Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Clapton, Zeppelin to open University of Akron stadium with a bang!

Let me be the first to utter phrase "Zeppelin in Zipville" although I'm sure others will make a humorous comparisons about Zeppelin taking on a blimp.

The announcement is coming early next week, but I've learned that rock legends Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin will christen Akron's new football stadium with back-to-back concerts on Sept. 11th and 12th. The two icons of Rock are making Akron the second stop on their "Better off Dead" tour .. which looks to be a blockbuster in the world of music.

Clapton's Friday night show will be followed by the Akron Zips home opener Saturday afternoon .. and then Led Zeppelin's performance later on Saturday night.

A separate ticket is needed for each event, but package deals are in the works.

The announcement has been kept hush-hush this week so as not to take anything away from the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame's induction week ceremonies.

If you want to know whom to thank, look no further than Matt Patrick. Akron's radio king reportedly played pool with Plant some years ago, and invited him to come to Akron and play a gig.

Plant said he'd only come if Akron had at least 30-thousand seats to sell .. so when the U of A got its new stadium in place, Patrick called Plant telling him to pay up.

No word yet on opening groups, but it would be a lock to have Akron's Chrissie Hynde take part in some way.

Most of the other details are being withheld, although I understand Bob Dyer has the exclusive coming up Sunday in the Akron Beacon Journal. He's sure to come up with some better humor than mine.

Remember you heard it here first! On with the show!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Vintage TV23

Mark Williamson uploaded this to Facebook, where it's getting a lot of great play. I first saw it when Jim Kaimbrich was saying goodbye to the Akron news scene, and for those who had the chance to work with these two at WAKC, you'll enjoy it.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

LeBron on 60 minutes this Sunday!

It was only a matter of time. You'll recognize the background as St. Vincent-St. Mary's gym. The teaser is pretty good ..

Watch CBS Videos Online

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Carole and Monica .. two of the best!

I'm sad to say goodbye to Carole Sullivan, a great friend and colleague, who is leaving next week to follow her husband to San Diego. (Mike Sullivan left the Browns for an assistant coaching position with the Chargers)

I felt like Carole and I were really finding a "groove" in our on air roles as an anchor team .. so it's tough to let her go. More importantly, this is the bet move for Carole and her family .. so I wish her the best. I'll really miss our afternoon chats .. and how many laughs we had in the makeup area before the shows. Plus, if only the viewers could have seen how many times Carole spilled her makeup on the floor during the news each night .. hilarious!

The good news for me is that Monica Robins will take over the seat next to me beginning April 6th. Monica is as good as it gets in this business. She's a great writer and journalist .. and really knows how to tell a compelling story. Her medical stories are among the best work our station has done in years.

Monica and I have worked together for more than 10 years .. and we've actually anchored together more than Carole and me. We've always gotten along great .. and I'm really looking forward to teaming with her every night.

Monica and I are quite similar in our demeanor .. both serious journalists who wise-crack with sarcasm .. so we'll have to push one another to "lighten up" on the air. If you didn't already know it, Monica is dynamic singer ... who could walk away with American Idol if she wanted to .. so I suppose I could bring my acoustic guitar to work and we could put on a show if the news runs short some night (kidding).

I'll soon be moving my desk .. from my spot next to Carole .. to an open desk next to Monica .. so that we can work together on the 7 p.m. broadcast. The computer folks here at the station tell me that the new work station isn't wired for the work I need to do ... but .. once they go home, I have a feeling I can find a "creative" solution to those wires .. stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The "New Homeless" aren't on street corners, so were are they?

I'm beginning a new series of stories I'm dubbing "The New Homeless".

I'm looking to feature families that have lost their homes and are now living in relatives' homes, shelters, their cars, churches, etc ... wherever they now hang their hats.

Seems everyone is chattering things like "I hear people are living in tents now .." or "Some guy and his kids are now living in a car ..." but where are these people? And who are they? And is this really happening in our area? How do we know they all didn't just take jobs out of state and move?

If you .. or a family or person you know .. fit the description of "The New Homeless" ... let me know .. and if enough people are willing to share their stories, I think we'll be able to put a real face on this issue ... instead of just another map of foreclosed homes or a list of job losses.

