Saturday, October 31, 2009

Watchdog Journalism urged for Gannett’s dailies

Gannett's daily newspapers are being urged to improve watchdog journalism, reposition web sites for breaking news, and better engage young readers and Sunday readers, according to a list of priorities issued last month during a meeting of some 40 newspaper editors.

Editor and Publisher’s Joe Strupp reports on the meeting:

One of the directives states it is time to "get our swagger back."

These "content priorities," were presented by Kate Marymont, vice president/news for Gannett's community publishing division, which includes all of its daily papers except USA Today.

"These were intended to be the key strategies that we believe are important, for them to use in the key decisions about how to use resources," Marymont said of the priority list, obtained by E&P. "We have asked [editors] to use them as a guide as they develop their strategic plans. It is almost a statement of philosophy rather than a template they have to fill out."

The list of priorities, provided to the editors during a three-day gathering Sept. 15-17 at the company's Mclean, Va., headquarters, is below:

1. Improve Watchdog Journalism: Recognize the value of unique, revelatory journalism; review resources to ensure adequate allocation to watchdog work; experiment with delivery systems; and look for partnerships and other creative sources of watchdog content.

2. Reposition the Daily Newspaper: Recognize that the newspaper is not a breaking-news medium; Develop unique content tied to community interests and focused on delivering depth, context, analysis, perspective; Produce local content that differentiates us as a media organization; and "get our swagger back."

3. Reposition Our Web sites: recognize that our Web sites are the primary medium for breaking news; ensure the Web site is distinct from the newspaper; Address Web design, content, functionality and utility; Leverage the strengths of the medium; and explore consumer response to various paid content models and possible vendor partnerships.

4. Sunday Readership and Engagement: Create a content strategy to attract younger readers; Protect high-value content for loyal Boomer readers; Invest in sales and marketing resources to grow engagement in key demographics and geographic audiences: Leverage advertising opportunities around the special value of Sundays.

5. Be Strong Community Leaders: Protect our long tradition of helping our communities solve issues, set visions, right wrongs; Preserve strong editorial voices in print while reflecting our changing audiences; solidify our role in the center of digital community conversations by leveraging all possible platforms; Be forces for positive change, when appropriate.

"Each one will do it differently, "Marymont said of the chain's 84 daily papers. "What we ask of editors is that they understand their local communities."

Marymont said the content priorities were one of three such lists developed in recent months following a July strategic planning meeting of editors, publishers and other Gannett supervisors. She said the two other areas involve strategies related to revenue and content distribution, but had no details on those.

"We were meeting as a group on the strategies that will most distinguish us going ahead for readers' time and attention," Marymont said. "We have to make decisions on what to do and not to do."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Want to learn more about JSK?

The University of Akron has an interesting biography about John S. Knight. Among tidbits:

-- JSK's college education at Cornell University was interrupted in 1917 when he enlisted in the Army, seeing action in the Argonne during World War I.

-- Knight traveled to California with $5,000 won in crapshooting to contemplate going into the cattle business.

-- His sons were

John Shively Jr., a paratrooper killed in Germany in 1945.

Charles Landon, “Lanny,” named after JSK's father, ran Portage Newspaper Supply in Akron. Lanny worked in circulation, production, advertising and business at the BJ before switching to horse breeding. In 1997, Lanny won the English Derby with Benny the Dip, who had career earnings of $1.2 million. Lanny died in 2000 in Akron.

Franklin, who printer Cal Deshong, 91 on Nov. 24, recalls working at the BJ and dying of a brain tumor in the 1950s.

-- JSK's grandson, John Shively III, was murdered in 1975.

Click on the headline to read the UA biography of JSK.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

An interesting experiment that won a Pulitzer

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A
minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Origins:   Many a marketing survey has been conducted to gauge how presentation affects consumer perceptions of quality, and quite a few such surveys have found that people will frequently designate one of two identical items as being distinctly better than the other simply because it is packaged or presented more attractively. Might this same concept apply to fields outside of consumer products, such as the arts? Would, for example, people distingush between a world-class instrumental virtuoso and an ordinary street musician if the only difference between them were the setting? These were questions tackled by Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten in 2007 when he enlisted renowned violinist Joshua Bell, a winner of the Avery Fisher Prize for outstanding achievement in classical music who regularly undertakes over 200 international engagements a year, to spend part of a morning playing incognito at the entrance to a Washington Metro station during a morning rush hour. Weingarten set up the event "as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?"

So, on 12 January 2007, morning commuters passing through the L'Enfant Plaza Station of the subway line in Washington, D.C. were, without publicity, treated to a free mini-concert performed by violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, who played for approximately 45 minutes, performing six classical pieces during that span on his handcrafted 1713 Stradivarius violin (for which Bell reportedly paid $3.5 million). As Weingarten described the crux of the experiment:
Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?
Three days earlier, Bell had played to a full house at Boston's Symphony Hall, where fairly good seats went for $100. But on this day he collected just $32.17 for his efforts, contributed by a mere 27 of 1,097 passing travelers. Only seven people stopped to listen, and just one of them recognized the performer.

The Washington Post won a Pulitzer in the feature writing category for Gene Weingarten's April 2007 story about this experiment.

BJ endures jokes about "yellow journalism"

The Beacon Journal, through no fault of its own, was the butt of jokes about yellow journalism on Wednesday.  Ink  being delivred to the newspper spilled onto East Exchange Street.  There was a temporary closing of streets during the cleanup.  The driver of the truck about to make an ink delivery told newspaper officials that he was about to make a left turn onto S. High Street about midnight when he suddently had to brake to avoid a crash.  The momentum forced a 250-gallon container of yellow ink to fall from the turck and spill on to the street. Akron fire and hazardous material crews blocked off portions of E. Exchange until about 6:30 a.m. BJ production manager Vicki Kuhns said the ink is soy based and not hazardous.

The incident was dutifully covered in a news brief -- and widely on facebook.  A story we could not resist.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thanks, but no thanks

John, I know you just wanted to help by slicking up the access to the library web exhibit of 1968, BUT it is important to me and to the other photographers to access the web site at the thumbnails window because the photographers are listed on the left panel and they can call up just their own pictures or someone elses, and the captions can be read next to the thumbnail without opening the picture to the full size.


The link is this: The times they were a-changin': Akron remembers 1968

Check out 1968 BJ photos in library collection

At the JSK film presentation I talked to fellow BJ types and mentioned that the library had a web exhibit of 114 pictures and related information on it and promised to post the link here.

It is: , Browse Collections and you scroll down through the exhibits offered until you get to 'The times they were a-changin': Akron remembers 1968.

Click on the headline to start.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Media Death Spiral? Baloney, says Phil Meyer

Megan Cardle writes about the Media Death Spiral in

The circulation figures for the top 25 dailies in the US are out, and they're horrifying.  The median decline is well into the teens; only the Wall Street Journal gained (very slightly). 

I think we're witnessing the end of the newspaper business, full stop, not the end of the newspaper business as we know it.  The economics just aren't there.  At some point, industries enter a death spiral:  too few consumers raises their average costs, meaning they eventually have to pass price increases onto their customers.  That drives more customers away.  Rinse and repeat . . .

