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 ...