Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday Plain Dealer in Record Time

Sixteen Minutes to Look at the Entire Sunday PD

Record time to plow through the entire Sunday Plain Dealer hoping to find a piece of journalism or opinion piece that is engaging. I start out in the "Forum" section, which is actually hard to find these days. Debate on residency law interesting in the letters, but everything else boring or badly written or both. Go to the metro section again very little of interest. Maybe one story that was of any interest. Then the voluminous front page section, and not one thing interesting. Don't pay then you do not get to play with Petro--Is that news? How about an expose' on the fact that men dominate the play by play announcing in major American sports? Or dedication of some ink to the revelation that America is not held in high regard in the world? Anyway, some promising headlines in the front section but nothing panned out. Nothing in Arts or that hip section called PDQ. And finally Business and Sports were a waste of space this week.

A new record 16 minutes to get all the way through the entire paper. There is no way it is worth $1.50. I keep hoping that maybe there will be something of interest in all those pages. Something funny or that keeps my attention beyond the headline or something that is captivating. I want to know about the new Mayor settling in. I want to know about county development plans, efforts to bring jobs to Cleveland, or interesting people who are making change. How about a look at how all these boring stories in the front section effect Cleveland? How are the elderly doing with the new Medicaid rules in Slavic Village or at Riverview apartments? I want to know what Campbell is doing now. What is happening in the fight against AIDS in our community or TB? There are just so many interesting stories, and I just have to wonder on Saturday night when they put this paper to bed are they proud of the content or is it just another job? In the age of the internet: content is king. If you cannot give us original content that we cannot find a thousand other places you will die. I want those 16 minutes back by the way.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Two Quick Points on Local Media

Praise for Scene and WCPN Still Needs Work

Just so we are not accused of only presenting negative impressions of the local press. There were actually three good articles in this week's Scene Magazine. Three is my personal threshold for "worth the price of admission." Yes, you are saying that those publications are free, but that would be wrong. I always have to wade through an overwhelming amount of advertising fat to get to some red meat. Anyway, good article about the museum and the bad decision to close for one year or more. I hate having the museum closed. I truly miss it. If there were only an Aquarium in town that I could go to? The one thing they missed in the story is how can we afford a new prom dress for the Art Museum at the same time MOMA is going to move? I am sure that somehow they are going to stick all of us with the tab. What about a rule out of the parent's handbook for all playgrounds (artistic or otherwise) that once they turn eighteen they are on their own?

The second good story was the story of the cops protecting their own. Actually, any story with a Terry Gilbert quote is good. How much do you want to bet that you can choose a Terry Gilbert silhouette for target practice at the local Cop shooting range? They do a good job for the most part, I just wish that they would root out the bad cops on their own, and not defend those with anger or race issues.

The third story was about the car dealerships scam of jacking up a person's credit score after they leave the lot. This was a good story because my old work neighbor Phil Althouse was quoted. Props to a good lawyer fighting the good fight. On the scale of scummiest jobs on the planet car salesman is number 4, so what do you expect? Still a good story.

T__ed t_ lis_en to WC_N, but th__ kep_ __tting in _nd _ut

Paul Hackett was on WCPN this morning and they still have not corrected their technical problems. It still keeps cutting in and out. Embarrassing. Hackett sounded good and will be tough competition for Brown. Dan, when you summarize a person's answer try to make it less confusing not more. For example"So your answer is 'yes'." If it takes more words to summarize the point then the original answer, you have stopped communicating effectively.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Forgot to Comment on the Aquarium

WCPN Featured an Hour on an Aquarium in Cleveland

On Tuesday, WCPN dedicated an entire hour of precious public airwaves time to the proposition of recreating an Aquarium here in Cleveland. There were a large number of questions that did not come up that should have. I sure do not want to stop progress or prevent people from boosting the tourism industry, but how about a fair share of resources to those struggling with poverty? If Cleveland is one of the poorest cities in the United States and at least one-third of the populations is living below the federal poverty level, then in a democracy shouldn't we spend public resources to directly benefit the poorest in our community in the same proportion as the population? In fact, the funds that go to the wealthy in our society who do not need public assistance could be redirected to poor people. This small percentage would not have much of impact, but the symbolism is important.

