Posts Tagged ‘dianna borsi obrien’

I remember when I had my first job with a newspaper in Gaffney, South Carolina and I’d be giving tours of the newsroom to grade school children. I would tell them the journalism of that tiny newsroom was the exact same kind of journalism taking place in what some consider the center of journalism — the New York Times.

How so? One of the purposes of journalism, whether it is at the New York Times or Columbia Home & Lifestyle,  is to uncover new and unusual happenings.

That’s the case in this article on the Smarr Home of Possibilities. Basically a model home, Randy Smarr is also using it as a venue for fund-raising for the Ronald McDonald House and for his subcontractors to hold classes on the wares they have installed in this house in the Cascades.

So what? Well, it is the first time anyone in Columbia, Missouri, has done something like this. And that’s new and unusual.

This is what I love about journalism — it can take place anywhere, in Gaffney, South Carolina, Columbia, Missouri or even in New York.

Learn more about the new and unusual features of the Smarr Home of Possibilities by reading this article, published in the June/July 2010 issue of Columbia Home & Lifestyle.

Home is Where the Heart Is – June/July 2010 Columbia Home & Lifestyle

By Dianna Borsi O’Brien

When the economic slump hit, Rusty Smarr of Smarr Custom Homes felt it. Yet, instead of complaining he looked for ways to bring the buzz back into new housing — and for a way to give back to the community.

His answer to both challenges is the Home of Possibilities, a 3,750-square-foot model home at 2304 Redmond Court in the Cascades. The house, outfitted with many of the newest, most buzzed about HGTV features, will also be used as a venue for Ronald McDonald House fundraisers.

Unveiled in May, the house features a long list of energy-saving features, from a tankless hot water heater installed by Air and Water Solutions to landscaping with native plants installed by Pleasant View Landscaping.

In addition to housing Ronald McDonald House fundraisers, Smarr is opening the home to vendors of the home’s featured products for classes on various Saturdays.

Click on the link below to see the entire article.

CHL Smarr Home of Possibilities

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I recently had an article on ragtime music published in the June/July 2010 issue of Columbia Home & Lifestyle magazine.

I’d love to say that while writing this article I fell in love with ragtime music — but I didn’t. Oh, I tried. I bought several CDs and I can say that I even enjoy some of the tracks. But so far it isn’t music I can’t wait to hear again.

But I loved writing about ragtime, something I attribute to two things: objective journalism and my journalistic focus on real people.

Objective journalism doesn’t always happen, but it means I don’t have to like the persons, places or things I write about. It just means I gather the facts, perspectives, information and talk to sources about the subject and then organize and write it so that it is clear and interesting to readers. Or at least that’s my fervent hope.

My personal focus as a journalist, however, is always on ordinary or real people. When I worked in the Columbia Missourian newsroom we referred to them as “RPs,” or real people. I think most people are not interested in things, they are interested in people. So although I can’t say I’m in love with ragtime music, I am interested in the people involved in ragtime. And I believe readers are, too.

So, if you want to learn a little more about ragtime music, see below or click here to see the entire article in the June/July 2010 Columbia Home & Lifestyle issue or here to read more about the music and John William “Blind” Boone and his contributions to the music.

Celebrate the Music: Ragtime festival CHL June July 2010

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 One of the things I love about being a reporter is the opportunity to take complex ideas and write about them in ways that ordinary people — like me — can understand.

What makes that even nicer is when I get to work with someone who understands that examples make abstract ideas more concrete, which makes them easier to understand.

When I was asked to write about this $6.8 million, two-year award to the University of Missouri from the federal government, at first I thought, “Oh, no.” The awarding agency’s name took up nearly a paragraph, which is usually a bad sign for being able to make something complex clear and easy to understand in an article.

But I lucked out — I interviewed Grant Savage, Ph.D., head of the University of Missouri School of Medicine Department of Health Management and Informatics.

He was willing and able to explain the award in simple terms, with examples. The problem  is physicians’ records are all in paper, so if you want to know something  you have to read through a file and might or might not find what you need to know. Savage’s project will help physicians find out how to use software and hardware to go digital. It’s more than just plopping a laptop onto a doctor’s desk.

Read about Savage’s project and how it will help people like me — patients — and Missouri doctors in this article in the Columbia Business Times.

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As a journalist, I hate making mistakes. I do my best to make sure none ever get in print, but sometimes it happens.

Most recently it happened with the article, “City Chicks,” written with David Reed published in the Columbia Business Times. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the name of a source, Mary Stilwell, was misspelled in some instances.

As regretable as this mistake is, however, the most important things are to acknowledge mistakes do happen and to note what I do to make sure mistakes are kept to a minimum.

