Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rainy Christmas

If you have travel plan on Christmas Day -- indications are that it will be rainy. There is even a chance it could be snowy in the N.C. Mountains -- but not here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An apology to Crest

This column will appear on Friday's editorial page of The Star.

A week ago in this very spot, The Star published a letter signed “Cletus Winfred, Crest High School class of 1989.” The letter strongly criticized Crest Coach Roy Kirby for a quotation in a previous edition of The Star, among other things.
Shortly thereafter, Crest Principal Roger Harris e-mailed me expressing concerns about the authenticity of the letter. Specifically, he wrote: “I just wanted you to know that nobody with the name Cletus Winfred has ever graduated from Crest High, in 1989 or any other year. In addition, our records show that nobody named Cletus Winfred has ever even been enrolled at Crest High. Neither, do we find anyone even close to that name (Wenfred, Winfreed, or anything similar.)”
At that point, we retraced our steps.
I would like to walk you through that process.
Here is how confirmation works on Letters to the Editor:
1) A letter is faxed, mailed or e-mailed to The Star.
2) If it includes a phone number (as requested in our Letter to the Editor submission policy), we call that number to confirm authorship.
3) If there is no number, sometimes we are able to track down the author by cross-referencing the name or a return address in the phone book.
4) If we can’t do that, we hold the letter until the author calls to ask why it hasn’t been published, then we go through the process again.
5) If we receive anonymous letters, we contact the author and let he or she know that it is our policy not to publish anonymous letters. Sometimes the author will agree to attach his or her name to the letter, sometimes not.
This letter was unusual. It was signed “Disgusted former Charger player (Class of ’89)
It also included a note at the bottom: “Please contact me if more information is needed. Ivory Miller” with a phone number and the address of the Cleveland County Law Enforcement Center.
We contacted Ms. Miller, who gave us an e-mail address for Winfred. We e-mailed him and spoke with him on the telephone to confirm the letter. This followed our normal confirmation procedures and the procedures used by newspapers nationwide.
Then came the e-mail from Principal Harris, which clearly meant we needed to obtain further confirmation.
We spoke with the person we believed to be the letter’s author again on Friday. He agreed to fax us a copy of his diploma.
We have not received that fax.
I e-mailed him again on Monday and received no response.
I called him on Wednesday and left a message, but received no response.
I called him again on Thursday morning and a recording said the number had been disconnected.
At that point, I walked to the courthouse and spoke with Ms. Miller, who works in the information services department.
She said Winfred was an “associate” of hers, but that she didn’t know him very well. She said she graduated in 1989 and “knew of him” as a student at Crest. When I asked her to explain how Winfred was not in any Crest records she said she didn’t know.
“All I did was drop off the letter, after that I really don’t know anything,” she said.
Ms. Miller said she didn’t have a phone number for Winfred and didn’t know anybody who did, but agreed to e-mail him to have him get in touch with The Star.
Ultimately, when the facts are not conclusive, one must rely on one’s intuition and experience.
My intuition tells me that Ms. Miller’s explanation does not hold water and that the failure of “Winfred” to bolster his authenticity or return our calls this week is telling.
Barring evidence that bolsters “Winfred’s” claim to be who he says he is, The Star is withdrawing its authentication of this letter.
For my part, the editing of the letter was poor. I like to let people “have their say,” but the language in this letter was scathing and I should have taken a stronger hand in toning that down.
Given all of this, we apologize to Crest Coach Roy Kirby, Principal Roger Harris and the Crest High School family.
If you have any questions or additional information on this matter, please e-mail me at or call me at (704) 484-7000.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Big story in the county this week is the amount of sickness, particularly in the schools. If you have any anecdotes or information to share on this situation, please post it here or call me at 484-7000.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


My middle child's musical was at Jefferson Elementary Tuesday night. I grabbed the video camera at work and took some video for our web site. I'm not very good, but tried to get lots of faces in.

Anyway, we promoed today on 2A and, by sheer coincidence, the still frame we picked had my son's picture in it.


I have a rule here that my children should not appear in the paper unless there's no way around it (clearly, there WAS a way around it this time, although the person editing the video didn't know it was my son and then the others who handled that page didn't notice).

Should this bother me, or do I need to chill?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas music

Well, I don't like it in November, but I'm cranking it up everytime I'm in the car, now that December is in full swing.

Must have: James Taylor's new Christmas album. In particular, "Go tell it on the Mountain" is wonderfully done.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Auntie Em! Auntie Em!

Was it windy today or what? Wild weather system -- in San Antonio, Texas, Wed. the temperature dropped 30 degrees in 2 hours!

Here is a cell phone picture I took on the way to Rotary of a tree down on Country Club Circle.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas list

This is an editorial that appeared in Wednesday's Star. Feel free to add items to the list or to tell about how you "check off" one of the items on this list.

As the Christmas season cranks up, Santa is busy working on that infamous list. Mr. Claus’ string of “to dos” involves children’s behavior and their requests for toys.
But, with just under four weeks until Christmas, we offer you our own list of suggested Christmas activities.
Feel free to cut this out and check off the things that you do and then, if you wish, share with us your experiences. You can do that at Editor Skip Foster’s blog at where he will have a post on this editorial.
Now, on to the list!

Adopt a Salvation Army Angel
We’ve all heard the claims of non-profits that “90 percent” of what is donated goes to the people in need. With Angel tree adoptions, however, you know that the entire gift goes to a needy child.
We can’t think of a more direct way to positively impact a child’s life than this.

Go caroling
When’s the last time you did this? Many churches have caroling at avnursing home or other facility. Much like a shiny toy can brighten up a child’s day, a heartfelt carol can send the spirits of a homebound senior citizen soaring.

