Saturday, October 23, 2004

Bacon in the morning, gas in the afternoon

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We at The Herald News are dedicated to making your life better, or at least the part of it that involves reading The Herald News.

So that's why, if you look at the front page lately, you'll notice that it looks a little different. G'head -- look, as long as you promise to turn back.

Are you back yet? The trained eye will notice that we have tweaked the look of the thingies at the top of the page and the look of the thingy at the bottom left. The ones are the top are called "skyboxes." The thingy at the bottom is a "thingy."

A group of people here spent some time designing the new front page to give it more style, to make it more eye-catching. The end result? The front page now comes with 33 percent more cool. The old, tackier front page just said to readers, "Here's your news, I guess." Now, the page has some funk. It's all that and a bag of chips. It gets all up in your face and says, "I'm a hometown newspaper, I've got the obits and the daily lottery numbers, and I'm not afraid to be sexy."

It must have meant that figuratively.

More importantly, it now has better information in it. You can see more of what's inside before you actually open the paper. It's like having superpowers.

Since then, I've been trying to figure out other ways to make this a better paper. So over the past week I put on my green eyeshade, sat down at my desk with a spiked cup of joe to stoke the old cranial furnace, and came up with many splendibulous innovations that will enrich your reading experience.

This is a fantastic time to be a part of the Herald News family. I don't want to oversell it, friends, but you are bearing witness to history in the making.

No -- I am not taking that back.

History...in the making.

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FANTASTIC CHANGE No. 1: If you're a regular Herald News reader, you end the week with a stack of newspapers about yea high (1 yea = 7 inches). You then have to recycle this paper or, worse, throw it in the garbage. It's such a waste of paper, isn't it?

Imagine, then, a day in the not-so-distant future. You've finished reading your morning paper and you've gotten your fill of the day's events. But, drat it all, you've spent the entire morning abuzz with information, and it's getting late for work!

When you head out to the driveway you realize your car is nearly out of gas. And only a few precious minutes to get to the office! What a predicament!

Ah, but you've got the all-new Herald News Gasoline-Newsprint Hybrid Edition. You roll your paper into a tube and cram it down the fuel chute of your vehicle. Within minutes, a chemical reaction converts the special paper into liquid energy, the needle on your gas tank quivers into the plus territory and the engine sputters delightedly. The only byproducts are trace amounts of carbon monoxide and shreds of Stop & Shop flyer propelled from the tailpipe.

POSSIBLE DOWN SIDES: The cost of implementing this change would necessitate a slight price increase, from four bits a copy to $45 a barrel.

WHY THIS WOULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOR THE BETTER: If you spent half your day reading the paper and the other half pumping gas, this would be a time savings of 50 percent.

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FANTASTIC CHANGE No. 2: People sometimes tell me they're not totally satisfied with their newspaper delivery. The paper often gets wet -- a common occurrence in moist New England, you stupid bastards. Or, the paperboy or papergirl or paperlady or whoever just chucks the rolled-up paper into the bushes, your average shrubbery being an uncomfortable place to sit with grapefruit and the crossword.

My plan, called Herald News Platinum Service, fixes these issues. For a modest delivery surcharge, my specially trained newspaper deliverypersonages would take the utmost care in bringing you the latest events of record. Not only would they not fling the paper into your border plantings -- they would go into your house before you awake. Then, as part of their duty, they would fire up the coffee maker for you and whip up a batch of eggs and bacon (vegetarians could substitute soy sausage links for an extra $1.50).

We all know how cold it gets in Fall River for the winter. Nobody likes to handle an icy newspaper come a winter morn. So my delivery team would then, probably while the bacon's on the stove, microwave the paper ever so gently to break the chill, then slip it tenderly under your pillow to bring it to your own body temperature. And with a peck on the cheek and a gentle rubbing of the shoulder, they'd carefully rouse you to answer the day's call.

POSSIBLE DOWN SIDES: The modest surcharge I spoke of would be in the neighborhood of $2,000 a week.

WHY THIS WOULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOR THE BETTER: Bacon in the morning always makes people smile.

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FANTASTIC CHANGE No. 3: There are a few people who, bless their hearts, read the paper cover to cover every day. But many others only have time enough in their hectic workaday lives to skim the headlines. That's no way to obtain your information about local and national events -- you might as well give up and watch TV news!

Ick!

But with the help of a new space-age technological process, together we can make reading the newspaper more efficient and more fun, too.

My proposal would harness the power of "scratch-'n'-sniff," used in stickers for decades, and remodulate it for use in our newspaper inks.

So instead of sitting and spending 15 minutes reading about a City Council meeting, by merely rubbing the Fall River dateline with a fingernail you could smell the entire story in one whiff. The votes, the citizens' input, the atmosphere thick with decision and local government at work -- our scientists would distill all that into odor form. All it would require is your willingness to scratch the text, lean your nostrils near the paper and breathe deeply.

The same process would also work for the photographs. Stop living vicariously through two-dimensional images! The scratch-'n'-sniff photos could give you a three-dimensional whiff of the Durfee boys' basketball game, down to every sneaker. Or, if you're still feeling undecided about the national election, you could scratch the pictures of President Bush and Sen. John Kerry to see which guy has the better aroma.

POSSIBLE DOWN SIDES: Turning the pages too quickly could cause nauseating waves of conflicting odor. And it would be a nightmare extracting the scent of liquefied natural gas into a form that won't explode when you scratch it. Also, who would read the landfill stories?

WHY THIS WOULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOR THE BETTER: When people say The Herald News stinks, there'll be a good reason why.

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