Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I had a chance to sit down with each of them to talk about their next Tuesday's ballot bash in the Canton Mayoral Race. We aired Creighton's interview last night and Healy's tonight. You can see them both here.
Both were pleasant and prepared .. and both seem to genuinely care passionately about moving Canton forward.
What's odd to me is that on-camera, they both tear into each other in a flash. Healy blames Creighton for everything from downtown jaywalkers to the high pregnancy rate at Timken High School .. (I think he even holds her responsible for days when it rains in Canton). Meantime, Creighton says Healy can't add and that his crime stats and job loss numbers are so flawed that he's got voters terrified to stay in town.
Yet, off-camera and in side conversations, I sense they really do respect .. and to some extent like each other. I don't know either one of them well enough to know when they're turning their emotions "on" and "off," but I can tell you that neither attacked the other off camera as much as they did on camera and in front of the debate crowds.
Now .. I've covered politics long enough to know that challengers always have to attack the incumbents .. and incumbents always have to say the challenger doesn't have the experience. Still, this is the first time I've seen a race where I sense the two might end up laughing over a beer when it's all over -- of course, neither would ever admit to it anyway.
For more info on each candidate's platform, can check out Healy's Campaign website and Creighton's Campaign website.
I've received tons of calls, emails and knocks at the doors over the years of folks wanting me to do stories on their local haunted tales. Everything from traditional haunted houses to cry-baby-bridge-folklore.
The one that still gets me when I think about it comes from Richard Hodges, Stage Manager at the Akron Civic Theater. He's a great guy by the way and a great historian of the theater.
A few years ago as I was doing a story on the Civic's historic renovation, Hodges and I were standing in the theater's grand lobby. Just making conversation, I brought up the idea of ghosts in theaters and whether Hodges had ever experienced any at the Civic.
Hodges told me that during the renovation, workers came into the lobby to find one side of the lobby in the dark. The lights on the that side were completely out. I'm talking about the large set of lights -- probably 30 of them -- that line the upper levels of the grand lobby walls probably 20 feet off the floor.
The other side of the lobby was still lit so workers could still see there way around. Assuming it was a bad fuse or a flipped switch, workers stayed focus on the tasks at hand.
Later, crews checked the fuses and found that all were working normally. All the switches were checked as well and they too were functioning normally. Crews even checked the electrical lines themselves and discovered that they were "hot" -- meaning power was going through them to the lights.
"So why weren't the lights working?" I asked.
Hodges told me that eventually someone brought in a large ladder and ascended to the top of the lobby for a closer look. Turns out, ALL of the light bulbs had been twisted loose by hand so they wouldn't come on. Every single light.
As I recall, Hodges said there's no way a person crawled up there and did that because there were no large ladders around. All of the lights just suddenly went dark.
So it must have been a ghost ...
There's other Civic Theater haunting stories out there .. but that one just gets me every time.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The U of A has the first 11 items up for discussion .. you'll notice quite a few of them are purchases of properties to make way for a new football stadium.
Item #5 has the folks in Zipville in deep kangaroo doo tonight. They're asking permission to spend $110,000 on the .07 acres but if you look closely, that same property was purchased just 13 months ago for only $77K .. which is a quite a jump .. but the bigger issue is that it was the son of a U of A trustee who reportedly bought the property and is now looking to have his daddy's board buy him out at a near 40 percent profit.
Click on item #3 while you're at it too .. two small apartment buildings valued at $93K and $136K respectively .. and now the U of A is offering $465K for both of them and writing "In an effort to avoid Eminent Domain Proceedings ...."
I realize that this land is valuable and some of these folks don't want to sell. I also realize that to keep this project on schedule, the U of A may need to make some folks a pretty "sweet" deal to get it done ..
Still, these are big dollars from a state university getting tossed around here. Take a look for yourself ... what do you think?
I checked with APD and got this response:
"Apparently the responding officers said that the guns were taken from someone belonging to the church several years ago, and the church was going to turn them over to the police. The church however forgot to do it."
Good to know the church wasn't planning a "forceful" way of increasing the offering.
Friday, October 26, 2007
For background .. Feaster is refusing to testify against a fellow gang member who was charged with a night club shooting in which an 18-year-old woman was gunned down. The alleged shooter was released from jail this week because Feaster wouldn't cooperate and testify. Judge Unruh's three-year sentence will be tacked on to Feaster's existing juvenile plea deal which has him locked up til he's 21. So that means Feaster won't see the light of freedom til he's 24.
I just hung up the phone with prosecutors who tell me they've asked Judge Linda Tucci-Teodosio to declare Feaster a "Serious Youthful Offender." That's a new one to me. Apparently, teens with serious criminal histories can be labeled as an SYO and have adult time added on. In this case, prosecutors are asking for 13 more years -- 10 for manslaughter and 3 for the gun spec.
For those of you doing math at home ... that's age 24 for the current charges .. and now age 37 if Judge Teodosio agrees. He's 17 now .. and looking at 20 years of hard time. Two decades. All while the alleged shooter walks the streets free.
Not withstanding the pain of the victim's family here ... but seriously folks .. if someone doesn't get through to this young man soon and convince him that he needs to speak up and tell what happened, his solidarity and loyalty are going to cost him any chance he would have of turning his life around.
Tonight's taping airs at 9 p.m. and replays at 5 a.m. Saturday for you late-night folks ...
While voters can get lost in the numbers game -- the issue numbers, the levy amounts, the # of dollars raised, etc ... -- what I think most voters want to know is "what positive will come if I agree to give up this money?"
