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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

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Feedback and suggestions--printable and otherwise--always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Aggie Connection: fun or work?

By Emily Flinders

She stares intently at him, sizing him up with her eyes and probing into the deep corners of his soul. He waits for the question.

"What year did Elvis die?" she asks, her voice daring him to a challenge.

He takes a moment, his brow furrowing as the wheels in his brain start to turn. His mind races through the file cabinets of memory, searching for the golden date.

"1977," the man sitting next to him blurts out impatiently. The other two stare at him in disbelief.

"Okay you're done. Will you please go get Amanda?" the girl asks as the man leaves the hot seat, and the other man sheepishly returns to his work.

Aggie Connection is an extension of the university that employs 45 students to call alumni and parents of current students to stress the importance of giving to the university, said Lucia Rhodes, Assistant Director of the Annual Fund.

To the casual observer it may seem like fun and games, but students work hard to get donations from callers in spite of the economic recession.

"There are fewer donors, but the donors that are giving are giving more," said Rhodes.

Rhodes said that in spite of the recession, they haven't lost any ground. However, other schools are not as fortunate. In a conference she recently attended, Rhodes said that some schools were experiencing a 15 to 20 percent drop in donations.

"Most of our donors understand the need to give in difficult times," said Rhodes.

Amanda Banks who has worked as a caller for two years said she hasn't seen a huge difference in the number of donations.

"People use the economy as an excuse more not to donate," said Banks.

Recession or not, employees take breaks from calling to answer trivia questions, play unity building games, and enjoy treats. Board games litter a table that is surrounded by cushioned chairs, and laughter can be heard throughout the room. Employees sit in reclining cushioned chairs as they talk into their head seats, trying to persuade the person on the other end to donate.

Callers usually call alumni or parents that studied or graduated in their same area of study. Banks, who is an education major, said she has enjoyed talking to people who have experience in the field. She said she talked to one woman who gave her some really good advice.

There are 40 callers and five supervisors at full capacity. Callers make calls to alumni and parents, and the supervisors monitor their calls and also confirm a pledge when someone agrees to donate money. Supervisors may also lead games and activities to motivate the callers. Supervisors are callers that were promoted because of their abilities and leadership skills, said Rhodes.

"I do what needs to be done," said Steve Nance, a supervisor who has worked at Aggie Connection for 3 years. Nance says his favorite part of his job is the people he works with.

"I think it's seriously the best job in Logan," said caller Cody Cutler, who says that occasional parties, good pay, and a great group of people combine to make Aggie Connection a great place to work.



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