Anyway, the Aquariums that were cited as models Baltimore and Boston are $21.95 and $17.95 for adult admissions. Certainly, not within the budget of the majority of the citizens of Cleveland. So, shouldn't the reporter should have asked, "Is it appropriate to spend public dollars on a tourist attraction in a city with so many huge problems?" Didn't the Boston Aquarium have serious financial problems and have to layoff 20% of its staff in 2003? Didn't the Detroit Aquarium (101 years old) close last year, and they are trying to fund raise to re-open? Can we support two aquariums in the same region in two struggling cities? With the Oregon, Tampa, and Long Beach Aquariums struggling to survive in cities that have oceans, how do we expect to make this work in Cleveland? Anyway, it seemed that there was too much cheerleading and not enough critical thinking about this issue.

The fundamental problem is that when there are a large outlay of public resources the people who pay the piper should be able to enjoy the tune.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Important Business

Good Luck in Finding the Reader Representative

So if you click on Ted Diadun's picture or the "Read it Now" link on the front of Cleveland.com news section, you get the December 12 Reader Representative story. It is actually very difficult to find the current story from the reader representative on the Plain Dealer website. You can go to the newspaper search and get his stories, but that seems to be the only access. So, he has written three stories in 2006. (Nice work if you can get it.) The three big stories were bias in the newspaper, which was actually interesting in an inside baseball kind of way. The second story was about the use of the word "sucks." Who cares? And the first story was about how they got the mine story wrong like nearly every other paper in the country. As we continue to say, there are so many issues, the reader rep. could write a story a day and not address all the problems.

King Arthur: I am your king.
Woman: Well I didn't vote for you.
King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Woman: Well how'd you become king then?
[Angelic music plays... ]
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king.
Dennis: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Channel 19/43 Banned by NEOCH

Clean Up Your Ethics before You Call

This is not new news, but the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has long ago stopped talking to Channel 19 and 43. We have made fun of them for three months on this blog, but there is a serious side to the harm caused by this tabloid style broadcast. They call people punks, perverts and thugs on their newscast every night before these people are tried or sometimes even charged. For example, those evil young people who beat to death a homeless person in Ft. Lauderdale were identified as punks. NEOCH staff would never defend these young monsters, but we are certainly not neutral on the matter. The news and news people are the Fourth estate of government, and are observers to society, crime, and government. They are the neutral observers who are instructed to treat suspects as innocent until proven guilty. What if the police had arrested the wrong person? Would Channel 19 apologize for calling these young people punks and thugs? How do you make it up to someone for labeling them a pervert to millions in error? As much as we were not big fans of some of the things that went on in the previous administration, the treatment of the previous Mayor was wrong and inappropriate. It is voyeurism that we know we should not look at, but can't help it. It is the Jerry Springer Circus pretending to do news. There is no way that any self-respecting journalist could work for this outfit.

Anyway, NEOCH long ago banned Channel 19/43 from our weekly press release list. We do not e-mail or call their reporters, and today we have decided not to respond to calls from their reporters. Somehow, they found out about the Symeon Hurt memorial and showed up. We did not invite them, but they came anyway. It would have been inappropriate to turn them away at such a somber event. We could not stand them always making out homeless people to be criminals, sex offenders, and the root of all our city's problems. That older Foghorn Leghorn guy who does crazy commentary rants about how unsafe the downtown is because of homeless people contributed to our position on Channel 19. Certainly, Jimmy Olsen making up news stories has contributed to us banning the station.

Today, a self-identified "news reporter" called seeking comment on the Convention Center evictions. We ignored the call. I talked to the Plain Dealer, Channel 5/ONN, Free Times, and Fox today, but we have decided to ignore any tabloid entertainment outlets. There are many who would say that any publicity is good for the cause. The problem is that the TV outlets have a great deal of power, and very little opportunity for democracy. They do not have a "letter to the editor" section. They do not have any feedback mechanism, and the FCC has not removed a television station's license since...well...never. Fairness is out the door, and with Channel 19 standards and ethics are out the door. They can edit a comment to make the person look like an idiot, and TV is not a venue for deep thinking.

