A few reminders of how the First Amendment works in the wake of the NFL’s “no kneeling” rule

One of the key reasons many journalism programs include a J-law class is to make sure you fully understand the rights that are afforded to you as a citizen and as a member of the media. (This, of course, goes against the popular theory that students have, which is the class is there to see how quickly a GPA can crash and burn after a single semester.) In many cases, people think they know the law after watching a few episodes of “Law & Order” or hearing a couple words that sound legal like “libel,” “habeas corpus” and “cappuccino.” (If I had a nickel for every time someone threatened to sue me for libel, when it was clear they had no idea what they were talking about, I could keep an old-fashioned slot machine spinning for quite some time.)

The National Football League made a recent rule change that had people arguing about the law and how it works in relationship to free speech. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Wednesday that the league would fine teams if they had players who failed to stand for the national anthem. Over the past two years, players have kneeled or refused to stand for the anthem as a protest against racial inequality and police brutality, a movement started by Colin Kaepernick.

The NFL’s announcement has led to the question of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the rights of the players in the NFL. In a satirical piece , The New Yorker noted that the NFL “added the First Amendment to its list of banned substances.”

We talked a bit about the reasons the First Amendment doesn’t do everything people thinks it does when we covered Harley Barber, the Alabama sorority member who took to her “finsta” to spew racist language. Given this set of concerns, it’s important to take a look back at the First Amendment itself and some of the misconceptions people have about it:

No one can stop you from publishing content or expressing yourself: The First Amendment clearly notes, “Congress shall make no law,” which was later extended to all forms of government. However, the government isn’t the only body or organization that can prohibit you from publishing things. Corporations that own your newspaper or magazine can prohibit certain things from being published. The Federal Communication Commission has a say in what can and can’t be done on television news. Even certain web platforms place specific rules and regulation about content in their user agreements. In this case, the NFL is a private entity that can make certain rules and regulations for its players, and this happens to be one of them. The new rule might be popular or unpopular, but it doesn’t violate the First Amendment. In addition, the consequences of his choice to kneel have been severe for Kaepernick, who was unable to find a team to quarterback after he protested in this fashion.

Nothing bad can happen to you after you publish or express yourself: The ability to publish without governmental prohibition isn’t as great as it sounds in some cases. People erroneously equate “free press” and “free speech” with “consequence-free press” and “consequence-free speech.” Whatever you publish can run afoul of the law and that can lead to some negative outcomes. If you publish incorrect information that harms someone, you can end up on the wrong side of a libel suit. If you enter a private area without permission, someone might sue you for invasion of privacy or trespassing. Even if you publish accurate information, you could still be harmed in the “court of public opinion,” with readers turning their backs on you. The First Amendment doesn’t protect you from every potential harm, so you need to be careful with what you publish. It also doesn’t mean that there won’t be backlash for the NFL or its players.

The First Amendment is clear and absolute: The amendment is neither of these things, as the government has limited speech and press during times of war, as it did with the Sedition Act during World War I and with the Smith Act during World War II. Courts have limited speech with time, place and manner restrictions, prohibiting people from doing certain things at certain times in certain areas. Although the phraseology of “Congress shall make no law” sounds like a rock-solid judgment from on high, plenty of people have found out the hard way that the First Amendment is open to interpretation.

In the end, the NFL will be able to stand on this from a legal standpoint as far as the First Amendment is concerned. However, as the players, owners and fans debate and discuss the merits of this rule, other consequences may develop for any or all of them.

The Junk Drawer: Some great helpful advice on storytelling, getting people to trust you and some thoughts on “fake news”

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. Consider some of these items:

Tell me a story and make me care:
People always ask about how they can improve their overall approach to storytelling, as it is the primary element that links all of our media-writing disciplines. Here’s a really solid article that outlines some of the habits you can break that will immediately improve your storytelling ability.

