Monday, December 31, 2007

Local call to duty affects us all

More than 400 Northeast Ohio Guardsmen and women will have their send-off ceremonies later this week. They're part of a group of 1,600 Buckeye Guard members headed to Iraq in the largest single call up of Ohio troops since the war began.

Scores of those families are right here in our area. I'm hopeful to bring some good news coverage to these soldiers and their families in the days to come. They'll need the entire community's help to endure the coming year.

I'm open to new, creative ideas on ways those families can find support in our community. These are real families, and many of them have kids right there in the Akron area.

So as we embrace the new year, I'm openly asking everyone, got any ideas?

For example, would your business be willing to give discounts on services to these military families? Do you have a service or idea that can help these families?

More to come ... Eric

Friday, December 28, 2007

Mansfield in Mansfield

What are the odds that the two nights I'm working on the Channel 3 News broadcasts in Cleveland, the lead stories end up being from Mansfield? Yep. Back-to-back nights. Last night it was the investigation into the Christmas day shooting deaths of two people, and tonight it's the big dig for bodies in a backyard.

Tomorrow (Saturday), I get to make my first trek to Mansfield this week to help with news coverage of the funeral of Mansfield Police Officer Brian Evans.

Working in the Cleveland office during the holiday week is always an adventure. There's a lot of folks on vacation (including Tim White, which is why I'm up north), but the news itself never stops. At one point yesterday, two of our senior managers were at the news desk answering the phones. THAT'S how short-staffed we are.

Spent some time yesterday running down rumors that the Beacon Journal was about to close up shop, which I highly doubted but my bosses had me check it out anyway. I talked to a few newsroom sources at the ABJ who quickly dispelled the rumors. Most say the "Dec. 31st shutdown" rumor has been circulating since mid-fall and there's just no truth to it.

Many people would be surprised at the number of wild rumors we have to iron out each day, but the first time you toss one aside, it'll end up biting you in the microphone.

You should make time to read Ed Esposito's blog adventure with the Ohio Building in downtown Akron. Knowing Ed, I'm sure he was talking to himself before it was over.

Not much time to blog right now .. but I promise I'll catch up this weekend!


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hold on to your loaded guns ..

Akron Police Chief Michael Matulavich has called a news conference for Thursday at 11 a.m. "regarding the leadership of the Akron Police Department."

Whoaaaaaaaaa boy. This should be interesting.

When last we left "As the Chief Turns," Marco Sommerville had called for Matulavich to resign .. and the Chief responded by saying he still considered Marco a friend even though he was caught off guard by the City Council President's comments.

After letting Marco's comments float under the Christmas tree for a few days, Matulavich now wants his say in the matter.

What he'll say Thursday is anyone's guess, but I don't think he's calling everyone to the cop shop to share egg nog.

The last time I remember Matulavich going this route was a few years ago following a Beacon Journal story about an elderly man who claimed he was roughed up by some patrol officers outside of Chapel Hill Mall. The Beacon's story (as I recall) made light of APD's delay in giving comment, which incited Matulavich to no end.

He called a news conference to defend his department and lashed out at the paper and its beat reporter like I've never seen.

I wonder if more of the same is coming tomorrow.

One officer told me that Matulavich might haul in a life-size shot of Marco's recent mug shot for his concealed weapon arrest, but I think that's more of wild speculation than anything.

If history serves, I'd expect the chief to be surrounded by his deputy chiefs and other ranking officers .. along with FOP representatives .. who will show a wall of support for their leader.

In short, I've known Chief Matulavich to be a quiet man at times, but when he does let the fire fly, stand back or you're certainly get burned.

End of the Year Awards

In the spirit of ABJ columnist Bob Dyer's annual "Bobby" awards, which continues to provide holiday laughter for our house, I had been a saving a few end-of-the-year feux pas of my own worth noting.

Now that Bob has penned his thoughts in today's paper (I can only wonder which ones he wanted to add but were cut for space), here's a few additional items that even Bob might appreciate .. and for the record, my heart skipped a beat when I saw my name in the Bobby Awards ... for a moment I wondered "oh my, what did I do????" So Bob .. these are for you.

When asked about LeBron's new infant son during the Finals last year, Hughes remarked, "Five toes and Five fingers. He's beautiful." Hmmmmmm. Not sure what kind of babies Hughes has been holding, but thankfully each of my sons was born with ten of each.

WORST PRESS RELEASE: Akron Public Schools.
The district's Friday Nov. 2 release mentioned a news conference to discuss the "future of the school district" coming up on Monday. That's like saying "Mars attacks New Jersey! Film at 11!" No one wants to wait three days to find out what the big announcement is with a tease like that. Fortunately, multiple sources were able to tell me that Superintendent Sylvester Small was stepping down, so I had the story. Other news organizations debated it all weekend before Small made it official on Monday. I felt bad for him though. He should have been able to release his decision in one setting, and instead, the announcement lacked punch because his decision had already leaked out.

WORST PRESS RELEASE #2: In mid-November, our newsroom received a frantic call from a local police PIO saying "where are you guys?" Turns out there was a 2 p.m. press conference with every police agency in the area ... every gun slinger from township chiefs to the U.S. Marshal. Unfortunately, while they did a good job of getting everyone together for a press conference to announce a series of major arrests, each department thought the other was in charge of actually notifying the press.

Yep. That was his name. Nimrod was the spokesman for the Fire Fighter Challenge that sparked competition in downtown Akron in October. He was a really nice guy and had great information on the event. I felt bad when I asked him to say his name again because I thought he kidding when he said "Nimrod."


Jenny was a college student at the U of A with future thoughts of a career in broadcasting. She even had some fun videos up on YouTube that featured her camera skills. I told her I thought she had the perfect name to be a big-time music jock. Jenny Rumor?!??! Most jocks have to make up a moniker like that, and she was born with it. Keith Kennedy at WKDD or Ed Esposito at Rubber City Radio would certainly hire her in a heartbeat. Jenny recently e-mailed me from her new job in public relations and put "Rumor" in parenthesis. Turns out she got married and now uses her legal name. Ahhhhh c'mon!!!!!!

WORST USE OF "ERIC MANSFIELD": It's always nice to see your name as a fictional character, but this on-line author made EM into a not-so-nice guy in the latest chapter.

Most other comical notes ended up as blog fodder already .. but knowing the Akron news cycle, it won't be long for more great material to rear its ugly head.

Happy Holidays everyone. Eric

Friday, December 21, 2007

Moneypenny sets rumors straight

I had a pleasant and open conversation with Garry Moneypenny today about the rumors of his future, including speculation about him being Akron's new police chief, which I shared in a post below.

"I have NO intention of being Akron's police chief," Moneypenny said. "None. That department has a lot of good young lieutenants and captains to provide up-and-coming leadership and they don't need me."

Moneypenny told me he's been hearing the rumors for several months now, and while he's flattered, he has no idea whose behind them.

Moneypenny says that what most people don't understand is that the city charter lays strict guidelines for choosing a chief outside of the department. A search committee would have to be formed and there would have to be some type of civil service test, Moneypenny said. Then, there would have to be a list of the top three candidates for final consideration. Translation: Mayor Plusquellic can't just reach out and say "I want Garry for Chief" and that's the end of it.

Beyond that, Moneypenny says he's happy with the committment he's made as Chief Deputy with the Sheriff's Office .. which brings Moneypenny to a second set of rumors: that he's being groomed to take over for Drew Alexander should he step down as Summit County Sheriff.
Moneypenny is a Democrat and Alexander is a Republican. That should say a lot right there about how much these men respect one another, and how much they value the deputies and their service over politics.

Still, Moneypenny says that if Drew opted to quit tomorrow to play golf everyday, that Moneypenny would not become Sheriff. Drew's replacement would have to be chosen by the Republican Party. And let's face it folks, as much as everyone in town likes Moneypenny, the GOP ain't choosing him or any other DEM for a political position.

Moneypenny says he's even had to fight off rumors that he was being appointed to Mayor Plusquellic's cabinet .. and earlier this year to the new police auditor position.

If this were a game of chess, think of Moneypenny as your Queen because every player in town has a new square they want to move Garry in to .. and they all think he is the one "power" piece they need for checkmate.

As a career military officer, I can empathize with the rumors when it comes to positioning effective leaders and the fight that goes on behind-the-scenes for bosses to get their hands on the best candidates.

Yet as Moneypenny leaves his city council service in the rear view mirror to concentrate full-time on law enforcement, he knows the rumors all come with good intentions .. for a good guy.

No Akron-Canton News for Friday

Akron-Canton News will be replaced by University of Akron basketball tonight (Friday) and will return Monday to its normal times of 6:30 and 10 p.m.