Read the Nativity
For all the talk about the “reason for the season,” when is the last time you sat down, by yourself or as a family, and actually read the Gospel account of Jesus’ birth. Make it a Christmas Eve event or part of the season on some other day. You won’t regret it.

Go to a different church
We can’t remember a place in Scripture where Jesus refers to denominations. What a great time to enjoy the traditions of a different style or form of worship. Some denominations call this time of year Advent, a season of expectation and hope. The current movement in our community to bring people of different faiths, cultures and races together surely brings a smile to God’s face. Even if it’s simply going to another church’s cantata, find a time to experience this holy season in a new way.

Eschew trinkets
Don’t you get tired of buying those same $10 gifts for an endless list of co-workers, teachers, pseudo-neighbors and the like? Why not consolidate that buying power into providing something truly valuable, such as a part of a meal at the homeless shelter or clothing for a church closet. We don’t want to suggest you do anything that would hurt the economy like simply hoarding what you own, but instead, send a form note to all those folks who get “trinkets” for Christmas and tell them you made a donation in their name to a worthy cause.

Make up
Almost everybody has a damaged relationship. What better time to swallow hard and make amends. Maybe you’re still hurt, but if forgiveness were easy, it wouldn’t be so important. Reconciliation might be the best gift you give or receive this Christmas.

Exercise three times a week
Huh? Why exercise? It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s so busy! We say, find a way. There is no getting around the stress of this season. Taking time to keep your body in shape will be another gift to yourself and those with whom you interact.

Have fun
Seems silly to say in what is supposed to be the season of joy. Yet, so often, going to get the Christmas tree or having a holiday party turns into work, not fun. Relax and enjoy the season!

You’ll notice that these items have boxes beside them. Hopefully you will be able to check off all of them. If so, we promise that your Christmas season will be brighter than ever.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I'm going to write a column for the weekend on "scalping." I just don't understand why it's illegal for tickets to sporting and entertainment events, but legal for just about anything else.

I bring this up because of our story today on people waiting in line for the new Playstation 3. Many of them freely admitted they are buying the new "toys" just so they can resell them on E-bay at a profit. That is, they are going to scalp the Playstations -- why is this legal, when doing the exact same thing for football tickets isn't?

My question to all of you is this -- what are some other commonly "scalped" things? Antique furniture, sports memorabilia ... what else?


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

GWU perspective on Bobby Knight

Alan Ford did a great job tracking down GWU coach Rick Scruggs and putting together an interesting story on the Bobby Knight flap.

I went over to a Texas Tech message board and posted a link to our story. As you will see, Red Raider fans were very appreciative.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Urgent: Rabies emergency

We will be posting a breaking news in the next few minutes about a serious rabies problem in Cleveland County.

There is a missing black kitten with white paws and a white triangle under its neck which was given away in August at a yard sale at 855. E. Stagecoach Trail.

The man who bought the cat said he lived 5 miles east of that location and that he bought the cat for his brother's farm.

The cat's name was Socks.

Today, it was confirmed that one of Socks' siblings had rabies and has exposed at least 14 people.

The Health Department is urgently trying to locate Socks for fear that it has rabies and other humans or animals have been exposed.

If you know ANYTHING about this situation, please call the Health Department (484-5200), the Animal Shelter (481-9884) or county communications (484-4822).

And please pass along this message to as many people as you can.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Two early races to watch nationally

Two Indiana house seats will be a good indicator of how the night is going for Democrats and Republicans -- if Republicans Chocola (Dist. 2) and Sodrel (Dist. 9)lose, the Democrats will surely win enough seats to control the House. If those are too close to call initially or actually go Republican, the rumors of GOP demise may have been exaggerated.

About the Wednesday Star

Well, I'm a little bored right now, believe it or not. I'll rue posting that at about 9 p.m. tonight!

Thought you'd be interested in how we put together the Wednesday-after-the-election newspaper.


We'll actually invert the news and sports deadlines tonight -- usually sports is last "off the floor" for obvious reasons (scores, etc.). Tonight, though, sports will finish much earlier than usual -- about 10:30 p.m. instead of midnight.

Our news deadline will be such that the press can start at 1:30 a.m. This is an hour later than usual. Hopefully, the weather will clear and delivery conditions will be good for our fine carrier force.

Our front page for tomorrow is already designed. While the headline obviously have not been written, I know that we'll be playing the sheriff and commissioner races on the front, regardless of what happens. Then, I'll have one more spot to rotate in the most important race.

At the top of the page, will be a list of the winners of all the important races, including who has control of the General Assembly and Congress.

We'll "bust" our left hand rail Wednesday (in newsroom lingo, that means we'll get rid of it) and run an election rail instead.

Inside, there will be an open full page (open means no ads) with more stories from other races, a full page precinct chart (we left it out one year and you screamed, so it's back!) and a full page full color graphic from AP showing U.S. House/Senate/Gov. races.

Further inside the paper, you'll find more stories of local, state and national interest.

It's a huge day for us -- a Lifestyles reporter, obit clerk, special projects editor and others from outside their normal areas of responsibilities will all be working -- it's probably the only day of the year that everybody in the newsroom is working at the same time.

Hope you find what you need!

Monday, November 06, 2006


OK, the election is finally upon us.


I always forget how much I hate these campaigns -- so often, they're not about real issues, but about personalities and petty attacks. The "nuts" on either side spinning up all their conspiracy theories are particularly onerous and contribute nothing to the process but hate and division. I hope they're proud of themselves.

The "horse race" part of election is a little fun, though. In that spirit, here are my predictions on how the races will turn out.

