When you start out in journalism one of the first things they teach you is how important it is to call people and things by their proper name.
One example that always stood out to me was that it was OK to call the former Alabama football coach and part-time deity Bear Bryant on the sports pages, but in the news he had to be referred to as Paul “Bear” Bryant — even though everyone would know him as Bear.
Local media recently had to struggle with that kind of issue as a big wreck involving tractor-trailer trucks led to an explosion and death on the General W.K. Wilson Memorial Bridge, and subsequently to traffic issues around the area.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering where the General W.K. Wilson Memorial Bridge is located and how to avoid it. Until someone leans over and says, “He’s talking about the ‘Dolly Parton Bridge.’” Then you know exactly where it is.
This bridge on I-65 that to many headed south marks the home stretch to the Azalea City has over time become known by a name that obviously started out as a ribald joke. While the famed country singer, songwriter and actress has many accomplishments and talents worth mentioning, it is her, ahem, “accouterments” that have always attracted a good bit of the attention.
Apparently somewhere along the way someone thought the two giant arches of the General W.K. Wilson Memorial Bridge looked enough like a large pair of women’s breasts to make a joke comparing them to Dolly. Whoever that joker was should be proud because the nickname certainly has stuck.
It stuck to the point that almost no one around here has any idea what the bridge’s actual name is and it’s almost universally referred to as “The Dolly Parton Bridge.” Sorry General W.K. Wilson, perhaps plastic surgery could have saved you from such ignominy. But I digress.
The May 22 accident was a tragedy and I do not attempt to demean it in any way, but it also offered a rather interesting look at how local media handled a journalistic tenet.
Almost every media outlet locally abandoned the journalistic stylebooks and simply referred to the wreck as being on The Dolly Parton Bridge. Most also did mention the bridge’s proper name, but the lion’s share of the references were to the DPB.
Even regional stories about the accident referenced the nickname before it’s real moniker. I suppose it’s all about communication and everyone just knows it better as DPB.
But from a media standpoint it is somewhat amusing to see what is essentially a slightly dirty joke cause us stodgy old journalists to break with tradition.
At this point its probably time to find something else to name after Gen. Wilson and go ahead and officially give Dolly her own bridge. She’s earned it.