Monday, May 31, 2010

News of Composing retirees' health care lawsuit victory spreads to Canada

Today's Toronto Globe and Mail has a lengthy story on the BJ printers' lawsuit against the Beacon Journal over health care changes.

The story by Globe and Mail staffer Paul Waldie includes these paragraphs:

-- “I would say this was just an awful thing to do to retired people,” Ms. White said from her home in Venice, Fla. “We didn’t have a problem until Black took over," paying $165 million for the Beacon Journal.

-- The outcome of this case has the potential to cost millions for Black Press, a growing media enterprise with more than 150 publications across Canada and the U.S.

-- David Black, CEO of the company bearing his name, said: “Management thought that switching to generic drugs rather than brand-name drugs would be one way to continue retiree medical coverage while controlling costs somewhat."

-- Judge David Dowd (ruled that) the benefits had “vested,” meaning they could not be changed. He ordered the Journal to reinstate the benefits pending a final outcome at trial.

Click on the headline to read the Globe and Mail story and see a photo of Dave and Gina White and their dog in their Venice, Florida, home.

Jeff Sallot, former BJ staffer, had a long reporting career at the Globe and Mail before he joined the Journalism and Communication faculty at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, in 2007.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not every prescription has a generic version in the USA. In my case, three of my eight have no generic equivalent in the USA (some do through Canadian pharmacies), so I would be stuck for the full price of those brand-name drugs once I'm in the donut hole if I did not switch to Canadian pharmacies, all at my cost.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Checking in on Bob Kotzbauer

After some prodding, we got this email from Bob Kotzbauer, who was the Beacon Journal's Columbus bureau chief and editorial writer before he left for the Philadelphia Bulletin and other adventures:

I was much impressed by the number of book authors we had in the BJ alumni group, but disappointed to note the absence of one I published in 2004 which had been mentioned in Alum News a year or so ago. It concerned a distant cousin of mine who got thrown out of college, run out of Germany, and died a hero(?) at Chancellorsville in 1863. The title, "ELIAS: Ersatz Prinz, Union Patriot" sums up his life.

It's out of print, of course, although a few months ago Amazon was listing two copies, one for $90, and one "new" for $100. I wrote Amazon, and got an email address for the seller, and offered to sell him two copies I had left for $50 each. (The initial price was $15, but I wound up giving away most of the printing to relatives, friends, and bookstores on the verge of bankruptcy.) Another cousin in California is now trying to sell the movie rights to "friends in the business."

Anyhow, since you asked, I'm still writing, for a newsletter -- an e-mail weekly, here at heaven's doorstep, with items of interest for folks coming and going. I give it away, a habit I learned early in my Journalism career, but it gives me consolation to think my words are enduring.

The only ex-Beacon acquaintances I have any contact with are Bruce MacIntyre (who was Maidenburg's "assistant" before going to Michigan and entering municipal politics), and Dave Hess, with whom I share lunch on rare occasions in the Press Club in Washington.

Reading Abe Zaidan's stuff in the Alum News reminds me of Columbus, more so than Akron.

Incidentally, is there still a BJ?

Bob Kotzbauer

For more details on Bob's life since the BJ, which includes living in Pennsylvania's Amish country, click on the headline.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rx math madness

I'm in the donut hole by more than $400 (which means I pay all the costs of certain drugs for the rest of the year) because of the math madness of American pharmacies and Medicare laws written by lobbyists for insurance companies and handed to legislators, who enact them.

For one prescription, Aetna charges $655.37, which is almost double what Aetna charged eight months ago. Worse, it is EIGHT TIMES more than the $82 that Canadian pharmacies charge for the SAME prescription.

For another prescription, Aetna charges $338.86, the same as last year (thank goodness!). But that still is FIVE TIMES more than Canadian pharmacies charge for the SAME prescription.

For a third prescription, Aetna charges $271.55 and Canadian pharmacies charge $64.50, so Aetna is more than FOUR TIMES costlier than Canadian pharmacies.

Now that I'm in the donut hole, which this year happens after $2,830 in the cost of the drugs, no matter who pays for them, I can save -- for those THREE prescriptions alone -- $2,101.54 in the next six months by buying from Canadian pharmacies instead of through Aetna.

And what happens when you get out of the donut hole for the year? Good luck with that. You have to spend $4,550 of YOUR money before that happens. Once you hit the donut hole, the calculations switch from the total cost of prescriptions to your out-of-pocket expenses, which are much lower before you hit the donut hole.

If you want to check your Aetna prescription costs, once you're in the donut hole, against the prices of Canadian pharmacies, email John Olesky at

and I'll give you the URLs for a couple of Canadian pharmacies.

There's no escaping Chuck Klosterman -- even on a trip

Paula is in New York City, taking in Broadway shows before she'll drive to Fairmont, West Virginia, to join me Friday in Fairmont, West Virginia, for my Monongah High School 60th anniversary (Class of 1950) reunion.

She emailed me this tidbit about former BJ staffer Chuck Klosterman and Jason Hartley appearing at BookCourt, 163 Court St. between Dean and Pacific streets in Brooklyn, at 7 p.m. Wednesday. They'll discuss Hartley's book, "The Advanced Genius Theory," which proposes that musicians like Lou Reed and David Bowie didn't lose their touch later in their careers but made advancements "beyond our comprehension." Klosterman wrote the foreword to Hartley's book. Both will join the debate.

Go to the top left corner of this blog and type in


and click on the magnifying glass and you'll get tons of previous BJ Alums blog articles on author Klosterman.

Click on the headline to see a photo of Paula on Broadway in New York City.

Beacon Journal Features Dept. reunion -- decades later

Every Beacon Journal television critic from the past three decades had lunch today with David Bianculli, who held the job in 1980-83. Sitting across the table from David were Mark Dawidziak, current Plain Dealer TV critic who replaced David at the BJ, and R.D. Heldenfels, who replaced Mark and has survived the onslaught of buyouts and layoffs at the Beacon that have hit newspapers all over the country.

