Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year! A little disco retro for your pleasure

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

As you can see the food diary is really working....

A2Politico weighs in with some ?? about

Wondering about the health of Well, so is, but the answers are few and far between.

Top 2009 journalism blogs

Someone has compiled their top 91 journalism blogs of 2009. A few that I had not seen before.

Your ESPN/FFE College Bowl game guide

As a service to FFE readers (and myself) I'm posting a link here to the ESPN past, current and future 2009-2010 college football bowl game schedule.

It includes the scores of the many bowl games already played.

Thank goodness for a new battery in the DISH remote.

If you are not into football, go to the AMC channel today. 24-hour Three Stooges marathon.

Washington Post reports on Washington Times downsizing

Not good news for many staff members at the Washington Times on Wednesday.

Even Mr. Spock got in the act back then

Here's a PSA or something done by Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), of Star Trek fame, about the coming Y2K disaster. Now all we have to worry about is the new 2012 "end-of-the-world" theory in two years.

My objection to all these media hypes, and where I agree with, is that all the "chicken little" stuff that the media does simply desensitizes people to the time that a real disaster may come.

Y2K: Nike had it right

Y2K: Overkill of all overkills

It seems impossible, but it was ten years ago tonight that the news business lost its collective mind.

(Update: For an opposing view go this blog)

Fueled by months of hype and ridiculous predictions, broadcast and print media tried to outdo each other with angles on the Y2K scare that in today's light seem cartoonish.

The Flint Journal was no exception. I bowed out. I'm not one for hype and I prefer to work the holidays alone. So I was not one of those who volunteered to man the newsroom to watch the end-of-the-world-as-we-knew-it story unfold.

The metro editor was not happy that I was skeptical of all his efforts to find more and more angles to this story. It seemed to me, rightly so as it turned out, that nothing was going to happen. That somehow the worst thing that might occur is that a clock or two might suddenly reset to 1900, but I was not among those who believed the power grid would fail, that the lights would go out in Georgia and everywhere else and that we would be plunged into World War III.

So while my wife and I enjoyed a night dining and dancing at the local American Legion Hall, many of my colleagues were gladly taking triple time pay to cover the end of the world.

One reporter was assigned to stay with a Lapeer County survivalist family in their underground, well-stocked bunker. The couple predicted they would be overrun by unprepared neighbors, but were ready to meet the assault with firearms and sturdy locks.

How silly it must have felt for them to crawl out the next morning with their neighbors snug in bed.

But there were reporters at City Hall, at the police department, and stationed throughout the county waiting for the predicted disaster that never came. What no one ever was willing to answer was the question of where the newspaper would be printed if the disaster the editors so anticipated actually happened.

My wife and I left the smokey Legion Hall early and watched Peter Jennings on ABC welcome in the new year from around the world, each hour on the hour. The reporters were almost disappointed to report that no problems, power outages, or riots had occurred anywhere.

When the clock rolled around to midnight here in the Eastern time zone, the lights stayed on, the computers and clocks still worked and Y2K fizzled like a wet firecracker.

I lifted a non-alcoholic beverage to my wife and toasted my good sense in staying home that night.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The latest reason why I detest both parties

Here is a New Yorks Times article on the back and forth between Republicans and Democrats over the latest terrorist incident on Christmas.

When it's a Republican who is to blame the Democrats howl. When a Democrat does something stupid (similar to what the Republican did) the Republicans howl.

The latest involves the incredibly stupid comment made by Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano during the news shows Sunday that the security "system worked." She and the President have been backtracking ever since, but the damage was done.

It worked only if "the system" is that terrorists will be interupted in flight by brave passengers. If "the system" is supposed to be keeping terrorists off airplanes, then it didn't work quite so well.

The comment drew comparisons to the situation during Katrina when President Bush commended FEMA's Mike Brown only to fire him two weeks later.

One could also make a comparison to President Bush staying on vacation and being criticized by Dems and President Obama spending his holiday on a golf course immediately after issuing a statement on a near homemade disaster in Detroit.

The Times article does a good job of taking apart the hypocrisy of both sides better than I could do, but it simply further explains why both parties are off my list.

As for my opinion, Napolitano deserves Mike Brown's fate, if for no other reason than to show that President Obama will not stand for incompetence in such an urgent area.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Buffalo being Buffalo

We have had incredible luck coming to Buffalo in the winter to visit the folks. But the last two winter trips have resulted in us being here for major snow storms. Well, not major in the Buffalo sense, but in our own sense.
Today we received 12-inches at the Buffalo Villa, but the road crews here are extremely efficient and our very good neighbor took care of the driveway while we were visiting mom at the nursing home.

Here's a couple photos, and yes, that is the Buffalo Villa in the background of one of them. More like a Chalet today.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Curious use of bylines in Bay City Times

Bay City Times Staff produces 2009 Fashion Moments List, except the note at the bottom shows a Washington Post credit. And this one.

LA Times story published under Bay City Times staff byline as well.

This came to me from a reader. It's a curious use of byline credit. Normally, a story taken from a news sydicate would be at the top of the story, not at the end. And putting a Bay City Times staff byline on it implies it was compiled by that paper.

Maybe just a mistake, but curious just the same.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Airplane terror attack, a frustrating lack of security

Going to the airport for Joan and I is always an adventure. Joan has a titanium knee and I have a common name that has me listed on the "terror watch list."

Because of my status we are unable to use the electronic check-in and because of Joan's knee there is always an extensive search at the TSA screening area.

We always plan on an extra hour to get us both through security.

Yet, despite all that a guy with an explosive device strapped to his body somehow gets through foreign security and tries to detonate the explosive on a plane near Detroit. And according to early reports is on the "terror watch list" just like me.

You have to wonder if this may have been an early attempt to try to thwart security measures that were inadvertently published on the Internet just a few weeks ago. That TSA security publication provided a complete road map to our country's security measures.

We are not being well served by the agencies that are paid billions to keep us safe. While our local Congress representatives score Homeland Security funds to buy fire trucks for rural fire departments far from the fight against terrorism, we have security lapses that leave you scratching your head.

Those agencies are going to have to ramp up their security when KSM is brought from Gitmo to stand trial and another 100 terrorists are brought to an Illinois prison.

How confident am I in our current security measures to protect us? Not very much.

Here's what I said on Facebook today:

"I hope the investigators in the Detroit airplane terror incident are careful not to hurt or deprive this Nigerian citizen of his hard earned American civil rights in an effort to find out if further attacks are planned over this busy holiday travel period. Wouldn't want to offend the young man or deprive him of his lawyer and right to remain silent. Glad he is getting the best free health care available."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mary did you know?

No offense Donny Osmond, I love Elin's version better, but I don't have a video so we'll use yours.

Come now hear the angels sing

O Holy Night!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas! It's a simple story

It really is this simple.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas was always an exciting time when I was a boy. Like most American children I anxiously waited, sometimes unable to sleep, sometimes up at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning to see what "Santa" had dropped off.

In 1966 and 1967 I spent Christmas at sea in the U.S. Navy, the first time I was not at home. It was a sad and lonely time filled with feelings of emptiness.

Later when I worked for two California police departments, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day often meant going to work, which also had a feeling of emptiness and being away from those you loved.

As a reporter, I often volunteered to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (Thanksgiving, too) so younger folks with families could stay home. (OK, the triple-time pay was a magnet as well).

The holiday murders and mayhem have a tendency to take the edge off the holiday however. (One Christmas Eve in Flint I covered a murder-suicide, a homicide and the next day another homicide).

