Friday, November 26, 2010

Reteaching an old dog...

For my new feature "Party house of the weekend," I attend the press briefing at Amherst Police Station around 9:00 AM on Monday morning, which until now pretty much consisted of only one reporter, Scott Merzbach from the Daily Hampshire Gazette; convenient enough for me, as I drop off my 3-year-old at the Spring Street Preschool 100 yards away at 8:45 AM.

Thus I had the story of the $3,900 scam suffered by the greatest little pizza shop on the planet, Antonio's, at the same time as Mr. Merzbach.

And like a lot of things concerning Amherst, I have a bit of a personal connection. Out of all the business owners I have known and called friend over the past 30 years none were better than original founder Bruno Matarazzo, may he rest in peace.

And of course I can beat the Gazette by a few hours--even on a really bad day. But I also had what I was looking for: a "party house" with 500 "guests", three tenants arrested for bad behavior and ticketed for violating the newly-escalated-in-price Noise and Nuisance town bylaws to the tune of $1,800 total.

The overwhelming plus side of a blog is the speed of publishing, downside is you only have a Front Page. What's a news blogger to do?

I drove from the Police Station to the party house about a mile down the road for a quick photo. Antonio's would have been closer by half. The loss to Antonio's was $3,900--a hell of a lot for sure, but their markup has got to be at least 50% so it was really less than $2,000. Thus roughly the same economic impact as the $1,800 in fines handed out to three denizens of the party/nuisance house.

So I went with the party house story. The Gazette online went with both a few hours later and the next day's print edition carried a slightly more fleshed out article about the pizza rip off (with better placement than the party house article), including an interview with the owner.

The Daily Collegian had followed up quickly online (getting an important fact wrong), then the Springfield Republican, local TV stations and then the motherload: the AP National wire.

Even this morning my friends at the Springfield Republican published an editorial about the affair. As of now over 200 news outlets have picked up the story. Yikes!

So don't worry too much about Antonio's losing $3,900. This amount of press is priceless in an advertising sort of way.

And for me, I relearned an old lesson from my 'News Reporting and Writing' class almost exactly 25 years ago: "Dog bites man, not a story; man bite dog, now that's a story."

Only in Amherst would an out-of-control, alcohol-fueled party of 500 collage-aged kids packed in a one-bedroom house resulting in 3 arrests (one charged with possession of a stun gun) and $1,800 in fines be considered routine.


Anonymous said...

Little off topic but not entirely:

AMHERST - Larry Shaffer won't be returning to work after all.

The former Amherst Town Manager had applied for the open position of city manager in Essexville, Mich. But Shaffer was not selected for the post, the Bay City Times reported Saturday.

Shaffer had been named as one of the three finalists for the job, but the city council ultimately voted 5-1-1 to name Douglas Alexander to the post.

Shaffer received one vote from the City Council, as did Peter Myers, who was designated as the council's alternate candidate, the City Times reported.

Shaffer, who served four years as Amherst town manager, announced his retirement in September and stepped down from his post on Oct. 1.

"In a weeks time I'll be 62 years old and indeed I have been thinking about retirement," Shaffer told the Amherst Select Board at that time.

Essexville is a community of less than 4,00 residents in northeastern Michigan. The city's website calls the town "The Gateway to the Saginaw Bay."

Could've happened to a better asshole.

Anonymous said...

"couldn't have happened..."

Anonymous said...

I think you should do a story on the continued break-ins in the area. Not just the ones targeting the students while they are gone, but the ones while residents with kids are sleeping.

Ed said...

I think you should do a story on the continued break-ins in the area. Not just the ones targeting the students while they are gone, but the ones while residents with kids are sleeping.

And I think you ought to say what the APD are men enough to say privately but not allowed to say publicly: IT ISN'T THE UMASS STUDENTS DOING THIS!!!!!!

And which is a greater threat to YOU Larry -- a couple of drunken UM kids urinating on your front lawn or a couple of people breaking into your house when you aren't there (but when your wife and daughters *are*)??????

Anonymous said...

So much for your newsman instincts. One story was not even a blip on the local scene and the other was national news. You guessed wrong. See if you can figure out why.

LarryK4 said...

Actually I did. Try paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Pizza + Bob Dylan + Scam = Story

LarryK4 said...

Well of course I knew it was a story. And I had planned to let my party house post stay up for 7 or 8 hours and then post the Antonio's story (with photo--that of course the Gazette initially did not do)

But since the Gazette had covered it as did the Daily Collegian, I figured it was no longer a breaking story.

One thing I also learned 25 years ago is that a interesting local news story like this can indeed go national--but only if it is a "slow news day."

Kind of like the very early morning of 9/11 when the Amherst Select Board decision from the night before, to keep down American flags and limit their flying time, made the AP national wire about two hours before the first plane impaled the North Tower.

Anonymous said...

"Actually I did. Try paying attention."

Try being a better writer. Don't bury the point of your post at the end. Try putting it first and then explaining what happened.

LarryK4 said...

Oh, after 30 years of writing I'm still not completely certain which paragraph is more important: the lead or close.

Obviously if you don't write at least a half-way decent lead,readers will never get to your close.

But if you do pen a passable--close enough for a weekend--opening, then the close, indeed, RULES.

Anonymous said...

It's not a novel, it's news. Tell them what happened right off the bat. Then keep them interested by telling them why.

LarryK4 said...

Well considering the entire article came in around 400 words, I hardly think that qualifies as "a novel."

Last semester when I was taking "Ethics in Journalism" my Prof, the head of the J-Department, said my "Strength is my weakness in that I write short. Great for blogging, but not so good for academics."

Howard Ziff, who founded the J-Department over 40 years ago, and was briefly a columnist for the Amherst Bulletin during my 14 year tenure suggested I keep my columns to 600 words.

I managed to whittle them down from 850-900 words to around 700-750, and they were indeed better for it.

I also figure folks choose to come here, thus they will probably allow me a delayed lead (as long as I have a great close.)

Anonymous said...

The delayed lead is not the problem. It's a lack of clarity. Sometimes your posts meander about in a way that's hard to decipher what your point is.

Ed said...

Larry, I am still waiting for an answer -- a kid adding nitrogen to your lawn (ammonia is NH3, that is urine, yes it is good for your lawn) or someone breaking into your house?

LarryK4 said...

Well Ed, I'm assuming I will be home when the perp breaks in, and these days I could use the target practice.

Anonymous said...

Ed, stop being an ass. Nobody has ever said its the students doing the breakins. Stop with your obsession of always making it about UMass.

Anonymous said...

LOL I think Ed just NH3'd himself......

Anonymous said...

let's see the original post in which you scoop all other media. i couldn't find it