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'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?