Thursday, October 30, 2008

Goodyear blimp floats the vote

Who needs yard signs and commercials anyway?
Goodyear has announced that the Blimp will be used to encourage people to get out and vote. Read on:

AKRON, Ohio, Oct 30, 2008 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- With the November elections less than a week away, get out the vote efforts are getting some air support - in addition to volunteers and footwork on the ground. The Goodyear blimp has taken to the air to remind voters that Nov. 4 is
just around the corner.
"The Goodyear blimp has a long and distinguished history of supporting public service campaigns," said Ed Ogden, public relations manager for the company's Akron-based Spirit of Goodyear blimp. "We wanted to help remind voters it's time to make their voice heard."
"The message, which reads: 'Don't forget to vote on Nov. 4,' says it all," said Ogden. "We think simple and to the point are best."
Goodyear blimps in California and Ohio are set to run the message through Nov. 4.
If you see the blimp up and about today, snap a photo with the voting message and send it along. We'll make a montage here on the web.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Akron-area union leaders boycott McDonald's!

As only Akron politics can be sometimes ... apparently Mayor Plusquellic's golden tones at the golden arches isn't sitting well with local union folks.

They'd don't like mingling Issue 8 with where they ate.

If you haven't heard by now, the local owner of eight Mickey D's is a big supporter of Issue 8 (Sewers for Scholarships) so he is playing a recording of Plusquellic pitching the issue via the drive-thru speakers followed by him asking for your order. It's actually very humorous, ala David Letterman.

Well ....... I just hung up with Tom Morneweck, who is President of AFSCME local 1229, and he definitely doesn't want fries with his order. In fact, he doesn't want to order any more at all.

He tells me that during a meeting last night with the leaders of 88 local unions -- 90 if you count two local FOP groups --- there was a unanimous vote to boycott the McDonald's restaurants that are involved.

Morneweck tells me that union leaders feel that the sewer lease proposal is too risky and they don't take kindly to a meal ticket -- one which isn't a union shop by the way -- allowing Big Don access to their Big Macs.

I asked Morneweck if any of the unions would picket, and he wasn't sure yet. However, union leaders are now emailing and calling their members telling them that it's not OK for McD's to play DP.

Again ... ain't Akron politics fun? More later .. Eric

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Just a note to say thanks for visiting even though I haven't posted in six days.
I was the passenger in a car that was hit on Main Street last week and I've been recovering at home for most of that time (I have a stack of letters from ambulance-chasing attorneys and health clinics to prove it). I'm sore but expecting to make a full recovery.
I'll have some new notes to pass along before long .. but being away from the newsroom, I haven't had the same time I usually have to dig, analyze, and then blog about what's happening in Akron.
Still .. I think we're all glad the election is now just one week away.
More soon .. Eric

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Location, position of McCain-Palin interview draws questions

Today's GOP rally in Green hit the notes most expected .. and provided NBC the added bonus of Brian Williams' sit-down interview with McCain and Palin ..and later, the broadcast of Nightly News live from Summit County.

I immediately got an email from a lady in Green who brings up an interesting point. Here's an excerpt:

As an Obama Supporter and Green Taxpayer I find this completely unacceptable. I had a conversation with Superintendent Wade Lucas to express my displeasure at the fact that he would allow the campaign to come onto the campus while school is in session. He assured me that the rally didn't represent an endorsement by Green Local Schools, and the McCain campaign was simply renting the stadium. This doesn't explain how and why they were allowed in the school. I would ask this question of Superintendent Lucas but I am sure the answer will be that this was a wonderful educational experience for the students in Green. I agree with that answer, but I don't think a wonderful educational experience should trump my rights as a taxpayer or the rights of the students of Green High School who may be supporting Senator Obama.

To his credit, Mr. Lucas did extend an invitation for the Obama campaign to come to Green Stadium and returned my call on 7:45 on Monday night when his work day should have long been over. I have passed that invitation on to the field staff. I assure you that this has nothing to do with my support of Senator Obama but instead my desire to see that our schools don't become a venue for partisan politics.

Now ... historically, candidates don't like to use a venue that their opponent visited. In other words, since Barack Obama had a rally at the Knight Center during the primary, I doubt McCain-Palin would use it should the GOP come to downtown Akron. So, her mention that Obama has been invited to Green H.S. probably won't be accepted as the campaigns never want to have their events compared on an apples-to-apples basis.

What do you think?

Oh .. and one other minor point .. anyone else find it interesting that in the NBC interview, Palin was sitting on the left side of the screen? If you've ever taken any kind of media communications class, you know that the left side is the power position. Military officers always walk with their subordinates to their left ... so anyone approaching them would see the senior member on the left (same as the left side of a TV screen) and know whom to salute. So I'm just wondering why McCain wasn't on the left with his Vice-Presidential nominee to his left? In the shots where we saw the two of them, she looked more powerful by position.

