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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
Tuesday morning's daily newspapers reported on admission standards the University of Nebraska will apply to athletic contests starting with the fall event schedule. Spectators will be limited as to what they may carry past the ticket gates. Sacks, for example, must be clear and cameras must not be in a case and not larger than six inches.
I though about the camera requirement and how cameras have changed since I started taking pictures for Superior High School.
I started with the camera known as the Speed Graphic. Manufactured by the Graflex Company, the Speed Graphic was the press photographers' camera of choice for decades and the first camera I purchased.
I still have the Speed Graphic and consider it to be a marvelous camera but times change and I haven't used it to take a picture for several years.
As part of my presentation at the Superior High School career fair held last Wednesday, I took the old Speed Graphic for a show and tell.
When I arrived at the school, the greeter asked if I needed a projector, white board or any of the other gadgets now used in the classroom. No, I told her, I had my Speed Graphic and that would be enough.
While I was permitted to take the Speed Graphic into the Superior school, I'm sure I'll never be allowed to again take the Speed Graphic into Memorial Stadium. It would appear threatening in the closed position and exceed the size limits when opened for picture taking. I could have filled my allotted speaking time just talking about the many features of the Speed Graphic and its less feature rich little brothers offered but I didn't think it would benefit the students.
Instead I used the camera to illustrate how the students should expect things to change in their lives while some concepts would remain constant.
In photography, the way we record pictures has changed, lighting and composition rules have not. I still apply concepts learned in my first lessons when taking pictures today.
Sunday morning I used a combination cellphone camera to take a picture which in the first 24 hours it was posted on a social media website, was probably looked at by more than 1,000 people and liked by more than 100.
While speaking at the school, I tried to stress the need for communications will continue but the way we package and deliver communications may change.
Some Indian tribes may have relayed on smoke signals and drums and the telegraph was an important communications tool when Nebraska obtained statehood. But we don't use those communications methods today.
With this column, I am printing a picture which I estimate was taken in this newspaper's back shop 65 years ago. It shows two people I knew well and worked with for several years, Blanche Bargen and Herbert Atkins standing beside the two Linotype machines used for decades to produce this newspaper.
I agree with Thomas Edison who called the Linotype man's greatest mechanical invention. The Linotype revolutionized printing and was used around the world. When I enrolled in journalism school, printers used either the Linotype or a similar machine built by a competitor and known as the Intertype. By the time I received my college degree, the phototypesetting computer had been invented and the Linotype was doomed.
Herb's first job following his graduation from Burr Oak High School was riding a bicycle and delivering Western Union telegrams to Superior residents. After joining The Express crew, he learned to handset type and helped install this newspaper's first new Linotype, a machine we used for more than 50 years. I'm sure he shed tears the day it was broke up and sent to the scrap yard.
I remember the lecture he gave me about the usefulness of the machine and what a mistake it was to take it out of service.
Following her graduation from Superior High School, Blanche joined the work force at The Superior Express. In her first years here, she learned to become a Linotype operator. She was among the best and it wasn't easy work. It was commonly thought it took a person seven years of practice to become an accomplished Linotype operator. Blanche was a member of The Express crew for more than 50 years. In her last years as a part of the newspaper crew, she used a personal computer to work from home.
While attending college, I watched as press photographers switched from Speed Graphic cameras to the much smaller 35 mm single lens reflex cameras. Regardless of the size, all used photographic film which had to be developed and printed.
The Deshler tornado was the last big event I covered with a film camera. I had hesitated to make the switch to digital but after that event I ordered this newspaper's first digital camera, an Olympus E20N. The E20N is still my first choice and I have owned several but I couldn't carry an E20N into Memorial Stadium for with lens hood the camera is nine inches long.
I got thinking about equipment I once dreamed of owning for football coverage. If I tried to take that longed for equipment into Memorial Stadium this fall, I would probably be jailed.
Among the gear I wanted was an aluminum suitcase to carry my equipment and a gun stock mount. The longed for camera and telephoto lens combination would have been nearly a yard long. To hold such a lens and camera combination steady some professional photographers were mounting the combination on a gunstock.
I never owned a gunstock mount, instead I had to make do with a plastic and aluminum contraption. It was a contraption and not a very good one. Over the years one of the plastic parts broke and another was lost. Earlier this winter, I saw the old device and began to contemplate how I could make replacement parts out of wood.
In wasn't until I was well into formulating the plans, that I discovered all was in vain. The mount requires using a cable release to fire the camera shutter and none of my digital cameras allow for the attachment of a cable release.
In the film days, I had various styles and lengths of cable releases. I always had at least one packed in my camera case and didn't leave the office on a photo assigned without a suitcase full of gear.
