Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Beginning Jan. 15, NewsNight Akron will move from its 9:30 p.m. time slot back to its original time of 9 p.m. The show had changed times to allow NeoTropolis time to debut at 9. The Thomas Mulready production will now air at 8:30 p.m., so both shows will remain interlocked.
The Jan. 8th show will be our traditional "Newsmaker of the Year" debate. Last year's winner was Ralph Regula, and Dr. Luis Proenza won the previous year. This year's show will include a live audience as members of Leadership Akron will be in attendance.
As a new nugget to the debate, we are inviting the public to weigh in as well. A list of the 16 finalists should be on-line soon at Western Reserve Public Media , so weigh in and vote. You can also share your comments here.
I can tell you that the panelists have already begun quite a debate with email traffic .. I can only imagine the fireworks for the actual show.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Scribbles in the notebook:
NewsNight Akron's move to 9:30 p.m. from the 9 p.m. slot it held for years seems to be going well. I haven't gotten too many complaining emails from folks after the first week, so it sounds like viewers found us.
My Nov. 26th story on Lenny King (see below) is one that will stick with me for a while. To have life choices lead you to a life living under a bridge is tough enough, but to be attacked multiple times, including being set on fire, would leave me bitter I'm afraid. I'd like to believe I'd have the power to forgive the attackers, but I fear that I wouldn't. Lenny's story is really unique.
The University of Akron Soccer team is amazing. The NCAA needs to get rid of the penalty kick scenario though. It's no way to really settle who the better team was. Would we let the NBA Finals be settled on a free throw shooting contest? Ridiculous.
Can't believe Matt Patrick won't be on the air at WKDD after Friday. I don't remember the station without him.
I hope Mayor Plusquellic will promote some police officers soon. With Gus Hall now interim Chief, APD has NO Deputy Chiefs. All three positions are empty. That means four officers are being denied advancement for each vacancy. Promoting a captain to major also means that a lieutenant will get promoted to captain and a sergeant to lieutenant and a patrolman to sergeant.
Just like the military, there's an escalator as the higher ranks get filled. I understand why he kept one or two of the Deputy Chief slots open the last few years, but at this point, those promotions shouldn't have to wait while a permanent Chief is selected.
And while I'm on my bandwagon, I do hope the city will consider some of its senior captains as the long-term chief. Sylvia Trundel is well-respected and will-liked, and many in the Patrol Division tell me they'd feel "great" about having her as the department's new leader. Gus Hall is really dedicated and well-liked, so there's no immediate rush. Still, I hope that the nationwide search will include a fair review of the current leadership.
I learned a lot about the other side of public service during my wife, Lisa's, campaign for Akron School Board. It was odd to be working with some of the local leaders when I'm so accustomed to covering their events as a journalist. Many were very gracious with their time and advice for the campaign, while others weren't helpful at all. My goal now is to avoid a conflict-of-interest in my reporting. Lisa and I already have an agreement that there will be some things we can't tell one another, and if WKYC is pursuing a controversial story on the Akron Schools, I'll certainly raise my hand and step aside. Still, I hope that all my rants and raves to Lisa (and other board members I've gotten to know) about pitching more stories to the media will take shape.
I froze my you-kn0w-what off last Thursday night when I was live outside of Channel 3 for our newscast leading up to the Browns-Steelers game. The ratings were great that night, but the 15 minutes I spent in the cold wind of the third-floor balcony chilled me to the bone.
Today is the one-year anniversary of my role as co-anchor at 7 p.m. Hard to believe a year has flown by so fast. Carol Sullivan is now working as a morning anchor in San Diego. She left WKYC in the spring to head West after her husband, Mike, got a job with the Chargers organization. I fell so comfortable with Monica Robins by my side each night. No one works harder or is more dedicated in this business, and I'm so glad that she and I are teamed together.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Radio host Matt Patrick is expected to announce Friday morning that he will be stepping down as host of WKDD's morning program, a role he's championed for 30 years.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
It's been 10 days since Lt. Dennis Shumaker and his girlfriend, "Melanie", tailed DP from a Tallmadge restaurant and then called 911 in order to have DP pulled over. The firestorm that followed has been a mess for the entire city.
Today (Tuesday), Shumaker met with Plusquellic and apologized both in written and verbal form.
By phone, Plusquellic told me that the meeting was "civil" and "the way two men with differences should sit and talk." He told me that he'll have a press conference on Wednesday to discuss this and other issues .. but he released this written statement a short time ago:
"Today, I met with Lt. Dennis Shumaker who last Friday, requested a personal meeting with me to apologize.
I assured him that his apology would end this matter as far as I was concerned, and that I would take no action to initiate any action against him or anyone else, and that I would not consider any disciplinary action against him arising out of this matter.
It is unfortunate for everyone involved that emotions over public policy decisions I have to make have produced strong reactions rather than discussions on solutions. Tough decisions - including residency for public employees and requirements to balance the budget in this difficult economic downturn - must be made by mayors around the country every day on behalf of all taxpaying residents.
All of us make mistakes. This apology puts this matter behind us. We will move forward and concentrate on serving the people of Akron with the best services we can provide."
I haven't had a chance to talk with Shumaker yet, but I'm hopeful that two things will come out of this: a) the end of the cell phone paparazzi .. and 2) our city can make headlines for more positive reasons indeed ..
more to come ..
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Today's story about the Black Press push for major concessions -- including a 17 percent pay cut -- for Akron Beacon Journal staffers is a major shot at some hard-working journalists. How do you expect an overworked, understaffed group like their newsroom to keep up the good fight with cuts like that? How much is greed? How clear is the future of our newspaper?
I had an amazing interview Tuesday with Alex Soloweyko, the man who was trapped under the flaming gas pump in Geauga County and lived to tell about it. His faith is amazingly strong, and while he was having trouble processing what was happening, he said he thought clearly enough to pray as the flames closed in.
I fully expect that someone will soon come up with a political cartoon of Mayor Plusquellic driving down Main Street with a bumper sticker that reads "How's my driving? Call 375-2181". OK .. just trying to find some humor in what has become a real soap opera of a week. Just when I think the news in this town can't get any weirder ..
