Monday, June 18, 2018

Author and former BJ columnist David Giffels and wife Gina, a special education teacher, are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in Paris.

I can tell you, since Paula and I had an anniversary observance there, that it’s a perfect place for a romantic getaway.

David and Gina’s children are Evan and Lia.
David wrote:
Thirty years ago today, on a sunny afternoon in Akron, Ohio, this beautiful person became the best part of my life. Today, we’re in Paris, celebrating all those good years and all the good ones to come.”
David also is a guitarist and vocalist in the local May Company band and is devoted to Devo. He is an assistant professor of English at the University of Akron.
Giffels took one of the many buyouts at Ol’ Blue Walls (his came in 2008 when 5 centuries of BJ experience walked nostalgically out the door).

He began at 44 E. Exchange Street in 1994.

He was born to the late Thomas Giffels and Donna Mae Auseon Giffels.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


Billionaire former surgeon takes over 
LA Times on Monday

Biotech billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a South African native and former UCLA surgeon, on Monday will take control of the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune, which have existed for more than 135 years.

Soon-Shiong forked over $500 million for the priviledge. The deal, which was announced Feb. 7, returns The Times to local ownership after 18 years under Chicago control.

The emphasis will switch from the printed newspaper to digital coverage. Newspaper advertising revenue in America peaked in 2005 at nearly $50 billion. It’s less than $17 billion and dropping now.

Soon-Shiong also owns six California hospitals.

The 800 employees will move from Los Angeles, the paper’s home since 1935, to El Segundo by the end of July. The Times once had 1,200 journalists on its payroll. About 400 remain.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Former BJ movie critic and “Side Streets” columnist and features writer and current author Bill O’Connor threw a party for wife Elsbeth’s 75th birthday on Saturday, June 16 “at the edge of a woods,” as one of Bill’s book sites says of their Bath Township home.

Bill married his Switzerland native in 2002. They both have four grown children from previous marriages. At least three of Elsbeth’s offspring were there.

So were Paula Tucker and I, of course, for another reunion with a former co-worker. Other one-time Ol’ Blue Walls people like artist Art Krummel and his wife, Charlene Nevada, a reporter, showed up, too.

And dozens of Bill and Elsbeth’s non-BJ neighbors and friends rambled their way to their residence.

Bill spent time at St. Francis College and Bowling Green University as a student and at Montana University on the faculty and also emigrated from a seminary.

He keeps writing novels nowadays – “Bums and Hersey Bars,” “The Legend of Horn Mountain,” “The Era of Long Thoughts” and “Saint Leo,” his latest.

Paula and I were at the 2012 bash for Elsbeth’s birthday, too. The magic survives.

When Bill and I talked about our days at the BJ, and being blessed with John Knight as the owner, it was reminiscent of what Bill wrote in this blog in 2005 to its late founder, Harry Liggett:

“The further I am from the time at the Beacon, the more I realize how privileged I was to work with such talented people.”

Indeed, Bill. I second that emotion.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist since 1984, was fired because, as former BJ cartoonist John Derf Backderf put it, “he refused to draw pro-Cheeto cartoons.”

Hillary got 75% of the Pittsburgh vote for President.

But John Robinson Block, whose family has owned the Pos-Gazette since the 1920s, and also owns the Toledo Blade, is an avid Trump supporter.

So the guy who owns the football decided who gets to stay on the team.

Ironically, Rob was curator of this 2003 national cartoon exhibition: “Too Hot to Handle: Creating Controversy Through Political Cartoons.”

In 1999 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

He is past president of the Association of American Political Cartoonists.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Oren Dorell a hit-and-run fatality

Oren Dorell, at the BJ 1998-2000 before he left for the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer and, later, 13 years at USA TODAY, was killed Friday by a hit-and-run driver who struck Dorell’s motorcycle.

