Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Great e-mail

Sorry been away so long -- I vow to post more often.

Got this classic e-mail today ... says alot about the Nanny State that has been created.


First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they
carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored
lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE
actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but
we weren't overweight because


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back
when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat
rooms ..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays,
made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned


And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as
kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.

and while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Great site for debunking myths

I often see statistics about "X children die every hour from guns," etc., etc. Many of these statistics are very misleading. For example, how would you define "children" for the purposes of these statistics? Under 10? Under 12? Under 16? The folks that put out these alarmist statistics on children/guns are almost always defining children as "19 and under." Well, of course the gun deaths are going to be high -- these people are no more children than Henry Fonda is.

Anyway this site is the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. You can use all sorts of criteria to determine how many people of certain ages died from whatever causes.

The most recent data is from 2002, but I think that's still useful.

I did a search to find out how many children ages 4 and under died from an accidental gunshot wound in 2002. What's your guess? 3 a day? 1 a day? 1 every other day?

How about 12 ALL YEAR! That's just one a month!

Now, you might say: Even 12 is too high.

But if we're going to prioritize safety for infants and toddlers, you'd be much better served going after swimming pools and bodies of water, since almost 50 TIMES the number 4 and unders died of drowning (570) than accidental shootings.

You might also want to think more about keeping 4 and unders closer to the ground since 67 died from falls, more than 5 times the accidental gun deaths.

Anyway, maybe you have your own myths you'd like to debunk -- I think this site will help.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The next Prohibition -- smoking?

This story from the Seattle paper shows that the clear aim for the "behavior police" is to prevent people from smoking, anywhere or anytime. I detest smoking. But there are a lot of things I don't like that I wouldn't ban people from doing if they want to. This slope is so slippery, it might as well be a cliff.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A sad quote

This is from an AP story on Hurricane Wilma which moved this morning:

``This is like the Third World,'' said Claudia Shaw, who spent several hours in a gas line. ``We live in a state where we suffer from these storms every year. Where is the planning?''

Here is my question for Ms. Shaw: Where is YOUR planning? Why don't YOU take the responsibility for your own life and not rely on the government?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

More on "perfect storm, the sequel"

The European model continues to advertise this once-in-a-lifetime weather event. Here is a link to the latest map. This would be a catastrophic event for New England.

Perfect storm II?

You are probably all aware that Tropical Storm Wilma (soon to be Hurricane Wilma) has formed in the western Caribbean. The projected path for Wilma eventually is forecasted to be across the Florida peninsula.

What you may NOT have heard is that there are longer range models that show Wilma "phasing" with another major low pressure system over the Great Lakes area.

Now, I've never fully understood this phasing business, but basically what it means is that two weather systems feed off each other and create -- in effect -- one larger system.

Also, when systems phase they tend to draw closer together. So, while the project track I linked above shows Wilma turning pretty sharply to the NW, it could veer back to the North or even to the northeast if it phases with this other system. That would mean a second landfall somewhere on the east coast -- it would ALSO mean unbelievably high winds and heavy rain for the entire eastern seaboard.

Here is the 168 hour European model showing a very strong Wilma, just off the New England coast.

Also, regardless of where Wilma ends up, we will likely see sharply cooler temperatures by the weekend. Maybe even the first frost of the year -- although this is all so far out, it's way to early to call that a prediction.

This is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Church and state

I received this e-mail from a friend of mine. My response is below (starting with "Dear XXXXX").


I was asked to send this on if I agree or delete if I don't. It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a problem in having "In God! We Trust" on our money and having "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Why don't we just tell the 14% to Shut Up and BE QUIET!!!
If you agree, pass this on, if not delete. .