So now that I am semi-retired and able to have these special days off, I truly appreciate them. It will be a quiet Christmas Day, just Joan and I, but we have some special visitors (John, Nicole and the two grandchildren, Addisen and newcomer Griffen) coming this afternoon for Christmas Eve dinner.

We miss our two sons, William and Timothy in California, and daughter, Elin, who is working in Boston. Granddaughter Brittany in California will also be missed. We will see our California children and grandchild in February, but we miss them all at this special time of year.

Our thoughts are also with those we lost this year, my brother, Mike, and Joan's Dad, Red. As much as holidays are a special happy time, they can be sad reminders of those not still with us.

My thoughts also turn to those standing the wall, those in the military, those serving in police deparments and fire departments who will be on watch for the rest of us on this special day. We thank those serving in ambulance companies and in hospitals, as well.

I hope you will stop for a moment and be grateful for their service to us and to our country. I know I already have. It's lonely on Christmas in a far off place and the least we can all do is stop and give them a thought.

For those on watch in patrol cars or in fire houses we also extend our thanks for their sacrifices.

As to the blog, I have a series of special YouTube videos on auto pilot going up tonight, but I encourage you to spend your time with family and friends and not here.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Straight No Chaser returns with new Christmas song

Straight No Chaser is back with the Christmas Can Can: hosts Santa

An inside look at the fancy lobby of is part of this Santa letter-writing contest event.

Maybe I'm not understanding the contest, but according to the story and photo slides only five children participated in a Santa letter writing contest?

Either the contest was very limited or is not reaching the young folks in the community. According to the participation was so limited they couldn't even hold a contest and instead awarded the grand prize to all five entrants.

That was nice of them, but someone in corporate must be wondering where all the people are?

When the Journal would sponsor holiday coloring contests, they were inundated with entries.

But it's not good to go against Santa, so Merry Christmas,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 The yawn continues

"A loyal reader" asked me to make my monthly visit to and give some thoughts on a minor redesign there.

So I stopped by today, top story is about the pay raises and freezes involving the U-M administration.

I guess I think the "Top Stories" lead box looks a little better than what was there, but the site continues to be as exciting as watching cement dry.

Wonder if they will let everyone know how the subscriptions to the new paper are going?

Basically the site remains a big yawn, at least for me.

Only after they are dead, though

Today there were several news stories about a new study that will be done in Boston on the brains of National Football League players.

The reporter added the following: "But only after they are dead."

Thank goodness for that.

Monday, December 21, 2009

New LED traffic lights save energy, not so much lives

The unintended consequence of using LED lights to save energy in traffic lights is having a down side, including the death of one woman.

I've got an idea, they could string some of those coiled heating units people use to melt snow on their roof and melt the ice that way. Might defeat the old energy savings realized by the LEDs though.

My science teacher wife laughs every time she hears people touting the new electric cars or hyrid vehicles. She points out that when you plug the car in to recharge the energy, that electricity has to be made somewhere, often with coal, oil and if you live in Buffalo the more earth friendly water turbines.

Of course, nuclear would be a cleaner solution for producing energy, but no one wants to talk about that any more.

We are one of those energy conserving homes with the new bulbs. I don't like the light they put out and from what I hear, if you break one you then have a mercury emergency to deal with.

Just to let you know, if I break one they'll be no hazmat situation, because I will brave the mercury spill, sweep up the mess and throw it into the garbage. I think the earth, and I, will survive.

Feeling a little sorry for my Dad, but not feeling bad about little snow here

My 80-something Dad has been pushing a lot of snow lately. He's in great shape, so I'm not too worried, but it is a little bit of irony that he is shoveling like a demon at his townhouse near Washington, D.C. and up here in Michigan, I haven't even started my snowblower yet this season. I'm not complaining, though.

Government Motors: When the bureaucrats take over marketing

Oh yeah, this proves that the government taking over GM was a really bad idea. Here's the new dance for the eco-friendly Chevrolet Volt. Makes you want to laugh, not buy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A whimpering death for 'old school' newspapering

(Update: I just re-read this piece after getting the first comment on it and decided to move it back to the top for the weekend. This was such a great look back and it prompted such a great comment I want folks to not miss this one. All my former Oakland Press and Flint Journal buddies will love this piece. Feel free to chime in with some of your great memories. There are some new posts below).

This is a great look, and good bye, to the newsrooms of old.

One of my favorite paragraphs in the whole story is this about newsroom bosses:

"Perhaps the prince of pranks was Jim Naughton, who in nearly 50 years moved from the Painesville, Ohio, Telegraph through the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer to the presidency of the Poynter Institute. "People who are always under pressure don't need bosses with whips," says Naughton, who once helped sneak a live camel into the Inquirer building. "They need bosses who understand the value of the collaborative spirit in a newsroom." That spirit drew "people who cared very much about what they did and its influence and impact on the life of the community."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ideology - why I don't buy it

Recently I've been engaged in a respectful online debate over global warming with a couple people I really like and admire. But it has helped me understand why I have never been, and never will be an ideological Republican or Democrat.

Except for my belief in Jesus and living a good and clean life, I'm really not sure about much else.

Ideological leftists and rightists never hold out the possibility that their opponents may have something to say. It is impossible for them to say, "I was wrong," or "that was wrong," or even "I could be wrong."

I was one who was convinced we should invade Iraq because of the presence of weapons of mass destruction. I was not alone, a lot of people on both sides of the divide agreed with that, including our current Secretary of State. But when it was proved they didn't exist, I didn't keep insisting they did. That was wrong. The premise was wrong, the intelligence was wrong and we invaded a country for a bogus reason. I still love our troops and all they do, I refuse to turn on them.

I'll listen to the argument that Iraq will be better off without Saddam, but that doesn't change the facts that the premise of the invasion was wrong. Facts are facts.

Recently, the global-warming-is-caused-by-humans scientists got caught by a bunch of e-mails that show that many of them, upset that their computer models were wrong and that the earth has actually cooled over the last number of years, decided to cover up, cook the books or stifle the opposition. That was wrong. People should say so. Science is not ideology. Revisionist history is not real history.
Not a whimper about the waste of carbon emissions used in flying gas guzzling limos to Copenhagen for use by the dignataries, most of whom fly by private jets to the summit. When all those environmentalists start walking to their next summit, I'll start to listen.
Let's not even start on all the cow manure that Al Gore has spewed over the years on the subject.

Like their friends on the far right, you don't hear the left admit that. They don't acknowledge they have a credibility crisis of their own. They move forward like nothing happened.

Republicans were ushered into office in 1994 based on their promise to bring back fiscal stability and values and then they spent 12 years spending like drunken sailors.

The Democrats promise to bring back civility, bipartisanship and transparency in 2006 and are swept into office only to do the opposite. A Congressional representative who didn't pay his taxes is put in charge of the committee that decides on them, just for one example.

As all of you know, I couldn't support either major Presidential party candidate last election, but President Obama who promised open doors, transparency and the end to pork barrel spending was elected only to allow the first spending bill he signed to be laden with the usual useless Congressional spending.

Now he is apparently poised to do that again with another spending bill weighted down with pork, for both sides, but mostly his.

The lock step nature of politics, ala the Republicans versus Arlen Specter and the Democrats versus Ben Nelson are another reason I detest the two parties. People are elected to represent their districts or states, not the party that carries their political label. There should be no punishment for voting your conscience.

