Tuesday, December 04, 2007

If only civilized society was a little more civil

Being in the news business means having to deal with the underbelly of the human race.
And I'm not talking about murderers and rapists.
I'm talking about people who weren't paying attention when their parents were teaching them manners.
I'm talking about people who call the newsroom to scream (and that is no exaggeration) profanities about something we did or didn't write.
Here's what happened today:
We had a story in the paper about an Elyria truck driver who was killed in an accident.
It's tough getting details about a fatal car accident.
It's even tougher getting details about the person who was killed.
On deadline. When no or few family phone numbers are listed.
Well, our reporter, Steve Szucs, got the details of the crash.
But he was determined to get more, to tell the whole story -- of not just the accident itself but of the man who lost his life in it.
Steve got lucky. He went through the phone book, dialing numbers until he found the victim's aunt.
She seemed close to the victim. She was broken up about his death. She had a photograph of him that she gave us to put in the paper.
And she told us he didn't have any kids.
Well, guess what? It turns out the victim had a son, a 10-year-old son.
How did we find that out?
By someone who called this morning after reading the story to tell us how incompetent we were.
By someone else who called to tell us to get out stories straight.
And by a dozen other people with similar sentiments -- none of them, to my knowledge, family of the victim.
And finally, in the capper this evening, by a woman who called us every name in the book with f'ing as an adjective for each of those names.
Who ARE these people?
They walk among us.
Let's just hope they aren't walking behind us down a dark alley.

By the way, we made plans to recify our error after the very first phone call.
While we feel bad about the error, frankly, I don't know how we could have done anything differently. Or if we will do anything differently next time.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Soon you'll call -- and someone will answer

Guess where I'm going tomorrow?
To training for our new phone system.
Yes, soon, very soon, you will be able to reach us on our phones again.
Or at least leave us voicemail.
For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, we have had only a very limited number of phones since the roof leaked over our phone-room months ago.
Worse, we have had no voicemail.
If you've tried unsuccessfully to reach any of us recently, you know how frustrating it can be.
Imagine how things have been on our end. I have a cell phone and that is the number I list in the paper. That one I pick up. That one takes voicemail.
But sometimes people call my old number, the land line.
Which rings on a phone across the room, a phone that also rings a couple other numbers. Sometimes I get up to answer it and sometimes I don't (sorry).
But soon (I've been assured), there will be a phone on every desk.
A phone that works.

Gay guy furious we reported he was HIV-positive

I got an e-mail today from a very angry man who is HIV-positive.
He was mad because we put his name in a story.
"He had no right to disclose legally protected information," he wrote about our reporter.
Then the HIV-positive man demanded I fire the reporter and advised me to contact our lawyer.
Well, here's the problem. I don't think we did anything wrong.
You see, we included his name in the story because his mother was talking about him during an event to mark World AIDS Day. We covered the event.
What his mother said was compelling: She said she had trouble dealing with it when her son told her 15 years ago that he and his partner were HIV positive. She also said she was shunned by some of her friends.
"I couldn't believe it. I walked out of the room. I couldn't talk to him that day," she said. "I had to learn to love him, accept him and not point any fingers."
We named her and her son in the story because she named her and her son at the event.
I e-mailed the son a response to his note.
"At the event, several people spoke about their loved ones," I wrote. "Our reporter wrote down what was said at the public gathering and then wrote a story about it.
"If I was at a public event such as that – and I am a longtime journalist – I would assume that anybody whose name is mentioned has given the person mentioning it permission to do so. Why would a reporter think otherwise?"
The son phoned me before he got the e-mail.
The only non-hostile word he spoke was "Hello, my name is ..."
And then he started yelling. Not a good approach when you are trying to get a point across.
And then he called me "sweetie." Not a good thing to call a stranger you are trying to convince of anything.
Then he called the reporter the OTHER f-word, the racial slur for homosexuals.
I threatened to hang up on him and he settled down.
He asked to have his name pulled from the story that was online.
I agreed to do it -- without reservation. I understand the situation it put him in.
I also understand that when we cover an event or a meeting, it is our job simply to report what we saw and heard there.
And the more specific we can get, the better.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Even more trash talk in Lorain

The phone rang today.
It was Helen Goldberg, a 90-year-old resident of Lorain's 1st Ward who calls me occasionally.
"I have a good idea for a story," she said.
"Write about what's going on with the trash pickup in Lorain."
We have been writing that story for a long time now and yet sharp-as-a-tack loyal reader Helen has looked right over it -- or has not understood a word we have written.
Chuck Camera, street supervisor, told me after I talked to Helen yesterday that it isn't a fair program for Lorain, the city with a lot of renters (landlords evict them and pile all their belongings in the street) and streets lined with parked cars (so the automated arms on the garbage cans can't get at the bins).
He estimated that of the 22,000 households in Lorain, only 13,000 to 16,000 pay to have their trash picked up.
What about the other 6,000 to 9,000 people?
They either live in apartments and use the apartment Dumpsters or they throw it anywhere they can find -- including the middle of the street, Chuck said.
After I taked to Chuck, I asked our courts and county reporter, Brad Dicken, to write a trash story explaining what's going on but with a bit more of a human angle.
"Talk to the people," I said, "not just the bureaucrats."
Brad told me that the pilot program Lorain is being asked to join is for only two years and 900 households.
After those two years, Lorain can keep doing what it's doing, convert the whole city to the new program or dump the program all together.
If it dumps the program all together, its grant money from the Lorain County Solid Waste Commission would drop minimally (from $250,000 to $225,000), Brad told me.
So, I think that's a small price to pay for a greener planet.
Well, at least a greener county.

(By the way, if you don't understand what's going on either, you're in good company. Lorain Mayor-elect Tony Krasienko was quoted in our story today as saying, "We still never got a complete answer on everything. It's still a little fuzzy.")

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sorting through the trash (collecting)

As a person who faithfully recycles, I was a little dismayed to find out the only thing that stood between me and a healthier planet were six city councilmen in Lorain who last night voted no on "pay as you throw."
For those of you who have been living in a Dumpster for the past few months, "pay as you throw" is a program (being pushed by the Lorain County Solid Waste Policy Committee) in which households are limited to the amount of trash they can put on the curb.
The common way to do this is to give every household two containers. One for trash and one for recylables. The theory behind this is that people trying to save space in their limited trash bin will throw recyclables in the other one, where they belong -- instead of between the coffee grounds and banana peels in the garbage.
Sounds like an idea that should have no opposition, right?
Well, it did. In Lorain. Where I live. The city council vote was 3-6 against the program.
Lorain has to approve it by Wednesday in order for the county to get $1.5 million in recycling incentives.
How could they do this, I thought ... when every other city in Lorain County has approved it?
And then I got this interesting e-mail from Rocky in LaGrange where "pay as you throw" has already been implemented:

"i am a resident of lagrange and have been on the "pay as you throw" program for a few months now. i have received zero cost reduction, actually my last bill went up and i am giving less trash. not to mention i no longer have the ability to throw away large objects or construction material, unless i rent or borrow a truck to load up and take into town to designated area which allows you to throw away such items. i live outside the city and i am truly considering dropping my trash pick-up completely and just burning everything i can and dropping what i can't off at the designated area when needed. to me lorain did the right thing. the program needs to revised to accommodate their issues, but also issues they have not brought up. the designated dumping area needs to be dropped. a monthly or bimonthly or quarterly pick-up for large items and construction material at our residence would be a better solution. also the price needs to go down for people to accept this. throwing away less trash and recycling more should mean we pay less. i am 100% behind the decision that was made in lorain, things need to be improved drastically in my opinion.
also i wish the other city councils would have been as smart as the lorain council in trying to get this program improved before implementing it!
kudos to lorain!"