While things are changing, it's just tough for Republicans to get elected to county-wide offices in Cleveland County. Claudia Glenn has campaigned hard, but I don't think it will be enough.

Mitzi McGraw-Johnson (D) 56 percent
Claudia Glenn (R) 44 percent

This one has gotten nasty. Colin McWhirter is banking on a big win in Lincoln County and then a push in Cleveland. Rick Shaffer is hoping for the inverse. Both have worked hard in this race.

Rick Shaffer (D) 52 percent
Colin McWhirter (R) 48 percent

While it's easy to say this race has been ugly as well, the truth is, my expectations were so low, they have not been "met." That is, it could have been worse. I think Don Allen has effectively attacked the Hamrick administration and will pull the upset.

Don Allen (R) 51 percent
Raymond Hamrick (D) 49 percent

N.C. House Dist. 110 and 112
Debbie Clary (R) and Bob England (D), respectively, cruise to easy wins.
N.C. House Dist. 111
Nice late surge by Betsy Fonvielle, but it won't quite be enough to overcome the incumbent. Look for closer margin than expected, though.
Tim Moore (R) 53 percent
Betsy Fonvielle (D) 47 percent

N.C. Senate Dist. 46
My gut tells me this could be the closest race on election night. The tie goes to the incumbant.
Walter Dalton (D) 51
Wes Westmoreland 49 (R)

County commissioner
I'll be honest, this is a total guess. One refrain I've heard alot this year: It's so nice to have four qualified candidates. By the way, the percentages are too confusing on these multi-seat races, so I'm just picking the winners:

Jo Boggs (D)
Bill Chambless (R)

Control of U.S. House and Senate
Late surge by GOP (Kerry gaffe) will allow it to hold Senate at 51-49 while losing 18 house seats and, hence, control of that body.

Control of N.C. House and Senate
Democrats hold on to both easily.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Court of Appeals/Supreme Court races

If you're like me, the state judges races are almost an exercise in futility -- who are these people? What do they stand for?

Here is a guide you might consider using to cast your ballots -- it's a column written by First Amendment attorney John Bussian in the North Carolina Press association monthly newsletter (John's column is on Page 3).

Bussian offers recommendation based on the candidates' stances on open government issues.

Please consider using this a voting guide for these important positions.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Too funny

I saw this picture on The Drudge Report.

It speaks for itself.

Tee hee.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dems planning "Google bomb?"

I saw this on a story idea blog I frequent called Al's Morning meeting.

He was pitching a story about Democrats launching a "Google bomb" right before Election Day.

What is a Google bomb? Here is a primer, but basically it means placing the most negative stories possible at the top of Google searches on Republican candidates.

What will they think of next?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The bag

We've taken at least one call about the bag in which The Star was delivered today. The outside of the bag is an advertisement for Wes Westmoreland, who is running for state senate.

The bag containing The Star is always for sale to advertisers, political or otherwise.

Democrats have just as much of a chance to purchase that space as Republicans and vice-versa.

Our coverage of this or any other race is in no way affected by the purchase of this non-traditional form of advertising. Just like our coverage isn't affected by who purchases an ad on a typical news page inside the paper.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Dean Smith doesn't get it

Here is an excerpt from an AP story moving today:

Legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith says in a planned newspaper ad campaign that being a person of faith and voting Democratic can go together.
``I'm a lifelong Baptist and vote for Democrats,'' Smith says in the ad. ``One reason? Democrats are serious about alleviating poverty.''
Smith declined comment about the ad.
The campaign is the product of Devout Democrats, a new Chapel Hill-based political action committee headed by University of North Carolina law student Chip Muller.

I fail to see how stealing other people's money and giving it to the poor is in anyway aligned with the teaching of Jesus. Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus say: "Take the shirt off your back and give it to the poor and if your neighbor won't voluntarily give his shirt, take it from him yourself." Democrats want to allieviate poverty through coercion and theft. Those are NOT Christian tenets.

Even if the philosophical point wasn't indefensible, there is the practical reality that liberal "poverty reduction" programs have never worked and will never work.

Stick to hoops, coach.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Foley scandal

Lots of talk in media circles about the Foley scandal. I was an Ethics Fellow at the Poynter Insitute a few years back -- we maintain a listserv which fires up during these types of situations. Here is a post I made in response to journalist who didn't buy the explanation by the St. Pete Times regarding why it didn't publish a story on the matter some time back.

I'm trying to understand the "blew it" position. Having trouble.

As I understand it, here are the facts the Times and Co. had in front of them:

A U.S. Congressmen sent e-mails to a page.

They were friendly and, for the most part, harmless (Katrina, etc.) The most incriminating part of the e-mails was when the congressmen requested a "pic."

There was nothing sexual in the e-mails obtained by the Times.

The page questioned whether the e-mails were "out of bounds," asking a staffer in another congressman's office.

The page, when interviewed, said the request for a picture made him "uncomfortable."

The family did not want the page named

Later, the family said, through a different congressman, they did not want to pursue a story.

Not only did the paper not find a pattern, but the only other page it could find did not have a similar experience.

The congressman in question denied anything untoward.

If I were the editor, relying on these facts, it would have been an easy call: No publication.

As Poynter has taught us so many times, it's about balancing benefit and harm. There was only a whiff of evidence that something improper was going on here. Yet, publication of a story would have immediately painted the congressman as a pervert, no matter how carefully and discreetly the story was reported. To me, it's way too easy to draw a line back from the final outcome and claim the story should have been published. Maybe I'm missing some evidence that the papers had, but based on what I've read, it fell way short of publishable material.

Skip Foster

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hard to resist

We had two stories in today's paper on the man who stopped to help victims of a major wreck, then drove the ambulance to the hospital when asked by an EMS worker or firefighter. The second story focused on how Ben O'Brien came to be driving the emergency vehicle.

