One of my first public appearances as an editor was on a community cable TV show where I was asked how people get their news in the newspaper.
I said something close to, "I think people would be surprised how accessible newspapers are. Give us a call." I think I said it because I was a little surprised then at how much we did rely on the public to tell us what was going on.
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In today's digital age and with reduced staffing at newspapers far and wide, our reliance on the rest of the world to tell us their business is truer than ever. So, I'd love to tell you we came across today's Page 1 centerpiece story on Carolena Carstens because we have our finger on the pulse of the selection process for the taekwondo team representing Panama in the Olympic Games in London this summer. Truth of the matter is, her dad sent us a press release.
It started out in typical Proud Dad fashion:
"I am EXCITED to share great news with you.
• CAROLENA CARSTENS, 16-years-old, will be representing the country of PANAMA in the sport of TAEKWONDO at the 2012 LONDON OLYMPIC GAMES.
• Carolena is currently ranked No. 13 in the world and No. 4 in the Pan-American region.
• She will be the only TAEKWONDO athlete to represent PANAMA in London 2012."
There was more, but you can read all about it Christopher Placek's story about our Glen Ellyn prodigy.
And, frankly, in this day of UGC -- an acronym for "user generated content" in which readers can post their own online content (and yes, press releases sometimes appear unexpurgated) -- this is where we earn our keep. It's what we do with the press releases that make a difference.
And sometimes the process is a shade awkward. Richard Carstens sent his press release to an administrative assistant in our corporate headquarters in Arlington Heights. She sent it to an administrative assistant in the editorial department, who sent it to DuPage County City Editor Bob Smith and me. Smith acted quickly, passing it along to Placek with a note: "This looks like it could be a pretty cool story. We should pursue ASAP." Yeah, Chris, what Bob said.
The result is today's story. It also was among the stories we pitched to our television news partners at ABC 7 Chicago. They liked it, too, and selected Placek for an interview on their Sunday morning news show. So, if you're an early riser and taking in your Daily Herald with your morning coffee, you may be able to see the live interview, which occurs about 8:45 a.m. I'd also like to point out that this story includes some online extras we're trying to regularly provide for our readers. If you go to the online version of Carolena's story, you'll see a link to our Jan. 17, 2010, story in which we profiled Carolena and her older sister, Christina, who were competing for the Amateur Athletic Union National Taekwondo Team.
(Their dad mentioned to me that today's story almost could have been about two Olympic participants. Christina, now 18, competed in the Pan-Am qualifier, but it was her first match since breaking her wrist, and she was defeated.) We also offer an online video of Carolena competing in an Olympic qualifier. But I tell you all this not without a tinge of regret. The reality is there are more good stories than we'll ever get to, that more people than ever have the ability to let us know their business. And that we have to disappoint some of them. But we're doing our best.
And we'll do our best to keep up with Carolena's story as she makes her way to London and competes in Olympic taekwondo on Aug. 8.