This is True stories come from “legitimate” mainstream news sources (never “tabloid” newspapers). The facts from these articles are the basis of True’s stories, which are written in their entirety by me (Randy Cassingham) or the identified contributor. Each story ends in a credit to the source, such as the Los Angeles Times or the Denver Post.
We try as much as possible to credit the original source. For example, if the newspaper credits a wire service as the source, that’s what the credit is; it’s usually not credited to the specific publication where the story was found. Thus you’ll sometimes see the source being one of the major news wires, which include: AP (Associated Press, USA) Reuters (Reuters Ltd., UK) PA (Press Association, UK), AFP (Agence France-Presse, France), and QMI (Québecor Media Inc., Canada). Since 2000 UPI (United Press International, USA) is no longer considered an unbiased news organization and was dropped as a True source.
Special Note Regarding “City” Newspapers: Newspapers took their names long before the dawn of the Internet, which means you can now read a tiny newspaper from a rural town while you sit in your room thousands of miles away. Thus, there are many newspapers with the “same name” as other newspapers in different areas. Because it does no good to identify a paper as The Times when there could be dozens of newspapers around the world with that (or a similar) name, we add the city where appropriate. The city is usually the city of the publisher’s main offices. Thus, for instance, you might see a story attributed to London Times even though there is not actually a paper with that specific name — their “real” name is simply The Times. The point is not to be fanatical regarding a newspaper’s legally registered name, but rather make it clear to readers where they might be able to find the original (source) story. “The Times”? Which one? The one in London, Shreveport, India, Northwest Indiana, Trenton, or…? So we use the city name whether or not it’s part of the newspaper’s formal name. Why not “Times of London”? Consistency: if we’re going to add a city, we’ll always do it at the start, where most papers include the city in their names. In other words, yes, I did think about it!
Is Each Story Really “True”?
“I like to make it clear what it is I mean by ‘true’,” I’ve said in the book intros. “True’s stories don’t come from the tabloids or underground newspapers, but rather from the legitimate/mainstream media, such as national and international news wires, city newspapers, and TV news reports (if they’re available in writing). But let me caution you: take everything you read in the news — and even in This is True — with at least a small grain of salt. In addition to my job as a writer, I’ve worked a few other careers, including a brief stint as a sheriff deputy, many years as a medic, and ten years at a NASA field center. One thing in common in all of these jobs is that I have often been a participant in, or direct observer of, events that tend to end up in the news. And not once, when I knew the entire story, did any news report on the event come without at least some small error in the ‘facts’.”
So yes: as a news commentary column, the stories in This is True are “true” — true to the original source as identified with each story.
Help for Readers Outside the U.S.
To help international readers, I wrote the following guide to the United States. Since True is based in the U.S., and due to the fact that the U.S. has more reporters than the rest of the world combined (which can be taken as a compliment or a slam — your choice), and since about 85 percent of True’s audience is in the U.S., more than half of the stories are based in the U.S., sometimes some of True’s overseas readers are left a bit confused about the locations.
Capital cities are shown in bold. State abbreviations are listed according to newspaper style (vs. “Post Office” style), as used in True and in the source stories.