Ahhhhhh .. it's the little things we TV folks pick up on .. .thoughts?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

NBC, media cuts being felt locally and nationally

I had the pleasure of moderating a media debate for Leadership Akron Monday, and it wasn't surprising that during the Q & A portion, we got on to the topic of the ever-shrinking traditional media outlets.

While the Akron Beacon Journal has been put in the spin cycle several times in the last two years, our TV newsroom has condensed as well .. and other cost-saving moves are in the works in every local, regional and national newsroom.

Yesterday, NBC announced plans to cut $500 million from its budget. You can read the story here. I don't know how the network's cuts might impact a local NBC affiliate, but it won't help. Our own parent company, Gannett, announced in August that it planned to cut 1,000 jobs across the newspaper side of the house .. so you can imagine the belt-tightening that must come quickly on the broadcast side as well to stay afloat.

M.L. Schultze of WKSU said during the Leadership Akron debate that she thinks journalism will be a great draw 10 years from now for young, hungry reporters because by then the media business will have survived these tough economic times and re-invented itself.

For those of us hoping to ride out the storm until then, I hope she's right.

In the meantime, the focus we journalists must maintain is doing quality work and not as much on the bottom line. It's still the stories -- and not the story tellers -- that matter most.

Monday, October 20, 2008

McCain/Palin going Green

John McCain and Sarah Palin will be stopping in Green for a rally Wednesday afternoon. Knowing that Ohio is a key battleground state, it's not surprising. No word yet on Obama-Biden stops in the final two weeks, but I'd be surprised if both didn't make some type of appearance in Summit County.

And if you missed SNL Saturday night .. or turned it off after the opening skit .. you missed a classic.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dear Barnes & Noble .. what were you thinking????

Dear Barnes & Noble Books in Montrose,

I can't tell you what a "unique" time my youngest son, age 7, and I had at your store a few weeks ago as we joined hundreds of other families in standing in line to meet Mary Pope Osborn, author of the popular Magic Tree House kids series.

While the staff members were courteous and the store crew certainly had an organized plan to get families through the long line in a reasonable amount of time, I have to ask you ... "what were you thinking?"

Follow me here ...

To reiterate .. my son is 7. As in seven years old. As in Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny. He just lost one of this two front teeth and the other is hanging on for dear life.

Can I tell you how much fun it was to follow your store's flow chart to meet the author? I realize that weaving the line through the book shelves probably leads to additional sales, but did you give any thought to the titles of some of the books you put in front of my child?

For starters, I don't think my son was quite ready for the five minutes we spent in the aisle of teen books for girls. Seems nearly every young lady these days is either a virgin or a vixen. The titles and descriptions were a bit racy to say the least. Not appropriate for my 7-year-old. (I took this photo looking down from the second level as a way of distracting my son from the "teen queen" titles.)

I know the nice yellow Sex for Dummies wasn't quite what I wanted him to see either but there it was turned towards his eye level. My son got a kick out of looking at that one and then giggling.

How to take a Sensual Bath, complete with a provocative photo on the cover, certainly had me pointing my son to focus his eyes straight ahead as well.

Just way too many adult titles throughout the entire path.

Saw several books on accepting the identity of being a lesbian, improving my orgasm, and other prose on body parts that just aren't appropriate titles to show someone who was reading Go! Dog! Go! a short time ago.

Again, knowing that the line of young children would be weaving slowly through these aisles, why did you set it up this way? (Another shot from the second level of the line weaving its way through the aisles)

My son did have a blast with all of the Dummies books. Bible for Dummies. Middle East for Dummies. Organization for Dummies. I get it. My son's 7-year-old friend eventually said, "boy there sure are a lot of dummies in the world!" How right you are young grasshopper!

I did find great humor in some of the sex books being on the same shelf as Bill Clinton's My Life, and there was also great irony in a book about the secrets of anaesthesia on the same shelf with a book titled Am I Really Asleep?

In the Self Help section, my son and I saw a great many books on Depression and Stress Management just above the ones on Happiness. Guess solving the first two lets you move on to the next eh?

I accept that no one put a bookmark to my head forcing me to stay in line. It was my decision. Still, can I tell you how heart breaking it would have been to say "we're not staying" to a young child who had spent a week looking forward to meeting Osborn? All because there was too much eye candy at his eye line?

Just know that I love the store -- always have -- and I'll be back -- and for what it's worth, my son couldn't have been smiling more than when we finally met Osborn for the autograph. (Here's MPO signing my son's book) The journey was just a lot of work on my part to navigate the land mines in front of his eyes.