I applaud those representatives, even if I don't agree with them, who go against their party when they believe it is the right thing to do. Not so much when their votes are purchased with millions and billions of my money and yours.

At lot of my friends detest Joe Lieberman, I celebrate him. I don't always agree with him either. An independent thinker is not necessarily a bad thing. I thought it was just desserts when the Democrats worked so hard to get him defeated in the Democratic primary in Rhode Island only to have him come back and thump their guy as an Independent.

My local Republican congressional representative, Candice Miller, is supposedly a good conservative, but yet touts her efforts to bring Homeland Security grants that buys fire engines for places like Otter Lake, which, last time I checked, is not a hot bed for Al Qaeda. It is that kind of stuff that drives me crazy.

Recently there is a hell bent effort to pass any kind of health care. Doesn't matter if anyone reads the bill, knows what's in it or if it really helps anyone. It just matters that something gets passed to save the enormous ego of our young President. From what I understand, and I'll freely admit I haven't read the bill, is that none of the good provisions even take effect for four or more years, although the taxes that support it begin next year.

This country sorely needs health care reform. It certainly needs a way for everyone to have access to health care, but all that is lost in this partisan effort to either pass, or defeat, anything proposed by the other side. In my opinion it is better to do it right, than fast.
And, by the way, what ever happend to the Prez's campaign promise that the health care debate and legislative process would be open, transparent and on C-SPAN. I keep looking on C-SPAN, but it's not there.

Removing a brutal dictator from power, developing alternative energy and conserving our precious earth resources and providing health care for all, are noble intentions.

Good intentions, whether on the left or right, do not make good policy, science or economics. I'm sick of the back and forth, the lack of courage to do the right thing or even the courtesy to admit when your side is wrong, or makes a mistake.

That's all I'm going to have to say on politics for awhile. Frankly, I'm sick of it. I'm sure you all can agree that is a good thing.

Flattery will get you no where (or is it nowhere?)

The latest comment rejected by me (one of less than 10 in two years):

"Cool blog. But I'd rather read more about....(and then a link to a website called "Asian Escorts").

Nice try, but this is why I use moderation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A warning about THE debt

Hopefully someone will start taking this seriously. Thanks to one of my readers for sending me this link to this story. The government cannot spend us into prosperity, but they can very easily spend us into disaster.

Congress just raised the debt limit again. Clearly, this is not sustainable and the quick fix will likekly lead to long range disaster.

The next time someone tells me that a government run health care "will save us money," I'm going to remind them that we got into $13 trillion in debt because we believed Republicans and Democrats about their estimates for Social Security, Medicare, a series of wars, the cost of prescription drug benefits, and on and on.

From all the past promises of "savings" our country ought to owe nothing by now. Instead we're swimming (maybe drowning) in an unsustainable debt. I've said this so many times it is now boring me, but it is immoral to keep adding to a debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay.

They are going to really be mad at us someday and I won't blame them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A funny video from the left

Most folks who visit here know I am very skeptical about the current plans to reform health care. Health care needs reform, but the way it is being done in Washington is, in my humble opinion, a joke. But has a pretty funny video about Joe Liebermann that I couldn't help but chuckle at.

The Booth strategy explained

A loyal FFE reader passed along a link to and Editor and Publisher story about the current strategy of trying to charge more for less. (Hat tip to Jan).

Good news, sort of?

Apparently not losing as much as you have been losing is good news.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gene Weingarten: Unfit to print

My father sent along by snail mail a very funny journalism column by the Washington Post's Gene Weingarten. Enjoy. It explodes the myth of liberal bias, well, maybe.

Warning: You may have to suffer through a very annoying advertisement, but eventually it disappears.

This one is worth a good chuckle as well.

A Twisted Sister Christmas

A pastor I know posted this on his Facebook. It is a little out there, but it is a version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" that I had never heard before. I've got some tamer and more traditional offerings planned for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Al Gore: An inconvenient spokesman

The inventor of the Internet and the subject of the book "A Love Story" has stepped into a big pile of global warming doo-doo with his latest exaggeration at the Nopenhagen, 'er Copenhagen, Summit.

Even the dire predicting, global warming supporting scientist quoted by Al Gore in a speech yesterday publicly blanched at the Gore prediction that the polar ice cap will completely disappear in five years.

Please note that Mr. Gore's office admitted that the figures of five years to the end of the polar ice cap were from a talk with the scientist "several years" ago. The "several years ago" comment from Gore's office makes the fact he used the figures even more puzzling.

Hopefully, this conference will end in a whimper of frustration and then we can all get on to the real work of cleaning up our environment and developing alternative energy without the chicken little, sky-is-falling nonesense that has become the global warming community.

There's clearly nothing wrong with developing green technology or in conserving the earth's resources, but we don't need to be scared into it with manipulated science or doomsday scenarios.

Propaganda is no more acceptable from the left than it is from the right.

Inside Out: More Advance news

The Inside Out blog has a couple new stories on the top management merry-go-round and some new buy out offers.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Warren Buffett chimes in on newspaper travails

Warren Buffett offers his opinion, which mirrors what many of the peons (me included) were saying ten years ago when the suits were telling us that free or not, we had to give our product away on the Internet.

Didn't make sense then, and makes less sense in hindsight. But what did we know, we were just reporters.

Two former Flint Journal editors, still in the company by the way, dismissed our opinions about giving away the product. Funny, we're gone and they're still there. Go figure.

This year's Red Wing pre-game video

I really like the new pre-game video that is shown at Joe Louis Arena before every Detroit Red Wings game.

Last year's was pretty good too! We always like to be in our seats in time to watch the videos.

George Carlin on the Environment: Adults only warning

I'm not embedding this George Carlin video on the blog because it violates my rules about profanity. However, if you can stand a few f-bombs, George sums up my feelings about the current panic over the environment in just seven minutes.

Carlin was one of the great thinkers of our time and while I disagreed sometimes with what he said, I always found it thought provoking.

So click on the link above, but only if you are prepared for the profanity. Hopefully, someone will play this video during coming global warming summits.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday Night Live: How the mighty have fallen

For the first time in ages I was up late enough to watch Saturday Night Live. We turned it off about half way through. It was horrible. Not just horrible, but embarrassingly horrible.

What has happened to the writers on that show? The only part that was halfway acceptable was the news portion, but the skits were as lame as I could ever imagine.

Maybe it will never regain its level of Belushi, Chase, Farrell, etc., but what I saw last night wouldn't survive most local cable access channels.

Here's a free script idea for SNL: Take any President Obama speech or any Republican or Democrat congressional representative giving a speech or conducting a hearing and simply run the sound track of one of the Peanuts television specials, but only play the noise that adults make when the speak.

"Waaah, waaah, wah, wah, waaaaaaaah, waaaaah." That's what all their hot air is starting to sound like to me.

I tried to listen to President Obama give one of his daily speeches (and he has a clear speech delivery) broadcast everywhere and it suddenly occurred to me that I had completely tuned out the message. The first thing that came to mind was the adults speaking on Peanuts. It was really startling how the rhetoric has become so repetitious that it just puts you to sleep.

Shorten up the speeches Prez, they are too long.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My current Facebook status

I posted my status today on Facebook and apparently some folks like it. Here's what I wrote:

"James is keeping a food diary at the request of his doctor. A small weight gain from my last checkup prompted the doctor to make me keep a record of what and when I eat anything. I know what he's going to be treating me for at my next visit: Writer's Cramp."