I'd like to offer a competing viewpoint to the author of this message that you passed along.
The Pledge of Allegiance is a pledge to a country, not a God. Therefore, all references within that pledge must be couched in those terms. I certainly believe that The United States is a nation "under God." In fact, I think that can be said of all nations and all things.
What I and 86 percent of Americans believe is certainly important. And, thank God, we live in a country where we can believe in what we want, whether we are 86 percent, 14 percent or .000001 percent of the American population.
Yet, the Pledge, at its essence, is not about belief in God. It is about allegiance to country. Most of the time, the pledge is recited voluntarily. If an atheist in Rotary chooses to not say the pledge or to skip over the "under God" reference, I doubt that anyone would notice. And even if they did, I don't think any action would be taken.
It's when the pledge crosses over to a compulsory statement, that things change. When a student is required to say the Pledge, the term "under God" now becomes much more significant (as do other parts of the pledge).
Here's where I begin to have a problem. First, I find no Biblical basis for government-mandated articulations of faith. There are many names on this list whom I recognize that know more about the Bible than I ever will, so perhaps I'm in error here. Yet, even while confessing a woefully inadequate knowledge of specific Scriptures, my understanding of the general message of the New Testament doesn't involve coercion at all.
I have a theory on why Jesus did not use the government to advance his great message. He knew it could and almost certainly would backfire. Once religion is infused in even a democratic government by a religious majority, it's only a matter of time before the majority loses sway. We are seeing demographic evidence of that right now. As this great U.S. melting pot continues to bubble away, whites are finding themselves minority populations in large areas of the country. Can it be long until there are also communities in American where Christians are in the minority?
What then? If you find yourself in the 14 percent instead of the 86 percent will "shut up and be quiet" be an acceptable response to your protestations over "one nation, under Allah ..."?
My problem with the infusion of religion into government is not borne from a desire to protect government from religion, it's about protecting religion FROM government.
That is, I want people to understand that there is a case to be made for separation of church and state that has nothing to do with diminishing the role of religion, but rather seeks to protect and enhance religion.
Practically speaking, I also don't understand why some of these rather trivial inclusions of religion in government gather so much importance. Is seeing "in God we trust" on the dollar bill really a cornerstone of someone's faith? Is praying before a public school football game something that is essential to the faith lives of large groups of people?
Put another way, have we so filled the "non-public" parts of our lives with church activities, prayer time, studying God's word, living a life of discipleship and spreading the Good News that there is nothing left to do but also include religion in government life?
I, for one, would be utterly hypocritical to demand that more time for religion be included in government when I make such pitiful use of the "private" time accorded to me. Further, I don't have near enough "faith" in the government to be a responsible gatekeeper of religious artifacts, whether they be tangible or lyrical. I do have faith in God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- and that certainly isn't going to be shaken by whether "under God" is included in a secular, patriotic pledge of allegiance to our great nation.
Finally, even if you think all of that is hokum, I would submit that there is not much Biblical support for "shut up and be quiet," even when it refers to the least among us or unbelievers. I haven't met many people who were converted because they were forced to say a pledge that included affirmation of a deity in which they didn't believe. And I doubt that the faith life of many Christians is significantly enhanced by the reciting of a Pledge or a transaction involving currency.
Anyway, rant over.
I guess if any of you have read this far, I'd like to say: there are some -- or, at least one -- in that 86 percent who still think religion is best left in the hands of individuals and churches and not the government.
Skip Foster

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

Rita -- Katrina's evil sister?

Virtually every computer model now places Rita in the central Gulf of Mexico as a major category 3 or higher hurricane. The models have taken an ominous turn north in the past 24 hours. Here is the latest National Hurricane Center track. Of note, that track showed landfall in southern Texas yesterday -- look how far north it has moved.

Here is a spread of computer models, showing Rita's track.

It goes without saying that a further north/east shift in the models would be beyond alarming.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

When my wife makes news ....

You may have noticed that my wife, Judge Dina Foster, was named Civitan Citizen of the Year on Tuesday.

You might wonder how we handle stories like that when there is an obvious conflict.

The short answer is: I butt out!

When we hear about something like that, I immediately remove myself from all decision-making on the story -- how it is written, how long the story is, where it is played and everything else about it.

In this case, our reporter on the story, Cassie Tarpley, reported to my boss, Publisher Jennie Lambert, who directed her on where the story should go in the paper (at the very bottom of 1A).

I happen to know this is consistent with coverage of other "citizens of the year." (I.e. last year's Lions club citizen of the year was at the top of 1A). Others have run on the Local front, depending on the news of the day.

Anyway, we keep that out of my hands and also have somebody that works over me make the call so the folks under me don't feel pressured.

The truth is, I would be much more likely to UNDERplay the story than overplay it, just to avoid any appearance of impropriety. I remember hating it when my dad refereed by youth league basketball games, because I knew he would be harder on me than anybody else, just so nobody would think he was playing favorites.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ophelia -- oh no ....

Massive computer model disagreement on Tropical Storm Ophelia which is strengthening as it meanders off the east coast of Florida.