Drop me an e-mail ... ericmansfield@wkyc.com

Hoping you can help .. Eric

Thursday, March 19, 2009

News organizations struggling with Donte Stallworth revelation

Right now .. new organizations across NE Ohio, including our news leaders here at WKYC, are struggling and discussing how to handle a story that broke a few hours ago in Miami. News organizations there are quoting unidentified sources that Donte Stallworth was over the legal limit when he hit and killed a pedestrian.

Other organizations .. including Ohio.com .. have now picked up the story, which includes a reference to "unconfirmed reports".

The Miami Herald's story seems to have the most attribution (and home video of Stallworth taking a sobriety test) but still can't attach the blood-alcohol tests to a person.

No attribution = no story. At least, that's the way it used to be.

Police might confirm more in the coming hours, but as of this writing, it seems the race-to-be-first is beating the race-to-be-right .. and I guess I'm just as bad for writing it myself .. although a blog generates more latitude and I'm trying to generate discussion here.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tom Haley's words still ring to me today

Tom Haley passed away this morning after a two-week bout with pneumonia. Tom was 88.

Viewers will remember Tom from his long run with Del Donahoo as a morning show team in the 80's and early 90's .. long before early morning news programs became all the rage. My grandmother, Jeanne Mansfield, never missed a show.

Here's a look back from our 50th anniversary show .. a few years ago.

Tom was one of the first people I met at TV3. I was pretty young, just 25, and pretty overwhelmed to be working for a big station. When you're new at this business, you watch and re-watch every liveshot and pick yourself apart looking at the good and bad .. looking to improve .. and over-analyzing everything.

Tom saw me one time looking at last night's liveshot and shaking my head because I had stumbled. I'll never forget that he leaned down and said softly, "don't worry about it kid. Viewers like it when you mess up because it makes you appear human."

To this day .. I still hear Tom Haley's words when I have a big flub on the air. It helps me shake off a mistake and keep on trucking.

I had opportunity to fill in for Del a few times .. and sit in on the morning fun with Tom. He was a riot. He really had a wit that was engaging, and he would have so much fun reading the prices of the morning commodities .. like bacon and eggs. For a serious news guy like me, it was a great eye-opening experience to just sit there and relax and help the viewers wake up.

Tom would always tell me about his seven daughters, and he'd ask me how my kids were growing. He was always very genuine and caring.

I haven't seen Tom in a few years ... with my busy career and Tom enjoying retirement, we just hadn't crossed paths. I'd hear every now and then that Tom had stopped in. Thinking back, there were times I saw Tom at the station Christmas party. He always had a smile and was always curious at how the business was progressing since he'd left.

Now .. we're missing him .. and I'm realizing that I missed out on catching up with him.

Tom .. thanks for making a great impression .. and for being genuine ... I miss you already.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Odds and ends on a Monday

Last week's "Project AED" series really ate me up .. and didn't allow much time to write .. but here's a few things I'm hearing and/or observing.

The All-American Soap Box Derby is having serious financial problems -- again. I'm told that the traditional post-race awards ceremony is being moved from EJ Thomas Hall to the Soap Box Derby track. EJ charged the derby $13K for the venue last year. EJ had been a great way to end the event for the hundreds of families and racers who spent the entire week (and a lot of money too) in Akron. Now, that's changing. I'm told that this year's AASBD awards will be held right on the track with parents sitting in the stands -- the same place they will have just spent hours in the sun watching racing all day. I realize it's the reality when it comes to the finances of today, but do we really want hundreds of families leaving Akron with their final impression being one of sitting on the bleachers in the sun .. instead of a nice, air-conditioned venue? The lack of a major national sponsor gets much of the blame, but the reality is that each year we get closer to losing the race, which brings millions of $$ to town.

Both sides of the Akron Mayoral recall effort are really starting to get on my last nerve. Each has a website and a Facebook presence, and each is sending out daily notes about their campaigns. I can only imagine how much stronger this will get as the weeks progress, especially if it does indeed make it to the ballot. On Friday's edition of NewsNight Akron, I predicted both sides will turn on the media before this ever gets to election day. I suspect each side will accuse the media of not digging in to the other side to get the real story. Call it a hunch.

