Always the inquisitive one, I had to know why they were better than all the cheese straws that I had tasted before. I complimented Sena, and then asked, “What is your secret?”


– Elizabeth Karmel, News & Record, Oct. 18, 2017



Each year, toward the end of it, I like to, in the interest of the all-inclusive holiday spirit, take a moment and congratulate our loyal competition – the grand old News & Record – on another year well done of providing insightful commentary, excellent editorials and informative news stories for area citizens.

In that spirit of holiday cheer and glad tidings to all, this week I want to recognize the collective work of that very fine newspaper of record.

In January 2017, the N&R started off the brand new hope-filled New Year the same way the paper started things off in 2016: With a giant front-page spread chronicling every murder that had happened in Guilford County in the previous 12 months. A lot of newspapers across the country ran cheerier stories, but, as the N&R will attest, Jan. 1 is not a time to look forward, but it is instead a time to look back and carefully assess all the problems you have had. The N&R’s uncanny ability to capture so well the mood of the community it covers is an example of the excellent editorial decision-making and guidance that separates it from other newspapers.

Recently, the paper has had just great story after great story after great story. There has been so much terrific journalism, in fact, that I don’t even know where to begin, but one fantastic story in the N&R that I found fascinating was, “Scientists demonstrate optimism in pigs.”

This was an eye-opening tour de force of journalism and I was astonished the whole time I was reading it, because, until I did, I always assumed pigs were pessimists. I guess I thought that because they are always wallowing around in the mud and they never seem to smile. Usually, when you see people act that way, they are very pessimistic. But, my whole life, I could never be sure with pigs, until I read that article. I had always wondered whether pigs were optimistic or pessimistic, or maybe even somewhere in between.

I don’t want to steal the N&R’s thunder because this type of informative journalism demands to be read first-hand. But what I will say is that this article recounts a very interesting experiment that used orange traffic cones, M&M’s (which, according to the article, pigs like a lot), and coffee beans (which pigs don’t like). So the scientists took a traffic cone and –

– well, I don’t want to ruin it for you by telling you how it ends, but let’s just say that, as the article states: “We’re not the only ones who can wear rose-colored glasses. Little pink pigs can as well.”

Another excellent article in the N&R that I really liked a lot was a hard-hitting full-page piece called “Winter’s 10 best knit hats.” The number one hat, by the way, was a Markus Luper Flower Beanie that the article said cost $239.11.

That’s a great example of the kind of excellent details you find in the News & Record, because a lot of news organizations might cut corners and just say the hat costs $239, and then, when you got to the store to get your hat, you would have to have that highly uncomfortable conversation with the salesperson where you complain that the newspaper said it only cost $239 and this was the first you were hearing about the extra 11 cents.

There was also a terrific article – a giant, section-leading one – titled “Ferns: They’re simple, tough and mysterious.” Before I read that article, I would pass by ferns all the time without having any idea how mysterious they were, but now I always look at them in sheer awe. You can never see ferns the same way after you read a great article like that and you really think about what it all means.

“Take a moment and consider the fern – any fern– and think about how much different a fern is from other plants,” the article said. “It doesn’t sprout from a seed; it doesn’t produce flowers; and its reproductive process is closer to a mushroom than a herbaceous perennial.”

Wow! I mean, it turns out that ferns drive scientists crazy when they are trying to figure out what genus to classify them in! It’s not at all like the pig optimism/pessimism debate where it can be solved with some traffic cones and M&M’s.

Another great N&R article was “Like it or not, dogs celebrate Christmas.” That story began with the sentence: “It’s only 99 days before Christmas and the dogs are starting to get nervous.” The picture showed exactly why dogs were nervous: It showed a miserable dog with antlers strapped to his head and the caption, “Gonzo dressed up as Rudolpho the spotted Dogdeer.” Listen, a lot of people put antlers on dogs at Christmas, but only News & Record subscribers get to see that kind of thing in mid-September.

But it’s not just the great news and think pieces like those; it’s also the courageous editorial stances the paper takes.

One hard-hitting editorial in the News & Record was titled, “Dangerous prison inmates should not be allowed access to tools that can be used as weapons.” That piece no doubt stepped on the toes of all those people who are in favor of giving tools that can be used as weapons to dangerous prison inmates, but the N&R stood its ground. I found the paper’s arguments extremely convincing and I agree whole-heartedly.

Another very compelling editorial was, “Keep Guns from Kids.” It states, “Even a toddler can pick up a gun and pull the trigger. Why would anyone let that happen? Kids and guns are a terrible combination.” The News & Record did not waffle one bit in that piece either, despite all the outrage they must have heard from people who are in favor of giving guns to toddlers. (In 2017, the paper did not say whether or not it was in favor of giving tools that could be used as weapons to toddlers but it may address that question in an upcoming editorial.)

I’ve heard that the N&R editorial board is taking a stance on another controversial subject before the end of the year: The board has a lengthy piece arguing strongly that people should not store poison in baby bottles.

Another position the paper took, just a few weeks ago, was presented in the piece “A plea for pears.” In that article, the paper argued that people should “Give some respect to this fall fruit.” This really got me thinking; and it is so true about how pears are always playing second banana. For instance, we always talk about comparing apples and oranges, but never pears.

In the N&R, there’s also a lot of what people call “News you can use,” like one eye-opening piece they ran on National Clear Out Your Refrigerator Day.

Now, the crazy thing is that until I read the News & Record article, I didn’t even know there was a National Clear Out Your Refrigerator Day. The article advised, “Throw out moldy foods that can contaminate items in your refrigerator.” That had never occurred to me but I checked around and it turns out it really is a good idea to do that.

My all time favorite story this year was a hugely compelling one they had just last month. It was titled, “You won’t believe the thing that makes these cheese straws great.”

Now, that may be a little click-baity as headlines go, but come on: You simply have to read a story with that headline.

Anyway, you know what it is that makes the cheese straws great?

It’s cheese.

OK, I’m just kidding. The real secret ingredient?

Rice Krispies.

I mean, that’s absolutely crazy if you think about it. That’s a breakfast cereal, not a cheese straw ingredient. Or, at, least, that’s something an uninformed person who doesn’t read the News & Record might think was just a breakfast cereal. Those clueless people who don’t get the N&R probably to this day go right on making cheese straws the same old way.

I know that 2018 will be another great year for the paper and I am looking forward to getting it in the New Year and finding out how many people where murdered in the county in 2017. It will also be extremely interesting next year to see if they find any other plants that act like a herbaceous perennial in some ways but not in others.