Most ominous a significant camp of computer models show Ophelia finally making its move late this week to the west, crossing the Fla. peninsula and moving into the Gulf.

Incredibly, the European model, during yesterday's runs, showed a direct hit on N. Oreleans.

That's still a long shot -- another model "camp" shows Ophelia making a loop off the coast, then moving into the Ga./S.C./N.C. coast.

The last camp has the storm curving off into the Atlantic and out to sea.

In any event, looks like a rainy few days for the east coast of Fla. Any interests from Texas to the Carolina coast should stay right on top of this storm.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Adopting Laurel, Miss.

Here is a front page column from today's Star. If you are interested in participating, please let me know.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Star's Katrina coverage

Would love to hear suggestions on how we can better cover this story or simply some local story ideas you might have.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Gas shortages

We're starting to hear reports of service stations running out of gas. Please post your reports of shortages and higher prices.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina ....

Sorry to have been away.

The full extent of Katrina's damage is just starting to come into focus. The pictures are unbelievable.

I also am infuriated by the reports of looting. Some looters have told reporters: "We're getting back at what society owes us."


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Skip speaks

I'll be talking to a group of local Democrats Thursday night. Looking forward to sharing The Star's editorial philosophy. I think some Democrats will be surprised to hear some common ground between liberterians and liberals. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Eye on the tropics

If you are going to the coast next week, keep an eye on Irene. As you can see from this map, the National Hurrican Center, which for days had been forecasting Irene to turn out to sea, has made a dramatic change and now has the storm staying on a west northwesterly track, which could threaten the S.C./N.C. coasts. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 05, 2005

More on the 505th

Here is my column from today which the staff talked me into running on the front page.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

God Bless the 505th

Took my two young boys to Kings Mountain this morning to send off the 505th Engineer Combat Batallion of the National Guard. Folks lined Kings Street to wave goodbye and wave American flags and give support.

It was brutal, emotionally.

We read the statistics all the time, but until you see fathers says goodbye to their children, wives say goodbye to their husbands ..

As the buses passed by, you could see the range of emotions. Some wore huge grins at the site of children and adults offering support.

For others on that bus, whom I could briefly see as it moved past, the emotions were too much and the tears flowed.

My 7-year-old looked up at me and said. "They could die, couldn't they Dad?"

Yes, son, they could.

God Bless them one and all.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Need some help

We are talking in the newsroom about our "blurbs" as we call them. Basically these are announcements of local events, happenings, etc.

We are trying to strike a balance between honoring the wishes of the people submitting the blurgs and honoring the wishes of readers.

Here is an example of what we currently publish:

Cleveland County Memorial Library will host ghost story writer Nancy Roberts Monday, July 25, at 7 p.m. The event is free of charge for adults and school-age children, but tickets need to be picked up at the library.
After her presentation Ms. Roberts will be available for a book signing. Books will be provided for purchase and light refreshments will be served. This event is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Library.
Ms. Roberts is the author of more than 25 books about the supernatural, including "Civil War Ghost Stories and Legends," "Blackbeard and other Pirates of the Atlantic Coast" and "Haunted Houses: Chilling Tales from American Homes."
A storyteller dedicated to inspiring students to read, she has performed at seminars, on radio and television and at hundreds of schools and libraries across the South. If you have questions, please call Dolores Ashworth at (704) 487-9069, ext. 237.

Now, here is what we are proposing to do to shorten blurbs like this one:

Ghost stories
Author and teller of ghost stories Nancy Roberts will be at Cleveland County Memorial Library on Monday, July 25, at 7 p.m. After a presentation, she will sign books, which will be available for purchase. Light refreshments will be served. The event is free of charge for adults and school-age children, but tickets need to be picked up at the library. The event is co-sponsored by Friends of the Library. Contact: Dolores Ashworth, (704) 487-9069, ext. 237.

Advantages to longer blurb
1) Tells everything the person who submitted it wants
2) Gives more complete information to readers

Advantages to shorter blurb
1) Respects that readers are pressed for time and gives them basic info quickly
2) Takes up less space which means we can run blurbs "farther out" from the event and more often.

Which do you prefer? Comments?


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A nauseating bumper sticker

Generally, I like bumper stickers that push the envelope a little -- nothing worse than one that is boring.

But this bumper sticker I found to be offensive and insulting:

Millions of us on welfare are counting on you.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Think regulations don't cost jobs?