I met some good folks at a career fair at the University of Akron today .. quite a few folks who are hunting for jobs, including some who'd like a job in TV. One that stood out was a nice young student with quite a bit of "face" jewelry who told me she wants to anchor the evening news. Um .. how do I put this gently ...
If you're out and about weekday mornings from 7:55-8 a.m., you really need to flip over to WAKR and hear "Reeling in the Years." Host Ray Horner plays movie trailers and challenges Traffic reporter Ryan Haidet to guess the movie. Ryan does pretty well most days. I know there's a lot of radio fun at that hour, but I really think this one's a keeper. This week it's been all scary movies .. a few weeks back they were all combat movies. Try it .. I think you'll enjoy it.
Everyone has an opinion on LeBron staying in Cleveland .. a) he stays and b) he goes. Yet, I don't hear anyone talking about option c) LeBron exercises his one-year option to stay in Cleveland for one more season .. and (drum roll please) we get to do it all over again for another year. It's a real possibility considering that many experts say the salary cap will drop next summer and no one will be able to offer LeBron as much as he'd like .. and while I'm making sports predictions, I said on opening day that the Super Bowl this year would be the "Manning Bowl" .. with Peyton vs. Ely .. Colts vs. Giants. So far, I'm on track. Oh .. and one more .. I'd really like the Indians to hire Tony Larussa .. since it appears the Cardinals aren't showing him much love.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Trust me folks . I've known about it for months .. and so have others in the media and at city hall.
Here's what I know about Akron's "cell phone paparazzi":
A growing group of local citizens who are upset with Plusquellic and other leaders have begun their own underground movement to do what they believe the media hasn't or won't do -- catch local leaders breaking the law. They've been at it for months.
I spoke at length with one of the "cell phone paparazzi" last month about what their intentions were, and he was open about their disdain for city hall and other Akron leaders. He never mentioned the $1,000 bounty that Mayor Plusquellic spoke of Wednesday, but he did say that he was so frustrated with city hall that it was open season to see who could record a "gotcha" moment.
The man I spoke with is not a city employee.
The man told me that he and others didn't follow or stalk local leaders ... but rather just made it a point to always have their cell phone with them so they could record video if they happened to run into Plusquellic and/or others while out on the town.
I watched one of the cell phone videos last month, and I felt there was nothing on it that was newsworthy. The one-minute video showed Plusquellic at a local bar speaking with a woman, probably a waitress. The man who sent me the tape said he believes the video showed the mayor saying inappropriate things to the woman, but the audio wasn't clear enough to discern anything, let alone an inappropriate comment.
Certainly, there's no way I'm just going to "take someone's word for it" when it comes to accusations like this .. so that's where our conversation ended. I don't know if that particular video was peddled to other news organizations when I passed on it, but I believe it probably was.
In the big picture .. some TV journalists would salivate at the opportunity to have vigilante photographers out there every night trying to get our daily exclusives. Not me. The longer this has gone on in Akron, the more I fear it's becoming dangerous and reckless.
How would you feel if you were eating dinner and someone began shooting video of you and your family with their cell phone? Regardless of whether it's legal because you're in a public place, the idea of cell phone stalking doesn't lead to anything positive .. nor do I begin my news day hoping to catch a leader doing something wrong.
Expose journalism needs to be specifically targeted and with probable cause. Following someone just to follow them isn't journalism .. it's stalking.
I've had discussions with other Akron journalists about the cell phone tapes they've received and what they planned to do with them. To date, none have been broacast or generated stories -- not because journalists are hiding anything, but because the "cell phone paparazzi" tapes were each evaluated for what they really area .. and haven't been newsworthy. (If that TV station-that-shall-rename-nameless, the one that started this latest story, hasn't aired any of the cell phone tapes, what does that tell you about whether or not they're newsworthy?)
I also made it very clear that we won't pay for video from someone who is purposely following someone just hoping to catch them in the act .. so just know that going forward. With rare exception, we don't pay for home video period. Also, I don't offer anyone incentive or guidance to go out and get this type of video or information. I can do my own work .. again, when the story truly warrants it.
Personally, I always want to know what someone's motives are when they come to me with dirt -- a rumor, an email, a taped phone call, or a cell phone video - because it can skew the validity of the information. I need to know what the real story is ... and what information was left out of what someone is slipping my way.
Recently, a viewer brought me personal information about LeBron James that seemed to warrant a big exclusive, but when I was unable to validate the sources, the story didn't go to air.
Likewise, the reason none of these cell phone tapes has to date seen the light of day isn't because of some media conspiracy .. rather it's media responsibility.
I don't yet have enough information on this weekend's story to say that it's all tied in with the existing paparazzi, but the scenario does fit what I've seen and heard about around town. Seems all the CPP folks have my direct line every time they get a new tape.
Those who are upset with the mayor and others .. need to find civil ways to deal with their issues .. because even valid arguments (and the group does have some solid points of contention) get lost in translation when cell phone stalking is at play.
Just know this .. if there's video of someone's hand in the cookie jar, I'll be the first to tackle the story .. but when the person is only walking past the cookie jar, don't try to tell me he's guilty of anything.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Patrick talked at length about the decision during his Monday talk show on WHLO (AM-640) saying that the City of Akron was dumping him because he had taken city hall to task over last month's proposed layoffs.
Patrick said that "it's their parade, they can do what they want," and "I don't care." He also mentioned that he wasn't paid for the event, but rather gave his time to support the event.
On his Facebook page, Patrick penned: "I got gassed from my 25 year, non-paying job of hosting The City Of Akron Holiday Parade! Why? I spoke to the Police and Firefighters last month. Well...that's a GOOD reason!!"
He later ranted a youtube video to remove all doubt:
Rumors began to circulate late last week that the city was considering ousting MP.
Matt told me this afternoon that he actually found out from an employee at competing local radio station, so he's accepting that it's true. No one has told him he's wrong.