Trust, but verify:
Why don’t people trust “the media?” The Knight Foundation published a list of 10 reasons, many of which should concern any media student. I wish I could remember who said it, but it is true that we have seen a fundamental shift in how we engage media. It used to be that we read news to help us develop an informed opinion on a topic. Now, we have the opinion and we seek out content that will support what we already believe. As media-writing students (and instructors) we need to figure out exactly how we’re going to deal with this idea going forward and how best to help people see the value of what we create.

Fake news (or is it?):
President Donald Trump has mused about taking away the press credentials of news organizations that do not provide him with favorable coverage. This should concern anyone at any level of media whether they like or dislike Trump and if they cover the president or they cover their campus. The goal of a free and unfettered press is to shed light on anything that might be of public interest, regardless of how “favorable” it is to any particular individual. Any attempt to chill that arrangement can limit what people have the right to know about things that could affect them. If this happens at a national level, what is to prevent other public organizations from trying similar things when they decide the coverage is getting too hot for them? Also, here’s an interesting take on why it has become problematic that the term “fake news” has become synonymous with the concept of “news that I don’t like to see because it’s mean to me.”

Failure is an option. Just don’t take it: I’m a huge fan of the late comedian W.C. Field’s line about success and efforts: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damned fool about it.” To be fair, it often seems we don’t get to the second “try” before quitting, so here’s a pretty good look at where failure comes from, why we tend to do it and what we can learn as we process it.




“He’s dying anyway.” (A primer on how not to do PR)

If I had a nickel for every stupid thing I ever said, I’d wouldn’t need to work anymore and I could probably eradicate world hunger. This is one of the many reasons I have a lot of respect for good public relations practitioners: They manage to keep on message, make key points clear and connect with an audience in some of the more difficult situations out there.

In discussing public relations with my buddy Pritch (a member of the College of Fellows and a decades-long PR professional and instructor) a number of years ago, he told me that one of the more underrated elements of PR is honest empathy. It’s hard to get across a message while still realizing that there are other forces at play, many of which can be painful for others. I translated this into “be humane” in one of the books and several lectures, and I think it sticks well.

I thought about this when this story broke about a White House staffer’s reaction to Sen. John McCain’s stand against confirming CIA nominee Gina Haspel:

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” press aide Kelly Sadler said about McCain’s opposition to CIA nominee Gina Haspel at a meeting of White House communications staffers, according to an unnamed source cited by The Hill’s Jordan Fabian.

McCain is battling brain cancer and is unlikely to win that fight, according to all available information. As we noted in the book, the accuracy of a statement like “He’s dying anyway” isn’t the issue, but rather the fact it makes Sadler sound cold and calloused. Even worse from a PR perspective, she has now become the news and that news is clearly negative.

Consider the following thoughts as a short primer on the idea of keeping yourself out of trouble:


You are like plumbing: We talk in most of my classes about good media professionals being conduits of information, moving content from valuable sources to interested audiences. I often equate this to being like plumbing: The water exists at Point A and you want to drink it at Point B. You don’t really know how every single thing works, but you just want it to work.

Perhaps more to the point, the only time people notice plumbing any more is when something goes wrong. If the water in your tap comes out in a lovely shade of beige, like mine did in my first college apartment, you notice it. When a pipe breaks under the house and starts spraying water all over the crawl space, like it did when we lived in Indiana, you notice it. When it’s running fine? I don’t think, “Man, that toilet can FLUSH! So awesome!”

Get the information that matters from Point A to Point B in its best possible form and you’re doing the job well.


You aren’t the news: The 1980s show “The Fall Guy” follows the adventures of a TV and movie stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter, thus getting into all sorts of danger and wacky mishaps.

Perhaps the only enduring thing about this program was the theme song, in which the show’s star, Lee Majors, sings about life as an “Unknown Stuntman” with lyrics like:

I might fall from a tall building,
I might roll a brand new car.
‘Cause I’m the unknown stuntman that made Redford such a star.

If you do your job well, people behind the scenes will know your name, appreciate your professionalism and use the information you provide to them. However, you will never BE the news. Your clients may bask in the spotlight thanks to your hard work. Your organization might succeed because you did the dirty work. Your company may have a sterling image that you built, brick by brick. However, you are the unknown stuntperson who needs to make them look so fine.