I realize that none of this was intentional .. I hope you can take this in the tongue-in-cheek manner in which its intended .. but all I ask is that the next time an author of youth books come to town, can you maybe re-work your flow chart so that parents aren't having to explain what Kama Sutra is to their second graders?

And by the way .. the ultimate irony was reaching the front of the line and seeing the mega-$$ author Osborn sitting directly in front of a poster of Death of a Salesman.

Footnote: My apologies for an early draft of this blog post that said "Borders" instead of "Barnes & Noble" .. sometimes I type faster than I proof-read.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Major news at TV3. Tim White, WKYC part ways

Tim White, my colleague and friend of the last 10 years, is leaving WKYC. The announcement was made to our staff a short time ago.

I haven't had a chance to talk with Tim yet, but as the announcement hits the press, I wanted you to see what we know in the newsroom .. so click here for our story.

Tim is top-notch ... and will certainly be missed.

More in the weeks ahead .. but this will be tough on our newsroom. Eric

Finding God in the death chamber

I say up front here .. that this is my blog .. and not a product of my employer, WKYC, so any reaction you have to what I'm about to write should be directed solely at me.

My experience Tuesday in Lucasville at the execution of Richard Cooey was unique to say the least. I was being paid to witness another person purposely put to death. This is the way it always works with the death penalty in Ohio. Media witnesses are chosen as third-person observers to ensure the process runs as it is intended to run and also to be the eyes and ears of the general public.

That was my role.

After Cooey had been put to death, several reporters compared notes to get an accurate count of how many people were in the death chamber. Phil Trexler of the ABJ reported that there were about 25 and I believe that to be correct.

Still .. I think .. make that I know .. there was one more. God was there Tuesday. Here's how I know:

I had prayed Monday night and again early Tuesday morning that God would give me the strength to get through the event, but I didn't have any idea how I would feel once I got there. Once I opened my eyes and my heart, I can firmly report that God was indeed there.

The morning began with the media huddled in a sterile, drab holding area in a building adjacent to the death house. We got regular briefings on "the process" that was about to take place -- information delivered with as little emotion as possible. Clearly the tone was professional, deliberate, and anything but revealing as to anyone's feelings. Everyone was here to do a job.

As the last two hours passed by, the media chatted and jointly whined (me included) about a lack of Internet connection and a lack of available coffee. To be honest, most of it was just a way to stay busy and distract ourselves from what lied ahead: a man was going to be put to death right before our eyes.

The only color in the entire media holding area was found in a few toddler tables and chairs. There were some kids books there too. Clearly this must be the place where family visits take place. I wonder how many kids have cried their eyes out on their father's shoulder at this very spot. How many dads had cried right back wishing they'd made better decisions. I wonder how many deals with God had been made at these tiny tables that an inmate would change if God would just grant a second chance.

About 30 minutes before the execution, I was trying to channel my nerves and gather my thoughts when I noticed a few Bibles sitting next to the childrens tables.

As I picked up one of the Bibles, I noticed that it had certainly been used quite a bit. Others had opened this same book looking for guidance. On this day though, I was looking for reassurance.

I blindly opened it to a page and then pointed just as blindly to a verse ... just to see if there was a message waiting for me. Here's what I found:

Nehemiah 1:6
"Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open. That thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the Children of Israel, thy servants, and confess the sins of the Children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee, both I and my father's house have sinned."

Now ... again, that's blindly opening the Bible to a random page and then choosing a random verse.

I clearly felt that God spoke to me saying "pay attention Eric and open your eyes" .. and "hear the prayer of thy servant" ... that "others are praying for me now" .. and that "both I and my father's house have sinned."

I felt the Word speaking directly to me as both a journalist and a Christian.

"Pay attention Eric!" "Take a look around and you'll see my presence!"

The calm I felt at that moment was certainly reassuring.

Most importantly, I took away from that one verse that while Richard Cooey was being punished with his life, he wouldn't be the only sinner in the death chamber. Each of us was bringing our own sins and mistakes with us; ours just aren't always on display for the public.

Don't misunderstand me here .. this has nothing to do with whether the death penalty is right or wrong .. or whether Richard Cooey's despicable and horrible acts were deserving of lethal injection. That's not where my mind and heart went at all.

Instead, this message I received had everything to do with letting me know that God was there Tuesday morning. He was surrounding and embracing the tearful families, and He was hurting for the prison workers who had to carry out the sentence. He was opening his arms to the journalists and others surrounding the death house too. He was there.

As we were led to the death house, we saw the black hearse already parked in the prison grass. Creepy to say the least to have a hearse ready to haul away the body of someone who at that moment was still alive.