D.C.’s Metropolitan Police arrested Daryl Grant, 47, on charges of second-degree murder, driving under the influence and fleeing the scene in his Toyota Camry.

Oren met his wife, Virginia "Ginny" Knapp Dorell, at the BJ. She was a copy editor.  They married in 2003. They have two sons, Malcolm, 12, and Leo, 11.

Oren began at USA TODAY as a breaking news reporter before his globetrotting foreign affairs beat.

Born in Canada in 1964, Oren lived in Bolivia and Philadelphia, but considered his home to be Haifa, Israel, where he lived from ages 5 to 12. 

Oren’s late father, Harold Dorell, was director of civil rights in the Federal Highway Administration Southeast Region 9 during the Reagan Administration. His job was to ensure that contractors who built the nation’s highways, tunnels, transit systems and light rail lines hired workers fairly, without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, sex or disability, in line with the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Harold is a military veteran buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Gevalt leaving Vermont project

Geoffrey Gevalt, former BJ assistant managing editor, is stepping down as director of the Young Writers Project he began in 2006 in Burlington, Vermont.

Geoffrey said the YWP worked with 110,000 children by reading or sharing their work, teaching and giving them feedback.

He will leave YWP at the end of June.

Geoffrey was at the BJ 1992-98.

In 2006 he left his job as managing editor at the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, where he first started in 2003, to head the Vermont Young Writers Project.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

New top editor for Wall Street Journal

Matt Murray will succeed Gerard Baker as Editor-in-Chief of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires.

Baker becomes Editor-at-Large after 5½ years as EIC, where circulation grew by one-third under Baker.

Northwestern graduate Murray joined Dow Jones & Company in 1994 as a reporter for the Pittsburgh bureau, in 1997 moved to the Journal’s Money & Investing section, covering banking, in 2008 became Deputy Managing Editor and in 2013 was elevated to Deputy Editor-in-Chief.

Mr. Murray joined the news desk in 2004, and later served as a deputy national editor and national news editor.

After stints at the Bank of England and Lloyds Bank, Murray became a British Broadcasting Corporation producer, then went to the Financial Times and the Times of London before joining The Wall Street Journal.

To read the full article, click on

Saturday, June 02, 2018

BJ #1 daily in Ohio; racks up many other awards

The Press Club of Cleveland named the Akron Beacon Journal the best large daily newspaper in Ohio.

Elaine Guregian, former culture reporter at the BJ, had a major role in Northeast Ohio Medical University’s 2nd place award for Best Trade Publication in Ohio for NeoMed's Ignite Magazine. 

Elaine is assistant public relations and marketing director at NeoMed in Rootstown. Previously, she was Development Officer for Corporate and Foundation Relations with the Summa Foundation.

The Beacon Journal and its staff received 29 awards — 12 for first place.

Edna Jakubowski received a Best in Ohio first-place award for page design. 

Other first-place winners were reporters Stephanie Warsmith, Rick Armon, Marla Ridenour, Clint O’Connor, Doug Livingston, Craig Webb, Nate Ulrich and Theresa Cottom. 

Photographers Phil Masturzo and Karen Schiely got first-place awards along with artist Rick Steinhauser.

The Beacon Journal’s was named the second-best newspaper website in Ohio.

Here is a list of the Beacon Journal winners:

Akron Beacon Journal — Best in Ohio: Daily newspaper, first place.

Edna Jakubowski — Best in Ohio: Page design, first place.

Bob Dyer — Best in Ohio: Essay writing, second place.

Michael Douglas — Best in Ohio: Editorial, third place.

Stephanie Warsmith, Rick Armon, breaking news, first place — Seven die in Akron house fire.

Marla Ridenour, obituary, first place — Legendary coach Ara Parseghian passes into eternity.

Phil Masturzo, studio photography, first place — Butternut squash soup.

Clint O’Connor, reviews/criticism, first place — Blade Runner 2019.

Doug Livingston, general news, first place — Call to arms.