Stop. Think. Then Speak: One of the hardest things in the 24/7 news cycle and the constant demand for information is the ability to pause before communicating without looking like a weasel. It often feels like if we don’t have an answer RIGHT NOW, we are clearly scrambling for some well-worn cliche or a bit of BS. However, once you open your mouth or send a release or do anything else, you can’t get it back, so it pays to be on top of your game.

Collect yourself before you speak on something. Think about who might hear what you have to say or share what you publish. Some PR professionals have told me when they have something they have to say, they imagine their grandmother was in the audience. I often tell students that there is no crime in not knowing something, so instead of going rogue, tell the people, “I don’t know the answer, but I will find it out for you.” As long as you live up to that promise (and it isn’t the answer to every question), you should be OK.


Stupid is eternal: Mardela Springs, Maryland is town of about 350 people in the western part of the state and the only reason I remember it is because of Norman Christopher, who was a town official in the early 1990s. Christopher famously brought attention to this tiny hamlet with his explanation as to why he couldn’t reach county officials on Martin Luther King Day:

He reportedly was explaining to other commission members why he could not reach county workers by telephone Jan. 20, the King holiday. “I forgot no one was working. Everyone had Buckwheat’s birthday off,” he was quoted as saying in the Daily Times in Salisbury. Buckwheat was the stage name of a black child who starred in the “Our Gang” comedy films of the 1930s and 1940s.

It’s been more than a quarter century since he made that comment and I still remember it as a “What the hell was THAT?” moment when it became news. In a similar way, I will never forget Justine Sacco and her “hope I don’t get AIDS” tweet, that we feature in the book.

Sacco has managed to find work recently, as IAC brought her back on board for a separate venture. In looking back at all of this, she had a pretty decent observation for anyone involved in any form of media:

“Unfortunately, I am not a character on ‘South Park’ or a comedian, so I had no business commenting on the epidemic in such a politically incorrect manner on a public platform,” she wrote. “To put it simply, I wasn’t trying to raise awareness of AIDS or piss off the world or ruin my life.”

Kelly Sadler worked on a number of projects before and will likely have many more years of professional work in the future, but this might hang around her neck like an albatross for a while. If you think about anything stupid you have ever said, imagine that being the one thing people remember about you and then act accordingly.


Motivational Poster for Graduates (plus a “Gone Fishin’ note”)

Graduation here at UWO takes place Saturday, so I figured it was a good time to break out a motivational poster for all the students who will be getting congratulations, parties and 121 copies of “Oh the Places You Will Go!”


This caricature of me came from Jason Brooks, one of the most amazingly talented artists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Back when we were both in school at UW-Madison, he drew a version of this idea as a recruitment ad for our student newspaper. I clipped it out and hung onto it until this day, as it now is taped to my office bookshelf, yellowed and taped up after years of moves.

When I wanted to include the jobs chapter/appendix in the reporting book, I reached out to him and asked if he had that art still and if I could buy some usage rights so I could add this to the front of the chapter. Instead, he graciously redrew the whole thing for me so you could see it in the book. I loved it and I hope you did too.

As the end of the term is here, I’m going to take a time out next week. If something truly bizarre happens that needs a “right-away write-up” I’ll take a shot at it, but I think we could all use a break. In the mean time, if you have anything you’d like me to add, cover or create, email me, tweet at me or use the contact form and I’ll take care of it when I return.

New posts start on Monday, May 21.

Thanks for reading, and congrats to all the graduates!

Vince (aka The Doctor of Paper)

The Junk Drawer: Randomly bad ideas and poor journalistic execution

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. Consider some of these moments:

“Are we giving up on ‘Phrasing’ now?” As the hit TV show “Archer” often notes, something can be said in such a way as to evoke a dirty mind to play with it, even though it’s not likely the intent of the source. Still, SOMEBODY should have caught this odd verb choice in a headline about a “Toy Story” homage:


Sexual assault isn’t funny so don’t get cute: There are times to try headlines that will evoke wordplay, cultural touchstones or other rhetorical flourishes. When the topic is sexual assault, it’s best to play it as clear, concise and coherent as possible or else you might get this:


Thankfully, this was just a proof and it never saw publication, but the use of the “Fat Albert” line of “Hey, Hey, Hey” was definitely a wince-worthy moment.