Here is The Star' s editorial from Sunday.

Silence from Shelby on this issue can only mean that the city thinks its acceptable for jobs to be lost so that the government has more control over the taxicab industry.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Another nice column on eminent domain

This column in the L.A. Times (of all places) makes the excellent point that, often, these city projects that entail seizing property end up being money losers. Hmmmm, that sounds familiar to me for some reason -- a city in a money-losing venture. Oh well, it will come to me ...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Car safety concern

Has anybody read anything about the dangers of the easy opening van side doors, popularize by the Honda Odyssey? We were scared out of our wits to find that our 3-year-old had opened the van door and climbed in while we were all outside playing/working in the yard. As you probably know, if you can just pull the handle back, the door will open.

After disciplining him and explaining it to him, we vowed to lock the car doors everytime we came home.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Time to reduce scope of the federal judiciary?

In this column, John Leo argues that federal judges, includings the Supremes, have literally changed the face of the American republic through legislating, rather than interpreting the law.

I think a case can be made that this new judicial activism as thrown out of whack the checks and balances on which our republic was built.

What could be done about that, I wonder?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Anybody ready for football?

As those of you who know me are well aware, I'm a huge Florida State football fan. I just found out that I'll be headed to Tallahassee for the Oct. 29 "revenge" game against Maryland.

College football starts in 8 weeks!

Property rights as civil rights

This excellent column by John Fund reveals that the black community is also rising to opposed the Supreme Court's monumentally disastrous ruling on eminent domain.

In the column, black leaders argue that property rights are indeed civil rights. I agree.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Somebody call Noah ...

It's going to start raining big time by tomorrow.

Here's a good link to a page that predicts the amount of rain that should fall.

Stay dry!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

More on the frightening and dangerous SUPCO decision..

Here is a link to the opinion. Please to go page 25 of the PDF document to read Sandra Day O'Connor's dissent-- a brilliantly reasoned argument.

The end of American property rights

I am stunned and angered by today's U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding property rights in America.

Basically, the government can seize anyone's property and sell it another private entity so long as that entity is contributing to the "good" of the community (i.e. Economic development).

This a sad day for the republic and is one of the worst and most dangerous Supreme Court decisions ever rendered.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Church and state

I would be very interested to hear thoughts on today's editorial in The Star. Particularly, I'd like to hear from advocates of school prayer, etc.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"I hate Republicans ... they have never made an honest living in their lives"

That quote is from Howard Dean and is the jumping off point for this column by Peggy Noonan which is terrific.

Question: What do you see as the level of discourse in Cleveland County?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Citizen Journalism

This is a fascinating piece from the folks at the Poynter Institute on citizen journalism. What do you think of some of these ideas? Check out the new web site for the newspaper in Bluffton, S.C. Like this model?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Back in the blogging business

Been on my longest vacation in years -- 10 days in Fla. -- so I've been out of the blogging "binness" for a while, but I'm back and ready to bore you ... er, entertain you to death. I'll be posting tomorrow on a topic of interest, in the meantime, I'm trying to figure out how to get home quickly without driving on Forest Hill Drive -- man, that pipe work has TORN UP that road. What a pain.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bo let Carrie back in the game

I thought Bo had an off night on AI last night. Carrie didn't hit a home run either, but if people were undecided, Bo didn't hit the home run he needed. I thought for sure he would win, but now I think Carrie might take him.

Btw -- a 2 hour finale? I think I'll be tuning in when it's 1 hour and 55 minutes old.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Diversity works for race, gender, etc., why not political ideology?

I've been making the case for years to friends at the Poynter Institute in St. Pete (at which I was fortunate enough to be invited to be an journalism Ethics Fellow in 2001) that newsrooms needed to get more ideologically diverse or face extinction.

Studies have shown that journalists are overwhelmingly liberal (although many of them call themselves moderate, the percentage of journalists who voted for Bill Clinton over Dole was more than 80 percent, according to one survey).

Anyway, columnist John Leo has written a column right on point.

Question: What logic applies to say, racial diversity in newsrooms that does not apply to ideological diversity?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

For Sports, Dial 1; For news, dial 2 ...

