A member of our cleaning crew came to my office Friday to change the trash bags and asked about an item on the floor and if it was trash or not.
I thanked her for asking, and shared an episode in my career where I did place something valuable near the garbage can, and it was viewed as trash — and was tossed.
It was a cucumber.
Not just any cucumber.
It was the creation of a grandfather and his grandson, and it had grown in the oddest way: Two adjoined cukes that had grown circular so as to look like those Princess Leia hair buns over her ears.
Grandpa, a towering man, brought it in the newsroom where I was at the time and said to our clerk, “I want this in The Telegram. This is news.”
Not sure if it was news, she took it, gave it to me when I came in, and with a bit of rolled eyes and exasperation, I placed it on the floor in my office next to the trash can. And the next sweep, it was gone.
“Was it news?” is up for debate.
But that he brought his news to us is something to note — especially in today’s reality of our newsroom.
We have an ample amount of blank pages and black ink.
But our ampleness wanes with our staffing levels versus the stories we want to do or are asked to do.
(Truth is, even at our biggest staffing size in the 1970s, there was always more news than we could get to.)
Using the cucumber rule — getting your news to us worked then and works now.
I talked with a Campbell woman this week about an event she had that raised $10,000. She needled me that there was no coverage from The Vindicator.
It was a chance to explain to her the cucumber rule. And it makes sense to share it again with others here and now.
The cucumber rule:
Getting your news into The Vindicator is not reliant upon us coming to your event.
A lot of times folks will call and say, “We need a reporter [or a photographer] to come to our event.”
As we talk it through with those people, if we are on our game, we will communicate that the event is newsworthy and great for The Vindy pages, we just need some help in getting it to the pages.
My chats with event leaders ask them to find the right person in their group who’s decent with a camera and another person decent with the English language.
If those two people send us the information, more times than not, it gets into the paper as successfully as if we staffed an event ourselves. Sure, some of the bells and whistles will be different.
But often what people and groups want is often the same thing that we want — names, faces and accomplishments.
Truth is, we need that news — your news.
While you like your newspaper for investigative news and opinion and going after bad guys and picking apart tax-dollar spending, the reality is you also like the paper for its ability to acknowledge success in the classroom, the ball field or the workplace.
Names, faces and places is a simple formula, and we should do a better job sharing with you this simple rule:
If you get it to us, we can get it in The Vindy — the cucumber rule.
That cucumber incident was almost 20 years ago, and I was younger when I rolled my eyes.
Is that cucumber news to me today?
Somewhere in our paper, on some page, I would find a home for a Princess Leia-looking cucumber. You should have seen it.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.