As we talked about the story it sounded just like a "Holiday Inn Express" commercial.

"When O'Brien drove up to the emergency room, a nurse asked: 'Are you really an ambulance driver?' O'Brien responded: 'No, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.'"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shelby makes USA Today

Stan Anthony sent me this link to USA Today -- they did a story on pocket ashtrays and listed towns participating in the Keep America beautiful cigarette butt campaign. Shelby's on the list!

Oh deer

Was driving on errands early this afternoon. Turned onto Main St. from Kings Road and saw two police cars and a car pulled off. First thing I thought was license check so I quickly put my seat belt on! Got closer, though, and saw it was Jim Allen -- a fellow Rotarian and former candidate for Shelby mayor. Then I noticed the damage to the front of Jim's car.

What happened?

In the middle of the day a deer cantered across the road right into Jim's path. It struck his car and did significant damage.

I had great appreciation for this since the exact same thing happened to my wife on Wyke Road in front of the Y last spring on a school morning.

I think the new development on Kings Road has really put some pressure on these deer. They're everywhere!

Anyway, Jim looked fine.

Watch out for those deer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sept. 11, 2001

Where was I? Taking my child Matthew to day care at First Baptist. He was only 3 at the time. It's hard to believe my youngest son wasn't even born.

I came in the newsroom and Assistant Lifestyles Editor Allison Flynn was the first to tell me -- right when I got to the TV, the second plane hit.

By afternoon, I was hawking our extra edition on the street corner of Graham and Dekalb.

That time was such a blur. I remember the newspaper being such an "outlet" for people to share their memories, thoughts, anger and fears over what was happening.

I hope you'll visit our special 9-11 page on the front of There are fascinating features and chances for you to contribute your own recollections of that fateful day.

Also, feel free to add comments on this blog posting as to where you were when you learned of the attack.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tragic car crash

I have taken a call and received an e-mail on the story we wrote on the fatal wreck on U.S. 74 yesterday. Both the caller and writer used the word "cold" to describe our story, which is not a complaint I'm used to hearing.

No matter how you slice it, the wreck was tragic. A woman died and two teenagers were involved along with three other cars and people. It's not clear whether the wreck was simply weather-related or someone was to blame. Either way, it will remain a tragedy.

Anyway, the caller who was upset said she felt the breakout box describing who was involved in the wreck and the cutline which described the picture should have been left out. I'm not sure how to respond to either. They were both basic information about the story to help readers understand who was involved. The writer said the story was insensitive to the family of the victim. I'm really struggling to figure out how that was the case.

Regarding the picture, we chose it very carefully. While TV ran pictures of the victim's car with a sheet over it, we chose a much milder picture, not even of the victim's car.

Our story was "by the book," which is how readers often complain that we SHOULD write stories, rather than making them overly flowery or sensational.

All of this is to say: Can you help me understand why people are upset with this story? My only real thought is that it's so tragic on so many levels that we are simply the recipient of misplaced anger and sadness. I can handle that. But if you know of or see ways we could have presented the story better, I'm very much interested in that feedback.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

This could be trouble

While Debbie is harmlessly spinning in the central Atlantic and posts no threat to land, a tropical low that has not even reached depression status is a much more real threat. Check out this satellite loop. The system is just entering the far eastern Caribbean. A NOAA aircraft will investigate the system today. The Caribbean is highly charged with warm water and if this system forms it could grow explosively. Long range models indicate that the system could very well enter the Gulf of Mexico sometime the week before Labor Day. Watch this one closely.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Football season

Starting to get pumped about prep/college/pro football getting cranked up.

Quick assessment on "my teams." (don't have a local prep favorite -- I'll leave handicapping of that Fab Four to Alan and Randy.)

Panthers: Always makes me nervous when my team is the trendy pick, as the Panthers are this pre-season.
Key questions:
1) Will D. Foster stay healthy and if not, will D. Williams be ready to take his place?
2) Will Dan Morgan stay healthy and if not, and with W. Witherspoon gone, will the LB corps hold up.
3) Will the OL continue last year's improvement trend.
4) Will Keyshawn shut up?

Florida State Seminoles: This is a "no-excuse" year for Bobby Bowden. No more Chris Rix to blame (Weatherford is a very experienced sophomore now). No big pre-season injuries (yet). The schedule is as easy as its ever been (Troy, Rice, Western Michigan along with ACC slate and Florida).
Key questions:
1) Will Oline perform. If not, it's another 3-5 loss season
2) Will young D-line step up?
3) Will Weatherford continue to grow, or regress like Rix did his sophomore season?
4) Can the Noles get by Miaim to open season and establish positive momentum?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Let the politics begin!

I received this e-mail today:

I assume you will be publishing the republican response to the Chairman of the Democratic party on gas prices. Also your front page head line indicates because these people attended a breakfest they are supporting Don Allen for sheriff. If you read the article none of them say they are supporting this candidate.

Here was my response:
Thanks for writing.
Regarding a response to Betsy Wells, we open up our editorial page to commentary from all who want to write. As I'm sure you saw, we recently published a column by Wes Westmoreland, the GOP candidate for state senate. If the head of the local Republican Party would like to write and respond, she is more than welcomed.
Regarding today's story, I think our headlines (and this certainly isn't always true!) were quite accurate. We basically posed the question -- are these Democrats being loyal to their party by going to a fundraiser for a sheriff's candidate in another party? I think that's a fair question that was accurately captured by our headline. I didn't see anything that said those folks were necessarily supporting Don Allen. You're right -- none of them said they were. Of course, they didn't say they weren't either!
Thanks again for writing.