Actually, I find that having to write everything down has actually kept me from eating things that were bad for me. Because I find it very difficult to lie, I'm now passing up snacks that I would have eaten so I don't have to write it down.

I think I've invited the "Writer's Cramp" diet. I feel my first book coming on.

Sarah Palin vs. William Shatner

This was pretty funny last night. In case you missed it: (You'll have to sit through a short commercial to get to the clip)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two men kill three people, I get called a vulture

It's strange when old memories will pop up. This week I happened across a picture of a turkey vulture and it suddenly brought to mind a murder case I covered early in my career at the Oakland Press.

Before Rochester Hills was Rochester Hills it was Avon Township. One evening in July 1984, I monitored police scanner traffic that indicated a homicide had occurred at a home there. As more officers arrived it was apparent that this was pretty awful.

I drove to the scene and while watching the front of the house at one point a detective who I saw go into the house, emerged and vomited over the porch railing. That's when I knew it had to be pretty gory inside the house. It's pretty rare that a seasoned detective becomes nauseous at an accident or murder scene.

Later I learned that two men, high on drugs, booze or both, had been left home to party with a woman, her teenage daughter and a nine-year-old niece. At some point the murder frenzy began and all three females were stabbed to death. The nine-year-old was stabbed 27 times. Overkill in its purest form.

The two men took off after the triple homicide, but the husband, father and uncle of the three victims quickly provided detectives with names of the men he had left at home with his family and they were arrested.

Bill Fischer was a truck driver and Michael Kvam (I never forgot their names and check on their prison status at least once a year to make sure they serve every day of their life sentences) a young man that Fischer befriended. The links on their names will take you to a page with their photos and conviction information.

At their arraignment, a photographer and I staked out the back door of the courthouse so I could shout a question at the two men and the photographer could snap a photo. Members of Fischer and Kvam's family were also looking to see the two men and there was a brief confrontation between we and they.

At one point, a friend or family member of Bill Fischer shouted out to me and the photographer that we were "vultures." The irony of being called "vultures" by the family and friends of two men charged with killing a woman, her daughter and nine-year-old niece was not lost on the photographer or me.

This was the case that convinced a circuit court judge who had been opposed to the death penalty that in at least some cases it should be applied.

Just when you think Congress couldn't do something even dumber than it already has....

This today from a House subcommittee a plan to force college football into an annual championship playoff.

At least one Democrat had the intelligence to say this whole thing was ridiculous. Congress is so full of itself that we can only hope that they will recess for Christmas and not come back.

As I said on Facebook, it's probably time to retire the bald eagle as the national symbol and replace it with a whiny little baby in diapers or a big open hand waiting for "Obama money."

It's truly sad what is happening right now. Someone should ask these representatives to come home and face the out-of-work voters and find out how important a college playoff is to them.

My favorite quote in the story:

The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said, "We can walk and chew gum at the same time."

Can we take a poll on how the American people feel about that?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Editor & Publisher to shut down

It may be the ultimate sign of the newspaper times that Editor & Publisher, the publication that tracks and writes about the newspaper business, is itself a reported casualty of the newspaper doomsday.

Thanks to an anonymous poster for providing the link and information for this post.

Reminder: Harold McIntyre's funeral arrangements

The arrangements can be found in an earlier post. Former FJ photographer Jane Hale gave me permission to post a couple photos she took on Harold's last day at the Flint Journal.

It's cold here and I have the pictures to prove it

This is mainly for my friends and family who live in warm weather states. Coming home from a school assignment this afternoon I spotted some ice forming on a small lake near the road. Temperatures dropped like a stone today and right now are about 10-degrees outside. These ice formations on dead trees and dead weeds sometimes end up looking kind of cool. (Click on photos for a larger view)

A little updated news from the Oregonian

In September, the Oregonian, an Advance publication, announced a buyout offer and we know now that 43 people accepted the voluntary buyout.

Word is that another 30 to 40 folks face lay offs to meet the company's staffing goals. That is supposed to happen soon.

This is huge for the northwest region where the Oregonian is a huge news source.

Booth (West) planning big changes Feb. 5?

Folks at Booth properties on the westside of the State are bracing for February 5th, the date of expected "changes."

With the end of the lifetime job pledge, some folks are expecting the worst.

Already this week training to help the copy desk and design functions to be consolidated with the Grand Rapids Press has been going on. Staff at the Kalamazoo Gazette is less than half of the staff there just five years ago.

Named Michigan's "Newspaper of the Year" just this year, the paper's redesign will make it into a clone of the Grand Rapids Press. Most likely to ease its production.

Cookie cutter papers take less time for a small crew to put together, more like plugging items in and out depending on which area.

The Kalamazoo Gazette, which was named the Michigan News Association's Newspaper of the Year a few weeks/months ago, will take on the design of The Grand Rapids Press.

President Obama lovers will need to strap on a sense of humor for this one

A friend sent me this overnight. I believe it is photo shopped.

Dad adds a few more household hazard exposures

We father pointed out in an e-mail to me that I didn't explain all the household hazards that he was raised with.

Here in his own words:

"Finally, I omitted our playing with asbestos as children. It is a mineral that we'd get a hold of somewhere and play with it. The fibers were all loose. Let's see, I was also raised in a house filled with cigarette smokers. There were many times when a pall of smoke lay so think it was difficult to see across a room. Hasn't bothered me yet!"

What he didn't mention was that he is in his 80s. Imagine, lead toys, playing with mercury, general aviation pilot, second hand smoke, asbestos exposure and he's still here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Newspaper execs: "We're doing better we only lost 20 to 25 percent of our advertising"

This from Reflections of a Newsosaur.

A dangerous toy from my past forgotten

My father wrote in this morning to remind me that he purchased a 22-caliber, single shot rifle for my brother and I to shoot back in the 1950s. This obviously was in response to the toy safety item I wrote yesterday.

OK, it was not really a toy as the headline says, but my father taught us the safe way to use a gun and we had many wonderful hours of enjoyment with it.

The use of that rifle was strictly supervised by my father, but often involved "plinking," which was the shooting of green, plastic "army" men, jeeps and tanks in remote areas of a beach or field.

How I forgot that I don't know, but I do remember we never shot "American" army men, they were usually Germans and the occasional Japanese green, plastic army men. This was still a time in the shadow of World War II so I hope that's understandable, even if politically incorrect.

Green plastic men who were decapitated or left limbless by our "plinking" were given a proper disposal.

My father also remembered that he and his brothers often played with lead toys some that ended up in mouths. Dad has lived to a ripe old age and is reasonably sane, so it does not appear he suffered from any lead poisoning.

"Plinking," I believe is the sound of a 22-caliber bullet when it is fired.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Zhu Zhu pet gets reprieve, safe after all

I was relieved to hear today that the Zhu Zhu pet had gotten a clean bill of health from the government. The Zhu Zhu pet was on its way to a civil lethal injection after a do-gooder group discovered it had trace amounts of a metal that was supposedly going to hurt kids.

(Update: I received a comment to this story that included a website that the poster indicated was a contest for a free Zhu Zhu pet. Before posting that comment - and later rejecting the comment - I went to the website and it seemed a little odd to me so I did not post the comment on the concern that the website might not be safe for computer users. It is only about the fifth time I have had to reject a comment)

But the government (nice to know they have time for this) stepped in and said the Zhu Zhu pet met all government standards and was safe. The do-gooders now admit they used the wrong test.

My wife and I were just talking about how toy safety testing was done when we were kids. Well, actually toy safety testing wasn't done, we just had parents who decided whether we should, or should not have a certain toy.