Got to admit .. as an Akron father who takes his sons to the parade, it won't sound the same with MP ... 4th of July fireworks either, if MP is gone from that event as well.
I have a request in to city hall for its side of the story .. and I'm told that a press release will be sent out. Not sure when, but when it comes, I'll post the info here.
Odds and Ends ..
Got quite a few emails from folks wondering what happened to NewsNight Akron from Oct. 2nd. The broadcast aired at 10 p.m., an hour later than its usual time slot, to allow for a special on the National Parks. If you missed the broadcast, you can watch it on-line here. I wasn't aware that the show was being pushed back, but in the future, I'll try to make sure I confirm the air time. As for this specific episode, I was a bit surprised that the panel jumped on the fire union the way that they did, but they raised some specific points.
I was surprised that Saturday's Infocision Stadium crowd was only 16,000+ .. a little more than half full. This was the first MAC game in the new stadium, and while I know the team is struggling, I thought the crowds would continue to be closer to capacity. It really is a great place to watch a game, so I hope fans get a chance to get to a game. I'm sure the seats will be full for the Zips matchup with Kent State.
A friend tells me that her nephew, who is attending Ohio University, got sick and went to the doctor, who told him that he had swine flu .. and sent him back to the dorm to get better. A day or so later, he was near death in a hospital in Columbus with bacterial meningitis -- not swine flu. I share this not to take aim at a doctor's misdiagnosis, but rather to highlight that swine flu is becoming so common that the symptoms could be mistaken.
Since we don't have a 7 p.m. newscast on Mondays due to "The Point After" Browns show, I'm trying to use my Mondays to catch up on my writing . .and to get additional interviews for future stories. Some days I make more progress than others.
Loving the Big Bang Theory on CBS on Monday nights. If you haven't discovered this comedy yet, give it a try. And don't give up after one episode; some of the humor cuts back to previous episdoes so stay with it. One of the stars, Kaley Cuoco, was on the Morning Show today .. and she was great. Watch it here:
And finally .. I guess I need to check my attire a little closer. Wearing a white shirt and solid red tie, I recently went to a supermarket with a photographer to do a story on the economy. I let the photographer wander around the store to get some shots, and I waited near the cash registers. Not once .. but three times .. someone asked me if products were on sale or where to find certain items. Each time I had to smile and say "I don't work here."
Friday, September 18, 2009
Needless to say, Eric Lancaster's situation is upsetting to anyone in uniform. The more he told me about being turned away when he sought help, the more frustrated I became.
I first learned of Eric's emotional journey a year ago when his mother, Peggy, contacted me to see if I could meet with her son and reinforce his spirits, offer advice. He's certainly been through a lot .. and readjusting to the United States again is tough on anyone who has been overseas.
I'm hopeful that some local veterans will reach out and offer support to him .. at least until the Army can figure out what it's going to do . .and the Pentagon completes its investigation.
Our soldiers don't deserve to be turned away .. and any commander worth his commission should at least call a soldier who goes AWOL .. and not just go along with some scheme to erase him from the roster.
This one really upsets me .
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The event was streamed live .. but you can watch it here: http://new.jmc.kent.edu/ethicsworkshop/2009/?page_id=8
Would love your feedback .. Eric
Friday, August 28, 2009
I'm looking forward to seeing tonight's NewsNight Akron since I wasn't on the show today. Ed Esposito was nice enough to host in my place so that I wouldn't be in a conflict of interest in the discussion about candidates for Akron School Board. (My wife, Lisa, is one of nine who will be on the ballot for four seats). I'll probably step aside at least once more before the November election for the same reason.
I saw Bruce Kilby a few weeks back at the Board of Elections. He was dressed in a camouflage pants, boots, and a black-and-gold shirt as I recall. He looked like was ready for war going door-to-door to campaign. It illustrates to me of how much is at stake in the Sept. 8 council races. I'm also hearing that Anthony Dilauro might be a real surprise in Ward 5. He's spent a lot of money on signs in a race of four for the Democratic nod with the winner facing Republican write-in candidate Dwight Pulos in November.
$195,604.18 for the Recall that ended with a status quo? Wow! As a taxpayer I'm speechless.
I'd expect more layoffs from City Hall to be announced sooner than later. The 120+ employees taking the buyout incentives will help but are still pretty short of the mandated goal of a balanced budget.
Sandra Kurt's bold move in Ward 8 to secure the Summit County Democratic Party's nomination will limit her competitors use of any DP tools. Apparently the rules state that if enough of the Precinct Captains support one candidate -- in this case Kurt -- the others are prohibited from even using the party's fax machine. A written rule or not, some are crying foul .. that so much is at stake with these council elections that voters need to get the most they can from each candidate. Thoughts?
An Akron Police officer told me that he met a man and his sons from Ashtabula who were downtown looking for the Aeros game. He said he had good seats and wanted directions to Jerry Uht stadium. The officer told him that he had never heard of that stadium, and that the Aeros play at Canal Park. Long story short, the tickets were indeed to see the Aeros play .. but the game was in Erie.
And finally .. a U of A professor recently rode the "Roo Express" along with the students during a jaunt across campus. She tells me that the song playing on the speaker system was Adina Howard's "T-shirt and panties" which is one of the filthiest sets of lyrics you'll ever hear. She said some of the students seemed to be singing along, but thought the U of A should show better judgement in what's appropriate to play on campus transportation.
Friday, August 14, 2009
We still don't know how the cuts spread out across the departments (police, fire, water, etc..) but I'd say that's an amazing start for financial savings, but the adjustment to city services is just beginning. Eric
Mayor Plusquellic's letter to city employees indicates that 75 employees have accepted the incentive to step down, and I can only assume that Law Director Max Rothal is one of them. (His retirement was announced earlier today with Cheri Cunningham now taking over.)
The number is higher than I expected. Most city employees with whom I've spoken in the last few weeks have told me that they doubted many of their co-workers could afford to take the risk.