|Ala. — Alabama||Deep south — so much so, Alabama is where the Confederacy was born. The Confederacy lost the Civil War, but don’t try saying that out loud in Alabama. Huntsville, home of the Redstone Arsenal and the Marshall Space Flight Center, is a major rocketry center, so clearly some Alabamians are rocket scientists. Major cities: Birmingham, Montgomery.|
|Alaska — not abbreviated||Not attached to any other state — stands alone off northwest Canada and damned proud of it. Home of rugged individualists, lots of oil, snow. Largest state in the Union, much to Texas’ chagrin. Major cities: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau.|
|Ariz. — Arizona||Southwest. Known for its beautiful deserts, Grand Canyon. Major copper-producing area — the state capitol building has a copper roof with so much metal it could produce 4.8 million pennies. Major cities: Phoenix, Tucson|
|Ark. — Arkansas||Deep south. Home of former president Bill Clinton, who didn’t even consider moving back there when he left office. Yet most there still like him, which says something about the deep south. Major city: Little Rock.|
|Calif. — California||West coast, borders Mexico. Home to Hollywood, “Silicon Valley”, and some of the richest agricultural land in the country. Extremely large and populated state is much more diverse than most people (even in the U.S.) realize. Major cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento.|
|Colo. — Colorado||West. Home of This is True. Known for wild rivers, the Rocky Mountains (and thus great skiing), and mining. Major cities: Colorado Springs, Denver.|
|Conn. — Connecticut||Northeast coast. One of the original 13 Colonies. Home of the first public library, Pez candy, and the country’s oldest newspaper. Major cities: Bridgeport, Hartford.|
|Del. — Delaware||Northeast coast. One of the original 13 Colonies. Known for being very hospitable to corporations — so thousands of businesses have been incorporated there, even though they don’t actually reside in the state. Major cities: Dover, Wilmington|
|Fla. — Florida||Southeast coast. Known for swamps, alligators, retirees, warm weather, Disney World/Epcot, and some of the weirdest stories in True — Florida is much weirder than the state most people consider the weirdest (Calif.) Major cities: Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee.|
|Ga. — Georgia||Deep south. One of the original 13 Colonies. Known for its peaches and peanuts. Major city: Atlanta, called “Hotlanta” by many for its characteristic weather.|
|Hawaii — not abbreviated||Island chain in the Pacific ocean that’s as far away from California as New York is. Its lush tropical beauty is punctuated by its ongoing volcanic action, which is just as beautiful. Major city: Honolulu.|
|Idaho — not abbreviated||Northwest. Residents would prefer you thought of Idaho as the potato-growing capital of the U.S., or even a great place to ski, rather than a major magnet for anti-government isolationist whackjobs. Major city: Boise.|
|Ill. — Illinois||North-central. Major commodities trading center, which is one reason the world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago. Known for political corruption: most of its living former governors are in, have been in, or are headed to, prison. Major cities: Chicago, Springfield.|
|Ind. — Indiana||North-central. Known for its autoracing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Its motto, “Cross Roads of America”, is rather accurate: it has more highways per square mile of any state. Major city: Indianapolis.|
|Iowa — not abbreviated||North-central. Rightly or wrongly, known for its simple, unsophisticated people, as well as huge amounts of corn — which facts may or may not be related. Major cities: Des Moines, Sioux City.|
|Kan. — Kansas||Central. Flat farmland. Kansans like things that go around and around: Kansans not only watch endlessly rotating irrigation sprinklers, the dial telephone was invented there. Major cities: Topeka, Wichita.|
|Ky. — Kentucky||East-central. Known for its horse racing — the Kentucky Derby is the oldest horse racing event in the country. Home to bluegrass — a type of lawn and a type of music, both excellent. Major cities: Frankfort, Louisville (pronounced LOO-ah-vull, not LEWIE-ville and certainly not LEWIS-ville)|
|La. — Louisiana||Deep south. Home of jazz, Cajun/Creole cooking, and one of the biggest Mardi Gras festivals in the world. Major cities: Baton Rouge, New Orleans.|
