The Junk Drawer, Coronavirus Edition: Sympathy for the strippers, Drive-Thru confessionals and more stuff for educators


I swear that there used to be hand sanitizer in this thing…

As we noted in an earlier post, the Junk Drawer is usually full of stuff that didn’t fit anywhere else but you still need. Since I can’t seem to find anything out there that isn’t in some way related to the COVID-19 epidemic, today’s version is going to turn into the skid and go with it:

THE CORONA HOTLINE FOR INSTRUCTORS HAS MORE STUFF FOR YOU: Since we launched The Corona Hotline a week or two ago, we’ve been adding all sorts of exercises, examples and helpful tips for journalism instructors who have to move to distance education during the outbreak.

I just popped in a couple more exercises, including one that has students analyze partial quotes and a writing assignment they can do from wherever they are: A localization of the coronavirus. Local angles on this topic are everywhere, from local businesses trying to survive to students in “regular” jobs like cashiering who are now viewed as essential.


SIX FEET APART IS SORT-OF SEXY: One of my favorite journalists, Emily Bloch, once again demonstrated that thinking outside the box can lead to some fun stories, even in the time of corona-pocalypse. Her look at how social distancing has impacted the adult entertainment industry is a fantastic read.

My favorite quote: “We’re promoting Cash App tipping for our entertainers and gift cards are available to support us,” Moore said.

She also did a story on the other end of the spectrum: A priest was hosting “drive-thru confessions” in her area. “Yeah, hi… I’d like a number six with cheese, please, and forgiveness for tipping a stripper with a gift card…”


TECHNICALLY, I GUESS I COULD HAVE STAYED: Like most universities, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has shut down for the semester. Only essential employees were required to be on campus starting last week Monday, but the chancellor did announce that faculty who felt a compelling reason to be on campus could be given special dispensation from their deans to work from their offices.

Since the place was basically a ghost town, and I have a mini-fridge full of Diet Coke there, I asked for that approval and got it. I was in the middle of recording a podcast Monday, when I heard a knock on my door and then a key hit the lock. As the door opened, I saw a giant man standing there in what looked like a full-on gas mask.

Guy: “Uh… You’re not supposed to be here…”
Me: “I have dispensation from the dean to work from my office.”
Guy: “Well, we were told no one would be here and we’re chemically disinfecting the whole building so you being here kind of defeats the purpose.”

I looked into the hallway and saw another guy with a huge chem tank spraying clouds of something into open offices, so I grabbed my computer, two binders of stuff and a spare keyboard and left.

I’m told the place will be safe in about 2-5 days.


SAVE YOUR BREATH ON THESE SENTENCES: A technique I give to students who want to know if their lead is too long or too “heavy” is to take a normal human breath and read it out loud. If you feel tight in the chest when you’re done, I tell them, it probably needs a trim. If you run out of air, you definitely need to take another shot at it.

Since standard leads are in the 25-35 word range, it’s clear that the Washington Post is trying to kill us all:

President Trump, under growing pressure to rescue an economy in free fall, said Monday that he may soon loosen federal guidelines for social distancing and encourage shuttered businesses to reopen — defying public health experts, who have warned that doing so risks accelerating the spread of the novel coronavirus or even allowing it to rebound.

That’s 54 words, which means find a way to start whacking that thing in half. Another Post story on the topic did a better at this when it came to the lead:

President Trump on Monday said he is considering scaling back steps to constrain the spread of the coronavirus in the next week or two because of concerns that the impact on the economy has become too severe.

Apparently, though, the writers suddenly realized they were writing for the Post and did this in the second paragraph:

But loosening restrictions on social distancing and similar measures soon probably would require him to override the internal warnings of senior U.S. health officials, including Anthony S. Fauci, who have said that the United States has not yet felt the worst of the pandemic, according to several people with knowledge of the internal deliberations.

Another 54-word sentence.


HOME SCHOOLING AT ITS FINEST: Zoe’s stuck here with the rest of us, trying to keep up on her school work. Yesterday, she came to Amy with this question:

Zoe: “I think I got this. A compound sentence is one that has two independent clauses and could be two complete sentences. A complex sentence is one that has a dependent clause and an independent clause, right?”
Amy (turns to me): “Well, doctor?”
Me: “Yes, that is correct.”
Zoe: “I knew I had it backwards…” (she leaves)
Me (in a whisper to Amy): “I was totally guessing…”

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