In Saros' case, I think most voters want him to explain what happens at the Case Worker level that will better serve the thousands of kids involved with CSB? Will those over-worked, blue-collar, hands-on warriors get more tools? a lighter case load? a better plan for success?
I appreciated Saros' candor in that case workers should expect that if Issue 21 passes, the case loads can at least remain static. That if they have 13-15 cases right now, they can expect that number to hold in place. What's really at stake, at least in my take from Saros' comments, is that if the levy fails, case workers will be let go, and those who remain will be overwhelmed with additional families. Still, Saros is positive about where the agency is headed -- provided that these dollars are approved by the voters.
I still wonder how the two issues will play side-by-side on the ballot. Passing one issue is tough enough; asking for money on two county-wide issues at once is an even bigger challenge.
Hopefully, viewers will use tonight's broadcast to be better informed on 20 and 21 heading to the polls. There's a lot more riding on this duo than just dollars and sense.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
We put the pics together into a fast-moving slide show and posted it to the web a short time ago. You can see the shooter, gun in each hand, moving through the hallways.
You can bet they'll be wallpapered over everything media tonight. While media outlets received the pictures several hours ago, the pics were embargoed from being shown publicly until 3:30 p.m. .. or about 12 minutes ago.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Chris serves as an officer in the Air Force Reserves in Southern California, and I had a feeling he'd be right in the middle of the wildfires. Here's how he describes the scene:
Well, once again the fires are ravaging So Cal. As we drive down the hill each day into Ventura, the air is extremely thick. You literally see a black wall of smoke to the southwest as you pull into the oceanfront.
Malibu's fires are the primary sources for our smoke & ash here. Santa Clarita is also right over the other mountain from us. For as often as the same places burn, it's amazing there's even anything left to burn!!!
Our Air National guard unit, the 146th AW, is home to So Cal's largest MAFFS unit (Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System). Our C-130s are outfitted with equipment to fight fires with retardant & will be working overtime this week. Just last night we had 10 more aircraft arrive - from North Carolina, Colorado, and Wyoming.
I'm spending most of my days in the Command Post fielding calls from news organizations (Good Morning America asked to RIDE on the plane!!!) and logging events as they occur. It's hot here - very hot - and windy. Santa Ana winds some right out of the desert.
We're safe for the time being. However, due to the fact that several of these fires were determined to be arson, they could flair up anytime, anywhere.
Good to hear from you, dude...I enjoy the news updates as well.
(By the way, Chris has been searching for his big break as an actor and has had walk-on roles in the background of quite a few TV shows .. he also danced right next to Julia Roberts in "My Best Friend's Wedding")
We're waiting on 9-1-1 calls to be released in today's stabbing of an Akron Public Schools teacher. One report says the Buchtel teacher was stabbed by one suspect; another published report says there were several men in the street. I'll be interested to see if this attack is counted in the yearly school crime statistics. Technically, it didn't happen on school grounds .. but considering it happened right next to the school and the victim is a teacher, most would argue that it's a school-related crime.
The Beacon Journal's Fairlawn man not guilty of murder charges in Lake Erie boating death story on Ohio.com right now has a misleading headline. At first glance, the headline -- which technically correct -- gives the impression that the guy was cleared of all charges. Look deeper in the story and you'll see he was still convicted of pushing his buddy overboard and faces prison time.
I guess the closing of the TOPPS grocery stores will hit the local Salvation Army pretty hard. Capt. Jim Betts with the Akron SA post tells me that the five grocery stores that didn't reopen as Giant Eagles were all solid red kettle spots. Not having those five kettles will mean about $50K fewer dollars for the SA this holiday season.
Myesha Ferrell's trial begins in less than two weeks, and if she goes ahead with the trial then we should hear our first real evidence as to have how Jessie Marie Davis was allegedly killed by Bobby Cutts. All of the local TV stations are weighing their options as to how to cover Ferrell's hearing. Some stations will put one reporter on the trial from start to finish but others will send a different person each day with "coverage by committee." It's tough to judge because our newsroom doesn't know what else might be happening on those days and you don't want to miss other big stories on a day when lawyers tie up the courtroom with motions.
The University of Akron announced today that some 30-year-old microfilm is missing. It's only a big deal because the data includes names, DOBs, and SS#s on graduates of the class of 1974. We'll mention it in tonight's broadcast, but it's kind of tough to ask students about it considering nearly all of today's' college students weren't born when the potential victims' were on campus.
Our newsroom is so quiet this afternoon that I just heard one of our videographers singing "He's my Russell Pry" to the 80's tune of "She's My Cherry Pie." It's newsroom humor folks .. you just have to be here to get it.
Marsha writes: "I'm just curious about where you are originally from? I grew in North Canton, next to Bill and Dorothy Mansfield. I was wondering if you were any relation to them?"
Hi Marsha. Nope. Not me. There is an Eric Mansfield from North Canton who is a few years older than me ... and I'm often confused for him and have been invited multiple times to his alumni events .. but I'm no relation to your neighbors.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
It's a city-wide chart of Akron's gangS. That's gangS with a big "S" at the end to emphasize the plural-ness of them. We've got LOTS of gangs in Akron. 50+ on the map I saw. More gangs than many Akron residents would ever want to admit. Enough to convince me that many of us are living in denial.
Travis is allegedly a member of the V-Nots gang and was trying to shoot members of the Hilltoppers gang when a bullet struck and killed 18-year-old Shawrica Lester in the crossfire. With that kind of violence, you'd think it would be easy to find those two gangs on Gessner's map ... but it isn't. That's because there's so many of them.