For twenty years, newspapers have been trying to slow the process with increasingly desperate cost cutting, but almost all are at the end of that rope; they can't cut their newsroom or production staff any further and still put out a newspaper.  There just aren't enough customers who are willing to pay for their product what it costs to produce it.

The numbers seem to confirm something I've thought for a while:  we're eventually going to end up with a few national papers, a la Britain, rather than local dailies.  The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times (sorry, conservatives!) are weathering the downturn better than most, and it's not surprising:  business, politics, and national upper-middlebrow culture.  But in 25 years, will any of them still be printing their product on the pulped up remains of dead trees?  It doesn't seem all that likely.

I met a freelancer this weekend who is doing all the things that most journalists did to get where they are, writing on the margins of the news business in the hopes of getting up enough of a portfolio to worm her way into the center.  I wanted to give her hope . . . but the fact is, at the center there are now more existing journalists than jobs for them, meaning the outsiders have very little chance. 

Maybe there will be jobs, online.  But if so, more web outfits are going to have to get into the habit of paying salaries that will support an adult middle-class life.  Right now, a lot of web outfits tend to churn through twenty-somethings who are also building their resumes . . . but I'm not sure how well this works in a world where a job churning out blog copy for pennies a word is the last stop in a journalistic career, rather than the first.

And here’s a rebuttal from Phil Meyer who was Washington correspondent for the Akron Beacon Journal from 1962-1966 and since 1993 has been the Knight Chair in Journalism Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

I t's baloney.  Circulation is down because newspapers have finally bitten the bullet and started charging readers what the paper is worth. And it is paying off.  For example, the Boston Globe shed 15.5 percent of its circulation but gained 6.7 percent in circulation revenue. That's more revenue with 15.5 percent saved on newsprint!

  This will shake down to smaller audiences of dedicated and influential followers of public affairs. Papers that keep their investigative reporting, their analysis, and interpretation of local news will be able to charge a premium to the advertisers who want that group. It is a more sophisticated business model because it depends on the quality of the readership not sheer numbers.

  The other good news is that some of the papers that grew circulation, e.g. the Wall Street Journal, did it by charging for web access. Paid, web-only subscribers are counted by ABC.  About time!


Terry Dray's obituary in the Beacon Journal

Terry J. Dray, age 70, passed away Sunday, October 25, 2009 in Sebring, Florida.

He was born in Massillon, Ohio to Elmer and Thelma (Franz) Dray. Mr. Dray was a Printer for 33 years for the Akron Beacon Journal; he was past Secretary-Treasurer of the Akron Typographical Union, past President of the Massillon Downtown Association.

Along with his wife, Cecily, he was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for service to the Community of Massillon. After retiring from the Beacon Journal in 1996, Mr. Dray and his wife opened SportSStuf in Towne Plaza in Massillon, Ohio.

He was a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church and had been a resident of Avon Park since 2001, coming from Massillon, Ohio.

He is survived by his wife, Cecily Dray of Avon Park, Florida; daughters, Terri Snyder, Cynthia Bruce and Cathy Kauffman, all of Massillon, Ohio; step-daughter, Melissa Hardesty of Massillon, Ohio and step-son, Sean Gaffney of Zephyrhills, Florida; sisters, Wanda Chidsey of Alliance, Ohio and Linda Kintz of Canton, Ohio; 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Patricia Dray.

Memorial services will be held Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 2 p.m. at Resurrection Lutheran Church with Rev. John C. Grodzinski officiating. Memorial contributions may be made to the Resurrection Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 387, Avon Park, Florida 33826.

Stephenson-Nelson Funeral Home, Avon Park 836-453-3101

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For the original BJ Alums post about Terry's death, click on the headline.

To view/sign the guest book for Terry, go to:

A nostalgic evening with a legend

There were familiar faces on the screen and in the audience at Monday’s premiere showing of "Final Edition: Journalism According to Jack and Jim Knight” in the Akron-Summit County Public Library auditorium on High Street in Akron.

John Shively “Jack” Knight dominated the documentary, as he did in life, which Akron deputy mayor Dave Lieberth expertly conveyed in the panel discussion that followed.

Others in the film included:

-- Abe Zaidain, once BJ political writer and writing coach before leaving for the Plain Dealer and then retiring onto the Internet with his “Grumpy Abe” web site, where he still dispenses his thoughts. Check him out at

-- Dave Boerner, retired BJ news editor, and a regular at the 1 p.m. second Wednesday of the month BJ Alums lunch at Papa Joe’s restaurant on Akron-Peninsula Road at Portage Trail Extension.

-- Dave Cooper, once editor Paul Poorman’s sidekick as editorial page editor.

-- Mary Ethridge, BJ reporter and daughter of BJ editor Mark Ethridge, who recalled her poignant visit to a distraught JSK in New York City after the murder of his grandson, John Knight III.

In the audience I spotted such former colleagues as photographers Ott Gangl, Bill Hunter and Lou Stamp, Features Dept. editor Joan Rice, business columnist Diane Paparone Evans, Sports Dept.’s Danny Thom and State Desk reporter Paula Tucker. I know there were more because, when moderator/documentary co-producer/writer Paul Jacoway asked for a show of hands by BJ retirees, he commented: “Seems like half the audience.”

Others on the panel were University of Akron president/chief executive officer Dr. Luis Proenza; former Beacon Journal publisher Jim Crutchfield, Knight Foundation trustee; Bruce Winges, BJ vice president and editor; and UA Buchtelite managing editor Lauren Bailey.

For those who missed the documentary’s premiere, it will be on Western Reserve public media at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, and 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1. Also on the Fusion Channel, available on cable systems in Summit, Medina, Portage, Stark and Wayne counties, at 10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.

To see photos of Jacoway and the panel at the premiere, click on the headline.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Round one of printers' lawsuit against BJ

After both sides laid out their arguments before bespectacled Northern Ohio District Court Judge David Dowd Jr. today, it boiled down to this:

1. Judge Dowd will decide whether to grant the printers' counsel's request for a temporary injunction. The goal would be to revert the printers to the per-prescription co-pay ($1 to $5) they had before Black Press bought the Beacon Journal from McClatchy in 2006.

2. The two sides would try to resolve some issues before a magistrate.

3. If the issues are resolved within about two weeks, then Judge Dowd indicated he would set a December date for a trial. If not, then the trial would be put off till spring 2010.

4. Judge Dowd also will rule on whether the case comes under ERISA, which means a judge would decide, or NLRA, which means a jury trial. NLRA is the National Labor Relations Act. ERISA is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Brett Bacon, outside counsel from the Cleveland law firm of Frantz Ward, did the talking for the Beacon Journal. BJ General Counsel Karen Chuparkoff Lefton attended, but was not at the defendant's table and did not speak.

Don Screen of the Cleveland law firm of Chandra did most of the presentation for the printers' side. Subodh Chandra, who has a lot of experience in labor law, also spoke. Allen Anderson of Smith & Johnson attorneys of Traverse City, Michigan, the first attorney to get involved in the case, also was at the plaintiffs' table.

The quiet-spoken Judge Dowd, speaking of the retirement letters that printers got which promised a lifetime prescription card with $1 to $5 co-pays per prescription, said "real promises were made that have been broken." He added: "You promise this; you take it away."