Welcome to wherever you are: When running a big story, you often want big art. A few nice shots of Coors Field to go along with “The Ultimate Visitors Guide to Coors Field” seemed like a great idea. Only one problem:


If you look reeeeeeaallly carefully into the background of this photo (or stare at the zoomed shot in the lower right corner of the tweet), you can see the problem: This isn’t Coors Field in Colorado, but Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The whole “Phillies” scoreboard really kind of clues you in. Nothing says, “We know everything about this ballpark” like not recognizing that the photo isn’t right.

Ow… Just… Ow: The designer’s motto is that “Design is content, and content is king.” This is all true because design is more than “just making things pretty.” Designers are required to show prominence and value through the placement of certain elements. They are also required to make sure things that don’t belong together don’t go together, like this unfortunate pairing of advertising and editorial copy:


On the same page as a Parkland shooting story, you had an ad for the local gun show. Not exactly what the designer probably had in mind when beginning the day.

Just because it’s funny, it doesn’t mean it’s true: When errors lead to some unintentional humor, it is fantastic. This is especially true when someone is trying to promote something. The infamous “South Bend Pubic Schools” billboard remains a standard bearer for the fantastically awkward. This week, it looked like Kansas City joined the club of bad spellers:


As someone noted on Twitter, “You had one job…”

However funny, it turns out to be a fake. Officials at Visit KC said no such misspelling existed and even shared the original image, complete with proper spelling and the same silver car in the background.

Just one more reason to follow the journalist’s adage: If your mother says she loves you, go check it out.

Bicentennial Blogging: A look back at 200 Posts

SAGE: “We want you to write a blog to go with the book.”
Me: “What the heck do I know about writing a blog?”
SAGE: “We know you’ll figure it out.”

That was the conversation that launched the DynamicsOfWriting.com back in late June, where I started wandering into this like a kid who lost his mom at Walmart. The great hope was that I was able keep up a blogging schedule that didn’t have people wondering, “Is this thing still on?”

With 200 posts in less than a year, I’m guessing I got there, so I figured it’s time to take a look back at some of the various things that were helpful, interesting or just amusing.

From Humble Beginnings: When in doubt, focus on the audience. That’s the theme of the book, the blog and my very first post.

Filak-isms: At some point, I’m going to need to translate the random theories, ideas and other sewage that swirls around in my head so that more people can understand what I’m saying on the blog. In the mean time, check out the concept of a handful of Jell-O, why you shouldn’t change a light bulb with a hammer, how you earn the fungus on your shower shoes, how I rely on only a specific amount of pain in teaching and how you will never end up on a lunch box, so it’s OK that you screw up occasionally.

Student Journalists Rock (and so can you): One of the biggest things I tried to incorporate into the book and the blog was student journalists and their work. The reason is that if you only put things from the New York Times or Washington Post in there as examples or only rely on Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism, students can say, “I’m not that and there’s no way I’ll ever do that kind of stuff.” However, students do incredible journalism on their campuses and they’re people just like the folks reading the book. The students at the University of Virginia covered the “Unite the Right” march and they talked to us in a three-part series. Student reporters at Rice talked about Hurricane Harvey’s wrath and their work to cover it, even as it messed with their campus. A student at Southern Illinois University dug into the shady past of the school’s top administrator. And the ongoing saga of The Sunflower at Wichita State showed how students balanced their own crises and the need to hold public officials accountable. College students with the same issues, class schedules, work requirements and experience did all this and more. So can you.

