Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Trio of Akron plows come to the rescue

It's often said that good things .. and bad things too .. and even jokes .. often come in threes.

Today, it was heroes that came as a trio.

I was watching from our Akron newsroom as a semi driver was helpless trying to come east up the hill on West Market Street approaching the Federal building. By grinding to a halt, he'd backed up traffic past St. Vincent-St. Mary and beyond. Those drivers who did wait to get around the truck found themselves stuck too because they couldn't get any momentum to carry their cars up the hill.

Akron Police worked their absolute tails off to get stuck drivers moving, but it was a lost cause for many of them.
After what seemed like forever, a trio of Akron plow drivers arrived and were greeted as heroes by the stopped drivers. Many honked their horns like it was New Year's eve. Others just applauded out their car windows. It was quite a scene.

The trio pushed through Market Street clearing just enough for many drivers to get around and get going. Not everyone was saved, but it was a great start .. and the semi that was blocking traffic finally got moving.

Channel 3 News at 7 - live from Akron tonight!

Well .. whenever possible's always best to take the show to the story .. and the story today is most certainly the weather.

With Summit County under a snow emergency and all non-essential driving banned, I'll be field anchoring Channel 3 News at 7 from outside our office at 1 S. Main Street in downtown Akron.

Why just talk about Akron snow when we can actually experience it, right?

Carole Sullivan will be live in Cleveland, and we'll tag-team all aspects of the big snow day. I'll have some live guests in Akron.

See ya at 7!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Selling at a loss to buy a more expensive home? Seems crazy .. but in some cases, it's paying off

Teen parents' choices are heartbreaking

I won't soon forget how heartbreaking it felt in our newsroom two weeks ago as we were reporting on a missing infant. The teen parents were being questioned, and we all feared that this would end in foul play. Turns out, we were right. The teen father later told police that he'd placed the child in a dumpster.

These cases are just overwhelming, and they happen far too often. I'm hopeful that the information in Monday night's FOCUS segment will be of good use to local schools and groups that support teens. Do you know of another group out there to support teen parents? If you do .. pass the info along .. there are real lives at stake.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Medical Mart decision puzzling

As the saying goes: "It's a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

That's a cutesy way of explaining something -- in this case Cleveland's Medical Mart -- that doesn't seem to be quite right no matter how many ways it's put together.

First, collecting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars via a plan that wasn't voted upon by the taxpayers themselves, and then holding meeting after meeting on where to put a project that's seems so unique, no one's quite sure what makes up the perfect location anyway.

What's this all about again?

And then comes today and the decision to put the MM at the Convention Center site in Downtown Cleveland.

Guess that historical marker on the mall near the CC to commemorate Barack Obama's speech to tens of thousands of voters just two days before the election will have to go somewhere else.

MM is going to dramatically redesign the CC.

Already .. many in our newsroom are echoing what the public is saying: that the CC site isn't convenient for those who ride the trains, as well as some other logistics issues.

Still .. how does a $400 million project become so complicated? and if it's this difficult choosing a site, how much more challenging will the actual project become?

I'm hopeful that if the MM becomes a reality that there will eventually be a connection with Akron's future medical corridor along Market Street.

So where are really going with this?


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day .. from the Civic Theater to civic duty

This is one of those news days that's a lot like covering the first 24 hours of Hurricane Katrina -- everywhere you look, there's a new story. There's more than enough witnesses and experts to interview and everyone who was anywhere near the TV today has a story to tell.

I've been putting together a few pieces on Obama and Biden for our news special that begins when NBC finishes its coverage -- maybe as early as 4 p.m. -- but also keeping tabs on the rest of the coverage.

Locally, I'm told there were about 1,200 folks packed into the Civic Theater to watch the Inauguration. A lot of families were in the mix as parents yanked their kids out of class or kept them home.

I checked with the Akron Schools to see if attendance dropped, but a spokeswoman told me that none of the schools reported an absentee rate of 10 percent of higher, which is the benchmark for a big drop. So, at least initially, attendance was in the "normal" range.

The pictures and videos have been streaming in like a hail storm. The technology that was in play during the ceremony provided every angle imaginable.

Carole and I have been tearing through Obama's remarks and trying to get a good grasp of what each of our live reporters -- both locally and from D.C. -- will provide. I think we have a great show ahead!

See ya in a bit .. Eric

Friday, January 16, 2009

Boiling water tossed out in the cold .. don't try this at home .. no wait, go ahead!

Well .. if we're going to show you this on TV, why not try it for real?

My sons decided that today's frigid temperatures were perfect to try out what we talked about on the news. Seeing how quick bowling water vaporizes in the frigid temperatures.