You won't be put through to voice mail if you are trying to reach someone in The Star's newsroom between 8 a.m. and about 1 a.m. This column is a great (and funny) explanation of why not. Take particular note of the writer's line about somebody being on a pay phone trying to call in breaking news.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A scary quote

Here is what former newsman and now, allegedly, respected journalism scholar Marvin Kalb has to say about the White House reaction in the wake of the Newsweek fiasco:

"This is hardly the first time that the administration has sought to portray the American media as inadequately patriotic," said Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "They are addressing the mistake, and not the essence of the story. The essence of the story is that the United States has been rather indelicate, to put it mildly, in the way that they have treated prisoners of war."

"They are addressing the mistake, and not the essence of the story?"

Is he joking?

I always thought that FACTS were what we were supposed to be reporting, not "essences," whatever they are.

If we get to a point where we gloss over factually incorrect stories because we THINK their "essence" is true, it's a sad, sad day for journalism.

Here is a link to the entire New York Times story, by the way.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Academia -- the left's dictatorship

Right on point to a comment I made a couple days ago regarding the sad state of affairs on American college campuses is this column I found by Roger Kimball for the Wall Street Journal. Very powerful stuff.

Worst songs ever

We were having a discussion in the newsroom about our LEAST favorite songs ever:

Here is my preliminary list:

"Take these broken Wings" by ????
"Against the Wind" by Bob Seger
"Don't you forget about me" by Tears for Fears
"I want to know what Love is" by Foreigner

Care to add to the list?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

City of Shelby violates public records law

Here is the link to today's story in The Star as well as an editorial on the issue.

My question: Are people so out of touch with government that they don't even care that major decisions involving their tax dollars are made in secret?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Post-EOG week

So, with EOGs in the rearview mirror, we should be getting the scores back this week -- most will pass, of course, which leads us to "Post-EOG Week." That's when the kids who did not pass get 2 weeks of intensive remediation, while the rest of the students ... watch movies?

Let's try this -- check with your child and see what SCHOOL WORK actually gets done in the last 2 weeks of school. Post (anonymously if you must) in the comments section and let's compare notes.

Who's in?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Phony racism

Here is an interesting and quite provocative column by Steve Chapman.

Question: Howmuch real racism exists in Cleveland County? What is the hard evidence of this racism? How does one PROVE rampant community racism?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Anybody else have "Cujo" for a dog?

Sometimes my cock-a-poo is the kindest most gentle dog in the world. Then, there are mornings like this morning. I was loading up my youngest for school and the dog jumped in the car. Normally I'm able to quickly shoo her out, but this time the dog WOULD NOT MOVE! It took my 15 minutes of cajoling, yelling, prodding with a broom, bribing with food, etc. to finally get her to move.

Other times, lately, she just growls or even snaps for no reason.

Any advice?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Panthers trades

Trades made during the NFL draft don't receive nearly enough attention. To wit, the Panthers made two terrific trades during the draft this weekend.

1) First, the Panthers moved back in the second round 9 spots (from No. 45 to No. 54) and, in return, got a fourth-rounder from the Seahawks.
2) Then, the Panthers traded two OTHER fourth-rounders to the Packers for a third-rounder (Pick No. 89)

If you put those two trade together ..
The Panthers gave up:
Pick nos. 45, 115, 126
The Panthers got:
Pick nos. 54, 89, 121

In other words, they moved back 9 spots in the second round and moved up 26 spots from the fourth to the third round and another 5 spots in the fourth round. And even more beautiful is that the Panthers were clearly targetting Eric Shelton in the second round -- a player they still got at No. 54.

Those kinds of trades can make the difference between a contender and a pretender.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Had any school papers come back recently with purple ink?

This excellent column by George Will discusses the new trend to "protect the feelings" of children by never having them lose or be subject to anything upsetting. Question: What happens when they grow up and enter the real world?

Had any school papers come back recently with purple ink?

This excellent column by George Will discusses the new trend to "protect the feelings" of children by never having them lose or be subject to anything upsetting. Question: What happens when they grow up and enter the real world?

Had any school papers come back recently with purple ink?

This excellent column by George Will discusses the new trend to "protect the feelings" of children by never having them lose or be subject to anything upsetting. Question: What happens when they grow up and enter the real world?

Had any school papers come back recently with purple ink?

This excellent column by George Will talks about our new "sensitive society" where there are no losers, only children with feelings who need those feelings protected at all costs and never harmed. Question: Then what happens when these children grow up and enter the real world?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Terrific column on the new pope

Lot's of simplistic talk about Pope Benedict XVI being "conservative" and "right-wing." But columnist Michael Novak writes in the National Review that Benedict's fight against relativism is much deeper and much more complex.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The REAL problem with newspapers?