Why Did You Tell My Professor About This?: As if instructors don’t have enough ways to make school painful, I shared a couple of my favorite things we did in class. The boatload of AP style quizzes should be more than enough to sharpen your editing, but the bigger things were probably the “labs” and exams I pitched. The “Feel It” Lab is still a classic that students remember years after participating in it.  The same is true for the “Smell It” Lab. However, the “You don’t even know, man…” exercise my students often reference in their course evals is “The Midterm from Hell.” Whatever you think of these exercises, please don’t mail me a bag of dog excrement. We have a high-strung mini-Schnauzer, so we have plenty of that as it is.

Beating the Drum on the Basics: Just like everything else, your writing improves when you practice the basics over and over. That’s why we talk about the “holy trinity” of noun-verb-object, show you an example of how the inverted pyramid can keep you from finding out about a naked man on fire only in paragraph 11 and why attributions will save your keester at every possible turn.

Understanding Your Professors: Professors often gripe about students and students gripe about professors. It’s the natural order of being. In an attempt to use humor to break down those walls and improve your class, we offered you a few ways to prevent your class from sucking, the “five conversations journalism professors have in hell,” better ways to ask questions that drive your professors nuts and how to make the most out of you course evaluations.

The Bad, The Weird and The “OK, so THAT Happened” Moments: Journalism reminds us that there’s a lot of stupid out there, some of it comes from the journalists themselves. Still, there’s plenty to learn when a company puts out a racist sweatshirt, a sorority member decides she can use the “N-word” on social media because she’s “in the South,” how to avoid digging yourself any deeper into a social media rabbit hole after you call a U.S. citizen an “immigrant” on Twitter, how women in the news should be covered as more than the owners of a productive womb, how to avoid talking about hand jobs in your publication and other random screw-ups you should avoid.

In looking back, we covered a lot of stuff in a small amount of time. It went by in a blink, thanks in large part to guest bloggers, professional journalists and other folks who gave their time to break up the monotony of me. I hope it’s been as helpful for you as it has been for me. And, as always, if you have any questions or need something you haven’t gotten, just ask.

Vince (aka The Doctor of Paper)





Three random story ideas picked up while rummage sale shopping

Wisconsin has several proud traditions, including Friday Fish Fry and shoveling snow into April. One of our favorites, however, is rummage sale season. In some places, they’re called yard sales, garage sales or rummages, but they all serve the same purpose: People who want to get rid of some of their stuff will post an ad/signs and other people will come from all over the place to find hidden jewels among the junk.

Ever since I can remember, I spent my summers seeking out rummage sales, estate sales, flea markets and more. I stocked my life with secondhand books, Mad magazines and old baseball cards. Now, I tend to look for old furniture to restore, vintage signs to hang in the garage and… well… old baseball cards.

After spending a pretty darned cold weekend scouring the city of Neenah for these items, I came back with a corner hutch for my wife, a SPAM T-shirt for my kid and three potential story ideas for you all:

WHEN HIP AND TRENDY GOES SPLAT: Last year around this time, my kid was begging for a fidget spinner, to the point I was stalking the only area Walgreens that got a shipment once a week. When I finally got there at exactly the same time as the shipment, there were at least three crazed parents digging through a box that hadn’t even been stocked yet. We had all the grace of a pack of “walkers” that caught a slow, fat guy on “The Walking Dead.” I bought four of them, kept two and sold two to a colleague, whose children were so grateful, they wrote me these wonderful thank you notes.

This year? They are rummage sale fodder at about 50 cents a piece.

Rummage sales are great opportunities to recall what used to be cool, given that people tend to use the sales to dump off things they bought as part of a trend, but now wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?”

Beanie Babies, pogs and Tickle Me Elmo dolls are just a few of the toys that fit that bill. There are also the “health trends” like the Ab Lounge and the Thigh Master that show up from time to time. Look at what’s out there and help people take a trip through time as you recall what used to be the “it” thing.

FOLLOW THE PROFESSIONALS: Shows like “Storage Wars” and “American Pickers” showcase the glamorous life of big finds and digging through other people’s stuff. On a much smaller scale, areas that have estate and rummage sales tend to have lower-level pros as well. These are folks who have specific collecting needs, antiques shops and other similar desires to find “that one thing” they desperately want.