I begged and pleaded for a b-b gun, but like the famous movie was told I couldn't have it because I could lose an eye. Parents were pretty good back then at deciding what toys were safe and which weren't.

Today, I guess we need the government to decide whether toys are good or bad.

It's a miracle I'm still alive based on what is considered toxic and dangerous today. As a kid my friends and I used to look for old or discarded mercury thermometers to break open so we could play with the mercury.

We used to shine up our dimes with the stuff using our bare hands. We would break up the beads of mercury and then put it all together again. Do that today and they'll clear your neighborhood, call out the fire department and the environmental clean-up company that employs the men in the moon suits and then bill you thousands of dollars for the clean-up.

Not ranting, just noting how things have changed. No one wants children harmed and if we can keep them safe good, but parents, in my opinion, are still the best arbiter of what is dangerous or safe for their children. But I do recognize some parents have slipped through the cracks.

I was kidding with my wife the other day that my father, a frequent visitor here, in today's world might be in big trouble for letting me ride on his lap and steer the car on some back street, without a seat belt.

My brother and I were spanked and although I can't say I liked it at the time, I'm a better man for it today.

Global climate change: Just to put your mind at ease

Are we heating up or cooling down? Here's a 1974 Time Magazine article that tried to scare us.

Here's my favorite paragraph from that story and the reason why I shut out the noise about the current global warming debate:

"Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth's surface could tip the climatic balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years."

That's what many scientists believed just 35 years ago. Pssst! Here's a little secret from me to you, they don't know what is happening. They are just guessing. I'm all for saving energy and recycling, etc., but don't do the scare stuff, it's silly. Remember Y2K? Another media scare that fizzled.

Besides I enjoy driving my gas guzzling Chevrolet Tahoe. When Al Gore gives up his private jet and energy inefficient home, I'll think about down sizing my travel mode.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Inside Out is back with some fresh Booth info, video

The Inside Out blog is back with some new stuff on editor changes on the Booth management merry-g0-round and a cute video "Copy Editor's lament." Stop over and check it out.

Funeral arrangements posted for Harold McIntyre

From Swanson Funeral Home

Harold McIntyre
(May 29, 1947 - December 4, 2009)

Guest Book Sign Guest Book Send Private Condolences
Send Flowers

Mr. Harold McIntyre-62, passed away Friday, December 4, 2009 at Brians House. Family and Friends will gather in the sanctuary of Second Friendship M.B.C., 6046 Clio Rd., Mt. Morris, on Monday, December 14, 2009 at 10:00 AM with services starting promptly at 11:00 AM, Pastor Rodney Williams, Officiating. Interment Great Lakes National Cemetery. He may be viewed on Sunday, December 13, 2009 at Swanson Funeral Home from 1-6PM.

Cover the Legislature: $15 an hour

A lot that is currently wrong with journalism can be found in this posting from Illinois.

Computer skills helpful (no mention of journalism skills, although it would be helpful if you understood the legislative process). Sheeesh. The comments are delicious too.

Thanks to Omar Sofradzija, a Facebook friend, for the link.

Pete Hamill on writing and newspapers has a good interview with Pete Hamill with lots of stuff about newspapers and their demise.

Pete talks about the "old" days in newspaper journalism and offers some opinions about the future. He makes a really good point about the eventual destruction of newspaper libraries and what that will mean to historians.

When I first started at the Journal it had a Class A newspaper library. While many of those files remain, I'm not sure what attention is being paid to its maintenance.

Here's a couple snippets I liked from the fairly long Q&A.

"The does not pay its writers. Tina Browns’ does pay its writers. You have to be paid because this is not a hobby. You have to keep that standard. You can’t ask grandpa to loan you money because you have to go to Afghanistan. I walked the picket line for that to continue. "

"I’m so concerned with morgues and libraries of the newspapers. I know from writing historical novels, one of the great sources is bound volumes (of newspapers). They tell you all the detail that historians don’t. How much was a pair of shoes. What did a guy pay to go to the ballpark in 1934 during the Depression. How many people where there? The detail, you could find in the morgues, the bound volumes that have the advertising. At the very least there ought to be grant money somewhere to scan every page of it."

Still no word on Harold's funeral

You can find a short notice here, so keep watching.

Health Care debate's open process: Not so much

"What I am convinced of is if we actually hope to pass universal health care this time around we have to bring Republicans and Democrats together," said Obama. "We have to have an open and transparent process so that the American people participate in the debate and see exactly what we're doing."

On another occasion during the campaign President Obama mentioned that C-SPAN would be in the room during the health care deliberations so the American public would be party to the "open" process.

Over the weekend, Obama met privately with Democrats only to strong arm health care.

I turned to C-SPAN and guess what, couldn't find the broadcast anywhere. I get that he has given up on Republicans to cooperate, but he could still invite C-SPAN to the meeting as he promised.

Predictably, this thing has turned into a giant "Let's Make A Deal" where hold out senators and congress representatives will demand their little pork to get their vote for a bill that does not provide universal health care coverage.

I am angry (again) at both parties for not seeking a real solution, but rather a stridently partisan one.

And if you believe that the bill proposed by Congress right now will somehow save us money, make sure you put cookies out for the big man in a red suit on Christmas Eve.

There are so many lies flying around (on both sides) about this process that it would be great if someone in the media would actually break it all down. Instead of reporting on the ball game, do a little of your own inside calculations and reporting and get to the truth.

Riiiight, now it's me that will have to leave cookies out for Santa.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

For Harold

This is for our departed friend, Harold McIntyre. This is "Il Silencio" trumpet solo that is a vague variation of "Taps" I had never heard before. In honor of Harold's military service I'm posting this here today. It may not be "Taps" but it is just as beautiful.

For some more information on the connection of "Il Silencio" to the more common military "Taps" I found this reference.

'I believe'

My friend Drew, who I have known since high school in La Crescenta, California, is a priest and sent these to me in an e-mail. I'm sure he got them from someone else, but I think all, or at least most of us can find hope, comfort and understanding in all of them.

I Believe

A Birth Certificate shows that we were born. A Death Certificate shows that we died. Pictures show that we lived! Have a seat . .. . Relax . . . And read this slowly.

I Believe... That just because two people argue, doesn't mean they don't love each other.
And just because they don't argue, doesn't mean they do love each other.

I Believe... That we don't have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

I Believe.... That no matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.

I Believe... That true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love.

I Believe.... That you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

I Believe... That it's taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

I Believe... That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I Believe.... That you can keep going long after you think you can't.

I Believe... That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I Believe.... That either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I Believe... That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I Believe... That money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I Believe... That my best friend and I can do anything, or nothing, and have the best time.

I Believe... That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you're down, will be the ones to help you get back up.

I Believe... That sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.

I Believe... That maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had, and what you've learned from them.....and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated.

I Believe... That it isn't always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I Believe... That no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn't stop for your grief.

I Believe... That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

I Believe... That you shouldn't be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life Forever.

I Believe... Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

I Believe... That your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don't even know you.

I Believe... That even when you think you have no more to give, if a friend cries out to you, you will find the strength to help.

I Believe... That credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

I Believe... That the people you care about most in life are taken from you too soon.

Here's a little more wisdom.

The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything.

Thank you God for all the wonderful people who help us throughout the journey of life. May Angels guard you and guide you.

Don't tell God how big your storm is, tell the storm how big your God is!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Harold McIntyre, RIP

Harold McIntyre, a former colleague at the Flint Journal, died today. Harold, I believe was in the second group of buy out employees (my group) and retired about the same time that I did.