I grabbed the flip cam -- this HD model is golden by the way -- to show you what it looks like. Can I just say how impressive it is to see a small amount of water turn in to such a large cloud of vapor?

Safety warning: make sure an adult supervises since boiling water and freezing temperatures each pose their own immediate risks of injury. Be careful!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Phony Veteran may escape jail time

I've written extensively about the case of Benjamin Terril, the local science teacher who created a phony military career as part of his job application with the Akron Public Schools; as you'll recall, he went so far as to wear an Army uniform while telling "war stories" with young kids talking with local recruiters.

Terril was arrested in September for getting drunk with loaded guns, making threats at another man, and then getting caught up with drugs and a home arsenal that far surpassed anything Elmer Fudd could muster.

He later pled guilty to three felonies and is awaiting sentencing Jan. 28th, facing a maximum of three-and-a-half years but he could also get probation. I've received several emails of local folks upset that Terril's action might not net jail time.

Here's what I do know though ..

Terril's teaching license is already a thing of the past, as the Akron Schools fired him after my first series of stories about his war heroics hit the air ... and the state will likely prevent him from ever teaching again thanks to his felony convictions.

Terril has prior criminal convictions, including a felony conviction for Carrying a Concealed Weapon in Florida and a DUI in Stark County -- cases he covered up when applying to work with the Akron schools.

Now, Terril's fate is in the hands of Judge Elinor Marsh Stormer. With no trial, there was no testimony about Terril's actions that night, so she'll be relying on the pre-sentence investigation.

Many of you have asked or emailed about the "Stolen Valor Act", which is a Federal crime, and as of now, the Feds have not -- to my knowledge -- spoken to Terril.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp from "Rent" are classy guys in person

OK .. one of the perks of working at a TV station is that when stars come by for an interview, I get to meet them.

As a big fan of Rent, I was drawn to come to work early last week to see Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp (a.k.a. "Roger" and "Mark") on Good Company, which included two interview segments and a third segment in which they performed. (Watch clip below)

Can I just say how cool these guys are in person? Anthony chatted with my wife, Lisa, about ideas for performing Rent in a smaller theater. I asked Adam what it's like to get mad at one another every night as part of their characters, and he told me that "the music helps a lot." Both talked about how strong the cast is for the touring show.

I just know that not everyone in the entertainment business is that down to earth.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Combat Life Savers -- The Army's newest training is saving real lives of NE Ohio soldiers

I was so glad to have the opportunity to witness this training and prepare the story for Friday's "Focus" segment.

When I was deployed to Iraq/Kuwait, I was often frustrated that only a handful of soldiers in my unit were trained as Combat Life Savers (CLS). What if I was wounded and one of them wasn't in my HMMV with me?

The impact of the Army's decision to train all deploying soldiers with CLS is exponential, and I'm glad we were also able to offer a live interview with a VA expert on what care those local wounded troops are getting.

As always, your comments are encouraged .. Eric

Classic TV promo

I can remember this one growing up, but didn't know about the followup promo until a friend just pointed me to youtube. Funny stuff. Visit Frank Macek's blog for other TV promos too. Enjoy.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Akron Police officer's wife shows different side to department debate

Having seen yet another demonstration about the Akron Police Department a few days ago, I thought it might be best to get some perspective.

I asked a patrol officer's wife if she would write a guest blog for me .. and talk about what it's like from her point of view. Unless you live the life in a "blue" family, I think this may open some eyes as to what it's really like on the other side of the badge .. and to the toll that answering the call to serve can take.

Behind the shield

I was asked my Eric Mansfield if I would be interested in blogging about my experience being a wife of a police officer. So, here goes.

The image of the Akron Police Department has been on a steady decline for several years. It is disappointing to say the least. Our hard-working men and women in blue deserve more. I am certain not all officers are first-class, but the vast majority have one thing in mind when they report to roll call on the 4th floor of the Stubbs Building. That one thing is to serve and protect the citizens of the Akron and each other.

Is it the chief, the administration, the mayor, the council president, the city council, the local newspaper, or even the police union? I cannot say, but I believe all can take on some blame for the black eye that these hard working officers have had to endure. Let them do their jobs!

As police wives, we experience emotions that other wives do not. Yes, if you allow yourself to “go there” you can envision the constant threat of injury or death, but mostly this list can consist of missed holidays, cancelled days off, and varying work schedules.

But overall, for me, I would have to say that the most difficult part of being married to a police officer is that they are constantly brought down and seldom uplifted.

No one calls the police when something good has happened to them, and no, I’m not implying that they should. However, it starts a cycle of constant negativity and cynicism that changes the lives of these officers, both on and off duty. This cynicism creates a real difficulty in seeing the positive aspects in people.