The Mayor's release indicates that some employees thought they aren't eligible when in fact they are. Still, even with 75 folks stepping forward, Plusquellic warned of tough days ahead:
"Make no mistake - as agonizing as it is for me to consider - there will be layoffs in September of permanent, full-time city workers on multiple levels in order to fill a projected budget deficit of approximately $12 million before year’s end. I would hate to see someone miss this opportunity for a one-time cash payout, and then suffer the loss of their job when this alternative is being made available to all."
Plusquellic said last month that approximately 260+ employees would need to take the buyout in order for the city to meet budget. Hopefully the voluntary furloughs that at least three of the unions have agreed to take will also make a difference.
Still .. I can't help but wonder how our city will operate later this year with what could be a 10 percent drop in overall employees. For example, whether 30 police officers take the buyout or 30 are let go, the net result is still 30 fewer officers.
What are your concerns?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Monica and I invited Johnson to come on and analyze some of the key complaints about the health care proposal, specifically whether they are myths. I always find it interesting that viewers seem to think that we should beat up people whom we've invited to come as guests. Does that make any sense? Again, we asked him to come on the air with us .. so should we beat him up? Especially a guy who is not in the health care field and doesn't have a stake in the plan?
Some viewers felt that Johnson was too open about being in favor of the program or is flat out Pro-Obama on this topic. I invite most to watch the interview again .. and to understand its intent.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the topic .. but just because someone calls one of the charges -- the "death panels" for instance -- to be a myth, is not the same as saying that you endorse the health plan.
I'll agree the Johnson editorialized a bit on the final points, but he also took aim at President Obama at the end of the interview for failing to follow through on his part of developing the plan.
We plan a great many more segments on this topic, including an upcoming town hall meeting here at TV3.
Again, few people email to tell you when they like a segment .. so I don't read too much into the idea that criticism filled my in-box.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
More layoffs and changes are all but certain at Akron City Hall .. and don't be surprised if they go as high as cabinet members or department managers. Lifeguards and law clerks will only save so much. As for how many police officers may go -- either via layoffs or from the buyout incentives -- that's anyone's guess. I did speak to a 30-year veteran who was taking the buyout because "I'm tired of the younger officers who don't want to work for what they have and want everything handed to them." His words, not mine.
Lately I've seen some local parents who have set me off. First, a woman walking her young child to school (good so far) while wearing a jacket with Scarface on the back holding up a few handguns. I mean, what heck kind of message is that to show your child? Second, I saw a woman with her three children on Exchange Street and she was wearing a shirt that said "Do I look like a F*(*)()*g People Person?". Again, here's a mom who has her young children walking beside her, and that's the message she shows the world? Note to parents -- your kids see what you do and how you act! So wake up!
I keep getting emails about an unreleased 911 call from the Lux fight. To date, everyone tells me that it doesn't exist, so I'm starting to believe it was urban legend that got away from people who were looking for a smoking gun. For the record, the initial tips that I received about the incident alleged that Mayor Plusquellic used much, MUCH stronger language in his 911 calls. As we've since heard, that wasn't the case. If another call of substance truly exists, it's bound to come out. If not, let's move on.
The Ernie Tarle-Dave Reymann debacle is just that. Regardless of who was right or wrong, it makes our city look bad .. and it makes a great many voters ask "just who the heck is running for council these days?"
I had a chance to take in the Hall of Fame Game Sunday night. Hot and humid, but a lot of fun. Before the game, I had a chance to shake hands outside the stadium with an interesting combination: Fred Biletnikoff and Eric Metcalf. One is a Hall of Famer and the other is a Browns player who just couldn't find the right niche to be effective but who did provide some electric touchdowns. Both men were very nice and shook hands with a lot of fans.
My days have been busier with no end in sight. The ever-changing business requires me to shoot video and even edit sometimes (four out of five days last week for example), which reduces the amount of time to blog, twitter, and write on Facebook too. It's a busy world for journalists trying to feed so many platforms. Want to see my shooting skills in action? Click here and take a look at this photo from the Plain Dealer. You can't see my face, but it's me in a shirt and tie and sporting a camera. That story ended up as our lead story at 7. Guess that makes me a "full service" journalist.
More later ..
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Mayor Don Plusquellic
August 4, 2009
On Saturday evening, August 1, at approximately 10:50pm, I met friends at the Bricco Restaurant on South Main Street. Earlier that evening, I welcomed audiences at our Ballet Summer Festival at Glendale Cemetery, and at the 9:00pm concert at Lock 3.
I exited the restaurant shortly after 2:00am, and walked north on Main toward the place where I had parked my car.
A friend who had been in Bricco came outside to continue our discussions for several minutes. Suddenly, I heard a commotion going on around the corner at Main and Exchange. Someone was yelling “fight.” I immediately walked in that direction to see if I could help. A large crowd of people came rushing past me, and continued around the corner where they proceeded to carry on a fight that apparently broke-out on Exchange Street.
I attempted twice to call 9-1-1 when the fight first started, but was placed on hold. Given all the people running around, and not being able to determine how to physically help, and believing I could have been hit while holding the phone, I hung up.
While I was blocked from seeing the faces of the combatants, I became aware that someone had been punched and was lying in the street. I witnessed a person kick the victim lying on the ground but was unable to see his face.
As people (combatants and witnesses alike) scattered, and police started to arrive on the scene, I called 9-1-1 at 2:38am for the third time, to get EMS to the scene. I was advised that they had already been called, and I informed the 9-1-1 center that I was concerned about having been put on hold earlier.
At 2:41am, I received a call from the 9-1-1 center asking if I had called in. I told them that I had called-in, and had received a recorded message, and was placed on hold. I asked to speak to the police sergeant on duty. As Safety Director of the City of Akron, I directed him to document the number of calls received in the 9-1-1 center about this incident, and to document what circumstances required calls to be placed on hold. I indicated to him that I would take-up the matter with Chief Craig Gilbride the following day.
This action - stated in tough terms in a stressful situation - was partially in reaction to the incident that had occurred June 27 in Firestone Park -the botched response to the several calls that went unreported for over three weeks following a terrible assault. Even our hard-working detectives couldn’t get accurate and timely information from the 9-1-1 center, which caused a very bad perception of the Akron Police Department.