The BJ's counsel said that other aspects superseded the letter's power and that the decades of cheap co-pays were "gratuitous" or, as Judge Dowd rephrased it, "out of the goodness of your heart."

Judge Dowd indicates that he did not want to delay the case any more than necessary "because there are lives involved" and not just money. Mentioned was that retired printer John Costello, who has a severe arthritic condition, stopped taking treatments when the BJ dropped his $5 co-pay and he would have to pay $600 a week instead.

Spectators in the Main Street courthouse included Ruth West and Gina White, named in the lawsuit seeking a return to the coverage status for years that the printers got in return for giving up their lifetime job guarantees; retired printer Bob Abbott, who has spent months and months trying to drum up support for rolling back the BJ's health care and prescription changes; and John Olesky, Guild retiree. The Guild also had a lifetime $2 per-prescription co-pay when Olesky retired in 1996. The BJ changed to a more-expensive plan for Guild retirees, too, when Black Press bought the BJ.

For the original story on the lawsuit, which provides far more details about the case, click on the headline.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Terry Dray dies

I got this sad, sad email from Cecily Dray, Terry Dray's wife:

John, Terry died about 4 a.m. this morning.

I called 911 when he developed severe stomach pains and was sweating. He was having a lot of difficulty breathing so they put him on a C-PAP while they did a CT scan which showed fluid in his belly. When his breathing didn't improve (he had COPD) they decided to intubate him and when they did that his BP dropped to 42 over 33 and he had a major heart attack.

They rushed him to the cardio lab to do a heart cath but he had no pulse. They put in a defibrilator and did CPR for 45 minutes but couldn't bring him back. They are doing an autopsy because they feel the heart attack was secondary to something else.

Please notify everyone who needs notified at the Beacon.


= = = = = =

Terry was one of the good guys in my life. When Bob Giles and Al Fitzpatrick "encouraged" me to leave the Beacon and I became the makeup man for the copy desk, Terry and Red Reeves came to me and said simply, "We'll take care of you." And they did.

Whenever I was the makeup man for the Sunday BJ, we rarely went in late for the editions we put out on Saturday nights. When I was not the makeup man, the BJ often went in late. After a few years of that, Giles and Fitzpatrick decided that I had been "a round peg in a square hole" and my rehabilitation was considered complete.

My late wife Monia and later Paula and I would have reunions with Terry and Cecily during our February stays on Siesta Key. Terry and Cecily lived in Avon Park and drove about 90 minutes each way for the get-togethers, which consisted of sitting on the deck overlooking the beach and recalling our BJ days together. Dave and Gina White, and Don Bandy, would join us.

Terry had been undergoing chemo treatments most of this year for cancer. He had successfully battled it years ago.

The Drays endured hurricanes (3 of 4 affected Avon Park in one season), but Terry once played golf 9 times a week -- every day and twice on Saturdays and Sundays -- near their Avon Park, Florida home. Cecily said she "played at it" 3 days a week. They bought the house to spent 4 or 5 months in it, then rent out to golfers from the north the rest of the year, but liked the area so well that they moved from Massillon and lived in it year-round themselves. They turned their Massillon sporting goods store over to their daughters and enjoyed the Sunshine State and picking oranges from the tree in their yard.

The Dray address is 107 E Wolf Street in Avon Park, FL 33825 if you want to send Cecily a card. If you want the Dray home phone number, call my cellphone at (330) 388-4466 and I'll give it to you.

For photos of Terry during his visits to Siesta Key, click on the headline.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reaction to BJ's attempt to gut the Guild contract

First reaction on the BJ Alums blog to the Canadian's contract proposal that would gut the Guild contract:

I am stunned reading this.
The quality of work is already suffering. Is this a sign of a merger or closing?
= = = =
How in the world can Karen Lefton represent "the company" in these brutal negotiations? She doesn't remember her roots?
She enjoyed the ample benefits of union membership back in the day, and now, has no appreciation for it.
Thanks, old friend
= = = =
Bill O'Connor said...
I deeply hope that the printers win their lawsuit against the Beacon. It even hurts to say that, because the very word, Beacon, brings such strong feelings of loyalty for me. That said, it's totally unfair, and even naive, for journalists, of all people, to fault Karen for defending the Beacon. She is an attorney and the Beacon is her client. I would expect that she will do all she can to win that case. I would expect her to do the same if she were the printers' attorney. That's our legal system, and, for all its faults, it's the best in the world. When you hire an attorney, you hope to hell the attorney has no hidden agenda and will do what he/she was hired to do. I hope Karen loses this case. I truly do. Either way, I expect her to put up the best fight she can. We covered so many trials as reporters. What we respected about the attorneys, then and now, was not what we felt about the cases, but how well the lawyer fought for the client. So, for Karen, I'll be rooting against you, in this case, but I know I'll be able to admire my former colleague for fighting a good fight.
= = = = = =
John Olesky said:
I attended the initial court hearing on the printers' lawsuit against the BJ over health care and prescription coverage. Brett Bacon, outside counsel from the Cleveland law firm of Frantz Ward, did all the talking for the Beacon Journal. Karen attended, but was not at the defendant's table and did not speak. Let's be fair about this.
= = = = = =

Meanwhile, the retirees are trying to turn back or stop the Canadian's taking away of health care and prescription benefits.

At 3 p.m. Monday the retired printers' lawsuit against the BJ will be heard in Ohio Northern District Court in Akron before Judge David Dowd Jr. It's open to retirees who want to find out how they may get their health care coverage restored to its status before Black Press bought the BJ. I plan to be there.

For the original lawsuit post, go to:

It seems current BJ employees and BJ retirees are in the same boat, as financial targets of the Canadian.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Listen to Cathy Strong's radio interview

Former Beacon Journal State Desk reporter Cathy Strong, who has been in New Zealand for so long that you can't tell her from the native Kiwis, is a communication and media sciences professor at Zayed University in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate.

Cathy was interviewed on radio DubaiEye's "Nightline with James Piecowye" about gender in the media.

Her Zayed research class is involved in a 130-country project on that topic.

Points that Cathy made in the 37-minute interview:

-- While a majority of media presenters are women, only 21% of the newsmakers they interview are women.

-- Dubai TV news usually is presented by a woman.

And then there are other statements that caught my attention:

-- "At my first big newspaper for my first big story, my editor yelled at me and I jumped back on the desk and yelled back at him. You have to break your way in to show that you’re rought and tumble." The late BJ State Editor Pat Englehart was known to yell, particularly at new reporters. But nearly all of them wound up loving him, as I did.

-- "Online journalism is better than working for a newspaper if you don’t like swearing all the time.” Again, that sounds familiar to 1970s BJ State Desk folks.

If you want to hear the radio interview, punctuated by a lot of laughter by Cathy, click on the headline. The interview will start after the short promo.

She got her journalism degree from the University of Washington and her master's in mass communications from Kent State.

Cathy has held positions on newspapers, magazines, radio and television in nearly three decades of being well-known in journalism circles. That includes the Morning Report, Radio New Zealand news, Television New Zealand, South Pacific Television, National Business Review and the Beacon Journal.

She's been a lecturer at Massey University, New Zealand's oldest journalism school, and lectured or trained journalists at four New Zealand tertiary journalism schools; Radio New Zealand; TVNZ, Te Karere and BCNZ, Kiwi stations; Solomon Island Broadcasting Corporation, and Japan as far back as 1970. Cathy often judges media contests.