Also at the lunch were other 1980s and 1990s BJ Features Department escapees Joan Rice, super nova food writer Jane Snow, current Plain Dealer staffer and former BJ classical music critic Don Rosenberg, feature writer Bill O'Connor and John Olesky, who was TV Editor for Bianculli, Dawidziak and Heldenfels.

Bianculli lives in Cherry Hill, NJ, which is across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, where O'Connor once lived. After his New York newspaper jobs disappeared, Bianculli became an associate professor at Glassboro, New Jersey's Rowan University, runs a Web site, TV Worth Watching, and is a contributor and guest host for National Public Radio's "Fresh Air."

Bianculli is in town for his appearance at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Akron/Summit County Main Library auditorium, 60 S. High Street in downtown Akron. He'll discuss his book, "Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour."

Click on the headline to see photos of the Bianculli lunch at Primo's Deli in Akron.

Heldenfels discusses predecessor and his Smothers Brothers book

Current Beacon Journal television critic Rich Heldenfels discusses his 1980-83 predecessor, David Bianculli, and David's book about the Smothers Brothers in today's Beacon Journal.

David's book is "Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," which he will discuss at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Akron/Summit County Library auditorium, 60 S. High Street in downtown Akron. Parking is free after 6 p.m. in the High/Market streets deck.

David is an associate professor at Glassboro, New Jersey's Rowan University, runs a Web site, TV Worth Watching, and is a contributor and guest host for National Public Radio's "Fresh Air."

Bianculli was succeeded by Mark Dawidziak, current Plain Dealer TV critic, at the BJ. Heldenfels followed Mark in the job. I was the TV Editor for all three.

Click on the headline to read Heldenfels' interview of Bianculli.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Primo welcome for Bianculli

Before former (1980-83) Beacon Journal television critic David Bianculli, a Communications College professor at Rowan University and author of a book on the Smothers Brothers (Tom & Dick), shows up at the main Akron/Summit County Public Library on Wednesday, he has a lunch date with his former BJ Features Department co-workers.

This group manages to get together about once a year, mainly through the herding of current PD and former BJ TV critic Mark Dawidziak. Same place every time: Primo's Deli, 1707 Vernon Odom Blvd in Akron. This time it will be at noon Tuesday for those BJ escapees who want to chew and chat with David.

The library appearance will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Main Library auditorium, 60 S. High Street in downtown Akron. Parking is free after 6 p.m. in the High/Market streets deck. David's 2009 book about the Smothers Brothers is "Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." Dick and Tom are the comedy duo whose biting comments became too hot politically for CBS to handle even though the 1967-69 variety show had strong ratings.

Between the BJ and Rowan, David was a TV critic for the New York Post and then the New York Daily News. Rowan University is in Glassboro, New Jersey, about 30 minutes from David's home in Cherry Hill, NJ, which is across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

Click on the headline for a previous BJ Alums blog article catching up with David's life after the BJ.

Larry Dubravetz dies

Former Beacon Journal Human Resources director Larry Dubravetz, 64, died Thursday, May 20.

The Kent State graduate was a Vietnam war hero who got both the Silver and Bronze stars for valor. Larry was an athlete -- basketball captain at St. Vincent High School in the 1960s, baseball player on Cuyahoga Falls and Northeast Ohio teams and golf every chance he got. He grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, graduating from Immaculate Heart of Mary elementary school.

Calling hours will be 4-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Ciriello and Carr Fairlawn Chapel at 39 S. Miller Rd. Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Cuyahoga Falls.

Click on the headline for Larry's obituary in the BJ.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

BJ health coverage ruling favoring printers gets national attention

The retired printers' temporary injunction against diminished Beacon Journal health care coverage got national attention.

The Bureau of National Affairs, which describes itself as "the largest independent publisher of information and analysis products for professionals in business and government," ran a lengthy article on Federal District Court Judge David Dowd's decision that would provide immediate relief for those printers named in the lawsuit.

BNA says it covers "the full range of legal, legislative, regulatory, and economic developments that impact the business environment around the nation and the world."

The article in BNA:

Court Puts Brakes on Newspaper's Changes To Prescription Benefits Provided to Retirees
Retirees of the Akron Beacon Journal Publishing Co. persuaded the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to issue a preliminary injunction May 13 that blocks the newspaper from making changes to the retirees' prescription drug benefits (White v. Beacon Journal Publishing Co., N.D. Ohio, No. 5:09 CV 2193, 5/13/10).

In issuing the injunction, Judge David S. Dowd Jr. said the retirees were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that their benefits were vested and could not be changed by the Beacon Journal.

The retirees claimed that when the Beacon Journal increased the copayments they made for prescription drugs, the newspaper violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the Labor Management Relations Act.

Reliance on Extrinsic Evidence.
Attorney Donald P. Screen of Cleveland, who was among several attorneys who represented the retirees, told BNA May 14 that the decision is important because the court not only recognized the enforceability of benefits conferred in collective bargaining agreements but also recognized that extrinsic evidence such as early retirement agreements can be used to supplement and interpret CBAs. When there is an ambiguity in a CBA, extrinsic evidence can be examined and it can become the “source of vested benefits,” Screen said.

Another of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Allen G. Anderson of Smith & Johnson, Traverse City, Mich., told BNA May 14 that now that the court has granted a preliminary injunction, the retirees will be proceeding with discovery in hopes of making the injunction permanent.

One of the unique characteristics of the case was that these CBAs, unlike CBAs involved in other retiree benefit cases, provided for the right to lifetime employment, according to Anderson. These retirees gave up the right to lifetime employment in exchange for these retiree benefits that the Beacon Journal later took away, Anderson said.