Skip Foster

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Keep an eye on Chris

If you are headed to Florida next weekend, or anywhere on the Gulf coast next week, you'll want to stay closely tuned to the weather.

Here is the latest tracking map on Tropical Storm Chris.

As you can see, it is forecasted to be approaching the southern tip of Florida by late in the weekend.

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Tough call

We spent a lot of time in the newsroom debating about how to handle this story, which finally ran over the weekend. Mainly, we were trying to balance concern for the family of the deceased with the news value of the story -- that news value being that the victim of the fatal car crash should not have been on the road in the first place, because of a series of "driving with license revoked" arrests.

We did a couple of things to mitigate any pain the story might have brought -- first, we waited until after the funeral; second, we ran the story inside, rather than on the front.

So, do you think this story was newsworthy, or should it have been left out altogether?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Out to get Burns?

Interesting thread to which I responded on the Star message board regarding the use of Burns in the lead of the tragic story of an apparent homicide.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Note the passages in bold. This is everything that's wrong with modern-day environmentalism.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal judge temporarily stopped construction on a $320 million irrigation project Thursday, ruling the changes could disturb the habitat of a woodpecker that might or might not exist.
Scientists had thought the ivory-billed woodpecker was extinct until a kayaker reported spotting one in 2004 near the White River in eastern Arkansas. Ornithologists flocked to the area but were unable to prove conclusively that the woodpecker exists.
U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson said that, for purposes of the lawsuit, he had to presume the woodpecker exists in that area. He said federal agencies may have violated the Endangered Species Act by not studying the habitat fully.
``When an endangered species is allegedly jeopardized, the balance of hardships and public interest tips in favor of the protected species,'' Wilson wrote. ``Here there is evidence the IBW may be jeopardized.''
At the same time, aquifers beneath eastern Arkansas soybean, cotton and rice fields have become less reliable water sources. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last year began construction on the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project, 14 miles from where the bird was spotted.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Star gets some ink, er .... pixels

Steve Buttry, of the American Press Institute, wrote a column on API's web site about The Star's innovations. I'd be interested in any comments on his column.

It is very interesting to see and hear the responses of industry folks to the things we are doing. You might be surprised at how few papers have on-line video, blogs, etc.

Even some television stations have yet to feature video on their web sites!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Too long ...

Been too long since I've updated -- sorry about that.

Wanted to open the floor to story ideas -- topics, people, events you would like to see covered in the paper.

Let's have 'em!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Print Star changes

A heads up for my devoted (?) blog readers.

We will be making a few tweaks in the print Star in response to some reader complaints. Namely:

1) We will return the obits back toward their original form. All of the personal information will be in paragraph form. Only the details on the funeral, burial, etc. will be in the bulleted form.
2) We will bump up the size of the type we use with graphics, lists, calendars, etc.
3) We will replace our Page 2A celebrity news with a Top Nation/World story of the day feature. We have added so much local to the paper, it often squeezes out national and international news. This will ensure that at least the top story of the day will be in that spot.

We will be tweaking some other design elements, which you probably will not notice (some leading, fonts, etc.).

Biblical basis for big government?

Very interesting story today on a Kings Mountain councilman who argues that there is no Biblical basis for government spending on social programs.

We have an editorial going on this Friday -- basically saying he's right.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bumper sticker

I think I saw the most offensive bumper sticker ever yesterday.

It read: "Work harder: Millions on welfare are counting on you."

That someone would actually put that on their car says a whole lot about where this country is headed.

Also, speaking of things I see while driving, what with those signs stuck in the ground offering mattresses for sale. Why mattresses? I don't get it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Post-EOG week

Lots of debate being generated over our stories on post EOG "celebrations" and such.

One argument I'm hearing a lot is: "We need a break after those stressful tests."

Isn't that what summer vacation is for?

Monday, May 15, 2006

A quiz

I have been so pleased to see an increase in the number of local names and faces in The Star. Last Thursday, I decided to count them all.

Question: How many local names or faces appeared in last Thursday's edition of The Star (I did not count survivors in obits - if a name appeared with a face (i.e. mug shot), I only counted that once).

The closest guesser gets a Star coffee mug.

Couple changes in The New Star

First, we have bumped up the point size in what we call our "graphics copy." Basically this is non-body copy. Hmmmm -- that still may confuse you. Let me put it this way, the typeface that appears in regular stories did not change during our overhaul. But we did change the typeface that is used for "non-paragraph" copy, such as lists, honor rolls, jail logs and the left hand rails that were created.

We increased that point size to make for easier reading.

Also, we went back to a 1-column format for the obits. We found that readers didn't like following one line of copy all the way across two columns.

Anyway, hope you are enjoying the increase in local news in the paper.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Terrible bill ....

How can anyone defend a law which would require 80-year-old people to be carded??????

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee is one step away from becoming the first state to require stores selling beer to check the age of every buyer, even those obviously older than 21.
The universal carding legislation sponsored by Rep. Gary Moore, D-Joelton, is on its way to the governor for his signature after passing the House Thursday on a vote of 75-20. The legislation was unanimously approved in the Senate last week.
``This bill will put Tennessee first. It's an innovative approach to prevent the sale of beer to minors,'' Moore said.
Besides requiring carding, the legislation would also create a voluntary ``responsible vendors program.''
In return for training and certifying clerks, stores in the responsible vendors program would face lower fines and couldn't have their beer permits revoked for a first offense of selling to underage drinkers.
Some local governments, which control beer permits, opposed the bill over that provision.
Universal carding would apply to all vendors regardless of whether they enroll in the program. The carding rule would expire after one year unless the General Assembly renews the law next legislative session.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


OK, I reserve the right to change these as the election draws near, but I'm going to stick my neck out and make predictions for the main local races in November.

