Friday, November 30, 2007
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."
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
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
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
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!
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!
Saturday, November 24, 2007
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
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 -- gifts.com. 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.
- 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.
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 poetrygift.com 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
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
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
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 wkyc.com 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.
Monday, November 19, 2007
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.
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
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
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.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
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
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
Monday, November 12, 2007
They're paying a crisp $100 bill for every traitor found walking the school hallways. That's amazing. I can't believe it's come to this.
Here's what I don't get: District leaders are now offering rewards for turning in your fellow students. So if Billy fesses up to Bobby during kindergarten recess that even though his emergency card lists his mom's address, he really lives with his dad in Akron. Now, Billy might get ratted out by Bobby's parents after Bobby tells them what Billy said during play time. I mean, shouldn't "what happens under the monkey bars stay under the monkey bars"?
Gas prices are high and the holidays are coming .. so yeah, sure, we could all use a C-note. But to get that reward I'm supposed to snitch out my study hall buddies?
What I fear is the program's possible success. What if the district does end up catching 50-75 kids and makes them either pay up back taxes or some kind of tuition? Meanwhile, students and parents have found a new source of income.
What's next? School systems offering even bigger money to pupils who know when teachers are having inappropriate relationship with students? How about even larger payments if you have photo proof? We certainly see those scenarios play out on the news nightly .. so maybe cold hard cash is the way to find out sooner?
Wouldn't community leaders have to consider a similar plan? Couldn't we just see Akron City Hall offering up a free week's vacation to any city employee who rats out a fellow employee whose living outside the city limits?
Somewhere along the line we need to leave the average Joe's out of the investigative process.
If you want to know whose fibbing to the district, you should find out yourself. Creating a witch hunt for cash creates more distrust than discovery.
PBS Executive Producer Dulio Mariola really did a great job of editing the long-format program and getting it done in time for air. He literally finished late Friday night.
I was quite pleased with the flow of the interview subjects. They each spoke from the heart and shared honest assessments of their craft as reporters. I was particularly pleased with the segment that featured Leon Bibb and Larry Baker as they visited the the Wall 25 years ago.
I wish I'd had more time to interview a few others outside of the media to get their opinion. I would like to have spoken with a military family that was forced to interact with local reporters to talk about the experience. Was the media courteous and respectful? Did they interfere with your homecoming experience? Did you notice them at the funeral? Was the story they told or wrote accurate and relevant?
Unfortunately, the time Dulio and I had was limited, so we couldn't get everything we wanted .. still, the interviews we did get came together nicely.
I can nit-pick the special to death because I hold myself and my writing to a higher standard. I'll take the experience and learn from it .. and look for a new project for the spring .. (I need to finish my first experience on the live stage before anything new ... more to come on that topic this week.)
My thanks to Dulio, his wife, Barb, the interview subjects, and the folks at PBS 45/49 for supporting this idea. If you missed the special, I'm sure it will be loaded on the 45/49 website in the coming days.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Since we use the same pool of talent and resources for both the Cleveland and the Akron-Canton newscasts, we've long since given up trying to make a distinction between the two. By allowing the reporters and weather and sports folks to use the same Channel 3 graphics and look, the viewers will be able to connect the two products for what they are -- one extended newsroom covering Northeast Ohio. Think of it as NBC and MSNBC on a local level. The same folks doing news on two stations, only in this case the second set of newscasts is aimed at a specific group of people in the Akron-Canton area.
The Akron-Canton show's location and time won't change. Weeknights at 6:30 and 10 p.m. on Time Warner Cable. Frank Macek has additional details on his super blog as well.
The timing is also good with the departure of Mark Nolan to Channel 3 News Today. We'll be putting together a new open and hopefully a new newsroom background. Maybe even some of that cool familiar NBC music!
Anyway, just wanted everyone to know what to expect come Monday. Eric
"Infections caused by staphylococcal bacteria occur commonly in the community; and, this week, individual cases have been confirmed at Barrett, Firestone Park, Harris, David Hill and Voris elementary schools. A physician has treated each of these cases. Each school building has been cleaned. Even before the recent concern about MRSA, all Akron Public Schools buildings have been cleaned regularly with a broad-spectrum, germ-killing solution that is effective against Staph aureus, including MRSA."
Obviously, this late-day announcement is changing the focus of tonight's newscast. Certainly a pro-active press conference by school and city leaders.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
My first documentary "Reporting the War -- The Journalists' Perspective" airs Sunday night at 10 p.m. on PBS 45/49. The station sent out a press release earlier this week but I wanted to take a minute to better explain what the 30-minute special covers.
In my role as host of NewsNight Akron, I felt a calling to discuss how well local journalists -- print, radio, and television -- are covering today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and more specifically, the warriors of Ohio on those battlefields thousands of miles away.