For a while, my wife was into Jadite dishware, a 1930s-1940s-era green glass stuff that was utterly ridiculously overpriced at antiques shops. However, if I scoured the rummages around me, I tended to find a piece here and a piece there on the cheap. In showing up early for these sales, I kept bumping into the same six people who were all waiting early. There was a “tool guy” and a “fishing guy” who always were there for one or two items they collected. There were three women who ran antiques booths at the local vintage shops who were polite while we waited, but went after each other like “The Hunger Games” when the doors opened. They bumped and checked each other out of the way as they flung themselves through the house in search of items that could be flipped at their booths.

Find one or two of these people and do a profile piece on the life of a professional rummage-sale junkie. See if you can tag along for a weekend and see what it takes to be that person, what motivates him or her and the ups and downs of the “business.”

EMBRACE THE WEIRDNESS: If the eyes are the windows to the soul, rummage sales are the door to the weirdest room in someone’s head. Most rummage sales are simple affairs: Parents dumping off baby clothes and equipment now that their kids are grown, older adults “downsizing” before they head to a smaller home or folks just trying to clean out some  clutter.

However, some of the things that pop up at rummage sales have you thinking you’re about three steps away from being part of a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” reboot. Or even worse.

I went to rummage sales where the main item is dead things. Bleached animal skulls, lamps made from animal horns, bone-based items and more. Hunters live in this area make that a little less weird than it might seem at first blush, but I’m not exactly sure who goes to a rummage sale thinking, “This is perfect! I was looking for a skull of about this size!”

There are also people selling tons of unopened products like shampoo, toothpaste, body wash and cereal. Occasionally, there are “opened” products as well. Who the heck wants to buy a “once used” stick of deodorant? I don’t know but it could have been mine for a dollar. Also, I have no aversion to used clothing of some types (ties, shirts, even pants) but some things I want my own of. I don’t know why but this weekend I ran into three sales that had rows upon rows on a table of used bras. Someone can clue me in what that’s OK, but undergarments tend to have me thinking, “I’ll just buy some new ones, thanks.”

Figure out what are some of the weirdest things for sale and ask about them. See if you can find trends in the weirdness or if there’s just that “one guy” who is selling stuff that makes you think, “I’d better make sure I can get cell service out here…”


From “first big interview” to felony charges: A journalist reflects on his former chancellor

Each week, we will strive to post content from a guest blogger with an expertise in an area of the field. This week, Alex Crowe, the news and social media director for WMDC in Mayville, Wisconsin, reflects on his student media experience interviewing former UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells as a “first big interview” subject. Last week, Crowe covered the latest development in an ongoing financial scandal in which Wells and former Vice Chancellor Tom Sonnleitner were each charged with five felony counts. Interested in being our next guest blogger? Contact us here.
My interviews with then Chancellor Richard Wells were always good, but I never got more than a few words in before he started talking. Wells loved to talk to anyone who would listen, especially about things that were being done around the UWO campus. And, as I told myself at the time, why wouldn’t he? The projects being done at UWO were all massive, and all of them seemed to start at the same time.
My interviews with him were a informal sit-downs during the Chancellor’s Breakfast, an event that comes around at the end of every semester. Students can take a break from studying to get a free breakfast at Blackhawk Commons, served by some of the higher-ups at UW Oshkosh. I usually met with and interviewed Athletic Director Darryl Sims, Wells and maybe one or two other people. The interviews were very informal, me in a radio polo and my guests usually in aprons and hats fresh out of the kitchen.
I remember distinctly asking Wells about the projects at UWO. There were so many going on that it was hard to keep track. My freshman year (2011-12) was the final year of construction for the new Horizon dorm and it seems like the floodgates opened after that. New lecture halls and classrooms in Clow, renovations at Halsey, new dorm rooms and renovations in Fletcher Hall, the brand-new Alumni Welcome and Conference Center and so on. As soon as I would bring up the construction projects on campus, Wells would begin beaming with pride, then start talking.
Wells would tell me of the great public-private partnerships that the University had formed under his leadership, such as renovating the downtown Best Western hotel with the intentions to implement a hospitality major at the University. He would also talk a lot about the newly constructed bio-digesters in the area, and how public-private partnerships helped him to secure the funding to make it all possible.
I suppose a more seasoned journalist would have asked those tough questions, probing him in exactly where the money suddenly came from to begin all of these projects at once. As a college student and head of the campus radio station, I was mainly concerned with studying for finals and getting everything set up and on-air.
Now that Wells and his former Vice Chancellor have been charged with five felonies each, it’s easier for me to look back on the situation and see things differently. More information is sure to come out in the criminal complaint and during courtroom proceedings, but right now I’m left with a lot more questions than answers. If Wells did what he’s accused of doing, there would be a lengthy paper trail leading right to him. Why, then, would he go on media tours (albeit small, campus media outlets) to tout the projects themselves? Was there just an assumption everyone would be as naive and wide-eyed as me?
A lot more information will come out about this, and everyone will have the opportunity to form their own opinions about what happened. As a student, I feel glad that a certain level of attention was given to improving campus resources, especially with cuts to education funding throughout my time in the UW System.
As a taxpayer (I held many jobs throughout college for which I paid state and local taxes, as I do now) I feel proud that the state is doing all it can to follow the money and see exactly who paid for what, and if the law was broken. And as a journalist, well, I learned to prepare for everything and always ask the tough questions, even if your guest is coming straight from cooking pancakes for the entire student body.

