Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: The Vindicator from Ohio

BENNINGTON -- Please don't let there be peanuts.

I sliced the box open and pulled back the flaps. "No peanuts!"

Picking packing peanuts off the floor is a pain in the ass.

In place of the peanuts were crumpled newspapers. Nice!

I'm an ex-newspaper guy who loves to see how other newspapers operate. You can tell a lot about a paper by its headlines and its photo packages and its story ledes and its folios and its layouts and its ... everything.

The Vindicator is the name of the paper this Ohio artisan used to pack her wares.

The Vindicator is locally owned and serves the area of Youngstown, which is 73.8 miles southeast of Cleveland. My bar mitzvah rabbi moved from Long Beach, California, to Youngstown. The only other thing I know about Youngstown is that Urban Meyer coached at Youngstown State decades before he became famous.

Between responsibilities today at Fiddlehead at Four Corners art gallery I gleaned sections of the Vindicator. First and foremost: Vindicator. Vindicator? I've never heard of a paper called the Vindicator. What is the paper vindicating? Then again, I wrote sports for the Reformer in Brattleboro, Vermont. Reformer? What exactly is the Reformer reforming?

The front page of the August 14 Vindicator teased the Cleveland Browns, the new interim school chief in Poland, and the plumbers and pipefitters local union getting a $65,000 training grant. The paper's masthead font needs an overhaul. Only the New York Times should use that font, and even then the NYT should look into a masthead redesign. It's just an ugly font well past its heyday.

Anyway, there are three stories above the fold. The centerpiece is more of a standalone photo with a map explaining how Western Reserve Road will be closed 15 days for a widening project. The headline and sub-hed for the one-column story to the right reads:

urged over

FortuneBuilders exec
reacts to critics, says
his company is 'ethical'

But the story most likely to carry this edition is about murder. If it bleeds it leads.

The hed reads: Fourth wife hides as murder suspect awaits retrial.

The lede reads "A Poland township native awaiting a third trial for the murder of his third wife returns to court Wednesday after prosecutors asked that his bond be revoked." There's a color mug of Robert Girts (the suspect) in the middle column.

This was the next section I pulled from the box:

I don't like the left headline so much ...

Boardman man, 32,
sentenced for assaults

... mainly because "Boardman man" doesn't roll off the tongue. I have a feeling the person who wrote the hed had a good chuckle over "Boardman man" ... or maybe not. Not many papers have editors these days, so a headline like that slips through the cracks sometimes.

But John W. Goodwin Jr. wrote an interesting story. The gist of it is ...

Russell Wine avoided 3 years of prison sex -- getting 2 years probation instead -- even though he walked into his drug-addict sister's home and beat the crap out of two men with a shovel. One of the victims was critically injured.

Goodwin reports why the judge ruled the way he did based on events leading up to Wine's attack. He heard a good-time ruckus at the home on the adjoining property and feared for the safety of his two young nephews. One of the victims was sloshed and on drugs. As he approached, the two men threatened him and the children.

That's when Wine went batshit crazy with his shovel.

"The first thing I could think of was my nephews because I love them like I love my own children," Wine told the judge who, by and large, vindicated him. "I hope you can see the person I am, and this is not me. I don't ever want to hurt anyone."

The editorial page was the next piece I pulled from the box. The Vindicator prides itself on being "The People's Paper" ... it was founded in June 1869 ... Betty H. Brown Jagnow is president and publisher, Mark A. Brown is general manager and past publishers include William F. Maag Sr. (born February 28, 1850, died April 10, 1924), William F. Maag Jr. (July 26, 1883 to February 29, 1968) and Wiliam Brown (June 14, 1913 to August 14, 1981).

The editorial cartoon shows Obama scolding Biden, foot in his mouth, after making yet another faux pas in relation to something he thought Mitt said about Obamacare. The one and a half columns on the right side of the page features syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell explaining how "Ryan took Obama to school on the budget" and that the president is doomed if the election is based on hard facts. There is a column below the fold by Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post Group; she writes why "Ryan doesn't have the cure".

Next were Vindicator Sports & Weather sections from August 14 and August 20.

I was a sportswriter for 17 years and never did we merge Sports & Weather. Kind of strange, but these days everything about newspapers is strange.

It shouldn't be much of a surprise that the Steelers carry the centerpiece because Youngstown is closer to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (67.4 miles) than it is to Cleveland, Ohio.

The sports editor did a nice job leading the section with a local golf story, a preview for "The Greatest Golfer of the Valley". Right away the reader sees the strong marriage between the Vindicator's print edition and its website because the breakout box tells readers to "Go to to learn specific player tee times." Strong.

The front page is workmanlike. Nothing fancy, but there are five entry points spanning golf, football and baseball. The cliche (but still important) bells and whistles are there i.e. Western Reserve football helmet thumb tack and pullout box announcing that kickoff is days away, and a pullout score for the Scrappers-Jammers and Steelers-Colts games, not to mention the refer box for the Greatest Golfer of the Valley telling readers it's free to watch the tournament and giving them times and locales for each day.

B2 features notable sports briefs and a ton of agate (standings, boxscores, etc). B4 is dedicated to baseball, B5 is a hodgepodge and B6 is a full color page for all-things weather.

The front of the August 14 sports section is strong in local content and layout with a splash of Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Pirates coverage.

Vindicator brass can rest knowing the toy department produces a strong little sports section.

The last section I pulled out was from the Rural Marketplace, or the classifieds. But I'm not quite sure if the Rural Marketplace is part of the Vindicator. There is a shit-ton of "Machinery and Equipment" for sale: John Deere 410 round baler with new belts for $2,250; NH FP230 forage harvester, tandem, hyd. tongue, new knives, shear paddles ex. cone. w/3 pn head-like new only 200 ac. and 27 p. pickup head, nice, clean unit, $26,000 ... etc, etc, etc.

In the "Manure Handling Equipment" we found ...
* a Balzer 3000-gallon manure tanker, 540 pto, vaccum or top load, 40-ft, 6-inch suction hose, $4,500.

In the "Miscellaneous" section we found a ton of stuff ...
* 275-gallon food grade totes
* Church pews- solid oak with cushions
* High speed internet for rural America $49.99
* Need something welded on the farm or at my place; please call ...

Under the "Misc Livestock & Pets" ...
* Mute swans for sale, $400 apiece, wings are pinioned,  available

And then there is the "Sheep" section ...
* 1 mature Katahdin ram
* 1 Targhee yearling ram and (1) 2-year-old ram; 10 Shropshire ewe lambs
* 25 top Dorset Suffolk ewes, $225 each
* 4 Old English Babydoll sheep and lambs, $250 each or $800 for all
* 6 yr. old Icelandic black/gray ewe and yearling, $350
* 75 Hair ewes
* Babydoll sheep
* Border Cheviot, born March 2012 ... will be excellent breeder
* Romanov rams ready for fall breeding season; also Romanove ewes, from litters of quintuplets and sextuplets; also 1/2 Romanov and 1/2 Dorper ewe lambs

All of a sudden I'm hungry for lamb chops.

UPDATE: Another shipment arrived. Nuts.

UPDATE 2: Journalism colleague Lori Chase has informed me that former Philadelphia Eagles great QB Ron Jaworski was a Penguin at Youngstown State.