Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blogging to slow temporarily

For the next couple weeks I will be traveling and sometimes out of range of an Internet connection. So posting will be infrequent, but I have a couple things prearranged to appear.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Walter, a fraternal twin to Joe Biden?

My Dad, who holds out hope for President Obama to get things turned around, listened to the State of the Union speech (I skipped it to watch a miserable Red Wings hockey game). After watching the vice-president for an hour or so he noted a similarity between the Jeff Dunham character, Walter, and Joe Biden.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Too true to be funny

Overheard in the Newsroom had this gem:

#2830: Managing Editor, admiring a rival newspaper: “Any chance we can hire their guy to do our layouts?” Art Director: “You laid him off last year.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A story of a really high pay wall, with really low results

Newsday (corrected from original version) has had very poor results with its pay wall. Only 35 subscriptions since it was instituted. There's a little more to the numbers than that, but still pretty grim. People have become far too used to free news content. (Hat tip to Jan for the link).

A little CBS report to get your blood warm on a cool morning

Remember the Copenhagen Climate Summit? You know, the one that accomplished nothing. Well, the bill came due recently and CBS News did a great job of breaking down the costs of the travel and lodging of the dozens of Democrats, Republicans, State Department, White House and other bureaucrats, many who brought spouses, who attended.

It's good to know that while many folks in this country are suffering and having trouble putting food on the table, that there is plenty of pork to eat in Washington.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rocks in the hubcaps

Most folks know that I love good police stories, especially quirky, funny ones. I stopped over at for my monthly visit and found a column, not unlike the column I started at the Flint Journal in 1990.

This column is written by a retired Ann Arbor detective sergeant and this column was about police pranks. It was pretty good and included a prank about putting rocks in hubcaps of a fellow police officers car. (The graphic with the story showed a fancy wheel - see photo with this post- but not a hubcap. It may be more a factor of young people not knowing what a "hub cap" is). The columnist was referring to an episode at the Milan Police Department that had gotten into the news.

As I have mentioned here before, I worked for two California police departments for seven years before going back to MSU to study journalism.

And as the writer said pranks are as much a part of police departments as ticket books.

Here's a few that I remember from my days in uniform.
We had our own firecracker episode at our police department. We had one officer, Paul F, who was very skittish about noises. One night he was sitting at the dispatch desk relieving the dispatcher during her dinner about 3 a.m.
An officer had a stash of firecrackers that he had confiscated in the trunk of his police car. Parking down the street from the police department he snuck up and lit a string of the firecrackers under the dispatcher's window.
Not wanting a good practical joke to go unwatched, several of us had parked nearby and watched as Paul F dove under the desk at the first sound of the firecrackers. He then put out a call over the radio and we all pulled up and fessed up to the joke.
In today's world, that probably could have gotten us all fired. Back then it was just part of the job.

All the police cars were keyed the same, in other words all the car keys worked in all the patrol cars. We had been ordered not to idle the cars (to keep them warm) while we were at lunch or on a call. All of us had duplicate keys and could let the car run while locking it from the outside.

If we found one of our co-workers cars locked and running outside a restaurant and knew that it was out of view of the officer inside, we would often drop off our riding along partners to unlock the car and drive it back to the station. It was always fun to sit in the station to hear the frantic call from the officer trying to explain to the dispatcher that his car had been "stolen."

The high school had a 1/4-mile running track and in the middle of the night we would drive there and do our own version of NASCAR around it with our lights off. That was until a neighbor noticed the cars speeding around the track and called the police department.

From a distance they couldn't tell the racing vehicles were police cars. When the dispatcher put out the call about the racing cars at the high school, one of the officers responded that they were in the area and would check it out. Then they quietly left.

One of our officers used to brag about the gas mileage in his foreign car. Every day he would come to work telling us he was getting 30 or 35 miles to the gallon. So for a month we started adding a gallon or two of gas to his tank every shift.

Each day he would excitedly come to work and brag that he was suddenly getting 40-45-50 miles to the gallon. We, of course, would scoff at him and tell him he was crazy, but the ruse went on.

Finally, after a month of adding gasoline, we started siphoning it out of his car a gallon or two at a time while he was out on patrol. He started coming to work loudly complaining that there was "something wrong" with his car. His mileage had dropped from 50 to 20 and he was not happy.

At the point we found out he took it back to the dealer to complain about his now "horrible" gas mileage, we brought him in on the joke before he did something stupid to the dealer.

More later.

New York Times to install online pay system in 2011

The New York Times seems to be headed towards some financial sanity. The idea that news gathering has value is an important one.

When I was much younger people scoffed at the idea of cable television. "Who would pay for what they already get free?" Well, how did that pan out?

From the time two consecutive editors couldn't adequately answer the questions of how we could give away the Flint Journal content for free many have been frustrated by the devaluation of news gathering.

It's past time to take back the product.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Alice Shultz-Melton, retired FJ librarian, dies at 72

One of the first people I met when I arrived at the Flint Journal in 1989 was a news room librarian named Alice. She explained to me the extensive library and morgue that the newspaper maintained.

At the time there were four employees and an excellent library. The folks who worked in the library were always helpful and made doing story research really easy. She was always a graceful person who survived in a not so graceful environment.

So it was with sadness that I learned that Alice Shultz-Melton died last week. The obituary was published this week. Rest in Peace Alice.

Shultz-Melton, Alice Marie formerly of Flint, MI. Passed away January 20, 2010 in Beaver Dam, KY. She was born August 23, 1937 through the union of Charlie Dee and Mary Alice Shultz in Haiti, KY. Alice graduated from Western High School in Owensboro, KY in 1955. Alice moved to Flint, MI. in 1969. She was married in 1981 to James V. Melton. She was a member of Grace Free Will Methodist Church. She was a board member of My Brothers Keeper. She was employed at The Flint Journal for 30 years as a librarian. She retired in 2000. She lived to cherish one son: Rev. John A. Williams, his wife Tanya; step-son James. V. Melton Jr.; step-daughter Naomi Martin and her husband Clarence all of Flint, MI; 23 grand children, one great-grandchild; one sister Loretta J. Finn and her husband Gilbert, from Beaver Dam, KY; two brothers Charles Wayne Shultz of Louisville, KY and William G. Shultz of Sacramento, CA; four nieces; two nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents and her husband, her step-daughter, three brothers and two nephews. A special thank you to Pastor and sis Campbell and New Life Missionary Baptist Church of Flint, MI. Services are at 12 noon Wednesday at Barnes Chapel United Methodist Church, Beaver Dam, KY. Burial will be in Oakwood Cemetery, Hartford, KY. Miller - Schapmire Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.