And now I'm all confused. You mean the trash collectors will never take that old couch or that broken lawn chair if you put them out on the treelawn?
Well, shoot, sometimes you have stuff that won't fit in a garbage can but I don't want to have to haul it to a dump. It's tough enough to do that with tree branches.
And for all this inconvenience -- and the number of trash collectors it should eliminate -- I should see cheaper bills.
We have to do some more reporting on this story, I think.
The only problem is I won't know before I go to the polls today whether to reward or punish those Lorain politicians who voted down the program.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Countdown to elections

There is a lot of last-minute scrambling in the newsroom on the day before elections.
We got our manifest for Wednesday's paper this afternoon. (You know the newsroom gets to fill around the ads, not the other way around, right?)
We usually have an entire section of the paper designated for election results -- but not this year. They are installing a new press and until it is fully functional, we can only get four sections in the paper.
It's true, sometimes you get a paper with more than four sections but that only means some of those were printed ahead of time and then stuffed into the paper (as was our 44-page election preview). Kind of tough to do that on deadline, though, so the election "section" will actually be the back of the A section. Hope it's easy for you to navigate.
We've talked a little about what will go on Page 1 on Wednesday. Like I said in a previous post, we like the county sales tax hike and the Lorain and Elyria mayoral elections for Page 1. But we also like any upsets, any unseated incumbents. They'll be considered for the front page, too.
We also plan for photos and -- much to the dismay of our chief photographer, Bruce Bishop -- we set up assignments for just about everyone since we don't know who the winners will be. He'll bring in his entire crew to help out election night.
Almost everyone in the newsroom will shift their hours to work Tuesday night. There will be a skeleton staff around during the day in case any other news breaks. We've always joked that election day would be a good day for a criminal to rob a bank -- at least as far as newspapers are concerned. I think the police are still at full shift that day.
But I'll be in early and take a break in the afternoon before coming back for all the excitement.
Our Gal Friday, metro desk assistant Paulanne Oakes, always makes sure everyone in the newsroom has plenty to eat on election night. She plans and cooks and orders and no one ever goes home hungry.
Exhausted, yes, but not hungry.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Nobody's perfect -- especially around elections

I walked into the office Thursday and all hell had broken loose.
Everyone in the newsroom -- all six of them at that point -- had logged one complaint or another about our Special Election Section that had come out in that day's paper.
Ooh, that hurts.
There are not words to describe how tough it is to put out one of those election guides -- especially when we have to gather information on 60-plus races involving some 300 candidates.
There are no big, flashy races coming up Tuesday -- my apologies to Bill Grace and John Romoser and Bonnie Ivancic and everyone else who is slighted by that comment.
The race we are looking at for the top of Page 1 the day after the elections is the countywide 0.25 percent sales tax increase. That is what we see as our biggest election story.
Oh, and any incumbent mayor getting unseated. Those stories will get prominent play, too.
Oh, and the school issues -- such as the 4.99-mill bond issue in North Ridgeville.
Oh, and the 0.25 percent income tax increase in Avon to build a YMCA rec center.
And that about sums up why it is such a bear to mold an election into something our readers can -- and want to -- read. Nothing is that important and everything is very important.
Christina Jolliffe, the metro editor, is point person at election time. She is the epitome of organization (God love her) and manages to keep everything straight.
We decided for this year's election preview to give all the candidates the same questions to answer. We thought that would give voters the most accurate picture of the differences between the candidates.
And for the most part, it worked out. The races were divvied up between the reporters (God love them) who managed to quiz the candidates while maintaining their already big workloads.
I say it worked "for the most part" because some of the complaints were "you didn't run everything I said."
Well, here's the deal. We only have so much room. We -- news editor Ben Nagy, that is -- had to do some creative cramming to get all the information we had into the 44 pages allotted to us for the section.
Ben figured out how everything would fit. We decided it would be more useful to readers to group cities -- for instance, all the races in Amherst -- rather than topics -- for instance, all the school board races. Ben and his copy editors had four days to do this.
We checked it and checked it and checked it again, Ben graciously fixing all the problems we found.
But, as usual, we did not get it absolutely perfect. (I actually think it might be the quest for that elusive perfection that keeps journalists coming to work everyday.)
We left out some photos (they were misplaced in our electronic archive) and we misspelled one candidate's name (sorry Bob Slovak, candidate in North Ridgeville's First Ward).
But, I think we now have everything straightened out and we can relax.
Until Tuesday night, that is.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How could Sabrina get kicked off?

Before I start ranting about "Dancing with the Stars," I guess I better 'fess up to watching it.
I tried not to get hooked but it's pretty hard.
Go ahead, I dare you, try to watch it for only one dance.
Wait, no sense watching it now.
The best dancer got booted from the show, Sabrina Bryan of the girl band, "Cheetah Girls."
Here's the deal for the uninitiated: Celebrities are paired with professional dancers and each week one couple is eliminated based on how the judges vote on the show and how the viewers vote -- over the phone and online -- in the half-hour after the show.
Usually, the couple that gets the boot is the couple that should get the boot. As there are fewer and fewer contenders, better and better dancers get kicked off. But, up until last night, it has always seemed to me that the weakest of the remaining got kicked off.
But after what happened last night with Sabrina, it seems that was just because we have been lucky up to this point.
There are some major problems with the voting.
First, the show's judges do not hold all contestants to the same standards. Wayne Newton was an original member of this year's show. What he had to do to get a "7" from the judges is nothing like what Sabrina Bryan had to do to get a "7."
In the show that led to her ouster, Sabrina got pretty low marks for an almost perfect performance.
Not fair.
Then, although the audience has a half hour to vote after the show, I defy you to try to cast the seven votes allowed to you. It is impossible to get through on the phone. Hang up that option.
But it is also nearly impossible to get onto the Web site to vote because it is experiencing so much traffic.
Some of the comments burning up online fan sites the day after blame Sabrina's defeat on people not voting because she was so good, they didn't feel the need to cast their vote. She was a lock.
Guess not.
I don't know about you but I want the most talented person to win a talent contest.
If that's what "Dancing with the Stars" is all about, they need to fix their voting procedure.
Still on the show is Jane Seymour. Not for anything, and God love her, she's even older than me, BUT she isn't as good as Sabrina Bryan -- by a long shot. Perhaps more Dr. Quinn fans watch the show than Cheetah Girls fans but that shouldn't keep the best dancer from winning.
A lot of people are saying they are done watching the show.
I'm not ready to say that but it sure has lost a lot of its magic as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Daniel visits his mother

Daniel Petric, the 16-year-old son of a pastor, accused of killing his mother and shooting his father, was granted private visitation at his mother's casket today.
His attorney had asked the court if Daniel could have a furlough to go to the funeral on Saturday. Instead, private visitation was granted.
We went to cover the private visitation but by the time we got there, the van that had brought Daniel from the detention home was pulling away.
We have been given permission by the family to cover the funeral tomorrow so you can read about the ending of a tragic story in Sunday's Chronicle.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wait, it's not the same old Lorain ... maybe

In the last blog item, I was lamenting the loss of what I thought was a new and improved working relationship with the mayor of Lorain.
When John Romoser was appointed to the seat Craig Foltin vacated in August, we all breathed a sigh of relief.
We couldn't catch a break -- or a fair shot at the news -- with Mayor Foltin.
But with a new mayor, we thought we would be back on even footing.
And then, we read -- in the other paper -- about Mike Kobylka leaving the safety-service director post, a story we knew about but were holding up on reporting as a courtesy.
Shoot, still getting shafted by the mayor's office.
But wait.
I got a call from Mayor Romoser today. He assured me that he is not like Craig Foltin.
"I don't know what happened. There was a breakdown in communication.
"I thought Mike had already called Adam (Wright, our Lorain reporter)," Romoser said.
"I never intended to shut you guys out," he said.
OK, I'll buy it. Anyone can make a mistake.
But this is the one and only "breakdown in communication" excuse that I will believe.
Because, as George Bush would say, "There's an old saying in Tennessee ... I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee ... that says, fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me ... oh, you can't get fooled again."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Same old, same old in Lorain

So we here at The Chronicle were all hoping that when Craig Foltin left office, it was the end of an era -- an era of getting our clock cleaned by the other paper on Lorain stories.
It was no secret that Foltin had no use for us and therefore spoon-fed all Lorain scoops to the other paper, leaving us -- time and time again -- running to catch up.
And now it appears the new mayor is up to the same old game.
You may have heard -- or read in the other paper -- that Lorain Safety Service Director Mike Kobylka is quitting to take another job.
Well, guess what? We have known about this for a little while but were honoring a promise we made to hold up on it until the job deal was finalized.
So, imagine our surprise when we opened the other paper this morning and there was the story. Silly, silly us.
Here. We. Go. Again.
The scuttlebutt on the street is that newly appointed mayor John Romoser urged/ordered/demanded that the other paper get the story first supposedly to get in the good graces of the hometown paper.
Hmmm. That's a little puzzling to me because the other paper has already endorsed his November opponent, Tony Krasienko. We haven't endorsed anyone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How we found out about the gun threat