If you want to see photos of Cathy in New Zealand and the Solomon Islands, go to:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

News about Helen Liggett

Harry Liggett posted this Sunday on his Facebook page:

Helen baked an apple pie Saturday. After 20 days in ICU at Cleveland Clinic and 20 days in rehab, this is a big accomplishment. A nephew posted a philosphy here that in life either nothing is a miracle or everything is a miracle. That apple pie was a delicious miracle.

BJ proposal would decimate Guild contract

There's a dismal report from Bob DeMay, the BJ's Guild chair. The Canadian's economic proposal, after 16 months of negotiations, includes:

-- 17% pay cut.

-- 25% to 36% cut in wages and benefits combined.

-- BJ refuses to let Guild see the books.

-- Management not included in pay and benefits cuts.

-- Guild benefits reduced to those provided non-union employees in many instances.

-- No BJ health care coverage once retirees are on Medicare.

-- No 401(k) matching funds.

-- Reduced vacation weeks.

-- No free parking. (This one seems particularly insulting and cheap.)

There are so many more disheartening parts of the proposal that I'll let DeMay's report handle them. The Guild report on the company proposals:

The company isn't pleading poverty, but wants you to

Your Guild bargaining team met with the company Monday, where after 16 months the company revealed its economic proposal. The 19 issues in the proposal opened with the company reneging on a previous tentative agreement over severance pay and closed with a 17% pay cut. If you could think of a benefit you have now, it probably was included in the other 17 cuts.

A quick estimate by the Guild, according to figures supplied by the company, the cuts to wages and benefits combined would fall between 25 - 36 percent depending on your seniority and health care coverage.

When asked if the company was willing to open the books company negotiator Karen Lefton stated that owner David Black was a very private individual and would keep his business matters private as well. When pushed on the issue by Guild staff representative Bruce Nelson, Lefton stated, "we are not saying we are not making a profit, we aren't pleading poverty." She went on to say that the company is not unable to pay at current levels, it just doesn't want to.

The Guild bargaining committee was told that newsroom managers would not be included in the cost-cutting proposals being asked of Guild members. The cuts, all coming from Guild members, would total $1,250,000 per year. The majority of that coming in salary ($667,323) and freezing of the pension plan ($350,000).

The company's proposal in its entirety is below along with notes on what is currently in place. It is not readily apparent by reading the proposal, but Item 17 eliminates life insurance benefits for all current employees, even before you retire.

While we're sure you will share you feelings on the proposal with your bargaining committee, it is just as important that you make your feelings known to the company.

The two sides resume bargaining next Thursday.

If you have questions see any member of the bargaining committee who were at Monday's meeting which included, Bob DeMay, John Higgins, Yvonne Bruce and Jim Mackinnon.

October 19, 2009
Company's Economic Proposal to the Guild

1. Severance: [Article IX, Section 1] Reduce to one week of pay for every year of service, up to maximum of 26 weeks. (Current contract has a maximum of 52 weeks)

2. Night differential: [Article XI, Section 3] Eliminate.
(Current contract $7 per shift worked)

3. Double time: [Article XI, Sections 7 and 9] Change all references from "double time" to "time-and-a-half." (i.e. for shifts where schedule has been changed, holiday eves.)
(Current contract pays double time for hours worked after 6 pm on Christmas and New Years Eve as well as overtime hours worked on a day your schedule has been changed)

4. Sunday work: [Article XI, Section 8] Eliminate.
(Current contract state you can only work a maximum of 36 Sundays per year)

5. Call-back pay: [Article XI, Section 11] Eliminate guarantee of three hours' pay if an Employee is called back. Employee would get paid for whatever time he/she works.
(Current contract calls for a minimum of three hours pay)

6. Vacation: [Article XIII, Section 1] New vacation schedule. All employees currently not at 5 weeks will max out at 4 weeks, based on this schedule:
(a) Two weeks of vacation after one year of employment, to be taken in second calendar year.
(b) Three weeks of vacation after nine years of employment, to be taken in the tenth calendar year.
(c) Four weeks of vacation after 15 years of employment, to be taken in the 16th calendar year.
(d) Employees who currently have five weeks will be grandfathered.

(Current contract language:
(a) In the first calendar year of employment, one day of vacation earned for each twenty-six (26) days worked, but in no event less than five (5) paid vacation days, to be taken in the second (2nd) calendar year.
(b) In the second calendar year of continuous service, two (2) weeks earned (one [1] day for every twenty-six [26] days worked), to be taken in the third (3rd) calendar year.
(c) In the third (3rd) calendar year of continuous service, three (3) weeks of vacation earned (one [1] day for every seventeen [17] days worked), to be taken in the fourth (4th) calendar year.
(d) In the seventh (7th) calendar year of continuous service, four (4) weeks of vacation earned (one [1] day for every thirteen [13] days worked), to be taken in the eighth (8th) calendar year.
(e) In the fifteenth (15th) calendar year of continuous service, five (5) weeks of vacation earned (one [1] day for every ten [10] days worked), to be taken in the sixteenth (16th) calendar year.

7. Service bonus: [Article XIII, Section 4] Eliminate.
(Current contract language: an employee in the editorial department with five (5) or more continuous years of employment shall be paid on the first payday after March 1, a bonus of Seven Dollars ($7.00) for each year the employee has worked for the EMPLOYER as of December 31 of that calendar year. If the employee has not completed five (5) years of employment at the time he or she takes the first week of such vacation, this bonus shall be postponed until the employee has completed five (5) years of employment.

8. Sick leave: [Article XIV]
A. No sick pay shall be paid until the third consecutive day of absence due to illness or injury.
B. Sick pay shall be paid at 70 percent of full pay.
C. Maximum of 13 weeks of sick leave for all non-probationary employees. (No sick leave for those still on their probationary period.)

(Current contract language: Sick leave with full pay shall be granted to all employees as per the following schedule:
(a) Probationary Period: No sick leave.
(b) After Probationary Period: Employees hired after October 25, 1989, thirteen (13) weeks of sick leave for ninety (90) days to two (2) years' service; twenty six (26) weeks of sick leave after two (2) years of service.
In no event shall an employee receive more than 200 percent of his/her sick leave entitlement in a rolling 24 months, the first day of which cannot precede the date of signing of this Agreement.
(c) Employees hired before October 25, 1989: Twenty-six (26) weeks of sick leave to five (5) years' service. After five (5) years' service fifty-two (52) weeks of sick leave. In no event shall an employee receive more than 150 percent of his/her sick leave entitlement in a rolling 24 months, the first day of which cannot precede the date of signing of this Agreement.

9. Leaves of Absence: [Article XV, Section 7] During an authorized leave of absence, coverage for all insurance shall be continued only if the Employee, at his/her discretion, agrees to pay the full amount of such coverage for the duration of his/her absence.
(Currently employees only pay their share of medical premiums)

10. Mileage: [Article XXI, Section l(b)] Cap at the rate set by the IRS.
(Current contract language has no cap, but is also below the current IRS rate)

11. Parking: [Article XXI, Section 1 (d)]: Eliminate.
(Current language: The EMPLOYER shall provide free parking to all employees required to have a motor vehicle available for the service of the EMPLOYER.)

