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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Longtime Missourian columnist earned recognition

By Tom Warhover
October 8, 2010 | 1:27 p.m. CDT

Dear Reader,

The Sedalia Democrat on Thursday ran an article centered on our very own Rose Nolen.

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Rose has been a Missourian columnist for many years, and has a dedicated following. She also writes for the paper in Sedalia, where she lives.

According to the Democrat, Marge and Jerry Harlan have asked the city for a special-use permit to establish the Rose M. Nolen Library for the Study of African-American Life in Missouri.

They would do it by buying Rose’s home, along with four pieces of property next to it. The library would house historical documents and books from Rose’s collection.

It seems like a pretty cool idea to me. It’s certainly in keeping with the person we’ve come to know through her weekly Missourian columns.

***

Last week, I wrote to you about life stories vs. obituaries.

The response from the dozen or so e-mails, calls or comments I received was overwhelmingly and enthusiastically for continuing the newspaper’s goal of telling stories about the lives of mid-Missourians who have died.

Marsha Knudsen said that when her mother died, “I remember telling everyone, ‘I sure hope the Missourian picks her for one of their life stories.’ You did, and that is the clipping that graces the front page of her memory book."

“Every person has a life story that is worth sharing,” she said. “Thank you for honoring the memory of our loved ones. Please keep telling the stories.”

Editors voiced similar sentiment at a meeting Wednesday. But they also took the opportunity to ask whether more can be done on those sensitive calls to grieving family members.

They agreed to build a guide for reporters, and to incorporate more role-playing before a call so that they can practice not just what they say but how they say it.

The editors will make sure reporters ask for a cause of death of people who died before age 55 — and, again, provide more coaching in how to ask it.

I’ll be inviting area funeral home directors to a discussion. They may have other ideas worth incorporating as well.

***

There are often difficult decisions regarding reporting and privacy.

Then there is the Case of the Secret Barbecue Teams.

The assignment was about as straight ahead as they get: Write mini-profiles of the barbecue competitors in advance of the Roots ’N’ Blues ’N’ BBQ Festival.

Reporter Ayla Kremen called a festival coordinator, who happily provided the names of the competing teams.

Good so far, right?

Nope. Kremen received only the team names.

No actual people.

As she pointed out in her class blog, names like “May the Smoke be With You,” “Hoglogic” or “4 Smokin’ Butts” aren’t the best places to start when you’re trying to interview someone. (Note to festival committee: Consider a “most creative name” category for the barbecue competition.)

So she went back. The official declined to offer any names, saying it was an invasion of contestants’ privacy. “After she said that, I kind of had a silent ‘Whaaaat?’ moment to myself,” Kremen said.

The back and forth went on for two days. Finally, Kremen went to someone higher in the food chain.  Within an hour, the coordinator supplied a complete list.

Tom