So, no matter how it harms the cause we will no longer respond or talk to any reporter from any news operation practicing tabloid style news. We are not going to help you beat up on people already struggling to find space in our society.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

The PD Gives Us Plenty of Material...

The Big News..
Alex "The Snake" Machaskee is retiring after 406 years or something like that. The man who made sure the PD endorsed Bob "Elmer Fudd" Taft is leaving. The Governor voted worst governor in the United States by Republicans! This is the Governor who is worse than every Republican and every Democrat in the country in a ranking by Republicans who hate Dems. Then he made sure that the PD sat out of the Kerry/Bush contest according to insiders. The most important endorsement that a major newspaper makes every four years, the PD sat out. The most secretive and hostile administration to the press since the early 1970s was nearly endorsed as a President worthy of a second term because of Machaskee. As far as poor people are concerned, we have not had a friend in the publisher of the Plain Dealer.

You can do all the benefits and charity work, but that does not make up for pro-business at the expense of the little guy policy of the paper. After all, maybe if we had universal health care, universal living wage, and housing now for all, we would not need as much charity work. No doubt rich people would not have as many dinners and events to attend, but there would be fewer poor people. I am convinced that we are going to get a conservative Bishop to replace Pilla, and I fear we will get a more conservative publisher of the only daily. Take cover Connie, and you left wing liberal reporters there are storm clouds on the horizon.

Homeless at Airport from Sunday
On Sunday, the Plain Dealer had a story on homeless people in the airport. (I am not sure it is good to link to the PD since after two weeks we have to pay.) Anyway the story combined two Channel 19 stories from last week. This is a humiliation for the PD to follow tabloid news to a story. Usually, if the PD gets swept they make up for it by looking at the big picture. This did not happen with this story. In fact, it really did not forward the story very much. The reporters were not able to verify the possible hate crime that led to the eviction from the Convention Center. The photograph of a person sleeping is never appealing. The story did not go into any details about why homeless people do not like the shelters and choose the sleeping with all those planes. (Those people in North Olmsted hate the planes flying over all the time?) The worst part of the article was, "After the mayor learned of the property damage, which was estimated to cost $15,000, he told police to put homeless people on notice." But which Mayor? The incident took place on December 27 during the Campbell administration, so tell us which Mayor were they referring to? It is unclear. Why is the local response to homelessness either shelter or the streets (airport and convention center)? We need some answers from the PD.

The Human Rights Story also Sunday
The Plain Dealer covered the Truth Commission hearings. Ten paragraphs spared for people pouring out their hearts about living in poverty in the richest country in the world. The Cleveland Homeless talked about the Truth Commission on their blog. This was also not the best in journalism because of the many questions left unanswered. What is the information going to be used for? How many people testified? Was there new information provided by those testifying that readers may not be aware of? Were there other civic leaders present to hear the testimony? Did anyone offer any advice to these people suffering the negative effects of free capitalism? More space for the writer to explain all of these would have been helpful. How about one fewer ad for Cleveland.com, and more actual news stories?

Cleveland Receives Homeless Windfall??
In the first week of January, the PD covered a story that we have yet to talk about, because it is so confusing. It detailed the large amount of cash the City was getting to address homelessness. This is the exact opposite of the story that appeared in the latest Homeless Grapevine (Color Issue 74). So, the Grapevine said we lost $1 million from last year and the Plain Dealer said we gained $1 million from last year. Typo? Drunk reporter? Visually impaired reporter? No, this is actually a case of spin from the federal government. Plain Dealer fell for it. The Grapevine did not.