This afternoon we got a tip that Daniel Petric, the 16-year-old accused of killing his mother and shooting his father, had been in trouble before.
He brought a gun to school, the tipster told me.
That was a little puzzling because we were told by the schools yesterday that he had been home-schooled until recently. This gun incident supposedly happened two years ago.
We didn't think we would have much luck getting information from the school -- and not because they told us something different yesterday. We thought we would get stymied by privacy issues.
"How about the police?" reporter Shawn Foucher said. "If he brought a gun to school, there should be a police report."
Isn't it great to be surrounded by resourceful news people?
Sure enough, Shawn got the Wellington police to provide us with a police report.
The incident, as you probably read on our Web site, actually happened four years ago ... and he didn't bring a gun, according to the police report, he threatened to bring a gun.
The home-schooled allegation? We're still trying to get to the bottom of that.
But the anonymous tipster did set us on a path of discovery and for that I'd like to thank him or her.
And if you see something or hear something about anything you think could be newsworthy, please let us know.
If there is something there, we'll track it down.

Monday, October 22, 2007

What does a teenage murder suspect look like?

Here is a picture of Daniel Petric, 16, who today was charged with murder and attempted murder in the shootings of his parents.
A picture of the back of Daniel Petric, that is.
We fought all morning today, with the help of our lawyer, to be allowed to take his photo at today's hearing. Daniel, according to police, is the only suspect in the shootings of his parents, the Rev. Mark and Sue Petric.
This afternoon's hearing was at the detention home where he is being held.
Our argument to take his photo was based on court rulings giving us the right to have a photographer at such hearings.
The court's argument against allowing us to take his photo was that the suspect is a juvenile who has not yet been charged.
He's a juvenile, yes, but he was charged at the hearing -- with murder and attempted murder. His mother is dead and his father is in critical condition.
In the end, we were allowed to shoot him from the back ... no photos that can identify him.
But we are not done fighting.
We believe we have the right to photograph a person charged with killing his or her parents -- regardless of age -- because we believe our readers have the right to see the face of the person charged with such a crime. What he looks like is part of the story.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Indians at bottom of totem pole

The Indians have been the underdogs the entire American League series — and that’s OK.
But now, the Tribe is up 3-1 going into tonight’s game — which will be played on its home field with its ace on the mound — and it is still the underdog.
Everyone from the ESPN "Sports Center" gang to the Vegas oddsmakers are giving the edge to Boston in Game 5 tonight.
How can that be? What does Cleveland have to do to get a little respect around here?

Monday, October 15, 2007

L.A. crash scary but not surprising

I was throwing clothes into my suitcase and watching the local news Saturday morning in Burbank, Calif.
The TV news guy was talking about an accident in an underpass on an interstate.
He cut to a film clip of the crash.
A ball of flames filled the screen. Every once in awhile the flames would lap and you could see a truck cab.
The TV news guy didn't know how many people were dead or injured. In fact, he didn't even know how many vehicles were involved in the crash that happened around 11 p.m. Friday.
Then the camera was back on the news guy in the studio and he was very seriously telling viewers that rain-slicked roads can be slippery and cars often cut off semi-truck drivers.
He said it is hard for the semi drivers to brake without losing control of their rigs.
So, please, he implored viewers, don't cut off big trucks on rain-slicked highways.
Oh, yeah, I'm sure Los Angeles drivers will heed that request.
Cars cut off everyone there. I found that out during last week's business trip. It seems other drivers are never going fast enough.
In tie-ups when cars are at a dead stop, drivers honk.
If you are waiting for oncoming cars to go by before making a lefthand turn, drivers honk.
Cars clog the streets and highways and drivers honk and drive dangerously.
I'm surprised there aren't more horrific crashes in southern California.
You probably read about Friday's fiery accident on I-5 north of Los Angeles. According to information in today's Los Angeles Times, at least three people are dead and at least five big rigs and multiple cars were involved.
There is a company in Grafton called Introtech Crash Reconstruction. Its employees go out to crash sites to try to figure out how they happened.
Dale Dent, chief of operations for the company, said it won't be involved in the California crash. Introtech works mostly in Ohio and rarely in other states.
He did say however that a crash in which all the vehicles are burned up, as this one was, will be very hard to reconstruct.
"All the evidence is gone," he said. "Evidence from the roadway is gone. Evidence from the vehicles is gone.
"If they are able to put together what happened, it will take a very long time," Dent said.
The California interstate, I-5, remained closed around the crash site this morning sending drivers scurrying to find alternate routes to work.
I can't imagine the honking that is generating.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Black, white -- and read all over

You have probably read the stories we've been running about a black teenager getting beat up by the two men on the north side of Elyria.
If not, here's the story: 17-year-old Travis Noble was walking on Metcalf Road last Friday night when some white kids called him a racial slur (yes, THE hate-filled racial slur). Travis ran toward the other teens but apparently thought better than to start a fight, turned to walk away and they smacked him on the head. He fought back -- and ended up with a broken jaw. His white adversaries, 21-year-old James Machovina of North Pasadena Avenue and Kenneth Tackett II of Grafton ended up with felony assault charges.
We ran the story Sept. 27.
Why did we run the story six days after it happened? Because that's when we found out about it. Every single day, sometimes twice a day, we check the police reports at the police station. This report was not in the pile. We found out about it because someone called to tell us about it. Then we looked into it. Then the police gave us the information. Then we ran the story.
We did not hold back the information because it was a white-on-black crime.
We did not run the photo of the charged guy small because he was white.
We would not have run the photo of the charged guy big if he would have been black.
Here's the deal: We are not racist. Seriously. We newspaper people live in a black and white world -- figuratively and literally.
Last I looked there were 19 comments on the first story we posted.
We heard from the kind and the hateful, the wise and the ignorant.
But this sentence written by one reader was my favorite: "I am appalled, sick to my stomach and my heart is aching. I have no answers. These are our children … Black, White and Brown!!!!"
If only that were the sentence we were all scrambling to write.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The judge and the belt

Here's the story:
An 8-year-old boy has red marks across his back made by a belt.
(The photo at right, taken by the police sometime after the beating, shows the marks on the boy's back.)
A teacher sees these marks and reports it to authorities.
The boy's father, a 28-year-old Lorain man, is charged.
Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge James Burge clears the man of wrongdoing.
The prosecution, Burge told our reporter, failed to prove the necessary element of the crime — that the 8-year-old boy had suffered serious physical harm and that the punishment was excessive.
I guess "excessive" is the key word here.
Burge said the marks looked worse than they were.
“Cosmetically they were bad, but I didn’t see any deep tissue problems,” he said. “I didn’t see bruises. I saw red marks. I didn’t see any welts where the skin was raised.”
Yep, "excessive" is definitely the key word.
While Burge said he probably would not have done what this father did, he said he is in favor of corporal punishment.
“I think that we would have far fewer juveniles in the system if their parents and teachers could correct them,” he said.
Most of us in the newsroom were shocked that a dad would do such a thing to a child -- and a judge would think it's OK.
But comments to the story posted on our Website this morning show that readers agree with the dad and the judge.
"If parents didn’t have to worry about going to jail for wooping the kids butt then I believe many more would and there would be a little respect in these kids. Also PLEASE get it back in the schools," writes Steve D.
Well, my kids are out of school but if they weren't, I wouldn't want no wooping of them there.
What can I say to that?
What can I say to any of this?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Just what is good, clean fun?