Is the media giving us the whole story? If not, why not? What are the obstacles to getting better stories and what are the stories that still need to be told?
Rather than use the normal Friday night forum to discuss the topic and barely scratch the surface, I teamed up with Executive Producer Dulio Mariola to take the discussion out into the Akron community.
I looked for journalists who had a personal connection to the war either because it was their defined beat or because they had served in uniform themselves.
I was pleased that every person I contacted was willing to take part. Among those I interviewed:
- Tim White, WKYC-TV, who retired from the Air Force after serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Leon Bibb, WEWS-TV, who served in combat in Vietnam.
- Jim Carney, Akron Beacon Journal, who has been assigned to covering local military stories since 9/11.
- Larry Baker, WKYC-TV photographer, who served in combat in Vietnam.
- Larry States, WAKR-AM, long-time radio broadcaster whose covered local troops in multiple conflicts.
- Virgil Dominic, former news anchor and news director who also served several years in the military.
Obviously, the topic is close to my heart since I'm an Iraq war veteran as well as a local journalist. I can tell you that the entire experience has been cathartic and hopefully will spark a new connection between our local media and the military families and troops who sacrifice so much.
I'll let you in on one secret. Both Leon Bibb and Larry Baker reflected on teaming up to cover the opening of the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. 25 years ago. Obviously, since both survived that same war, the experience of telling that story was quite personal. I had Larry find that exact story from the WKYC archives, and we included parts of it in this special. It's just as strong today as it was a quarter of a century ago.
Again .. the show airs at 10 p.m. on Sunday (Veterans Day) on PBS 45/49, which is cable position 10 for you local Time Warner subscribers. It will replay at 5 a.m. on Monday and will eventually show up on the web as Video-on-Demand.
I'll await your feedback ... thanks for your time .. Eric
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
William Healy II is Canton's new mayor and the first Democrat to hold the post in quite a few years.
Healy lead by about 1,000 votes throughout the evening but the results from the BOE website were very, very slow. Even at 11 p.m., the BOE is only showing 30 percent of the precincts counted although the Canton Repository posted a story at 10:45 p.m. claiming those same numbers are actually 100 percent.
Looks now like the BOE site was showing a 30 percent turnout .. and not 30 percent of the precincts. Viewers who called our newsroom thought the same thing throughout the night.
9:41 p.m. Printing the rest of my scripts .. heading to the set to check the lights. Hoping we get more than 25 percent results from Stark County when we hit the air in a few minutes ..
Oh .. almost forgot my tie.
9:30 p.m. OK .. I've read through the rest of the news of the day .. and I think I know what I'm talking about :) We've got some snow flurries in the east and crime out west. And locally we've got a voyeur who used to work at the U of Akron. Plus an Ohio lawmaker wants to give every Ohioans called to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 a $1,000 bonus from a grateful state. Now THAT'S news folks! Just a few more minutes to refresh the results and then I'm off to the set. I sure hope we get better results on the Canton Mayor's race or I could look foolish at the top of the show.
9:10 p.m. Where's my highlighter? Got it. Time to highlight my scripts. I'll ad-lib the results as they appear on the screen but I'll need my hard copy to read against. Most viewers want to hear the Issue number and not just hear the anchor say, "the Stow Schools levy ...." I've crammed as much as I can .. but the test will come live in front of the camera. 49 minutes and counting. AkronNewsNow still the leader of the on-line world as far as results. They have 44 percent of Summit County counted .. with the three contested Akron City Council races all going to incumbents. Issues 20 and 21 are both passing .. but the margins have changed .. about 52-48 for Issue 21 (CSB) and about 55-45 for Issue 20 (ADM).
9:15 p.m. HEALY WINNING BY 900 VOTES. OK .... time to get serious folks. William Healy is beating Canton Mayor Janet Weir Creighton by a margin of 55-45 with 17 percent of the ballots in. Darn it. Why do I only have one photographer working tonight! Darn it.
Here we go!
8:31 p.m. Well, it's not a total loss. Time Warner at least has some results on Channel 23. WKYC.com is also locked in on partial results. I see Bob Keith and Randy Cole are very close in the race for Ward 8 on Akron City Council. Dick Norton is up 2-1 against Andy Padrutt for Green Mayor .. but there's only a few hundred ballots counted so far. Issue 21 (CSB) and ADM Board (Issue 20) are both winning with absentee votes. I have a feeling that we'll have an avalanche of results in the next 20 minutes. Mark just called from Mayor Creighton's camp. She already did an interview with an intern we sent with Mark about the future of Canton. It's an interview that won't mean much if the vote doesn't go her way .. so we still have some waiting to do. Still showing zero-zero in the results of that race ... and the same goose eggs in the Carano-Widowfield contest for Cuyahoga Fall Municipal Clerk of Courts.
