Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Failures of Fact

Before arriving south, I transmitted a great amount of queries regarding work in different areas, hoping that would make finding opportunities easier: but the economy here is smaller than that in the north and some publishers have experienced the same problems being felt elsewhere (thanks to the competition of new media and the loss of advertising). I did speak with an editor of a small paper, and researched several stories, none of which ended in published articles (in more than one case, a subject did not want to be interviewed on record or there was not enough information to go on):

One proposed subject for an article was the development of a boat-for-hire project along the Bayou Teche. That involved the water’s dams and locks: with the federal government likely to give over to the parish control of the locks, there was new opportunity. One of the locals, someone who had been successful in the funeral industry, had an idea for a luxury boat service, something that might appeal to vacationers, and he was aware of a second Louisiana citizen who was living in Idaho but who had an idea for offering boats for hire as exists in Europe. The first person, the funeral industry mogul, had undertaken a project years ago in which a nice boat and food and fishing had been offered for rent (I spoke with him: he had a highly rated boating crew and chefs and the possibility of fishing and golfing as part of the package: but, the high cost for using the boat, about $1800 a day, and the limited, mostly local, advertising that he did, and the fact there the boat was only used for about three or four trips a year, made it a very ambitious, interesting, but not sustainable enterprise, which had been written about by local papers when it was in service years before). He gave me the contact information for the second person, the Idaho woman; and she said she didn’t want to go public yet, explaining, “I have a dream to one day offer people this type of waterway experience. The business plan proposal is in the rough stages.”

Another subject had to do with homebuilding: in 2007, a company had planned to build three energy efficient homes a day, offering about 1,000 jobs to the local area. Needless to say, it did not reach that goal then or now; and the executives involved refused to be interviewed (they would not take or return phone calls or e-mails)—so it is not clear if the area could not sustain such plans or if the American economy, with the much-publicized problems in the home sales and mortgage industries, could not sustain that.

One local (St. Martinville) high school has two prom activities, one for whites, one for blacks; and it has been that way for years. (The actor Morgan Freeman knew of a similar situation in his native southern town, and offered to pay for a single prom, was refused years ago, but recently the town accepted and, apparently, the students enjoyed the single, shared prom.) I left messages for several people involved with prom planning at the local school under consideration and none returned my call but I did speak with the principal (he’s been principal for 8 years), and he told me that only one event is recognized by the school (the prom principally attended by blacks) and that the other (for whites) is a private party; and that prom planning begins the previous year (there are about 100 student attendees, plus guests; and no alcohol is served and students are required to stay until the end—to eliminate possibilities for trouble). Of course, he said he never heard any complaints regarding the existence of these two events. (Did the other people not return my many calls because they did not have his permission; or because they were too busy?) I felt as if the principal was just trying to put the best face on the situation, trying to discourage attention, but I did speak to a black student who said the white prom event is sponsored by the parents of involved students and is more expensive. She said the students there can wear what they want but at the official event dress is more monitored. She said she didn’t see why there couldn’t be just one prom but guessed that it was just tradition; and she thought that black and white students got along well at the school in St. Martinville.

During the last year , I have written articles on film and music and books that have appeared or are scheduled to appear in print and online, none of them local Louisiana publications.