12. 401(k): [Article XXIV, Section 5] Delete last sentence, eliminating the match.

(Current contract: The EMPLOYER agrees to merge the Union 401(k) plan into the plan provided for non-bargaining unit employees, thereby providing the bargaining unit employees the same investment options and the same opportunity to make pre-tax contributions as it provides to non-bargaining unit employees. In addition, the EMPLOYER agrees to contribute twenty-five (25) cents for each dollar contributed by an employee up to a maximum of six (6) percent of the employee’s salary to the 401(k) plan.

13. Health insurance: [Article XXV, Section 1] Bargaining unit employees shall pay the same percentage as that paid by non-union employees of the Employer.
(Current contract: single employees pay 19.7% of health care premiums, all other employees pay 26.9% of premiums.

14. Health insurance: [Article XXV] Medical benefits for current retirees who are not yet Medicare eligible shall be available to them at the same cost as to active employees until they become Medicare eligible, at which time all Company benefits shall cease.

15. Health insurance: [Article XXV] Current retirees who are Medicare eligible shall not be entitled to any further health care benefit from the Company.
(Current language: Employees who retired from the Beacon Journal prior to December 31, 1997, shall receive health and life insurance benefits as provided for in Article XXV of the August 25, 2000, collective bargaining agreement.

16. Disability insurance: [Article XXV, Section 1] Disability insurance shall be offered at the same cost as offered to independent employees.
(Current contract: benefit is available at no cost to Guild employees)

17. Life insurance: [Article XXV, Section 3] Employees retiring after January 1, 2010, shall not be entitled to life insurance.
(Current contract: employee premium for 1 and one half times annual salary paid in full)

18. Pension: [A_rtic1e XXV, Section 5] Pension plan shall be frozen, effective January 1,2010.
(Current language provides defined benefit upon retirement)

19. Wages: Reduce by 17 percent across the board.
(Current contract scale: Top minimum for reporters, copy editors, artist and photographers of $1112.00 per week would be reduced to $922.96)

NOTE: The Company reserves the right to amend, eliminate, or add to the foregoing proposals or to add additional proposals through the negotiation process.

Bob DeMay
Akron Unit Chair Local 1 TNG
(330) 996-3887 (work)
(330) 329-6503 (cell)

Michael Douglas to moderate discussion on Knight legacy

Beacon Journal editorial page editor Michael Douglas will moderate a panel discussion on the Knight legacy after the Monday, Oct. 26 documentary on brothers Jim and John S. Knight.

On the panel will be University of Akron president/chief executive officer Dr. Luis Proenza, who has been in his post for a decade; former Beacon Journal publisher Jim Crutchfield, Arizona State University Student Media director; Dave Lieberth, deputy mayor/administration for the city of Akron; Bruce Winges, BJ vice president and editor since May 26, 2007, who has been at the paper since 1982; and a member of the UA student press.

The discussion will begin at 7:30 p.m. The panel's subjects will include the Knights' involvement in community, journalism, education, politics and philanthropy. There will be a meet-and-greet following the panel discussion.

The documentary, "Final Edition: Journalism According to Jack and Jim Knight,” will premiere at 6:30 p.m. in the Akron-Summit County Public Library auditorium on 60 S. High Street in Akron. Paul Jacoway and University of Akron communications Prof. Kathleen Endres produced and wrote the documentary.

Click on the headline for University of Akron press release on the documentary.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Inviting your comments on the BJ headline on the Browns-Steelers game:


Coast clear for corruption in New Jersey

More than 460 jobs have been eliminated in two years at six Gannett newspapers in New Jersey -- Morristown Daily Record, Asbury Park Press, East Brunswick Home News Tribune, Bridgewater Courier News, Cherry Hill Courier-Post and Vineland Daily Journal. The Newhouse chain's Newark Star-Ledger staff is half what it was a year ago. The New York Times eliminated its New Jersey section and its Jersey bureau.

So what?

Well, the Record got a Pulitzer nomination in 2008 for local reporting, which was an investigation of corruption run rampant. The state oversight was non-existent. Says Record editor Frank Scandale: "This was a bad deal for the state, and people lost a lot of money. Without the Record investigating it and turning over those rocks, this wouldn’t have been discovered."

New Jersey governor Jon Corzine recently signed a bill that will give the state more oversight over public and private projects that use government dollars and cents.

But, without newspapers "turning over those rocks," corrupt politicians and private individuals and companies still may have a field day.

To read the story, click on the headline.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Facebook forum on Knights documentary

Paul Jacoway, who with University of Akron communications Prof. Kathleen Endres produced and wrote a documentary about brothers John and Jim Knight, said there's a Facebook page for a forum on the documentary and the Knight Newspapers giants. But you need a Facebook account to have access to it, I found. If you already are a Facebook user, go to

and join the discussion.

“Final Edition: Journalism According to Jack and Jim Knight,” will premiere at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, in the Akron-Summit County Public Library auditorium on 60 S. High Street in Akron.

Click on the headline for University of Akron press release on the documentary.

On that same day at 3 p.m. the retired printers' lawsuit against the BJ over reductions in health care coverage will be heard in Ohio Northern District Court in Akron before Judge David Dowd Jr. It's open to anyone who wants to find out how they may get their health care coverage restored to its status before Black Press bought the BJ. I plan to be there.

David Dudley Dowd Jr. was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1982. The federal court is in the John F. Seiberling Federal Building and United States Courthouse at
Two South Main Street, just off the Main-Market intersection.

Check the original lawsuit post at

If you have any items you want added to the BJ Alums calendar, email me at

I'll be glad to add and post them.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chuck Klosterman's 6th book due Tuesday

Charles John Klosterman's sixth book will be released Tuesday, Oct. 20. For pop culture nutcases and his Beacon Journal colleagues of nearly a decade ago, he's known as Chuck Klosterman, who has even been compared to Hunter S. Thompson (if you have to ask, you either took too many drugs at the time or you're too young).

Chuck's latest, 256-page tome is titled "Eating the Dinosaur" (Scribner). It is, of course, pop culture pieces. His first book was "Fargo Rock City," which he wrote in 2001 when he was the Beacon Journal's pop culture critic. Very loosely, it's based on his teen years as a metalhead music follower in Wyndmere, North Dakota (population 498).

Chuck was born June 5, 1972, in Breckenridge, Minnesota, but was raised on a farm near Wyndmere, North Dakota, and is a 1994 University of North Dakota graduate. He parlayed eight years of working on newspapers in Fargo, North Dakota, and the BJ into becoming a pop culture guru. Chuck chucked Akron for New York City in 2002.

As he is quoted explaining it, "I was fortunate that I was at newspapers for eight years, where I wrote at least five or six stories every week. You get used to interviewing lots of different people about a lot of different things. And they aren't things you know about until you do the story."

He took a spin as senior writer for Spin till the magazine spun out of control after housecleaning by the new owner. His resume includes Esquire, GQ, New York Times Magazine, The Believer, The Washington Post and a summer gig last year as guest professor for literature at the University of Leipzig's Institute for American Studies in Leipzig, Germany.

