Saturday, August 29, 2009

Detroit Free Press: U-M Football breaking training rules is linking to a major sports investigative piece by the Detroit Free Press on alleged training abuses by the new U-M football coach. Direct link to the Freep story here.

Have to wonder if some of the old Ann Arbor News staff (i.e. Jim Carty) might have broken this story if they or others were still on the staff. Kind of embarrassing to have the Free Press break a major story that occurred in's back yard.

Fires in La Canada close to home, heart

It is hard to watch the unfolding fires in Southern California. First, because it is always sad to see folks watching an approaching disaster that there is little they can do to stop.

But in this case, and I'm sure my sister Pam, will agree because we lived through this terror so many times as children living in La Crescenta in the foothills of Los Angeles.

The current fires are threatening areas of Altadena, Pasadena and La Canada (not to mention the Jet Propulsion Laboratory being in the mix) and could soon move into our old neighborhood on Briggs Terrace in La Crescenta.

As a young man in the 1950s I remember these fires, which seem to return every three years. It would take that long for the brush and grass to regrow after a previous fire and then the days would become thick with smoke and the nights bright with flames.

One time the fires got so close that our house was only two or three blocks out of the mandatory evacuation area and I remember seeing my stepfather on the roof of the house watering it down with a garden hose to extinguish the burning embers falling on it.

Some of our neighbors, who foolishly installed wooden shake roofs, were equally busy keeping their roofs wet.

Pray for those firefighters that they will remain safe. These fires move very quickly and can turn and trap firefighters in a moment.

As an aside that windy road at the north end of the map (Hwy 2) is Angles Crest Highway and our high school driver's training instructor (my math teacher as I recall) used to make us drive up there and learn how to negotiate the hairpin turns. On a date night there were great views of the City of Los Angeles after a movie and a dinner.

View Larger Map

Inside Out: An array of Advance news

Over on Inside Out plenty of links to Advance changes and moves.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The sound of the men working on the chain gang

Tonight that sound is tired. I love the fall and football. One of the fun things I have been able to do in the fast few years is be a regular member of a high school football chain gang.

The game tonight was one of those up and down the field affairs that kept us running all of the first half and much of the second half. I think the final score was 39-21, but it could have been higher, I quit watching the scoreboard after the start of the fourth quarter.

We were quietly rooting for sacks and short runs by the end of the game, but what we got were long run backs and long successful passes.

Still, the chain gang has the best seat in the house and the crew I work with has a lot of fun. But we're hoping for a more defensive struggle next time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Print versus online ad revenue: Guess who wins

For all those online gurus who want to dump the print product you might want to check this article in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Some of you have noticed I signed up for Google ads in May. I did it as an experiment to see even with my less than modest traffic how much money I could make off the blog.

Since May, I've had 43,000 hits and that translates into - ta da - $14.16 worth of revenue. Only 24 of you folks have bothered to click on the ads at all.

Google doesn't send you a check until you tally $100, so I'm looking for that first check sometime next year, late next year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More newspaper news

Hadn't stopped by Fading to Black for awhile, but lots of new essays and posts there. Some interesting newspaper news.

Editors getting the blame, and I'm not the source

Over on Newspaper Death Watch is an essay about why newspapers are really failing. Lots of good stuff there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More travels by the Beecher board

A follow up to the Beecher travel story of last week, has produced more records of excessive travel and expenses by the five-member Beecher Board.

As experienced reporters disappear from the ranks of newspapers there will be less of these kinds of investigative pieces.

More watchdogs, more corruption stories. Corruption will never go away, but with fewer people watching we won't hear about it.

Victory MSU! Go State!

Just in time for football season a couple great reminders of why fall along the Red Cedar River is best.

And this great "Thriller" half time performance.

Detroit News, new source for the Flint Journal

Several FFE readers sent along the following link about the Michigan School for the Deaf forming a football team and the fact that the school, which sits on Ground Zero of the Journal's subscription area didn't even rate a phone call from the paper.

The paper merely linked to a Detroit News story about the possible football season.

A lot of folks, besides me, are confused by this new model for covering home town news.

One writer mentioned: "I guess with the downsized staff there isn't even time for one phone call to do your own story."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Where are my dancing Indians?"

Nearly two years after I started this blog to recount the great, and not so great, moments in my 30-year journalism career I remembered one of the most disturbing editor moments in my tenure.

Well, actually, not directly my career, but anyone who worked at the Oakland Press in the 1980s will clearly recall the “dancing Indians” incident.

(To my dear friend “cat paws” feel free to chime in with your intimate knowledge of this incident).

No, I have not lost my mind with the culturally insensitive and politically incorrect description, “dancing Indians.” The term came right out of the mouth of an angry editor and the story is 100 percent true.

In the early 1980s, there was a controversy brewing in Waterford Township over the development of a piece of property that had some connection to a local Native American tribe.

One of the people upset by the pending development dropped a dime on an editor about a “big” protest that would occur at the next Township board meeting. Native Americans (my term) were expected to turn out in huge numbers to let their anger be known at the meeting.

The excited editor dispatched a reporter and photographer to the meeting in anticipation of a huge protest that hopefully involved dozens of Native Americans dressed in traditional loin cloths and wearing feathered head dress.

