Friday, June 26, 2009

Some lenders balk at JRC bankruptcy plan

From the blog Fading to Black: Large bonuses and a gift fund for some suppliers and not others have some debtors complaining about a proposed bankruptcy settlement for Journal Register Co.

Part of the Pontiac Police Michael Jackson photo

I've looked everywhere for the photo and video of Michael Jackson and the Pontiac Police Department. Finally found this small portion of the photo. The part with my former wife in it has been cropped. She would have been to MJ's right, I believe one or two officers over.

Interestingly, the photo does include a photo (second row middle) of former Pontiac Police Lt. Ray Hawks, who later became police chief in Capac and who was badly wounded in a shooting a year or so ago.

Update: July 8, 2009: My former wife has forwarded me the Life magazine photo that includes her (second to Michael's right and second to the left as you view the photos. She told me she still has the sunglasses she and the other officers received for doing the photo.)

Beginning of a new series on Detroit journalism

The first of a five-part series on journalism in the Detroit Metropolitan Area appeared Thursday in a Crain's publication or section called "Detroit Make It Here."

I was interviewed back in April for this series, but don't know if, or when, my comments will appear. It looks like the series is scheduled for every Thursday for the next 4-5 weeks.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hey, one more Michael Jackson connection of mine

The Flint Journal just posted a story that was another Michael Jackson related story I covered way, long ago. I remember this story because a source tipped me off to it and I spent some time out at the old State Police Post (Corunna Road and I-75) covering the theft of a Michael Jackson glove.

Here's the current story on the Flint Journal site.

As it has come back to me, I did the initial story, but I believe it was the day shift cop reporter at the time, Paul, who got the interview with the "thief." (Update - 8:55 p.m.: A commenter on the Flint Journal story said the young man who stole the glove has been dead for 10 years.)

This was one of those bizarre stories that I just loved to write. Thank you Flint Journal for reminding me of that old story. I had long forgotten it.

A crass look at the news cycle

One of the things that always fascinated me as a reporter and member of the media was the news cycle.

Things can turn on a dime. It's days like today that I remember in the global news sense.

Editors and producers planning the 6 p.m. newscasts probably spent all day planning the big splash story of the day: Gov. Sanford of South Carolina admits affair heads to the beach with his family.

You have to know that reporters had been scrambled all over South Carolina and Argentina putting together huge coverage of the scandal. Secondarily, you have the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. In the parlance of the news business, a great news day.

Then just minutes before the 6 p.m. news, Michael Jackson is stricken with a heart attack and dies right on deadline for the shows.

Scrap all but a 2-minute catch up segment at the end of the NBC news broadcast and fill the first 15 minutes with Michael Jackson news. A brief snippet on Farrah Fawcett and just tad, if anything, on Ed McMahon.

It's enough to make a guy miss the news business.

Michael Jackson: Gone at 50

As I blogged about previously, one of my assignments at the Oakland Press was handling part of the coverage for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" tour in the 1980s.

It would be hard to overestimate the cultural phenomenon that the concert was at the time.

I remember going to the Silverdome almost every day for several days as they assembled this behemoth of a set on the floor of the stadium.

My second wife, a Pontiac police officer, had her picture taken with Michael along with a number of police officers during a shoot of a clip of Michael and the officers for an MTV video. I don't remember what song it was for, but it was a famous clip of Michael being escorted by dozens of police officers with sunglasses down a flight of stairs.

After the tour left town there was the bizarre news conference in Michael's Troy (I think it was Troy) hotel room and the manager pointing out a glob of hair gel on the wall, supposedly belonging to the pop star.

I remember watching Michael as a little kid with the Jackson Five and then, like the rest of us, watched as his life turned into a train wreck. Hard to say I'm stunned by the news, but terribly sad nonetheless.

Doesn't help that it happened so close to the death of Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon, two other favorites from the past.