This is former Durham Sun editor John Ham's answer to that question, in a column he penned recently.

I'm not sure I go as far as Ham does in blaming circulation declines on this mentality, but I sure do agree that the mentality exists.

Rational Risk Assessment

This is a fascinating term which I've learned about at some conferences. A loose translation of the term is this: What are the REAL chances of something bad happening?

I've heard it applied in two main areas -- terrorism and child abduction. Doing a rational risk assessment totally quantifies the ACTUAL risk of the typical person being affected by one of these things.

Here is a paper (PDF) on the the real threat of terrorism done by the Cato Institute.

One sentence that sticks out:
"Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer or severe allergic reactions to peanuts."

Now, think about HOW MUCH MONEY we've spent "fighting" terrorism just since 9/11.

I'm going to try and find a rational risk assessment on child abductions.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Crystal ball column writing?

Many of you might have heard of Mitch Albom of the Detroit newspaper. He's an award-winning columnists who wrote "Tuesday's with Morrie" and other books. He appears on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters and other TV shows.

He's in hot water.

Albom wrote a column on a Friday to be published in the Sunday paper. Nothing wrong with that -- I often write my Sunday "this and that" column ahead of time since the section in which it appears prints Friday night.

But Albom made a big boo boo when he assumed things were going to happen and included them in his column.

Here is the column. Here is his apology. And here are a bunch of journalists taking him to task for both.

My view: Albom's explanation falls short. Note in the column how he described how the players traveled to the game. Not good.

Firing offense? Probably not. But he should be disciplined somehow.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Guns at Thomas Jefferson

I've had a few inquiries over the past weeks about our coverage of the gun incident at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy.

Police say a boy brandished a weapon in a classroom. It was a major deal.

It happened late in the week and we didn't have anything until the following Tuesday.


Quite simply, we didn't know about it. While we make daily -- sometimes multiple times a day -- checks of police reports in Cleveland County, we do not make those checks in neighboring counties, for obvious reason (the cops reporter would spend her entire shift driving and wouldn't get any work done).

So, unless we are tipped off about something in a neighboring county, there is no way for us to know. What makes this situation unusual is that we are dealing with an out-of-county school that is attended by a number of "in-county" students.

Anyway, the first I heard of it was late Saturday night at the Heart Ball.

We got on the story Monday, but by then it was old news and it didn't seem right to have a screaming headline on 1A four days after the fact.

Some have juxtaposed our play on the TJCA story with the story about the parent complaining about her sons' suspension. I don't see the connection. They were totally different issues, one in a school in the middle of our coverage area, one in a school outside the fringe of our coverage area.

If we had known about the TJCA situation when it happened, it would undoubtedly have been a top-of-the-fold 1A story. But it wouldn't make sense to downplay a compelling story about the boys' suspensions just because we were out of the loop on the other matter.

By the way, I'm not sure I follow those who accuse us of being sympathetic to the family affected by the suspensions. We just reported what they said and gave the schools a chance to respond.

Today's paper critique

1A: Nice job on "Blue Heaven -- the score and all looks good. In hindsight, the baby blue box doesn't work so well. I think some nice, clean, unobstructed white space would have had even more impact. Also, that would have bought us a precious pica or two to help get Williams' face more above the fold. The intersection of the two photos, two refers and a cutline was confusing for me. I think we needed to simplify there, probably by losing the second picture. Nice job, Joy, on the gas prices package.
3A: Good solid page of interesting and varied wire news.
5A: The pope story seems like an odd fit on this page of obits and local news. Maybe some state news instead. Also, had a story further back in the paper on Bush going to Pope's funeral
6A: Good job covering the Grover meeting -- that's a story the whole county will be interested in. In fact, this is just a really nie page. Good local news at the bottom, the reader snapshot is nice as is the Relay for Life rail. Nice job.
7A: Good package on autism, Jackie. CUTLINE: Excellent information in this cutline. Perfect.
1B: I wonder if readers will see "Blue Monday" and think we were suggesting it was something other than a good thing that UNC won? Nice use of big art, but I would have played this even bigger -- six columns with the local stuff at the bottom. It's historic and we only treated it as a somewhat-bigger-than-normal centerpiece. Good to have Star view. Also, nice hustle to get the Jolly story in while shorthanded.
10B: Had a chance to use some dramatic pope picture on this page, instead of what we did on 5A.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Was the judge "kicked out" of church?

