Here are a few of my favorites that you may enjoy:
“Hulk Hogan Tells of Steroid Use” (The New York Times, July 15, 1994)
I’ve had a long interest in pro wrestling as a cultural and business phenomenon. (The ring action may be “faked,” but its popularity and profits are very real.)
So I was delighted when the New York Times let me cover the sensational steroid conspiracy trial in Federal court of wrestling promoter Vince McMahon and his Titan Sports Corporation.
Terry Gene Bollea (a.k.a. “Hulk Hogan”) was one of the prosecution’s star witnesses. But Bollea honestly testified that he had a doctor’s prescription for anabolic steroids and that McMahon had never purchased the drugs for him nor ordered their use.
It wasn’t surprising that — in the end — McMahon and his company were found not guilty on all charges.
This is the best short-form, breaking-news item I’ve ever filed (as a freelance “stringer,” I didn’t get a byline but that’s totally okay):
“The Original Fake News: ‘War of the Worlds’ at 80” (U.S. 1 Newspaper, October 24, 2018)
It was the biggest event in American history … that never actually happened.
On the evening of October 30, 1938, the Mercury Theater on the Air, led by soon-to-be-legendary actor-director Orson Welles, presented a radio drama adaptation of author H.G. Wells’ science fiction classic “The War of the Worlds.”
In this version, instead of the murderous Martians landing in the English countryside and converging on London, they touched down in the quaintly-named but very real village of Grover’s Mill, N.J., near Princeton, and then marched on New York City.
The script was structured as bulletins interrupting a program of music. According to popular myth, the show terrified millions of listeners who had tuned in after the introduction and thought they were hearing actual breaking news about horrible creatures wielding heat rays and poison gas.
The panic may not have been nationwide, but it did spread in viral pockets. Eight decades later, the event provides powerful lessons for our modern age of internet rumors and social media manipulation:
“The Vinyl Frontier” (The Echo, April 2015)
The Princeton Record Exchange is known as “PREX” its customers, some of whom travel scores and even hundreds of miles to browse its bins.
This bricks-and-mortar music and movies store has gone against the retail tide by not selling its CDs, vinyl records and DVDs on-line. And it’s thrived, becoming a must-stop destination for legions of listeners and collectors:
“Here Lies the Body of Abraham Stryker Who Departed this Life in 1777” (Montgomery News, October 2018)
Timed to a Hallowe’en theme, this is the little-known story of some important early Dutch settlers in Central New Jersey and their family burial ground.
What will be this historic cemetery’s its fate, now that the surrounding land has been sold and a new office complex is being erected around it?
Spoiler Alert: There’s a happy ending — scroll to page 19 of this PDF:
“The Human Face of the Infrastructure Crisis” (U.S. 1 Newspaper, August 24, 2016)
What happens when a beloved local coffee shop owned by an immigrant from Eastern Europe loses 40 percent of its business — literally overnight — because a bridge on a heavily used road is closed for replacement? And then the state doesn’t have money to finish the project?
After a painfully prolonged delay, the new bridge on busy Route 518 was finally completed and the coffee shop managed to stay in business. But this New Jersey story previews the ominous infrastructure crisis facing all America:
“Nate Stuckey’s Garden of Spiritual Delights” (U.S. 1 Newspaper, July 17, 2019)
Nathan T. Stuckey grew up as a Mennonite farm boy in Kansas. As he completed his advanced studies at the Princeton Theological Seminary, Rev. Stuckey saw little, if any, connection between his past as a farmer and his future as a pastor. But then, by happy serendipity, he was given the opportunity to develop a small-scale sustainable agriculture operation at the school which also imparts very real and powerful spiritual lessons to students.
“D&R Canal Midpoint Mileage Marker Restored” (Montgomery News, November 2019)
A congenial exercise in investigative and advocacy journalism! No scandals were uncovered here, just a century-and-a-half old mileage marker which had been toppled from its place on the 44-mile long tow path of the historic Delaware & Raritan Canal (now a New Jersey state park). Park personnel and a contractor specializing in antique masonry did a fine job retrieving and restoring old “22/22” to its rightful site. (Scroll to pages 9 and 17):