Thursday, October 29, 2009

Matt Patrick to announce retirement from local radio

Update: Matt said this morning his not retiring, and that he'll be back (sounds a bit like the Terminator) some day, somewhere. His statement and the audio are both on-line now. Wishing you all the best Matt!

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.

I'm told that Matt will make the announcement at 7:45 a.m. and that his final WKDD broadcast will be Dec. 18.

To say the least, anyone 40 and under in this town doesn't know local radio without Matt at the microphone.

I remember listening to him in grade school, wanting to be him in high school, and being relieved to hear his voice when I returned from Iraq .. as a sign that "wow, if I hear Matt's voice, I must really be home." Matt and I have had some great laughs over the years, including his willingness to play along with my April Fool's Day blog posting that Led Zeppelin would be playing a concert at the U of A's new football stadium. Matt's also been a great friend to Childrens Hospital as the heart and soul of its annual Radiothon fundraiser. I have an old cassette tape with Matt and B.A. doing "Wheel of Meat" .. back when they were the "waking crew."

I haven't had a chance to talk with Matt yet about the big move .. or his future plans .. but I'm sure he'll share some of that on Friday. I'm also not sure what this means to his conservative talk show on WHLO, but Matt will surely address that when he's ready too.

And regardless of which station is your favorite .. or whether or not you were a regular listener .. Matt is one of the guys (and voices) we all know .. and he's been part of Akron's community personality .. he's our Matt .. and that's not easy to replace. Make sure you listen ..

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fire Fighter apologizes to Mayor Plusquellic

It didn't take a beer with President Obama .. but Mayor Plusquellic and a fire fighter have kissed and made up. Sort of.

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

Odds and Ends on a Thursday

Scribbles in my notes ...

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

Akron's cell phone paparazzi has been active for some time

A dirty secret that's now going public in the developing story of Mayor Plusquellic's drive home early Sunday morning has been going on for quite some time.

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

Matt Patrick out from Akron Parade .. and other odds and ends

A holiday tradition is coming to an end. Matt Patrick will no longer be the host of the City of Akron's "Welcome Santa" Parade.

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."