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Exercise 6.3
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Writing a Feature Story


A. Convert the following set of notes into a 750-word feature.
  • J.D. McDuffie died August 11, 1991, in an auto race. It was warm and sunny that Sunday afternoon in Watkins Glen, N.Y. His red No. 70 Pontiac was on its fifth lap around the road course, speeding down the backstretch without any sign of a problem. He braked for the hard right-hand corner that was rapidly approaching; the car didn't turn. No one knows why. The car skated across a patch of grass and slammed into a pile of tires that was supposed to be a cushion against the guard rail. He died instantly.

  • For four years, his wife, Jean McDuffie couldn't bring herself to sell J.D.'s auto shop and everything in it. But today she is doing exactly that. "I just can't hold on to it forever," she says, dabbing at the tears with a tissue.

  • The shop sits on a plot of land just bigger than an acre, on a sharp curve on Willet Road, a mile north of the house J.D. and Jean McDuffie shared.

  • It's a cold morning. A crowd of people, lots of whom seem to know each other, are looking at J.D.'s stuff piled on tables and shelves. People are buying coffee from a makeshift concession stand. The tables and shelves in the shop are crammed with everything necessary to field and maintain a race team. Boxes of spark plugs and air filters are stacked high. A dashboard panel still has all the telltale gauges in place, just as McDuffie left it. Yellow suspension springs are arranged neatly here, and a row of driveshafts lie in neat alignment there. Boxes of nuts, bolts and washers are within arm's reach wherever you walk. Atop a cabinet in the engine shop is an eclectic collection of eight-track tapes, including Conway Twitty and Sly & The Family Stone.

  • The people you talk to describe J.D. as a hard-working, cigar-loving man. His shop, they say, was the most important thing in his world, and he paid for it with blood, sweat and tears. Working on the frayed strands of a shoestring budget, McDuffie could rarely afford new parts, and auctions were a godsend to him. McDuffie was often in attendance when Tom McInnis' company, Iron Horse Auction, sold off the once-mighty championship teams of Holman-Moody, DiGard, Blue Max and L.G. DeWitt

  • McInnis is the auctioneer. Just after 10 a.m., he climbs on a cart and sits on a bar stool. With a microphone strapped around his neck, McInnis takes a deep breath, welcomes the crowd, says "No warranties, expressed or implied," and starts selling off J.D.'s stuff in that quick-fire auctioneer's voice.

  • McDuffie's equipment had lost some of its value over the years, McInnis says, and was of little use to today's Winston Cup teams, who spend more in six months than J.D. McDuffie made in a 28-year career. Some of the equipment would be useful at lower levels of competition, and some would be valuable as nostalgia, McInnis says.

  • Winston Cup driver Ken Schrader and noted engine builder Keith Simmons have friends in the crowd who were told to bid on the 1970 Chevy ramp truck that McDuffie affectionately dubbed "Ol' Blue." It took Jean McDuffie 17 months and the help of one of her husband's competitors, Dave Marcis, to get the truck back from a sponsor in New Jersey. The Aug. 9, 1991, issue of Winston Cup Scene still sits on the back seat. On its cover is a photo of Ernie Irvan, who three years later came perilously close to suffering the same fate as McDuffie. The paper's companion is a worn road atlas, its pages yellowed and curled. The auctioneer works the crowd hard for several minutes before John Parsons of Goldsboro, standing in for Schrader, nodded a winning bid of $7,750 for "Ol' Blue."

  • The land and the 5,000-square-foot shop sell for $72,500 to Fuquay-Varina's Ellis Ragan, who fields a car for Tom Usry in NASCAR's series for compact cars. "I'll probably resell it," said a smiling Ragan, whose overalls and gray camouflage cap belie his wealth. "It's worth at least as much as I paid for it."

  • The two race cars on hand, one wrecked and the other having been mended, are bought for $6,900 by Richard Pugh, who came from Auburn, Ala., to add them to a collection that includes cars raced by Kyle and Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, and Brett Bodine.

  • Jean McDuffie hasn't been able to retrieve her husband's other car — the one in which he was killed — but she says a guy named Richard Pugh told her that he'd heard someone in Pennsylvania had advertised it for sale. That brought more tears. "That's what hurts so bad. J.D. trusted those people, and that car don't belong to whoever's got it," she says.

  • Tom Rumple is one of the many people who loved and admired J.D. McDuffie, and he says that's why he helped sponsor his race cars for more than a decade. "We always had a gentleman's agreement — a handshake was good enough between us," Rumple says. He's a furniture-store owner in Elkin. "He'd never ask me for anything, but I'd say, 'Don't you need so-and-so?' and he'd say, 'Yeah, I do,' and I'd get it for him. He needed much more money than I could afford. He was proud to be associated with Rumple Furniture Company, and that made me feel real good."

  • The auction is well over by 5:15 p.m. The Iron Horse crew has finished its job. The shop, the cars, everything is gone.

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B. Convert the following set of notes into a 600-word news feature.
  • Sixth-grader Kelsey Krueger, 11, won a contest by writing a 100-word essay about multiple sclerosis. "I thought it was a good essay, but I didn't really expect it to win," she said.

  • Krueger was one of 20 winners out of 75,000 nationwide in Oscar Mayer's "Win the Ride of Your Life" contest. Oscar Mayer is a Kraft Foods brand name.