The Firestone Park incident on June 27 had raised these concerns anew because detectives investigating the assault case after the fireworks, were first advised that there were no other calls, and later learned that there were multiple calls to the 9-1-1 center, some of whom had been placed on hold.
It was essential that this problem be documented so that solutions to this problem can be applied.
During the time that I was on Main Street early Sunday, I spoke to witnesses regarding what they had seen, and I continuously relayed to police officers what others had said to me about the start of the fight. I directed individuals who had seen the fight take place to make their statements to police officers. I did everything I could to help police get the information they needed, so that an arrest could be made.
The police officer who completed the written incident report listed me as an ancillary person to the investigation. The report form provides a box labeled speech, in which the officer wrote the word “slurred.” Recordings of my calls to the 9-1-1 center do not support this conclusion. The recordings are posted on the city’s website.
I have witnessed a number of fights before - as a coach present on basketball courts and baseball playing fields. I have been involved in breaking-up fights, including one on Main Street several years ago. The incident Sunday was much more horrific because of the injury to the victim. People at the scene who spoke to me believed that this was more than a few rowdy guys throwing punches. This is why we were motivated to help police as much as we could.
The truth however, was that from the arrival of the first officer on the scene - who displayed an attitude that drove most of the witnesses away - had I not remained at the scene and encouraged other witnesses to cooperate, the officers who later took the statements that are now being used by detectives, would not have been able to gather the information that led to the arrest of a responsible person, which occurred because of my insistence that they interview certain witnesses to the event.
The president of the FOP has chosen to attack me for getting involved. Anyone listening to the 9-1-1 tape recordings will agree that the story concocted by the FOP president is flatly wrong - for whatever political or personal reason he may have. We simply cannot afford to not have people involved to help police. Without my remaining on the scene, and insistence that witnesses also remain to be interviewed, we could have had yet another unsolved case.
I am never just an ordinary bystander when I am present at the scene of a safety emergency. The Charter of the City of Akron designates me as the Safety Director, and I am in charge of all police and fire matters. Because I was a practicing lawyer and former criminal prosecutor, I also know the importance of gathering information immediately. This was my only purpose Sunday morning - to direct the people who had approached me with valuable information because they knew who I was - to officers who could take down the details to secure an arrest, and hopefully a conviction of whoever was responsible for this horrible beating.
It is always my responsibility to ensure that the police department in all its facets - patrol officers, detectives, 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers - do their jobs properly, so that we never again have an unfortunate situation like the one that occurred in June in Firestone Park.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
An internal release to company employees says that more cuts will be announced next week:
"Severed employees will meet individually with their supervisors on July 28, along with representatives from Human Resources. They also will have the opportunity to talk to representatives from Right Management, the firm helping us with career transition consulting. Severed employees’ last day on the payroll will be August 27."Don't yet know how any numbers .. or how these cuts will impact the Akron area, but the memo says the reductions come from the combining of its Finance office with its Strategic Planning and Operation folks.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
My first day back (Tuesday) ended with Mayor Plusquellic's Press Conference on the budget crisis. I wish I could be a fly on the wall as the five union leaders meet with city hall and with their members to find ways to cut. NO ONE wants layoffs this fall, but serious cuts are looming if enough dollars aren't caught. My jaw about hit the floor when the Mayor was asked how many employees need to take a buyout incentive to meet the goal. He responded with a reference to Summit County's incentive program, which netted about 130 or so .. and then said Akron needed "twice that many."
Mayor Plusquellic has agreed to be my live guest for a FOCUS segment of Channel 3, but we are still coordinating the details for his appearance in an upcoming news broadcast. Stay tuned.
I was amazed traveling west for vacation at how many giant wind turbines are out there. Hundreds and hundreds of windmills generating power in Nebraska, Iowa, etc. Why don't we see more of them here in NE Ohio?
I want to hear more about this racial hate crime involving a group of teens accosting a family in Firestone Park.
I'm looking forward to getting back to NewsNight Akron. Friday's show boasts Ed Esposito, Larry States, and Phil Trexler.
Finally, today's story still has me amazed. If the government can use a proactive virus to search my hard drive without me knowing it, what else can folks find? Check it out:
Monday, July 13, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
If you missed his 4 p.m. press conference, you can watch it here.
The big news is that he's approved extending the lottery program by adding slot machines to Ohio's racetracks .. all in a state that has knocked out casino gambling four times at the polls. He hopes the slots will raise just shy of a billion big ones in the next two years.
You think it's a good idea?
The Gov still needed to cut $2.43 billion .. so here's what he proposing:
- 37% cut to retirement contributions for state employees
- $200 million cut to public library funding
- $1.1 billion cut from Medicare
- cuts to early education, pre-school programs
- close one youth correctional facility
A lot to consider .. a lot on the line .. thoughts?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I feel for them .. I really do.
Us guys .. we got it easy .. most male anchors could wear the same coat every other night and the viewers would never know ..
That is .. except for the tie .. (or the "vine" as Dick Russ likes to call it).
The rule of thumb is: the brighter, the better.
Orange, green, lots of "power" reds ... stripes are back in fashion too.
But now .. here comes NBC's Brian Williams .. or "B-dub" as we call him in our newsroom. He loves his ties, and his ties always seem to be just right. Monica and I often comment on his ties since he signs off and then we come up at 7 p.m.
My boss hit me a few weeks back with how strong BW's ties are and suggested I find a few purple ties. So last week, I stopped and got a few .. and have been wearing them this week.
Then this morning .. the Today show got into the act ... and took aim at the whole tie saga and compared B-dub and the other broadcasters.
Between him saying "goodnight" just before I say "good evening" . I'm beginning to feel like I can't get away from B-dub! And now I'm wearing my ties after him too!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
OK .. our Tribe is running in sand right now .. and even with "Dollar Dog" night, there's only so many beatings at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers and others before closing our eyes and wishing Manny Ramirez was back in Right Field, Buddy Bell was at Third, and Rocky Colavito was just in an Indians uniform!