Rick Steinhauser, illustration, first place — Bob Dylan.

Craig Webb, arts and entertainment, first place — Disc Dog league.

Nate Ulrich, sports column, first place — Failed trade bolsters Hue Jackson’s case.

Doug Livingston, Theresa Cottom, analysis, first place — Opioid epidemic: Party politics stymie resolutions.

Karen Schiely, general news photography, first place — Changed forever.

Betty Lin-Fisher, business columns, second place — Vintage tire ads preyed on concerns of motorists.

Malcolm X Abram, obituary, second place — Musician Ralph Carney.

Phil Masturzo, portrait photography, second place — Second chance.

Staff, breaking news, second place — Summa leaders to resign posts.

Amanda Garrett, Doug Livingston, Stephanie Warsmith, ongoing breaking news, second place — Police chief resigns.

Malcolm X Abram, arts and entertainment, second place — Himalayan music academy.

Clint O’Connor, personality profile, second place — Fathers, sons and “Field of Dreams.”

Mark Turner, single page design, second place — White in America.

Doug Livingston, public service, second place — Tent city.

Darrin Werbeck, Deanna Stevens, Dan Kadar, newspaper website, second place —

Bob Dyer, single essay, third place — Stanley Ford case is not about police chief.

Edna Jakubowski, single page design, third place — Escape room.

Betty Lin-Fisher, consecutive days same topic, third place — Summa Health System.

Craig Webb, arts and entertainment, third place — Cleveland Orchestra has to fine tune.

Michael Douglas, single editorial, third place — Judge Adams and his “Dangerous Work.”

Press Club members residing outside Ohio made the selections.

Friday, June 01, 2018

J.R. Smith, who dribbled out the clock with the score tied in regulation time, didn’t make the only blunder of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Game 1 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA title series round.

The great photo in the BJ gave the score as
Cavaliers 124, Warriors 114 in overtime.

The score was right and the overtime was right.

But the points totals were assigned to the wrong teams.

Another cost of decimating newspaper staffs, including the guardians at the gate, the copy desk.

Marla and everyone else got the score correctly.

NBA FINAlS | GAmE 1: WArrIOrS 124, CAvAlIErS 114 (OT)
Victory was within grasp, but missed free throw, reversed call take toll
By Marla Ridenour

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Thrity at Jamaica Literary Festival

Former BJ reporter Thrity Umrigar, whose career took a serious turn toward writing notable novels, will be participating in the biennial Calabash International Literary Festival on St. Elizabeth’s Treasure Beach in Jamaica.

The festival, founded in 2001, will begin Friday, June 1 and run through Sunday, June 3. This year’s theme is “Calabash Lit Up.” Double play on the word “Lit,” of course, as in literature and bright lights.

Luminaries there with Thrity include Ishion Hutchinson, the current Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize winner, “The Sopranos” actor Michael Imperioli and British poet Malika Booker.

Female poets laureates Jamaican Lorna Goodison, Canadian/Acadian Georgette LeBlanc, American Tracy K Smith and Carol Ann Duffy from the United Kingdom will read from their work.

Also in Jamaica for this event will be HBO “The Wire” series creator David Simon and his wife Laura Lippman, author of 23 books; Warsan Shire, who wrote poems featured on BeyoncĂ©'s visual album “Lemonade;” award-winning hip hop artist Akala; and a tribute to trombonist and composer Don Drummond.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Former BJ photographer Ott Gangl and wife Ann are celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary. They live in Uniontown.

They were married in Akron’s St. Bernard Church by Father Wolfe, who performed the ceremony in German, Ott’s native language, because the priest wanted to practice his German.

Ott exudes: “It’s still a blast being married to that girl.”

“Blast” and “Ott” belong in the same sentence.

Ott is equally at ease at a raucous Oktoberfest Festival, in a roomful of models during a photo shoot or going naked while photographing a nudist colony.