We always used to say in the newsroom that celebrity deaths came in threes, but this sure is an example of that old saw.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Editor and Publisher talks about cutting publication days

A good read with lessons for newspapers who drop publication days and lean on their online sites in Editor and Publisher.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WaPo ticks off the paying customers

The NY Times has a story on some anger by the paying subscribers of the Washington Post upset that a major feature story was only published on the Post's online site.

You have to wonder if there isn't a death wish out there.

Thanks to Fading to Black for this story.

Story of my life in song

This is the story of my life put into song. All us 'older' folks will relate.

Christian Science Monitor talks about bulldozing Flint

My stepdaughter sent along a story out of the Christian Science Monitor (online) about the bulldozing of Flint.

In the Christian Science story they credit/blame Dan Kildee for the idea. But last week everyone was all over Rush Limbaugh for suggesting it. What gives?

It's either a good idea, or it is not, but would someone straighten out who the idea actually belongs to.

Dan Kildee, a great county treasurer, I believe had the idea to clear out pockets of bad homes in Flint and create some pleasurable green space. I'm giving the credit to Dan.

Poynteronline posts Ann Arbor News column

A reader sent me this link from the PoynterOnline site via my e-mail. Interesting read. I have a few quarrels with it, but still interesting.

U.S. Open Champ Lucas Glover commits to Buick Open, no mention on MLive

(Update: Finally on the Flint Journal page at 8:12 p.m.)

One of the biggest annual events covered by the Flint Journal is the Buick Open. The Free Press picked up this news today about U.S. Open Champion Lucas Glover committing to play the Grand Blanc tourney, but it still has not appeared on the Flint Journal MLive site as of 4 p.m.

If you go down the site and click on a little golf link (cute, eh?) it will take you to a Grand Rapids story about Glover, but nothing on the local site.

Thought for the Day: Iran

This is what I shared on Facebook this morning. This thought came to me in the middle of the night.

How much trouble would Iran's mullahs be in today if their country had a second amendment.

Just sayin'

Monday, June 22, 2009

The deck chairs continue the rearrangement

News that Paul Keep, editor of the Muskegon Chronicle is moving over to the Grand Rapids Press and some other folks are moving to Muskegon.

Here's the Grand Rapids story.

This will open up a whole new page of comics for Paul to work on.

Booth employees seek outside, part-time employment

The idea of reporters working second jobs has always been a little dicey. There were always strict prohibitions on the type and extent of outside second employment for newspaper employees.

Now with the extreme slashes in income, for some outside employment is a requirement to put food on the table and maintain mortgages and rent.

Recently I ran into a former Booth employee who remains in touch with those inside and said a number of employees have found outside secondary employment or are actively seeking it.

First, it will be interesting to see if editors have been impacted in such a way that they will need to seek outside employment, shared sacrifice and all.

Secondly, how much leeway will Booth make for employees on schedules or on waiving former rules about working for certain employers now that they have made it necessary for employees to seek outside employment?

Maybe sports reporters could work as football referees and cover the game? A little double dip.

But when people are trying to keep the wolf away from the door, is it fair for the landlord to prohibit the use of a weapon in doing that?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Comment moderation policy at off to slow start

(Update Monday, June 22: Most of the final exchanges listed here have been removed. If is going to enforce a moderation policy after the fact, they will need to spend the money to have 24/7 coverage so that the posts won't remain up more than a few seconds.)

The new moderation policy at is not exactly off to a stellar beginning. Here is the latest give and take between two posters on a line about thie hiring of digital journalists. It's easier to prevent this type of give and take if you hold the comments in moderation and then review them before they go up.

Masters Sullivan in June 19, 2009 3:15 PM

They look like real people to me...

Jenny in June 19, 2009 3:56 PM
Good move hiring David Jesse.

Brit Satchwell in June 19, 2009 4:02 PM

Mr. Jesse's hiring will provide the community with continuity in local education reporting. Nice to know that AA will have somebody already familiar with the local trails as our journalistic edu-guide. Great also that .com was able to retain Ms. Reed (same reasons).