When the reporter and photographer arrived at the meeting, they found no one outside and only two people inside to speak in opposition to the development. Both were in traditional American business suits and instead of carrying a bow and arrow were armed with briefcases.

The two men, one was an attorney for the tribe as I recall, spoke in respectful tones to the Township Board about the tribe’s concerns and how the objections could be overcome without a huge lawsuit.

Returning from the assignment, the reporter and photographer filed a story that accurately reflected what transpired at the meeting. The picture was of a lawyer in a business suit addressing the township board.

After the editor who assigned the story began to edit it, he was livid.

“Where are the dancing Indians?,” he yelled across the newsroom. “I sent you to get dancing Indians and you bring me back this?”

Despite the protests of the reporter and photographer, it took a long time to calm the editor down and convince him that there were no “dancing Indians.”

“I was told there would be dancing Indians,” the editor protested.

From that moment on, any outrageous story assignment was frequently referred to as a “dancing Indians” assignment. Any reporter at the OP knew immediately what a colleague meant when they said I’m off on a “dancing Indians” assignment.

For beta or worse, a 1994 video that has come true

My stepdaughter Elin sent me this link to a 1994 Knight-Ridder video that was both on and off the mark in relation to newspapers. Very interesting to see how far back the thinking goes. Advance and Booth came to the party even later. It was posted on the blog

Santa Cruz: Where freedom rings in your ears

Just a quick video from You Tube courtesy of the craziest City Council in the country - Santa Cruz, California. I feel a beauty pageant in this young woman's future. My two sons, granddaughter and even a few friends live there. I get a lot of hits every month from Santa Cruz. For a good time go to and search for Crazy Santa Cruz public comments. It's better than anything on TV.

What of the clipping services now?

The death of the Ann Arbor News brought up some interesting questions in this Columbus Dispatch (I'll let go the irony of the Columbus paper lamenting the death of an Ann Arbor anything) article.

Did I ever tell you about the winter of '44?

Yesterday, Saturday, August 22nd we said good-bye to my father-in-law Red Uleskey in a brief military graveside service at the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Ebenezer (West Seneca) New York.

Frankly, it was more of a service than Red wanted. His desire was no service at all. This seemed contradictory coming from a man who used to serve on a local VFW Post’s honor guard. In the end, his daughters decided they needed at least a brief ceremony to help close the book for them.

The group of attendees was small, immediate family only and a captain and sergeant from the New York Army National Guard to serve as an honor guard. Red’s wife, Joan, clutched a favorite photograph of Red wearing his VFW honor guard uniform, a picture that appeared in the Buffalo News many years ago.

It was a warm, sunny day and the service started at noon. It was over by 12:10 p.m. In those ten minutes were plenty of tears and at the end a little laughter, courtesy of my mother-in-law Joan who chimed in with a comment so poignant and telling that it almost brought a small smile from the stoic Army captain who had just presented my mother-in-law Red’s burial flag.

As is tradition, even in the case of a cremation, the flag that would normally cover a casket was present and folded next to the small, metal box containing Red’s ashes. Following the playing of “Taps” the honor guard opened the folded flag and then re-folded it in front of the family.

The captain then got down on one knee and offered the flag to Joan with the traditional Army statement: “This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.” (Each military branch does a slightly different statement).

As the captain’s white-gloved hand placed the flag in Joan’s lap, as she sat in her wheelchair, she put her right hand, the one not frozen by her stroke on top of the officer's hand, looked up at him and said the words that brought us to tears and laughter: “Did I ever tell you about the winter of ’44?”

Our laughter caught the Army captain slightly off guard and he successfully stifled a brief smile that started coming over his face.

So where did the question come from and why did we laugh and cry?

As I have written previously, Red joined the Army during World War II and was assigned to the Army’s 75th Division, the so-called “diaper division” owing to the young ages of its members. The Division arrived in France and was thrust into action in December 1944 in the middle of the fierce Battle of the Bulge.

It was trial by fire and it was in the most extreme circumstances and horrific weather. The Germans tried to take advantage of the miserable weather and poor conditions to push back against the Allies counter-invasion that began with D-Day.

The fierceness of the battle, the extreme cold and snow – even for a guy from Buffalo, New York – left an internal tattoo on Red’s being. The winter of 1944 is the extreme test of his life by which all other difficulties were measured.

In Red’s declining years, almost every night when he was tucked into bed by his wife Joan, he would look at her and say: “Did I ever tell you about the winter of ’44?”

It was his way of saying no matter how bad things were, they could never be as bad as they were in the winter of 1944. The young Army captain, who heard the laughter and saw the tears, could not have known the impact of Joan’s question, but we did.

My mother-in-law, who suffered a debilitating stroke in April, is living her own ‘winter of ’44.’

During this difficult time she is leaning on Red’s strength, that quiet toughness that spoke to him every day, that while life was tough, it would never be as tough as it was in that awful winter of 1944.

Red let those difficult days in the Ardennes region in Europe refine his life, not define it. It would be great if all of us could take our “winters of ‘44” and use them for strength and not for defeat.

After the honor guard left, my sister-in-law Diane read the 23rd Psalm and then Red’s wife clutched the metal box with Red’s ashes in her lap for a minute and then returned it to the stand. Red’s wife and three daughters then took turns laying four red carnations next to the box before we left the cemetery.

And just like that the service was over and we all left the cemetery. Rest in peace, Red.