I opened up the paper this morning and there -- across the top of a photo of comedian Bill Engvall -- was a headline that said: "Good, clean fun at the Fair."
I read the accompanying story. I like Bill Engvall. I mean I like Bill Engvall as part of the "Blue Collar Comedy Tour." (The one I like best is Ron White but that doesn't really matter to this story.)
Bill Engvall, the story began, lived up to his reputation as "a clean and family-friendly funnyman." There was some yada yada and then, toward the end of the story, the writer detailed the jokes Engvall had told Monday night at the Fair. They were about, among other things, constipation and diarrhea, getting a cramp during sex, flatulence and Viagara (including the downside of a man's 36-hour arousal).
None of this crude, bathroom, junior-high humor offends me particularly but I did wonder how it could be categorized as "good, clean fun."
I was able -- through the wonders of modern technology -- to find not only the original version of the story but also a couple other versions along the way to the final edit that appeared in the paper.
It seemed to me that all that was missing was a good strong paragraph to explain things -- the kind of good, strong paragraph I found had ended up on the editing room floor.
The original story had contained a paragraph that said, "Arguably the cleanest funnyman among his "Blue Collar Comedy" brethren -- Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy -- the Arizona native (Engvall) doesn't use f-bombs or expletives to punctuate his material. He doesn't need to. Instead, he uses something far more shocking: Real life."
So there you have it.
Good, clean fun.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Here a chick, there a chick in Key West

Well, just got back from a whirlwind vacation to Key West.
I wrote a column about a restaurant called "Blue Heaven," an eclectic eatery with a tie-dyed hippie kind of feel.
My column was about searching for a table in the outdoor seating area in 95-degree heat and 95 percent humidity. Yes, the question you ask is valid: "Who in their right mind goes to Key West in August?" Since it was my husband and me, I guess the operative words are "right mind."
Anyway, in the column I didn't mention the chickens that eat with you at Blue Heaven.
Not the chickens in the caesar salads or on the restaurant's scrumptious chicken sandwiches. No, I didn't talk about the live chickens that wander around the tables begging for scraps like very skittish little feathered dogs.
You see, there are a lot of chickens roaming around the Key West. They stomp around flower beds, mill around in front of restaurants, lead their chicks across courtyards and run across the streets.
But, by far, the largest concentration of roosters and chickens I saw there was on the outdoor patio at Blue Heaven.
And it wasn't until an e-mailer brought to my attention the fact that I wrote a column about the Blue Heaven without mentioning the winged dinner companions that I realized what an inaccurate picture I painted of the place.
For that I am truly sorry.
I think the reason I may have put those birds out of my mind is that I happened to order one of their famous caesar salads -- with chicken.
Needless to say I had a hard time eating it, looking at the grilled bird atop my greens and wondering if yesterday it had been walking around on the ground with its buddies begging for food from diners.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Talk about not telling the whole story ...

Remember that story last week about Joel Covender, the man whose stepchildren are recanting their reports of molestation that sent him to prison for 11 years?
Well, when we were writing that story, we ran Covender's name through our files looking for past stories we had written about him.
We found a story from March 1996, the same year he went on trial for his alleged sex crimes.
Except the story we found had nothing to do with sex or molestation.
It was about a house that Covender and then-wife, April, were renting on Tenney Avenue in Amherst. The Covenders were fighting with their landlord about repairs to the home.
The 1996 story made absolutely no reference to sex charges even though it was written at the same time Covender was headed to trial.
How could we not have known about this man's background? Don't we have access to those court records?
I asked Brad Dicken, our court reporter, and Julie Wallace, our asst. managing editor who is a former court reporter.
"There are just too many indictments," Julie told me. "We can't cover them all."
Brad agreed. He said 30-40 grand jury indictments are put out twice a week.
Hmm. It seems to me those names should be getting in the paper somewhere. We are trying to figure out how to do that.
In the meantime, I'd like to apologize 11 years later for not telling the full story in that 1996 tenant-landlord story. We didn't tell the whole story because we didn't know the whole story.
And I know the sex allegations had nothing to do with Covender's fight with the landlord. But it seems as if not mentioning it was like it would be if we wrote a story today about Michael Vick's football prowess without mentioning that he is under indictment in a dog-fighting case.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A not-so-fun number game

When Lorain Schools first announced impending layoffs, the number was 246.
When the ax fell officially Friday, it was 243. However, the way we understand it, not all of those 243 were among the original 246.
We have been desperately trying to find out what that means from Lorain schools and its spokesman.
Trying being the operative word.
Despite several calls Friday and a couple today, we still cannot get a hold of anyone who has the answer. The schools' spokesman is out of the office until Wednesday.
Were there 100 teachers jumping for joy Friday because their jobs were spared -- and, of course, conversely 100 teachers jolted by getting laid off without notice?
We got the "official" list and ran it both in print and online. But we have been unable to get our hands on the list of teachers who got the original letters.
Just wondering who -- if anyone -- knows?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Siento mucho

Yes, we knew that Sammy De Leon Y Su Orquestra was playing at the Sacred Heart Festival when we snapped his picture Sunday night.

Well, I knew at least. I'm a big Sammy De Leon fan. I've seen him at Oakwood Park and I've seen him at the Executive Caterers of Landerhaven.

And I saw him Sunday night at the annual festival of Sammy and pastillios on Pearl Avenue.

So, if we knew he was at Sacred Heart and I'm a big fan, why did we run in the paper that he was playing at St. Mary's?

I hang my head in shame.

It was just one of those mistakes that newspapers make and regret. Human error.

Sorry, Sammy.

We want your comments!

We report the news; now you tell us what you think about it.

We have recently enabled the function that allows readers to comment on all stories posted on our Web site.

So, go ahead. Tell us what you think -- about the stories themselves or our reporting of them.

All we ask is that you have the same courtesy you would have addressing the issue with someone in person ... OK, OK, at least as much courtesy as you would have talking about it on the phone.

You are still welcome to discuss the issue anonymously, too. Just "e-mail the managing editor about this story" and I will see your comments but they won't be posted on the Web site.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Moving heaven and earth to get information

There are eight million stories in the Naked City and at least as many in Lorain.
Too bad they are buried under, urrrrrg, very large, urrrrrg, rocks.
It's been my experience that the most trusted politicians and officials are those who are the most transparent. But when they act as if they have something to hide, we can't help thinking that they do.
In Lorain, we've always been stonewalled by the Foltin administration. That's a given.
But now, it's the schools, too.
One of our reporters, Bette Pearce -- a woman who has been working on newspapers for almost 40 (!) years and knows the difference between private and public meetings -- went to the Lorain Board of Education meeting Thursday night.
(By the way, she was curiously the only reporter there.)
The agenda for the meeting said the board would be going into executive session. However, it did not specify what the board would be discussing. You see, there are only a handful of topics that are allowed by law to be discussed in private by elected officials. Everything else must be discussed in public.
Bette was unable to find out what was being discussed in private and reported as much.
So, today we get a call from the schools' spokesman. He called not Bette but another reporter. (We call that "reporter shopping.") The spokesman was hopping mad. He said the reason for the private meeting was spelled out in a press release. He demanded a correction.
He also said that if Bette had been to the meeting on time -- she said she was 5 minutes late -- she would have heard it.
All I can say about all this is "Now, COME on!"
Because the reason was stated in a press release, it didn't need to be on the agenda?
What about the people at meeting who didn't get a press release, the regular old citizens?
Reporters are not the enemy. We have no axes to grind, no heroes to champion, no agendas. Period.
We are adults with a job to do who waste a lot of time playing childish games.
Sometimes I feel as if some officials think that if they wear us down, we will go away.
Well, if it isn't clear by now, I'll say to those people: You can wear us down, you can tire us out but we won't go away.
If you're getting paid with public money, then you need to be accountable to that public.
Daggone it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Covering graduations

Ben Norris, our summer intern from Phoenix, arrived in the newsroom at 2 p.m. Friday.
Five hours later, he was covering Midview High School's graduation.
Ben, a student at Northern Arizona University, and Rania Shakkour, a graduate of Amherst Steele and a junior at the University of Dayton, have been up to their tassels in area high school graduations.
You see, I insisted we continue covering graduation ceremonies with reporters even though the metro editor wanted to stop doing so. She wanted us to send photographers only. Take pictures, skip the stories is what se wanted to do.
"I don't have anybody to do them," she told me.
"Maybe the interns could help out," I replied.
To say she took me up on that is an understatement. The interns are not only helping out, they are doing most of them.
After covering Midview on Friday, Ben covered Firelands on Saturday and then Avon on Sunday.
I talked to him Sunday afternoon.
"You doing OK, Ben? Have you been able to find all the schools? Sorry about the baptism by fire."
"Oh, no, I'm fine. I'm getting used to finding ways to write them all differently," he told me.
And then today, I talked to Rania. She's not only from the area, she started her internship a few weeks ago. I wasn't nearly as worried about her. So I teased her.
"Hey, Ben," I said over her head, "I hear Rania likes doing graduation stories so much that she wants all of yours."
"Oh, no, not me," she said good-naturedly. "I'm counting down the number I have left ... "

Do you think the stories about area high school graduations are valuable or do you think, like our metro editor, that a photo would be sufficient?
It's a lot of work getting them all covered. Our competition doesn't do it.
Should we bag it next year?