While that probably overstated things, I think people need to understand what it's like to be attacked by your church for positions you take.

Here is one of the columns from the Florida Baptist Witness.

I think when a church member is told he "needs to be afflicted" and that his rulings are, in effect, "barbarism" and that the very authenticity of his faith is challenged with statements like: "And it’s incredible that Terri’s cruel death was ordered at the hands of a judge who professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ" -- I think it's safe to say that if I were in his shoes I would feel like I was being kicked out of the church.

More on Schiavo

Here is my column from today on the Schiavo situation.

I've taken a call this morning from a reader who says the judge wasn't "run off." I believe that people can be run off or kicked out without being expressly asked to leave a church. Feeling like a church is no longer a friendly place is a painful thing. But, I leave that point open for debate.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Today's paper critique

The editor's brief critique of today's paper

1A: Very strong front page today. We're off to a good start in a week
where we have so many folks on vacation. Today, I doubt readers even
noticed our dwindling numbers. Excellent writing, Megan, on the Bridges
obit story. Good drop hed with that story. I like the extended cutline
with the Bridges picture, although "sits" needed to be "sat." Excellent
centerpiece on the housing. I like the "Star special report" tagline. Nice
use of white space to let the package breathe. Terrific graphic, Lindsay.
Only complaint --- as I brought up in the budget meeting, I can't tell
where the three police zones begin and end. I also really like Megan's
lead on the Angel unaware story. Also, nice clean refer boxes at the
bottom. Good to add the school to the Teacher of the Week.

2A: Good use of art on the housing jump. Chad -- instead of that long
address that nobody's going to type in, shouldn't we just send them to the
web site and have a section for "links from stories" or something???

3A: Those Schiavo signs are something else. Normally I don't like
protester art, but that works.

9A: Interesting page here -- I like the Space Station package.

1B: WINNING HEADLINE: "Funks spunk leads to ..."

9B: Good full report on the earthquake.

today's paper

1A: Very strong front page today. We're off to a good start in a week
where we have so many folks on vacation. Today, I doubt readers even
noticed our dwindling numbers. Excellent writing, Megan, on the Bridges
obit story. Good drop hed with that story. I like the extended cutline
with the Bridges picture, although "sits" needed to be "sat." Excellent
centerpiece on the housing. I like the "Star special report" tagline. Nice
use of white space to let the package breathe. Terrific graphic, Lindsay.
Only complaint --- as I brought up in the budget meeting, I can't tell
where the three police zones begin and end. I also really like Megan's
lead on the Angel unaware story. Also, nice clean refer boxes at the
bottom. Good to add the school to the Teacher of the Week.

2A: Good use of art on the housing jump. Chad -- instead of that long
address that nobody's going to type in, shouldn't we just send them to the
web site and have a section for "links from stories" or something???

3A: Those Schiavo signs are something else. Normally I don't like
protester art, but that works.

9A: Interesting page here -- I like the Space Station package.

1B: WINNING HEADLINE: "Funks spunk leads to ..."

9B: Good full report on the earthquake.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Editor's daily (or almost daily) critique

Thought you might be interested in seeing the daily critique I do of the
paper. I don't "proof" the paper, per se, so I'm sure there are errors
that are missed, but the point is to give the staff overall feedback on
that day's edition. What do you think?

1A: That CommUnity logo really looks nice, doesn't it? Good to update,
Joy, with list of donors. Nice Home and Garden promo -- sometimes type
works best. Four jumps today --- yuck! How could we have avoided that?
Head Start jump was short. Bet we could have trimmed it. On the Glover
story, I don't see any support in the story for the phrase "All cases
solved ..." I know what we were trying to say, but especially in a town
with the three women case hanging over us, I don't think that hit the
mark. Very, very nice writing on the care story lead -- I can really
picture the guy twirling his finger. Well done. CUTLINES: Pretty mediocre
today. "Firefighters ... get crane training" falls short of the mark.

3A: Not our strongest page here. Mainly, it suffers from a too-small
headline on 3A. The page never really recovers from that and ends up
looking gray and static, despite the breakout and graphic.

5A: This page, on the other hand, is better. The Schiavo hed in four
columns is bigger than the 3A hed in 6 columns. With a nice strong
vertical picture, the page is more compelling.

