Sometime in the 1980s a guy walked into The Free Press newsroom on a summer day with a proud look on his face.
He was lugging his pride and joy, a huge potato he’d dug from his garden. It was about the size of a volleyball and he wanted to share this “news” with the public.
The guy was so earnest that no one had the will to tell him newspapers didn’t really do that sort of thing anymore. So photographer John Cross had him pose with his tumescent tuber and man and spud became immortalized in the next day’s edition.
To the best of my knowledge, that’s the last time this gazette ran a stand-alone photo of a humongous vegetable.
Running pictures of hideously malformed and/or ungodly huge vegetables was once a staple of newspapers before such photos were deemed to fall short of news criteria guidelines arrived at by professional panels of journalists armed with data from reader focus groups.
More truthfully, we axed that stuff because we thought it was hick.
Maybe it was, but maybe that’s not the point. Maybe it’s time to re-accommodate folks who can put seeds in soil and somehow turn them into steroidal mutants.
If major news organizations can trumpet singing dogs and other “YouTube sensations,” and if Lindsay Lohan can attract 50 photographers simply by breathing in public, surely some guy with his 5-pound carrot can get his day in the sun.
There’s a notorious website out there that’s nothing more than a collection of photos covertly taken of Walmart shoppers from around the nation.
These folks are the human version of outlandish vegetables. If a photo of a 350-pound tattooed man in a too-tight tank top can attract eyeballs to a website, then a picture of a potato approximating Kim Kardashian’s posterior can surely do the same for a newspaper.
To be sure, unorthodox veggies can still get media play in 2012, but only if they resemble some sort of celebrity.
A bell pepper that looks like Elvis or a watermelon splotch bespeaking the face of Jesus will get time on the news — not to mention bids on eBay.
But the Clifford Fluck’s of the world will not.
Fluck — yes, that’s a real name — was a New Ulm resident who years ago proudly stood beside his 14-foot cornstalk while a newspaper photographer clicked away.
Fluck made it into the newspaper solely for growing an abnormally tall plant. That cornstalk wouldn’t stand a chance today. Didn’t look enough like some what’s-his-name on TV.
Brian Ojanpa is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 344-6316 or email email@example.com