A more beautiful downtown ... Ladybugs ... and other things
It hardly seems possible, but here we are at the
end of February already. The 59th day of 1999 is here. That's somewhere
around 15 percent of the year now behind us. Y2K continues its relentless
march (pun intended) onward.
Will March come in like a lion or a lamb? I'd feel
really sheepish to predict the latter, but the winter of '98-99 has been
tame enough that a day with temperatures in the 50s or 60s could hardly
come as a surprise to us. Then again, I wouldn't want to be guilty of pulling
the wool over anyone's eyes.
There's still plenty of 1999 to go 'round. I hope the rest of yours
goes well for you.
I'll be anxious to watch the plans for the revitalization
of downtown Clarksburg progress over the weeks and months. I am glad that
the wheels may finally be in motion to dress up the city's actual business
district. This makes the statement to me that at least downtown Clarksburg
isn't being neglected.
As I've perhaps conveyed in my past columns, downtown
Clarksburg has a rich history - far too many memories to be blown away
like a tumbleweed in a duststorm of migration to the outskirts.
It was just a couple weeks ago that Mrs. Glenwood
Brown of Bridgeport brought to me an old Clarksburg newspaper clipping
from some time in the 1970s that showed an artist's conception of plans
for the downtown, extending across the Clarksburg Expressway (U.S. Route
50) and including Glen Elk.
The Clarksburg Area Development Authority's sketch
was a most impressive-looking plan, especially the original color print
that showed a proposed civic center, among other things.
I heard rumors a few years ago as to why the plan
faltered, (of course none of which I'd be prepared to prove). Although
perhaps not as major in proportion, I hope there'll be nothing to stand
in the way of a beautification drive this time.
At any rate, I had wondered whether I'd ever see
the newspaper photo again, even if not the color print that showed the
model by Whalen L. King's architectural firm in Clarksburg. My thanks to
Mrs. Brown for bringing the clipping to my office.
In last Sunday's column, I'd mentioned thinking of
the top stories of the millennium and mentioned the years 1000-1999. Technically
speaking, the past millennium began in 1001 and ends in 2000. (I knew that.)
But by saying it began in 1000, that way I was able to include the real
discovery of America by Leif Erikson and the Vikings in 1000. Thanks for
the cards and letters.
This past Tuesday evening after "NYPD Blue," I didn't
change the channel, and WKRN-TV, Channel 2 in Nashville, came on with a
story about a woman in Wayne County, Tenn., whose home was overrun by thousands
(maybe millions) of ladybugs.
Generally, if I see a ladybug (I think the proper
word is 'ladybird') I don't bother it, since it's supposed to be a sign
of good luck.
Somehow, I can't believe the Tennessee woman regarded
such an infestation necessarily as a sign of endless good luck.
Before closing, I'd like to include a list of 10 positive assertions:
1. I will accept that all things are possible.
2. I will look for an answer in every problem.
3. I will make and keep my commitments.
4. I will find the proper people who can help me.
5. I will make it OK to be "wrong" and make mistakes.
6. I will be who I am and become what I was meant to be.
7. I will not be afraid to lose before I win.
8. I will create my own "good luck."
9. I will give up "trying."
10. I will do it NOW!
Have a terrific week!
We should work hard to
show Dominion that it should stay in Clarksburg
If anything is a constant in today's business world, it's change.
Ever-changing market conditions, consumer needs
and regulatory climates make the ability to change an essential characteristic
for modern companies. Businesses that refuse to change, or can't change,
usually don't last too long.
So it came to pass last week that executives with
Consolidated Natural Gas Co. decided it was time for their company to change.
The time was right, CNG executives decided, to sell their firm to Dominion
Resources Inc., a Virginia-based power company. This sale, CNG and Dominion
officials said, will make the companies stronger. It probably will.
Still, the Monday morning announcement of this sale,
or merger if you prefer, caused quite a bit of consternation in the Clarksburg
The concerns were valid. After all, two CNG subsidiaries,
CNG Transmission and Hope Gas, employ 500 to 600 people here. And the CNG
jobs are good ones -with good wages, good benefits, and, until the sale
announcement was made, good stability. Jobs like those held by CNG and
Hope Gas employees are hard to come by around here.
With the announcement of the sale, employees were
scared. This was understandable. When change occurs, there is uncertainty.
"Will I still have my job in six months? Will the new boss approve of the
way I do business? Will I have to learn and master a whole new work routine?"
In addition, CNG has been an important corporate
citizen of Harrison County. The firm's well-paid and well-educated work
force has been a major supporter of downtown restaurants, flower shops,
newsstands and drug stores. CNG employees buy homes, donate to charities
in a big way, purchase new cars and subscribe to newspapers. So, Clarksburg's
business, civic and governmental leaders were worried, too.
Will those jobs stay in Clarksburg? If CNG leaves
for Virginia, or Pittsburgh, who will we get to replace them?
Then on Tuesday, an article appeared in the Exponent and in the Telegram
quoting CNG Senior Vice President Ron Adams as saying that Hope and CNG
Transmission will stay in Clarksburg. In a press release, the companies
also said they expect "minimal work force reductions as a result of this
merger." You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief emanating
from downtown Clarksburg.
We let loose a sigh, too. Then we thought about
it, and while we hate to say it, the CNG saga is not over. We're not insinuating
that Mr. Adams or the public relations officials for CNG and Dominion are
trying to mislead anyone by saying jobs will stay in Clarksburg. In fact,
we're fairly confident that the companies won't be making any drastic moves
But the fact is that Dominion Resources, like any good business, will
be looking to find efficiencies and economies of scale in order to help
make their purchase profitable. They have to. That's good business.