Chuck's other books are "Downtown Owl," a fantasy trip through a made-up North Dakota podunk; "Chuck Klosterman IV," subtitled "A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas"; "Killing Yourself to Live," a 6,557-mile journey to places where rock stars died; and "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs," his New York Times best-seller which caused People magazine to write that Chuck has "spoken for a generation" about pop culture.

Chuck's fame got him TV appearances, playing himself, on a 2007 "E:60" episode on ESPN, in 2007's "Britney: Off the Rails," a 2006 episode of "Amazon Fishbowl With Bill Maher," in the 2005 "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey" and the 2004 "Spinal Tap Goes to 20."

He also is executive producer for the 2009 film, "Killing Yourself to Live," based, of course, on Chuck's book.

For more quotes by Chuck, go to:

For Chuck's Facebook page, go to:

If you want to book an appearance by Chuck, he is represented by the Lavin Agency. Go to:

To see photos of Chuck, in a cornfield (Szalay's?) promoting "Fargo Rock City" during his BJ days and at his Leipzig discussions, and his "Eating the Dinosaur" book cover, click on the headline.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It wasn't Roger's fault.

Remember Desiree Hicks' email saying that she didn't go from the BJ to the Plain Dealer, as so many have? She actually went from the PD to Gannett to the BJ.

Well, it seems I have another correction to make. Let Roger Mezger explain it via his email:

Thanks for thinking of me when you were correcting the error about Desiree Hicks' career, but I wasn't the person who supplied that information. I saw the post listing the people who had gone from the BJ to the PD, followed by a sentence that said, "And Desiree Hicks left the BJ Washington bureau for the PD's Washington Bureau. But Gloria Irwin isn't sure if she's still with the PD."

All I did was send an email saying that Desiree no longer worked at the PD, which is true. I assume from the wording of the original post that Gloria provided Harry with the incorrect information that she had gone from the BJ to the PD.

After all, the post also includes this sentence: "My thanks to Stuart, Gloria, Mark Dawidziak and Ken Krause for providing names for this list."

Would you please clear my name?

= = = = = = = = =

I apologize for putting the hat on the wrong person, Roger. Actually, no one provided Harry with the incorrect information. I was the only conduit for this BJ-to-PD report.

Click on the headline to read the original post. Anyone else see anything that needs correcting?

Gresocks enjoy 50th-anniversary honeymoon

Retired Beacon Journal printer Dick Gresock and wife Lorraine traveled more than 5,200 miles in September to national parks and for other Western sightseeing for their honeymoon. In their case, it was their 50th-anniversary honeymoon.

The Gresocks, who live in Medina, were married June 20, 1959 in Indiana, Pennsylvania. They drove to Yellowstone and Bryce national parks, into the Black Hills of South Dakota and Chief Crazy Horse, the world’s largest mountain carving, and wherever two weeks would take them.

Their children are Marie (Robert) Ellium of Garrettsville, Rich (Paula) Gresock of Medina, John (Teresa) Holland Gresock of Medina and Kathy (Jeff) Yarian of Fairview Park. Lorraine and Dick have 10 grandchildren. One of their sons still works at the Beacon Journal.

I was electronics coordinator for the BJ newsroom when Dick was Composing electronics coordinator Ken Wright’s right-hand man. We did a lot of formatting in those days to make the newsroom computers sing and dance and spit out fancy runarounds, and created templates so that repetitive work could be handled with a few keystrokes. Later technology improvements made it possible for anyone who could type to do projects in minutes that once took us hours to figure out.

Dick was at the monthly BJ Alums lunch today at Papa Joe’s on Akron-Peninsula Road at Portage Trail Extension. So were retired printers Cal Deshong, who will be 91 years old next month, Al Hunsicker and Carl Nelson. And newsroom escapees Dave Boerner, John Olesky and Tom Moore, who will heading for Florida in a week to join former BJ Sports Editor Tom Giffin for the Roy Hobbs World Series for guys who are never too old to play baseball.

The 2009 Roy Hobbs World Series will be held Saturday, October 24, through Sunday, Nov. 22, in Fort Myers. The young-at-heart guys play on the same fields that the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins use for spring training. They come from a ton of states and some countries. Tom handles the daily newspaper about their activities, including feature stories.

As usual, there was plenty of laughter among the BJ Alums lunch bunch. And information about PSAs. Unless you’re of Medicare age, you probably don’t know what PSAs are. They aren’t Public Service Announcements and it’s a guy thing.

You should try it if you want to have fun. The BJ Alums lunch, not the PSAs. Just show up at 1 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month at Papa Joe’s.

Click on the headline to see photos of those at the BJ Alums lunch.

Paula Schleis' father dies

Stephen Schleis, 84, of Barberton died Sunday. I know that Paula went from her reporting job at the Beacon Journal to keep vigil at her dad's hospital bedside each evening.

The obituary in today's Beacon Journal reads like a love letter from a reporter/daughter to her father:

Stephen Schleis

Before his passing on Sunday, Stephen Schleis had forged an 84-year-old trail of laughter, generosity, compassion and wisdom. He was more than a role model to his family. He was a hero.

He raised his five children in a modest three-bedroom home that he and his wife built in Barberton. Their love made it a castle.

Steve broke his back serving in the Navy during World War II. For 30 years, he found comfort sleeping on the living room floor. Each morning, his children rolled him over so he could crawl to the corner and "walk" himself up the wall. Then we sent him off to work two factory jobs so we could afford private school and an in-ground swimming pool and basketball court on our quarter-acre lot -- things he was far too busy to ever enjoy.

He wouldn't eat until everyone in his household had their plates full. He never complained if he missed out on the apple pie or the warm rolls. Even at the end, confused by dementia and eating pureed food, he wouldn't take a bite without whispering: "You first."

As a younger man, he wrote poetry and loved to fish. In his later years, he enjoyed traveling and watching sports and western movies. He celebrated Christmas to excess, his home a wonderfully tacky beacon of light. His humor was unforgettable, and all who knew him could recite punch lines he delivered throughout his life.

Two years ago, ignoring the prison of his Parkinson's Disease, he took up painting, leaving every child and grandchild a beautiful framed reminder of his love.

Steve was born in the tiny Stark County hamlet of Aultman, retired from Goodyear Aerospace and was a member of Holy Trinity Church until its recent closing.

He is survived by his wife, RoseAnn; his children, Susanna (Jerry) Freeman of Bath Township, Tom of Akron, Barb (Dave) Yoder of Barberton, Paula Schleis of Barberton, and Mike (Loretta) of Akron. He also leaves behind a sister, Clara Rohrer of North Canton, 30 grandchildren and great- grandchildren, and numerous cousins, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and friends who thought the world of him.

Calling hours will be from 1 to 2 p.m. Friday at Cox Funeral Home, 222 Norton Ave. in Barberton, with services at 2 p.m. Father Carl Ciprian will officiate.
[Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH, Wednesday, October 14, 2009, page B7, col. 3]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dawidiziak meets Twain again on Thursday

Wednesday – BJ Alums lunch, 1 p.m. second Wednesday of every month, Papa Joe’s Restaurant on Akron-Peninsula Road at Portage Trail Extension. It's open to anyone who once worked at the BJ, from any department. Or still work there, for that matter. We laugh a lot. No organized program. No organized anything. Just BJ people enjoying each other's company. Try it. We think you'll like it. Food is good, too.