We'll probably run a crawl at the bottom of the screen that tells viewers what happened. Still, whenever we do that it reminds me of a story one of our board operators at TV3 tells.

Danny tells me that many years ago he got a note from his bosses to run a crawl on the air .. and after looking at it twice, he called upstairs and said, "are you sure you want me to type this in and run it over the air?" The bosses emphatically said "yes" as though Danny had crossed some line by even questioning his orders.

"OK," he said.

Here's how the crawl at the bottom of the screen read:

"We apologize for the inconvenience but the 'Invisible Man' will not be seen tonight."

True story ..

Merry Christmas. Eric

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dial "M" for "Moneypenny"

I was asked at a luncheon today, "what's going on with Akron's Police Chief?"

I wish I had a good answer ... but the odd thing now 72 hours after Marco Sommerville's city council sucker punch is that for everything that was said, what wasn't said has created quite a lot of uncertainty.

Follow me here:

Marco didn't really lay out why he wants Chief Michael Matualvich gone now .. he just said he wants the chief to resign.

Meanwhile, Matulavich really didn't scream that he wants to keep the job .. he just said that he intends to fulfill the one year remaining on his contract.

Meanwhile, Akron's FOP President, Paul Hlynsky, went on the radio saying that he respects the chief but didn't really send a vote of confidence that he would go to war to keep Matulavich ... Nor have any other police groups for that matter ..

Meanwhile, Mayor Plusquellic was asked at his weekly news conference to give his thoughts on Marco's comments. Plusquellic spoke softly for a while .. but eventually segued into comments that Hlynsky has "crucified" him for his decisions and just wants city hall to hire more cops all the time (and while that may be a valid argument, the mayor wasn't asked about any of that .. he was asked about Marco's comments). In the end, the Mayor didn't seem to support either his council president or his chief .. and remember, it was Plusquellic who chose and appointed Matulavich in 2000.

So again .. where does it all stand tonight? I guess I don't know what the "M" boys are telling us ..

Marco wants change ...
Matulavich wants an apology (I think) ...
Mayor wants some creativity brought to the department ...

Hmmmmmmm ... so it's no wonder people are asking me, "what's going on with the Chief?"

One bit of insight I will pass along ... several veteran officers are convinced (and have been for a while) that it's another "M" that's waiting in the wings ... and that Garry Moneypenny's appointment as Chief Deputy with the Summit County Sheriff's Office is really a grooming process to bring him in as Akron's next chief a year from now.

I can see where they draw that theory. The Mayor and Moneypenny have a great deal of respect for one another and get along well .. and Moneypenny was well-liked as a veteran police officer in Springfield and also during his tenure as an Akron councilman. From the outside he'd be a good fit; on the inside, that would remain to be seen considering the department has a history of promoting from within.

To assume that's it's all been planned that way takes an Oliver Stone screenplay though as Drew Alexander certainly sees Moneypenny's value to the SO and who knows? maybe Drew sees Garry as his successor?

Again, Michael Matulavich is a 40-year veteran and under contract for another year .. so it's a moot point and pure speculation to consider anyone else to lead the department. Still, the rank and file are already doing that .. and I doubt city hall would deny or say publicly that Gary Moneypenny won't be the next chief.

But one thing appears clear from "M" boys this week .. all of them see a new chief in place 12 months from now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Please keep your hands and arms away from the reporters' mouths at all times ...

I'm gaining weight this week in the newsroom ... thanks to viewers and our regular news contacts. Seems everyone has found that the "gift that keeps on giving" in 2007 is sweets.

I've had two pies (apple and blueberry) and a homemade Snickers Cheesecake among other things that have been arriving around-the-clock at the downtown Akron office. We try to divide the desserts up among the staff, but since most days there's only 5-6 people here, we're all getting more than our fair share of the goods.

Those who know me know I've always been partial to homemade chocolate chip cookies .. but surprisingly, it's the one thing that hasn't arrived yet.

For years, I always kept an eye out for the chocolate blimp. Goodyear's annual tradition used to be a six-inch chocolate blimp in a nice blue-and-gold Wingfoot tin. The chocolate wouldn't last long, but the tin made for a cool bank for kids. I think I have like 10 of them (tins that is).

New pizza places and other restaurants always like to send us food too .. just to let us TV folks know that they're open for business.

For the most part, payola -- and food does fall into that category -- is a big no-no in the media. Still, when it's food delivered in good faith during the holidays, there's not a TV boss anywhere who doesn't toss it out in the newsroom for a free-for-all.

So if you're watching the news next week and I look like I was out running for exercise during the commercials, just know it's because so many of you have been fattening me up this week!

Happy holidays ... Eric

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bad timing Marco ..

Setting aside the merits or deficiencies of Marco Sommerville's comments asking that Chief Matulavich step down, I just don't understand the timing of his verbal assault.

Heading into Monday night's meeting, the headlines seemed like they were already written: "Sommerville gets overwhelming support, re-elected 12-0 as council president." Instead, readers and viewers woke up to Marco's comments about Matulavich, and that's what's become the talk of the town.

With all of the turmoil that Sommerville has been through during the past few months, I just didn't understand why he didn't let a night of positive news about him just run its course. Was there some sort of end-of-the-year deadline approaching or statute that would soon expire in regards to seeking a resignation? Couldn't he have made the same statements at council's first meeting of the new year?

Matulavich certainly took the high road talking to Ray Horner on WAKR-AM this morning, going so far as to say he still thinks of Sommerville as a friend. Behind closed doors though, I think the gloves could come off really fast.

Worth Repeating. As I reported in my blog entry on Aug. 12th, Bobby Cutts took investigators to the scene where Jessie Marie Davis' remains were found. Today, prosecutors finally owned up to that fact during a pre-trial hearing.

I just always find it amusing when prosecutors and defense attorneys alike make blanket statements about news reports being "speculative" or "misleading to the public" in regards to evidence .. and then later when the facts come out, those reports end up being accurate.

Now .. I'll be the first to admit that the media's "rush-to-be-first" approach sometimes leads to bad reporting and bad facts sometimes. That said, it would just be nice to hear those in the legal limelight also be fair in recognizing when reporters have done a solid job as well. OK. I'm done venting.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Akron Judges get news to build on

Maybe the phrase should be: "If you build it ... they will be very, very happy!"

Akron municipal judges have been asking for this for some time now ... and now it appears they'll get their wish. The City of Akron will spend some money next year to research, plan, and design a stand-alone courthouse for the municipal court. Currently, the judges share space on the 7th, 8th, and 9th floors of the Stubbs Justice Center, which is better known as the Akron Police Department.

Here's a note I got from Chuck Heimbaugh confirming the news:

"The proposed 2008 Capital Investment and Community Development Program was presented to the Akron Planning Commission on 12/14/07. The proposed budget included the project: 'Municipal Court/Justice Learning Center.' The project is budgeted at $1,500,000 from fees collected by the Municipal Court. The project description is: 'Plans for construction of stand alone municipal court. Recommended by Ohio Supreme Court in 2006. Construction
scheduled for 2009.'"

City judges have long since complained about a lack of adequate space and deteriorating conditions. Leaky roofs and inadequate amenities for those with special needs are also high on their lists. Also, police officers providing court security were sometimes pulled in multiple directions; one judge told me that suspects in orange jumpsuits were sometimes left sitting alone with her in the courtroom .. and no one else around.

Deep down, the judges just wanted their own place ... and now, it appears it's on the way.

The Cuyahoga Falls Municipal Court Judges were in a similar position and are taking their show on the road to Stow. Now, Akron's black robes can follow suit.

The move makes a lot of sense .. especially when it comes to arraignments, where a long back hallway is often crowded with attorneys and court officers trying to do business. Attorneys also have no place to talk privately with their clients; one judge even told me that lawyers sometimes have to deliver tough, tearful news to their clients in front of the general public.

The big question now is where to put a new courthouse. Ideally, it'd be best to keep it close to its current location to make it easier on police, prosecutors, and attorneys to do business.

Random thoughts while freezing my backside off

It's amazing what kind of wisdom comes to mind when your butt is freezing to your seat during my rare opportunity to visit Cleveland Browns Stadium .. so here's a few notes that sprung into my head after I took a last-second ticket opportunity to head north and shiver as a fan in section 339 yesterday.
  • Now I know why they call them "club" seats. Nowhere else would you pay $6.75 for a beer and $4 for a chocolate chip cookie unless someone hit you with a "club". What a rip off.

  • When your teenage son runs outside with no shirt on in a blinding snowstorm, you call him crazy and immature. When the 40-year-old man two rows away does it at an NFL game, you call him passionate and fun!

