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Reading the fine print

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Reading local campus news releases is sometimes like attending a love-in. On or offline news service publications read like academic People magazines. In Raleigh, you can pick up a copy of N.C. State BulletinOnline, while at Carolina, faculty and staff glean goodies in the University Gazette.

No harm, no foul. Lots of good news about good people doing good things.

Last week, reading the Duke University Dialogue was like reading The Onion. I'm an addictive print junky, I read it all. So there I was reading page 10 of the Dialogue, the column "Professional News," when I should have been doing, well, anything, else. There's Alana Beard soaring to her player of the year awards, there are two pieces about Duke's multiple successes in mathematical competitions, and several paragraphs about talented faculty rockin' their worlds.

It was the last citation that caught my eye:

"Parking Garage IV received an honorable mention award in the International Parking Institute's 2004 International Parking Awards competition. The competition honors the best in parking design.The award will be presented during the 2004 International Parking Conference in New Orleans on June 20."

In other interesting news, newsstands across the Southeast received an alarming memo this month: "Attention Retailers: Please remove the April issue of Southern Living from your shelves and return the covers immediately."

Turns out that "a featured recipe" had caused "many kitchen fires" the previous week. The phrase "recipe malfunction" was nowhere to be seen. Sure enough, eBay action ensued immediately. A "recalled" copy sold for 20 bucks last week in furious bidding.

Let's go national. Local investigative journalist Barry Yeoman scored four pages following the trail of campaign cash in GW's '04 assault in the April 1 issue of Rolling Stone. In "Bush's Bagmen," Yeoman gave capsule review-bio's of 16 of the president's "A-team" for cash.

Yeoman, previously a staffer at the Independent, has recently contributed investigative pieces to Mother Jones and The New York Times. In "Bush's Bagman," he detailed the paper trail leading from major cash donations from "Pioneers" and "Rangers" to top presidential appointments and ambassadorships.

"Welcome to the most ambitious and best-organized shakedown in the history of American presidential politics," wrote Yeoman, who could have filled double the space. But that's the beauty of short attention spans. His bio's with jazzy titles ("The Golden Fleecer," "The Warden for Profit," and "The Mall Rat.") were the same length as the album and movie reviews a few pages later. Rolling Stone readers got a healthy dose of lefty politics in between R-rated clothing adverts and assorted pill merchandising.

Southern Exposure, the quarterly magazine published by the Durham-based Institute for Southern Studies has won the 2003 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. Michael Hudson, a contributing editor for the magazine, won for the six-month study that became "Banking on Misery," an article about the predatory banking practices of Citigroup and other financial institutions. Previous winners of the Polk Award include The New Republic, The New Yorker, and Time.

Contributing writer John Valentine can be reached at ajcg@acpub.duke.edu

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