See, the problem is that two years ago the Feds decided to add all the funds from housing renewals into the pool of homeless dollars. This makes it look like there was this huge increase in funds, but it is not a real increase. The renewal of these housing vouchers are for individuals who have not been homeless for five years, and do not meet any definition of homelessness. So the reality is that real homeless dollars decreased by $1 million, and the feds padded the budget to deflect criticism. The basis of all magic is diversion, and the current administration are full of master magicians. The problem is that in the next year and four months, Cleveland is going to be short by as much as $1 million to keep current projects operating. There is going to be a crisis that could result in the closing of one shelter in Cleveland. How are we going to explain this to the Plain Dealer? "I know you reported that we got additional dollars last year, but now we are in crisis?"

Well, rest assured that the Grapevine got it right and the PD got it wrong. The Grapevine will not let you down in the future. We may be fascinated by Monty Python, but that does not make us wrong.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Thank You for Broadcasting the Alito Hearings

Nina Totenberg for Supreme Court Justice!!!
We have complained about WCPN here in the past (and they do not seem to be listening because two PD people have appeared since). But we should compliment them for broadcasting the Sam Alito hearings to the U.S. Supreme Court or the "Is there a Question in your ramblings or can I kick back with a cold one" hearings as they are affectionately known. I have to sit in many meetings during the day and listen to people drone on and on when they could ask a question in 20 to 40 seconds, but nothing like some of those Senators. It is a wonder that there are not more fisticuffs in Congress. Still, we have to thank public radio for doing their civic duty.

In listening to the hearings and the analysis during breaks, I really believe that Nina Totenberg would be an excellent Supreme Court justice. She explains everything in a clear, concise and even handed manner. She asks questions in a respectful, but diligent and determined fashion. She seems smart and has a huge knowledge of Supreme Court history and cases. She would be great on the bench. Sign her up.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Our Reader Representative is On Vacation???

What happened to the PDs Reader Representative?

"Reader Representative Ted Diadiun fields your complaints (and compliments), answers your questions, explains the newspaper's decisions to you and carries your concerns to the folks who produce The Plain Dealer every day. He writes a weekly column that is published in the newspaper on Sundays and responds to your comments on this blog."
So, is our reader reprentative sleeping on the job? He has not posted anything since December 12, 2005. If he is my representative, I do not remember giving him an entire month off? I do not remember approving that long of a vacation. I usually have about two and half weeks of available vacation that I do not have time to take at the end of the year. My philosophy is that if you have the ability to take more than three weeks off in a row, then your job is not really necessary. This is sad that the Plain Dealer does not respect the readers more.

There were a lot of problems over the last month that we could have used help with. I sent him a question about apologizing for the Taft endorsement. I also asked about the use of City Mission in the Holiday Spirit campaign since they are a private evangelical organization with no public oversight. Bill Callahan posted something over this weekend about the PD not mentioning the owner of the West Virginia Mine Disaster on their pages. Why has the PD not done more about the Bob Ney scandal and how that may touch other Ohio Republicans? Did the PD handle the problems Pilla had in his tenure properly in the 25 year retrospective stories? The last post was concerning Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas on the same day, and how should the PD handle this problem. Who Cares? We need a reader representative who addresses the problems with the only newspaper in our town, and does not take four weeks off.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Slow News Night...Pick on Homeless People

Jimmy Olsen Questions Homeless Sleeping at the Airport

Our cities best reporter is at it again picking on homeless people sleeping at the airport. Why hasn't Fox News picked this guy up yet? Ed "Jimmy Olsen" Gallek broke the troubling story of homeless people sleeping at the airport--NEXT TO YOUR BAGGAGE!!!! They actually said "next to your baggage." I added the large letters and the four exclamation marks.

First, a few issues with the substance of the story:
1. Why would a homeless person steal your bags when they have a good place to sleep that is warm for the night, and the police are not harassing them?
2. Were there any problems with bags being taken at a higher rate in Cleveland then say Pittsburgh? Or is this just a slow night and we need someone to pick on and homeless people were an easy target?
3. Aren't there similar issues in other cities, so who really cares?
4. Aren't these people just trying to survive, and so we begrudge them some space at the airport where they are not bothering anyone?
5. The woman on the streets or in this case in the airport said, "Sure, I worry for my kids." Your honor, I object to his leading the witness!