A red dot points to the area of the city where each gang lives and breathes. There's so many red dots that it reminds me of the Marauder's Map of the Harry Potter books; I just kept waiting for the dots to move. Police will tell you that a gang never holds still anyway .. so those dots might as well be floating around the town.
Travis' release because his fellow gang members refuse to testify is making headlines, but Gessner says it's nothing new. He tells me that prosecutors are left hanging on a daily basis by gang bangers who'd rather rot than rat.
Earlier this year, Mayor Plusquellic pushed council to seek $1 million in grants to help fight gangs and proposed a joint effort between APD and Sheriff's Deputies to better tackle the gang problem. After yesterday, I'm convinced now more than ever that those dollars and more are needed if we're going to reach these kids who are out of control. By the way, you can reach APD's gang unit at its website. There's also an older Akron gang map mixed in with an APD presentation I found through Google.
Additionally, all of it makes me wonder how much the gang problem has impacted the dropping enrollment in the Akron schools, which have regularly lost 500 students per year.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Yep .. it feeds my ego pretty well ... if only I was the one who actually wrote it.
It's called "Eggs, Carrots and Coffee" .. and you'll find more than a dozen websites, including this one, and this one, and others sharing this great anecdote of inspiration.
Newsflash: while the author is "Eric Mansfield" .. it ain't me!!
I've received numerous emails from people across the country thanking me ... asking me when I wrote it . .and even one guy asking for my permission to use it in his literature. I even found one website that attributes the writing to "Eric Mansfield from Channel 3 News in Cleveland" .. where someone made the leap that it must have come from me.
Each time, I write back and thank them for the compliments while explaining that I didn't write it .. some other EM did.
Many months ago I blogged about the other Eric Mansfields here in the area and how I'm often mistaken for one of them. That I can handle. Yet, in this case, I haven't been able to find the actual EM who deserves the credit and I feel like he's being jipped.
I'm ready to start my own website with the complete poem .. then pay the Google to list it first while including a disclaimer that forces folks to check a box that they know and understand that I didn't write it before they're allowed to read it (kidding).
Anyway .. it's a nice problem to have I guess .. now, if I could actually write like that ...
Akron's Bill Evans is flying to get more kids behind the wheel. Well, sort of anyway. He's heading to Germany ... to Akron's sister city of Chemnitz in fact ... to pitch Soap Box Derby Racing. His long-term plans include adding more race cities in the U.S., and convincing community leaders around the country to use and build soap box cars for more than just racing. For example, building a car from a kit (all made in Akron) is a good leadership exercise.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
This time of the year, everything about the game broadcast is National ... not local .. and everything this year is FOX. Rupert Murdoch paid big bucks for the rights to the game and its highlights, and he plans to protect them.
After just the first two games of the ALCS, non-FOX stations have already received written warnings that include stern statements that credentials to cover the games could be pulled if a station continues to violate any part of the policies -- even accidentally. I'm told the letters include references to specific reporters' stories. Rumors around town today were that one station had lost its credentials to be in the stadium tonight, but by show time that station was back inside.
Obviously, the restriction is understandable .. but I've never seen the competition scrutinized as much as they seem to be right now .. our coverage included. Writing from Akron, I'm not really in the middle of it, but seeing the email traffic flying, it's obvious that "covering" the playoff game means understanding the ground rules before ever heading to Jacob Field.
Insiders at the cop shop and city hall both tell me the hiring was delayed until the Vinson investigation had been put in the rear view mirror. While Sherri Bevan Walsh's official ruling still hasn't been finalized, the city's independent review upheld the initial investigation that the black teen killed himself and that the white officers who opened fire were justified.
Still, some are asking why Young didn't start his job anyway when his hiring was leaked in July? Why not let the guy get going and just say that he's only working on new complaints and won't come in to the Vinson case in the middle? You can find out more about Young's specific duties by reading the city's release.
I was in Southern Ohio yesterday on an upcoming feature story so I wasn't able to hear Mayor Plusquellic or Young talk about the hiring although I intend to watch a tape of their press conference when I return to the office.
As I've already shared, Young has a solid reputation and I'm told he has great communications skills. He's about as good as it gets for filling a controversial role. Still, his first test of being thrown into the fire probably isn't far away ... just call it the law of averages. Phil Trexler captured a key component to Wednesday's announcement -- that no police officers attended the press conference.
By the way, take note that the press conference to announce Young's hiring was held on a day off for the Tribe/Red Sox series. Granted, the Mayor typically holds his weekly press conference on Wednesday, but had there been a game set for Wednesday night, many believe the announcement would have been held for another day to ensure media coverage and room on the next day's front page. It was still our lead story on the Akron-Canton News yesterday, in part because we weren't going to lead with the Tribe on an off day. I could be wrong about this one, but I'm not the only one covering news downtown who believes it.
While it's the message and not the messenger that truly matters, don't for a second think the media doesn't play a part in the timing of news events.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
First, if you were watching our 6:30 p.m. newscast tonight, then I apologize for my laughing fit in the third segment. I got caught up on the line about how people who pass away can now take their pets with them to the afterlife. The picture in my head was slightly humorous .. and then I added in the thought that the next thing on the rundown was a pitch to Mark Nolan. I mean, how am I supposed to make a happy transition from dead pets to weather? At least Nolan knows how to have fun with it. Of course, the added insult was a story after weather in which a talking parrot lead to the death of a burglar. Again, not funny .. unless you're trying to read it on TV. Guess it just means I'm as human as the next guy .. so again, my apologies.