8:58 p.m. AkronNewsNow.com showing 18 percent in for Issues 20 and 21. Partials for everything else. Summit BOE's own website still showing zeroes. Doesn't make sense. Approaching the 9 p.m. hour ... 60 minutes til we hit air! Let the fun begin!
28-year-old Shaun Harkness actually left the campus more than a year ago to take a similar job at Northern Illinois University. When police here at the U of A heard what Harkness may have done a few years ago, they called the folks in Illinois who got a search warrant for Harkness' apartment and computer. That's where the shower videos and other items from Akron were located.
It's scary because this wasn't a janitor or some stranger who entered the womens dorms. This was someone paid to be there. Someone on the RA staff.
At a time when the U of A is putting its best kangaroo hop forward to land more students to live on campus ... usually with the lure of new high-tech dorms and apartments ... the last thing they needed was news that someone's been watching over co-eds instead of doing his part to make their college experience worth while.
Also .. thanks to Bob from Cuyahoga Falls who found that WAKC is still alive -- at least according to ABC. Seems the former network hasn't updated its affiliate lists in a while .. and according to it's on-line national chart, ABC had Akron's former Channel 23 set to carry Saturday's Boston College-Florida State game. Not bad for a station that not only dumped ABC programming a decade ago but hasn't used the call letters WAKC for years either. Maybe I should run over to Copley Road and check the mailbox ... just in case the network was still sending money!
Monday, November 5, 2007
After a week's worth of jury selection and a mountain of pages and meetings to coordinate media coverage and community access, the court accepted Ferrell's short admission of guilt to obstruction of justice and abuse of a corpse. She'll serve two years and must testify against the alleged killer, Canton Police Officer Bobby Cutts.
Heading in to the case today, journalists and the rest of the community had hoped that testimony in Ferrell's trial would provide details of the Davis case not yet released. Investigators have kept the evidence close at hand, and a judge's gag order has kept witnesses and others close to the case from sharing anything either.
Ferrell's case would have been the first glimpse into what happened that fateful day in June. What part did Ferrell actually play? At what point did Cutts allegedly ask for her involvement? Did Cutts tell her why he did whatever it is that he did? Did Cutts admit to killing Davis or did he tell Ferrell that Jessie was already dead when he got there?
Now .. we wait for Cutts' scheduled capital case in February. Meanwhile, we at least know that Ferrell has admitted to her role as an accomplice.
My sources gave me no indication last week that the two sides were in any way close to a plea. Not sure if this all came together over the weekend or whether the plea had quietly been on the table for some time.
If there's an additional byproduct of today's plea that provides good news is that Davis' family didn't have to listen to testimony surrounding the charge of gross abuse of a corpse. The lack of testimony also protects key details in the case from potential jurors for Bobby Cutts' trial.
Still, how important is Ferrell's testimony for prosecutors to get a conviction with Cutts? Makes you wonder who pushed for today's plea -- prosecutors who feel her testimony against Cutts is a must to get a conviction? or a defense that knew it was in deep trouble and looked to lessen the damage.
Guess we'll find out in February -- maybe.
Friday, November 2, 2007
The district has called a press conference for Monday morning to address the "future direction of the Akron Public Schools."
I called Small on his cell phone ... he took a deep breath and told me he couldn't talk about it. I told him his name is all over town and could he at least tell me if I'm wrong. He said he couldn't say anything until Monday. I'm breaking the story now on wkyc.com.
Small was appointed as superintendent in May of 2001. He served as a principal and teacher for more than 20 years.
Personally, I can tell you that I've always had a very good relationship with Dr. Small. He always made time for interviews even when the subjects cast APS in a negative light. He also never once gave me a no comment -- until today.
What I don't' know yet is who is replacing him, and when his stepping down takes effect.
More to come ..
The following notice was sent out this afternoon to all local media: "The Akron Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Sylvester Small will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. on Monday, November 5, 2007, to discuss the future direction of Akron Public Schools. The press conference will be held in the Board room at the Administration Building located at 70 N. Broadway."
With phrases like "to discuss the future direction of ...", makes you wonder how significant this press conference will be. I'm checking around, but considering time timing of the announcement is the day before the election (one in which there's no APS levy), this must have some teeth to it.
I was pleased to have David Giffels make his debut on NewsNight Akron today. The ABJ columnist added a lot of great insight to our usual Friday pot luck session. NNA airs tonight at 9 p.m. on PBS 45/49 ... or if you miss it, you can pull it up on-line on video-on-demand at the 4549 web page.
The election literature floating around in the Cuyahoga Falls Muni Court race is down right dirty. The most recent one (thanks to Ed Esposito for his visual aid) shows Lisa Zeno Carano in a picture with embattled war mother Cindy Sheehan. Politics or not, using a picture of someone who lost a son in Iraq -- regardless of how you see her views on the war -- as some kind of negative stigma aimed at your opponent will likely polarize the folks who view it.