So, we established that Cleveland's Jimmy Olsen has no integrity, no ethics, is a big fan of closed doors, and now is willing to pick on the poor and defenseless on a slow night. Little Eddy Gallek is rocketing up the rankings in the presentation of the Shameless Man of the last 12 months.

The result of all this will be that police will crack down on homeless people who are not bothering anyone at the airport, because the Channel 19 attempt to make news. Those individuals will have to find another place to exist in our community. Shouldn't the police be working on something of substance like stopping crime? The new Mayor will eventually have to say something because Cleveland's own unfunny fake news is waiting for answers. All because of a slow night in the news department. How we long for the days of gangland killings, mob hits, or Browns players arrested for DWI.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Moses Cleveland Loves Social Justice

Photos by Kevin E. Cleary. PhotoShopping by Kevin E. Cleary.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Could Dangerous Tabloid Reporters Be Prowling Your Neighborhood?

Our own Ed “Jimmy Olsen” Gallek was at it again recently. Busting his favorite ratings-boosting target, sex-offenders, he made sure to show his disgust. When did television reporting move to the point where the reporter’s opinions are a centerpiece of the story? I have seen Ed Gallek interviewing a closed door so many times that I’m beginning to think it’s a running gag like on a Monty Python skit. Apparently reporting from the recently arrested offender’s listed address, our hero bravely asked the offender’s mother insulting and condescending questions through a closed door. How do we know that the alleged offender’s mother was actually behind that door? Isn’t it possible that Action News just has a stage somewhere with a closed door prop? They could easily hire an intern to yell things from behind the door in a high-pitched voice and make it seem like they were “live on the scene.”

Additionally, the actual sources for the report were given two-second sound bytes for the piece. The rest of the time was devoted to Gallek’s closed-door antics and some cheesy graphics of other areas in which, according to Gallek, “other local pervs have been found.” Does a reporter discussing such a topic really need to resort to calling these people “pervs?” Is Gallek concerned that viewers might mistakenly come away with the impression that he likes having registered sex offenders living near schools?

The reality is still that while no one wants sex offenders in their neighborhood, there really aren’t many places for formerly incarcerated individuals to go... let alone convicted sex offenders. Many regrettably end up as a burden on homeless shelters, who must juggle the concerns of caring for those in need with the threat of getting kicked out of a neighborhood. Sexually-based offenders once released, face job and housing discrimination over and above that of other ex-offenders.

Additionally, many municipalities continue to restrict where such individuals can live. One offender in another state wasn’t even allowed out of prison because he listed his mother’s address as his outgoing address. While he had been incarcerated, the boundaries had shifted, and his mother’s home had become off-limits. I interviewed Sgt. David Synkowski of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office for an article in Issue 73, and he told me that Cuyahoga County has a fairly sophisticated system that tracks which addresses are off-limits for sexually-based offenders. He also mentioned that they do their best to inform offenders about these limits to pre-empt problems like that faced by the individual in another state.

Yet that information was also missing from Gallek’s sensationalized report. The important aspects of the story are as follows: The man was arrested for living at an address directly across the street from a school, but left his mother’s address with the County. Upon a follow-up, the County discovered this and arrested him for this violation. In other words, the individual was arrested, presumably without incident. Not much of a story.

But Gallek’s sensibilities said otherwise. There are other “pervs” out there... possibly “even in your neighborhood.” Indeed, according to Gallek, the individual could be charged with another felony... but people like him often end up right back on the street. He then looks earnestly into the camera and asks, “Is there any wonder there’s a problem?” I think we at The Homeless Grapevine should start asking terrifying questions based on hypothetical scenarios in our conclusions too. Here goes...

Scientists say a meteor the size of Australia isn’t approaching the Earth at 800,000 miles an hour, but scientists have been wrong before. Can we really trust that we’re not about to be obliterated in the greatest cataclysm since the end of the dinosaurs? You decide. This is Kevin Cleary, reporting “live” from the parking lot of NASA Glenn.