Screen and Anderson said they expect the Beacon Journal to appeal the judge's decision in hopes that the company will not have to comply with the order until the case has proceeded to trial. “It would be a sad state of affairs if the Journal appeals” and asks the district court to stay the preliminary injunction, Anderson said.

Appeal May Depend on Health Care Reform.
The Beacon Journal's attorney, Brett Bacon of Frantz Ward, Cleveland, told BNA May 14 that his client has not decided whether it will appeal the decision because it is consulting with experts to determine what impact, if any, the new federal health care reform law might have on the case.

“While this case has been pending, Congress has been acting and it might have an impact on this case,” Bacon said. He added that the Beacon Journal's changes to the retirees' benefits only affected a small group of employees who retired under various early retirement programs. These prescription drug benefits were not “negotiated benefits” under the normal circumstances of the bargaining agreement, he said.

“No one here is without coverage. It is a matter of what kind of coverage and whether they are pleased with that coverage,” Bacon said.

CBAs Offered Lifetime Employment.
During their employment with the Beacon Journal, the retirees were represented by Communications Workers of America Local 14514. Through collective bargaining agreements between the newspaper and the CWA, the plaintiffs were granted the right of lifetime employment with the newspaper. Among other things, the CBAs provided that when the plaintiffs retired, they would be entitled to prescription drug benefits and would pay a $5 copayment for all prescriptions.

The retirees alleged that they each entered early retirement agreements with the Beacon Journal in which they gave up their right to lifetime employment in exchange for retiring early and receiving retiree prescription drug benefits.

The retirees claimed that after they retired, the Beacon Journal made unilateral changes to their prescription drug benefits. These changes, which were imposed on retirees once they were eligible for Medicare coverage, caused them to make copayments as high as $40 for brand name drugs, while the copayment for generic drugs remained at $5.

In their lawsuit, the retirees claimed their prescription drug benefits were vested and as such could not be changed or terminated by the Beacon Journal. The retirees asked that the court issue a preliminary injunction that would force the company to return their benefits to the $5 copayment level.

The newspaper argued, on the other hand, that the prescription drug benefits provided to retirees was a gratuitous benefit, not a vested benefit, and thus it had the right to require the retirees to pay higher copayments for their drug benefits.

Court Leans on Extrinsic Evidence.
Coming out on the side of the retirees, the district court said the retirees were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that their benefits were vested. The court said that while the relevant CBAs were ambiguous as to the vesting of retiree prescription drug benefits, there were several pieces of extrinsic evidence which showed that the parties likely intended the benefits to be vested.

One piece of extrinsic evidence was retirement benefit letters the company issued to the retirees that reflected that their $5 prescription copayment benefit would be for the life of the retiree and his or her spouse. Another piece of evidence cited by the court was the testimony of retirees and Beacon Journal representatives who testified that the retirees were told both in writing and in meetings that their prescription drug copayments would be set for life.

“These representations regarding lifetime prescription copay coverage were provided in advance of plaintiffs' decision to give up their lifetime job security and were material to their decision to retire,” the court said.

The court went on to say that the retirees were likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction. “In this case, the Court finds that plaintiffs are unable to obtain adequate health care because of the increased cost of prescriptions and/or because of difficulty in security medical care from providers who do not accept plaintiffs' new insurance. Inability to obtain proper medical services constitutes irreparable harm, and the Court finds that this factor weighs in favor of granting plaintiffs' request for preliminary injunction,” the court said.

The retirees were represented by Allen G. Anderson and Kenneth M. Petterson of Smith & Johnson, Traverse City, Mich.; Subodh Chandra of Chandra Law Firm, Cleveland, Ohio; and Donald P. Screen of Cleveland.

The Beacon Journal was represented by Brett K. Bacon, Gregory R. Farkas, Michael J. Frantz, and Joel R. Hlavaty, of Frantz Ward, Cleveland, and David G. Utley of Davis & Young, Akron, Ohio.

Click on the headline to see the BJ's story on the court decision.

Debbie pays tribute to Akron's Diamond Deli carrot cake

Debby Stock Kiefer, who spent 28 years at the Beacon Journal before she took the 2006 buyout, paid tribute to Akron's Diamond Deli, 378 S. Main Street, and its carrot cake with cream cheese frosting on her cooking blog, "Reckless Tarragon."

Debby moved to Columbus to be near her ailing parents when her husband, Joe Kiefer, left the BJ copy desk for the Columbus Dispatch on New Year's Eve, 2007.

As for her cooking blog's title, it comes from an Ogden Nash quote: “There are certain people, whom certain herbs, the good digestion of disturbs. Henry the VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon because of her reckless use of tarragon.”

Click on the headline to check out the Diamond Deli recipe, and others, on Debby's blog.

If you go to the white rectangle near to the white "B" on orange background at the upper left and type in Debby Stock and press the "Enter" key, you'll see other stories about Debby in the BJ Alums blog.

Grumpy Abe drives right (pun intended) into $%$# philosophy

Abe Zaidain, once a writing coach and political columnist at the Beacon Journal till the Jim Crutchfield regime change, drove over to Ohio State University's Lima campus last week to give a few lectures.

His radio dial pulled in right-wingers, mostly preachers. Of course, Abe had some choice opinions about the experience on his blog, "Grumpy Abe." He lived up to his web site's title.

If you're a liberal, click on the headline to enjoy some of Abe's ramblings.

If you're a conservative, click on the headline to cuss at some of Abe's ramblings.

Fun stuff either way, I think.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Want a job? Try here

There are plenty of newspaper jobs out there. Oh, not the New York Times. But this site is the online equivalent of the Editor & Publisher job-hunting I used eons ago that took me to Glendive, Montana with my new bride Monnie. Try it.

