Saturday, May 16, 2009

Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye together, forever

OK, I'm old and I really enjoy old stuff. So if you're old, or you enjoy old stuff, enjoy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Back to Buffalo

Back to Buffalo to deal with some family issues there. I'll be back Saturday night, but there likely won't be any further posts until Sunday.

Now I can be disgusted with two Presidential administrations

After months of stonewalling, the Obama Treasury Department has finally responded to a Judicial Watch FOIA and released documents it once said did not exist. So much for transparency.

In the documents is the evidence of the ham-handed manipulation by the Bush Administration back in the fall that banks didn't have a choice about taking the TARP money, but that the government would not let them leave the room without their forced agreement to take our money, even when many said they didn't want it or need it.

It was outrageous then and it is even more outrageous now because as I predicted back then, the billions of dollars the government forced these banks to take has vanished into the ether.

And who was involved in both actions - the tax cheat Timothy Geithner.

"Change" - not so much in this area.

Paper Tiger No More on the Ann Arbor News last day

Jim Carty over on his blog has the news about the Ann Arbor News last day.

New from More future of newspapers...yawn has put up a story about a new study (these studies are where the money in journalism is today) of the fate of print journalism versus the online product.

The comments are good and blunt as well. The content czar's answer to one poster about the hiring of new AnnArbor journalists is one that any politician would love. Vague and non-committal.

When my friends from the Journal read the study conclusions they, like me, will recognize that the very people who are now embracing the study are the same ones who did exactly the opposite of what they should have when the opportunity was right to change things.

The biggest contradiction in all of this is the notion that is going to survive online only. Not true, the reason why they are printing a newspaper on a regular basis is to make money. The dirty little secret is that even the folks know the only way to still make money is to print a newspaper with ads to pay for the online operation.

Newspapers dead, not hardly.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Advance, Conde Nast face age discrimination suit

A salesman for Parade magazine is successful in his bid for the chance to sue Conde Nast, Advance.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Newhouses get kudos for pay cut plan

Inside Out has posted an interesting Poynter column about the progressive pay cuts at the Star-Ledger.

The danger of watching too much television

Watching the Channel 2 news in Detroit I was excited to see that someone has finally combined the two things they believe men like the most - football and lingerie - into a new "competitive" sport.

I predict a very short life to this, but it will receive a lot more publicity than it deserves. If you want a link to look at this, you'll have to search for it yourself.

Secondly, I was struck by a Viagra commercial that shows a couple taking a small speed boat named "" to a desert island where they wink at each other and head into a small native shack to, well, whatever. Just as the man enters the building, he looks back outside and closes a door curtain.

Besides the obvious innuendos in the commercial, why would you need to close a curtain on a desert island?

That's just the way my mind works.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A great post

Sometimes I read things that I wish that I had written. Such is the case with this post at Inside Out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Don't I know you, officer?

Last week I received a "Friends" request on Facebook from a man who was on the Flint Police Department special operations unit during my many years as the night police reporter. Of course, I added this man as a friend and immediately recalled one of the oddest nights of my police reporting career.

Before the Journal got all nervous and antsy (thank you, lawyers) about reporters riding along with police officers on duty, I spent many shifts, and parts of shifts, riding with both uniformed and plainclothes police officers.

Prostitution stings, drug stings, street corner drug enforcement and raids were a steady diet for me during those days. It worked to help me develop long lasting and deep sources within the department and was great fodder for stories in the paper.

This particular story that I recalled last week was a night that this officer, who happens to be African-American, another female officer, who happens to be white, invited me along to ride in the backseat of an unmarked police car while they played the decoy in an undercover drug operation.

In the early 1990s, street corner drug sales were common. Dope dealers hung around on corners waiting for customers to pull up and arrange a buy. The dope sellers were not so stupid to have the drugs on them, but would size up the customers (making sure they were not police) and then with a $20 bill in hand from the drive-up customers would head to a nearby house, purchase the crack and return to the car with the dope.