  • Krueger's prizes: a visit from an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, a 27-foot-long vehicle shaped like a hot dog, and a $5,000 donation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

  • She used her time with the Wienermobile to raise even more money for the MS society. "I thought it would be a great idea to use the Wienermobile to sell hot dogs for the MS Society," she said. Krueger raised $1,923.37 from the sale of franks and root beer floats for $1 each at Cash Wise and from donations for face painting, Wienerwhistles and bracelets.

  • During her ride, people on the street stared at her and her vehicle. Among those who watched her were Gordon Ross and his wife, Melissa, who brought their two sons from Rice just to see the Weinermobile.

  • "They like cars. And all I've ever seen of the Wienermobile was on TV commercials," said Gordon Ross, a 42-year-old Electrolux employee. Ross said he would not want a Wienermobile of his own: "I don't have enough room for it, even though it's definitely cool."

  • "It's a great marketing ploy for the company," said Melissa Ross, who likes to eat her hot dogs grilled.

  • Their 9-year-old son, Tyler Ross, attends a St. Cloud parochial school and wore an ear-to-ear grin while standing beside the Wienermobile. The third-grader plans to e-mail pictures they took Saturday to relatives in Grand Rapids, Mich.

  • The 8-foot-wide Wienermobile has a Chevrolet chassis, seats six, has a "bun roof" and carpeting with condiment-splattered designs.

  • There are six Wienermobiles. This one has a Wisconsin license plate on the front that reads "YUMMY."

  • This Wienermobile arrived from Madison, Wis., and was headed to Grand Rapids, Mich., after its stop in Waite Park.

  • Eyra Dzakuma, 23, was part of the Midwest trio from Oscar Mayer who drove the odd-looking vehicle to Minnesota and has a one-year contract to promote the company. She is known as a "Hotdogger" and was recruited from the University of Texas-Austin. She has a bachelor's degree in corporate communications.

  • "Oscar Mayer is all about having fun and childlike innocence … and instilling those values in others every year," said Dzakuma, who has traveled throughout the country. "Most of the times that I can remember eating hot dogs and having fun is at stuff like family cook-outs, baseball games – things that are American traditions." About the Wienermobile, she said: "Driving it is actually very easy. There is no cruise control. The hardest part about it is parking."

  • Krueger, who entered the contest during the summer after watching a TV commercial, attends Madison Elementary School and likes to read Harry Potter with her father.

  • Her father, Loren Krueger, a 44-year-old salesman for Cold Spring Granite, was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease in 1998 and now gets around with the help of a motorized wheelchair. "I'm still surprised she won the contest but also at the drive she has. She's always thinking of new ways to raise money," he said.

  • This isn't Krueger's only donation to the MS society. She has raised $9,346.37 since 2003.

  • "We're immensely proud of her," said her mother, Teresa Krueger, a 44-year-old nurse at St. Cloud Hospital.

  • At the end of the event, Krueger was already thinking about her next fund-raiser, a used-book sale at the St. Cloud Civic Center next weekend.

  • "I like hot dogs, but I'm not a big fan of meat, even though I will still eat it. I'm more of a fruit-and-vegetable person," Krueger said.

C. Saturday's state university homecoming game will be the first one since St. Cloud State University banned alcohol at tailgate parties. Your editor wants you to hang out in the parking lot and write a 400-word story about what happens there. Here's what you discover:
  • The announcement of the alcohol ban at tailgate parties came Friday, less than 24 hours before the homecoming game kickoff.

  • It happened because Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, which governs St. Cloud State, said the school's tailgate policy conflicted with MnSCU's policy.

  • St. Cloud State senior Ron Delinski is in the K Lot just south of the National Hockey Center and within walking distance of Husky Stadium. He's holding a beer in his hand. "It's part of football," he says.

  • Delinksi, 23, is with friends Brenda Czech, 37, and her 41-year-old boyfriend Dale Kuehn, both former St. Cloud State students. They're eating bratwursts and drinking beer from the back of a Ford pickup.

  • Kuehn and Czech bought their football tickets long before Saturday's game. Czech said that had they known about the rule change, they might not have.

  • "I think I should be able to drink when I want to drink," says Czech, of St. Cloud.

  • Delinski says: "I didn't know about it (the ban) until I got into the parking lot."

  • Delinksi and his friends say security officers patrolling the campus parking lots along Third Avenue South did not hassle them about their drinking.

  • Says Kuehn of Sauk Rapids: "For them to make a last-minute switch in policy – the day before homecoming – really makes me kind of disappointed in the whole thing."

  • Kelly Ternes, a 24-year-old St. Cloud State senior, says: "I totally understand from the university's perspective about liability, but ... We're not ones who want to break the law. We just want our freedom. By them taking away our alcoholic privileges, that's taking away part of what makes us Americans."

  • On Saturday, the St. Cloud Police Department released the following figures for the number of incidents reported downtown and in the university neighborhood during homecoming weekend, from Thursday evening until 2:30 a.m. Saturday: Underage drinking: 10; Open container, sidewalk: 9; Keg violation: 3; Driving under the influence: 3; Disorderly conduct: 3; No proof of insurance: 3; Open container, motor vehicle: 2; Minor in possession of alcohol: 2; Public urination: 2; Possession of marijuana: 1; Possession of drug paraphernalia: 1; Fifth-degree assault: 1; Driving after license revoked: 1; Noise violation: 1; Littering: 1. Figures for Saturday night are not available at press time.

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