Certainly the Good Old Days of the Tribe aren't all that good ... although some are quite old .. but when the memories and history are looked at in quantity, we certainly have a lovable and unique team.
That's why Phil Trexler's new book Yesterday and Today: Cleveland Indians is such a good read. Phil is a tremendous encyclopedia of Tribe facts and figures already, but the book is put together in snip-its and short stories so that a fan can begin reading on any page and find something entertaining.
There are hundreds of pictures -- literally something on just about every page -- that tell a great history and show us the fun of attending a Tribe game before bobbleheads became all the rage. There's not only photos not-recently (or ever) published, but lots of shots of collectibles (including some from Phil's own collection) that tell a great deal about the dugout fun of being a Tribe player and fan.
I consider myself a knowledgeable Indians fan but far from an expert. I learned a lot from the book, including more about Herb Score's head injury and what Trexler dubbed "The Lost Tribe 1969-1993." Those are the years of my youth, so I can totally empathize. If you're a Bob Feller fan, you'll find a lot of interesting reads. (Feller writes the book's Forward by the way).
I really enjoyed all the side stories that I'd never heard, such as Bill Veeck flying in orchids from Hawaii for the women in the stands, while other fans got live rabbits or ladders. Rabbits? Ladders? Oh this must have been a wild franchise all those years ago.
As a large, colorful hard-cover gem, Yesterday and Today screams coffee table, but it's so much more than that. It's an historical reference when a player or special moment jumps in to your head, and you just need a quick glimpse of it.
My favorite Indian of all-time is still Omar Vizquel. If you've followed the Tribe, then you know how special he was to the team and how entertaining and talented he was at the games. His smile, his diving stops, and his double plays were the things of rock videos. Trexler has a good sequence on Omar titled "Magic Man."
So if you're out and about looking for something for dad .. or just something for a Tribe fan .. this is a no-brainer. Buy the book at Barnes and Noble in Montrose and keep it out in the open where you can grab it for entertainment on the nights when the Indians struggle, which has been a lot lately.
It's a good investment, and one you'll be proud to show off, regardless of where the team falls in the standings.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
The Akron Beacon Journal published a list of all of the contributors to the campaign as part of its coverage. Near the bottom is the name "Eric S. Mansfield" having contributed $23 to the effort by buying a ticket to a recent fundraiser at an Akron union hall. There was pizza and beer, for what that's worth.
Now .. I'm being taken to task by Akron-area talk radio for contributing to a local political campaign when I'm supposed to be staying neutral as a journalist. Not that the talk radio folks would call me first to find out the true story, but instead, I'm getting blasted.
Here's the truth: It wasn't me.
I wasn't even in the county during the event.
It was my wife, Lisa, who is a candidate for the Akron School Board. She signed in as a political candidate and also signed the personal check used to pay the contribution .. and that's where the miscommunication comes in to play.
Since both of our names are on our personal checks, my name got credit for the contribution. I'm told by others that this isn't out of the ordinary. Another woman in local politics tells me that her husband often gets a thank you note for political contributions she made because his name is first on their joint personal checks. It's the same with Lisa and me. (As soon as I can get a computer scan of the check, I'll post it here so you can see her signature on the check.)
Still .. what does it say about a talk show host who blasts me without at least checking to get the info correct?
For the record, I don't contribute to campaigns, attend fundraisers or rallies, or even put up a sign in my yard -- even for school levies for my own kids' school district. I view my role as a journalist seriously, and I won't cross that line.
Lisa's campaign is just getting started ... and so far, she's gathered about 450 signatures on petitions (300 valid signatures are needed to get on the ballot). Her passion for the role is solid, and as an Akron Schools Grad (North High alum), a mother of three APS students, and a Secondary Education Major from the U of Akron -- just for starters -- Lisa's more than qualified to make a solid run. Her website and Twitter feeds are just getting off the ground, but you can take a look to see this is legit.
I hadn't planned on talking publicly about Lisa's candidacy this early in the campaign, but I needed to set the record straight.
Oh .. and if you think I was riled by the criticism, you should hear from Lisa... and you will in the coming days for sure.
Friday, June 12, 2009
They make my job easier by helping me get the information I need from the sources I desire at at time when I need to beat the clock. Yet, after taking part in a panel about the rise of social media and its impact on the media, I'm realizing that many of my peers still aren't seeing the value.
So .. I'm putting my David Letterman "Top 10" skills to the test .. and opting to share what I've found to be helpful on the front lines of today's local news coverage.
1. Morning tweets save time in the afternoon -- How often have you received an assignment at the morning news meeting and thought "how in the world am I going to find someone to talk about that?" Usually, we open our Rolodex and begin calling our friends and relatives asking, "hey, do you know anyone who has such-n-such?" Then we wait hours for someone to call back, hoping that a friend of a friend of a friend will be the right anecdote for our stories.
Twitter speeds up the process. If you're doing a story on local moms of multiples weighing in on the octomom, send out a tweet such as .. "do you or someone you know have twins or triplets? and have advice for the octomom? drop me a line at ... "
A few weeks back, I put out this tweet: "Bankruptcies are on the rise. I'm looking for individuals who've done it to share their story. If you're willing: email@example.com"
Within minutes, I got a note from Rod Ice .. who was dealing with a serious financial crisis and was willing to go on camera that afternoon. Here's the story:
I never would have found an interview like this doing it the "old fashioned way". Twitter helps me find subjects faster and gives me more time to prepare their story before deadline.
2. Use Facebook's "status" for trial balloons -- Ever had thoughts about a possible story but wondered if it would fly before investing a lot of time and research? Use your Facebook status to gauge interest. For example, if your status reads "Has anyone found a real diet that works for overweight kids?" you can expect that readers with real ideas will weigh in. Even if they can't answer the question, they may share the story of their own childhood obesity problems .. or that of their child's. Bingo! Instant interview subjects. On the flip side, if no one comments in a 24-hour period, you can bet it's not a hot topic right now.
