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.

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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.