Thursday, December 03, 2009

Riverbillies, Lakebillies inspire newsroom joke

The summer of 2002 saw historical flood levels on the Guadalupe River.
On July 4, 2002, the spillway at Canyon Dam north of San Antonio, Texas was overwhelmed by 70,000 cubic feet per second of water flow, across a 1,200 feet length of an emergency spillway, cut into natural limestone rock.
The result was that houses built below the dam and in the city of New Braunfels were flooded by river water.
For many people who insisted on building in the river's flood plain, it was the second 100-year flood in four years.
They had been rescued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood insurance program in 1998, but in 2002, they decided that property bailouts were a necessity; taxpayers should not pay for people who want to build their homes in places known to flood.
That caused an uproar.
Yours truly had coined a term regarding the types of personalities he had encountered visiting the lake region in another well-known reservoir - a sort of backwoodsy, long-haired, pile the beer bottles up behind the garage attitude.
The same sort of attitude prevailed among people who wanted to rebuild their homes along the lakeside and along the river.
So, he dubbed them Lakebillies, and Riverbillies, and shared the joke with other newsroom reporters and editors.
The terms lakebillies and riverbillies became part of the routine newsroom vocabulary, regarding people who wanted to live in flood prone areas and who expected taxpayers to bail them out whenever their pastoral existence was washed out.
About six months later, a mis-communication occurred.
The advertising department decided to launch a special promotion, and asked the editorial department to help, it had something to do with the river and the lake residents - marketing to them.
An e-mail was sent concerning a strategy for the promotion, targeting "lakebillies" and "riverbillies."
The two terms got printed into the promotional material, and was distributed by advertising executives to potential advertisers.
A thunderstorm of indignation ensued, and the advertisers complained to the publisher of the newspaper.
Parties involved were reprimanded, advertising executives were properly scolded, and the terms "lakebillies" and "riverbillies" were subsequently banned from use in the newsroom, either internally or externally.
But, the damage is done.
People who insist on living around a lakefront, even if they know it could wipe them out in a flood, should be referred to as Lakebillies.
And people who insist on living on the banks of a river should rightly be referred to as Riverbillies.
Publish that in your Urban Dictionary.

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