I understand he had been ill in recent weeks, but don't know the details of how he died. (Sometime this afternoon another former FJ colleague sent me two additional photos of Harold, I thank him).

No one who worked with Harold will forget his kind and gentle nature and his always present smile during those years he worked the desk in the lobby of the Flint Journal.

According to his Facebook page (just now when I went to look up his page his picture flashed on my home page asking me to suggest friends for Harold) he was 64. He was married and had a daughter.

A few years ago he posed with me and several other military veterans for a photo of Flint Journal veterans, he could still get into his uniform (back row, second from the left).

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Swanson Funeral Home in Flint. When the arrangements and obituary are available I will post them here.

Three big huge, tragic and fiery inferno cliches in one day

Just had to vent about hearing several news cliches in one day on broadcasts.

No. 1: There have been several "fiery infernos in this neighborhood tonight." I guess that's in contrast to a non-fiery inferno.

No. 2: "Big, huge." in reference to Christmas sales. Which I guess is different from "small, huge."

No. 3: "A tragic murder." As opposed to the non-tragic ones. Only one worse is the "brutal murder" sticker put on by some reporters. Is there a murder that is not brutal?

And while I'm on the subject, the word tragic is often used incorrectly. Not finding a popular Christmas toy or even losing your home is not really tragic. Some things are horrible and awful, but if you walk away alive, it was probably not tragic. Nothing should be tragic unless someone loses a life.

When I hear more, I'll share again. If you are guilty of using these, in the name of all that is journalism, please stop.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Every newspaper journalist will love this cartoon

I'd love to post the cartoon right here on my blog, but the cartoonist sells them and I don't want to violate the copyright. But apparently the artist doesn't mind people stopping by to look so here is a link to a very apt cartoon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An inside view of the newly departed Detroit Daily Press

(Update: Just to be clear this column was written by James Briggs and is posted on his blog - link on headline. This was not written by Jim Smith the author of this blog. I agree that it is very well written and completely describes the love and passion we all have/had for the business. If you have direct comments for Mr. Briggs please head over to his blog and make them there.)

The Detroit Daily Press was fool's gold
by James Briggs

I’ll remember my week at the here-today-gone-tomorrow Detroit Daily Press as the week I didn’t see my wife.

Hired to cover the Lions and Red Wings for the Daily Press, I logged (well, that’s probably not the right word, since my hourly count held no relation to payment) about 80 hours, not counting the mandatory pro bono work prior to Nov. 19, and filed 14 articles. I was not scheduled for a day off at the time of the Daily Press’ demise.

Perhaps that should have been a clue that the Daily Press wouldn’t appear on anyone’s best-places-to-work list. But to the extent that I was responsible for the startup newspaper’s success, I reasoned, I’d take a paper route if the paper needed me to (apparently it did).

I received word via Facebook that the Daily Press had ceased publication on Friday, while I was at Ford Field for a high-school football state final. My initial reaction was not horror – that came later – but rather relief. I called my wife and told her I’d get to spend the rest of Thanksgiving weekend with her.

Daily Press photo editor Rodney Curtis expressed similar relief in his blog, saying:

It seems my family is happy to have me back. Even if I’m not adding money to the coffers. Christmas won’t be, how shall we say, overly extravagant this year but the crazy enigmatic smile on my daughter’s face when she heard the paper closed after only five days of publication said it all. There was good and bad in that smile. Mostly good though. She just didn’t want to overly show how gleeful she was that Mr. Grumpy Puss had gone into hibernation and possible extinction.

What went wrong with the Daily Press?
The most commonly cited reasons for the paper’s failure have been advertising (there wasn’t any) and distribution (ditto). Reporter Wendy Clem has written a piece suggesting intimidation from outside influences led to circulation problems.

She might be right. But even if she is, it doesn’t matter.
At the end of the day, the Daily Press arose with neither the technological nor human infrastructures in place to get the job done. The newspaper chewed up its staff like a piece of gum and spit it out when the flavor had subsided. I think the paper turned out well for five days, but we wouldn’t have had the stamina to keep it up.

You could argue these words come from a jilted employee, and you’d be right. Almost immediately after I gave up a job I liked at, the broken promises began. “Give your previous employer whatever they need” became “we need to be your priority now.” A promised five-day work week became a joke – the Daily Press couldn’t fill its sports section unless I worked from morning until, well, the next morning.

While I might sound angry at the newspaper, I’m not. I’m angry at myself in the same way you might get angry if you fell for a Nigerian scam. You knew it was too good to be true, but you let greed take over and wash away common sense.

You vividly remember the last possible moment you could have backed out, when all your analytical instincts were screaming at you to walk away, and you want that moment back. But you – I – didn’t listen, and the moment passed. Now, all that’s left is getting over the embarrassment and moving on.

When I first heard about the Detroit Daily Press, I said it had no chance. Yet, when the paper offered me a job, I drowned my logic and dove for the scam. All of us who came on board made up reasons to believe this newspaper somehow would persist when all evidence suggested the battle was hopeless.

That’s how it is when you’re addicted to something. And I’m more convinced than ever that print journalism is a drug for those who love it.

Some of my colleagues remain hooked on the drug, believing the presses will roll again in January. But the Daily Press isn’t coming back. If you can’t sell advertising the week of Thanksgiving, how will you do it in January, the worst month of the year in terms of newspaper revenue?

The Detroit Daily Press was fool’s gold for dozens of people clinging to the hope that newspapers could still succeed in these-here hills, long after the hills had proved barren.

I gave up a job and poured every ounce of energy into dredging up that fantasy, and walked away with a check for $344 and the promise of another soon-to-come check.

On the plus side, I suppose that’s more than anyone ever recouped from a Nigerian scam.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A bedtime fairy tale: Once Upon a Time there was the Detroit Daily Press

It was understandably upsetting to staff members of the Detroit Daily Press that the experiment lasted less than a week.

But a former staffer, Wendy Clem, has written a fairy tale about what was behind the collapse of the venture.

I'm not going to go line-by-line, but I'm sure that any prudent printer would have demanded cash up front (most do for new customers). Printing a newspaper involves a huge investment of paper (not cheap) and labor so you certainly couldn't fault a printer for wanting money up front for printing.

From what I understand the issue with distributing the newspapers at CVS involved the refusal (or ignorance) of the DDP in knowing they would have to put a universal code on each product.

So I read Wendy's tome with an air of understanding that it must have hurt to put all that time in and have it collapse so quickly, but her assertions of a big media "mafia" is absurd. The paper collapsed because it was not well financed and not well planned.

And her other assertion that all employees have been paid is bunk. I know one of them and so far, no check.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A good column on the current state of journalism

Michael Gerson of the Washington Post has some decent thoughts on the current state of journalism and newspapers.

More Tiger nonsense from my Dad

My father's mind is in overdrive (pun intended) over the Tiger Woods accident.

"Thinking of Woods as the professional golfer he is, I wonder when he drove out of his driveway, did he swerve to the left taking out the fire hydrant and hitting the tree? This would be classified as a hook, something he does frequently with drives on the golf course. Maybe he swerved to the right and created a slice?"

"It is apparent to me that Tiger has awesome talent in driving golf balls, driving a car is an entirely another matter!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let's hope no one pays White House party crashers a dime

Celebrity in today's America is a fleeting thing. People want it so badly they will pretend their small child hitched a ride on a weather balloon, will make people eat disgusting bugs and most recently bring an uninvited couple to a State Dinner at the White House.

