Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Two seemingly disparate events taking place at the same time seemed related to me.
The winning words were “scherenschnitte” and “nunatak” and the last names of the spelling bee winners, who are13 and 14 years old respectively were Shivashankar and Venkatachalam. My first irrational reaction when I saw the TV news brief was, “Whew! Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam have an advantage over many if they have spelled their last names since they were little.”
The judges called a tie for first place because they ran out of words to give the two students, from Olathe, Texas and Chesterfield, Mo., in the annual Scripps Spelling Bee in which 283 other children competed. Maxwell Tani wrote in Business Insider, on Yahoo Finance: “Loeffler has been EPSN’s go-to television analyst for the bee for a decade.” Paul Loeffler told Tani: “It’s a challenge to comment on the bee because the show is essentially split between hardcore fans and viewers who aren’t very familiar with the whole spelling bee process.” Loeffler himself competed in the contest in 1990 and his sister, who works for Scripps, was a contender three times.
All the news that’s fit to film
While these students competed for the almost $40,000 prize, a copy of Webster’s Dictionary [an example of coals to Newcastle?], and international fame, I heard last Saturday how newspaper editors in the Hudson Valley, like those around the country, are increasingly turning to video to enhance their online coverage and motivate subscribers. [I started to write “motivate readers”--them, too.] The panelists at the Millbrook Free Library, Whitney Joseph, The Millerton News, Jim Langan, Hudson Valley News, Curtis Schmidt, Northern Dutchess News, Stuart Shinske, Poughkeepsie Journal and Rex Smith, Albany Times Union, didn’t argue with someone in the audience who thought that what’s effortless is essential to win customers these days. The panel was part of the annual Millbrook Literary Festival in Dutchess County, N.Y.
Only one person in the room admitted to never reading news on the Internet when the moderator asked for a show of hands.
A high school instructor said he has a dickens of a time getting his charges to write a news story because they seem only to be able to share their opinions. The panelists empathized. Nevertheless Joseph takes on interns at the Millerton News.
Responding to a young man in the 12-15 age range who asked panelists what it took to be a news reporter Smith, from the Albany Times Union, said he looks for a person who is curious and energetic—with the stamina and imagination to run down all leads–and that writing ability is last on his list of priorities. He said he can teach someone to write.
Is there inconsistency in the public’s fervor to watch kids who spell amazingly well—enough to warrant network TV and news coverage—when at the same time video increasingly gathers pride of place over words in newspaperland?