I got a surprising email today that the USO of Northern Ohio is going under. This is a total shock. Tim White forwarded the info to me today calling the announcement 'tragic." A letter from the group's president says the board of directors voted to dissolve the corporation. The USO has lead the charge to support our troops; hopefully other groups will step up. For the last few weeks, I've begun working with some folks on a new website to match people and organizations that wish to help military families with the families themselves. This loss of the USO highlights the need for the new website and other groups to fill the void. (UPDATE: See comments section for details, but a spokeswoman says the group will fall under a new USO header and will continue to service military members and their families in NE Ohio. This is great news!)
Speaking of the military, 28 gold star mothers will gather on Veterans day to read the names of Ohioans lost in Iraq. I'm still trying to get the location for the 3 p.m. event, but if you've ever wanted to thank a military family, you might never have a greater opportunity.
I had the greatest time "people watching" at the Browns game Sunday. I just love that we blue collar football fans never through anything away. I saw old "Sipe" and "Couch" jerseys. Even a few that said "Spielman" although Browns fans know he never actually played in a regular season game. The kid in front of me added a "D" to his "Frye" jersey. Again, why buy jerseys with the current players' names when the old jerseys still fit? :)
And congrats to a local student who didn't let a tough break keep her from succeeding. Back in June, I featured Kristyn Jackson in a story about North High teens who failed the Ohio Graduation Test and were the first local students to be denied a chance to walk across the stage. Kristyn's mom has been touching base with me throughout the summer and recently let me know that Kristyn accepted the chance to attend the Akron Alternative Academy and give it another shot ... and this time she's passed everything. She'll walk across the stage for real in January. I, for one, have wondered how many of the dozens of students who failed the OGT would actually stick with a plan to get their diplomas versus just saying "the heck with it." Glad to see Kristyn stayed dedicated to her goal to graduate.
Here's the Reader's Digest version:
I was driving in Summit County yesterday morning when a young boy came out of nowhere and ran in front of my car. He had a distinct smile on his face and didn't seem to care one way or another that he nearly got his melon squashed on a residential street. The boy then continued on his "merry" way dancing in front of a few residential lawns with not a care in the world.
Seeing that no one was coming out of their home to claim this child, I feared that he was lost .. or that something was medically wrong with him .. so I called the local police telling them that a child was dancing in traffic and that another driver and I had slowed down to avoid hitting the youth.
While keeping an eye on the boy, another woman in the neighborhood called a nearby elementary school to ask them if one of their students was missing .. and sure enough they realized that "Bobby", a young man with autism, was nowhere to be found.
As the boy drifted behind some homes and into nearby woods, a few teachers and a school secretary suddenly came running between two homes with obvious fear in their eyes. I pointed up the street and they took off towards the woods. Moments later, they appeared hand-in-hand with Bobby and walked him back towards the school. They thanked me for recognizing that the boy was in trouble and getting help.
Even though the boy and the teachers turned the corner to head back to their school, I waited for the police to arrive to tell them that the boy was o-k and make sure they followed up on this. The officer who arrived immediately told me, "welcome to No Child Left Behind."
I thought he was making a joke about the kid being found, but instead he told me that he did extra jobs at local schools where kids with special needs are now being mainstreamed thanks to the ever-unpopular NCLB program.
"These kids need to be back at the Weaver School they used to have," the officer told me, "instead of placed in schools where there's not enough teachers and aids to meet their needs let alone keep an eye on them."
He went on to tell me about how the special needs teachers at some schools are overwhelmed with multiple students, and that when one or two kids have "episodes" at once, the teachers and aids can't keep an eye on all of the others. That's how kids like "Bobby" end up out of the building.
Today, I touched base with the building's principal just to make sure "Bobby" was OK. He assured me that the boy was fine and that the special needs teachers will be keeping an extra eye on him. He thanked me for getting help but realizes that had I not seen the boy, "Bobby" could have been in big trouble in those woods before anyone would have known where to look.
I don't know how often something like this happens in Summit County .. but even once is too much. If there's not enough supervision to adequately protect and control these kids, how can anyone expect them to learn?
I'm not an expert in education .. and I'm in no position to tell teachers and principals how to run their buildings .. but if a lack of special needs teachers and aids is as big a problem as it appeared Monday, then someone needs to get real loud real fast and make some real noise that gets some real attention.
Just as it took a 14-year-old with a gun to finally get the Cleveland Schools' attention that security was lagging, I hope it doesn't take an 8-year-old autistic boy getting run over to convince community leaders to help our schools handle the unfunded mandates of No Child Left Behind.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Plain Dealer Columnist Michael McIntyre , fellow blogger and journalist Ed Esposito, and Scene Magazine each weighed in on my story/blog with differing views and insight.
To be honest, I had to chuckle at Scene blogger Gus Garcia-Roberts' line of: "Mansfield was so appalled that he went all Carl Monday on the kid’s ass, airing a segment blasting the student for attempting to “make a buck on his school’s tragedy.”
Among the emails I received, a few are worth sharing:
Susan writes: "The teen and his mother seeking money for the video clip is a prime example of how our society has no shame when it comes to money and how more & more the need to be helpful without a price is vanishing. However....the media fuels this type of behavior. The media is so caught up with being the 'first to report' that it is willing to be held hostage for money, which in turn develops more greed instead of possibly promoting good Samaritans. "
Ricky weighs in with: "Kind of hypocritical to infer that the kid (or apparently his agent/mother) should be ashamed for trying to make money off of the school shooting, don't you think? At least he's a direct victim of this terrorism. Your commercial news operation is not. Aren't you making money from this tragedy via your paychecks from Gannett which is making money through the spots during your newscast and those spots that come up RIGHT AFTER HORRIFIC VIDEO OF THE EVENT online? Because you're paid to be at these bad events, Mr. Mansfield's report was a little like saying, 'do as we say, not as we do.' But hey, at least you don't cross the line as obviously as that OIOther station."