It figures that the U of A makes the "big dance" the spring after the Akron-Canton News goes off the air. Just my luck.

I can't believe how many phone calls and emails I've received from AED manufactures and distributors following last week's series. Many began their correspondence offering support and tips, but most eventually came around to trying to position themselves to be interviewed or quoted for the series. I know there's a business side of AEDs, but it just wasn't our focus with this series.

Last week's long lines at a job fair in Independence was quite a sight. There may have been as many as 1,000 people .. many standing in the rain .. just to get a soggy resume into the hands of folks who already had a stack of them. Very tough looks on many of the job hunters' faces. I saw some job seekers spread out on the floor writing their name on applications. Employers were hardly impressed. I saw others who were turning on the charm -- even after a depressing hour in the rain -- to make sure they made the best impression possible. But to be honest, there's nothing that makes a person more appreciative of their employment than seeing others out of work.

Yesterday's ABJ sports page photo of the Zips clinching victory was a poor choice. Rather that put up a color photo of the team with the trophy or a player celebrating their first MAC title (pictures that were included inside the section in black-and-white), the ABJ gave us a color photo of a Brent McKnight reaching his hand up in the air looking out of control as he puts up a shot. Don't the sports folks realize that these are the types of sections that readers save for history? The kind students and faculty like to frame on their walls? Their on-line gallery of photos is great .. with a great many better photos from which to choose.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Project AED checks status of defibrillators across NE Ohio

I'm very proud that Project AED is kicking off today as our newsroom takes a critical look at where these life-saving devices really are.

Here's a preview of our project's goal:

I'll write more later, but for now, if you've ever wanted to see how easy it is to save a life, this video is for you:

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

140+ let go at Akron General

Akron General let go of more than two percent of its work force today. I'm already getting emails and calls from stunned employees who are out of work.

Did you see this coming?

Here's an excerpt from one employee who kept a job but says staffers are calling it "Bloody Friday" even though it's Tuesday:

"Everyone is shocked, worried, and scared. We heard it was going to happen, but thought they were rumors because the date kept changing. It's not all at once. They are calling in one by one. The rumor was only part time and on call positions, but full-time employees are being laid off too.

They shut down Pastoral care and diabetes center. I've run across people laid off in housekeeping, dietary, dietitians, and maintenance too.

They are passing out papers to employees who didn't lose their job. It says: 'Unfortunately, we have come to a point where we have no choice but to reduce our staff. Today, directors and supervisors will be meeting with 142 of our employees to let them know that they will be laid off. All these employees will receive priority rehiring throughout the Akron General Health systems as opp. become avail.... more information at our upcoming town hall meeting sched to start the week of March 16th. any question please contact H.R. at 330-344-1891'

Employees who lost their job are given blue papers and sent to H.R."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Romona Robinson shares why she loves what she does

Hope you had a chance to see today's article about Romona Robinson in the PD. If not, you can read it here.

The interviews were done a few weeks ago, and I wasn't sure when the article would actually reach print.

I can tell you this much, Romona is quite focused every night on preparing for the broadcast. We've had several heart-to-heart talks about the tough stories before they make air, and I really hope viewers "get" how much the rough stories -- like last week's mass shooting -- really impact those who cover the news, to include the anchor who must deliver it.

The PD put some of the interview on video, although the newsroom is sure to give reporter Mike O'Mara grief because he's in so many of the photos :)

Channel 3's anchor Romona Robinson goes solo on evening news

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mass shooting in Cleveland challenges the senses .. and the vocabulary

Standing on West 89th Street last night in Cleveland, I really struggled to find the right words to describe it. To describe the emotion of the moment while wrapping the facts so that viewers understood the bottom line -- a manhunt was underway for a killer.

Journalists, especially broadcast journalists, use words like "tragic", "brutal", and "horrific" so often that when a story with six people shot, including murdered children, words like those don't seem to strong enough.

What I saw and felt were two extremes. Complete silence in some parts of the neighborhood where residents, relatives, and first responders all seemed to be coping with the initial shock of a family disaster. Meanwhile, other pockets of the street were painful as a new relative or close friends showed up every few minutes .. and then began to wail .. all of it right in front of the mob of media.