Incumbent Raymond Hamrick will barely hold off a strong bid by Republican Don Allen -- it will be something like 52-48 or 51-49 Hamrick. And this definitely could change in the next 5 months.

Again, the Democratic ticket will prevail as Jo Boggs and Eddie Holbrook win over Kelly Hastings and Bill Chambless

Clerk of Court:
I see Sharon Jones emerging from the Democratic runoff and besting Claudia Glenn.

Democrat Rick Shaffer (helped by the loss of commissioners candidate Ron Schaeffer who might have caused name recognition problems) will defeat Republican lawyer Colin McWhirter.

N.C. House
Finally, a Republican who will win! Incumbent Tim Moore will hold off Democrat Betsy Fonveille.

N.C. Senate
I think this is the toughest race to call. When in doubt, though, go with the incumbent. I'll take Democrat Walter Dalton over GOP challenger Wes Westmoreland.

So, it's a long way until the general election, but if these predictions hold true, it will be a big night locally for Democrats.

We shall see.

What do YOU think?

Monday, April 24, 2006

New Web site

First of all, we appreciate your patience as we convert to our new site design. We are doing this while simultaneously moving to a new, better, faster server, so lots of complications arising, as would be expected.

Once we work the kinks out, I would love to get your feedback on the new site. While the changes to the print Star involved content and design improvements, this is mainly a redesign, because we've been adding multi-media features to over the past few months.

Anyway, we are compiling a list of tweaks we need to make on the site-- feel free to post here with things we need to add or, heaven forbid, things you LIKE about the new design!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Duke case

Here is blog post I was asked to make for the Poynter Insitute, a journalism thinktank in St. Petersburg.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Rod Stewart night???

What's the matter, Englebert Humperdink wasn't available?

Why do you have to be a washed up rocker to get a theme night on American Idol.

Oh well, at least I don't have to watch Bucky sing "Do ya think I'm sexy" .......

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Brenda Sue

Well, Megan Ward's series on the Brenda Sue Brown murder has generated more interest and feedback than any non-breaking feature we've ever written. The message board thread on the subject has grown to more than 20 pages. The interactive feature we put together has been viewed more than 8,000 times.

Question: Are there any questions you have that we didn't answer? Or, any other comments on the series?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Oh deer

Like we don't have enough fun at our house ..

I get a call from my wife, who had carpool. Just after she turned toward Jefferson School off of the Cherryville Highway 6 or so deer cantered from her left (near Community Pharmacy) to her right (toward the YMCA) she slowed to a near stop, but one of them slammed into the front left of her van, denting it badly. The deer survived and scampered off into the woods.

Obviously a traumatic experience for my wife and the kids.

She called me and said my 8-year-old was freaking out a little bit. He did, however, provide a priceless moment.

As I tried to calm him down, I told him that this happens all the time and that deer are always running across the streets and stuff.

He said, melodramatically, "DAADDDD, they weren't DEER, they were REINdeer!!!!!"

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Just "women"

We do some knuckleheaded things in the paper -- mainly because we're a bunch of imperfect humans.

Today was one of those times.

We wrote a story about a wreck in which two women were injured. We identified the pair as "black women."

Sometimes race is relevant to stories, but most of the time it is not. This time, race wasn't relevant at all.

We discussed this in the newsroom and there was total agreement, even by the reporter on the story, who covers the police/emergency beat for us and is a fine reporter.

So, how did it happen?

The explanation is simple: Cops reporters are in a mode of trying to squeeze every detail out of stories -- usually they are right on deadline and every morsel can add to the story. Sometimes, though, when writing non-crime stories, they forget to shift gears. That is what happened in this case.

Still, it shouldn't have. Race had no place in this story and we apologize for interjecting it where it didn't belong.

K.. K.. K.. Katie

The big talk in the media world today is about Katie Couric jumping to CBS to take over the CBS Evening News.

1) Will you watch her?
2) Will you keeping watching Today?
3) Think all of this is overblown?

My answers are:
1) Probably at the start, out of curiosity, but not over the long haul
2) I prefer GMA anyway
3) YES!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Doesn't hold water ...

It's amazing to me how scientists go out of their way to try and demonstrate flaws in Christianity or other religions. Check out this ridiculous story.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

The New Star

OK, here's your chance to let me have it -- hope you saw the new Star.

Questions: What do you like? Dislike? Favorite new feature? Least favorite new feature? Anything else?

I appreciate your feedback.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Religion run amok

I was surprised that this editorial in Thursday's Star didn't generate more discussion. Any comments?

Major early spring snow in mountains

Hard to believe, but if you are headed to the mountains this weekend, be prepared for a winter wonderland -- could be as much as a half foot of snow widespread, with even more on higher peaks.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that we see a few flurries mixed in with light rain showers even down in the piedmont.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Does this bother you?

I received this e-mail today. Approaching this from a journalist's viewpoint, anybody have a problem with this? I'll see if anybody comments, then give you my thoughts.

CHARLOTTE – March 17, 2006 – The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute will host the first in a series of ongoing seminars around the topic of "Reporting on Growth & Open Space," on May 23 at UNC Charlotte. The three-year program is funded through a $225,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and reflects the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to both journalism excellence and open space protection in the greater Charlotte region. The program is designed to assist reporters, editors and other media professionals in exploring ways to effectively report on open space and land use planning issues in the Charlotte region.

