Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Police uncover journalist sweatshop

March 15, 2011 - Sheriff’s deputies in Bandera County have uncovered a newspaper “sweatshop” operating just over the Kerr County line.

Last week officers received an anonymous tip that recent journalism school graduates were being lured to the hill country on the promise of winning a Pulitzer prize, when in reality they were forced to write articles for a chain of local newspapers.

“It was horrible,” said one victim who did not want to reveal her identity. “They forced us to report on city council meetings, write articles about benefit barbecues, and even take photo after photo of stock show winners! Nothing in J-school could have prepared us for that trauma!”

Social workers descended on the nondescript building to calm the abductees and take statements. According to reports, they found nearly unbearable conditions. Among the issues were flickering florescent lights, uncomfortable chairs, non-ergonomic keyboards and computer screens with glare. “I wouldn’t let an eight grade typing class meet in this place,” said one agent. “And they were expected to work 60 hours a week and turn out a new issue every Wednesday. I hope someone pays for this.”

Another reporter spoke about the low pay. “I worked two straight weeks, including weekends and overtime,” he said. “My paycheck? $800. That is barely minimum wage. And I have a four-year degree from a state university. I could make more money teaching.”

State investigators are considering pursuing charges against the owners, who at press time have yet to be located.

Authorities expect to find similar sweatshops across the state as newspaper circulation dwindles and students choose more lucrative professions. For a recent graduate, these offers are tempting when faced with unappealing options of school PR or Social Networking Consultant.

“We grew up hearing about Woodward and Bernstein and dreaming of carving out our own reputations in the newspaper business,” one victim said. “When a publisher comes along and offers you the chance to write articles for a living, you have to jump at it.”

Victims were transported to an area hospital where they were treated for paper cuts, neck strain, and nearsightedness.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fredericksburg proposes Dirt Park

March 15, 2011 - In response to a petition being circulated by Fredericksburg residents protesting the proposed “water park” facility, the Fredericksburg City Council has come up with a new plan: a “dirt park.”

According to Dirt Industries Group (DIG), the soil-based recreational facility will create the same “play value” at a fraction of the cost of a water-based installation.

“What kid doesn’t enjoy playing in the dirt?” said Syl E. Conn, CEO of Dirt, Inc. “We deliver that universal level of play at an economical price.”

According to the Dirt engineers, a typical installation consists of Dirt Mountain - a pile of dirt; Dirt Hill - a smaller pile of dirt; and Mud Valley - a dirt and water filled depression. Children are able to slide down the piles of dirt, or make “mud pies” in Mud Valley. An optional feature is Dust Valley - a pile of sand and loose debris that is swirled with random blasts of hot air.

“Research shows that the play value of dirt is about 75% of the play value of water. But maintaining a dirt-based recreational area incurs only about 1% of the cost of a swimming pool/water park. So it is easy to see the logic of going down the dirt road.”

The council expects to put the proposal to a vote at the next scheduled meeting. Once the proposal passes, the City will solicit bids from area dirt purveyors. Once a vendor is selected, the Dirt Park could be installed “in about a day,” according to the city manager.

“Shoot, we’d just back up the truck and dump a couple of piles of soil,” he said. “That shouldn’t be too much trouble at all.”

Assuming the Dirt Park will be a success, city planners are already looking at installing a complementary Rock Park. “If there is one thing we have more of than dirt around here, it would be rocks,” one official said.