Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The building has no power and neither do we

We were without electricity for a few hours Monday night after the storm knocked out power downtown and the newspaper's generator failed to kick on.
When we finally were able to get back on our computers, we hustled to get the paper out.
Sometime after midnight we got a tip that Middle Avenue near Value City and a portion of Russia Road had been barricaded and there were many police cars in the area.
We called the Elyria Police and were told that the sheriff's department was handling it.
The only question was: Handling what?
There were no reporters left in the newsroom at that hour to dispatch so I asked one of our copy editors -- Michael Baker -- to call the sheriff's department to find out what was going on.
Well, seems the dispatcher would give him absolutely no information. Nothing.
He came into my office.
"What am I supposed to do in a situation like this?" he asked.
"She wouldn't tell me anything."
I couldn't imagine that a dispatcher would not give us a general idea of what was going on.
So, I said, "Give me that number."
I called her.
"I don't have any information," she said.
"You don't know what the call was they went out on?" I asked.
"I don't have a press release," she said.
She doesn't have a press release.
Now, come on.
"All I want to know is what was the call they went out on," I repeated.
She repeated similar stonewalling sentiments.
She would not tell me anything.
So, I pulled Michael away from his copy-editing job and sent him to the scene to check things out.
Then I left a message on Sheriff Stammitti's voicemail pleading for just a little cooperation.
When Michael got to the barricades, he was told by a law enforcement officer to wait in the Value City parking lot.
Michael asked him what was going on and he said he didn't know.
He said he didn't know.
I was beginning to wonder if anybody did know.
Michael told me that Terry Costigan of TMC News was already there.
I told him to ask Terry what was going on.
And finally, we got our information: There's a hostage situation in a house.
Thanks, Terry.
You know, that's all we wanted to know.
Is that really too much to ask?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Pomp not too circumspect

It has to be tough to be the superintendent of a school district and have to speak at commencement. And, if there are two high schools in your district, it would be doubly tough.
So, what do you do?
Well, if you are Cheryl Atkinson, winding up her first year as superintendent of Lorain Schools, you just give the same speech twice. Well, almost the same speech.
When I was reading over the story Jason Hawk wrote for Wednesday's paper about Admiral King's graduation, her words sounded vaguely familiar.
So I looked back to see what she had said to Southview graduates the night before.
Monday night, she asked Southview graduates, "Who are you? Are you the next business owner? Scientist? Teacher? President? Will you hold the cure for cancer? Who are you, really?"
Tuesday night, she asked Admiral King graduates, "Who are you? You are the ones who have achieved in spite of obstacles … you are our window of opportunity, cure for cancer, hope for the future of our city, state and nation."
Well, at least by the second reincarnation of the speech, she was answering the question, "Who are you?" instead of following it up with more questions.
Maybe she'll luck out next year and one of these graduating seniors will answer her question with the words: "A speechwriter!"