Also, we can't forget that the business climate
(especially the energy and utility business climate) is changing every
day. While Mr. Adams may not envision any drastic changes in employment
here at the moment, we believe that he'd be quick to tell anyone who would
listen that change in his business is inevitable. One-stop shopping for
gas, electric, telephone, cable TV and Internet access may not be too far
off in the future. How might that affect CNG's or Dominion's structure
and employment picture?
As we see it, there are two ways the employees of
CNG and the business and civic leaders of our community can react to this
1. Sit and worry and curse today's corporate climate. Or,
2. Work aggressively to show the folks at Dominion why Clarksburg is
a good place in which to live and conduct business.
We suggest the second approach. And, we think, being
successful in this type of effort is largely a matter of personal responsibility
- a responsibility that everyone in our community must assume. Here's how:
Employees must show their new bosses they're hard-working,
innovative and efficient. Show them that moving your jobs elsewhere would
not increase efficiency or save money. Rather than worrying, and just expecting
your company to keep you here, work harder than ever before.
Business people, especially those downtown business
owners who depend so much on CNG business, should elevate service and quality
to new heights. This will help motivate employees and company officials
to work even harder to keep the CNG businesses in town.
City officials should pick up the pace in launching
revitalization efforts in downtown Clarksburg. By improving the quality
of life here, we'll improve the chances CNG employees and corporate leaders
will be motivated to stay.
Even if we can accomplish all these things, there
are still no guarantees Dominion will keep its new CNG subsidiaries in
town. If changing business conditions warrant a move, Dominion will move.
But at least we will have tried.
The last word here: Don't sulk over the CNG situation,
Clarksburg. Buck up and do what you can to help convince Dominion Resources
to keep their businesses in town. It might work.
This editorial reflects the consensus opinion of both the Exponent
and Telegram editorial boards and was written by Executive Editor William
You, too, can be a professional journalist
I'm going to teach you to be a professional writer
by the time you finish reading today's column. This is remarkable because
people spend four years or more in college to get a journalism degree to
qualify them to write for a newspaper or magazine. You'll be qualified
in another five or six minutes.
Your job as a journalist will be to take information
that you learn or hear and communicate it to others. How do you get the
information? You simply ask questions. Be curious about everything. Talk
to a lot of people. Spend most of your time listening to others. That is
what the best journalists do.
I'm going to assume you have gone out to talk to
some people about some subject. Now you've got your information for your
story. What to do next? Organize your thoughts in order of importance.
Think of the most important thing you learned. Try to write it down in
one sentence. Then think of the other important things you learned. Write
each of them down in one sentence.
Keep writing each one thing you learned in one sentence
pieces until you run out of things that you learned. You now have the first
draft for your story.
It is now time to edit your story to make it clear,
concise and alive. How in the world do you do that? I'm going to give you
some rules to follow. There are also examples to follow. The examples are
drawn from the report prepared by independent counsel Ken Starr's staff
for the Congress.
1. Keep sentences short. Make them simple sentences. Subject, verb
and object only. Just subject and verb is best. A good example written
by me: "Bill Clinton knew Monica Lewinsky." If you study that sentence
you will see that it says quite a bit. You could expound on it forever
but that sentence pretty much tells the story.
Here's an example of a bad sentence written by the
Starr team: "Subsequent sections recount the evolution of the relationship
chronologically, including the sexual contacts, the President's efforts
to get Ms. Lewinsky a job, Ms. Lewinsky's subpoena in Jones v. Clinton,
the role of Vernon Jordan, the President's discussions with Ms. Lewinsky
about her affidavit and deposition, the President's deposition testimony
in Jones, the President's attempts to coach a potential witness in the
harassment case, the President's false and misleading statements to aides
and to the American public after the Lewinsky story became public, and,
finally, the President's testimony before a federal grand jury."
This sentence is much too long. It also has too
many big words. It obviously confused the U.S. Senate. That leads us to
the next rule.
2. Use common words: Avoid big, multi-syllable words. An example: "Some
of Ms. Lewinsky's statements about the relationship were contemporaneously
memorialized." I have no idea what that means. I assume most of the 100
U.S. Senators didn't have a clue, either. So here you have another example
of very bad writing.
3. Make it clear. Don't be ambiguous. An example of not making it clear
from the Starr team: "The President did not dispute his legal representative's
assertion that the President and Ms. Lewinsky had "absolutely no sex of
any kind in any manner, shape or form," nor did he dispute the implication
that Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit, in denying "a sexual relationship," meant
that there was "absolutely no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form."
In subsequent questioning by his attorney, President Clinton testified
under oath that Ms. Lewinsky's affidavit was "absolutely true.""
This was obviously ambiguous. Who knows what the president meant. Something
more simple from the Starr team would have helped our Senators. How about:
"The president lied."
4. Use the active voice. An example was the President's grand jury
testimony, when he said: "I certainly didn't want this to come out, if
I could help it. And I was concerned about that. I was embarrassed about
it. I knew it was wrong." The president should have asked: "Please define
lying and cheating again?"
You now know the secret of good reporting (ask questions)
and writing (organize your thoughts in order of importance and keep it
The bad news is you really don't want to be a journalist.
The hours are bad, the pay is not that good and the critics abound. There
will always be those who say you are writing with an unfair agenda. Take
this column for example. I'm trying to teach you to write. But someone
will undoubtedly claim I had another aim.
Terry Horne is the publisher of the Exponent and Telegram. His
column appears every Sunday.