Some messages and emails blast the kid and his mom .. others blast the media (me included) for challenging his right to make money .. and a third group slams all of the above.
Still, it remains a great ethical debate .. and again, my primary concern is that teens aren't given the message that their first thought at a violent event should be "how can I make a buck on this" instead of "shouldn't I be ducking for cover or calling 9-1-1"?
Keep your thoughts coming .. a healthy debate can only make our craft better .. Eric
Friday, October 12, 2007
After a whopping 49 years in public service (35 in Washington, 8 in the Ohio Legislature, and 5 in the Ohio School Board), the 82-year-old Navarre grandfather says it's time to enjoy his golden years.
While Regula told me about his plans to speak in the classroom to young people interested in public service .. and spoke at length about his goals to improve education during his final year+ in office .. it was the story of his fence that stands out to me.
I snapped a photo of him next to the fence so you can see for yourself. Can you guess what kind of wood that is?
Here's the story as Regula shares it: While visiting with President Reagan, Regula was admiring some of the photos of the Commander in Chief's California Ranch. He noticed Mr. Reagan's fence and asked about it. The President responded by telling him how the former actor took a chain saw to some telephone poles and "made himself the best fence ever." Reagan simply cut up those poles like life-size Lincoln Logs.
So Regula .. being an outdoorsman with a 200-acre farm himself .. decided to give it a try. Remember, at that time Regula was in his 60's. With phone companies burying more of their cables than ever before, their poles are available for a minimal amount, Regula says. So he hired some heavy equipment guys to bring them to Navarre, got out his saw, and made himself a fence too.
Regula sent photos over to the White House to show off his handiwork. Reagan sent him back a note that said something to the effect of, "Nice Job Ralph. Keep me 'posted' as to how well your fence works out."
Don't think Regula is headed for blue-hair-ville in Florida either. He tells me that the only golf cart he'll be driving in retirement is a John Deere.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
I was called to WKYC's Cleveland office to be an extra field reporter in the school shooting coverage. I could still anchor the Akron-Canton News from the Clevleand newsroom, so it was a win-win situation.
Around noon, CNN showed amateur video taken from inside the school Wednesday that shows a class of students having their door locked and then panicking as the shooting unfolded. The video doesn't show the shooter, the victims, or capture any of the bullets being fired. Still, it's the best video out there at the moment.
I began trying to locate the 17-year-old kid who took the video to see if we could get a copy for our newscast. A short time later, our News Director saw the boy talking live on CNN right in front of WKYC so I ran outside and made contact with Tereena Marks, the mother of 17-year-old Warren Marks.
She told me that her son would grant us an interview but that we were fourth in line behind another CNN crew, Inside Edition, and ABC. No problem, I can wait.
Long story short, after dragging the interviews out for more than an hour, Warren told the local reporters that if they wanted a copy of his video, then he wanted to be paid .. and paid well. He told us that Inside Edition had paid up to $2,000 for the tape and that he would make us deals as well.
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I couldn't believe that this kid was looking to capitalize on an act of violence that left his fellow classmates and teachers with bullets in their bodies.
I reminded Warren that he'd already shared the video with one Cleveland TV station for free, so why couldn't he share the video with the rest of us too? Warren told me that that was before he knew he could make money.
I called inside to my News Director and managers who said we were not paying for the tape under any circumstances. I was glad they were backing me up on this ethical decision.
I went back out to try and be reasonable with Warren but he wouldn't budge. At this point, a reporter from one of my competitors began to negotiate for the tape .. starting at $200 .. then $250 .. then $300. Appalled, I looked at both of them and said "I'm out of here."
On the way out I asked Warren's mother why they were resorting to charging local media for the tape .. especially when a syndicated show had already provided a windfall. She told me that this was Warren's "15 minutes" and that he "deserved to be paid."
What's ironic is that Tereena works a block from the school .. and as she rushed to the scene to make sure her son was OK, guess where she waited for news? The Channel 3 lobby. Nice to know that our goodwill in her time of need was so quickly forgotten when she and her son could hold up our station for $$.
For what it's worth (pun intended), our station has paid for breaking news video in the past .. such as tornadoes, fires, or plane crashes. All of those are unplanned events. But this was different. This wasn't an amateur photographer who was in the right place at the right time; this was a kid looking to cash in on his classmates' misfortune.
So instead of giving viewers a glimpse inside the school through the use of this teen's video, I instead shared the story of a teen survivor-turned-entrepreneur.
After the 7 p.m. broadcast, I learned that the NBC network agreed to buy a copy of the tape and was now providing copies to all of the NBC affiliates -- WKYC included -- for use as they see fit. (Note: Gannett Inc. owns WKYC and not NBC) We'll show parts of his video at 11 while explaining that we were given a copy by the network but did not pay for it.
Still, for the organizations that did pony up cash to a 17-year-old and who regularly pay for interviews and private video, I wonder how they sleep at night under the umbrella of journalism.
Somehow cash-for-content turns hard news into hardly news.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
A few observations:
- The Press conference at WKYC went well .. with most reporters getting to ask at least one question.
- We scored a pretty good TV news coup by getting Mayor Jackson and the Cleveland Schools Superintendent to come on to the set with Romona and Tim immediately after that press conference.
- One of the shooting victims, an 18-year-old who was grazed, held his own impromptu press conference right in front of Metro Hospital. He was treated and released and talked about calling his father from the ambulance to tell him he'd been shot.