For starters, I practice something I learned at the University of Missouri-Columbia — accuracy checking. This involves asking a source if she or he would like to review the article and/or their quotes before the article goes to print.

I figure if I’m afraid to let a source read an article before it goes to print, maybe I’m not as confident in my facts as I should be.

Of course, sometimes this process can go awry, such as when a source decides to try to edit the work, beyond checking it for accuracy. This is rare, but when it happens, I ask the person if the information is accurate. If the answer is yes, we may discuss the other changes requested, but the main focus for me is on accuracy.

Sometimes, despite my best efforts and those of others, a mistake will slip through. When it does, I am comforted to know that everyone makes mistakes — even the illustrious New York Times. For example, on April 20, 2010, the newspaper published six corrections for its A section. I am sure every single one of those New York Times reporters were cringing that morning.

I also remember what I used to tell my journalism students back when I taught at MU — the good news and the bad news about journalism is we get to try to do it again only better with the next article.

Finally, I apologize to the source, in this case Mary Stilwell.

So, as noted, it’s time to get back to work on that next article — after I apologize to Mary Stilwell.

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This package of articles showcases this upcoming fundraiser – Kitchens in Bloom, noon – 4 p.m. May 2, 2010, which will benefit the Boone County Council on Aging. It also highlights exactly who the fundraiser will benefit.

The BCCA helps local seniors by helping them find resources so they can live in their homes independently with dignity and safety. That’s what the BCCA did to help Mary Sutton, of matriarch of the family who once operated the well-known and well loved Sutton’s Barbeque, where Bill Clinton stopped.

The fund-raising event will feature tours of the homes listed below. But if you go, don’t forget who you are really helping, not the Boone County Council on Aging, but local people who don’t need a hand out, but simply a helping hand.

Jackie Lenox | 708 W. Rollins Road
Margie Sable and George Smith | 228 E. Parkway Drive
Brian and Susan Smith | 813 Edgewood
Ann and John Havey | 112 Bingham Road



Read Full Post » is a web site where you can use a variety of calculators to determine how much something was worth historically.

For example, in the book I’m wrote with Charles W. Gehrke before his death about his life, his career and his accomplishments, he told me he’d raised roughly $200,000 to get what is now called ABC Labs going in 1968. Naturally, I wondered first how he did that — that answer is in the book, “From the Melon Fields to the Moon,” to be published.

Then, I wondered how much $200,000 would be worth today. That answer I found at, using one of their calculators to determine the value of currency at various time periods.

The answer is $200,000 in 1968 would have been worth roughly $1.1 million in 2007 dollars, according to

A tool like can help a reporter provide context to an article or a book.  And that, in my opinion, is one of the jobs journalists are supposed to do: provide context to help make the world understandable to readers.

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Writing about Jeff MacLellan, vice chairman of Landmark Bank, the former chairman and CEO before he retired in December, was an amazing opportunity.

Truthfully, I wasn’t too excited about interviewing the head of one of Columbia’s largest banks. Number crunching isn’t that interesting to me.

However, five minutes into our interview, I realized MacLellan isn’t the stereotypical image of a banker. The knit polo shirt was my first tip off. His honest, open answer to my question about where he’d been during the weeks prior to our meeting — having prostate surgery and then getting a subsequent clean bill of health — told me more about who he really was than any quote he could give me or comment from any of his colleagues.

But as I dug and talked to him, the picture became fuller and I realized he was a number cruncher — and a respected and admired friend and colleague.

Read about MacLellan in this article, published in the Columbia Business Times on March 19, 2010.

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What I love about journalism is helping people make sense out of things that are happening, such as historic renovation.

Many of us love old buildings, but as the song says, sometimes we also ask ourselves what’s love gotta to do with it.

That’s when it is nice to be able to point to research and information that shows certain things also make economic sense. And that’s what this article does with historic renovation. Columbia’s City Council’s Historic Preservation names properties to a list of Notable Properties every year. For years I’ve been going to the gala event where they announce the new names to the list.

This year I wrote this article outlining how naming these properties and supporting restoration of such buildings actually helps all of us economically.

Read the article here:

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At last, a draft of the book written about Charles W. Gehrke is complete. Charles and I had been working on the book since early spring of 2007 and thankfully I had most of the information I needed to complete the book before he passed away on February 10, 2009. But it was difficult to proceed without his input.

However, even after his passing, Charles provided everything I needed — he’d saved boxes of files and his daughter Susan Gehrke Isaacson and Jon Gehrke were very generous is allowing me to pour over all the documents Charles had saved. I found handwritten notes covering one of the toughest times in his life, the 1991-1992 struggles at ABC Labs.

Now, I start another part of the journey toward making the book Charles and I envisioned a reality — finding a publisher. I am optimistic it won’t be long before the book, “From the Melon Fields to the Moon,” will be in print.

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