. “Why?” you might ask with some confusion (I did). Because “schooler” -- aside from looking utterly weird -- is not a word. “Student” is. But “home student” sounds like you are studying a home, not at home.
• “Homeschooled,” the verb’s past tense, also is one word. Not so for the adjective “home-schooled” (hyphen rules apply here).

Of course, when in a proper name, there is nothing we can do. A name is a name (like “Associated Press Stylebook”).
Therefore, the Poughkeepsie Area Homeschoool Meetup Group has “Homeschool” as one word (same with “Meetup,” which should -– in my book -- have a hyphen).

All of this, unfortunately, will make the story look like the spelling is inconsistent. But there is a reason for the many ways of the different spellings.

Beautifully filled with irony, a Microsoft Word spell check will not recognize “homeschooling” as a word (word!) which, as I’ve said before, is the only one entry in the dictionary (I used “word!” as slang, by the way).

I am sure many of you will disagree with parts or all of this.

My head hurts now.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Got events?

The Life department has two ace reporters, Bonnie Langston and Blaise Schweitzer, both of them with a combined experience larger than my own life (I‘m 29)-- a scary proposition for somebody who has to supervise them.

We work as a team, along with super editor Dwayne Kroohs (pronounced “Cruise,” which some people actually write when they send him mail) and we sit down every week to brainstorm story ideas.

We consider everything our readers propose (and what they don't). We also mull ideas we come up with while living in this pristine valley of ours.

But, as much as we would like to, we can’t be everywhere at once (if I had that superpower, I wouldn’t be working at all).

So on Monday, we began a new feature, “Around Town,” which briefly chronicles events around the Hudson Valley, and which are provided to us by our readers. Think of it as a scrapbook of events important to you -- and us. We are looking for fundraisers, galas, benefits and such.
If you know of one (or two or three), let us know. We’ll be glad to collaborate in the coverage of these worthy events.

Send your happenings to life@fremanonline.com, along with photos (in the standard JPG format), and we’ll be more than happy to publish them in the print edition of the Freeman. Every now and then, if scheduling permits, we’ll send our own photographers (now tanned to oblivion because they‘re taking photos outside all the time) to cover those events.

In short, help us help you (and if you see our photographers, feel free to give them some sunblock).

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

E-mails

Firewalls and filters and all those fierce and foul automated protection systems for e-mails are far from perfect. They are supposed to block junk e-mails (“Zero percent mortgage!” “Buy this stock!”). And, to a large degree, they do work. But they are devoid of critical thinking.

So while a recent e-mail about the local puppet production of “Puss ‘n’ Boots” was blocked (you figure out why), the Life department "won” the “international lottery.” I just have to send the guy who send me that e-mail thousands of dollars for “processing.”

Our tech guy, Dave Hyatt -- a master of all things digital -- keeps upgrading, updating and uploading new systems and software to protect us. Things being as they are online, the “spammers” always figure new ways to harass and annoy.

So keep things sound, simple and safe, starting with the subject line (the title) of your e-mails. And if you get blocked for whatever reason, give me a call (with a crazy device called a telephone) and we’ll figure something out.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Announcement or advertisement?

When readers send announcements and they called them ads, editors cringe.

But I’m not here to describe the sound of my grinding teeth, but to let you know why they grind (and, believe me, they do).

Advertisements are paid items, where you control the content. Announcements are news items, and thus, they are, well, news.

Announcements are a service to the community. And, yes, we determine how the are presented – we have to edit them, after all – but they are not bound to any fee.

So send us all your news, announcements and accomplishments, however big or small. We’ll do our best to publish them in the proper place in a proper manner.

Go to the about section of the web site, grab a copy of the paper or give me a call at (845) 331-5000, extension 502, and send me everything you have.

Help stop the grinding.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Short and sweet

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mom is the word

“What are you doing for Mother’s Day?”

I was going to go to my mom’s house in Ellenville. But the question from Freeman Managing Editor Sam Daleo was about what the Life department was preparing to do for mom’s special day.

“A story,” I replied.

“That’s it?” Sam said.

Freakish pause. Disapproving frown.

“I can run some wire stories,” I said nervously, referring to those that come to us via The Associated Press. It belatedly became obvious that our readers were expecting more on Mother’s Day, especially from the section of the paper with a huge “Life” banner on top of it.

Sam had an idea. He suggested doing a Mom’s essay contest. And after some deliberation, we decided to ask for readers’ words, put them all online, and pick the best ones to run them on Mother’s Day in the print edition of the paper.

It was a great idea. But I had one concern: teachers.

You see, if just one educator got a hold of this initiative, I was sure would be flooded with submissions. All of a sudden, success was a threatening proposition.

A week later, I received a package from Ellen Luksberg, a teacher at M.Clifford Miller Middle School in Kingston. It contained dozens of written essays by seventh-grade students at the school. They were moving, cute and fun to read. And I was petrified about how to process that many entries.

Alas! Things get done when things need to get done. So all of them -- along with other entries -- are now posted online. And I am in the painfully joyous process of selecting the best three, which you will get to read in the Freeman on Mother’s Day.

Enjoy them. We certainly did.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A new era

Yes, sir! We're blogging now.

One of the basic principles in journalism is to never write "I," unless you are doing "gonzo" (as in the writings of the late Hunter S. Thompson, not the recent nickname for U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales).

Yet, after I was given the opportunity to write for this little space in this eclectic, evolving and exciting medium, I could not let this opportunity go.

I'll be writing about life in the Hudson Valley (as in, "Why I am writing this when it's 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside?") and about your life, questions and concerns, if you allow me the courtesy.

I'll be posting small bits about events in the area and in cyberspace, complete with the what, who, when, where and why you've come to expect from us.
Remember, this space also is yours, giving you the opportunity to open a dialogue about our lives (you live it, I edit it) and a little window into our newsroom.

Let's have some fun.



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