For example:

The 14,419-circulation Medina Gazette is looking for "a full-time Web reporter who can provide breaking news updates for our revamped Web site, feed stories to the print edition of the paper and maintain a community conversation with our followers via Facebook and Twitter." Send resume to Julie Wallace, c/o The Chronicle-Telegram, 225 East Ave., Elyria, Ohio 44035 or to

Also in Ohio, the 10,000-circulation Lancaster Eagle & Gazette is looking for a photographer.

If you want to be near Hugh Downing, retired printer who lives in The Villages, Florida, The Villages Daily Sun is looking for "a sports-minded paginator who can edit and design reader-friendly sports pages as well as local, feature and special sections pages."

Even the Nashville Tennessean, not exactly chopped liver, is looking for a general assignment reporter.

If you'd like a permanent Caribbean vacation spot, Virgin Islands Daily News needs a copy editor.

Hey, we're not saying you'll get rich on any of these. But you won't be unemployed.

Click on the headline to see HUNDREDS of job openings. Editor & Publisher, eat your heart out!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Newspaper death watch

The devastating list of U.S. metropolitan dailies that have gone out of business since March 2007:

Tucson Citizen
Rocky Mountain News
Baltimore Examiner
Kentucky Post
Cincinnati Post
King County Journal
Union City Register-Tribune
Halifax Daily News
Albuquerque Tribune
South Idaho Press
San Juan Star
Honolulu Advertiser

Former print dailies that have adopted hybrid online/print or online-only models:

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Capital Times
Detroit News/Free Press
Christian Science Monitor
East Valley Tribune
Ann Arbor News
Flint Journal; Bay City Times; Saginaw News
Catskill Daily Mail & Hudson Register-Star

Click on the headline if you want to follow the trail of dead newspaper bodies.

Where is it safe to be working on a newspaper today: Well, a collector of such information has NO reports of layoffs at newspapers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming and Idaho, contiguous states.

The only problem: You have to live in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming or Idaho.

To see the map of layoffs by newspapers, go to

Can slayer be the savior?

Google and its companions on the Internet have played a major role in the rapid and steady decline in newspaper circulation and revenue. Can the villains also be the heroes in the resurrection of newspapers?

That's the theme of a long but thoughtful article in the Atlantic Monthly.

There's plenty of food for thought in this thousand points of darkness called print journalism. How much time do YOU spend on the Internet compared to how much time you spend reading a newspaper? When you want to buy something, do you check newspaper ads to see where to get it, or do you hop on the Internet and find it cheaper and have it delivered to your door?

Click on the headline if you have the time and patience to read the fascinating article.

Feeling happy? This can cure that

If you're happy and giddy and want to come down to earth, click on the headline and read about plummeting newspaper revenue and readership. This makes doom and gloom read like a happy-ending fairytale by comparison.

Warning: A real downer.

All the bitching we did while we were working at the BJ will seem so trivial.

Click on the headline if you want to get depressed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Everybody at Philly newspapers will be fired May 25

EVERY employee at the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and will be fired May 25. That's when the bankruptcy auction sale will be finalized for Philadelphia Newspapers, L.L.C. A group of creditors bought the media empire for $139 million.

The company that owns the properties will be dissolved and its assets transferred to the new owners and new publisher Greg Osberg. The unions say that all 4,500 will be rehired. So does the new company's Chief Operating Officer, Robert Hall.

For now.

Click on the headline to read the story.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dave White looking for retirees to join lawsuit against Beacon

Dave White sent this email to the BJ Alums blog:

Any retirees who are experiencing the same problems I did with the BJ not living up to the retirement letter you received, you can still join the suit if you are interested in trying to recoup your benefits. Please call Subodh Chandra of the Chandra Law Firm who will be glad to answer all your questions. His number is 216-578-1700. Or Dave White at 941-497-6197, and I'll answer all questions that I can.

Dave White

Federal District Court Judge David Dowd ruled that those plaintiffs named in the lawsuit against the BJ are entitled to immediate reimbursement for the difference between what they paid for health care coverage after the BJ changed the coverage and what they would have paid under their retirement-day coverage.

Click on the headline for the BJ's story on the temporary injunction against the BJ over the changes in health care coverage. Also, scroll down the BJ Alums blog to see the PD story on the same class-action court case and one posted by the BJ Alums editors.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Job openings at CNN

Former BJ staffer Jim Kavanagh relays these CNN job openings. With all the layoffs, maybe someone reading this might be interested. The openings, one in San Francisco:

Writer, Site Production

Qualifications: Four-year college degree required, along with three years writing or producing experience in a breaking news environment in a medium or large market. Experience covering the tech industry preferred. Knowledge of Photoshop, HTML, video editing and other Web technologies, plus writing or producing experience with an online news organization, also desired. Strong news judgment, good writing skills under deadline pressure, ability to multitask and work well independently -- and with speed -- in breaking-news situations required. Also valued: Good communication skills, organizational skills, enthusiasm and the ability to develop sources within Silicon Valley.

Duties: The technology writer responsibilities include writing and updating (with new information) stories that are part of's coverage of tech news, including breaking news and enterprise features. The Bay Area-based reporter/writer will be expected to produce daily stories and/or blog posts on breaking tech news while updating content as necessary throughout the day. The writer will also cover Bay Area-based tech events, such as conferences and Apple product announcements, and be expected to generate original stories on tech trends, tech thought leaders and other enterprise topics. Ideal candidates also may be asked to build mosaics that include text, photo galleries, video and other interactive elements. In non-breaking news situations, a writer may be asked to handle all aspects of a mosaic, as assigned by an assignment or coordinating producer or other supervisor, including writing text, selecting and cropping photos, and adding video.