The May 23 seminar is titled "Environmental Journalism for the 21st Century: Out of the Woods, Into the Great Wide Open." As the first of a scheduled nine seminars to be held over the next three years, this first seminar will explore the growing importance of growth and open space-related news in both the nation’s and the region’s media. The keynote speaker is Stuart Leavenworth, associate editor of The Sacramento Bee, and a nationally-recognized environmental journalist. Leavenworth previously worked at the Raleigh News & Observer.
In recent years, open space and land use-related news has become increasingly important due to Charlotte’s rapid population growth. This growth, coupled with the Charlotte region’s ongoing pattern of low density development, has had a pronounced impact on the region’s physical landscape and quality of life. In particular, the rapid conversion of land into suburban-style subdivisions has contributed to traffic congestion, reduced air quality, diminished tree canopies, and school overcrowding. Many new government policies and grass-roots initiatives have emerged to preserve open space and to plan for better development. Local media need to report not only on these policies and initiatives, but also on the connection between land use and other public policy concerns, such as education, economic development and public health.

Through these seminars, the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute will work with journalists to enhance their understanding of complex land use planning issues, including the legal and political framework within which open space and land use decisions are made. The Institute will draw upon the experiences of other journalists around the United States to identify effective and innovative approaches to reporting on open space and land use planning issues. As part of the Knight Foundation grant, the Institute is also conducting a regional survey of citizens to help journalists assess public opinion on open space and land use issues. The results of this survey will be presented at the second seminar to be held in late summer/early fall 2006.

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute has long served as an objective resource for reporters in the Charlotte region on land use issues, according to Jeff Michael, the Institute’s director. "Rarely does a month go by that we don’t get at least one call from a reporter in the region seeking clarification or a better understanding of a land use issue," Michael said. "The quality of any public policy debate, whether it concerns land use, education or economic incentives, is dependent upon having a well-informed public. Obviously, the press plays a critical role in educating the public about complex policy issues and their relevance to people’s daily lives. With the Knight Foundation’s generous support, we hope to assist the region’s media outlets as they strive to fulfill that role."

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute is a non-profit, non-partisan applied research and community outreach unit of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that, among other things, conducts research and public education on regional land use planning issues. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Homeland security? Hardly

As this story from Reason Magazine details, the idea that the homeland security budget actually goes to homeland security is a joke.

THIS is what is wrong with the country right now.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Now THIS is a cool site

Everybody is always posting about cool Web sites, but this one I found actually meets the definition.

It's called "" and it's a place where you can go make a prediction that is a minimum of two years away from being proven or disproven, and can then accept bets on whether you will be right or not.

Here's how it works:

One person has made the following prediction:
"By 2030, commercial passengers will routinely fly on pilotless planes."
If you think he's wrong, you can attempt to get him to bet (minimum of $200) against you.

Here's another prediction:
"By 2020, bioterror or bioerror will lead to one million casualties in a single event."

And another:
"By the year 2020, the tickets to space travel - at the least to Moon, will be available over the counter."

So, my question to you is this: All betting aside, what is your long-term prediction for the future of the planet (or just right here at home)?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Why the need for speed?

Regarding the Scott Darnell fiasco, I guess the question I'm hearing the most is: Why was there such a need for speed? Why not make one more effort to work things out? That is an especially pertinent quetsion given this big trip he was about to take at the invitation of the N.C. Sec. of Commerce which, theoretically, could have been a high-profile event for Cleveland County.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Scott Darnell

Well the shocking firing of the Chamber's VP for economic development, Scott Darnell, is certainly the talk of the town today. We are working on a story for Friday's paper on exactly what happened and why.

At the least, it appears that the Cleveland 20/20 program is encountering some rough seas.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Confessions of an American Idol junkie

Love the show. LOVE IT!

I love that I can watch it with my kids (although, it's a heckofa note that the dangerous part of letting kids watch the show is the COMMERICIALS, not the show itself!).

On the girls side, I must have been listening to a different Kelly Pickler performance than the judges. I thought she was very weak. I'd love for her to win, being an N.C. girl, but it ain't going to happen. The other blonde is terrible, too.

The only ones that can win on the girls side: The 2 16-year-olds, the large woman with one name and the one that went first last night and last on the first show.

Not as familiar yet with the guys, but clearly the gray-haired guy is fun. I'm not sold on Ace, but the short, bald-headed "rocker" is very strong.

The great thing about the show is that everybody has an opinion, so fire away!

Just plain nice

Every year for the last few years, everyone in The Star's newsroom who has won a North Carolina Press Association award has received a homemade card from the kind folks at the Life Enrichment Center.

As my wife would say, "That's the nicest thing!"

Those acts of kindness say so much about an organization.

Thanks to LEC for lifting our spirits!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

At least two interesting filings today...

Betsy Fonvielle will take on Tim Moore for a N.C. House seat and school board member Jo Boggs will be running for county commissioner.

That means primaries on both sides of the commissioners race.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Local political musings

I would expect a flurry of late filings Tuesday morning, especially among Democrats.

I would be stunned if Tim Moore did not have opposition, given that he is from one of the most Democratic counties in the state for Republican House members.

Also, even with the filing of Eddie Holbrook, I would expect at least one more Democrat to file for the board of county commissioners.

And, could there be a surprise filing for sheriff? You never know!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sleeper cell?

Thought you might like to read my column from Sunday's Star:

Well, the tease of an early spring quickly faded to the gray of winter this weekend. Meanwhile, my kids are going a little stir crazy. While they’re on my mind, here are a few snippets of life with family.