Now comes word that the White House party crashers are shopping around their story to various networks.

A pox on the news company (and you know someone will find a way to pay these idiots) that sacrifices its ethics for a one-time spike in ratings.

There's a lot wrong with this story, especially the appalling lack of security for the President and his guests, but rewarding these two for this hoax would be the topper.

The biggest punishment for this couple would be the agreement by all news outlets that the couple's name is never used in any future stories. Now that would be punishment.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tiger Woods 'caught' driving an Escalade

My father, one of the best copy editors ever, picked up this little detail in all the inane coverage of Tiger Wood's little accident in Florida. I know it's news, but this has been headlining the news, come on.

Anyway my father points out that after years of taking millions to promote Buick, the news is reporting that he wrecked in an Escalade. Still American, but not much loyalty to a brand that brought him lots of dough.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Detroit Daily Press suspends publication, vows to start up again

Gotta wonder what kind of plan, or lack thereof, the owners and managers of the Detroit Daily Press had that caused them to close up shop after just five days.

As I mentioned previously there was great hope and optimism for this venture, but clearly starting a print newspaper at this time is like shoveling sand against the tide.

Although the announcement said the closing was due to "circumstances beyond our control" that rings a little hollow because the original launch had already been delayed for months.

If I had a guess I suspect they were trying to put this together without risking a lot of money up front. That probably meant employees working for free, printers hoping for payment and truck drivers anxious to get paid.

Frankly, if you can't put together an advertising package the week of the start of Christmas shopping, there is little hope of making a go of it after the first of the year, which is the new supposed start date of the paper.

I wouldn't hold my breath that we will ever see another copy of the Detroit Daily Press. Too bad as many good people were hoping for a second chance at journalism.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


It has been a tough year. On the first day of the year, my younger brother Michael died. In April, Joan's mother had a severe stroke and in July, her father died. We have also lost other family and friends this year.

Today we will be visiting Joan's mother and eating a special Thanksgiving in her new home, Father Baker Nursing Home in Orchard Park, New York. Despite all that has happened this past 11 months we remain thankful for the many blessings we have and continue to receive.

We both are in good health. We are both retired (me, sort of) and we have been blessed with four great children, William, Timothy, John and Elin. In recent years we have added a daughter-in-law, Nicole and three grandchildren, Brittany, Addisen and just this October, Griffen, our first grandson.

We thank God for all the blessings we enjoy and we also are very thankful for our many, many wonderful friends and family.

So today, this will be the only posting, with a wish that anyone passing by and reading today will stop and give thanks for the blessings in their lives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Heard on the TV news

On the local Buffalo news tonight (yes, we are back in Buffalo) the anchor teased the 11 p.m. newscast with the following.

"A Buffalo Police officer was forced to dodge two bullets tonight....."

Oh, really? That will come news to a lot of police officers that you can actually "dodge" bullets.

There's a saying in police work: "You never hear the bullet that hits you." Only in movies can you duck and dodge bullets.

Geography by Americans

Found this on Facebook and loved it. I think it was Jon Stewart who said that it was wars that taught Americans geography. (Click to enlarge map above)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Detroit News on the Detroit Daily Press

Here's the Detroit News article on the Detroit Daily Press. Also don't you love the new advertising gimmick of putting links to ads (the ones in this article lead to a Staples ad) inside the editorial copy?

This kind of stupidity is available only in newspapers

Right on the heels of my stupid holiday stories comes this from the Detroit Free Press via the Associated Press.

Only an editor desperate to fill space would have thought this a worthy story for a holiday week.

Let's do the logic. If you are close enough to a person to kiss them on the cheek, you are likely close enough to spread a virus to them whether or not you kiss them on the cheek or mouth. Or, perish the thought, shake their hands! All this, and I'm not even a doctor.

You can't walk 10-feet anymore without some hand sanitizer dispenser available to rub on your hands.

We all need to get a grip. This hysteria over viruses is stupid, in my humble opinion of course. Want to avoid getting a virus, stay home, avoid contact with all people, never leave your house and use hand sanitizer hourly.

Otherwise, get out, meet people, kiss them on the mouth and cheek and, yes, maybe get sick, develop an immunity and live your life. I think I heard my mother tell me once that when one kid got chicken pox the mothers would have a "party" bring all the children together so they would get the disease and get it behind them.

We are raising a generation of weenies.

And just in case you meet me sometime soon, I'm still sneezing into my hands, can't get into that blowing snot and spit into my sleeve thing. (Besides, according to the article in the Free Press they want everyone to touch you on your upper arm or shoulder instead of shaking hands. They need to get their sneezing etiquette straight.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tis' the season for Santa's helper to come early

Anytime soon, we should start to see the annual river of Christmas news cliches.

Look for the lede "Christmas came early for (insert name of lucky person/family/agency) when...(insert name of benevolent or lucky act).

Or "Tis the season for (Christmas thieves to prey on shoppers/for car thefts at the mall/or name your favorite Christmas malady).

And finally, there will be a story or two how a Good Samaritan became a "Santa" to some poor unfortunate family or individual.

Also, sometime this week, some person or family will be saved from some tragic, or less than tragic event and the story lede will include something like this:

The Smith family will have something to really be thankful for when they sit down to their Thanksgiving table Thursday.....

Seasonal news cliches are the worse and they make an appearance every year starting about now. I'd love you to share those that you find or add your own favorite seasonal cliches here.

We've all done them, although after a few years of doing them you realize they are not only tired, but really bad writing.

Perhaps my favorite revenge on an editor came back in the 1980s when I was given my third straight Thanksgiving Day story to write. One year I interviewed a Native American family about how they celebrated Thanksgiving (a really bad assignment from an editor). Another year I did something about what some prominent leaders were thankful for (presumably their undeserved re-elections). But finally when I was told at the last minute to come up with my third straight Thanksgiving Day story I got my revenge.

Another reporter had failed to produce a Thanksgiving Day story and the editor turned to me on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and told me to come up with something for Thanksgiving Day. So I found a local turkey farmer and talked to him about turkeys and then wrote a first person story from the point of view of the turkey.

I handed the story in just before I left about 4 p.m. Wednesday and the editor thought it was the worse thing she had ever seen. It may have been one of the worst stories I ever wrote, but I avoided any further such assignments when Thanksgiving rolled around the next year. Bad, or not, the story ran on Page 1 the next day. There was a paper to fill, after all.

Our only consolation in writing those trite stories was the realization that most people only picked up the Thanksgiving Day newspaper for the pile of sales advertisements and that few would actually read the trite little stories we wrote for those days.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Volunteer journalists, the new wave

Liz Vozz who has done some good work chronicling the new world of journalism has this from yesterday. It's about how many out-of-work writers are working for free. It mirrors a little the post I put up yesterday about blogging.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two years and still blogging

It's hard to believe, but it has been two years to the day that I started "Free From Editors" with this post. On December 1st it will be a full two years that I retired from the reporting job I truly loved.

For me, and most writers, we have to write. It's not an option, it's how we breathe and live. So whether or not I get paid for it, I will always have a desire to write. Some people like talking on the phone, others like to sit on a bar stool and talk, but for a writer there is simply only one satisfying, and sometimes frustrating outlet, and that is at a keyboard.

Most writers knew from early on that writing was in their blood. My stepdaughter Elin has a gift and I hope she continues pursuing it. I'm the lucky one who gets to read the chapter proofs of her novel.