Please note: This position is in San Francisco, California*************

This position reports to Cybil Wallace. If interested, please apply online via snap (quick link: my career) or and let Cybil and Kim Gross know

Writer, Site Production

Qualifications: Four year college degree required along with three years writing or producing experience in a breaking news environment in a medium or large market. Knowledge of Photoshop, HTML, video editing and other Web technologies, understanding of CNN news systems, and writing or producing experience working for an online news organization desired. In addition, strong news judgment, good writing skills under deadline pressure, Ability to multitask and work well, with speed, in breaking news situations, good visual sense and understanding of multimedia and web technologies, good communication skills,
enthusiasm, ability to work well in a team environment, good organizational skills, ability to collaborate on assignments across departments.

Duties: The Entertainment Writer responsibilities include writing and updating (with new information) stories that are part of's daily report, including breaking news and developing stories. The writer is expected to follow the assigned story's development throughout the day and amend the story as necessary. Writers are also required to build mosaics that optimize multimedia and interactivity. Mosaics include text, galleries, video and other elements. In non-breaking news situations, a writer may be asked to handle all aspects of a mosaic, as assigned by an assignment or coordinating producer or other supervisor, including writing text, selecting and cropping photos, adding video and other elements. The writer will also be encouraged to research, pitch and develop original stories for

This position reports to Katie Caperton. If interested, please apply online via snap (quick link: my career) or and let Katie and Kim Gross know

Friday, May 14, 2010

BJ story on printers' health care lawsuit

May 15 Daily Backgrounder Page D2

Newspaper ordered
to restore benefits

A judge has issued a preliminary injunction against the Akron Beacon Journal in a class-action lawsuit by a group of retirees.

The members of the Communications Workers of America Local 14514 alleges the Beacon Journal violated a contractual obligation to provide lifetime health care, including prescription drug benefits, at a minimal cost.

U.S. District Court Judge David Dowd ordered the newspaper to restore prescription drug benefits to retirees as described in letters received by the retirees and reimburse them for denied benefits they had to pay out of pocket.

The retirees say they were guaranteed lifetime employment with the Beacon Journal, and exchanged it for an early-retirement incentive program that included supplemental health-care benefits for themselves and their spouses.

The incentives were honored until the newspaper was purchased by Canadian publisher David Black in 2006, the suit alleges. At that time, the retirees say they received a letter stating that their prescription co-pays would be increased.

Retiree attorney Subodh Chandra said "having cold-heartedly broken promises to these retirees and now been called on it by a federal judge, one would hope that the Akron Beacon Journal would now simply accept responsibility,comply with the order and not do it again. We suspect, however, that they will continue to drag out this dispute with appeals hoping that the retirees will die or just go away. And we know that they have done this to others."

Beacon Journal attorney Brett Bacon said "the Beacon is studying the decision and speaking with an outside consultant and intends to meet as soon as possible with the counsel for the plaintiff."

Bacon said the case is complicated and the company is looking at its options to see if it is feasible to comply since the benefits are provided by third parties.

PD story on BJ/Printers lawsuit

Federal judge orders Akron Beacon Journal to restore retiree health care benefits
By Pat Galbincea, The Plain Dealer
May 13, 2010, 6:54PM
AKRON, Ohio -- A U.S. District judge Thursday ordered the Akron Beacon Journal to restore health care benefits to retirees.

Judge David D. Dowd Jr. issued the preliminary injunction against the Beacon Journal and Canadian media mogul David Holmes Black to reimburse denied benefits that the retirees had to pay for while the newspaper breached promises.

The retirees, members of the Communication Workers of America formerly known as the Akron Typographical Union, had been guaranteed lifetime employment with the Beacon Journal as part of their contract in the late 1960s or early 1970s by then-owner John Knight, said Subodh Chandra, attorney for the plaintiffs.

Chandra said that starting in the 1980s, the company asked longtime employees to take an early retirement and give up their right to lifetime employment in exchange for a lifetime low-cost prescription drug plan and other health care benefits for them and their spouses.

When Holmes Black purchased the newspaper in 2006, he sent a letter on Nov. 27, 2006, saying that the company was revoking its promise and replacing the low-cost coverage with other plans that cost more.

Retirees filed a federal class-action lawsuit on Sept. 22, 2009.

Dowd ordered the Beacon Journal to immediately restore and provide all prescription drug and health insurance benefits as described in the original individual retirement benefits letters and to provide reimbursement to plaintiffs for the difference between the sums paid by individual plaintiffs and the sums the plaintiffs would have been required to pay in the earlier agreement.

"I fear this decision could be appealed by the Beacon Journal . . . which would be unconscionable," Chandra said. "It's time for them to accept responsibility and keep their promises."

Bruce Winges, editor of the Beacon Journal, said Frantz Ward LLP was the law firm that represented the newspaper. Attorneys at Frantz Ward did not return calls for comment.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Judge rules for retired printers over BJ health care changes

The Akron Beacon Journal today was ordered to restore retired printers’ health care benefits to retirement-day levels by U.S. Federal District Judge David Dowd in Akron.

The preliminary injunction also ordered the Beacon Journal to reimburse plaintiffs named in the lawsuit for the difference between what the BJ paid and what should have been paid since their retirements.

In a September 2009 lawsuit, the retired printers charged the BJ with a “bait-and-switch” tactic by getting them to take early retirements by promising health care benefits in exchange for the printers giving up their lifetime jobs guarantees and then altering the benefits later.

The lawsuit is labeled “White, et al. v. Akron Beacon Publishing Co., et al.” The “White” is for David and Gina White, former BJ Composing employees who live in Venice, Florida. Others immediately affected by the injunction are former printers and their spouses Hugh and Sharon Downing of The Villages, Fla., and Ruth and Thomas West of Rittman.

When the lawsuit was filed, the Plain Dealer quoted Regina White as saying that the family's out-of-pocket medical costs went from $100 to $6,000 a year when the BJ, by then owned by Black Press of Canada, decreased benefits for International Typographical Union and Guild retirees. The Guild contracts cover both newsroom and maintenance retirees.