Though I no longer carry my camera equipment in suitcases, I still have camera bags and depending upon the assignment, I sometimes take one with me. Frequently, I rely on the combination cellphone and camera I carry in my pocket.
And so I tried to tell the students before leaving Superior High School they need to become proficicent in basic skills like reading, writing and arthimetic for those skills they will use all their lives. And I encouraged them to consider a media career. I'm not sorry I choose to do so and I don't believe today's graduates who choose to go into the media will be either.
The tools we use to deliver our messages will change but the need for our messages will not go away.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Last week, the widely-respected American National Election Study (ANES) was released, finally ending the speculation about what exactly motivated voters most during this presidential election. Income, authoritarianism or racial attitudes? The ANES has been conducted since 1948, at first through in-person surveys, and now online, with about 1,200 nationally representative respondents.
The purpose of ANES is to put elections into historical perspective by examining how much each of several factors affected the vote. Three narratives became widely accepted during the campaign. (1) Trump was said to be unusually appealing to low-income voters, especially in the midwest, compared with recent Republican presidential nominees. (2) Many commentators wrote about how much authoritarianism influenced voters, defined as a psychological disposition for an aversion to social change and threats to social order. (3) Many observers debated how inportant Trump's racial appeals would be to his voters.
Income - The survey concluded income was not a factor. In fact, it concluded the election was an anomaly in terms of being guided by income levels. While the wealthy are usually most likely to vote Republican, they didn't this time around; and while the poor are usually less likely to vote Republican, they were supportive of Trump. The degree to which the wealthy disdained Trump during the campaign was without recent historical precedent. So, no help there.
Authoritarianism - Compared to how white GOP voters answered the poll questions in recent years, Trump's voters were less authoritarian than previous white Republican voters. Not much help there either.
Race - During the campaign, Trump made overtly racial comments, with seemingly little electoral penalty. To quote the poll summary, "Since 1988, we've never seen such a clear correspondence between vote choice and racial perceptions. Racial attitudes made a bigger difference in electing Trump than authoritarianism."
These things seem worth talking about in a county and state that favored him by epic margins.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Losing two special family members within days of each other made for pretty heartbreaking times this week. Memories of these two came rushing in and seemed to bring some comfort. What would we do without those precious memories?
A sister-in-law died suddenly at the age of 50. She was dearly termed as the "little" sis. I didn't think of her as my sister-in-law, mostly because she was just a year older than our son. When she was about four and five years old I became her babysitter some days while other family members worked or attended school. Not having any daughters, we thought of her as more of a daughter and a sis to our two sons. She was so quiet and sweet. I can still see her big smile and hear her little giggles. She was so calm and I don't think I ever heard a harsh word come out of her mouth. As a student, she shined in sports. During basketball and volleyball games, her shy and quiet nature seemed to go by the wayside as she became a real competitor and challenger, but that side of her remained on the court. She was a homecoming queen, a beauty, and was always on the honor roll. She, her cousin and my son were often a threesome during their high school years. She drew several boyfriends and from time to time she would bring them to our house to "hang out." When she graduated and decided to go out and spread her wings, she often came back this way to keep in touch with friends and family, but soon her job took her far away and the visits were fewer and fewer. Telephone calls and social media were the ways of keeping in touch with her. I can still see her sweet face, her soft curls, her big eyes, and always that wonderful smile. We will miss our "Little Jen."
My Aunt Candy was much like her name, bubbly and full of life. When she and my uncle would come from Los Angeles to visit, it was an exciting time. They would tell about the great trips they had taken and about the busy lifestyle of living in a big city. Candy was always beautiful with her dark hair and wearing her stylish outfits. I thought it was so romantic how she met my uncle. It was as WWII ended that she was attending a dance on base with friends and my uncle was a singer in a naval band that was playing there. She said she tried to play "hard to get" but after dating for a short time, they married. She was brought home to meet the farm family in Kansas. I view photos of her at her first visit along with my uncle in his service uniform looking so young and in love. She was wearing a hat, high heels, dress, coat and her big smile. I'm sure all the unmarried brothers of her husband thought he had done well in finding this pretty gal. Through the years, this aunt, uncle and their children made annual summer visits back to the Kansas farm where all the other family members would gather for picnics and a big reunion.
As I made a phone call to her wishing her a happy 90th birthday a couple of months ago, I could tell she was weaker and frail in her speech. Yet, she kept up a good front. Her laughter came over the phone as we shared updated family news. She was the same Aunt Candy that I had always known. Little did I know that it would be our last conversation together. She was the last of the aunts and uncles for me and my cousins on that side of the family.