Ott worked his way through Ann’s family of females before winding up with her.

Let Ott explain:

“I came over on the same converted Liberty Boat from Germany as Ann’s cousin on April 20, 1952. So while visiting I was introduced to the family with three young and beautiful daughters.
"I dated the older one for a while and then went to the middle one, Ann, to whom I got enamored while sitting in their living room waiting for Mary to fiddle with her makeup.
"After Mary dumped me I didn't miss a beat to date Ann. We got engaged in 1954 and a year later we got married.”
Ott surviving ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia as the 12-year-old child of German parents in World War II.
Ott and Ann haven’t switched from the accelerator to the brakes yet.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Principal fires heralded teacher for not-good-news articles

What do you do when you’re principal of a school whose newspaper and yearbook adviser with 34 years of experience in 3 states has been labeled the best in the country and whose students have won more than 175 national and state awards in one year?

Fire her, if you’re first-year Prosper, Texas High School principal John Burdett.

Her crime? Making the school look bad. Happy news only, Burdett demanded.

Lori Oglesbee-Petter was at the helm when articles about a canceled movie night and a change in the 10th grade curriculum were cited for “making the school look bad.”

Additional editorials were banned.

Judge for yourself by going to

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Hedge funds buy newspapers, bleed ‘em dry

Hedge funds are buying up newspapers and draining them of every last dollar they can get before letting them wither on the vine.

That’s the conclusion of veteran newspaper analysts.

GateHouse, which took over the BJ’s assets, Alden Global and Chatham Asset Management, which has a strangehold on McClatchy, once owner of the BJ, were cited as prime examples.

Part of the strategy is to dump highly paid, unproductive reporters and make those still in the newsroom take up the slack.

Some newsrooms were reduced from 200 to two dozen editors and reporters.

Monday, May 21, 2018

4th novel for Bill O’Connor

Former BJ movie critic and Franciscan friar Bill O’Connor has published “St. Leo,” the second book in his planned trilogy.
Bill O'Connor during two stages of his life

The first was “The Era of Long Thoughts,” which had the Beacon Journal newsroom as its setting, but with an alias. Since once of the characters was Guy Daynor, and most of us who watched Donn Gaynor go through his paces on the copy desk for decades, that wasn’t tough to figure out.

"St. Leo" “traces the results of a story written by the protagonist of the first book,” Bill tells me.

“St. Leo” is available from Amazon and on Kindle.

Bill’s previous novels are “Bums and Hershey Bars,” which began as a master’s thesis at Bowling Green State University, published in 1965, and “The Legend of Horn Mountain,” an adventure story written for those in their early teen years, set in Montana where Bill lived for more than a decade and was dean of students at Montana State University in Northern.

Long after growing up in South Philadelphia, Bill joined the BJ in the spring of 1979.

Bill did his undergraduate work at St. Francis College and got his master's degree at Bowling Green.

He and his Swiss miss wife Elsbeth (since 2002) throw almost Gatsbyesque parties at their Rambling Way home in Bath Township.

They both have four adult children from previous marriages.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bob Downing camps out at family wedding in Park Ridge, Illinois 

Downing folds up his tent for final time

Bob Downing wrote:

 “I have written nearly 765 outdoorsy travel columns over 20 years for the Akron Beacon Journal/ , and this is the last one.”

Bob retired from Ol’ Blue Walls in 2016, but continued writing his outdoors column.

He was hired in March 1972 by Pat Englehart as a State Desk part-timer while attending Kent State University. Bob was hired full-time in June 1972 and was assigned to cover Portage County.

He began his college education at Northwestern University, Engelhart’s alma mater, but graduated from Kent State.

Downing’s wife, another Pat, is a teacher/speech therapist. They have three children.

I think Bob’s final outdoors column in the BJ is worth reading. It shows what BJ readers will be missing when another one folds up his tent and leaves.

Click on to read Bob’s farewell outdoors column.