OUR CORNER: Questions? Ask a reporter! ™

Welcome to the first edition of “Ask a Reporter!”(TM). In today’s crazy world of health care, tea parties and Snooki, the general population is looking at the journalism industry with a closer eye than ever (which seriously cuts into our web surfing time. I mean, come on guys, give us two minutes!). What is the information gathering process like? Which facts make the final draft and which ones get cut? Are we biased?

I’m here to answer these questions and many more about America’s fourth estate.

Let’s see what’s in the mail bag:

Q. We’ve had our adorable cat, Fluffers, for five years. Lately she’s been wailing at all hours of the night. We love her to death, but she’s waking us up constantly (if we get to sleep at all). Help! Tricia S., Puyallup

A. Well, Tricia, Puyallup is a little bit outside of our coverage area, but a valid question is a valid question. We reporters generally find that persons (or in this case, felines) that act out in a way that seems “loud” or “obnoxious” do so because they feel underrepresented in the public forum. Schedule a time to sit down with your cat for a “man-to-manx” interview – be sure to ask before using a tape recorder!

You’ll want to start with a few softball questions (“What do you do to keep your fur so soft?”) to establish a baseline comfort level, perhaps even opening with a compliment to break the ice (“I love what you’ve done with your scratching post!”). Work up to questions about the important issues, such as catnip legalization, her suspicions that local tomcat Boots Obama is a secret puma, and whether Sarah Pawin’ is a viable alternative for kitty-in-chief. Save the most controversial question (which we call “the bomb”) for last, and immediately treat any resulting scratches with iodine.

Remember: planning makes prrrfect.

Q. I recently came from out-of-state to visit my sister in Enumclaw. After one day, I barely left her house because I was afraid of getting into a car wreck. Why are Washingtonians such terrible drivers? Derek J., Boise, Idaho

A. The poor driving ability of Washington state’s fine citizens is a myth that has been sadly perpetuated for years. A quick investigation of the state Legislature’s website reveals the passage of a 2001 bill known colloquially as “The Fast and the Tedious” law. Under the law, drivers must slow 15 mph below the posted speed limit if another vehicle can be seen in their rearview mirror. Conversely, drivers who find themselves behind vehicles traveling at the speed limit on a two-lane highway must “change into the oncoming lane, speed up by at least 20 mph and shout expletives as they pass. The bill is notable for saving countless jobs in the recession-plagued towing industry. Do your research next time, Derek; these patriots deserve nothing less than a bumper-to-bumper salute.

Q. The Internet has made the media grow to the point of constant bombardment, but it feels like I have less choice than ever as an American. It’s always this or that, one or the other, A or B, and it’s too limited for voters to tell the difference. I guess what I’m asking is: Pepsi or Coke? Thaddeus X., Encino, Calif.

A. You’re right: the two-party system has ruled America’s soft drinks for too long and we in the media have only perpetuated the problem. But don’t forget that there are plenty of third-party refreshments available, such as newcomer Refreshe, stalwart conservative Diet Rite and that lovable perennial outsider, Tab.

Q. What’s the deal with Jersey Shore? I can’t stand those jerks! Nicole P., Red Bank, N.J.

A. As a reporter – and, therefore, a liberal – I actually think Jersey Shore is an important show that gives a voice to an underrepresented American minority group. I’m speaking, of course, about Oompa-Loompas. “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” was the minstrel show of the 1970s, offensively portraying Orange-Americans as nothing but singing, dancing menial laborers. Jersey Shore is an honest look at their day-to-day life, which involves dancing, singing... drinking... hmm, bad example. My mistake.

Q. I’m a recent journalism school graduate living on his own for the first time. What advice can you give me about handling the out-of-control mold in my bathroom tile? Zach S., Guam

A. Fungus has a long history of bad press, so as a recently-inducted journalist (congratskis, BTW!) you should be sensitive to its concerns. Allow the mold to determine the location of the interview. If it feels the shower drain is a little too close to home, meet instead at neutral ground, like the sink. Ask personalizing questions, like whether it was difficult growing up as the youngest spore in the family and provide plenty of tissue when it breaks down in tears. Then scrub it with bleach and a hard-bristle brush.

Daniel Nash is a reporter with a degree in journalism, making him soundly unqualified in many, many other areas. Ask him about them! Get journalistic answers to your unrelated questions by emailing dnash@courierherald.com.

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