As I took each step and thought about Richard Cooey, my mind shifted to the Apostle Paul, who according to the New Testament, was a killer of Christians and was someone who looked to persecute them at every turn. Even as a murderer, Paul was converted to Christianity and became a messenger of the Good News, writing a great many of the books of the New Testament.

I thought, "If God could use Paul for good, wouldn't Richard Cooey still have some value?" It's not an original thought as others have compared the world's worst killers to Paul, but it honestly was the thought that was whispered into my ear as I took each step.

I quietly asked for God to open my eyes as I entered the death chamber and took my place standing in an area behind the family of Dawn McCreery. I asked to see whatever God would have me see.

While I sensed that Dawn's family and Cooey's attorneys were saying silent prayers, I can't say definitively one way or the other whether they did or not. Still, it seemed as though the strength most were drawing to "keep it together" in the death house was coming directly from a higher power.

As the video screen came on showing Cooey in the back room receiving the shunts in his arms that would soon deliver a lethal dose of chemicals, I looked intently at Cooey's face and body language. He seemed agitated and defiant.

As has been reported, he yelled for his attorney but when told it was too late for that, Cooey leaned his head back and mumbled something quietly to himself for a few seconds. I couldn't tell what it was. Maybe it was more defiance. Maybe it was a Bible verse. I couldn't tell. The more I think about it, the more I doubt it was a Bible verse because of the way Cooey said it. Still, he had access to a Bible in his final holding cell and prison leaders tell us he did use it.

I wondered if he'd blindly found a verse of comfort and hope as well.

Watching Cooey die, my human side felt nothing for Cooey. His evil final thoughts and lack of remorse offered nothing worthy of compassion. His behavior since being incarcerated 22 years ago offered nothing to indicate that he was remorseful or had developed a relationship with God, although his final hours were spent with his "spiritual advisor". So in that regard, Cooey probably gets the benefit of the doubt that he was spending time with a man of God in his final hours.

Still, regardless of Cooey's actions and demeanor, I very much sensed God in the room with Cooey and the warden.

The same God that had spoken to me so clearly 30 minutes earlier when I opened that prison Bible was still speaking loudly through the silence of the impending death. I'll never know if Cooey felt it too, or if he allowed God to penetrate his exterior in the final minutes between his vulgar remarks and his heart stopping. Still, I felt strongly that the presence was there if he was willing to open his heart to it.

My heart and prayers will forever go out to Dawn and Wendy's families .. and certainly to Richard's as well. All three families have been changed forever. Everyone associated with this case -- from the detectives to the journalists -- has been touched by the explosiveness of the attack.

Still, regardless of your faith, each of us is serving a death sentence right now .. but unlike Richard Cooey, we don't know what day we're set to die.

We can, however, prepare ourselves for that moment .. so that we might make better use of a final statement than Cooey did. That we might think, "what would I say if given time to make a final statement?" Could you do it?

Again .. all of this is my work .. and not a product of our newsroom.

Still, if my role Tuesday was to be an official "witness" .. then I owed it to everyone else to bear "witness" to everything I saw .. and that included the presence of God.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Adam & Eve light up the Akron stage ...

It's my first project as a BPJ (Backpack Journalist) for What better place to spend it than at Weathervane Community Playhouse?

If you liked "Wicked" -- and who in theater doesn't -- than "Children of Eden" should be right up your alley. Both were written and composed by Stephen Schwartz.

While this might be community theater, you'll be amazed at the talent level on stage for this production.

Anyway, I'm trying my hand at shooting and editing these days ... trying to broaden my horizons in this crazy broadcast world .. so check out my story and enjoy .. Eric

For the entire news story, click here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My initial reaction ..

I'll have more to write later tonight and tomorrow as I collect my thoughts and check my notes, but here were my thoughts as I took the podium with the other media witnesses just moments after the execution.

One hour and counting for Cooey

9:06 a.m. We've had limited internet access inside the prison, but as of now, everything is set for the execution at 10 a.m., barring a last-minute court stoppage or the Governor's call.

There's about a dozen news organizations here, and we're all having Internet issues.

At 7:30 a.m., prison spokeswoman Andrea Carson said that Cooey slowly consumed his "special" meal until well past midnight. He watched limited local TV and attempted to make one phone call to a friend but the call failed. He was awake pacing and sitting quietly until falling asleep at 4:06 a.m. He awoke at 5:20 a.m. and showered but turned down a chance to eat breakfast. Right now, he's meeting with his attorney and a spiritual advisor.

Leaving my hotel around 7 a.m., I saw a handful of family members from Dawn McCreery in the lobby. They seemed upbeat and glad this day has arrived.

Coming in the prison at 7:15 a.m., I didn't see any demonstrators, but that doesn't mean they're not out there now.