And you'll get your photo on the Internet so that your friends in faraway places can see how much you're enjoying life. It's a bargain.

Thursday – 7 p.m., Mark Dawidziak does Mark Twain at the Cuyahoga Falls library. Click on headline for original post.

Monday, Oct. 26 – 3 p.m., Retired printers vs. BJ lawsuit hearing, U.S. District Court in Akron. Check original post at

6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26 – JSK documentary premiere, Akron-Summit County Public Library auditorium, 60 S. High Street. Check original post at

If you have any items you want added to the BJ Alums calendar, email me at


Monday, October 12, 2009

Wrong direction in posting involving Desiree Hicks

Desiree Hicks, who worked for the Beacon Journal and the Plain Dealer, emails a correction about our Aug. 12 posting that listed people involved in the BJ exodus to the Plain Dealer. The original story included information provided by BJ-to-PD editor Roger Mezger that Desiree left the BJ's Washington bureau for the PD's Washington bureau.

Not so, says Desiree. Well, let her tell it:

Your blog has come to my attention and it contains some erroneous information I'm hoping you can correct. While it is true that I am an alum of both the PD and BJ, I did not "leave the BJ's Washington bureau for the PD's Washington bureau," as your blog notes. Actually, it was the other way around -- I worked for the PD in Cleveland, then did a stint at Gannett News Service in Washington before moving to the BJ's Washington bureau. Thanks for setting the record straight!

All the best,
Desiree Hicks

= = = = = = = =

My apologies, Desiree. Score one for the BJ getting a former PD reporter. I'm glad we got it right, even if it did take two months for the news to drift to Desiree.

To see the original post, including the erroneous information, click on the headline.

Scott Bosley off to Chile

I got this email from former Beacon Journal managing editor Scott Bosley, who is executive editor of the American Society of News Editors:

I'm off to Santiago, Chile, later this week on a visit for the journalism accrediting organization.

And I am working with my board to find a replacement at ASNE, from which I announced earlier this year I would be retiring at the end of 2009.

= = = = = = = =

Scott has been on the ASNE board for more than a decade. He spent more than 30 years with Knight-Ridder newspapers, including the BJ; the Detroit Free Press with the "Akron mafia" of John Dunphy, Larry Froelich and Jim Ricci; Knight Ridder Tribune Information Services; The Journal of Commerce, as editor; and the Gary, Indiana, Post-Tribune, as publisher.

Scott came to the BJ, as I did, by way of West Virginia and West Virginia University. Scott and Tom Melody (another WVU grad who found his way to the BJ) both are Keyser High School graduates in the state's eastern panhandle.

I consider Scott the best of the 16 managing editors I worked with. Maybe that was because I saw up-close how talented he is as Scott's right-hand man to handle details of projects that required consistent hands-on attention, including one of many renovations of the newsroom.

For personal and other details about Scott, who with wife Carol are the parents of two adult children, click on the headline to see a 2005 BJ Alums blog story on our man from West Virginia.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Join us Wednesday for the fun at Papa Joe's

Wednesday – BJ Alums lunch, 1 p.m. second Wednesday of every month, Papa Joe’s Restaurant on Akron-Peninsula Road at Portage Trail Extension. It's open to anyone who once worked at the BJ, from any department. Or still work there, for that matter. We laugh a lot. No organized program. No organized anything. Just BJ people enjoying each other's company. Try it. We think you'll like it. Food is good, too.

And you'll get your photo on the Internet so that your friends in faraway places can see how much you're enjoying life. It's a bargain.

Thursday – 7 p.m., Mark Dawidziak does Mark Twain at the Cuyahoga Falls library. Click on headline for original post.

Monday, Oct. 26 – 3 p.m., Retired printers vs. BJ lawsuit hearing, U.S. District Court in Akron. Check original post at

6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26 – JSK documentary premiere, Akron-Summit County Public Library auditorium, 60 S. High Street. Check original post at

If you have any items you want added to the BJ Alums calendar, email me at


Friday, October 09, 2009

Catching up with . . . Jim Ricci

The first time that I saw a Jim Ricci story in the Beacon Journal, in the 1970s, I had two immediate impressions:

1. This guy is a damn good writer.
2. He has an eye for details about the person he interviews, right down to the combat boots.

I was right both times. Since leaving the BJ, Jim worked for the Detroit Free Press and the Los Angeles Times, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and had Matthew Modine play him in “Redeemer,” a 2002 USA Network cable movie "inspired by" stories Jim wrote in Detroit to free Ahmad Rahman, a Black Panther imprisoned 20 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Jim also wrote the screenplay for the movie, which had little resemblance to the real people by the time Jim did rewrite after rewrite.

At my request, Jim sent me this email to catch us up on his life after the BJ:

I finally took a buyout from the L.A. Times and retired in May of last year. After 37 years in the newspaper business -- and getting the feeling that the walls were closing in on the profession -- I decided to hang up my spurs, and I haven't regretted for a moment doing so. I had the good fortune of working with good people at good papers throughout my career, first the Beacon, then the Detroit Free Press, then the Times, which I joined at age 50 and stayed with for the next dozen and a half years, working as a feature writer and columnist.

High points included being a Pulitzer and ASNE finalist in feature writing, and seeing a screenplay I wrote (it was based loosely on something I'd done as a columnist in Detroit) made into a television movie, "Redeemer," starring Matthew Modine.

I have two grown daughters, one of whom, Annie, is an opera singer who's established a non-profit in New York, and the other, Laura, an artist who lives here in Los Angeles. You can learn about them at their Web sites:, and

Their mother Kathy and I divorced after 30 years of marriage in 1999. Now I have a new family with my partner, Carrie, who is a TV and film executive. We have a son who just turned 10, and an eight-year-old daughter who was born on my 55th birthday. These days I spend much of my time attending to domestic stuff because my partner still works, as well as reading, practicing baseball with my son, and learning to play tennis.

I'm still in touch with some BJ alums of my era, notably Mike Clary, Larry Froelich, Mike Cull and Bill Hershey. Like "Stuberg" Feldstein, I have a lot of memories of the Beacon, from Pat Englehart's Denobili cigars to Ben Maidenburg's newsroom rants to Ben James' naps at the city desk.

All in all, it's been a heck of a ride.

Best wishes to everyone,

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

In Googling Jim’s L.A. Times stories, I found this fascinating lede that should resonate with others who were in the BJ newsroom in the 1970s:

BY JAMES RICCI, Times Staff Writer March 27, 2002
On my very first day as a newspaperman, an editor whose breath stank of cheap cigars forever imprinted on me the profession’s devotion to factual accuracy.

I’d been assigned to write obituaries. One of those that I wrote that day stated, in accord with the death notice from the funeral home, that the deceased had lived at such-and-such address in such-and-such town. “You sure that address is in the city limits?,” the editor snarled. He jerked his thumb toward a snack of local street directories.

To make a long story short, although the departed himself probably claimed to be from the town, he went to his Maker a resident of the outlying township, at least on our obit page--and we got it right.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

The late BJ State Desk Editor Patrick T. Englehart was legendary in the 1970s newsroom for his dark-fired De Nobili cigars (about the size of the pencils you use to keep score at local golf courses), his passion for accuracy and his memos to reporters which read only: “See me.”