  • People love to take photos .. unless it's really cold and you ask them to take your photo using your cell phone camera. Then they suddenly won't put down their drink to help you make a digital memory. (This photo is one of the few that mother nature allowed my camera phone to actually take clearly)

  • I really like the new Browns stadium. It's refreshing when your feet don't stick to the floor of the mens room and equally refreshing not to see a line two miles long of frustrated women waiting to use the ladies room.

  • The "terrorist pat down" that security officers conduct at the gates is worthless. I could have smuggled in a tank under my jacket and those guys wouldn't have found it with a search warrant and a metal detector.

  • It's not nice to take the Bills hat off the person's head in front of you and toss it off the second deck -- especially when the nice man from Buffalo who was wearing that hat is bald.

  • The scanners used to validate your ticket at the turnstiles are really nice .. but the poor guy in front of me whose ticket was soaked from his fall in the slush should have been treated nicer and not accused of trying to push through a bogus ticket. A second scanner was used and the wet ticket came up "green" so he was allowed to enter .. but didn't get an apology from the first ticket taker who called him a thief.

  • It's fun to watch garbage bags flying around in the swirling wind inside the stadium .. especially when they land on someone who never saw them coming.

  • The Browns Dog mascot is pretty tough and lovable .. but I think Zippy could take him in a cage match.

  • It's fun in the third quarter to send your one good cell phone photo of the game to your friend Tim in Rootstown ... and it's even more entertaining when he sends you one back of his big-screen TV set with a message that reads "I have a WARM seat."

I'm sure my butt will thaw eventually .. and considering that the Browns won, I'm sure the experience will forever be a great story to tell my grandkids about .. in front of a fire that is.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Late-night call worth the wait

Our lead story on the Akron-Canton News at 6:30 Thursday took viewers inside a video connection between a family from Clinton and their son, who is serving in Iraq. What a great sight to see these parents and their 21-year-old son, Marine Corporal Joshua Hayes, connect after six months of not seeing one another.

Well, I got the following email from Jim Vincent, whose company worked with the "Freedom Calls" folks to set up other calls yesterday. See how this message gets you:

"The connection that was scheduled last night would have been great to cover. Thomas Martinez of Canton is based in Camp Fallujah and the call was scheduled for 5:00 PM EST which was 1:00 AM in Iraq.

"There were 25 family members at our office to see Thomas but unfortunately, with it being so late in Iraq, the people at the camp must have gone to bed. So Thomas was literally running around on the base trying to get someone to let him into their conference room.

"The family began chanting, 'We want Thomas!' and after 90 minutes of this, he almost magically appeared on the screen. After an hour, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. These folks will be talking about this the rest of their lives."

What a blessing .. Eric

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Around town

A number of notes to pass along tonight ...

ON THE STREET: I spent some time this afternoon on East Market Street with the picketing members of the Akron Blind Center. They're upset that the center's Board of Trustees isn't running the place the way many would like.

As I was leaving, a number of the demonstrators stopped me to talk. One woman in dark glasses said, "you probably don't remember me, but I was on the news a few years back."

I knew immediately it was Phyllis Cottle, although she acted surprised that I was able to recall her name. I was still in high school when she was attacked, blinded, and left to die in a burning car. Phyllis survived and eventually put her attacker behind bars. Her name and case are well-known in the area, but not everyone ever gets to speak to Phyllis, who is an inspiration to all who have been the victims of violence. She was quite kind, and I enjoyed our few minutes together.

CONDOLENCES: Our lead story tonight was about 45-year-old Joey Albanese of Akron, who died in a construction accident in Cleveland. His name immediately struck a connection in our newsroom with Akron Councilwoman Terri Albanese. She called just before news time to tell us that Joey is her husband's first cousin. I also received email that Joey is the nephew of Tony DeLuca, who so many know with the Soap Box Derby among other local organizations. Certainly condolences to all of the family members and others who knew Joey.

A BIT LATE? Some press releases are better off not being sent. The Greater Akron Chamber sent us one today detailing Summit County Engineer Greg Bachman's selection as "Summit County's Elected Official of the Year." The cyber release included a nice photo as an attachment. Still, a closer look at the release shows that Bachman received the award at a luncheon on November 9th. Five weeks ago. Now, I realize that not every story qualifies as "breaking" or "this just in," but it's going to have to be a very, very, VERY slow news day to squeeze that one in.

Here's a tease for you: A local public relations official .. one many of you know .. is in the midst of quite a practical joke. Can't wait to bring this one to you once the cat is finally out of the bag ....

Here's another: An area government agency is finally going to spend money to begin the process of replacing part of a municipal building that thousands of people use every year. Gotta wait just a few more days to spring this one ...

EMAIL DEJOUR: A nice woman from Hartville emailed me a picture of her cat, Oreo, who was missing .. and asked if we'd put him on the news. Fortunately, Oreo was found before I had to make that tough, ethical decision of how much coverage to provide.

NNA: I'm getting ready for my first go-around with News Night Akron's "Year in Review" and "Citizen of the Year." It's been such a monster year of news that I can't imagine what to use for the 30-minute YIR (airs Dec. 28) .. and have even less of a good feeling on the CIY (airs Jan. 4) -- although many panelists say Don Plusquellic's stock rose big time in the second half of 07 with his narrow election victory and the Goodyear deal. But coming up with a top 10? or top 5 even? I'd love to hear some of your ideas ...

GETTING SMARTER: A good friend of mine reminds me that Miller South is NOT the only Akron School that requires auditions, as I had been spouting. Firestone's IB and Arts programs mandate auditions. So I'm coming clean that I'm getting educated.

Still, the hardest part of the discussion on school uniforms and whether one school deserves to be an exception to the rule is finding an apples-to-apples comparison. None of the high schools are facing mandatory uniforms, so it's not a good comparison with Miller South .. and none of the other middle schools in Summit County are Arts-based or require auditions. I think my sons, among others, will adapt quickly and it won't be a big deal a year from now.

I just wonder why less than four months after a new dress code (one that took a lot of meetings to come up with by the way) was put in place, now the board scrapped that plan and went straight to mandatory uniforms. How are we to ever know if the new dress code made an impact?

FINALLY -- I've received a half-dozen "I've been elfed" emails .. if you haven't seen any yet, you don't know what you're missing. It's an free, on-line site by OfficeMax that lets you upload four photos of people's faces which are added to animated elf bodies who dance to Christmas music. The address is Try it for a good laugh. If any of you make a really good one .. say with the faces of Akron's leaders for example .. please post a comment with the link so we can all get a holiday laugh.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Guns, Guns, Guns .. and the inside story

How's this for irony in timing: On the same day that Akron's City Council President pleads guilty to a weapons charge involving his handgun, we're airing my story on Channel 3 News at 6 on a new, high-tech weapon Akron Police now have in their arsenal thanks to Mayor Plusquellic's overseas ventures.

The weapon is called "Corner Shot" and it allows officers to fire around corners .... as in 90-degree angles. It looks like something out of Star Wars, but having fired it with the APD SWAT team, I can tell you that it's the real deal.

The weapon extends the officers sidearm away from their body and then allows for it to turn left or right. The officer then views the target via a video monitor and squeezes the trigger. Obviously, the advantage in close combat is keeping the officer out of the bad guy's line of sight. (photo courtesy of

Akron is the first and only police department in the country to get this weapon, which retails between $5,000 and $10,000. So why Akron?

The inside story is that during his overseas travels, Mayor Plusquellic made acquaintance with some business folks in Israel who are hoping to find a hub for U.S. distribution of these weapons systems. The Mayor opened conversations about bringing those jobs to NE Ohio and the talks at least went well enough that the bang-bang folks opted to send APD a sample.

Not a bad business conversation eh? Not sure what Akron sent in return .. but then again, what's protocol when someone offers you a weapon that only Chewbacca would ever fire?

APD SWAT officers are now getting familiar with Corner Shot, which would certainly come in handy with a bad guy hole up in town. Hopefully they won't have to use it, but it's good to know it's available to officers who otherwise would have to expose their own bodies to return fire.

Still, it's ironic that our community just rounded up nearly 1,000 guns off of Akron's streets .. at the same time that we're adding one mega-powerful weapon to the local arsenal.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tiger talk isn't amounting to much

We've been following rumors today that Massillon Football Coach Tom Stacy may submit his resignation at tonight's school board meeting. That's all they are. Rumors. Doesn't seem to be much weight behind the creative stories in Tiger town.

Seems quite a few media outlets got flooded with the idea today.

His team went a disappointing 6-4 this year, but still beat rival Canton McKinley.