As a media pool reporter, I've received a blank notebook, pen, and pencil that I make take with me to the execution but that's it. I can't take any of my own materials and certainly no cell phones or electronics.

It's an eerie quiet in the media room. We're all making light conversation that there's no coffee or danishes for the media, something that has traditionally been here in the media room. A prison PR officer told us that the food/coffee was removed because of budget cutbacks. Considering this is the first execution of 2008, how much money are they really saving?

In an odd irony, the one vending machine to which we've been given has "bear claws" prominently displayed on the middle shelf. Cooey of course asked for some "real" bear claws as part of his special meal.

I've been chatting with Phil Trexler of the ABJ about what to expect in the death chamber. He's a media witness today and he's done this several times before. He tells me that it's a surreal experience and that it's tough to know when to take notes and when to just observe -- because you don't want to miss anything. We're both wondering if Cooey will put up much resistance.

Ok .. it's 9:13 a.m. ... we're all clock watching and waiting for the call to get ready. They should be calling the media witnesses soon to put us in position.

More later .. Eric

There's always a moment ...

It's 6:08 a.m. and I've been up since about 3:45 a.m. Just couldn't sleep.

I'd like to say it was the Browns big win that kept me up, but it isn't.

I keep thinking about that day 22 years ago ... and I keep thinking that there must have been a moment .. probably a great many .. in which Richard Cooey and Clint Dickens had the opportunity to turn back .. or just stop .. or choose a million other paths than the one they ended up taking. I'm sure Cooey has replayed that moment a lot in the last 24 hours .. and it always ends the same.

I've tried to put myself in the roles of the two families -- Dawn McCreery's is here in mass to witness the execution while Wendy Offredo's has chosen not to attend and to accept today's actions in their own way.

I keep wondering what each person in the room will be thinking when Cooey appears for an entirely different moment. One each family will take away in their own way forever.

His three attorneys will be his witnesses. They've had a lot of time to get to know Cooey behind bars, and maybe they think they already know what's in his head and his heart. Maybe he's confided in them about when the moment hit him in the crime spree on Labor Day 1986. Maybe he's confided the emotions of that moment to his relatives, who must be enduring an entirely different hell today.

22 years locked up. That's 8,000 days and nights. That's a lot of time to prepare. A lot of moments alone for Cooey .. and for his victims' families.

I don't know the McCreerys or the Offredos, but I feel certain that both families have asked themselves a million times about the moments where Cooey could have taken an off ramp instead of plowing down the destructive highway that ensued.

Why couldn't it have ended at the robbery? Why did it have to get violent? Deadly? Why didn't one of these two young men use the moment to look at the other and decide they'd gone to far?

I only wish the McCreery's could get a few minutes to speak their minds to Cooey today insteda of just having to endure his final words, if he chooses to speak.

The Offredo family isn't here, but I know they'll be keeping tabs from afar as to how this day goes. I'll bet they're awake right now too. Unable to sleep with the day's activities just a few hours away. Asking themselves the same questions about the moment so long ago and why no one stepped in to protect their daughter in her time of need.

With our station planning to provide a live web stream from the media room, I can only assume that they'll be watching as the media witnesses emerge from the death chamber to talk about the moment that we've seen.

I hope I choose the right words in describing today's moment so that if the Offredo family and/or anyone else who knew the victims is watching that I say the right things. I know that the words I choose, the phrases and verbs .. and the demeanor in which reporters deliver this story, is a moment they'll remember forever.

That much I know. I can still remember the way my brother's murder was described on the radio and TV news. I can remember the anchors' voice inflection and the way they talked about it.

I always keep that in mind as I read stories on the air. While it may just be another crime story to our broadcasts, it's a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the real people mentioned in those stories.

I just looked over all of the media materials about death row. They gave all of the reporters a schematic of the death chamber to include details about how many steps it takes to get from the bunk to the table. There's lots of data on the three drugs administered to stop the inmate's life and also a list of those who will be present.

I didn't know until just now that the Sheriff of the County where the crime was committed has the right to attend. If Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander will be here today, I wasn't aware.
As a reporter, I wish I could deliver the information the viewers really want to know today.

While I know that my story will be based on facts and observations, what viewers really want to know is what the hell happened in that moment 22 years ago that two men chose a route of pure evil and two women had to die like this?

I wish I had the answers to those questions .. for that would be a much better story worth telling.

I need to shower and get ready .. I'll be blogging from the media room, inside the prison, as soon as they let us get in and set up.

Wish me luck. Eric

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reporting from Lucasville .. surreal

I arrived here about an hour before the mandatory media briefing at the Lucasville prison, and it still feels like a dream that I'll be one of the media witnesses tomorrow to the death sentence of Richard Cooey.