What's O.K. to record? What's not? What's legally O.K. to record but ethically a no-non? Is it ever O.K. to hit the red button on someone's devastation?

I had several flashbacks while I was out there last night .. both to my time in the war ... and to my own brother's murder in 1984. The feeling of a warm night, mass tension, helicopters circling, and the constant presence of heavily-armed warriors -- in this case police officers -- who were focused on a mission took me right back to the desert. Meanwhile, the pain and shock that relatives and friends were enduring standing in a dark street .. while surrounded by on-lookers, neighbors, and reporters ... certainly had me contrasting this night with the relatives, friends, and neighbors who stood outside a North Akron house in 1984 as the police and coroner handled the shooting that claimed my brother.

As the scene developed last night, a fellow journalist told me that he "hoped that bastard gets what's coming to him" when talking about Devon Crawford, the suspect who was now on the run. Many of us who were there last night have children, so to cover an event where the loss of life includes kids affects us. It should affect us, shouldn't it?

Just before my 11 p.m. liveshot, a man approached me to ask if I knew the names of the victims. He said that he had just heard about Crawford being on the run and that Crawford had recently married his daughter. He must have thought I was a detective (in my long black coat and tie, I'm often confused for a detective at crime scenes) and he thought I'd have the info. I told him he probably needed to head down the street to the officers to get the info he needed. About 45 minutes later, he came back and told us that his daughter and grandchildren were dead and that he was headed to the hospital for a grandson who survived. He was calm and composed .. still very not believing that this was real.

So .. weighing it all .. my mind raced. How do I find the words for a TV liveshot? How do I find the right way to explain to the viewers what's happened. Do I begin with the death toll? or the manhunt? Do I focus on details about the victims? or the suspect?

A few minutes before ER ended on NBC, I really didn't know what I was going to say when Romona tossed out to me to start the 11 p.m. broadcast. I had a few bullet points of the basic facts, but phrasing it was a whole different challenge. Our two-minute segment went well, but I probably couldn't do it again if I tried -- at least not in the same way.

And when the 11 p.m. news ended ... and I'd done my job .. I wish I could tell you that I felt some level of satisfaction, because I didn't. I just felt numb. I guess the one thing I've learned in this business is that no matter how good or bad of a job I do in telling a one-night story like this, someone else is beginning the lifetime journey of making sense of this overwhelming loss.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Local veteran, wife need help getting jobs .. can you help this Marine or our other new veterans?

First Energy layoffs top 300 .. 250 others "reassigned" ..

The official word from First Energy is 335, and about half of those jobs are in Akron.

That hurts. Those are real families with real needs, and it's not like there's jobs waiting here in town for them.

Those who are "safe" aren't necessarily feeling that way. Relieved? Probably. Not safe.

A source tells me that 250+ others have been "reassigned" with no relocation or pay cut. Another 25 were given "offers" that include a pay cut and/or reassignment ... which could lead to severance.

I'm told that FE didn't waste time getting right to the point with each employee so they knew where they stood. By mid-morning, conference calls were in play across the company so everyone knew the score.

As one employee told me, "it was definitely more humane than what happened at the PD."

Question is .. is FE done? What is it that didn't happen in the economy that felt it needed cuts like these? Are people not paying their electric bills? Using less power?


First Energy Layoffs could top 1,000

We should know more in the next two hours as to how bloody it's gotten at First Energy.

Today was rumored to be "black Tuesday" with major layoffs coming, and that appears to have happened.

One worker tells me that 156 employees have been let go in the Energy and Delivery sector. Not sure how many of those jobs are local.

Others tell me that the company line seems to be a 10 percent cut across the board, which would mean about 1,400 employees being let go, but none is confirmed yet. Another told me that the layoffs might be capped in the "low hundreds."

Again, nothing announced publicly yet.

Last week, a company spokesman would only confirm that a restructuring was underway and that employees "would be the first to know." That was last week .. leaving employees to have a great many sleepless nights over the weekend.

This morning, a FE spokeswoman told AkronNewsNow that a formal release is due out later today with all of the specifics.

It just hurts so much to even write that another major employer is cutting a significant amount of jobs.

Stay tuned.