- The train derailment is still burning .. now four+ hours since it jumped the tracks. Jeff Maynor went live around 4:45 p.m. with details about the roads still being closed and areas still evacuated.
- Governor Strickland has now issued his own statement on the shooting via email .. thanks to Greg Korte at the Cincinnati Enquirer for forwarding it on.
- Dave Summers has good info on the shooter and his background. We're learning more about the arguments the shooter was in yesterday that lead to his suspension and eventual threats of retaliation.
3:05 p.m. A viewer named Randy just sent me this email:
"I'm strongly objecting to the airing of foul language on your station at about 2:30 today. This made its way into our home via CNN and was extremely offensive."
I'm not sure what he heard, but I do know that CNN took our video feeds live. Again, it's always risky to carry breaking news live because words fly around from people who may not know they're on camera.
3:07 p.m. We've got the best video so far of the train derailment thanks to our chopper. Other stations' choppers have been hovering downtown at the school shooting, but we're at an advantage of being able to cover the school shooting right across the street from WKYC.
3:08 p.m. Reporter Maureen Kyle is at the hospital and just called in with news that one of the students who was grazed by a bullet has been released. The student declined comment but the parent gave a short interview about it. Not sure how soon we'll get that info on the air.
3:15 p.m. Kim just finished several strong interviews with parents and teachers who are talking about the impact this will have on the school's community. Kim also is being honest that she doesn't yet know if all of the students are now out of the school building. She does mention that parents and students are being reunited in the WKYC lobby.
3:18 p.m. I'm sure we'll have Tim White or Romona Robinson jump in the anchor chair for Monica soon .. but right now, I'm not sure if either of them can even get into the building since 13th Street is shut down.
3:19 p.m. We're running a taped interview now with a student complaining about the school's one security guard and whether he's as attentive as he needs to be.
3:21 p.m. Monica now reporting that water is finally being put on the fire .. there were problems getting it out there. We're now doing a live interview with one of photographers, Randy White, who is live in Chopper 3 talking about how long it's taken to get water to the blaze. Randy says fire crews have been using our streaming video to the web to help them pinpoint where the train is on fire.
3:25 p.m. I'm working with Akron producer Kim Graves to write a "shell" for our Akron-Canton News broadcast at 6:30 p.m. Right now, we don't know what the latest will be yet, but we're planning to do two liveshots each on the school shooting and the train derailment. The wildcard in all of this is that if the breaking news continues and Channel 3 needs to stay on the air past 6:30 p.m. , our Akron-Canton Newscast would be compromised because we can't air two shows at once.
3:28 p.m. Romona Robinson is now in the anchor chair, freeing up Monica to do some reporting. Monica has done great work today.
3:31 p.m. Just talked with a lady whose helping us reach security expert Tim Dimhoff. He worked with me on a series of stories in July, including a piece on the Cleveland SWAT team. Dimhoff is in Akron, so I'm having him come to our Akron newsroom to do live analysis of what's happened in Cleveland.
3:33 p.m. Reporter Mike O'Mara just learned that the shooter is 15, not 14.
2:18 p.m. We're trying to cover the shooting and the major train derailment in Painesville. A few minutes ago school leaders ordered the evacuation of 340 students and staff. This of course, would be THE story of the day but the school shooting is pulling us in two directions.
2:22 p.m. We just carried the live press conference with Mayor Frank Jackson and Dr. Eugene Sanders, Cleveland Schools Superintendent. They didn't answer any questions but did confirm that three students had been shot and the shooter may be dead. Not sure why Mayor Jackson became a spokesperson on this and not Lt. Thomas Stacho, the CPD Public Information Officer.
2:35 p.m. Reporter Kim Wheeler is interviewing a few of the school's students live on the air. The students' comments are all over the place. Obviously, live interviews with kids involved in an awful situation like this are a crap shoot because you never know what they're going to say. One of the students actually started taking a cell phone call during the live interview.
2:44 p.m. Mayor Jackson is back .. telling reporters that four students (three boys and one girl) and two adult males, believed to be teachers, have been injured and all are alive being treated at the hospital. Reporter Dave Summers say he's learned the shooter has been killed, but Mayor Jackson wouldn't confirm that. Press Conference over. Lasted about a full minute.
2:48 p.m. Summers is now clarifying that the one female victim suffered a knee injury getting away while the others were shot. Our producers are trying to determine how long we'll stay live with this story and where to go to next. We've been ping-ponging between two reporters (Kim Wheeler and Dave Summers) at the school shooting but also trying to give some coverage to the major train derailment in Painesville, where we have Carole Sullivan and Jeff Maynor covering the story.
2:50 p.m. Kim now has a live interview with a teacher who is in tears talking about the school's security and how special the students and staff are. This is really tough to watch because she's so emotional.
2:52 p.m. UPDATE: Kim grabbed the head of the teacher's union who just said live on the air that the shooter killed himself. This is different than the first reports that the student may have been killed by police.
2:55 p.m. Anchor Monica Robins is doing a great job directing traffic and updating viewers on both stories. Monica just tossed to Carole at the train derailment. The flames are amazing. CNN is taking video from us on both stories for national news cut-ins.
More in a bit .. Eric
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
The Fairlawn License Bureau will be open for business again tomorrow morning. You'll recall the state shut the place down after our story on personal info being left in the BMV's dumpster. The new deputy registrar is Kelly Caruso of Cuyahoga Falls. A few folks who know her tell me that she's a great fit to turn the office around. I'm hoping to talk with her on-camera when she's ready.
