People always think that, because the Rhino Times and the News & Record are “competitors,” we don’t get along or we don’t like each other – but, really, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, we love them and they love us.
In fact, every morning I eagerly wake up and run out to the end of my driveway in anticipation of the good ol’ N&R. I bring it in the house and pour myself a nice hot cup of decaffeinated organic coffee with coconut milk and stevia and open up the daily paper to see what fast-breaking news or insightful commentary they are offering us today.
And, regardless, the Rhino Times and the News & Record aren’t really even competitors in the true sense of the word since we cover Guilford County and they cover Rockingham County.
So, despite what you might think, it’s all good between us. In fact, if you’re a longtime reader of this column, you know that I’m a very big fan of the News & Record, and you also know that, every year around this time, I devote an entire column to pointing out some of the excellent journalism that’s appeared in that newspaper.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that, on some stories recently, they just flat-out beat us. There’s simply no other way to spin it. In the press world, you always want to be the publication that breaks a story – however, over the last year, there are more than a few stories where the News & Record has beat us like a rented mule.
One story where we got caught with our pants down, for instance, was “The Art of Paper Marbling.” The N&R was all over that story and we got left holding the wet paper bag. Another story where we got caught holding that same bag was the “Baby Belly Bazaar” bombshell story they broke about pregnant women getting their bellies painted. The same goes for the stories on the “The Rise of the Pantsuit” and the story on macramé, “Knot the ‘70s anymore as macramé goes millennial.” That one was a fantastic article (despite the obvious typo in the very first word of the headline).
I also can’t say enough good things about their story, “Horse manure: An important factor to building hotbeds during winter.” Before I read that, I knew my hotbed was missing something, I just wasn’t sure what.
In early September, we were blindsided by the story “Let’s talk pumpkins,” and pumpkins aren’t the only food story where we got our lunch handed to us last fall. Our rival newspaper also had a terrific investigative piece on the way people pronounce the word “pecan.” It turns out some people say “pecan” while others say “pecan” and still other pronounce it – wait for it … “pecan.” (Though I can’t imagine many people actually use that last pronunciation.)
Speaking of hard-hitting investigative pieces, one of the best of the best in the N&R in that category was, “So 1 dog year equals 7 people years? Not so fast.” I mean you always hear that one people year equals seven dog years, but, trust me, the News & Record blew the lid off in that theory and how! (It even came complete with photographic evidence of an aging dachshund.) Before reading that story, I would have never in a million years guessed that there were holes in the universally accepted conversion equation of dog years into human years, but the N&R convinced me otherwise. What’s next? Finding out that 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 4?
There were also many excellent “think pieces” in recent issues, such as “Will S’mores Cookies be the Next Thin Mints?” It was a little inconclusive about whether they would or not, but regardless, it really made you think.
The paper also, of course, includes the objective, even-keeled and meticulously researched pieces by Susan Ladd. This year they ran a letter to the editor titled, “One Reader Applauds Ladd’s Commentary.” I found that interesting because I was wondering how many readers were applauding her work and that answered my question.
There’s also a lot of news you can use in the paper, such as “Dandruff shampoo relieves breast rash,” (Thank you, News & Record!) And there’s also “Refried beans a filling side dish,” and “Rats and barbecue not a good mix,” which put an end to the widely held belief that it’s a good idea to have rats at a barbecue.
I think the best piece in the News & Record last year – one that really caught the Rhino Times flat-footed – was one fantastic story that paper broke: “A Furniture Trend with Tentacles – Octopi are showing up all over the place at furniture shows.” It was a giant spread about how octopus designs were becoming more common in furniture.
There have been all sorts of big stories nationwide over the last year, including the election of Donald Trump and all the ensuing controversy, but I don’t think anyone could argue that the N&R’s octopus furniture story wouldn’t be right up there as candidate for National News Story of the Year. I’m not sure when they award the Pulitzer Prize each year but I feel certain that story must be up for one.
And it wasn’t just the reporting in that story either – the writing was also magnificent in that piece. Just to give you a taste, here’s the very first line, “It’s high time the octopus got some ink.” That is brilliant on so many levels because getting some ink is obviously a way of getting publicity, but, also, octopi have ink inside them and they spray it out when they feel threatened!
I hate to say this, but I had absolutely no idea of the expansion of octopus furniture until I read it in our rival newspaper. It was one of the worst days of the year for me as a journalist when I opened the News & Record and saw that they had a fascinating and comprehensive article on something that I had absolutely no idea about.
Another time where I just got completely scooped was, “The Hidden life of the office candy dish.” Here’s the thing that drives me crazy about getting scooped on that particular story: We sometimes have a candy dish here at the Rhino Times.
But, even though I would often pass right by the candy dish in the break room, for some reason that I can’t fathom, it just simply never hit me that that would be material for a full-page section-leading feature. Hindsight is always 50-50, so, looking back now, it makes perfect sense; but I swear, at that time, for whatever reason, it just never occurred to me.
The same goes for the National Refrigerator Month story the News & Record ran on a full page: I have a refrigerator and I have a calendar, but I simply never put two and two together like their crack team of reporters did to get that story.
The day that National Refrigerator Month story came out, I didn’t even want to come to work because I knew my boss would be sitting there waiting for me holding up a copy of the National Refrigerator Month story and the first words out of his mouth would be, “Would you care to explain to me why I pay you to dig for stories and I’m having to read this for the first time in the News & Record? Do you care to explain that to me!?”
Because there really is no good answer to that other than to say that you are falling down on the job and you will try to do better next time.
I felt the same way when the N&R did its front-page above the fold A-section story, “How do government officials feel about Beyoncé?” Here at the Rhino Times, we are always doing stories about things like how government officials feel about public policy, school funding and body-mounted police cameras – but the News & Record really outdid us when they got that story on how they feel about Beyoncé. There isn’t much we can do about it now, (but I will say we are at least trying to keep up, so keep your eyes peeled this summer for our three-part series, “How government officials feel about Jay Z”).
Anyway, I just have one message for the News & Record: Keep up the great work! The competition keeps us all on our toes.