Most newspaper reporters will get what I'm going to talk about next.

While some people have a gift for writing, others of us, me included, have to work at that part. I liked writing, but it was work. Finding the right word, phrase, or proper organization was always difficult for me. For others it came easy.

Others have a different gift, the one that endears you to sources, gets them to tell you things they are not supposed to tell you and then lead you to others who will flesh out a story. If I had a gift, it was in this area. People found it easy to tell me things and they trusted me to tell it honestly and straight.

While I sometimes failed, it was not because I didn't try. And I proudly can say I never betrayed a confidence, not even to a demanding editor. I have scrapped stories rather than reveal a source, even to my editor. I always felt a promise, was a promise.

When certain editors demanded I give them source cellphone or contact phone numbers, I ignored them. I didn't tell them I was ignoring them, but I did ignore them. I wasn't sharing those hard won numbers with anyone.

Good editors didn't ask, the bad ones weren't smart enough to figure out that the numbers that I did supply them were the same numbers they could have gotten themselves - out of a phone book.

The dirty little secret is that reporters are often lone wolves, which is an apt description on a number of levels, and good editors honored them by turning them loose to hunt. Bad editors tried - and mostly failed - to domesticate and leash them, which is frankly impossible.

So while I admit to pretending to go along with some editor stupidity during my last few years, I did so just to survive and when I was out of eye and earshot, I returned to the wild.

This blog has had a pretty narrow focus, although I occasionally stray into non-journalism areas, and therefore a pretty narrow readership, about 22,000 different individuals have stopped by.

On any given day there will be between 350-500 people stopping by to check in. On my highest day, the day last March I broke the news about the Flint Journal, Bay City Times and Saginaw News dumping the daily product for the three-day-a-week product, more than 2,000 individuals stopped by during a 24-hour period.

Ultimately, this is my blog and so far it has earned me $29.42 in ad revenue and nothing else. But it has kept me writing and for that I'm grateful. To the extent that some of you enjoy the blog, I get pleasure from that. And thanks to all of you for stopping by and being part of the conversation, even when it was to disagree.

Hopefully, we'll keep on, keeping on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mammogram decision just the first for rationed medical care

So a government panel now says routine mammograms are not necessary for women 40-49.

My late mother, who died at 59 after a 15-year battle with breast cancer would completely disagree if she were still around to hear the news.

So this is how the government will save money for its managed government health program. It will just scale back life-saving tests and procedures.

The only reason my mother had a few extra years was the early diagnosis of her breast cancer about 1972.

Before the onset of the beloved government health care option we're already seeing that the government can't deliver enough flu vaccine and now this insane advice to women. Stay tuned, it will only get worse.

Detroit Daily Press: How to subscribe

If you live in the three county Metropolitan Detroit area the Detroit Daily Press will deliver a daily newspaper - 7 days a week (what a concept) - beginning November 30. To subscribe go here.

I'm hoping they have a strong start and build on it.

A satirical look at "distracted" pilots

A loyal FFE reader sent me the link to this. Enjoy

Monday, November 16, 2009 offers free Internet, comfy couches

Made my monthly stop over on and found out they now have free Internet and comfy couches available. Apparently, it has been slow so far. The comments on the article are pretty brutal.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Something light for the weekend. Thoughts to ponder

A friend sent me these thoughts to ponder (with my comments in bold italic):

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer's history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong. (Maybe my favorite of the whole bunch)

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet? (A pet peeve of mine too)

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. Map Quest needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories. (True fact)

11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day. (Never happened to me ;) - Riiiiight!)

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again. (Whats Blue Ray?)

13.. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to the ten-page paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

14. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this -- ever. (Guilty)

15. I hate it when I miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello? Damn it!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

17. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call. (I don't do this)

18. My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day "Dad what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the hell do I respond to that?

19. I think the freezer deserves a light as well..

20. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with a Budweiser than Kay.

It's official: Detroit Daily Press debuts November 23

A couple very familiar names among those hired. I knew one for several weeks, but couldn't say. Crain's has a story from the press conference today.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Media got shooting info wrong, again: Editor and Publisher

Editor and Publisher has a pretty harsh criticism of the coverage of the Fort Hood shootings last week.

First the uncorrected (for hours) report that the shooter had been killed and then the complete refresh of the information crediting the woman police officer with shooting the suspect when it was actually an African-American police officer.

The E&P article hints at a possible racial reason (the woman police officer was white) for the mistake, I really think E&P has gone over the edge on this one.

Clearly, news organizations were relying on military reports in the early hours and the blame for the misinformation falls to the the military. It is highly unlikely reporters had access to the scene or any of the witnesses in those early hours so it is hard to fault the media for quoting military sources for the info.

New Detroit Daily Press close to hitting the streets

Editor and Publisher is announcing a press conference for tomorrow, Friday, November 13th, for some important new information about the launch of The Detroit Daily Press.

I know one of the reporters hired for the new paper and he's a great choice to begin the nucleus of a reporting staff.

While it might seem a little like shoveling sand against the tide to start a daily paper when so many are going the other way, I have to admit I really, really want this to work. If the new owners believe they can make a living with a daily product with a 150,000 readership, I don't think that will be hard to reach.

Anyway, I love people who take on a great challenge and I wish them well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you veterans!

Today is the day that we honor veterans. My father, a World War II veteran, wrote to me this morning that his plans for this day are to get his ears roto-rootered so he can hear again. He is shunning the free meal offerings, but I want him to know that I and others appreciate his World War II service.

As readers of this blog will know it has been a sad year for me, my younger brother Mike, a Vietnam veteran, died on New Year's Day. My father-in-law Red, a member of the 75th Division in World War II died July 7th and my former father-in-law Walt, a member of the Army's 10th Mountain Division, died in October.

My uncle Bill, a World War II veteran died in 2008, and my stepfather Ray, a Navy pilot in World War II, died about 20 years ago.

In reality, I might not be here today except for the connection my grandmother, Ethel Tyson, and grandfather, Ray Smith, made at an Army base in Battle Creek, Michigan where my grandfather was stationed during World War I. I know he was a sergeant and don't know if he was headed to Europe at some point, but from what I understand he never left the States.

I could be wrong about this, and I'm sure my father will correct me if I am, but family lore has it that Ethel and Ray met at a dance at or near the base somewhere around 1918. The rest as they say is history.

So this day has special meaning for me. My father reminded me in an e-mail this morning that he recalled that during Vietnam when my brother and I returned home from our service there that we avoided wearing our uniform off the base because of the nasty reaction we got from folks. (We lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is not known for its patriotic fervor). People held veterans in disdain in those days. When I went back to college, I avoided mentioning my service so as not to complicate my studies and grades with very liberal professors.

I'm grateful that the country has reached out to veterans, even when they disagree with the war the military service people are serving in. It is right to honor their service today and to say "Thank You."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Old friends, wasted talent

Was conversing online with a former colleague who is also recently out of a newspaper job. After I disconnected and had a chance to think, it seems so sad and wasteful that so many talented people (and I'm not talking about myself here because I would have been retired now and there are plenty more talented people than me) floating around out there without a beat to cover.

Politicians and others who need serious watching must be reveling in the thought that the field is now open for them to play their games with only a small chance of being caught.

Many of the folks left behind in the business are more than capable and talented of doing the work, but with so few of them I can't help but believe a lot is going to go unreported.

With some of our difficult family issues starting to settle a little, I hope to start back at looking at my former career and the careers of others and live up to the title of this blog and start writing again.