Katrina in June 19, 2009 7:29 PM

Ms. Reed's work will be a valuable asset to your new initiative. What beat will she be covering?
Amalie Nash in June 19, 2009 7:41 PM

Thanks – we think Tina will be a great asset, too. She'll be covering health and the environment for
Amalie Nash, News Director

Jake in June 19, 2009 8:35 PM

Smart to put the woman's info/photo at the bottom this time. Best to avoid the wrath of the feminists.

Dave Poulson in June 20, 2009 8:22 AM

Nice to see Tina Reed covering the most important beat at this news organization. Her drive, skill, curiosity and the fact that she gets digital media will transcend any friction of being a Spartan in Wolverine country.

Tony Dearing in June 20, 2009 4:44 PM

Wenalway and Wenalway'sBane, we want to give people plenty of latitude here, but when we have two people going after each other with a string of personal attacks that have nothing to do with the post they're commenting on, we'll remove that. We've taken down your comments. We ask that your future comments be directed at the post you are discussing.

Wenalway in June 20, 2009 11:50 PM

And Victory No. 1 goes to the anonymous person making a personal attack as a response. There will be many, many more, I suspect.
As long as you moderate that way, people can get the removal of any comment they disagree with.
Might want to revisit that policy, there, sport.

Wenalway'sBane in June 21, 2009 9:27 AM

David and Tina are indeed talented journalists. I live in Washtenaw Couny, unlike some of the other posters here, so I know their work and am interested in what happens with It's nice to see the discussion focus on them instead of seeing anonymous rants on the evils of feminism (!?). I hope such moderation continues. It would result not in the removal of any comment that generates disagreement, but in the removal of any comment that is pointlessly insulting and completly off topic.

Wenalway in June 21, 2009 2:07 PM

The brilliant moderation continues.
I predict a rapid decline if this continues. Now anyone knows all they have to do is come up with a personal insult, and any post they disagree with can be removed.
Weak. Very weak. But what else should we expect from people who embrace fools like Patrick Thornton?

Wenalway'sBane in June 21, 2009 2:55 PM

It is my hope that sensible moderation will force the "trolls" to spew their bile elsewhere -- some other place that they haven't already been banned from, that is. It would be nice if could become a place for people to converse about the topics at hand, rather than a forum for people to vent their completely off-topic vitriol. It is my hope that Mr. Dearing will Google "wenalway" and/or "rknil," if he hasn't already, to gain some insight into what he's dealing with and to see how some other blog sites have coped with Mr. Knilands.

Wenalway in June 21, 2009 3:25 PM

Again, we have an anonymous poster who wants to name people but doesn't want to name himself. There's a word for that: Cowardly.

Wenalway in June 21, 2009 3:30 PM

Also, I inadvertently reneged on my pledge to restore previously deleted material every time an anonymous clown is allowed to make a personal attack.
Journalism feminists = people who are too cowardly (much like this clown) to address real issues, so they concentrate on acting like unprofessional shrews in the workplace.

Wenalway'sBane in June 21, 2009 4:40 PM

To recap, I made a personal attack on no one.
1.) I expressed admiration for David and Tina.
2.) I voiced support for moderation that would remove vicious, off-topic rants.
3.) And I pointed out, indirectly, that moderation on other Web sites has led to bans on comments from Mr. Knilands, who happens to live nowhere near Washtenaw County.

Wenalway in June 21, 2009 4:48 PM

Your name itself is an insult. Your continuing need to try to sound smart by naming people and citing entirely unrelated incidents while hiding behind anonymity shows what a truly tiny, pathetic person you are.
Sign with a name, coward, or continue to be insulted.
Also, to continue with my pledge of restoring deleted material every time an anonymous jackass is allowed to post an insult:
Journalism feminists: Often destructive to their organizations. They should be treated as the poor performers they are.