Being married to a police officer is not all of the doom and gloom that many say (increased rate of divorce, extramarital affairs and your occasional frisking of a prostitute.) I have learned to respect his solitude, keep busy when he is not available, and celebrate holidays on alternate days.

I stand proud as a wife of a man who goes to work for this city of Akron every day.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Akron's Chris "Beanie" Wells classy at initial interview

Most of us were told growing up that we should "treat others as we'd like to be treated" or "always make a good first impression." That comes to mind with today's headlines about Akron's Chris Well.

As a reporter, I can usually remember my first impression of a lot of folks. Politicians, community leaders, and athletes for sure.

LeBron James? Very polite high school kid the first time I interviewed him at St. V. He just about broke my hand because he slapped it so hard. Wonderful to talk with.

Sandy Alomar? Great guy .. made me feel very at ease in the locker room by getting me a chair so we could sit and talk. Couldn't have made it easier for me.

Albert Belle? Absolute foul-mouth jerk ... a story that I can't even repeat here.

Get the picture?

First time I met Ohio State's star running back, who today announced he was going to the NFL, he was an absolute gentleman.

We got word in the newsroom that Wells had been selected for an national all-star game, so I took a photographer and we stopped by Garfield High School unannounced to see if we could get a moment with Chris.

Wells was in the middle of a workout .. and having already signed with Ohio State, he certainly could have blown me off or just made me wait. Other lesser players have done that.

Instead, Wells was cordial, polite, and called me "sir" several times. I remember that he was more than happy to give me as much time as I needed, which turned into just a few minutes, but nevertheless, he made a great first impression.

A few weeks later, I was with my kids at the Natatorium in Cuyahoga Falls, and Wells was there working out. I made a point of telling my middle son, Jake, that the guy lifting weights over there was Chris Wells and he was going to be a big star in college football. A short time later, we passed wells in the hallways, and Chris smiled and said hello.

First impressions .. they say a lot more about someone than their talent can ever project on the field.

How do you like the new Channel 3 News at 7? Chat live now!

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ducking bricks, looking for jobs makes for a wild day

There was a crash on East Market Street today, but it had nothing to do with cars.

A big brick wall that was slowly being brought down as part of the demolition of the old Sokol's store near Arlington Street just decided it was done living. Instead of coming apart brick-by-brick, ye old 25-foot-tall hardened rock of memories decided it wanted to come down in one big chunk.

Yikes. We were actually on scene before the police got there to shut down the road. Obviously, the only news that counts was that no one was hurt. I took a photo for our website and my videographer, Larry, got some video for the news.

What we didn't have room to mention tonight was that the guy up in the cherry picker who chose the wrong jack from the brick house of cards was stuck up there. Too many bricks were piled up on the base unit. He eventually got done, but at one point he yelled down to the cleanup crews below, "I don't know what the heck happened!"

Meanwhile, I'll not soon forget today's trip to Canton for a job fair. Hundreds and hundreds of people -- many of whom have been out of work for months -- looking for real employment. I found out later that a close friend of mine was in the crowd too, hoping to get a job selling life insurance if that meant a paycheck.

Any time you or I think we should complain about our jobs, think of these folks:

Monday, January 5, 2009

Odds and ends to end an odd 2008

Finding blog time is becoming more challenging, but I'm working on it as I get used to my new schedule and responsibilities in Cleveland.

A few things to pass along as I close my notebook on 2008
  • Akron dispatchers say it was a year of the wild and wacky on the other end of 911 calls. One caller screamed for help because her dog was drowning in the family swimming pool. When the woman finally calmed down, the dispatcher asked her how deep the water was. She replied "three feet." "Three feet? Your pool is three feet deep?" "Yes" "Ma'am, you're going to have go in and get the dog yourself then." The caller was very upset that she would have to get wet in order to save her dog, but the dispatcher stood firm that emergency crews weren't coming to get a dog when the owner could save it herself.

  • Another scholar called 9-1-1 from a real burning house and instead of relaying the location of the fire, he sang all of the info. Yep, just belted it out like Elvis. I don't remember if he was singing "Fire" by Bruce Springsteen or altered some other rock hit, but the call taker sure had a real laugh even with a real emergency (no one was hurt) on the other end of the line.

  • I find it odd that the Beacon Journal deemed the birth of the Akron-Canton News as the top entertainment story of 2001, yet the newscast's end didn't warrant mention in the paper's top 10 list for 2008.

  • As part of my new assignment in the Cleveland, I'm learning where everyone sits within the newsroom. I made it a point to stop and chat with Romona by her desk, and I noticed that she has not one, not two, but three baseball bats next to her desk. I'm not sure why she keeps em there, but let's just say that I made sure I wasn't too loud while walking by her desk :)