The Communications Workers of America, Local 14514, successor to the ITU, joined the lawsuit. Attorneys for the printers are Subodh Chandra and Don Screen of the Chandra Law Firm of Cleveland and Allen Anderson and
Kenneth Petterson of Smith & Johnson in Traverse City, Michigan.

In a press release issued by his firm, Chandra said, “Having cold-heartedly broken promises to these retirees and now been called on it by a federal judge, one would hope that the Akron Beacon Journal would now simply accept responsibility, comply with the order, and not do it again. We suspect, however, that they will continue to drag out this dispute with appeals hoping that the retirees will just die or go away.”

Days numbered for Goodyear model room

There was an interesting article on page A1 of Wednesday's Wall Street Journal about a little-known Akron gem -- the model room at the Goodyear world headquarters.

The 8,400-square-foot room contains scale models of 50 current and former Goodyear facilities around the world. Officials are pondering what to do with its unique contents, since there are no plans to accommodate the models at the new Goodyear headquarters being built.

It would be nice to see them survive in an institution devoted to the history of Akron or the rubber industry.

Click on the headline to read the article and see photos of this unique slice of Akron's heritage.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Two garages and five cars

Cars and travels and the stock market got the most attention – along with the usual peals of laughter – at Wednesday’s monthly BJ retirees lunch at Papa Joe’s restaurant, Akron/Peninsula Road and Portage Trail Extension.

Retired printer Gene McClellan has five cars in his two garages, some from the 1980s. “It gives me something to work on,” Gene said, “and my brother, too.” The McClellan brothers enjoy tinkering with the autos.

Carl Nelson recalled how his family drove 7,000 miles in six weeks to visit all but two states. Others chimed in about their trips. When you’re not anchored to a building for five 8-hour days a week, you CAN gadabout. That’s one of the perks of retirement.

The 1,000-point stock market drop in 17 minutes got some attention. And the bounceback, too. At retirement ages, you’re less likely to panic because you’ve been through it more than a few times. You know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train headed straight at you.

Retired newsroom editor Tom Moore came with his Roy Hobbs cap and Roy Hobbs jacket, souvenirs of his annual October/November stays in Fort Myers, Florida, where more than 200 teams of old and older players show up from around the United States, and Germany and Russia, to play the national pastime. Tom gets paid to write for and print Roy Hobbs World Series newspapers about the games, plus free lodging and food.

Seven showed up at Papa Joe’s this time. The others were retired printers Cal Deshong, who’s closing in on Methuselah age, and Al Hunsicker, and newsroom retirees Dave Boerner and John Olesky.

Click on the headline to see photos of the BJ lunch bunch. Better yet, show up at 1 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month and join in on the fun.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Speaking of BJ book authors . . .

Former BJ television critic David Bianculli, who left for New York City and cleared the way for Mark Dawidziak to come from Tennessee to replace him, will be the featured speaker May 26 at the Akron/Summit County Library’s Main Event series.

Bianculli is author of “Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Library auditorium, 60 S. High Street in downtown Akron. Parking is free after 6 p.m. in the High/Market streets deck.

Click on the headline for the Library release on Bianculli’s appearance.

Mark & Sara at 'Books for Africa'

Sara Showman and husband Mark Dawidziak, current PD and former BJ television critic, again will bring their Largely Literary Theater Company to St. Bernard Church for a program of folk tales at the Books for Africa Library Project’s annual fundraising dinner. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the church social hall.

The church is in downtown Akron at Broadway and State streets. Parking is available at the University of Akron lot opposite the church.

The Books for Africa Library Project is a non-profit organization that helps communities set up libraries in rural Ghana and Liberia.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Authors with Beacon ties have been busy (the 1-star makeover version)

Maybe you noticed that current and former Beacon Journal writers are cranking out books. We did. So far, we've come up with 32. If you know of others, chime right in.

They write about sports. Dyer and baseball’s Omar Vizquel teamed up.

Terry Pluto has a new book published every three days, it seems, mostly sports but also religion. Terry co-authored a LeBron James book with Brian Windhorst.

David Lee Morgan, Jr. wrote about LeBron James in some of his flock of sports books. And Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.

Roger Snell stuck to Chicago Cubs pitcher Charlie Root, whose gopher ball to Babe Ruth may not have been a “called” home run, as legend has it.

Stuart Warner wrote about a Kentucky high school legend.

Dick McBane delved into minor league baseball, his passion, with "Glory Days: The Akron Yankees of the Middle Atlantic League 1935-41," which is available for $12 to $45, a quick Googling revealed. Also, the only cover photo available is hanging on the wall of Dick's home. Chuck Ayers illustrated the cover.

Even though he was a police reporter for the BJ, Phil Trexler wrote about sports, too, with "Cleveland Indians, Yesterday and Today."

Michael Weinreb also wrote a book about a sport -- chess! "The Kings of New York" is about a multiple national championship team in a New York City high school. His latest, "Bigger Than the Game," is scheduled for an Aug. 5 release.

Chuck Klosterman gives Pluto a run for his money in frequency of publication, centered – if that’s possible for Chuck – on rock, sex and, well, everything that scrambles through Chuck’s mind.

And television. Mark Dawidziak and R.D. Heldenfels, TV critics of the Plain Dealer (by way of the BJ) and BJ, respectively, dived into that topic. Dawidziak added Dracula and Mark Twain to his list. David Bianculli, who was at the BJ when Channels magazine was born in 1980 but left for greener New York pastures, channeled the Smothers Brothers.

Thirty Umbrigar has a series of books set in her native India.

Some were in high-faluting company, such as Lary Bloom with Tom Ridge and Christopher Dodd.

David Giffels wrote about restoring an old house. And the music group Devo. And, with Steve Love, the rubber industry.

Donald Rosenberg, naturally, wrote about the Cleveland Orchestra, his PD beat till the paper’s management caved in to complainers in high places.