My sources tell me that they really don't know how the story has caught fire, other than to further speculate that a continuing police investigation involving three young girls (under 13) allegedly having sex with boys and adults in Massillon involves some of Stacy's players being questioned.

Still, that logic as reason for Stacy to step down seems to be a stretch at best .. and Stacy's professional demeanor and dedication to his players would seem to be strengthened by adversity instead of diminished. Again, rumors like these have a way of going nowhere.

Reporter Todd Porter sat down with Stacy last month for a good story in the Canton Repository in which Stacy talks about the long season and the toll its taken. That might be the origins of some of the "resignation" talk .. but it doesn't sound like Stacy is leaving .. at least not tonight.

If he surprises everyone and turns rumor to reality, we'll have it tonight on the Akron-Canton News .. if not, we won't be mentioning it because there's no story there.

Breaking News: Akron School Board member proposes tabling uniform vote

With just a few hours until tonight's Akron School Board meeting in which the board may pass a sweeping policy to institute mandatory uniforms in all elementary and middle schools, one board member tells me that he will ask his colleagues to hold off on the vote -- for now.

James Hardy tells me that that he's been taking a hard look at the proposal over the last five days, to include hearing objections and support by parents and others about making Miller South an exception, and feels that the board should do further research and hold further discussion before passing the policy.

Hardy outlined his points in a one-page statement, which he shared with me and which he intends to read tonight before asking that the issue be table. I'll let you hear the context from him, but in short, Hardy is making the plea that the board consider other possibilities -- beyond just a yes/no exception for MS -- for the impact of a new uniform policy. With a group of parents planning to demonstrate before tonight's meeting, Hardy's brave proposal will get a lot of attention.

As one of the youngest board members in the district's history, Hardy is taking a bold stand considering that two new members are due to join the board in January, which could certainly impact the future of a uniform policy.

Stay tuned.

Fugitives and Felons -- a year of surrenders eh?

Nearly a thousand firearms dropped off voluntarily over the weekend in exchange for gift cards for food and clothes. Wow. Did anyone expect that many guns to be given back?

Now .. combine that with the overwhelming number of folks who turned themselves in as part of "Fugitive Safe Surrender" over the summer.

While both make great headlines and draw major community praise, I really don't even know how to quantify it.

Should I feel safer because there's fewer guns and accused criminals on the streets? Should I feel scared because now it's obvious that there are a lot more guns and accused criminals on our streets than many of us thought? Should I just feel enlightened?

Certainly not everyone dropping off a firearm had any illegal intentions ... nor are there guarantees that removing those weapons will prevent any crimes ... but nevertheless, folks who possessed these guns thought them best to give them up. It's a move that might make a gun inaccessible to curious kids ... or to someone who would shoot at police .. at least according to a Chief Deputy from the Sheriff's Office.

Certainly not everyone who surrendered was accused of a violent crime .. or in it's most basic component, not all of them are a threat to offend again, but rather many would like to clear up their mistakes and get it behind them.

Anyone else pleasantly surprised by the programs' success but perplexed on how to apply it to their our daily living here in Akron?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Exclusive: Joseph - Behind the Scenes!

Sooner or later my two worlds would collide. I snuck a small video camera into Weathervane so that you could see what it's like back-stage and meet the cast. I've uploaded my "mock"-u-mentary in chunks on youtube at the links directly to the left of this post!

If you've already seen the show, then hopefully this will provide with a new perspective of the performances and how the magic comes to life. If you've yet to see the show, this will give you a "break-a-leg" up on the others sitting in your row. If you're still waiting to get tickets, this video is as close as you're going to get because the remaining eight shows are all sellouts .. and that include the encore performance on Dec. 22nd that sold out in 4 days. Exciting!

As a preview, my little behind-the-scenes show will introduce some of the cast members and also show you what I go through in my role. Enjoy.

Eric a.k.a. "Jacob"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Akron's School Board members are in a tough spot when it comes to school uniforms .. but I think best advice here is for them to remember what they expect of their students in class every day.

Teachers repeatedly tell their students "don't just give me an answer, show me your work." It doesn't matter whether it's Math, Science, etc .... educators expect students to validate how they came up with their answer.

Board members need to do the same.

They need to be willing to validate their homework when the vote Monday on the district's uniform policy, which would mandate specific dress for the Akron's 45+ elementary and middle schools.

Miller South parents and their 700+ students (most of them it seems anyway) want to be the exception to the rule as evidence by their massive demonstration outside the school this afternoon. They don't want the change .. not because they think they're special, but because creative dress has been part of the school's success for many years .. and the proof is in the results.

Excellence in academic scores.
Excellence in attendance.
Excellence in parental involvement.
Few discipline problems.

That kind of success doesn't happen by accident. It happens because the right climate is created to set these kids up for success. Heck, this school draws students from more than 20 zip codes, and its performance groups are traveling to Europe, among other places, to perform.

While uniformity might create a better learning environment in a vast number of schools, it flies in the face of the special school Akron leaders envisioned and have since created at Miller South.

You can't invite students to be part of the "most unique program in Summit County" and then create a policy that restricts their creativity.

In the spirit of full disclosure .. my kids attend Miller South so I have a vested interest here ... and to be honest, my boys have had a great experience from the moment they auditioned.

As a graduate of the Akron Schools, I'm all for the dress code city-wide .. I really am. But in this case, Miller South's proven results justify its request to be the exception to the rule when it comes to school uniforms.

Board members need to listen to the Miller South community before casting their votes .. and they need to hold themselves just as accountable as they do the students by showing their work here.

Don't just cite national studies and local surveys for your reasons for making a blanket policy. Show these hundreds of parents and students that you honestly considered their argument and visited their school before telling them that you know better -- whatever your decision might be.

It's not fair to ask students to show their work .. if you're not willing to show yours.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Plusquellic more than pinch-hitter

It's not often that anyone writes the names "Don Plusquellic" and "Jhonny Peralta" in the same sentence. But that's what came to mind with Goodyear's announcement Wednesday.

The Indians shortstop batted sixth most of last season ... and batting that low in the order often means that you don't get many of the headlines and curtain calls. Leave those to Grady, Victor, Travis, etc ...

On Wednesday, Plusquellic was the sixth guy to take the podium during Goodyear's big announcement ... more than 20 minutes after Goodyear's leaders had made their future plans public.

Goodyear CEO Robert Keegan hit leadoff with Governor Strickland bunting him to second. Lt. Governor Fisher hit third and Wingfoot V.P. Joe Gingo batting cleanup. As the inning progressed, developer Stu Lichter was in the five hole before Plusquellic got to the plate.

It may have been a team effort to get the team out of the dugout, but Plusquellic was the one name that everyone in the lineup kept saying they couldn't have taken the field without.

It began with Keegan, who reaffirmed that he gave his word that he wouldn't listen to any other offers until at least the end of the year. Translation: Keegan wouldn't have done that without believing that Plusquellic was on top of his game.

Strickland then praised Plusquellic's passion for marketing Akron's strengths and fighting to attract good things for the city's future. (The Mayor later told the Governor that he was a better politician than Plusquellic.)

The praises went on and on ... albeit in front of a brick wall. Didn't anyone think to hang a Goodyear banner or at least a toy blimp???

That's when it struck me.

I've never been to a PC in this town where Plusquellic wasn't either batting lead-off or on deck. It's his castle after all and he's been king for two decades. So he should be at the top of the list.

Yet, hitting sixth didn't seem to bother Plusquellic today. His eyes seemed focused on the bigger prize of the team getting a win instead of him getting credit for a hit. As much as politicans like to take credit for their accomplishments, Plusquellic's remarks and demeanor tossed back-slapping aside to echo the seriousness of Goodyear's predicament.

"There was a day when communities took companies for granted, large and small," Plusquellic said. "They're here, they're always going to be her, but the world has changed. I wish I could explain that to our citizens and be able to get them to see out into this new world, this competitive new world."

At one point, I thought Plusquellic might even cry as he discussed the dark days when other tire companies up and left without giving city leader a chance to save the businesses.

"Thank you Goodyear for making a commitment," Plusquellic said gratefully near the end of his nine minutes and 44 seconds he used for his remarks.

Plusquellic even tempered his usual shots at the media saying only that we failed to report that city employees working to acquire land for the new Goodyear buildings had received "hugs from little old ladies who were happy to get out of their old homes and go into better homes."

That's probably because we didn't know about them ... good hugs usually make good TV!

But with the game on the line, most agree it's always better to have a secret weapon batting sixth, than a lineup full of big names who don't deliver in the clutch.

TV Talk

Not often I like to write about the competition ... but a few notes to pass along.

