The fourth “W”

Who, what, when, where, why and how. Affectionately known as the five W’s (and one H), they represent the core of any journalistic effort. They are the key questions every card-carrying journalist seeks to answer in every piece of writing.

Sometimes, however, as simple as these pieces of the puzzle seem, the answers themselves aren’t all that clear.

I know what you’re thinking. That I must be talking about the why’s and how’s of it all. But in Chenango County, sometimes the where is the hardest to define.

Two weeks ago, I trekked to the northeast corner of our fair county to cover a fire at DuBois Welding on County Road 13. Yes, I actually went to the fire. So, you’d think it would be easy for me to pinpoint its location for the subsequent story, right?

Wrong.

The business was in what is generally considered South Otselic, but it happens to be – at least technically – in the Town of Lincklaen. I tried to cover my bases, and initially referred to the shop as a “South Otselic business,” but listing the dateline as the more technically accurate “Lincklaen.” This disparity did not escape the attention of my esteemed editor, Mr. Jeffrey Genung, who bellowed his displeasure from the cozy confines of his office while I sat shaking at my desk in the newsroom.



Pained by the thought of causing my usually mild-mannered boss such angst, I scurried to settle the matter once and for all. By Googling it.

Unfortunately, rather than providing a solution to our little locational conundrum, the result of my Internet search only proved to further complicate the issue.

See, according to the U.S. Postal Service, the business’ address placed it not in South Otselic or Lincklaen, but in DeRuyter!

I didn’t even bother relaying this little tidbit of info to You-Know-Who. No, I figured it was safer to keep it to myself. And then I used an age-old, time-tested method to reconcile the matter. You may have heard of it, or even employed it yourself a time or two.

It’s called “Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Moe.”

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but as anyone who has lived in good old Chenango County can attest, this kind of locational confusion happens all the time. And all thanks to the seemingly-arbitrary nature of town lines, school district boundaries, post office addresses, telephone exchanges, etc. Which never seem to jibe with each other or the community identity of people who live in the area.

A prime example is Agro Farma. This font of Greek-yogurty goodness is now headquartered in Norwich, but the creamy, all natural Chobani which has taken supermarkets by storm is made where in Chenango County?

Yes, in case you’re wondering, that’s a trick question.

Most people will tell you that the former Kraft facility which Agro Farma acquired in 2005 is in South Edmeston. You’ll be hard-pressed to find that locale on an actual map of Chenango County, what with the hamlet being in Otsego County and all. But I assure you that Chobani is made in the Land of the Bullthistle.

And don’t bother looking on the label for the correct answer because, once again, the U.S. Post Office is out to mislead you. The mailing address for the plant is New Berlin. Only, of course, it’s not located in that town, so often mispronounced by those who are not native to the Unadilla Valley. It’s actually in the Town of Columbus. And let me tell you, people from Columbus are prone to getting a bit testy if you say otherwise in their presence. Not that I blame them, of course. Wouldn’t you want credit for being home to the country’s number one brand of yogurt?

Columbus is one of those towns that seems to get the short end of the stick. It’s home to two of the county’s biggest success stories – Agro Farma and Golden Artist Colors – yet no one knows it.

Coventry is another township with an identity crisis. It’s school children are parceled off to FIVE school districts, and not even its own town hall bears a Coventry address.

Of course, this isn’t just a work-related issue for me. It’s personal. I too have an identity crisis. I hate when people ask me where I live, because there really isn’t a short answer.

Technically, I live in the Town of Smithville. Smithville Center, actually. Well, two miles from it any way. Sort of equidistant between it and Tyner. My phone number, however, is listed under Oxford. (And if you’ve been paying attention, you know that’s where I went to school.) But my address? According to that, I live in Greene.

So, I guess you can take your pick. I highly recommend the “Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Moe” method ...

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunmelissa.

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