It's not something I ever thought I would see, but with this case involving an Akron suspect and two University of Akron victims, it seems appropriate to be here.

With the U.S. Supreme Court denying Cooey's last appeal, it looks as though the execution will go forward as scheduled at 10 a.m.

I filed this report via our web around 6:30 p.m.

This afternoon's briefing with the five news organizations that attended -- WKYC, Akron Beacon Journal, Plain Dealer, WAKR-AM, and a print reporter from the Dayton Daily News -- lasted about 30 minutes.

Andrea Carson, the communications director for the state prisons, told us that Cooey was in "good spirits" when he arrived this morning from death row in Youngstown. He was granted his "special meal" -- a T-bone steak with A-1 sauce, hash browns, onion rings, french fries, four eggs over easy, a pint of Rocky Road ice cream, some "real" bear claws from a bakery, and a mountain dew -- around 4 p.m. and has the entire evening to eat it.

In the morning, he'll have the opportunity for a "last" meal if he'd like to have the prison breakfast. He'll also be given the opportunity to take a shower if he'd like.

Carson delivered all of the news in a professional and conversational manner.

It's not an easy topic for her, but this is the 25th execution she's managed. Cooey is the 27th inmate to be killed since Ohio started in 1999.

My role as a pool reporter is to observe the proceedings and then be willing to share with other reporters what I witnessed. I'm not permitted to take anything into the death chamber, but the prison staff will provide paper, pencils, and pens so that I can take notes.

I honestly don't know what to expect.

While Wendy Offredo's family is not attending, Dawn McCreery's family will have six family members, including her parents and brother, as witnesses.

Cooey has chosen his three attorneys as his witnesses and has already said goodbye to his family in Youngstown, Carson said.

We're not sure whether anyone will demonstrate, but the prison is prepared for a bus of demonstrators from Akron.

Cooey weighed in at 270 pounds, which supports his claim that he's too fat to be killed, but a visual assessment by the prison staff showed two accessible veins, one in each arm.

I honestly don't know how I will handle this .. and I'd be lying if I didn't say that my own brother's death is on my mind. He was shot and killed in Akron almost two years to the day prior to these killings. Labor day night of 1984. Offredo and McCreery were killed on Labor Day night 1986. My brother's killer served 19 years, while Cooey got the death penalty.

I never wanted the death penalty for my brother's killer, because I didn't think it solved anything.

Still, as a journalist, if I'm going to discuss Ohio's role in capital punishment, I need to be able to talk from a position of experience. That's one of the reasons I'm here.

Still, I honestly don't have the words tonight .. I'm struggling .. but I'm trying.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A tie in the electoral college .. it couldn't happen .. could it?

I was playing with a very cool page on the LA Times website where you can click the swing states as red and blue and see what scenarios it takes for McCain or Obama to get 270 electoral votes and win. (By the way, where was this cool gadget in 2000 when Tim Russert was holding up his dry erase board on election night?)

Anyway ... I played it out and got the following result:

What the heck happens if this happens? Who/What/How do we decide a 269-269 tie in the electoral college?

Answer: The House of Representatives breaks the tie ... at least, that's what Google tells me. I know that we never learned this little trivia gem in history class because no one in history ever thought this could happen.

Of course, we never thought we'd see hanging chads in 2000 either ....


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Akron recruit says teacher was convincing as veteran

A local recruit weighs in on the man who wore an Army uniform and fooled her into thinking he was the real deal as a war hero.

Anyone who thought they knew Benjamin Terril is finding out there are few lines he wouldn't cross.

Here's a look at last night's followup story:

More to come .. trust me. Eric

Today Show interview tells a LOT about the mudslinging .. .

In case you missed it this morning, Nicole Wallace (McCain's camp) and Robert Gibbs (Obama's camp) squared off in what was supposed to be a discussion about the negative ads and what both sides are really trying to convey during the last weeks of the election.

For the most part, much of it became Palin-esque .. as each side ignored Meredith and just pushed whatever attacking agenda they felt like .. with Obama's guy throwing the first piece of sludge.

This is exactly what the 300 families that lost their jobs at Archway Cookies in Ashland Monday do NOT want to hear right now. And it's what turns off undecided voters.

If nothing else .. read Wallace's body language on the last series of questions from Meredith .. and see if you think that while her mouth was saying "yes" or "maybe" .. her head shaking is clearly saying "not a chance Meredith." Take a look and tell me if you read her that way too ...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Phony Veteran extends court case, upsets those who believed in him

Benjamin Terril was a no-show in court today.