Wenalway in June 21, 2009 5:15 PM

I am sorry if I offended anyone. I didn't mean what I said. Sorry.

Wenalway in June 21, 2009 5:22 PM

And now the clones begin...

My first week at the Flint Journal was nearly my last

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s a night police beat shift at the Flint Journal could be an adventure. Almost 20 years ago tonight was one of the most interesting of my career.

I had barely warmed the seat at my desk in June 1989 when my first eventful Friday night police shift arrived. In fact, it was my very first Friday night police reporting shift at the Journal.
In those days a Friday night shift began at 6 p.m. and went until 2 a.m. We could get breaking news into the paper until about 1:45 a.m. The presses rolled about 2 a.m. Usually there was one reporter that worked the 3-11 shift and then I was by myself until 2 a.m.

On this first Friday, there was a serious car accident at Thompson Road and U.S. 23 about 5:30 p.m. I learned about the accident with my first run through the police phone list that night. A young child had been critically injured and complicating the injury was the fact the family was the member of a religious group that did not believe in blood transfusions, which the child desperately needed.

There was a large religious convention at the Pontiac Silverdome for this group and the family was on their way back to a hotel for the night when the accident happened. I think it was the Jehovah's Witnesses, but can't remember for sure.

As a new Journal reporter, I had very few sources in the police department or hospital, but I did the best I could to start piecing together a wrenching story on the fight to get this child treatment.

From the police I learned that a judge was being summoned from home to hold an emergency session to issue an order directing the hospital to provide a blood transfusion. I wanted to talk to the parents at the hospital, but Hurley Hospital on a Friday night, as I learned very quickly that night, could be a wild and crazy place.

Hurley is a place that in the late 1980s the Army assigned its surgeons to for practice in dealing with gunshot wounds. Gunshot wounds were a nightly occurrence.

What happened next was a factor of my previous experiences at a Pontiac hospital where I had spent hours in my 5-year stint with the Oakland Press dealing with similar emergency trauma situations. In those days I developed a great relationship with one of the greatest ER doctors I ever met. The doctor, who died a few years ago in a traffic accident, was a great resource and help to police officers and reporters in the days before HIPPA privacy laws.

One night in Pontiac, I was covering the homicide of a young man and responded to the hospital late at night to see what I could find and add to the story there. I ran into Dr. A and we chatted for a moment and I asked him how many times the victim had been shot.

"I don't know, but let's find out," he said. I followed him into a room, filled with equipment, and the man was laying there with tubes coming out of him and the doctor, with me looking on, counted the bullet homes, making sure he was only counting entrance wounds. I honestly can't remember today how many holes there were, but it was a lot.

So in relating my Hurley story it is important that you understand that my previous hospital experience was one of wide open access.

So back to June 1989 and Hurley Hospital.

After I had confirmed the court order requiring treatment I headed to Hurley to find the family, if I could. These are always difficult stories because you are intruding on people at a very traumatic time.

When people get upset with reporters for this intrusions, I simply ask folks that if something like this was happening to you or your family would you at least want the opportunity to weigh in with your version of the events, or not. In trying to tell both sides of a story, you should at least try to reach both sides. People are often mad at reporters for NOT calling them to verify or get their side of an issue or event when they could have.

Once at the hospital, I entered the emergency room waiting area and was asking folks there if they were friends or family of the injured child. A hospital security guard came over and asked me who I was looking for, and I told him.

I made the assumption he knew who I was because I was carrying a notebook and wearing Flint Journal identification. This is where the confusion began.

The security guard said the family is in another room and told me to follow him. We walked down a hall and into a room where a doctor was talking to the family and when I entered, the doctor asked who I was and I identified myself as a reporter from the Journal. Before I could explain what I wanted, all heck broke loose.

"Get him out of here," the doctor yelled at the security guard. The next thing I knew I was getting the bum's rush by several security guards who made sure I not only left the emergency room, but that I drove off the property.