3. Blogging is for big kids too -- You're reading this post, therefore I've at least done something right when it comes to blog writing. If you're a working journalist, you should have a blog. The subjects on your beat will look for it before you come to visit them. Most importantly, blogging allows readers/viewers/listeners to get a more personal take on your story. Don't be afraid to share the inside story of the story you just put together. We all want to turn good followups, and getting the public to see you're in tune with the topic via your blog will help get sources to come to you with additional information.
In January, police discovered the body of a little girl in a dumpster. She'd been beaten by a parent. I wrote about it on my blog from the perspective of a parent who couldn't believe someone could do such a thing. That baring of my soul brought an email from a local man who knew of a area film aimed at keeping teen moms from tossing their babies away. A few phone calls later and I had the most unique "day two" story in the market. Here it is:
I never would have had that story had I not taken the time to blog, which really is an effective tool to interact with viewers/readers and get unique tips and feedback.
4. Go ahead and tip your hand -- Stop worrying about the competition knowing the topic of today's story. Unless it's a true exclusive, there's little danger in the other reporters in town catching up with you. Send tweets and FB statuses only about a topic and not the specifics. In other words, it's ok for others to know you've gone fishing; just don't tell them which pond you're at or what you're using for bait.
5. Become a social media voyeur for story ideas -- I log on to FB and up comes the home page with all the latest statuses for my "friends." One friend's status reads, "Anyone know a good way to make $115 in five days?" While I don't have a good suggestion for her, I'm going to keep tabs on what others suggest. If someone chimes in with a creative idea that no one has ever heard before, I'll message that person and see if it's a story. Likewise on Twitter and other social media platforms.
For example, when a major earthquake strikes, start browsing your FB Friends' status updates for anyone whose status includes "prayers for my brother in India ..." Remember how long it used to take to find a local connection? Now there's a way to find them by opening your cyber ears and listening in on the conversation. Become a fly on the wall for others' posts and you'll not only see which topics the public is really talking about, but you'll find the instant subject matter to tell the compelling parts of the story.
6. We're all in this together -- High School Musical made the song famous, but the concept applies to social media too. We're all in this together. That includes politicians, police officers, pro athletes, etc .. What are they saying on their profiles? Who are their "friends"? If a local public officials gets in trouble and you want to find the real story, look at the profiles of others on the government payroll until you find ones with friends on that same department. Then, contact them discreetly and see if they'll clue you in to the real story. During the tough economy, the status updates will also tell you when people are being layed off or when someone at the top gets fired. It's the kind of tips you need to beat the competition and sometimes beat the PR staff at the agency too.
7. Always update 60 minutes before air -- 5 p.m. is a great time to find lots of people on-line. Many folks are just getting home from work and catching up on the day's events. (It's easy to forget that most folks are NOT like journalists and don't get to check email and websites throughout the day.) By updating your FB status and a tweet, you can tease your big story in the 6 p.m. news, and you can go a step further by asking viewers for their concerns about the topic. (sometimes the viewers will mention something you forgot, and then you've still got time to get the info). I like to use my 60-minute rule in conjunction with live interviews by asking viewers what they would ask the person we're going to be interviewing. Not only will give you good questions, but then they'll tune in to see if you ask their question. Boom! Instant ratings help!
8. Elephants never forget and neither does social media -- What you write about today can pay big dividends the next day, week, or month. I'm always amazed at the number of "hits" some of my blog entries get many weeks after they're written. For example, I wrote a small blog entry about Katie Couric's return to Today. I just happened to be blogging when Matt Lauer mentioned that KC was returning on the following day for an important announcement. My blog post that day drew 1,000 hits and now, many many months later, it still draws a few dozen hits every week or so. The good thing is that it brings new viewers to my blog. If they stopped by to read about KC, maybe they'll browse around to my other topics and thereby broaden my audience. The larger audience feeds itself and gives me more folks to lean on for story ideas and the like. The blog also serves as a magnet for national and overseas media when they're looking to interview someone about a particular topic. In 2007, I blogged extensively about the murder of a pregnant woman at the hands of her married boyfriend. Because of the blog -- and not necessarily because of my reporting -- I've had calls from authors, national media outlets, etc .. looking for comments and info whenever the story has a new update.
9. Two "tweets" beats one "breaking news" -- When a local police department announced it was having a rare, evening press conference to discuss an officer-involved shooting, no one in the press had any idea what was on the line. There had been no scanner traffic to follow. No phone calls about police tape or ambulances. What could they possibly be talking about? The agency refused to give info over the phone and instead kept telling us to come to the press conference, which was still 90 minutes away.
A simple tweet-FB combo request for info: "Anyone know about a police shooting in Mentor tonight?" led to a number of instant messages requesting more info .. and then bingo! I got this message: "Eric - I have details if you need them. You can call my cell ..." It was from a dispatcher in a neighboring district. The tip led me to the neighborhood of the shooting before the press conference, and it allowed me to get a good interview with a witness that no one else had when the 11 p.m. broadcast began. Here's the story:
Again, without the use of social media, I wouldn't have had info on the shooting until after the press conference, and that would have been too late to get the personal interviews in time to make air.
10. Social Media helps keep you employed -- While there's no guarantee that being your organization's Bob Woodward ensures you'll keep a paycheck, it does mean you'll stand out from your peers. On the television side, there are many in this business who don't want to mix business with pleasure, and since they see FB and Twitter as social tools, they intend to keep them separate. I totally get that. Still, maybe there's a way to have a pair of FB and Twitter accounts .. or maybe allow the two to overlap a little here and there .. and you'll stand out. Plus, twitter can give you headlines in the field like never before, allowing you to know what the competition is doing as they're doing it. That too stands out to the bosses.
So that's it . that's how I use social media while on the clock .. and how it pays dividends for me every day.
Hope to "friend" you soon ;)
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Most feel they are caught in the middle of the news headlines .. and today, two of the major issues came to a head.
First, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to ban laws that mandate city employees live in the city limits. In Akron, Cleveland, and elsewhere, this means police officers, fire fighters, dog wardens, etc .. can now freely relocate without it costing them their jobs.
APD was always stuck in the middle of this one .. as the police officers were most vocal about wanting that freedom.
Some claimed it was too difficult to arrest a bad guy one day and then see that same bad guy in a neighborhood store a week later. Others have felt the law tied their hands as far as a public school district for their kids and/or prevented their spouses from seeking government work in neighboring cities that might have their own requirements.
There are strong arguments FOR residency as well, but the one common theme in the officers' words this week was that they just couldn't win. If they say they want freedom, they get backlash, and if they say they don't mind living in the city, they get grief from some fellow officers too.
Many in the media -- myself at times included -- have made this out to be a police issue, when in fact it's been an issue affecting all city employees.
The timing of the Supremes' ruling coincides with today's FOP vote on the mayoral recall -- again, officers tell me they can't win. The membership voted 168-166 to support the recall. Pro-recall folks will call it a "win", while supporters of the Mayor call it a "wash."
Couldn't they just vote on election day (June 23rd) and maintain their privacy? While their specific vote would always be private, no one would know which way the force swayed.
Yet, even though this vote has no legal standing, here the officers are again caught in the middle. If the force is supposed to be a representation of the public, than what does their close vote tell you about the recall?
I quipped on NewsNight Akron last Friday that there was a reason Fredo ended up in the rowboat at the end of The Godfather Part II -- never go against the family. In this case, I was trying to show the no-win situation of the officers who might hesitate to vote at all knowing there's a perception of retaliation, especially if they vote one way and the final result goes another.
In this case though, it's just the perception of retaliation.
Like I said, they just can't win.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Apparently, viewers haven't seen enough of his commercials lately and are jumping to conclusions because of the GM crisis.
While Serpentini has had some recently publicized financial problems, I've been assured that he's in New York attending meetings with General Motors... and NOT on his way to a secluded island.
It doesn't surprise me that rumors can circulate about people in the public light .. but I can't believe how wide-spread this one is.
Last week, I heard a rumor that LeBron had flown home from Orlando between games 3 and 4 to attend a Barbecue. That one even got some life on Facebook. Umm .. no .. LeBron was giving interviews in a hotel lobby in Florida that day .. not grilling burgers in Akron.
Regardless of whether you're in the market for a new car, just make sure you corner the market on the truth. In this case, the truth as I've been told from those close to Serpentini is that he's alive and well .. and still "American and Proud of it."
I was all set to turn a story yesterday on the DTV walk-in centers when the news came in about an explosion in Wayne County. This was one of those quandary moments in a TV newsroom. Do we wait until we have more information on damage and injuries before putting a crew on the road? Or do we cancel an existing story (in this case, my DTV story) and hit the road immediately in hopes of beating the competition to the scene should it turn out to be a major story while also risking a long trip for nothing if it turns out that it wasn't much of a house? Turned out to be a relatively minor story as far as damage -- and fortunately injuries too -- so the shift didn't pay off as far as getting a significant news story, but it's the coin flip we face every day in the newsroom. Besides, the DTV switch still has another 9 days until it becomes reality.
Akron's recall election is now three weeks away, and I'm still wondering about what kind of turnout we'll see. Getting folks to sign a petition on their porch is one thing, but getting people to take the time to come to the polls is another.
Now that the Cavs are out of the playoffs, I have time to actually pay attention to the Tribe. Ughh. Last place is no place to be. Will Travis Hafner ever turn it around and get healthy? Feels like the whole team is hamstrung by this fat contract for a designated hitter with a bad back.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Two Akron teachers whose sins became lead stories for me are both back in the news.
First, William Bennett -- the Firestone High School counselor who molested teen boys -- launched a Facebook profile and ironically one of the first friends he acquired recommended him as a friend for me. I mean, what are the odds?
I immediately recognized his name and face from 10 years ago, and after checking that he was still a registered sex offender (tier 3, the worst) I contacted Sheriff Drew Alexander who sent a deputy out to talk to Bennett.
Meanwhile, Facebook, which has a strict "no sex offender" policy, yanked Bennett's new cyber page within minutes of my notification to them.
Coincidentally, on the same day I'm updated that Akron teacher's story, I get word that another former educator, Benjam Terril, has been released early from jail; he served less than three months of an 18-month sentence.
Terril was the Buchtel Science teacher who pointed a loaded gun at another man's head on Labor Day and then told Akron Police that he had "military experience" and that's why he needed an arsenal of guns and knives in his house. I checked his resume with the Akron Schools and determined through public records that his entire military career -- including claims of combat service in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne -- was bogus. Terril never served a single day in uniform.
The Akron School Board fired Terril based on the bogus resume alone.
So today .. I'm writing stories on both of these former educators .. and I'm lamenting that the hard-working teachers my sons currently have in the Akron Schools get a bad rap because two of their colleagues became the worst of the worst when it comes to our schools.
I spoke to a teacher today who told me that she routinely is up past midnight grading papers and trying to keep up with the amount of work her students turn in. Those are long days, and they're not for mega wages either. She does it because she loves kids -- period.
Most teachers go into education for all of the right reasons ... and it's really upsetting when teachers like Bennett and Terril cross the line.
For what it's worth, both have now served their prison time and are abiding by the rules of their release. Let's hope both have peaceful futures and do not re-offend.
Yet, oddly enough, both are back in the news in the same day.
Like I said .. There's irony. There's coincidence. And then there's the day I had today.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Think a short skirt and legs surrounded by colorful shoes grabs your attention? You bet it does.
Now .. want to guess what the product is?
Believe it or not, it's for a natural gas supplier.
Not that showing a gas meter or a well would grab my attention, but umm .. just how dumb are we?
Monday, May 25, 2009
Executive Producers Barb and Duilio Mariola put a lot of hours into shooting and editing this piece, which follows the path to making Ohio's first memorial for Vietnam a reality. I learned a lot about the war through this experience.
Take a look . and I'd love some feedback.