Friday, June 19, 2009

Governor Strickland approves gambling, major cuts to help with budget ..

Governor Strickland's arms are probably pretty tired. I can only imagine how many scenarios he drew up in the last 24 hours before coming up with his plan. Facing a $3.2 billion budget deficit and only two weeks from the new budget taking hold..

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

Brian Williams' ties are haunting me

In the news game, appearance is always, always an issue. The women I work with (no names) face the daunting task of keeping track of their outfits, to ensure they don't wear the same outfit too often .. usually never more than once in a three-week period.

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!

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Phil Trexler's Tribe book great for Indians fans and Father's Day!

Book review

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

A return of television news to Akron .. sort of ..

Hard to believe it's been a year now since our last "Akron-Canton News" broadcast ended its seven-year run, and with this economy a traditional evening newscast for our area is a longshot at best.

Still . it's something that the area will always desire and deserve.

While the economy isn't cooperating, the opportunity for a newscast continues on-line .. and is taking strides to fill the void.

Lindsay McCoy, a Kent State grad and a former WKYC intern, is doing a great job with ANN's on-line news. The short broadcasts include a few news stories and even sports . .and it's all local. Lindsay is a solid young journalist who is really getting to know the area and the cast of characters that make up the Akron news scene.
Speaking from experience, filling the Akron TV news void ain't easy .. and Lindsay does almost all of it herself, including the camera, green screen, writing, editing, graphics, u name it.

Anyway .. check it out here .. and be sure to give Lindsay and ANN some feedback ..

Monday, June 15, 2009

Setting the record straight on my political contributions

No .. I did NOT contribute to Citizen For Akron's campaign to stop the recall of Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic. Contrary to what you're hearing on local talk radio, I didn't do it.

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

10 ways journalists can use social media to improve stories

As a television reporter/anchor, I use social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc.) as often as I used to dial the phone. In short, I use these tools all day long.

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:"

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

Akron Police stuck in middle, can't win in residency, recall battle

I've heard from so many police officers over the last week that I feel like I'm either being deputized or investigated.

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

Bob Serpentini is alive and well .. contrary to rumors

I've now gotten several emails from viewers who've heard that car dealer Bob Serpentini has flown the coop with a suitcase of cash and is now on a beach in a faraway country sipping drinks with little umbrellas.

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."

Saying goodbye to Abby .... and other items of note

It feels like Abby Ham just arrived at TV3 and now she's leaving again. This is her last week on the morning news, and then she'll be returning to her home state of Tennessee. She'll take over as morning anchor at our sister station, WBIR-TV, and be closer to her family. While we work opposite schedules, I've never seen Abby without a smile on her face in the newsroom. She'll certainly be missed.

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.