Pat and wife Marge moved from their beloved Mogadore to near Ocala, Florida, mainly for health reasons, where Pat died in 1995. Marge later moved to the Elks National Home in Bedford, Virginia. The Englehart children: Peter (former ABC Sports producer, now a marathon runner), Mary Pat (married to an architect), Andrew (lawyer and civil engineer) and Phillip (in Kansas City, Missouri with a doctorate).

The Ricci family is loaded with talent, too.

Jim’s daughter, Anne Ricci, is General Manager Diva of Opera on Tap in New York City, a non-profit organization that brings opera to ordinary residents put off by tuxedo-clad audiences at the Metropolitan Opera. Anne is a lyric soprano with a masters from Manhattan School of Music. She has performed with New York-based outreach company, The Remarkable Theatre Brigade, at the Chicago Humanities Festival, the International Fringe Festival and for American Opera Projects. She is an actress and member of Actors' Equity and teaches voice. I also Googled an October marriage in the works for Anne.

Jim’s other daughter, Laura, is an artist out of Los Angeles. She received her Master in Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2002 and her bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from Kalamazoo (Michigan) College in 1995.

Laura’s paintings often depict post-apocalyptic landscapes. Her work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Oakland, San Antonio and Detroit.

As for Ahmad Rahman, the prisoner that Jim helped free, he is an assistant professor of history at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He was the first prisoner admitted into a graduate program at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Rahman is the author of “The Regime Change Of Kwame Nkrumah,” who led Ghana’s successful struggle for independence. Nkrumah was hailed as "Osagyefo" -- which means "redeemer" in the Twi language and is the title of Jim’s TV movie about Rahman.

Rahman is working on "The History of the Black Panther Party in Detroit." Rahman was a visiting assistant professor of Africana studies at the University of Toledo in 2004. He also works for prison reform.

For photos of Jim, alone and with daughter Ceci, 8, and others of Anne and Laura, and a sample of Laura’s art, click on the headline.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

BJ Alums calendar

Wednesday, Oct. 14 – BJ Alums lunch, 1 p.m. second Wednesday of every month, Papa Joe’s Restaurant on Akron-Peninsula Road at Portage Trail Extension.

Thursday, Oct. 15 – 7 p.m., Mark Dawidziak does Mark Twain at the Cuyahoga Falls library. Click on headline for original post.

Monday, Oct. 26 – 3 p.m., Retired printers vs. BJ lawsuit hearing, U.S. District Court in Akron. Check original post at

6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26 – JSK documentary premiere, Akron-Summit County Public Library auditorium, 60 S. High Street. Check original post at

If you have any items you want added to the BJ Alums calendar, email me at


Monday, October 05, 2009

Overlooked in economy coverage: You., the Pew Research Center’s Project for Quality Journalism, in checking what the media reported during our national economic crisis, came up with these findings:

1. Everyday Americans are getting the least coverage during our national economic crisis.
2. The media’s economy coverage plummeted from 46% in February and March to 16% by July and August.
3. Banking, stimulus packages and automakers hogged the coverage.
4. Unemployment and the housing crisis got sparse coverage.
5. Ordinary citizens and union workers combined triggered only 2% of the economy stories.
6. Retail sales, food prices, impact on Social Security and Medicare, education and health care combined drew just over 2% of the economic coverage.
7. 81% of the stories were datelined Washington, New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta.
8. President Obama understandably was the No. 1 newsmaker in the economic coverage. No. 2? Ponzi scheme figure Bernie Madoff.

To read the entire report, click on the headline.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Uh-oh. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan

Beacon Journal medical writer Cheryl Powell warns in today's BJ that Medicare Advantage plans, such as the one the BJ nudged its retirees to sign up for, will increase premiums in 2010. Currently the BJ pays its retirees' premium, but BJ owner Canadian Press is the same outfit that dropped the $2 to $5 co-pay for prescriptions and installed one that makes retirees pay $5 to $80 per 90-day prescription.

The changes in retirees' medical coverage is at the heart of the lawsuit against the BJ by retired Beacon printers. The first hearing on that lawsuit will be Oct. 26 in Federal District Court in Akron.

Some BJ retirees have opted to get their medical and prescription coverage elsewhere, even though they have to pay their own premiums, because they prefer the overall package of benefits compared to the Aetna Medicare plan supported by Black Press.

Cheryl's story says that Medicare Advantage premiums will rise from $16.90 to $97.50 in 2009 to $22.60 to $102.20 in 2010. Of charges on the 19 plans listed in the BJ today, Aetna Medicare's premiums range from $25.40 to $78. Only two of the 19 plans have higher premiums than Aetna. The plans have different benefits so it's like comparing apples and oranges.

One of the constants is that the "donut hole," the point where you begin paying 100% of your brand-name prescriptions' costs, will rise from $2,700 in 2009 to $2,830 in 2010 for the "actual costs" of the prescriptions. Generics generally don't cost any more in or out of the "donut hole."

And you won't escape the "donut hole" until you spend $4,550 of your own money for prescription drugs.

The calculations switch from the "actual total cost" of the drugs, used to determine when you hit the "donut hole," to the amount that you spend for your drugs, as co-pay or otherwise. In my case, when the "actual total costs" of my prescriptions hit $2,700, my out-of-pocket drug costs were about $400.

That meant I would have to spend more than another $4,000 for the rest of the year before I got out of the "donut hole." Few people escape the "donut hole" so, in reality, you lose the cheaper co-pay for brand-names once you hit the "donut hole."

Also Aetna Medicare Advantage has another trick to get you to the "donut hole" faster, and get Aetna out of paying as much of your prescription costs. It over-values the "actual cost." Examples, all for 90-day prescriptions for a drug: Aetna says Carvedilol costs $54, but Giant Eagle and Wal-Mart charge $10 for the same drug. Aetna says Terazosin's "actual cost" is $29.70, but Giant Eagle and Wal-Mart charge $10. Aetna lists Celebrex at $316.49 with no U.S. generic available, but the generic Celecoxib in Canada costs $68.15.

I save almost $700 a year by getting my brand-name prescriptions from Canada once I hit the "donut hole." I get my generics through Aetna for the entire year because my co-pay doesn't change on generics, even if I'm in the "donut hole."

In addition, deductibles for many plans will rise from $295 to $310.

Starting Oct. 15 you can get detailed, personal information about Medicare Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage options for 2010 by logging onto Medicare's Web site at or calling 800-633-4227.

Click on the headline to read Cheryl's story.

BJ Alums calendar

Sunday, Oct. 4, 5 & 7 p.m. – Nighttown readings, music, University Heights Library. Click on the headline for details.

Wednesday, Oct. 14 – BJ Alums lunch, 1 p.m. second Wednesday of every month, Papa Joe’s Restaurant on Akron-Peninsula Road at Portage Trail Extension.

Thursday, Oct. 15 – 7 p.m., Mark Dawidziak does Mark Twain at the Cuyahoga Falls library. Check original post at

Monday, Oct. 26 – 3 p.m., Retired printers vs. BJ lawsuit hearing, U.S. District Court in Akron. Check original post at

6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26 – JSK documentary premiere, Akron-Summit County Public Library auditorium, 60 S. High Street. Check original post at