Electric chair story grows legs
The power of modern communication manifested itself again this week in a discussion over the dubious use of one of the older powers -- electricity.
Duane Tappe's offhanded remark to State Sen. Mark Christensen about obtaining Nebraska's old electric chair for a proposed rural electrification museum honoring the late U.S. Sen. George W. Norris is the case in point.
City Editor Lorri Sughroue had misgivings about playing up the request in her coverage of the weekly legislative teleconference, but after her editor headlined the story and put it on the Gazette Web site, the story, as they say, "grew legs."
At last check, the story about a small Southwest Nebraska town "abuzz" over prospects of displaying "Old Sparky" had been published in places like Baltimore, Kansas City and Texas, as well as moving over the nation Associated Press wire.
McCook residents might be surprised to learn that they are "abuzz." Other than Chamber of Commerce members who were present at the teleconference, and Gazette staffers who handled the story, we haven't heard any "buzz" from the general population.
But the reaction from the eastern end of the state was predictable.
Former State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha called the idea of displaying the electric chair "tastless" and "asinine." He said it "manifests vulgar insensitivity that borders on the obscene.
"It would turn a serious matter into a carnival sideshow designed to appease the most prurient interests," he told Paul Hammel of the World-Herald.
Fellow capital punishment opponent State Sen. Brenda Council of Omaha, however, said that while she didn't see "the glamour " of such a display, "I can't say that I don't hope it is removed from the correctional center."
Another opponent called for any proceeds from the display to go to the victims' families.
For his part, Tappe was "shocked" at the reaction to his informal request to Sen. Christensen, who actually asked the Department of Corrections for the chair a couple of years ago. Tappe said he checked with another proponent of the rural electrification museum, and was assured that, yes, they were still interested in obtaining the chair.