Had a great lunch today with the "Friends of Childrens Hospital" Group. These are the women who volunteer with the pinkie the puppet campaign and other fund-raisers for the hospital. Always great to spend time with volunteers who truly understand what it means to give back.
I'm a bit sad today .. two friends of mine at TV3 are leaving. It's not that I expect people to stick around forever because I know that to progress in this business means to move on to bigger stations, but when you meet genuine people in TV, that's a rarity .. and they both are.
Monday, October 8, 2007
So I could hardly read the newscast .. and I couldn't hear any part of it. With me so far? Add in the lack of a TV feed of the show, since the Time Warner Cable feed to our office is on a five-second delay, and I was up a creek without a set of rabbit ears.
There was no local TV, and some of you have already been emailing and calling asking to see the miracle finish.
As part of Coach J.D. Brookhart's press conference today, the UA Sports Dept. released footage from its cameras of the final play, which includes play-by-play man Steve French's passionate call of the play.
Enjoy .. and Go Zips!
7:15 p.m. UPDATE: E-mail from John in Stow: "Eric - Thanks for the UA Football story tonight. The ABJ relegated their coverage to a small inside story on Sunday's sports section with no follow-up Monday. Instead the ABJ devoted a front page story in the sports section on Sunday with 2 color pictures to a Kent State losing effort. Very poor coverage by the ABJ. UA deserves better from their hometown paper. Thank you for your coverage on 23 News."
Dear John: "You're welcome ... we actually called the NBC affiliate in Kalamazoo, but their photographer left the stadium before the final play ... fortunately, the U of A was willing to share their video with us .. the best part is Steve French yelling like a wild man in the broadcaster's booth at the game ... sorry it took until today to finally get the video, but we knew early on today that we HAD to get it."
The recent Woodridge High School graduate finished second overall in his first -- that's right first -- marathon with a time of 2:28:45 just 40 seconds after the top racer. As a runner, I can tell you that it's a time that's beyond impressive.
Here's the blister. According to race organizer, Steve Marks, Petrak has to decide whether to accept the second place $1,000 in prize money and by doing so become a professional ... or turn it down and keep amateur status.
I agree that professional and amateur status should be distinctly monitored to make sure athletes are able to fairly compete. Still, shouldn't this young man who went out and did so well be able to keep a measly thousand bucks and not have it risk his ability to compete in college? Know how much good a college kid can do with a thousand bucks with college costing so much these days?
Marks told me that Petrak needed to make up his mind soon, and it's doubtful his decision will make headlines. Still, I just think it's sad that a good kid who does a good job can't keep his winnings without it prevent him from running through future finish lines.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Well .. now the Castle dwellers at Stan Hywet have a wizard of their own .. after hiring P.R. Miller, a man whose business cards dub him the "Grizzled Wizard", as the hall's new Artist-In-Residence.
For those of you unfamiliar with Miller's work, he's the controversial-and-yet-ultra-creative artist who uses recycled materials to make mammoth works of expression. Think giant frogs from a dozen cans of aerosol foam. His works are all over town already, and just like you know a Don Drumm when you see the sunshine, you'll know a P.R. Miller piece when you see one.Still, for Stan Hywet in all of its splendor and English Tudorness to put its money where its Miller is, it's still a surprise. Actually, it's a pleasant surprise. Miller's certainly one of the most charismatic Akronites you'll ever meet. He doesn't just think and talk outside the box, he's already torn up the box, placed it in a blue bag, then shoved it in a large plastic container for one of Akron's one-armed mechanical trucks to haul away from the Devil Strip.
Somehow I can see an ABJ political cartoon showing recycled aluminum pieces being forged into a statue of John Seiberling, or a giant mound of old tires encompassing Stan Hywet's flower gardens .. but I really think Miller can add some vibrancy to the colors that already elevate the grounds to one of Akron's premier locations.
I saw Miller yesterday at the Ohio Mart Festival (highly recommend it by the way) as he was building an interactive arch of pumpkins. He's excited at the job, which carries a one-year contract as a full-time employee.
Stop and say hi when you see him; trust me, he's never at a loss for words.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I've received quite a few emails about my recent story on how the war overseas is creating a bullet shortage for police agencies across the country. Some folks say they're worried .. and others say they're not ... but one email really stands out:
Geraldine writes: "Dear Eric, We are worried about the shortage of bullets for our police force too, so we are going to visit Senator Voinovich this Sunday at his home on the east side of Cleveland and ask him if we could end the war in Iraq to help relieve the shortage. Thanks for your article."
Thanks for the email Geraldine. Good luck with twisting the Senator's arm .. let me know what he says.
Also got a few good responses to a story that made the rounds last night about how couples argue .. research finds that women who hold back their true feelings during arguments lives shorter lives ... so does that mean to just let it out and let the hubby have it?
I asked a few close friends for their thoughts ... and this is the one that stands out to me:
"I agree that holding in your emotions can effect your health. when (my husband) and I argue I don't voice everything, I just keep it to a minimum so that the argument is 'resolved' quicker. But when I get stressed over issues I start to feel run down, weak and fatigued. The minute my stress level goes up my energy and health goes down. I don't like to fight over little things. I'd rather agree and let him be right so that my energy can go into other things. I don't have time to be tired or get sick. It is actually one of the things about me that drives him nuts because he is always up for a good argument or debate and I am the one saying, 'Okay...that's fine, you're right.' "
Not sure what the right answer is to this story, but rest assured everyone has an opinion one way or another.
