Beloit College Chain Gang

Progress on my novel…

I’m inching ahead on a novel.  Here is some evidence:

Author Introduction to a pre-publication draft of

Discovering Beloit

Stories Too Good to be True?

This is a book of fiction with doses of fantasy.  It focuses on what I hope could happen to Beloit, to baseball, to old men and women, to religion, to turtles, and to journalism.  Especially journalism.  Let’s call the whole thing concern laced with whimsy.

The main action takes place a few years into the future.   The plot focuses on a Beloit, Wisconsin, high school journalism teacher and his class.   He is frustrated by the disappearance of investigative journalism that has accompanied the decline of traditional newspapers, but he has some hope  via his students  They call this teacher Gov, like in Governor.   Gov says,

“All around us are untold stories.  Some deserve privacy forever; Others might be worth telling, and some [Gov almost shouts] must be told BY US JOUR­NALISTS!”

His students dig up stories that might be considered unbelievable. Certainly, many readers will think these things couldn’t happen in Beloit, or could they?

  • Ex-convicts teaching at Beloit College?
  • Major league baseball here, in Beloit?
  • Vibrant main-line churches?
  • Violence and love in Oakwood Cemetery?
  • A goofy new industry in town?
  • Wild old women?
  • A school in Africa with its roots in Beloit?
  • A herd of old Buffaloes?
  • A world famous chef?
  • A death-defying turtle?
  • Teachers that are subversive?
  • Spies?

Is this the Beloit of our future, or our present?  Well, things change and things that stay the same become better known. Fiction can be truer than what we think is happening.

In the meantime some endangered species  hang on for dear life:

• Hand held newspapers

• Mainline churches

• Big animals

• The national pastime that we used to call baseball

• Old professors

• Investigative journalism

• Service clubs?

and

• Stories that need to be told, but aren’t.

 

Here are some words from the preface

Well into the second decade of the new century Beloit’s ren­ais­sance hit a snag.  Things had been moving in the right direction for years.  Just the word Beloit elicited thumbs up signals through­out the state.  Reversing previous statistics, crime rates and un­employment were down, and parents from surrounding townships were choosing Beloit schools for their children.  Executives and scientists who took jobs in the expanding bio-industrial park lived within the city limits be­cause of its newly appre­ciated ambience.  And baseball was, well, successful beyond any Cub fan’s wildest imagination.

These accomplishments along with a solid reputation for gov­ern­men­tal rea­sonableness had brought national atten­tion to a city that for years had been scorned by much of Wisconsin.  Beloit was hot.

And then came an incident called the glitch, along with its cover-up.  It wasn’t a big deal in the arc of local history, but news; something to excite those who like to poke at the little city.  Print and blog headlines called out, “What’s hap­pening?” …  “Say it isn’t so, oh Gateway to Wisconsin”….  and “Whither thou goest, Belwah?”

A respected New York Times columnist had written about Beloit’s ascent in 2015.  He followed up with this comment in the spring of 2016 using the Wisconsin city to illustrate a broader concern.

… Had local investigative journalism been alive and well in Beloit, what happened in Oakwood Cemetery would have been de­scribed dif­ferently.  The truth would have been discovered and shared.  That didn’t happen.  Speculation and gossip filled the vacuum.

The op-ed piece continued.

Here are some facts that bother me:  the Beloit Memorial High School news­­­­paper no longer exists (it used to be the oldest one in the state).  The Beloit College newspaper no longer exists, and the venerable Beloit Daily News now comes out only once a week in hard copy under a new name.  Some say websites replace these insti­tu­tions, but the beating heart of print journal­ism – investigation – is miss­ing in Beloit.  The same is true in countless American com­mun­ities …

This warning caught the attention of an anonymous Beloit angel who had once been tempted to put her money where her heart was.  She established an endowment at a local charter high school to fund the salary for a teacher of investigative journalism.  In  describing the gift she said, “Cover-ups that seem useful at the time hurt in the long run, and this one has given me pain.”

Her idea was well received by the school’s governing board. One of them said, “Why not talk to Bridlington, that guy who used to teach jour­nalism at the College?  He might like a part-time gig.”

And it happened.  That Bridlington guy was hired.  He designed a class called Issues in Newswriting and started teaching it in the fall of 2017.  However, truth telling about the glitch and its prin­cipal player stayed covered up for a long time….  as if it never happened.