First, the Plain Dealer's story on a lawsuit involving Channel 19 is worth reading.

Second, a former colleague sent the following email to a mutual friend of ours late last night. His humor is well-received:

"Tonight's FOX 8 news at 10 was a great testimonial to why news SHOULD NOT be an hour long. From about 10:43-10:48, the following stories ran: an unbelievable story about an English man, presumed to be dead from a canoe trip five years ago all of a sudden showed up at a police station, then there was the story of a man who has a 12 pound facial tumor that is finally getting removed and to cap it off, the guy whose wedding band saved him from a gunshot. I felt like I dialed into a lost episode of Ripley's Believe It or Not and Jack Palance was about to introduce the next clip."

Ha! In the spirit of full disclosure, we ran the wedding ring story on WKYC last night .. but the others we passed on. Still, when you see how story selection in TV news really lays out sometimes, it's humorous to say the least ...

graphic courtesy of

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Say what?

It certainly wasn't our finest hour. Or in this case, half hour.

Tuesday night's 6:30 p.m. Akron-Canton newscast was plagued by an echo effect that probably had a lot of folks turning the channel or at least telling me in no uncertain terms to shut up. Click here to watch just a sample of how bad it was.

I'm told the problem was fixed by the time we reached the sports segment, but to those of you who were watching tonight, my sincere apologies for the mess.

See ya at 10! and again on Channel 3 at 11! Eric


It's been trickling out for days, but the writing is finally on the tires that Goodyear's rubber will keep meeting the road with an Akron mailing address.

Company leaders have called a press conference for Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. to discuss "the status of the proposal for Goodyear’s new world headquarters in Akron." State, county, and local leaders are on the agenda to attend.

Considering that Columbus big shots approved tax incentives 24 hours ago and Goodyear's Board members were set to meet earlier today, the deal is done. Sources tell me the PC is necessary to keep misinformation and speculation from running wild .. so rather than feed that, I'll just tell you the deal is done and let them share the particulars.

Obviously, it's a major coup for the area when it comes to jobs and identity. Mayor Plusquellic and Summit County Executive Russ Pry, among others, have put in big time hours to get this one done. I'm interested to see the finished plan.

More when I know it .. Eric

Monday, December 3, 2007

Local cash loan stores borrowing trouble

Summit County had three of them in 1996. Now we have 65.

That's according to a councilwoman from Cuyahoga Falls who Monday night led fellow elected leaders to consider aggressive legislation to limit the number of cash loan stores within the community (no more than one per 10,000 residents) and the proximity of stores to one another (1,000 feet minimum).

She also went eye-to-eye with a man who owns two cash loans stores and who wants to make sure he and other business owners can still offer quick cash within the city limits.

He argued that the stores wouldn't exist unless people had a need for them.

I think he's half right.

People have a need alright. They have a need to make enough money to pay the monthly bills so that they don't have to borrom cash on from a legal loan shark in order to make ends meet until the first of the month.

What they don't need is someone dangling a carrot in front of their noses when they're bellies are grumbling. At least, not a carrot that has strings attached. A $15 fee on a $100 loan that must be paid back in two weeks is a ridiculous interest rate. Ridiculous.

Yes, some of the folks who take these loans put themselves in a bad position because they make bad financial decisions. They have no one but themselves to blame. Maybe that's all the more reason not to put a weapon in place that allows them to turn a self-inflicted wound into financial suicide.

Last spring, I interviewed a man on North Hill who took one loan .. and then another to pay off the first .. and so on and so on to the point that collection agencies were calling and threatening to take away his home.

He told me that he'd have been better off learning his lesson by having to scrape to get by when he overspent for the month than to have the enticement of a quick bailout. The more I think about it, the more I think he's right.

I hate that I see so many of these shops around town. I hate it. I hate what they represent: an enticement to feed the bad habit of poor money management that to some is as addicting as drugs.

While yes, some folks will think smartly and only use the quick cash loans as a last resort, most see only the cheese on the plate .. and now the mouse trap waiting to come crashing down on their heads.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

"Joseph" adds encore performance!

Well .. my venture into live theater as "Jacob" in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" has been quite rewarding or me. I'm really having the time of my life.

Yet for the staff at Weathervane Community Playhouse, this year's production has been both good news and bad news.

The good news is that the phones have been ringing constantly .. and that's the bad news too. The phones are ringing constantly! It's tough for the staff to get any other work done! In the world of non-profit community theater, it's a good problem to have.

Yesterday came an announcement that help is on the way. Weathervane is adding an encore performance on Saturday Dec. 22nd at 3:30 p.m. for those who've been shut out of seeing the show. (Again, tickets will be available soon on-line or by calling the box office at 330-836-2626.)

Fifteen shows of 240+ seats scheduled over four weekends through Dec. 15th ... and all have sold out with the exception of a few individual seats here and there.

Parents and grandparents of some of the young choir members who waited too long to make plans have called begging for tickets. Relatives and close friends of the performers have come to the lobby hoping to be on the waiting list should someone not come to pick up their tickets. There have literally been tears. I've never seen anything like it.

The show's success revolves around its excellent cast of some of the finest young performers in the area. These are great kids and they've made me feel very welcome in my supporting role as the father of the 12 brothers.

"Joseph" has become an annual tradition at Weathervane with this being the eighth year it's hit the stage for the holidays. Never have tickets sold like this though.

COMING SOON: I took a small video camera to one of last week's performances to do a "behind-the-scenes" featurette .. I'm almost done with it and will upload it soon for a fun look at the show.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Keeping it real

I was stopping to get some mints because I'd just inhaled some coffee and wanted to freshen up before I arrived at the Cleveland newsroom. I pulled in to the BP by Jacobs Field to grab some tic-tacs but had to slow down because a woman was standing too close to the entrance.

Her back was turned to me as though she was staring off into space. Just before I blew my horn, she felt my car's approach and moved to the side, but as I pulled past her, I noticed she was bundled up and shivering with a sign at her chest that read "hungry kids."

For what it's worth, I see homeless men all the time near Channel 3 because there's a shelter not too far away on Lakeside Avenue. Still, it's not often that I see a woman panhandling. In this case, the woman didn't look dirty or beat down like the stereotypical street beggar in Cleveland; she just looked depressed.

I looked for some loose change to buy my mints and realized I only had $1.10 to my name. Should I give it to her? Maybe she's just scamming people?

For whatever reason, I just couldn't take my eyes off her so I decided to approach and strike up a conversation. She told me she had three kids and she needed to feed them. They had a place to stay for now, but she was just broke and didn't have funds to get them dinner. She seemed very sad that it had come to this -- begging -- to help her kids but gave me the impression she'd be there all night if need be.

I asked for her name, and she quietly said "Kacky." That didn't sound right, so I asked her for her name a second time. This time she dropped the scarf and I realized why I couldn't understand her -- she was missing teeth and was probably trying to say "Kathy."

I gave her my four quarters and a dime and told her I wish it was more. She said "thank you" about four times. I told her I would pray for her and wished her well. After using my credit card to buy mints at the gas station, I headed back to my car and began to pull out. She was still standing there shivering.

I rolled down my window and wished her luck again and told her that I really would pray for her. She told me that "it's OK .. I'm just a real person."

Real. Real.

Her word choice stuck with me.

I asked her if I could take a cell phone photo to show people what a real mother of three begging looks like and she said "OK."

I drove away and prayed for her during the last few blocks of my drive to Channel 3 and wondered if I'd done enough or whether I'd just allowed myself to get suckered and scammed. Certainly, my $1.10 wasn't going to change her life's fortune or anyone else's, and I don't for a second think my gesture qualifies me for volunteer of the year.

Still, the experience just reminded me that we do indeed have real moms struggling to feed their kids in NE Ohio.

Many of those moms do without so their kids will have enough. Some work second jobs when their kids are asleep at night. Some will make deals with the devil to get a few dollars more for Christmas gifts this year.

And some named "Kacky" with missing teeth hold signs begging for money next to a gas station.

That's what real moms sometimes do.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gold Star Plates, death of a TV newsroom, and an ethical debate

Big news last night from Columbus where State Senator John Husted says that the Ohio House will pass Senate Bill 25 which creates special license plates for our Gold Star families. The GS groups have been quite hurt that the issue had stalled in Columbus and looked to be delayed until next year. The target date to cross the T's and dot the I's in Dec. 12th.

While the local GS mothers are certainly pleased, some are still quite ticked off. Seems the letters they wrote to members of the Ohio House explaining their personal grief of losing their sons in combat were greeted with "To Whom It May Concern" letters as a response from one State Rep. Steve Reinhard of Bucyrus.