-- My 3-year-old is really figuring out just how much destruction and mayhem he can initiate. He’s developing some favorite techniques. Here are a few:
The ploy: "I wanted to play with that"
How it works: One of his siblings finds some toy hidden back in the corner. The sibling dusts of the cobwebs and determines the toy still works, then begins to play with it. "HEY, I WAS GOING TO PLAY WITH THAT, IT’S MINE!" screams the 3-year-old. Never mind that we’ve had the toy since he was minus 3 years old. It’s still his and he was JUST about to climb over 46 other toys to pick it out from the back of some closet that he didn’t even know existed.
The ploy: The pre-emptive tattle
How it works: The 3-year-old commits some sort of foul and before his sibling can alert mom or dad, the 3-year-old runs and tells on the sibling for something that probably never happened. By the time mom and dad sort out what happened, both children end up being chastised and the 3-year-old has claimed a victory.

--Honestly, if I didn’t know better, I’d think he was a member of some sort of toddler sleeper cell. They look like they’re off playing in the sandbox in the corner of the playground, but actually they are plotting their next move. The conversation would go something like this:
My son, in a low voice: OK, look, start shoveling that sand into the bucket so nobody suspects anything. Every once in a while somebody start giggling.
Boy No. 2: Chill out, they’ll never catch us.
Boy No. 3: How are things going with your brother?
My son: Oh, I’ve got that taken care of. Let’s just say that when mommy finds her fine linens in my brother’s closet, covered with paint stains, he won’t be playing Playstation anytime soon!
Boys No. 2 and 3: Awesome!
My son: Now, here’s the plan for taking over this day care…
OK, OK, it’s not all bad — he loves to play golf, he’s becoming quite the sports fan ("Daddy, who are the Panthers playing?" — "Actually, buddy, that’s basketball.") and he’s got an infectious laugh.

Now, on to other observations:
--Idea for the mall: Allow young people to be at the mall unattended so long as they have receipts showing they spent at least $20 that day at mall establishments.
--Even though North Carolina lost to Duke a few days back, Tar Heel fans should feel good about the direction of the program.
--Panthers draft needs: wide receiver, offensive line, running back, defensive tackle. I’m not buying this trend in mock drafts that has Carolina taking a tight end. By the way, if Chad Jackson of Florida is available, I’d snatch him up.
--Can anybody explain to me why some of these snowboarding events are in the Winter Olympics, but golf — one of the most widely played sports in the world — isn’t a Summer Olympics event?
--There’s a guy who looks like Peter Brady from "The Brady Bunch" who is one of my early favorites in "American Idol." He was the last one to make the final 24 on Wednesday night.
--If you are a fantasy baseball player, these are tough guys to figure out where to draft: Carlos Beltran, Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, Rafael Furcal and Alfonso Soriano. If you play, you know why they’re tough picks and if you don’t play, you don’t care, so I’ll leave it at that.

Skip Foster is the editor of The Star.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Cool map

Here's a neat map showing the storm total from the winter storm last week that hammered the mountains.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hurray for Allison!

A big thumbs up to Allison Hendee, a fifth-grader at Marion Intermediate, who donated her hair to "Locks of love," which takes donated hair and gives it to children who have lost much or all of their own hair because of illness or treatment.

Allison had her hair cut in front of the large crowd at Marion Tuesday night for a talent show held for Relay for Life.

Allison's mom died of cancer last year, which gave her donation special meaning on this night.

All the talented students performed well -- it was a great night for a great cause!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What's up doc?

This story in today's Star generated a few e-mails accusing us of not giving female professionals proper respect. Namely, readers questioned why Dr. Catherine Betor was referred to as "Mrs. Betor" on second reference. Here is the e-mail response I sent out (the comment about my wife, a district court judge, comes from her questioning me on this point when she was referred to as Mrs. Foster on second reference in a story in The Star):

Your question is valid and comes up from time to time.
Our policy on using courtesy titles exists mainly to distinguish between men and women.
We do not refer to Drs. -- either men or women -- on second reference.
If there had been a second reference to Dr. Hamrick, it would have been "Hamrick said ..." etc.
Here's the first file story I came up with on a search to illustrate that point --
As you can see Dr. Fortkort is simply "Fortkort" on second reference. This is consistent with Associated Press style.
So, to refer to Catherine on second reference as a Dr., and then not to use that designation for male doctors, would be confusing.
Instead, we refer to female doctors as Dr. on first reference -- so their professional status is clear -- then as "Mrs." on second reference so people know we are talking about a women not a man. This is also consistent with our overall policy of using courtesy titles for women.
Is it perfect? Hardly. But we think it's the best way to convey information to readers. I think there should be no doubt that Catherine is a doctor and a "she" from this story, which is the main point.
This rule, ahem, also applies to women judges (if it seems like I've had to make this case before, maybe even in my own home, you're right!!!)
Bottom line: Women doctors and other professionals DO receive the same amount of respect as male counterparts by using this policy.
Take care,

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Final thoughts on Chief VanHoy

One character trait often praised in people is trustworthiness. It’s an excellent trait, for sure.

But what I admired in Charlie VanHoy was not that he could be trusted but that he could trust.

Charlie and I developed a professional relationship built on that trust.

Mainly, it was him trusting me.

He hadn’t had a particularly good relationship with some in our business before I arrived in Shelby in 1997, but former City Manager Dee Freeman facilitated a meeting between us. During that meeting, I could see it churning through his brain — "I need to give this kid a chance."

I’m glad he did, mainly because I had no idea what I was doing and what I could do to improve the newspaper’s relationship with the police department.

As time wore on, Charlie and I would talk just to talk – about the issues of the day, foreign and domestic, state and local, city and county.

He had plenty of opinions. There were things about "the system" that he loathed and wished he could change. There were people in the county who frustrated him.

As I came to find out, trusting others was a halmark of Charlie’s.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cool thing on our web site from Burns High

Check out this feature where you can see the before and after of the head shavings of Burns teachers as part of a fund-raiser.

(OK, I PROMISE to do better about updating this blog).