Jane Snow, once among America’s premier food writers, cooked up, well, cookbooks.

Andrea Louie served up “Moon Cakes,” which is NOT a cookbook.

Regina Brett stared into “God Never Blinks.”

Russ Musarra and Chuck Ayers took a walk around Akron and morphed their series of BJ articles into a book.

John Backderf has three graphic novels, "Trashed," about his experiences as a Richfield garbageman; "Punk Rock & Trailer Parks," set in the Rubber City's punk rock heyday; and "My Friend Dahmer," about Derf's teenage friendship at Revere High School, a series of short stories that will be released in 2011 as a full graphic novel. Or, as we called them in my Marvel childhood, comic books.

John DeGroot went from fiction in the BJ about an angel visiting downtown Akron (some thought an angel really DID show up on Main Street!) to writing “Papa,” a play about another author, Ernest Hemingway. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

It’s not that BJ reporters writing books is new because B.J. Widick did it in the 1960s to 1980s, focusing on labor unions. And the copy editor with the most extraordinary mind, the late Hal Fry, wrote "Print It! 150 Years of the Akron Beacon Journal" in 1989 on the BJ's 150th anniversary. But the numbers seem to be growing.

If you know of others, click on “Comments” and give us their names and the title of at least one book they wrote. Or email John Olesky at

and he’ll check them out.

Our list so far:

Chuck Ayers
John Backderf
David Bianculli
Lary Bloom
Regina Brett
Mark Dawidziak
Phil Dietrich
Bob Dyer
Hal Fry
David Giffels
Glenn Guzzo
Jim Jackson
Chuck Klosterman
Andrea Louie
Steve Love
Dick McBane
David L. Morgan Jr.
Russ Musarra
Jack Patterson
Melanie Payne
Terry Pluto
Donald Rosenberg
Roger Snell
Jane Snow
Jabe Tartar
Phil Trexler
Thrity Umrigar
Stuart Warner
Michael Weinreb
B.J. Widick
Brian Windhorst
Abe Zaidan

Click on the headline for dozens of photos of BJ-ish authors and their book covers.

Ken Krause posted, under "Comments":

A few others I’m aware of:

Melanie Payne wrote a book about the Soap Box Derby, “Champions, Cheaters, and Childhood Dreams.”

Steve Love, noted as a co-author on the rubber industry, also wrote “The Golden Dream” with Gerry Faust, and books about Stan Hywet Hall and the Holden Arboretum.

Glenn Guzzo wrote “Strat-o-matic Fanatics” about the tabletop baseball game.

Jack Patterson wrote “Inside Bowling” with pro bowler Don Johnson.

Phil Dietrich wrote several sports books, including “Down Payments,” a history of pro football in Summit County from 1986-1930; “The Suncheaters,” the story of the South Akron Awnings football team; “The Silent Men” on the Goodyear silent football team; and a book on long-time St. Vincent High football coach Eddie Wentz.

James S. Jackson wrote some short historical books and also had a collection of columns published by the Summit County Historical Society (“Behind the Front Page: A Newsman Looks at Akron”)

The Beacon Journal published two books of antiques columns by Jabe Tarter, and also a cookbook of recipes compiled by Glenna Snow, which is being re-released by the University of Akron press in the fall.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Sid Sprague's son dies at age 38

Steven E. Sprague, youngest son of retired BJ printer Sid Sprague, died of cancer May 4.

SPRAGUE STEVEN EDWARD SPRAGUE (Age 38) Of Middleburg, VA died May 4, 2010 at Loudoun Hospital Center. Born on May 29, 1971 in Akron, Ohio, he was the son of Sidney and Sandra Sprague. Steven was a member of Purcellville Baptist Church. He was predeceased by his mother, Sandra Sprague. Steve is survived by his wife of 15 years, Ellen M. Sprague of Middleburg, VA; son, Aidan Sprague of Middleburg, VA; daughter, Kyra Sprague of Middleburg, VA; father, Sidney Sprague of Loveland, Colorado; brother, Jeffrey Sprague of Greenwich, Connecticut; sister, Sue Rutherford of Hillard, Ohio. Visitation will be held on Friday, May 7, 2010 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hall Funeral Home, Purcellville, VA. Services will be held at Purcellville Baptist Church, Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 11 a.m. Burial will follow in the Ebenezer Cemetery, Round Hill, VA. Memorial contributions can be sent to the American Cancer Society , P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718 or to Purcellville Baptist Church, 601 Yaxley Road, Purcellville, VA 20132. Please visit to express online condolences to the family.

Sid Sprague's son dies

Retired printer Sid Sprague's son, Steven Spragg, 38, of Middleburg, Virginia, died Tuesday, May 4. Services will be Saturday at the Purcellville, Virginia Baptist Church with the burial in Ebenezer Cemetery in Round Hill, Virginia.

Steven's mother, Sandra Sprague, died while Sid was living in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Sid later married again and moved to Loveland, Colorado. The Spragues moved from Cuyahoga Falls to Pawleys Island more than a decade ago.

BJ business department retiree Harold McElroy and retired printer Dick Latshaw followed the Spragues to Pawleys Island. They lived within a few blocks of each other. After Sandra died, Sid married the widow of a couple who were friends with the Spragues. They moved to Colorado to be near Sid's second wife's family.

Harold's granddaughter, Reagan Lacole "Doo" Edwards, 5 months, died in Akron on April 23.

Click on the headline to see Steven's obituary.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Chuck Ayers in my refrigerator

Inside my refrigerator is a restaurant take-home box with a drawing of “Crankshaft” and the autograph of former Beacon Journal political cartoonist Chuck Ayers.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever done this on a Styrofoam box,” Chuck said, as his pen created the comic strip character. Paula and I encountered Chuck at Monday’s Ray’s Place reunion of Kent State communications graduates.