Flag flak wearin' me down

E-mails dripping with venom -- red, white and blue venom, that is -- continue to trickle in a week after we ran an American flag in the paper on Memorial Day.

It ran in a classified advertising section that contained memoriams. In case you didn't see it, it looked like the one hanging on the Pentagon in the picture at right. It had the stars in the upper left-hand corner.

Some emails have accused us of being unpatriotic but most have accused us of being just plain stupid.

I'm the first to admit that we do some dumb things occasionally but the way we ran this flag wasn't one of them.

The flag we ran is meant to be hung vertically and, according to flag etiquette rules, "When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, that is with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street."

And that is exactly what we did.

Anyway, if anyone asks you (as they click their tongue) if you saw the way the Chronicle ran the American flag on Memorial Day, please tell them what I have just told you.

And next time, I think we will run the flag as it is traditionally seen: horizontally.

(Geez. It's been a long time since I posted something new here.
If you've been hanging with me, thanks.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mobsters on our minds

We're working hard as usual in the newsroom this afternoon.
That is, until the next person comes in and starts talking about last night's episode of "The Sopranos."
Are you watching?
What do you think is going to happen at the end? There are only three more episodes.
I don't want to spoil it for anyone but I'm sure if you have read this far you are interested enough to have watched and know that Christopher is dead.
Poor Chris. Suffocated because Tony was pinching shut his not-so-little nostrils after the two were in a car crash.
I think the series will end with Tony in a heap, a mere jelly mountain of this former self. He'll be depressed and insane and grieving over A.J., who will either kill himself or get killed.
Tony could take out Paulie before that -- oh, and Phil Leotardo, too.
Carmella? I can't figure out what they are going to do with her.
What do you guys think of my scenario?
A lot of people think Tony's going to turn state's evidence but that ending's a little too wimpy for me.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A new day dawns in Elyria

It's a little before midnight on election night in the newsroom.
Elyria voters not only passed the school levy, they passed it in a landslide.
Most of us couldn't be more surprised.
We've been reading the letters to the editor. People continued to complain about Elyria West. People continued to complain about higher taxes. People continued to accuse teachers and school administrators of having some sort of agenda.
It looked like it was going down for sure.
But, in hindsight, it looks as if the complainers were in the minority.
The rest of Elyria, the community that Elyria Schools Supt. Paul Rigda said he "couldn't be more proud of," went to the polls and voted for what was best for the city and its children.
While most in the newsroom were pessimistic, not all were. In fact, Shawn Foucher, the reporter who has been covering the levy campaign thought it would pass.
So did long-time reporter Cindy Leise. In fact, Cindy was offering up bets this week.
No one took her up on it.
I called my husband, who is a teacher at Cascade Elementary, tonight when the results came in.
"It passed!" I told him.
"The levy passed? Really?" he said.
"Everybody is going to be in such a good mood at school tomorrow," he said.
I think that beam on Rigda's face will be mirrored in a lot of faces tomorrow.
Congratulations, Elyria.
You made a lot of people happy.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Old school

OK, so tomorrow's the big day.
Will the residents of Elyria vote to replace their falling down high school -- with the help of about $23 million from the state?
I don't think it's going to happen.
The talk on the street, the letters to the editor all lead me to believe that Elyrians do not think a new high school is important to their city and to their kids.
What? Is it about money?
The state is kicking in 40 percent and even that can't convince voters.
The levy is expected to cost the owners of a $100,000 house $103 a year.
That's $8.58 a month. What will $8.58 buy? Two meals at McDonalds, maybe three at Taco Bell. Two packs of cigarettes.
If it's not about money, then what?
Elyria West?
Anyway, I'm just hoping voters surprise me tomorrow.
I'm hoping people in Elyria do care about their kids and their town and care about the way others see them.
But I can't help thinking the rhythm-challenged Billy Ray Cyrus has more of a shot on "Dancing with the Stars" than a new high school has in Elyria.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Goodbye, June

My mother-in-law died Friday.
Poor June. She has been bed-ridden for more than a year. She has been in hospice since mid-January and she had not eaten or spoken in two weeks. She was so sick for so long.
And yet, we were totally unprepared for her death.
The hospice worker told us that was not unusual but you know how it is with those hospice workers. They are truly the kindest people on the earth and I suspect sometimes they say things that make you feel better even if what they are saying is not exactly the absolute truth.
On Thursday, we were told that although her health continues to decline, her vital signs are still (relatively, I guess) good.
So I thought it was OK that I went to the conference in St. Louis as planned.
I got on a plane just after noon on Friday. Around 4 p.m., my husband called and told me his mother had taken a turn for the worse. At 8 p.m., he called to tell me she had died.
I knew that would happen. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Everybody says that. But I really did know it would happen. My husband and I have sort of put our lives on hold for a year. He didn't want to be far in case anything happened. And yet, nothing had happened in more than a year so when this conference -- about online news -- came up, I decided it was time.
Time to go.
And then I got the phone call.
I ducked out of the conference and got a plane home on Saturday.
We had her funeral on Monday.
I'm not sure if this all makes me a grown-up but my husband and I have had to do a lot of grown-up things in the past few months. And, just when I think we are doing OK, another decision has to be made.
My mother asked us what we were going to do with the ashes.
Ashes?!? Don't they just keep them? They give them to us? Will they just keep them? What should we do with them?
See? A person has it under control and then, something else comes up.
Maybe there is no such thing as a "grown-up." Maybe we all just wing it. Maybe we all pretend we know what we are doing when we have to make tough life decisions.
Do you think?
I bet I know who does know. A hospice worker. I think I'll go find one to ask.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Our kids are being gunned down

The first report we got this morning was one dead and 17 hurt and then all of a sudden 21 are dead. 21 college students. What a terrible tragedy.
What the parents of students at Virginia Tech must be going through.
What has this world come to?
Our kids aren't safe in a college classroom. How can they be safe anywhere?
I wonder about the layout of Virginia Tech. Is it a very big school? Where was this building? Was it easily accessible to the public? Did someone walk in off the street or was it a student?
I don't know about you but I always felt safe when I was in college. Shoot, I felt safe walking the streets in the middle of the night. Now kids -- my kids -- aren't even safe in a classroom.
What can we do about it?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Harvey saw it coming

I got back from lunch today and there was a folded up note on my desk.
It was from Harvey Gittler, our, a-hem, somewhat liberal columnist.
He scribbled a note to me: "Who sounded the first warning about the Midway Mall?" and attached it to a copy of a column he wrote Aug. 16, 2004.
The headline is "Midway Mall is changing."
He begins the column writing about 1968, when he came to the area. Midway Mall was brand-spanking new and taking business from struggling downtown Elyria merchants, if not taking the businesses themselves. Penney's and Sears had left Broad Street for the mall.
And then the mall was expanded and stores -- such as Wal-Mart and Circuit City -- sprouted around its periphery.
"What I still stubbornly call the Midway Mall is changing in character," Harvey wrote in 2004.
While the four anchor stores remained, only a couple other original stores were still there.
Harvey counted 12 (12!) jewelry stores, a sword and knife emporium, two stores near Kaufmann's that had merchandise he couldn't even describe and nine sports stores. In addition, there were 10 boarded-up stores and one boarded-up restaurant in the Food Court.
The mall and its youth-oriented retail shops had become a mecca for teens.
"What is there for my wife and me -- mature shoppers that we are?" Harvey wrote.
"The mall she is a changin'. What has brought on these changes I can't say. It might have been the Wal-Mart just across the street; it could be changing tastes, or a changing customer base. Of course, Internet shopping certainly has shifted our shopping habits.
"The Old Gray Mall, she ain't what she used to be," Harvey wrote.
That was almost three years ago.
So, tell us, Harvey, what do you have to say now (other than "I told you so")?
What is going to happen to our Old Gray Mall?