|Maine — not abbreviated||Northeast coast. Not actually one of the original 13 Colonies — at the time, it was part of Massachusetts. Known for its seafood, especially lobsters, but lesser known for its blueberries even though it’s the largest producer of wild ones in the world. It also produces 90 percent of the country’s toothpicks, which facts are apparently not related. Major cities: Augusta, Portland.|
|Md. — Maryland||East-central. One of the original 13 Colonies, borders Washington D.C. Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” while sitting in a boat in Baltimore Harbor. He put the words to the tune of an old English drinking song, which says plenty about the U.S. Major cities: Annapolis, Baltimore.|
|Mass. — Massachusetts||Northeast coast. One of the original 13 Colonies, and the site of the first landing by British Pilgrims. Salem’s “Witch Trials” tested religious tolerance. Tolerance lost. Major cities: Boston, Springfield.|
|Mich. — Michigan||North-central. Split into two major land masses by the Great Lakes — the “upper peninsula” and the “mitten”. Major cities: Detroit (home of what used to be called the “big three” automakers), Lansing.|
|Minn. — Minnesota||North-central. Known for its cold. Home of 3M, inventor of Scotch Tape, Post-It notepads, and various other sticky things. Both the stapler and the HMO were invented here, which facts may be related. Major cities: St. Paul, Minneapolis.|
|Miss. — Mississippi||Deep south. Dominated by the country’s biggest river. Where John Stetson learned to make hats, much to Texas’ chagrin. Major city: Jackson.|
|Mo. — Missouri||Central. Iced tea and ice cream cones were invented at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Home of blues music style and a major producer of beer, which facts may be related. Major cities: Jefferson City, St. Louis, Kansas City|
|Mont. — Montana||Northwest. Rugged, cold and dry. Home of many gigantic ranches, in part because of its sparse population — 46 out of its 56 counties have fewer than 7 residents per square mile. Major cities: Billings, Helena|
|Neb. — Nebraska||Central. Flat farmland interrupted by lots of rivers. The 911 emergency phone system was invented here (but it was tested on Alabama first). Major cities: Lincoln, Omaha (home of Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world until Bill Gates came along).|
|Nev. — Nevada||West. Dry desert, site of most early U.S. nuclear test explosions, since the government figured no one would care. Home of Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the USA. The only state where prostitution is specifically legal — but it isn’t in Las Vegas. Capital: Carson City.|
|N.H. — New Hampshire||Northeast. One of the original 13 Colonies. Known for the concept, “You can’t get there from here” — which is probably not related to New Hampshire journalist Horace Greely’s famous advice, “Go west, young man.” Major cities: Concord, Manchester.|
|N.J. — New Jersey||Central east coast. One of the original 13 Colonies. Major industrial zone, and the most densely populated state in the U.S. Home of Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, phonograph, and anything else he could claim. Major cities: Newark, Trenton.|
|N.M. — New Mexico||Southwest. Known for its chili-laden cooking. The world’s largest hot air balloon festival is held annually in Albuquerque. Dry desert — has the least amount of waterways of any state — mixed with forest, which helps explain why this is the home of “Smokey the Bear”. Major cities: Albuquerque, Santa Fe.|
|N.Y. — New York||Northeast coast. One of the original 13 Colonies. Major financial zone. A big state, “upstaters” want you to know there’s more to New York than New York City. Major cities: Albany, New York City.|
|N.C. — North Carolina||Southeast coast. One of the original 13 Colonies. Where the Wright Brothers, the inventors of the airplane, did their first test flight. Major cities: Charlotte, Raleigh.|
|N.D. — North Dakota||North central. Borders Canada. Cold. Major cities: Bismark, Fargo (which movie by the same name depicted the residents — correctly — as a bit weird, though locals deny its accuracy.)|
|Ohio — not abbreviated||North-central. Industrial. Home of the first traffic light and the first ambulance, which facts may be related. The pop-top soda can was invented here, as well as the first cash register, which facts may be related. Major cities: Cleveland, Columbus.|
|Okla. — Oklahoma||South-central. Part of the “Bible Belt” and “Tornado Alley”, which facts may be related. Known for its oil and cattle industries. Hot and dry. Major cities: Oklahoma City, Tulsa.|
