More Speak Out, mostly by Internet

Monday, August 2, 2004

If you have a question, e-mail or call Speak Out (334-5111) and identify your call as a question for "Fact or fiction?"

Q: Is it true that the Southeast Missourian receives about 1,000 Speak Out comments a day, the majority of which come from one source?

A: No. During a normal day, the Southeast Missourian receives between 45 and 55 comments. While most comments are anonymous, we know they come from a wide range of the public. How? We can tell by the voices on the telephone, handwriting and other obvious factors.

Originally, Speak Out submissions were called in primarily by telephone. During the past few years, however, the majority of comments have come by e-mail or the Internet.

It's interesting to note: During the explosion of comments on the Internet, the number of telephone calls went down only a fraction. More people simply started to participate using this new channel. That's one reason the amount of space dedicated to Speak Out in the newspaper is much higher today than it was, for example, six years ago.

Q: What do you do with "Fact or Fiction" questions that you choose not to print answers to?

A: There are some questions that have been submitted for which I haven't tracked down the answers yet. And there are others that have made their way into news stories. Most questions, though, take two or three weeks before they make it into print.

That said, some questions won't ever make it into print. They might be inappropriate. They might be too narrow and uninteresting. They might deal more with interpretation than facts. Or, as has been the case most often, they're repetitive.

There have also been a number of questions submitted that are whimsical and fun but which aren't that informative.

Most of these unanswered questions end up in a file I keep titled, "Submitted -- but not likely to answer," which I review and clean out periodically.

Talking about whimsical questions, here are a few with very brief, unresearched answers:Q: Is it true that Cape Girardeau's old bridge will be reconstructed and enclosed for the purpose of building a downtown golf course, in large part to put a stop to the incessant calls for construction of said course by the popular and talented editor and columnist of the Southeast Missourian, Joe Sullivan?

A: No. The latest rumor is that the bridge will be reconstructed as a giant fryer for the world's largest all-you-can-eat catfish buffet.

Q: Is it true that a cabal of unidentified conservatives pull all of Cape Girardeau's strings?

A: Strings? I heard they were knobs.Q: On the new floodwall murals, it's clear that Brad Pitt was the model for one of the Civil War soldiers. And local businessman Larry Payne is featured riding a horse in front of Louis Lorimier. Who else served as models for the murals?

A: This question sparks an idea. Send me a good photo of someone you think was the model for an image on the flood wall, identifying the specific mural they're in, and if it looks close, we'll run it in the newspaper. Meanwhile, I'll also try to track down a real answer from the mural designers.

Jon Rust is co-president of Rust Communications and can be reached at jrust@semissourian. com.

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