So that night, I showed up with my slacks, white shirt and tie, and took up the offer to sit in the back seat of a two-door Camaro (which had been seized from a drug dealer) and ride along to observe. First, the officers told me to lose the tie, which I did.

We drove around some of the worst neighborhoods of Flint and would drive up to the dealers. Once the transaction was made, other officers would swoop in, bust the street corner dealer and then get a warrant for the house that the drugs came from.

It was a summer night, it was still light (about 8 p.m.) when we pulled up to a gaunt young man standing on a corner. The male officer opened a conversation about purchasing some 'rock' and the verbal dance began. Most street corner dealers were hinky and knew the police were out there looking for them.

The dope dealer suddenly took a couple steps back and said, "I know you, you're a cop."

My life flashed before my eyes thinking we might all got shot. But the male officer kept as cool as my basement in winter and began arguing with the man that he was mistaken. He even got angry with the dealer for accusing him of being a police officer.

"I'm sure you are the guy who arrested me," the man protested. Again the officer argued, but came up with a slightly different explanation for the confusion.

"You may be thinking of my cousin, he's an officer and he looks a lot like me," the officer told the dealer. Slowly the argument turned in the officer's favor and the man changed his mind and agreed to purchase "our" crack cocaine.

As he left to purchase our drugs, the officer turned to me with a big smile and told me that the dealer was right, that the officer had arrested him just months earlier for the same thing.

"Why would he go ahead and buy drugs for you then?," I asked.

Because, the officer said, that his story about the cousin had confused the guy, he was a little high, and probably desperate to make a sale and get more drugs for himself.

Of course when he returned with the 'crack' we took off and the other officers moved in and arrested him. We returned as he was being handcuffed and he looked at the officer and with a small smile, said, "I knew you were a cop."

There are many memories like that and as they come to me, I'll put them here.

Next up: The drug raid where a man, in trying to hide in the attic, accidentally fell through the ceiling drywall as he tried to balance on the studs in the ceiling. His legs were hanging down in the living room the drug team (with me in tow) entered it. A Journal photographer was also with me for that one.

Frank Rich checks in on the future of journalism

If you're not a member of the New York Times, you may have to take a minute to register to get this article about the current state of journalism.

Obituaries by phone after June 1

The new editor of the Flint Journal has written (on the front page today, Sunday, May 10 - Happy Mother's Day, by the way) about how the paper will deal with the problem of getting obituary information to its readers on the four days it doesn't publish.

A lot of folks are concerned that if you die on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, no one will know you are dead, or know when the funeral and visitation is until you are buried. For people without Internet, this is a large concern.

The solution the three papers have come up with is to set up a phone line for people to call in and get the information on the non-print days. I guess you have to get on the phone and listen through a list of recently deceased people (Some days there are two dozen or more) to see if you know someone who has died. It sounds like they will give you some basic funeral or visitation info, but nothing else until the printed version.

I'm thinking this is a huge opportunity for some local weekly publisher who has access to a small press to work with local funeral homes to set up a small printed daily sheet that people could get by mail for a small fee. This would be just a three- or four-page newspaper related to deaths and memorials. Could be longer if you sold advertising in it (florists, churches, non-profits, etc.) and I'll bet it could make some money as well as perform a great service.

You could sell advertising for it, charge for the obituaries (less than the papers do now), get yourself a bulk mail permit and do it six days a week. Maybe you could even put some non-death related news in it if you had room (announcements, calendar, etc.). Hey, before you know it you'll have a six-day-a-week newspaper again.

The obituary paper would be printed each evening and mailed each morning to subscribers' homes. I know a lot of unemployed writers who would love a chance to get back to writing, even if it was full-time obituary work. (I loved writing obituaries, but I'm done with that business now).

And as long as they are at this, the funeral homes and a publisher could set up a companion website and folks would have two options in one place to easily find obituary and funeral information.

Someone should at least take a look at this. I don't think people want to get on a phone each day, four days a week, and listen through a long list of names on the slight chance they might hear a name they know.

Let's do a little brainstorming here and see if we can work something up.