Wouldn't you be offended if you were those mothers? I'm working on a story .. so stay tuned.

Yesterday's tragedy in Hinckley certainly put local broadcast outlets in an ethical dilemma. How much of the 9-1-1 call is appropriate to play on the air? The mother on the other end told the dispatcher that she needed help as she tried to talk her adult son into calming down .. moments later, he stabbed her to death. The entire call, as I understand, was released to the media yesterday.

So how much of the call do we air on the evening news? Any of it? All of it? Should we air more at 11 than 6 because kids have gone to sleep? Should we put all of it on the Internet? In the end, we used only two short clips in our 10 and 11 p.m. stories .. and left the graphic ones on the cutting room floor as they say. Still, these are the ethical debates that tie newsrooms up in knots because the business is so competitive.


And finally, My heart breaks for my TV brethren to the East ... looks like consolidation will put a bunch of hard-working, underpaid crews in Youngstown out on the Street. I'd heard rumors already but Ohio Media Watch has the goods.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Odds and Ends and Just the "Fax"!

A nice young man just knocked on the newsroom door and told me he was here to fax something. I asked him if he meant that he had a fax of info for me for a story or something .. and he responded with, "No .. I'm here to fax a document." When I told him that we didn't do that, he responded by telling me that he was at the Main Library downtown, and when he asked to send a fax they told him to "try the TV station up the street." I have no idea why.

Tyrese Feaster's sentence should really send a message to other gang members in the area. The 17-year-old refused to testify against the alleged trigger man in a fatal shooting .. and his defiance lead a judge to toss out his juvenile sentence that would have released him at age 21 in favor of hard time at the big house until he's 30. Having interviewed the victim's mother, I can tell you that no sentence will do justice for losing her innocent young daughter. Still, I wonder if others who follow the mantra of "stop snitching" when it comes to talking to police will take note of Feaster's punishment.

I got to meet two nice folks last week from a TV newsroom in Akron's sister city .. Chemnitz, Germany. They're in town visiting and feeding stories about Akron and the holiday festival at Lock 3 back to their viewers in Germany. Unlike our news broadcasts on WKYC-TV, which only air live and at specific times, the news in Chemnitz airs live at 6 p.m. and then is rebroadcast over-and-over again like SportsCenter on ESPN.

Speaking of Lock 3, the new Lockview restaurant (formerly the Lime Spider) is now open for business. Gone is the stage in favor of more tables to serve food. The menu features specialty grilled-cheese sandwiches. It's certainly different .. and a nice touch for that ever-growing part of downtown.

My thanks to reporter Shannon Davidson for her review of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at Weathervane. I know the cast and crew appreciated the remarks very much.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Additional "Joseph" Tickets put on sale!

The response to "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at Weathervane has been overwhelming. Thanks to all who came out for the three shows this past weekend to make my stage debut such a memorable event for me! The cast really enjoyed performing and appreciated the support.

The Weathervane staff tells me that the 11 main shows have sold like wildfire and there are several complete sell-outs and several partial.

To help meet the demand for tickets, the theater has opened up seats to four 10 a.m. weekday morning performances on Nov. 28th, Dec. 4, 6, and 12th. You can get your tickets on-line or call the box office at 330-836-2626.

I'm still getting used to the beard ... and the tape that holds it on .. ouch!

What Akron residents really need for Christmas

Dear Santa,
I have a unique request this year for the good little boys and girls in Akron .. but unlike last year, I don't want you to give them something .. I want you to take something away from them.

Can you please help some of them to sell their homes?

I drive through so many neighborhoods of all shapes, sizes, and economic levels, and see so many nice family homes up for sale. Some of these homes have been for sale for a full year or longer. Many are empty as the families have moved on for any number of reasons.

And Santa, in way too many cases, these families are paying two mortgages leaving no real $$ for dinner let alone presents for their kids this year.

For us Akron folks, our lack of home sales is more of a crisis than Rudolph's nose!

Please understand that it's not that I want to see these folks move out. Rather, I'd like to see other families moving in to these homes and repopulating these great neighborhoods. Many folks would rather meet their new neighbors in Whoville than wonder if they'll be living by "for sale" signs and dark windows for much longer.

I visited Howard Hannah alone has 3,362 Akron properties for sale on their list alone! (I checked it twice because I know you alway do.)

Santa, it's one of those problems that's impacting everyone in town. If you're not selling a home, you're living next to or across from one that's up for grabs. I drive around town feeling like I'm stuck in a scavenger hunt where I'm supposed to be counting signs or looking for the secret codes or something. I just can't escape it!

I'm not quite sure if "Sold" signs will fit down the chimney, but there's a lot of families whose homes are for sale that would be glad to rewrite a holiday classic this way:

"When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
And there stood a buyer with just enough cash!"

Thanks for listening ... and I hope Rudolph's nose is in good shape for the big trip.


P.S. I have to confess that those chocolate chip cookies with your name on em' that somehow aren't there when you arrive .. well, how shall I say this .... I ate em! Sorry big guy.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Welcome Santa Parade lofty tradition

Not much to add here other than I thought today's parade was a great deal of fun. I love the tradition started just a few years ago of seeing Main Street come alive, and the floats this year were pretty amazing.

For a second there I thought the big Godzilla-looking-one might eat the Civic Theater -- now THAT would be a new story :)

I missed Holidayfest last night because of the opening of "Joseph" (which went great by the way) but I hear it was another great show.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Seriously? You think my wife would like THAT?

So I'm a man of the new millennium. I know how to use the Internet. So on black Friday, why now let the world wide web show me what's the best gift for my wife this year?

I'm educated enough to know her likes and dislikes, and I've memorized all of her sizes (guys, if you don't ask you're just setting yourself up for failure .. at the very least, peek in her closet while she's at work and write em down). Surely the cyber world must have some fresh ideas for me, right?

Step 1. Google the phrase "Gifts for my wife" and see what comes up. Keeping it simple, right? By the way, if you've never tried googling the most mundane question you can think of, this might be your time to experiment (although I don't recommend asking "why doesn't anyone like me?" unless you have plenty of time to cry on the keyboard.)

Step 2. Survey the google results and click on the first one -- It gives me a list of the "top 10 women's' gifts" this year. Perfect! This is gonna be easier than I thought! Here's what the list suggests:
  • Gift #1: $65 Forget-Me-Knot ring. Excuse me? That's the hottest gift for the estrogen in my life this year? From the picture, I can't even tell which way it goes on her finger!

  • Gift #2: $35 "Sweet Dreams Hottie & Silk Eye Mask". OK ... Can I just say that giving my wife a mask to wear while she sleeps and a hot water bottle to hold would probably get both of them inserted somewhere I don't want them on X-mas morning.

  • Gift #3: $26 "Little Miss Trouble T-shirt" Umm .. yeah, right. Time to hit "back" on my browser and pretend I was never here.
Step 3. Look at the google results again and click on a link for Yahoo answers. You'll see that another husband has posted this same gift question hoping for real women to give him real advice. Genius! Surely there's great ideas here because after all these are actual women giving advice.

  • Answer #1: Gift Certificate for a romantic date night.

  • Answer #2: Gift Certificate for a professional massage, facial, or salon visit.

  • Answer #3: Gift Certificate to her favorite spa or salon. (I'm sensing a theme here)

  • Answer #4: Ask her. (now THAT'S original).

  • Answer #5: A man weighs in with advice that as a hubby, you should visit Victoria Secret and frequent the bath section for special skin products .. and that his favorite is something with a "bath smell scent." (Can I just say that if you DO go to VS, you must buy your wife some lingerie .. because she will NEVER believe that you spent all that time in the love palace and didn't at least browse the skimpy, lacy stuff on the racks.)

  • Answers #6-10: Diamonds, sky-diving lessons, jewelry with her birthstones, a DVD set of her favorite TV show, and my favorite: "take all your clothes off and put on a bow tie while telling your wife 'Merry X-mas! I'm the best thing in your life.'" Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh right! Not sure any of those will be easy to wrap, but okayyyyyyyyyy.
At this point, I realize that these women are no help .. Time to hit the back button again and see if at least one of the google selections provides some guidance.

Step 4. Before giving up, sort through the other links and discard the ones that offer generic feedback from women like the link above and also bypass the gluttony of sites linked to bedroom "accessories." Scroll down to the link for which is described as a site with unique and tangible gifts. OK, now we're getting somewhere.

The site's top gift is a $59 personalized picture frame with a poem in it that also plays music. Not bad. Thoughtful. Memorable. Shows planning and effort. Now we're getting somewhere. This might actually work!