During the first 30+ days of the Iraq war in the spring of 2003, most of the guys in my unit would have given anything for the bag lunches these inmates are whining about. We had very little refrigeration and marginal rations to the point that many of us survived on cold ravioli eaten directly from a can and boxes of raisins shipped from our relatives in the U.S. I lost 20 pounds in a short period of time before the military's food provisions caught up to the wave of the invasion.
When I left Kuwait a year later, food service had progressed but was still lagging to say the least. I took a picture of my breakfast plate in the fall of 2003 to show folks back home what I was eating .. mostly because I wanted them to know that the plate in the photo was the same cold food (green scrambled eggs and a banana) that I'd been served for breakfast for many months .. and the exact same meal I would have in the days that followed. It never, ever changed. I haven't eaten a scrambled egg since I got back three years ago .. and I doubt I ever will again.
Even today, some of our troops who are stationed in small police buildings in Iraq are surviving on MREs and dry food sent from home. That's assuming they haven't given away their food to Iraqi children who beg for something to eat.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
A few thoughts to share:
Drew Alexander called me today with quite a laugh in voice. He just returned from a trip to Colorado and heard about Friday's SNAFU on TV3. (see post below) Drew told me not to give it a second thought .. that he understands mistakes happen and he found it very funny that -- at least for a moment -- he was suddenly a steroid dealer in Summit County. He told me that so many folks have been teasing him at the Sheriff's Office, that he's sticking his chest like a body builder just to spite them. For what it's worth, I'm so glad that if a mistake like this was going to happen, that it happened to a local leader who understands what it means to be human.
I had a chance to visit the Akron Police training bureau today. One of the classes officers are taking for "in service" training focuses on new guidelines for booking juveniles. Under the old rules, a deputy clerk had to administer an official "oath" to the officer booking the delinquent .. now a fellow officer can do it instead .. and that should speed up the process of getting juveniles booked and into the system. Sounds like a faster way to get kids either secured at Dan Street or picked up by their parents. Still, what does is say about Akron's problem with youth violence that we have so many teen offenders that we need a faster way to book em?
I also had a chance to stop by the Akron Beacon Journal newsroom today. For such a large newsroom with so many people working there (relative to a TV newsroom anyway), it was a very quiet place. I spent about 30 minutes at the ABJ interviewing veteran reporter Jim Carney for an upcoming documentary I'm working on for 45/49.
Among the police calls we chased tonight: a police officer whose cruiser was T-boned by a driver on Main Street. The officer is fortunate to have escaped unharmed. Initially, the call went out as an officer trapped in his cruiser which brought medical and police units from all over town.
Monday, October 1, 2007
If you haven't heard yet, a Cleveland mother has been detained in the deaths of her two children (ages 4 and 2), who were found dead in the family bathtub. Early reports say the woman may have drowned her children and then called her husband at work to come home. This horrific story will quickly get "legs" as the national media will tune in to find out what happened.
Additionally, the big tribe rally is kicking off downtown during news time .. and we know that All of NE Ohio is getting geared up for the Yankees series.
So right now it's 3:20 p.m. ... go ahead and play producer and tell me, which one is your lead story at 6?
Tick, Tick, Tick
Both have broad interest and merit headlines. Both are certainly what people will be talking about at work tomorrow. Both deserve our time. Lead with one and those who want to know more about the other will change channels.
Tick, Tick, Tick
One argument would say that our lead story most days last week was crime, so shouldn't we do something different? Still, none of those stories last week will have as many people watching as a mother who allegedly drowned her own kids.
Tick, Tick, Tick
The viewers have been living on the edge with their Tribe for six+ months now. Following their progress every day and every night and with every sports page. Fans take ownership of their team, and this is a week they deserve to block out crime and focus on the team that brings them together, right? So shouldn't you deliver this to them in proud Wahoo red, white, and blue?
Tick, Tick, Tick
Never forget that the power of the remote gives you more power over TV news than you realize.
So now it's 3:24 p.m. ... 2 hours and 36 minutes until show time ... what would you do?
Remember, everyone's watching.
Tick, Tick, Tick
"The near doubling in the cost of a college degree the past decade has produced an explosion in high-priced student loans that could haunt the U.S. economy for years."
The story goes on to tell us the worst kept secret in America: the high price of higher education is really, really costing all of us.
While I love to spend time at the U of A and Kent State -- both have made exceptional investments in their campuses -- I can't help but wonder if the infrastructure upgrades really lead to a better educational experience. I'm sure they lead to a better college experience because so much of higher ed and coming-of-age as an adult are social.
Unlike our parents' days when four years of higher ed meant immediate employment opportunities, a bachelor's degree rarely equals a job any more. So is it really worth a $30-$40K investment -- or more -- for that four-year degree when so much of the cost increase has been tied to campus upgrades?
I understand that higher education is a business .. and the product has to be attractive to bring in customers. I get it. Still, if you could take the same classes in older buildings for half as much money, wouldn't that be something many families could better afford? I realize the dorms wouldn't be as nice as the gorgeous new U of A facility on Exchange Street, but if it saved me $10K over four years to live in a revamped apartment, wouldn't parents have to consider it?
Today's mammoth student loans are creating college grads who are becoming indentured servants to the Federal Government ... just as the out-or-reach college costs are sending thousands of others to what's become a back-door military draft as the only way for many to truly pay their own way.
Is a bachelor's degree really worth the cost if you can't own a home til you're 40 because you're paying off so much in student loans .. and that's only if you can find a job in your field?
Maybe the answer to keeping the class of 2012 from digging a financial ditch is to remind them that college life today is a lot about paying for the incredible wrapping paper in hopes that the gift inside will be a wise investment and not just another old CD eventually bound for eBay.