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Sentinel news never too old

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From Washington, D.C., reporter Gerry Shields published different front-page stories Sunday in Orlando and Evansville, Ind. Shields, now the Capitol reporter for the Scripps-Howard News Service, accomplished this only because The Orlando Sentinel story had been sitting for a while -- about five months, in fact. Shields, who left the Sentinel in January, learned of the late appearance of the Orlando story from former colleagues. "It was kind of wild," said Shields, who had contacted Sentinel editors about the story's status. "I thought it was a good story. I'm glad it got the play that it did." Both stories appeared above the fold and front page center, decorated with large photographs. Evansville Courier readers learned how two native archaeologists had met on a dig in Maryland. In Orlando, readers were treated to a profile of the state trooper who oversees gridlock on Interstate 4. Someone at the Sentinel made phone calls, Shields said, to ensure the facts remained the same. However, the information reported had not been updated since January. In fact, Shields began his reporting two years ago. An alert reader -- disturbed such a dated report was used as officials push a sales-tax hike as a way to fund highway fixes -- tipped off the Orlando Weekly. But Michael Ludden, the Sentinel's Sunday editor, seemed relatively unconcerned, pointing out that traffic is a continuing problem. "I don't have a lot of heartburn about it," Ludden says. "I've got a lot of stories older than that." In fact, Ludden confessed he likes to "horde" stories, particularly those written for "Off the News," a feature which had been shelved until recently. Asked about the standard byline that still identified Shields as a member "of the Sentinel staff," Ludden said he could think of no better label and that such a fine point was "probably transparent to the reader." Apparently he underestimates his audience.

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