“If you go home hungry or sober, that’s your fault.” (What more do you need from me this semester?)

I grew up with an odd confluence of grandparents who grew up in the Depression, great-grandparents who were first-generation immigrants and family members who believed in the healing power of food. This led to a general fear at most family gatherings that whoever we were hosting hadn’t gotten enough food or drink to satisfy them and that we would somehow look horrible in the eyes of God and mankind.

It’s the reason why whenever we’d plan a party, my parents would have the same argument:

Mom: So what are we going to have to eat?
Dad: I’ve got two dozen brats, two dozen hamburgers, some hot dogs… We’ve got shrimp salad, potato salad, chips, two cakes… You think I should go get a ham or something?
Mom: For God’s sake! Who do you think we’re feeding?
Dad: Well, there’s you, me and the kid! Your mom, my mom… (The list always ended up being the same 12 people, none of whom were competitive eaters…)
Mom: That’s way too much!
Dad: We’ll send it up to Madison if we have leftovers (Meaning, back to college with me; Thus I’d always go home to my apartment with a laundry basket full of food.)

It’s also why my poor mother, 110 pounds soaking wet, would have to slurp down three fingers worth of Rock and Rye out of a mason jar at 10 a.m. while watching holiday parades at my great-grandparents house. It was an insult not to take “something sweet” from those folks in those days, so you did as you were asked and you slept it off later.

Long story short: Not feeling like we have met your needs is anathema to my people. We believe that we should provide you with everything possible to make you feel like your needs were met. The family motto was essentially: If you go home hungry or sober, that’s your fault. We weren’t going to cheat you.

Thus, as the end of the semester comes nigh, I think I’ve hit on most of the big things and small things people wanted to know, but I’m not sure, so TELL ME what I’m missing or what you need. I don’t want you feeling like you went home missing out on something you should have gotten here on the blog.

What should I cover in the last couple weeks of the term? Post below, message me or let me know in some other way.


Vince (aka the Doctor of Paper)

GAME TIME! Summer is coming AP style quiz

The end of the school year is nearly here at UWO, and I’m hopeful that it’s close by for the rest of you as well. This feeling of “nearly summer” brings about two certainties:

  1. Student emailing for any potential extra credit or possible grade boosts, offering explanations as to why they have not cut the muster to this point or pagan sacrifices in hopes of making it out alive.
  2. The snow finally starts melting out here.

In honor of this annual ritual, here’s a “Summer is coming” AP style quiz to give you one last boost of style heading into your well-earned break.

You don’t have to create an account to play, but if you want to, it will rank you.

Post a screenshot of your score here and brag to your friends. Challenge a professor so you can have bragging rights.

Click here to play the quiz.