6A: That was neat the way we ran the Flashback picture really big. I
studied it and I bet readers did too.

1B: WINNING HEADLINE: Meet me in St. Louis. Randy -- we need to track down
Carolina fans going to St. Louie -- can you give Margarita some

1A: Nice lead on the McHenry piece. Nice little story on the Farmer's
Market. Don't forget to look for breakout ideas (one might have been, a
short list of what was for sale and how much it cost, etc.).

3A: I'm really glad we got these dueling columns by local folks, but the
execution fell a little short. First of all, any time you have copy
stretching over four columns, that should send up a red flag. It's VERY
hard to read. Also, we should have had mugs of the columnists and used the
column logo format (note to reporters putting together these kinds of
packages -- please request a mug). Still, I appreciate Alan's
resourcefulness on coming up with this idea and carrying it out.

5A: I like the idea of the news digest -- Lindsay will get us a cool
design for September on that.

6A: A couple of problems on this page. First, I don't understand the drop
hed: "Stalwart stance prompts church action." I thought stalwart meant
"good" or "supportive" -- makes it sound like we agree with his stance.
Second, the lead headline is too small. See how the drops compete with the
main hed for your eye. "Schiavo judge in spotlight" could have run nice
and big, with the drops below. Still, good story choice here and good to
refer from the 3A package as well.

1B: Love the fantasy primer, Randy (big shock, huh). Hey -- how 'bout that
Tourney Notes logo!

2, 5B: Impressive array of local results, information, given that you are
flying solo. Nice job.

1D: Great job on "Get Real," Jackie and Allison. I hope it's a big hit.
Layout looks terrific.

1A: Very impressive front page today. Margarita, the Holy Week primers
have been terrific. Had two comments about them at church Sunday. People
learned something and were reminded of some things. Nice job. The Gas
centerpiece is EXCELLENT! Terrific idea, well executed. Only thing I'd
change -- instead of having that tiny jump line under the School item, I'd
have made a more prominent refer box. Good job to get the Hamfest story in
the paper.

2A-3A: Look how appealing these two pages are -- not much traditional
copy, but lots of good information (columns, graphics, breakouts, capital
correspondence, etc.). Very nice job.

6A: Very nice photo package Saturday, Jeff. Good job.

7A: Another strong inside page. Good use of headline sizes. At a glance
box is good.

8A: Yet another strong page. Good use of powerful color image. Graphic
helps as does breakout. Briefs rail helps the page stay active.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Schiavo cont.

While I'm torn on the Schiavo matter on a number of levels, I'm NOT torn
on this -- forcing the judge on the case out of his home church in Florida
over this matter is indefensible. How ironic that the same people arguing
for keeping a feeding tube in place for Schiavo want to remove a spiritual
feeding tube from this man. Very, very, very sad.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Am I the only one that changes his mind every day on this story.

One day I can't bear to think of, in essence, starving somebody to death.
The next, I can't bear to think about denying death, if that was the
woman's wish. I felt a little better when consecutive columns in our paper
by writers I respect took the exact opposite views of each other.

What does bother me is people rushing into to claim they have a monopoly
on the moral high ground on this story. Why can't people just admit that
it's a close, tough call and that reasonable people can disagree. Heck, I
disagree with myself!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

ACC tournament

OK, here are my ACC tournament predictions:

Play-in games:
Maryland over Clemson
FSU over N.C. State
Miami over Virginia

UNC over Maryland (BUT CLOSE!)
GT over Va. Tech
Wake over FSU
Miami upsets Duke

UNC over GT
Wake over Miami

Wake over UNC

Monday, March 07, 2005

Martha, Martha, Martha

As we all gawk at the new, free Martha Stewart, it's important to
remember, as Alan Reynolds does:

That .... she was "convicted of conspiring to cover-up a crime she was not
accused of having committed -- insider trading. She was convicted of
"lying" but never charged with perjury."

Friday, March 04, 2005

Welcome to my blog!

I'm new in the blogging business, so be gentle. Here's what you can look
for in my blog:

1) Discussions about decisions we made at the newspaper, stories we've
written, headlines, photos, graphics and more.
2) The weather. Yeah, big shock, huh?
3) Sports. I'm still a big fan -- might even bore you with some fantasy
baseball posts.
4) Political philosophy: Lots of great information and opinions out there.
5) Anything else that pops into my mind.

It ought to be a wild ride!