The former Buchtel High science teacher, whom the government says masqueraded as a war hero, let his attorney do the talking. (See my posts below for the original stories)

Thanks to his legal representative, Terril's next court date is a suppression hearing set for Dec. 10. Defense attorneys plan to fight the seizure of drugs and other things that police took following Terril's Sept. 1 arrest for pointing a loaded gun at another man's head. He's facing several felony charges and serious jail time if convicted.

In the meantime, I'll let you in on a number of background stories that are now materializing:
  • Many claims that Terril has been wearing a military uniform among real soldiers as recently as a few months ago to include presenting himself as a winner of two Silver Stars, the award just below the Medal of Honor.
  • Multiple people tell me that Terril often spoke of dead or ailing relatives to gain sympathy -- relatives many now doubt ever existed.
  • Stories from those who knew Terril 30 years ago and claim that he was playing make-believe with war stories and ghost relatives as far back as his college days.
I'll have an updated story on the air soon, but right now hardly a day goes by that I don't get a call or email from yet another person, including former Buchtel students, who knew Ben Terril and was completely fooled by his stories.

Clearly, this man has influenced a lot of local lives, and a great many of them -- young and old -- now feel let down.

Stay tuned ... Eric

McCain-Palin rally to expect masked protestors with a hint of Rocky Road ..

John McCain and Sarah Palin are due in Strongsville this afternoon for a campaign rally, and while we knew to expect big crowds, we're now getting word that a group donning grim reaper masks plans to protest across the street from the venue.

"Change to Win" claims to represent a number of major unions, including the Teamsters.

An email claims that about 100 members will be posted on Royalton Road in Strongsville, right across the street from the McCain-Palin rally. The notice claims the workers feel McCain is a "job killer" so they plan to wear the masks while protesting McCain's job plans.

The release also says:
"The groups will be joined by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream entrepreneurs, who will be unveiling their 'Hugger Mobile.' The Hugger is a Ford F150 van that features a life size statue of President Bush and Senator McCain locked in a warm embrace."

Since there are often threats of protests that don't materialize and since I'm not assigned to cover the event, I don't know how much validity there is here. Still, if the protest happens as scripted, I'm not sure how much coverage it will receive either .. but visually, it sounds like something that will draw video cameras.

I also wonder if any of the crowd will turn on the local news crews as was alleged to have happened at Palin's recent stop in Alabama.

Thoughts here?

P.S. If you're going .. and B&J are there, can you bring me back some ice cream? :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Paper trail

What do the Beacon Journal, Plain Dealer, and the Dow Jones all have in common?

They're all going down.

And that's the only joke I can make here .. because it's bad, bad, bad for all of us.

The ABJ's 20-20 cuts are about complete. Several weeks ago, the word came down that 20 more staffers needed to go from the newsroom. If 20 folks didn't voluntarily take the buyouts, then 20 would be let go.

Now comes word today that the PD is following suit .. cutting 48 jobs (about 15 percent of its newsroom) by Thanksgiving through buyouts or attrition .. or probably dirty looks if it comes to it (sarcasm).

Whatever it takes to clear out some desks, eh?

These are newsrooms that have already been making cuts .. lots of them .. over the last year+.

I'd like to wax poetic about the Beacon's slow, painful slide, but what good would it do any of us?

To lament the upcoming loss of Columnist David Giffels just a year after Sports-writing poet Terry Pluto. Or how tough it will be to replace the photo talents of Ken Love or Lew Stamp. To lose the talents of street writers Carl Chancellor, Elaine Gurgerian, Connie Bloom, and Tracy Wheeler. Talented Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst is saying goodbye to the ABJ too .. along with columnist Patrick McManaman. And Chip Bok. Chip Bok!

A great many real voices of not only the paper, but the community -- gone. I think that's what readers are feeling.

Now the PD is slicing and dicing too. When will it end?

I had coffee today with a former BJ manager who can't make heads or tails of it either. Between us, we chuckle at the cuts from a "our darn business is at it again" angle .. but the truth is, we both know how much a newspaper drives the news in a town.

I fear that those left behind -- either by choice or necessity -- will soon be banging their heads against their newsroom walls to keep from losing their sanity .. and probably to ask themselves "why am I staying when others are jumping ship?"

The broadcast side isn't faring much better in this economy. I know it very well.

I'm sitting here in an Akron newsroom that just a few years had 11 broadcast staffers .. now reduced by the tough economy to just two: one highly-talented videographer and me. I doubt this town will ever get a traditional evening newscast back.

I don't know that I can speak to the answer, but I know I can speak to the impact: Northeast Ohio isn't benefiting from putting our media in the spin cycle to see how small we can shrink it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

When Don Plusquellic says "Ellet" ...

An interesting thing happened at the Mayor's press conference today on the sewers-for-scholarships program .. but before I can tell you the story, here's a bit of insight into my 17+ years of covering Akron City Hall.