OK .. here's a few of the your music choices: "God Bless America", "That's What Friends Are For", "Unchained Melody", "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling", "Wind Beneath My Wings", and "Wish You A Merry Christmas."

Well, I guess those aren't really that bad, but they won't really knock her socks off either. Can't see how a special poem about the love of my life will be any good with "Wish You a Merry Christmas" playing. It might as well be playing a melody of "my husband loves me but spent way too much money on this crappy frame". Hello June garage sale!

The site also doesn't let you upload your own music for the picture frame ... so while it's a good idea I'm not sold enough to close the deal.

Step 5. Think real hard as to what you bought her last year. Wait five minutes and when you can't remember, it's time to move on. Although, I could probably google "what did I buy my wife for Christmas last year" if I really feel like it.

Step 6. Close your browser and play it safe by returning to newspaper ads like the other husbands out there. Realize that sticking to the basic philosophy of odd years: jewelry / even years: new purse is always safe. Also, a single gift certificate is thoughtful, but multiple CGs means you're lazy.

Step 7. Suddenly THE gift comes to mind! It's perfect! All I had to do was waste 30 minutes surfing the web.

To be continued Christmas morning .. Eric

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving in Operation Iraqi Freedom

I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was an ice sculpture. An ice sculpture! In the middle of the dessert!?!??! In fact, there were two of them sitting right there on a table in our chow hall at Camp Virginia, which boasted somewhere between 6 and 8,000 coalition troops at the time.

It was November of 2003, and I was in my eighth month as an Army Captain in the war zone. There wasn't much to distinguish Thanksgiving Day from any other day in the dessert. In fact, we really never knew what day of the week it was with the exception of Sundays, when fliers would be posted showing religious services.

We'd barely had a decent meal since the invasion began, let alone ice sculptures. Watching the glass-like statues of an eagle and a pilgrim (I'll post the photos when I find them) melt away quickly, I laughed out loud amongst the sea of dessert camouflage uniforms in line to eat. I took this photo outside our chow hall in the fall of 2003. The lines extend quite a distance and usually involve a wait of at least 30-45 minutes per meal.

Our laughs turned to smiles when we saw our food: real turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and pie. After going more than a month with marginal refrigeration and repetitive meals, we'd given up on the idea of seeing anything that resembled a home-cooked meal. Yet, here it was .. and it never-ever-ever looked so good.

We'd had quite a bit of activity earlier in the day. Working in transportation, my staff and I had been given a directive to re-route convoys to alternate routes near the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) but we weren't told why. It wasn't unusual because U.S. troops were often conducting field operations there and would be on the offensive. Still, I remember thinking "can't we give our American fighting men and women a break on Thanksgiving day?"

Back to our meal now .. and I remember that we had a TV on in the chow hall that picked up the Armed Forces Network (AFN), which rebroadcasts American TV shows. It was a nice touch to see "real" TV as we ate our meals.

During a news break, we found out why we'd been forced to make our convoys adjust their routes. President Bush was arriving to make his first surprise visit for Thanksgiving dinner with the troops. The entire chow hall absolutely erupted with cheers. Hundreds and hundreds of us yelling and screaming and high-fiving in every direction. Our reaction wasn't geared by whether we supported the President's decision to send us to war or not .. but rather was simply a major release of built-up emotion that somebody, somebody out there cared enough to come see us.

We knew our families missed us .. but in that first year of the war, the lines of connection weren't yet strong enough for those of us with American flags on our right shoulders to feel that daily support 7,000 miles away.

I guess, the reason I share that story today is because I can vividly remember how depressed and lonely we felt at the beginning of that Thanksgiving day .. and how uplifted we became by a good meal and an actual, active show of support.

Someone cared enough to improve our meal for a day .. and someone cared enough to fly all the way over to see us.

So I guess .. no matter how nice it is when you display yellow ribbons in your windows and on your bumpers, our troops really feel support when people do something to help them and/or their families back home. Thanks for listening .. and for supporting our troops .. Eric

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Joseph" tickets going fast

As if I didn't have enough pressure with my stage debut (see post below of "having the time of my life), I found out last night that tickets to the upcoming performances of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" are zooming.

Weathervane Community Playhouse has sold about 75 percent of the tickets for the 15 shows ... so anyone still wanting to enjoy the musical probably needs to call the box office (330-836-2626) or buy tickets on-line sooner than later.

Tonight is our last rehearsal before Friday's opening night performance. The cast of college and high school students just blows me away with their talent and energy. I really am having a great experience (still getting used to my fake beard for my role as "Jacob"), and I know the audience is going to have a fun and entertaining experience. See ya at the theater!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Doug Prade and the infamous polygraph

I knew about Doug Prade's polygraph just days after he took the test in November of 1997. In fact, most of the police department and those close to the case did too.

What we didn't' know -- at least definitely until now -- is whether the Akron Police Captain truly passed that test, which Doug boasted to those around him, or whether he actually failed it and gave investigators clues that pointed to his involvement in the murder of his ex-wife, Dr. Margo Prade, 10 years ago this week (which is why I'm now airing the story).

Shortly after Doug's conviction in 1998, I made a public records request for the whole kit-n-caboodle. Everything. Every interview and tape and photo and dental impression and the unseen polygraph results. I knew my request would get shot down, but I had to try. Initially, I got a whole lotta nothing because the case was headed for appeals.

Still, I got my request on the record and a few months ago, I finally got the lie detector results.

The irony of it all is that a decade later, I now see that Doug Prade did pass the test .. sort of. The first line of the official report says that he was "cleared" of any involvement in the case. Later though, the results show that Prade was "deceptive" on two key questions .. information that only the killer would know.

Investigators can now say publicly that they purposely misled Prade into believing he'd passed the test in order to "put him at ease" while they continued to investigate.

My story tonight on Channel 3 News at 11 will go into more detail on those questions, and I'm posting the 8-page polygraph report in its entirety on so those who'd like to read it for themselves can find it.

Bill Evans, the polygraph expert who administered that test, was quite forthcoming about Doug's demeanor that day and how poorly he did on the test.

I also received dozens of investigative documents related to the one-on-one interviews conducted with Doug both before and after he was arrested. More on what those reveal later.

Gotta run .. see ya at 11 .. and I'll have more tomorrow on the inside story of the polygraph.

Later today ..

How tonight's WKYC investigative story on Doug Prade's polygraph test came together .. see ya then .. Eric

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sommerville shows class in court

What happened today during Marco Sommerville's arraignment is something I've never seen before and probably never will again.

The President of Akron City Council was arraigned in Barberton Municipal Court this afternoon on one count of Carrying a Concealed Weapon. The heck with losing his city council job, this charge is a felony charge that carries the possibility of jail time. This is serious folks.

OK .. set aside how much you like or don't like Sommerville for a second.

How would you react to TV cameras and a half dozen reporters locked in on your every breath from the moment you appeared in the courthouse? You no longer have personal space. If you smile, we capture it. If you scowl, it's on tape. And don't even think about turning around and walking back out. Think you'd be calm?

From the second Sommerville got off the second-floor elevator, he became 'the target' to the TV cameras and accompanying reporter sidekicks. No place to run or hide. No way to be graceful about it. No real way to look good in that situation -- it's just degrees of bad. "Marco-the-motivated-political-leader" was reduced to "Sommerville-the-sensational-gun-toting-accused-felon."

Rather than hide in the hallway as many defendants do .. and then jump into the courtroom at the last second and try to use their attorneys to block them from the cameras ... Sommerville sat calmly, said hello to us in the media .. and told another reporter and I that he didn't blame us for a second. He acknowledged that he knew we had a job to do ... and doesn't think we need to be sorry for anything.

He approached the bench for his hearing then walked calmly out of the courtroom to the clerk's office to post bond. With cameras rolling he politely accomplished all the signatures needed for his release and said "thank you" to the clerk.

Now came time to run the gauntlet. Out of the clerk's office and into the shark tank. Marco could have easily ducked his head and fled like many defendants do. Instead, he calmly stopped and took the time to offer his statement of apology. As he headed to the elevator, Marco smiled and thanked us for our time and departed.

Now .. some of you might think that Marco conducted himself this way because he's got a high-profile attorney or because he knows he's only going to get a fine in the end or because he would have faced cameras sooner or later at city hall anyway.

Still, after 17+ years of covering the courts in this town, I've never seen someone conduct themselves this way when they make their first appearance as a defendant. Most have that "I can't believe I'm in this mess" look followed by the "get away from me you media vultures" stare.

Marco was none of that. He seemed genuine and quite understanding of why he was being cast into the media spotlight.