The first to get booted from "Dancing"

Billy Ray "Never Did Ballroom Dancing in My Life" Cyrus and Miss USA Barbie got to stay but model Paulina Porizkova got booted off last night in the first elimination on "Dancing with the Stars."
While it hardly seems fair, it's understandable.
Billy Ray can thank his lucky star -- his daughter Miley, known to Disney Channel watchers (and their parents) as Hannah Montana. The wildly popular show is about a preteen -- Miley -- who is a pop star but lives a secret life as a regular old girl. And Billy Ray plays her fish-out-of-water country singer dad from Tennessee who has to adjust to life in Malibu.
Fish out of water, flopping around on the dance floor -- see the parallel?
But the survival of Miss USA Shandi "Mugs at the Camera at Every Opportunity" Finnessey isn't as easy to understand.
Yeah, but, don't spend too much time thinking about it because I'm pretty sure she'll be the next to go.
The judges don't seem to like Leeza Gibbons much but she's got a lot of class and most likely a pretty good fan base between 1. people over 50 who thinks she looks pretty darn good and 2. people who still remember her from "Entertainment Tonight."
I think she has a couple more weeks in her, anyway.
I still like Laila Ali -- the boxing daughter of Muhammed -- for the win. She's got the personality that Miss USA wishes she had. She gives me someone to root for.
But I ask my husband at least twice during every show, "Does she really let people punch her in that pretty face?"
Now that's the hardest to believe of anything.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dancing with the Stars

The hugely popular dance show was pretty bizarre as it kicked off its first season Monday night.
Heather Mills, Paul McCartney's ex, is one of the contestants and she has an artificial leg. I'm not sure why she agreed to do the show but I would hope it is because she wants to be a role model for others with disabilities. But the show -- and ABC -- sure didn't help her do that.
I should have seen in coming in the commercials that were airing before the show premiered -- the ones that showed an endless supply of pre-shoed artificial limbs. It was as if ABC was telling viewers to watch to see if something bad would happen. Seems a little tacky to me.
On the show, she danced OK, I guess. But there is something about her that has nothing to do with her legs. She's not very engaging. She certainly doesn't have the personality of Emmitt Smith, last season's winner.
The contestant with personality is Laila Ali, the boxing daughter of Muhammad. She is my early favorite to win it all.
The most abysmal was Billy Ray Cyrus whose performance judge Bruno likened to "a crazy bear lost in a swamp." I can't say it much better than that.
A close most-abysmal second was Miss USA 2004 Shandi Finnessey. Between all her awkward dance steps she managed to flash huge fake grins at the camera. She might be the first one booted off.
On the other hand, I predict Olympic gold medalist speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno to be in the Final Four and maybe even take a dancing gold. He needs some practice but it's pretty clear he's got what it takes -- even with his less-than-classy 18-year-old professional dance partner Julianne.
The "best dress" of the competition was worn by professional dancer Edyta Sliwinska. It was like a pink bikini with a ruffled half-skirt. She danced with John Ratzenberger -- Cliff Clavin from "Cheers" -- who was tapped to take the place of the Sopranos' Vincent Pastore who dropped out because the practice was too grueling. Hmmm. Guess that makes the name of his character on the Sopranos pretty appropriate. Cliff, er, John wasn't too shabby.
This season's charming athlete is former Houston Rocket Clyde Drexler, who at 6-foot-7 and 44 years of age, could very well glide his way into the hearts of the judges and the audience. He's a longshot to win but it's a possibility.
So those were the highlights -- and lowlights -- as I saw them. What did you think?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Gone but not forgotten

It was a sad week at The Chronicle. We buried our co-worker Jeff Mohrman who died of brain cancer at 43. If you haven't seen the online memoriam for him, you really should check it out. You'll get a picture of who this guy was. He was a genuinely nice human being and so very proud to be a reporter. At the funeral home, pictures of Jeff covering stories were posted in prominent places around the room.
The tornado that danced through Elyria this week, picking up roofs but not harming anyone, was a fitting sendoff. Jeff was our go-to guy when it came to weather stories. He loved to write them and would often cruise around the radar weather sites and give us updates of approaching bad weather.
There is nothing we can do to match the sendoff Mother Nature gave him but I speak for the entire newsroom when I say we were glad we knew him. We'll miss you, Jeff.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Looking for a copy editor

I know this isn't the want ads but, hey, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what a blog is ...
We are looking for a copy editor.
This is the first cut: If you don't know what a copy editor is, you probably are not qualified.
I'm really not being mean or a smart aleck ... that's just the case.
You have to be able to edit copy, write headlines and paginate pages.
Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE to have all of you extremely intelligent people who read anything and everything you can get your hands on working here.
But the fact of the matter is: It's not just about finding errors in copy. Doing pagination has become a tremendous part of the job.
If you are interested, please let me know. We don't pay a lot. We work hard. But it is a great profession and we have a lot of fun (most days).

So, I can't just hang up without telling you a story, a true story ...
I got an e-mail last week from a recent college graduate. She was looking for a job as a reporter.
I wrote back, telling her that I don't expect to have a reporter opening anytime soon; in fact, I was not even allowed to replace the last reporter who left.
However, I told the recent grad, I do have a copy editor job opening. Would you be interested?
"Oh, yes!" she told me. "I would be very interested.
"In fact, I just took a copy editing coarse ... "
Ah, so close and yet so far. She got the "copy editing" right, it was the COURSE she had trouble with.
Too bad only game show hosts get to have buzzers.

Friday, March 09, 2007

What people are saying about the new Web site

I have to tell you, I got a lot of comments on our new site. Most of them were favorable and many offered really good criticisms.
Thanks to everyone who wrote -- and called, too.
Please keep me posted. We want it to be the best newspaper site in the history of the world. OK, well how about: We want it to be your FAVORITE newspaper Web site.
We have taken care of some of the glitches and are working on the rest.
Anyway, thought you'd be interested in seeing what some of the people are saying -- and you are still invited to weigh in. (I'm leaving out the names but if you want people to know you were responsible for any of these, please leave a comment.)

"The Chronicle “on Demand” ad on the website looks really bad. It looks like it’s the wrong size."

"I didn' t see today's date on the new web site."
Note: It has been or will be added.

"Your new website is impressive. My wife likes to sit down at night and read your paper, but I like to read this when I get to work. The videos are a great addition. "

"I did see the dates are updated on the obits ---- but I don't
like the way they are displayed. I don't think all the info
is listed about the person."

"Good stuff , as always CT is ahead of the game."

"Truthfully, I liked the previous website, where you had a brief description under each local news story listed, for example."

"I would most definitely like to see the Community Links link return to this new look web site. I used it quite a bit."
Note: It has been or will be put under the "Miscellaneous" tab.

"I miss seeing your logo and date as the web site opens. I also liked the sentence or two along with each local headline (Those are the ones I read the most often.) which make it easier to determine if this is an article with new information that I want to delve deeper into."

"So far I love the new website. I even like it better than the Journal's site.
Why is it that you no longer post pictures in your obituary column? If it is in the newspaper why can't it also be online?
I live in Florida 4 months every year and count on your online paper to give me the latest news."

"Well, I just sent you an email commenting on how I like your new website when I ran into my first problem. I tried to forward an email to a friend and it keeps coming back Fatal error."
Note: This should have been resolved.

"Great job on the new web site. It looks neat and very organized. Congratulations, it's something you can be proud of."

"I like the new site. It's nice to see a truly custom site and not a shared site like The Journal uses.
Some thoughts:
For the videos you should let users know they will taken out of the chronicle site. Could confuse users. You may want to consider embedding the videos within your site.
Also the font I think could be a little heavier seems a little more spaced out than it needs to be.
And the orange arrows to the left of each article are a little too similar to RSS feeds (unless they are RSS feeds).