Whether the family ever knew what I was doing or what my intentions were, I'll never know. They were from out-of-state and I was never able to contact them. Sadly, the child died that night even with the treatment.

Back at the office, I finished up the story about the dramatic events of the accident and court hearing (we didn't learn about the death the next day, as I recall) and filed my story. All this in my first four hours of my first Friday night shift in Flint.

About 11 p.m., the scanner blurted out with a call of a possible dead woman in a lot on the north side of Flint. Checking the location on a large newsroom map, I headed up Martin Luther King Drive to the location of the lot.

I'm not even close to the location of the dead woman when I can't help but notice two men about a block north of me, one on the west side of MLK and the other on the east side of MLK near a convenience store near Ninth Avenue exchanging shots at each other across the street.

I stopped my car, did a U-turn and headed the other direction. In those days we had a car phone (which came in its own suitcase) and I drove a safe distance and called police to tell them about the two men shooting at each other.

Then taking an alternate route, I proceeded to the location of where the dead woman was supposed to be. What my memory can not seem to recall is whether the call of the dead woman was unfounded or if that was another story I wrote that night. I vaguely recall that there was a homicide.

The sight of two men exchanging shots (nothing ever came of that either) had completely dominated my memory of that night. I do remember arriving at the scene where the dead woman was supposed to be and telling a couple police officers about what I witnessed at Ninth and King.

It was the reaction of those officers that let me know I was in a special place. They barely nodded and just shrugged over my report.

When I returned to work on Monday afternoon, the editor called me into his office. He had been called by the public relations department of Hurley Hospital with a complaint about my 'trespassing' on hospital grounds and ambushing the family.

As my career flashed before my eyes, the editor listened to my version of events, my history of contacts at the Pontiac hospital and then told me I did nothing wrong and that he would take care of it. I let out a big sign and it was the last I heard of the hospital complaint.

Later that day I also was cornered by the religion writer who complained that I had poached on her beat and that I should have called her with the information and let her do the story. I explained, successfully I think, that it was only my first week and I really wasn't aware of who covered what. Besides, I didn't think anyone would have wanted to be called in on a Friday night.

So at the end of my first week I had nearly gotten arrested for trespassing at a local hospital, had a serious complaint filed against me for my reporting and witnessed a shooting. What had I gotten myself into?

Another memorable Friday night recollection was hearing some scanner traffic right at 2 a.m. as I was preparing to leave work on a Saturday morning. The report was of a roll over accident at First and Grand Traverse.

I told the night editor that I would check on it on my way home and would call him with some notes to leave for the Saturday reporter as it was past deadline for the Saturday paper.

The accident scene was literally a 30-second drive from the Flint Journal and when I got there I was the first one there, even before the police. The person who called it in (possibly a drunk driver who didn't want to be around when police arrived) had driven off.

Rolled over on its top, there was steam coming from under the hood. Two men were trapped in the car and another man had been thrown from the vehicle. I went over to the man who was outside the car and put my hand on his back, he was barely breathing. It must have been cold because I remember seeing his faint breath.

Until police arrived, I just kept my hand on his back so perhaps he would at least know someone was with him. One of the men in the car was already dead I later found out, the man I stayed with died at the hospital a short time later. The other man presumably recovered.

On my way home, I called the night editor, related the details as I knew them (leaving out the part about me putting my hand on the man's back) so that the Saturday reporter could follow up the next day.

Skip the networks for news, go to Twitter,

You have to wonder if television news will go the way of newspapers with the instantaneous possibilities of local coverage by Twitter, social net works and blogs. I've been keeping up on the minute by minute protests in Iran through a blog and Twitter.

'persianq' on Twitter provides frequent updates on street protests and this blog posts pictures and sometimes videos and plenty of other links to news of protest.

There are plenty of other sources of instant information. With reporters being forced out of the countries this will be one of the main sources of information.