There are two unwritten laws when it comes to what Mayor Don Plusquellic tells the press:

A) Everything somehow comes back to water.

B) When Mayor Plusquellic says "Ellet", make sure your tape is recording.

If you've lived here long enough, you've heard the water stories. Whenever there's a financial squabble, DP will usually compare the debate to " ... now if you didn't pay your water bill, you get your water turned off ..." or something to that effect. The Cuyahoga River -- and Akron's ownership rights -- is another common theme. So you can see how our broadcast soundbites end up all wet.

Other reporters and even some members of the mayor's cabinet will back me up on this.

Second, when DP mentions the folks in Orangeman-ville ... it's usually because he's frustrated with them. Either they're not supporting an issue the mayor likes or someone in Southeast Akron has called a radio talk show and spoken out of turn in Don's eyes. The "Ellet bites" are often the best soundbites of the press conference because he's usually pretty wound up by that point.

(To be honest, the Mayor's praise and wrath seems equally spread across town, and he's praised Bob Otterman more times than I've driven on Route 91. Still, something happens when DP gets in front of a microphone .. and "Ellet" seems to be the community that's he mentions or attacks first.)

That's why I was nearly speechless when Plusquellic said this today:

"It's the hard working people, parents in Ellet, where the mother is a teacher, and the father is a fire fighter. Those are the people expected to spend all of the cost of a college education .. and they don't have 10 or 20 thousand dollars a year to pay out or shell out."

Did he really say Ellet in a positive manner? Wow!

I honestly came back to the office to replay the tape .. just to make sure I heard him right.

His point is well-placed and right on the money when it comes to our city. Wealthy Akron families have the funds to send their kids to college while some of the poorest will qualify for enough aid that they may not need the sewers $$.

It's the many families in the middle where both parents work and they struggle to make ends meet. The families that make too much money to qualify for reduced lunches, even though mom takes the bus to work because the family can only afford one car.

Those families are all over Ellet. And yeah, they're all over everywhere. All over town. North, East, South, West. Families all over Akron are struggling in that same way.

And those are families that are feeding their 529 savings plans and still know it won't be enough to get their kids to college. And they don't sleep well at night because of it.

And while the debate over Issue 8 is sure to play out from now until election day -- as it should with so much on the line -- the mayor's little slip of the tongue .. which some might even call his intentional play on words by saying "Ellet" ... I can tell you that the passion behind Plusquellic's drive here seems as high as I've ever seen it.

Now that's funny!

In case you missed it:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: David Giffels leaving ABJ

Sources confirm that veteran Beacon Journalist columnist David Giffels tells his newsroom that he's taking a buyout and will begin a teaching career at the University of Akron and continue as a freelance writer.

Still waiting to talk to David .. but I'm told he's happy about the decision.

More to come.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Obama and the bracelet .. watch for yourself what he said in our interview

A red-state friend of mine told me last night that the father of a soldier killed in Iraq was upset with Sen. Barack Obama for exploiting his son's death by showing off the bracelet that Obama wears that bears the soldier's name.

Sure enough, there are quite a few news stories and blog posts that are taking Obama to task about why he unveiled the bracelet during last week's debate. If you didn't see the exchange, McCain was showing off his bracelet first and Obama followed that he too wore one.

The father's comments were actually made back in March on Wisconsin Public radio and weren't made -- as was implied -- after the debate. The father also isn't the one who gave Obama the bracelet, it was his ex-wife who did.

Having interviewed Obama during a campaign stop in New Philadelphia on Sept. 3rd, I asked him about the bracelet during our one-on-one interview. I had noticed its reflection during his remarks and I wondered what it was. Initially, I thought it was for a cause of some type .. or maybe for Lance Armstrong. I didn't know what, if anything, was written on it, but as a reporter I'm naturally curious.

Furthermore, I only brought it up after the formal interview. I had asked Sen. Obama about evening the benefits for the Guard and Reserve troops with their Active Duty counterparts and in doing so, I referenced that I was one of them having served in Iraqi Freedom with the Ohio National Guard.

After the interview, Obama surprised me by coming back to me to ask a few followup questions about my service. It's at the end of that exchange that's where this video picks up. Take a look:

Again, let it be clear .. I asked him about the bracelet. He wasn't flaunting or volunteering it.

A few days ago, the woman who gave Obama the bracelet came out to defend him against the criticism. You can read the story by clicking here.

I think the words of the Gold Star Mother are the ones that should ring true on this debate, and not what others interpret the ex-husband's comments from six months ago to mean.

Anyway, I would have asked the same question had it been McCain in town with something shiny on his wrist ... but I thought you might like to see what Obama said .. uncut .. when asked about the same bracelet here in Ohio.