What is news?
We get that question a lot, even if it's as a jab criticizing us while wondering why we may have played a story on Page A1 or why it appeared on the main page of altoonamirror.com.
News has many definitions to many people, but for sure it is information that people do not know.
For example, when Hollywood megastars Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher paid a quick visit here on a recent Friday night to the mother of one of their close friends, Altoona native T.J. Jefferson, we bannered the story across the top of our paper.
"Is that all that's going in Altoona?"
"Is that really news?"
"Must be a slow day at the Mirror."
Those were some of the comments either left on voice mail or altoonamirror.com, and that's fine.
Was it two officials from the Altoona Water Authority in a full-scale debate about conflict of interest? No.
Was it a drug bust? No.
Was it "hard news?" No.
But it was curious information about two of the more famous people to come here.
It was also a wonderful tribute to Jefferson and the kind of respect Moore and Kutcher - who were passing through en route by car from Rhode Island to Ohio - know that Jefferson has for his mother, Linda.
Ray Eckenrode, Mirror general manager, reports that the story had 11,941 page views - among the most for any story we've ever had. Our web site received 1,830,722 pageviews in October - our highest monthly total ever by more than 200,000 pageviews.
The point here is that while many wonder about the demise of the newspaper industry, and there's no question it's taken a hit, especially in bigger markets, the reality is the Altoona Mirror has more readers, in print and online, than ever.
Gary Baranec, one of our ace photographers, created a mini-stir recently by taking a picture of a brown trout and mistakenly reporting it as a pike.
You would not believe the number of calls we got from avid fishermen alerting us to the problem (almost as many as the time I suggested deer must go nuts when they see orange; it was quickly pointed out that deer are color blind, and I haven't written about deer since, other than my hobby of feeding them.)
Baranec was exonerated because he received his information from the successful fisherman, albeit a 15-year-old.
As noted in the past, the Mirror is well represented at various community events.
The latest such window was the Business Hall of Fame dinner, sponsored by the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.
These dinners bring out the best and worst in the speakers as some take too many liberties and somehow quadruple their four-minute allotment.
We won't list the offenders, but we will single out Rocco Alianello of U.S. Foodservice, which was among the Business Hall's 2010 inductees.
He not only spoke concisely, but Alianello paid tribute to all the employees who have made the company what it is, along with asking representatives of the original ownership, members of the Sky Brothers family, to stand.
Then Alianello dedicated the evening to Don Shuma, a longtime U.S. Foodservice employee who died last year.
I did not know Shuma other than to say hello to him at Blair County Ballpark. Because of the relationship between U.S. Foodservice and the Curve, Shuma was often in the press box. In fact, he fit in so well at BCB that I thought he was a traveling baseball scout.
That's the epitome of a guy who could wear many hats.
Martha Ferguson of Altoona died Oct. 11. She was 106 and quite possibly the oldest person in Altoona.
We featured her as a Monday Spotlight last year.
If you believe you are the oldest person in Blair County/ central Pennsylvania or have a relative you think may be, please contact me.
Mirror Managing Editor Neil Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.