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Tracing the CFN origins

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It inevitably comes up when an Oklahoma Gazette staffer is out and about " interviewing folks, researching sorority houses or off the clock at social functions, family get-togethers or attending Sally Kern's Bible study group " someone finds out the newspaper we work for and exclaims, "I love that Chicken Fried News."

The section that gave Bucky the intern notoriety (even over his record-breaking beer bongs at fraternity parties) has maintained its popularity since its inception more than a decade ago. The staff prides itself on putting out a great product every week, and individual staffers get pumped when it's their story on the cover. But deflation sets in when the first thing said when out in the public is, "Hey, who wrote that piece on Tom Coburn in CFN?"

While it may be one of the more popular aspects to Gazette, poll the writers and the results might be less than flattering. Having readers enjoy tidbits of comical takes on the news is nice, but the word "hassle" does come to mind. When he's not swigging Maalox, Gazette Editor-in-Chief Rob Collins usually spends his Friday morning banging the phone intercoms for that damn CFN.

Chicken Fried News was first hatched in the mid-'90s under the direction of former Editor Mike "Spike" Easterling, according to his former young Padawan, now Gov. Brad Henry Jedi knight, Phil Bacharach.

"It's was Easterling's idea," Bacharach said. "He wanted a segment with news that was quirky but not worth a full-fledged story. He wanted me to take it and do something with it."

The name, Chicken Fried News, was emblematic of Oklahoma, Bacharach said. Call it the Okie version of CNN, since we can fry anything.

In the chick days of CFN, the snippets and section were longer and even used photos. That's changed, and probably for the better, as Gazette artist Brad Gregg supplies those wonderful cartoons with each CFN, probably more popular than the story itself.

"We always leaned toward a snarky tone," Bacharach said, "not mean-spirited, but intended to be funny."

Of course, sometimes the writer doesn't intend to be funny, the humor writes itself. Whether it's regurgitating reports of former district judge Donald Thompson and his pumped-up courtroom antics, or Sen. Jim Inhofe and his global warming rants, there are some CFNs just waiting to be written. Even Mr. Bacharach himself has found his line of work the subject of his invention when his boss makes a speech.

It's hard to imagine the Gazette without CFN. And as long as the Inhofes, Coburns, Kerns and local TV news are still around, so will CFN.

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