|Ore. — Oregon||Northwest coast. Known for its rain, liquid precipitation, non-clear weather — and the resulting greenery. Major cities: Portland, Salem.|
|Pa. — Pennsylvania||Northeast. One of the original 13 Colonies. Philadelphia was the original capital city of the USA, it’s now known more for its financial industry. The “Pennsylvania Dutch” (misnamed, since they mainly have Deutsch — German — backgrounds, not Dutch) and the Luddite Amish sect live in such towns with such names as Blue Ball, Intercourse and Paradise. Major cities: Harrisburg, Pittsburgh.|
|R.I. — Rhode Island||Northeast coast. One of the original 13 Colonies. The country’s smallest state — some counties in western states are larger. This doesn’t seem to give residents any sort of inferiority complex, however, since they have big ideas: it was the first Colony to declare its independence from Britain. Major city: Providence.|
|S.C. — South Carolina||Southeast coast. One of the original 13 Colonies, the Civil War started at Fort Sumter. Was officially “The Iodine State” until someone came up with an even stranger slogan, “The Palmetto State”. Largest city: Columbia.|
|S.D. — South Dakota||North-central. The geographic center of the U.S., and home of the world’s largest completed sculpture, Mt. Rushmore. Largest cities: Pierre, Sioux Falls.|
|Tenn. — Tennessee||Deep south. Known for Country & Western music — Nashville is the capital of the state and C&W, and Memphis is well known for The Blues.|
|Texas — not abbreviated||South-central. Home of oil, cattle, and the modern boot-clad cowboy. Texans were mighty proud of being in the largest state of the Union — until 1959, when Alaska stole that birthright. Home of the Presidents Bush. Major cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston.|
|Utah — not abbreviated||West. Best known for being the capital of Mormonism (though they prefer to be known as “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, which is why everyone else prefers “Mormon”). Hot, dry, and conservative, religion permeates much of daily activity. Major cities: Ogden, Salt Lake City.|
|Vt. — Vermont||Northeast. Borders Canada. First state in the Union after the 13 Colonies, and the last state to get a Walmart store (1996). Known for its maple syrup, much to the chagrin of Canada. Major cities: Burlington, Montpelier.|
|Va. — Virginia||Northeast coast. One of the original 13 Colonies, borders Washington D.C. Major tobacco-growing area. Home of the Pentagon, the FBI, the CIA, and the Arlington National Cemetery. Major cities: Norfolk, Richmond.|
|Wash. — Washington||Northwest coast. Borders Canada. Known for lumber products, aerospace plants such as Boeing, and Microsoft. Deserves major credit for forcing an improvement in the way coffee is made by insisting that flavor matters. Major cities: Olympia, Seattle.|
|Washington D.C. — not abbreviated||Northeast coast. The “District of Columbia” — not a state. Capital city of the USA. Known for its monuments, museums, and (of course!) political scandal and intrigue. Typically referred simply as “D.C.” to outsiders, and “The District” to insiders.|
|W.Va. — West Virginia||East central. Known — sometimes fairly, sometimes not — as a home for unsophisticated “hicks”, thanks to its being proud “hillbilly” country. Home of the first Mother’s Day — and the first woman’s prison, which facts are hopefully not related. Major city: Charleston.|
|Wisc. — Wisconsin||North-central. Known for its dairy industry, especially cheese. So much so that Wisconsinites happily refer to themselves as “cheeseheads” — and often proudly wear hats shaped like a wedge of cheese. They consider it cute. Major cities: Madison, Milwaukee.|
|Wyo. — Wyoming||West. Rugged, desolate, known mostly for ranching, particularly by rich guys trying to recapture their lost youth (billionaire CNN founder Ted Turner, for instance, owns more than 100,000 acres of ranchland in the state). Major cities: Casper, Cheyenne.|
|Canada||Some Canucks have criticized the abbreviations I use for their provinces and territories. I certainly did not make up the ones I use; I rely on a chart put out by Statistics Canada (a branch of their federal government). They are: Alberta: Alta., British Columbia: B.C., Manitoba: Man., New Brunswick: N.B., Newfoundland and Labrador: N.L., Northwest Territories: N.W.T., Nova Scotia: N.S., Nunavut: Nvt., Ontario: Ont., Prince Edward Island: P.E.I., Quebec: Que., Saskatchewan: Sask., Yukon Territory: Y.T. There are, of course, postal abbreviations that are different but, again, I follow newspaper style in not using postal abbreviations.|