Reporter Doesn’t Know She Has Written Same Article on Teaching at least Five Times, Maybe Twenty

Jane Halibut had her first byline at the Metropolis Herald at age 23, with a profile of a Metropolis State University physics professor who taught introductory classes in a studio setting and doubled the number of physics majors. Halibut’s story became the most-emailed article for the month, and she was showered with kudos from the Herald‘s publisher.

When she wrote a remarkably similar article about a geology class three years later, she received similar praise. For some reason, no one remembered Halibut’s earlier article. Engaging teaching in a science class was new as a shiny penny. Again.

By the time Halibut wrote her fourth article on engaging science teaching, six years after the first one, someone noticed: the head of Metropolis State University’s payroll office. A subscriber to the Herald for 32 years, Betty Darden emailed Halibut, explaining that she liked all of the articles but thought it odd that the last one described a chemistry class in breathless tones, as if the new assistant professor had discovered good teaching.

“Well, it’s news for my editor,” Halibut replied. “I don’t recall either reading or writing other stories about good teaching. You know, reporters love to be in the classroom, and we usually don’t get enough time there.”

Dissatisfied and intrigued, Darden researched the Herald‘s previous articles on Metropolis State. The majority focused on the MSU Ungulates, the hapless football team that has won no more than two games in any of the past thirty years.

Among the articles about football, basketball, graduations, and the rotating staff of administrators, Darden noticed that every three or four years, like clockwork, a reporter from the newspaper wrote about innovative teaching just being invented at Metropolis State.

All of the reporters had the initials J. H.: Jessica Hill, Jayne Hundy, Joy Hoffmeister, Julia Hawes, and finally Ms. Halibut. Photographs were available for the last three.

With the photographs in hand, Darden made an appointment with Ms. Halibut and Halibut’s editor, Bradley Cairns.

Cairns spoke to this reporter last week about the meeting. “It was odd. Darden showed us old photographs of Jane and insisted that they were the official photographs for Jane and also then the last few education beat reporters.

“That was creepy. But it is entirely coincidence.”

Cairns has worked at the Herald for the past nine months.

Halibut was unavailable for an interview.