None of this makes up for his mistake of taking a loaded gun into the airport, but his demeanor while in the crosshairs of the "evening news sin machine" spoke a great deal to me about his character.

"Reporting the War" --- Watch it on the web

My first documentary, "Reporting the War -- The Journalists' Perspective", is finally on the web. Watch it here. Later today, I'll post some of the comments I've received so far. If you taken the time to view the piece, please feel free to weigh in with comments here on my blog. I'm hoping to learn from this special so I can do better with next project.

Also, my thanks to the Cuyahoga Falls News Press for yesterday's article on my upcoming stage venture at Weathervane Community Playhouse. I spent all of Sunday rehearsing with a really talented group of teens and young adults, and I'm really enjoying the opportunity to perform.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

So where are those fathers?

I'm hoping that my story last night on a local support program for teen moms will shed some light on the group in Kenmore and bring the organization some additional teen moms who need help as well as some tangible and financial support. You can learn more about the program by reading about First Glance.

Still, after spending a couple of afternoons watching more than a dozen young ladies trying to discover their maternal instincts, I'm left with one burning question: where are the fathers?

The first mother I interviewed was only 15 years old. 15! Not even old enough to drive, she was due to deliver in just days and preparing for the ultimate challenge on earth. And here she was all alone when it came to parenting. No father around to support her. She told me the baby's father was 18, attended a different Akron High School, and that he was a nice guy .. but he's not around.

How do so many young men just walk away from this responsibility? I realize that some of these dads are also an immature bunch of 15 to 18-year-olds .. but how do they see a new life in this world -- one with half of their DNA -- and not want to be involved?

This isn't to say that at least a few of the fathers of these teens' babies aren't visiting or supporting in some way, but group leaders tell me that at best, the teen mothers are relying on their own mothers for support but in some cases, they are literally living on their own.

I wish that I had the time, resources, and leverage to drag all of the fathers into their own afternoon support program. To force them to grow up just as fast as the young ladies with whom they had sex. To get them to own up to their responsibilities and be a part of a young baby's life who will need a father more than ever. To set an example for that child that hopefully breaks this cycle. I realize their maturity levels probably can't handle all of that, but shouldn't they at least try?

Maybe I'm just preaching to the choir ... but while an Akron group of young women can't hide or escape from the mistakes they've made, shouldn't their partners-in-crime fess up too?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sommerville to be served with warrant

Marco Sommerville will face criminal charges within hours of arriving at CAK Sunday night, according to a spokeswoman at the Sheriff's Office.

While the county and the feds are still debating jurisdiction, the SO tells me that they expect to serve him with a warrant on Monday when he surrenders. In other words, a plan is coming together for that to happen.

I would expect Sommerville to make his initial appearance at Barberton Muncipal Court, plead not guilty, and then be released. He'll still have to go through booking at the County Jail but I wouldn't expect him to spend a night in the slammer.

Sommerville's has committed to speaking with Ray Horner Monday morning on WAKR-AM and will even take calls. That says a lot about how he plans to handle his public image upon returning.

The time of my life!

Well ... I've done it now!! I'm taking the leap and performing in a local musical.

I accepted the role of Jacob in Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" playing Nov. 23rd through Dec. 15th at Weathervane Community Playhouse in the Merriman Valley. If you've ever seen the show then you know it's got great music with an inspirational story.

For those unfamiliar, Jacob has a dozen sons, and his favorite is Joseph. Jacob spoils Joseph and buys him a special coat, which makes the other brothers jealous. They plot to sell Joseph into slavery and then convince Jacob that his favorite son was killed by a goat. The show crescendos into the family reunited with a tone of forgiveness.

Honestly folks, I'm having the time of my life. I swore when I got home from Iraq that I'd take better advantage of every day of my life and push myself to broaden my experience. This certainly qualifies. My oldest son, Joshua, plays "Judah" (one of the brothers) so it's a great opportunity to have some unique father-son moments too.

The cast is dynamite with local college students Kyle Downing playing "Joseph" and Amanda Davis as "The Narrator." I really draw energy from these young men and women, who have amazing talent!

My voice and skills don't come close to the talent in this cast, but I get to play an interesting character whose emotions go from joy to grief to silliness to amazement. That's a larger range of emotion than I ever enjoy on the evening news. I also get to wear a beard and sandals .. so it'll definitely be an experience that's out of my element.

I hope some of you will bring your families and take in a show. There are 15 performances in all, and I'm told that about half of the tickets have already been sold.
You can buy tickets on-line, in-person at the Weathervane Box Office, or by calling 330-836-2626. You'll have a great time for sure.

You won't confuse me with the next Nathan Lane, but you'll definitely see a serious local news anchor smiling like never before. See ya at the show!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gunning for council ..

A few tidbits to pass along ...

First, we're still waiting to see what charges Marco Sommerville will face when he returns from his trip to New Orleans. Sommerville had a loaded .38 with him as he went through security at CAK Monday night. The gun was confiscated and Sommerville was permitted to keep going on his trip.

Second, Marco isn't in the Big Easy all by himself. He's traveling with fellow council members Renee Greene, John Otterman, John Conti, Jim Shealey, and Tina Merlitti. I think it's safe to assume that Shealey left his gun at home. My records check shows that like Sommerville, Shealey also has a valid Concealed Carry License. In fact, I found four other local public officials, including judges, who also have valid licenses .. so it's not uncommon.

Third, Deputy Mayor Dave Lieberth tells me that Sommerville called Mayor Plusquellic from New Orleans Monday night to let him know about the incident .. so the Mayor already knew when Mark Williamson touched based with him Tuesday afternoon (see my blog post below). For whatever reason, the info hadn't trickled down to the Communications Office before we media folks started hitting speed dial.

My gut feeling is that while Marco will allow his attorney to speak on his behalf, he's bound to at least make some reference to the incident the next time he addresses a council meeting. Even if it's to say "I just want to thank my fellow members of council for their continued support during this time." Probably something like that would be fitting of Marco's character.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Press Conference? What Press Conference?

Our newsroom phones rang a short time ago .. first from local police . .then from the Summit County Sheriff's Office . .and then from a source of mine in law enforcement.

All three were asking, "where are you?" Seems they're having a press conference to announce major arrests in a local drug cartel but the agency everyone thought was notifying the press didn't do it. So, not only weren't we there, no other media agencies were either. Just cops, U.S. Attorneys, a podium, and a lot of empty seats.

My source tells me the indictments involve a family that's been supplying cocaine to the area for more than a decade and that 30 kilos were seized during the most recent raids. The "kingpins" they were after have been elusive for years, but thanks to some wiretaps and other surveillance, the good guys finally have enough info to arrest the bad guys. Eleven indictments in all, and nine of those suspects are in custody already. The operation was being run in Akron.

Still, it begs the question .. if community leaders hold a press conference and there's no press there to see it, did it really happen?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: City council Prez totes loaded gun to airport

Well folks .. I meant to post this about 5 p.m. .. but as most of you know, our power went ka-bam with a downtown fire .. and I got pulled into breaking news coverage and handed this breaking news story off to another reporter. So it's 8:50 p.m. and my computer is literally just coming back on as we get power restored to our Akron newsroom. Sorry for the prolonged suspense.

What I planned to write -- and break exclusively here on my blog -- was last night's incident at CAK involving Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville. I found out early this morning that Sommerville was toting a loaded .38 as he went through the metal detectors on his way to New Orleans. Summit Deputies and TSA folks seized the gun, made a report, and sent Sommerville on his way. FYI: Sommerville does have a Concealed Carry License, but obviously he shouldn't be packing heat at the airport.

While I'm still researching previous cases, I was always under the impression that previous gun-totaing passengers were put in cuffs, booked, and then appeared before a judge in the morning to explain why they were carrying at the airport. Sources tell me that the deputies at CAK definitely recognized Sommerville as a political figure, but whether that played into their decision to release him instead of arresting him I don't know.

Just so you know, when I called Mark Williamson, city spokesman, around noon to get a comment .. he responded with a deep breath and a "greatttttttttttttttt" sigh. He hadn't heard yet, nor had many others at city hall. Later I know Mark did inform Mayor Plusquellic, but city leaders had not seen the police report nor spoken with Sommerville, so they really couldn't comment yet.

Obviously, we still need to talk with Marco when he returns from the south. My guess is that he'll be up front and honest that it was a mistake. He's always been straight with me as a reporter and never ducked a tough story so he deserves the benefit of the doubt until he gives us his side.
A source tells me Sommerville WILL be charged both locally and federally, but those official decisions won't be made just yet.

Any way you look at it, the case doesn't look good because most people feel that if it were them packing heat at the airport, they would have been thumped first and questioned later.