"I absolutely LOVE the new web site! As important to me as the news of home is, the photographs are very special too. Sometimes they'll jog a memory of a place I'd forgotten all about or help me to visualize where the article is taking place. The slideshow is wonderful! Thank you for the improvements...it's great. "

"I want to THANK YOU for the new web design – a great improvement – still a “few” glitches with type sizes (WHY are the by-lines larger than the HEADLINES, I wonder??) (...) as far as navigation of your site – generally, “good” with ONE exception – the OBITS – It was HELPFUL to have a listing of names which may be scrolled FASTER than the brief paragraphs, but I can also see the usefulness of the paragraphs, too. So it takes a few seconds longer to make sure that all my friends and relatives are STILL ALIVE. No matter.
One more thing: the ads in the right-hand column seem INTRUSIVE – of course, I realize that’s the whole PURPOSE of ads, but there needs to be better “margin control” since the text of the news stories seems to be jammed into the column of ads – just an esthetic thing for me, perhaps."

"Yesterday(3/8) couldn't get the site to do anything after it appeared on the screen. Today I read some obits. that I hope were todays. Backed up one step and was on the home page that was dated the 5th, but it had your posting and that was dated today (3/9 ). And the obits that were on the page, I couldn't pull them up either. I'm confused. HELP! Oh, one more thing, while reading the obits. they just disappeared, coming back after a long pause. Best of luck with the new site, hope you can debug it soon."
Note: I think you were trying to get in during the conversion process. You should not be having the same problems today.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Stop the bomb threats

What's going on with all the bomb threats at the schools?
And, more importantly, how can we stop it?
In the old days, when there were only one or two a year, the newspaper ignored them. Our thinking was that the kids were doing it for publicity so we just wouldn't give it to them.
But now, when there are two or more in a day, we feel we have to cover them. Our thinking has changed from don't give the kids publicity to give the exasperated school officials and police publicity to stop them.
Lisa Roberson is reporting in tomorrow's Chronicle that the schools and police are looking to the community to help. They are at the end of their rope.
The harsh punishment given these kids doesn't seem to be a deterrent. Shoot, I really don't get that. If I was 12 and knew I'd get kicked out of school for a year if I phoned in a bomb threat, there's no way I would do it. My parents would have killed me.
Where are the parents, by the way? They haven't instilled enough fear in their kids to keep them from doing something so stupid?
We have got to stop this from happening.
The other students have got to be getting pretty tired of it themselves. At Elyria High, the students are sent to one of four "shelters" to wait out the school search. By the time they get back to school, I'm sure they are cold and peeved or too wound up to get back into their studies.
So talk to your kids. Convince them it is not cool.
Maybe they'll pass it on to their friends.

Oh, by the way, we asked the Associated Press if it is having reports of this kind of thing going on anywhere else in the state. Nope, only here. What does that say for us? We can't control our kids? I'm ashamed -- how about you?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The story behind the story with Foltin

Craig Foltin will not talk to us.
Now that he has announced he will not be seeking re-election, I think it is OK that I tell you that.
It isn't that he hangs up on us when we call or walks the other direction when he sees us coming. I mean he's pleasant enough. He just won't give us any news.
It's true; we have managed to cover the City of Lorain for years without the cooperation of the mayor and if you think that's an easy thing to do, I have to tell you that it's not.
You see, Mayor Foltin does not like what has been written about him on the editorial pages of The Chronicle.
But here's the thing, my staff in the newsroom has absolutely nothing to do with what is opined about on our editorial pages. Nothing.
We really do try our very best to just report the facts -- as objectively as humanly possible.
I have tried to explain that to Mayor Foltin many times. He does not seem to care.
Here is what happened this week. Mayor Foltin told our Lorain reporter, Adam Wright, that he wanted to apologize "in advance" because he would be giving The Other Paper -- but not us -- information for a good story later in the week.
Poor Adam. He spent the rest of that day on the phone calling everyone he knew in Lorain to ask what Foltin could be talking about. No one knew.
Then we found out.
On Wednesday, in huge type across the front of The Other Paper, the headline screamed, "Foltin says he won't run for re-election."
So, yes you read it there first. It pains me to say those words. We do not like to get beat by The Other Paper but, hey, they are spoon-fed, we are starved. What are we supposed to do?
When there was talk of putting an Indian casino in Lorain, we -- using our reporting ingenuity -- found out about a "secret" meeting between Lorain County movers and shakers and the folks from the Indian tribe. It was at the Holiday Inn in Elyria.
We attended and even though Mayor Foltin would not talk to us and hustled the casino people away whenever we got near them, we got a story.
We were so proud of ourselves. We thought we found out about a secret meeting that The Other Paper did not. No one from that paper was there.
Our excitement lasted about 12 hours.
The next morning, when we opened The Other Paper, we were shocked to see that their entire front page was taken up with a story about the casino plan, a much more thorough story than we were able to get.
It was immediately clear to us how it happened.
The photo that accompanied their story -- of Mayor Foltin and the casino people -- was clearly taken in The Other Paper's newsroom! In other words, The Other Paper wasn't at the secret meeting because it didn't have to be. It already had the story. The mayor had hand-delivered it to them earlier that day.
We felt as if we got punched in the gut.
Now that we know there will be a new mayor in Lorain (we know it because we read it in The Other Paper), we are keeping our fingers crossed he or she will treat us fairly.
That's really all we ask.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The worse the weather, the kinder the people

Julie Wallace, Chronicle assistant managing editor, gives some encouragement to her rescuers. Her car was stuck until Chronicle photographer Bruce Bishop (taking the photo) happened by -- with his tow rope.

The weather story for today is about what's left in the wake of the storm -- the bitterly cold wind and the drifts.
But perhaps the biggest story is the one about the kindness of people who are willing to help out those who are stuck or stranded.
Bruce Bishop, our chief photographer and videographer, drives some big old manly Ford SUV. I called him this morning when I couldn't get my Maxima out of the driveway.
"Bruce, please come get me," I asked him.
He was at my house in less than a half-hour.
That was Kindness No. 1.
As we were getting off I-90 at Route 57, we passed a car stuck in a drift on the off-ramp. Bruce backed up his man-car, rolled down the window and asked the young couple inside if they needed some help getting out.
"I have a tow rope," he told them.
"That would be great," the driver said.
Bruce climbed out into the cold and attached his tow rope to their back bumper and his front bumper. And then he backed up.
Voila. The car was out of the snow bank. Bruce undid the ropes and as the driver was saying thanks, Bruce was urging him to subscribe to The Chronicle. "Only $37 a year for new subscribers," he told him.
Kindness No. 2 -- and slick newspaper selling, also.
Later, cruising around looking for pictures of the storm on the city's north side, Bruce passed a house where a car was stuck in the driveway. He looked again. Hey, that's Julie Wallace, he realized. Julie is our assistant managing editor and she got stuck on her way into work.
Bruce pulled her out.
Kindness No. 3.
And he's the only guy I know out and about with a 4WD and a tow rope. I know there have to be many others out there.
Me and my Maxima, speaking for every other person who drives a not-so-good-in-the-snow-pretty-car, want to say, "Thank-you, 4WD and SUV owners with big hearts."
Where would we be without you?
Stuck, that's where we'd be.
Oh, and cold. Very cold.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Roads were best in Elyria Township

This is how I found the roads after I left The Chronicle office in downtown Elyria at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, heading to my house in the northwest corner of Lorain.
Downtown Elyria: The roads were bad despite having the buildings to block the wind. It was hard to make turns around corners, especially at Third and East avenues because there was so much snow piled up there.
Gateway Boulevard: Not quite as much snow piled up as downtown but it was still hard to see where the lanes of the road were.
Route 57: The Worst! I had to try to find the "ruts" in the snow to make my way.
Midway Boulevard and Griswold Road: The snow blowing across made them tough to navigate.
Lake Avenue: The best stretch of my travels. If this is Elyria Township's responsibility, I give it the Golden Snowflake for great work in an impossible situation.
Route 254: Not as good as Lake Avenue but not bad.
Route 2: Pretty deserted in that stretch between Route 58 and Oak Point Road. I didn't have to navigate in the ruts as on Route 57 but it was difficult to see the edge of the road -- and the blowing snow didn't help.
Oak Point Road: The Worst II! -- The snow was halfway up my tires in spots. Good thing my car has some oomph or I'd still be stuck there.
The best part of the evening is I lived to tell you about it -- and, in case you haven't been out to see for yourself, take it from me: Stay inside.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Friday, February 02, 2007

Doggin' the groundhog

I trudged into the newsroom yesterday morning and, as soon as I rounded the corner toward my office, Bruce Bishop, our chief photographer/Internet trailblazer, said, "Hey, Patti, I have an idea.
"I want to go to Gobbler's Knob."
I just looked at him.
"Punxsutawny," he said.
For the uninitiated -- or those of you who don't like Bill Murray -- that's the Pennsylvania town where the groundhog Phil is asked every year on Feb. 2 to predict the end of winter.
"Sure," I said. "You don't have anything else to do?"
He assured me he had everything under control -- and Bruce is one of the good ones. When he tells me he has everything under control, I know I can believe him.
"Well, shoot, get going," I told him.
By about 4 yesterday afternoon, Bruce was trolling the town, located in the hills of Pennsylvania about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, looking for something he could write about on the eve of Phil's appearance.
He called at regular intervals as he was driving and once he got there to keep us posted.
One time, he said, "EVERYTHING is groundhog ... Groundhog Car Wash, Groundhog Plaza. The basketball team is the Woodchucks."
And then, just after 5 p.m. came the breathless call. "You would not believe what I have! I found Phil's handler and he's making an appearance for a bunch of people from Ohio. I'm going to go. It is very cool. I'll send back pictures and write a story."
And that's how we ended up with Groundhog Day coverage in the paper today -- ON Groundhog Day. Most other papers won't have anything about it until tomorrow.
Hope you liked our coverage. Please excuse us if we overdid it -- we were just SO excited, we couldn't help ourselves. Plus, it was just plain fun.
Oh, by the way, Punxsutawny Phil did NOT see his shadow. That means spring can't be too far away. Hmmm, perhaps that was Phil's gift to his new buddy, Bruce ...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is there a doctor in the house?

The words "I was sick" are kind of like the words "it got lost in the mail."
No one believes you.
Well, except your mom, of course.
But I'm going to try it anyway: The reason I didn't write a column this week is that I was sick.
I really was.
That's one nasty bug that's going around.
As I sit here Day 3 of this flu trying to get my act together enough to go to the office, I was wondering if there is something I could be doing, could have done to get better faster.
Anybody have any surefire remedies? (All they have to do is work half the time to be considered "surefire" by me!)
Also, are a lot of people out there sick?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sit down (and don't kick my seat)

Click here for a video introduction to this story.

I can't believe that the parents who were kicked off a plane because their out-of-control 3-year-old was throwing a tantrum and wouldn't sit in her seat are actually ANGRY at the airline.
Talk about entitlement. Have you ever sat on a plane next to an out-of-control toddler or had one kick the back of your seat for hours?
Hey, I'm a mom. I know kids. I would never get angry if it was an infant crying. Little babies don't know any better; all they know is that they are miserable.
But, come on, a 3-year-old should be able to be told she has to sit in her seat or the airplane can't take off.
Do you know the story I'm talking about? A Boston couple was headed home from Fort Myers on AirTran Airways Jan. 14.
The plane sat at the gate for 15 minutes while the parents tried to get little Elly to stop climbing under the seat and pounding on them.
Finally, enough was enough.
"The flight was already delayed 15 minutes and in fairness to the other 112 passengers on the plane, the crew made an operational decision to remove the family," AirTran spokeswoman Judy Graham-Weaver said.
The parents wanted to hold their daughter but were told no because FAA rules specify children age 2 and older must have their own seat and be strapped in before takeoff.
Even though the airline made the family get off that particular flight, it reimbursed the cost of their tickets AND offered them three roundtrip tickets anywhere the airline flies.
Know that the parents' response was? They said they are never flying AirTran again.
I say now that we know little Elly won't be on board, AirTran is definitely the way to go.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Decisions, decisions

We learned about a woman who fell into the cold lake water from a pier in Sandusky.
The woman just happened to be from Elyria.
AND, she just happened to be trying to go to the bathroom when she fell in (her companion told police).
We also had her name.
We thought we had two choices: Either use her name and not the fact that she was trying to pee when she went in OR tell the gory details and leave out her name.
We opted for the name and not the details.
Did we make the right decision?
(We did say it was 2:40 a.m. so readers could probably figure out that she most likely was not returning from the grocery store when she fell in.)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An angel with a stop sign

Oakwood Elementary crossing guard Frances Glinsey helps Rod Pereyra, 12, Derrick Stephenson, 12, and his brother Tyler, 12, across the street. Glinsey has been a crossing guard at the school for years and has become a favorite of the students.

I was walking out the back door of the newspaper office this afternoon when I saw an SUV pull into and out of a handicapped parking spot.
A woman climbed out and shut the door.
"He got a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot and he'll never do it again," the woman told me as she pointed to the man in the SUV.
Then she turned her attention back to me. She held up a piece of paper she had in her hand, "Where do I take a write-up?"
"A write-up? What kind of a write-up?"I asked her.
"They told me to bring it here," she said.
Here we go.
"They? They who?" By this time I knew she was the kind of person I could tease and she wouldn't get angry about it.
So we danced around the English language a little longer and I finally figured out who she was and at whose behest she was bringing us a "write-up."
Her name is Frances Glinsey and she has been a crossing guard at Oakwood School for years. She's not just a crossing guard, she's a beloved crossing guard and she was here to deliver a hand-written note signed "Parents and Kids and Oakwood Staff." It said in part:

"All the kids feel loved and safe going to school. We feel the Lord has sent Mrs. G our way and we are not going to give her up. Mrs. G is the nicest, friendliest and has gloves for kids who need them and gives out surprises throughout the year. We love the peace she brings to all of us and the love and care to our kids. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

In the short time I spoke with Mrs. Glinsey, it was easy to see why she would move parents to write such a heartfelt note. She was just a sweet, unassuming woman with a great sense of humor.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Be an editor -- how to follow Buckeyes

Every once in a while I scrunch up my forehead and shake my head -- whenever I think about the show put on by the Buckeyes last night. What WAS that? Sheesh. Troy the Timid couldn't get the ball to a receiver if his life depended on it.
Anyway, what is there left to say or to tell readers in tomorrow's paper? What would you like to read about the game -- or have you had enough?

One more sports question (Yes, I know this isn't a sports blurb but I can't help myself ... I live in an all-male, er, all-sportsfan household) ... Do you think Mark McGwire belongs in the baseball hall of fame? Was his refusal to answer steroid question enough to keep him out? Maybe that wasn't an admission of guilt, maybe he just didn't want to implicate his buds.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Hot on the trail of Brown and the Buckeyes

We're like CNN here today. We have correspondents all over the country. Reporter Joe Medici and photographer Jason Miller are in Wash., D.C., to watch Sherrod Brown turn from a congressman into a senator. Joe and Jason rode along with Sherrod Brown supporters who left on a bus from LCCC this morning. On tap tonight -- the eve of Sherrod's oath-taking -- is an intimate dinner party replete with fine china and linen tablecloths -- for, oh, about 650 people. We'll be there until Sherrod's people kick us out. (We've already been warned that the "Media" won't be welcome the whole evening.) Tomorrow, we'll be there for the swearing-in of Senator Brown. I told Joe to give us all the details, take us all to Washington with him. (That's when he told me about the fine china and the linen tablecloths.) I can't wait to see what he turns up.
While Joe and Jason keep an eye on Sherrod in Washington, Chris Assenheimer is keeping an eye on those unbeaten Buckeyes in Arizona. Chris will be sending back dispatches starting the moment he gets off the plane -- whenever that is. Chris, like everyone else I know who has flown in the last few weeks, has been delayed. He was delayed in Cleveland, then he was delayed on his connector out of Houston. But he promises to send us at least a glimpse of the Buckeye party-in-the-desert tonight.
Please let me know if there is anything this genuine (sheepskinned) Ohio State Buckeye can have her roving reporters -- in either camp -- find out for you. I can't guarantee they'll get an audience with Coach Tressel, but, hey, anything's possible.