Others at Ray’s Place included John Filo, whose photo of a screaming Mary Vecchio over a dead Jeffrey Miller won a Pulitzer Prize; Bob Springer, former BJ Editorial Board member who is an advisor for Kent State students; Bob Carpenter, former news director of WKSU and WKNT; and Saul Daniels, former Kent Stater editor and veteran newspaperman.

“Crankshaft” is a 1987 spinoff of the school bus driver in “Funky Winkerbean.” Medina's Tom Batiuk writes both comic strips. Chuck does the drawings for “Crankshaft.”

Chuck was on this year's Cleveland Press Club panel of journalists who were there during the May 4, 1970 shootings of KSU students by the Ohio National Guard. Four students were killed and nine others wounded.

This is the 40th anniversary of the event that shocked the nation.

Click on the headline to see Ayers’ autograph and drawing of “Crankshaft,” who looks a LOT like Chuck.

To see Chuck’s May 1-4, 1970 photos in the Kent State collection, go to

Monday, May 03, 2010

Sale of Honolulu Star-Bulletin to Black completed

Gannett Co., the nation's largest newspaper chain, completed its sale of The Honolulu Advertiser to Honolulu Star-Bulletin owner David Black early this morning, marking the Virginia-based company's exit from a market that it has served since 1971.

"It's hard to close this chapter and begin a new one," Robert Dickey, president of Gannett U.S. Community Publishing, wrote in an e-mail to Advertiser employees Friday. "But in doing so, I want to sincerely thank you for your dedication to The Honolulu Advertiser and wish you all the best."

Gannett's exodus and the eventual merger of The Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin will leave Honolulu as a one-newspaper town and result in the loss of at least 300 jobs.

For the next estimated 30 to 60 days, The Advertiser will publish as a stand-alone newspaper run by third-party HA Management Inc.

Readers should expect no changes in the newspaper's format during that period and current subscriptions will be honored.

Once the transition is completed, Black will combine the two dailies into a single broadsheet newspaper, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which will have a combined daily circulation of 135,000 to 140,000, said Dennis Francis, the Star-Bulletin's publisher.

The Star-Advertiser will employ between 300 and 600 people. The two newspapers currently have 900 employees between them.

Click on the headline to read the full story.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Baby Boomers, job market, economy: whirlpool soaks all age groups

Former BJ staffer Marilyn Geewax, senior national editor for National Public Radio, writes that the 7.2% unemployment rate for Baby Boomers -- people 55 or older -- is the highest since World War II.

That's bad for Baby Boomers because they are less likely to be hired again at that age. Even those that get another job take about twice as long to find one as younger jobless people.

It's also bad for younger generations, the government and the nation. Baby Boomers are at an age when they usually are at their lifetime peaks in earnings and pay the most in taxes, but if they give up on finding a job, as many have done, the government loses the taxes they would have paid. So younger workers will shoulder more of the tax burden. And if more people begin Social Security at age 62, that will cost the government more, too.

And then there's all that expertise and experience sitting on a beach or in a rocker on the front porch as other nations threaten to pass America by.

Click on the headline to read Marilyn's story. After you read the NPR story, click on

"Listen to the story"

for an even more harrowing account of the Baby Boomers' losses flushing onto everyone down the age pipeline.

Courier-Journal readers miss Derby section

Electrical problems with the printing press caused Courier-Journal home subscribers to receive only the pre-printed sections of the Sunday newspaper - Forum, Business, Travel, Comics and the advertising inserts. Those sections were expected to be delivered by 9 a.m. The remainder of the Sunday newspaper containing the A-section, Metro, Sports and the 20-page special Derby section will be delivered with Monday's paper, according to Chris Apel, vice president of finance and operations.

About 43,000 copies of the newspaper were run off the press and delivered to subscribers in parts of the state before the problems occurred. The remainder of the newspaper was being printed at The Indianapolis Star. Copies of the full newspaper are expected to be available in stores and in sales racks by later this afternoon.

A free electronic replica of the newspaper was made available at The press problem did not affect the newspaper's content on the Web at The Courier-Journal apologizes for this interruption in service and the inconvenience to its customers.

Sunday's BJ recalls May 4, 1970

The Beacon Journal is pulling out all the stops in covering the event 40 years ago that won it a Pulitzer prize.

"Lives interrupted" is the headline for interviews by BJ staffer Carol Biliczky of nine people who were at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 when Ohio Guardsmen opened fire on its own youth. Four students died in the anti-war protest.

The series leads with Dean Kahler, a freshman paralyzed by the waist down, now 60 years old. Last year both of his feet were amputated because of vascular problems.  There is a photo of  Kahler in a wheelchair on the spot where a bullet paralyzed him. 

A double-truck on pages A8 and 9 is filled with other stories. Interviews of Glenda Taylor, Larry Rose, Joe Gains and Dean Kahler recalling their experiences are on

Jim Carney has a story with photo on still-thriving Kent State's ROTC training near the building burned by student demonstrators.

Continuing coverage will include a look by Rich Heldenfels of words, music and movies about May 4 and a Mark Price piece on the history of the Victory Bell. Original Beacon Journal stories and photographs are on

Jerry M Lewis,  professor emeritus of sociology at Kent State, provides the commentary on page A13. He was a faculty marshal that day and is co-editor of "Kent State and May 4: A Social Science Perspective."  The commentary is headlined "Acts of Remembering" and includes a photo of a memorial at the Prentice Hall parking lot which honors the four studengs killed:

Allison Krause
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Pat Englehart: Man on a mission

By John Olesky (1969-96)

A few days after National Guard bullets killed four Kent State students and wounded nine others on May 4, 1970, Beacon Journal Managing Editor Bob Giles called State Desk Editor Pat Englehart and assistant SD editors Harry Liggett and John Olesky into the ME office.

Pat, Giles said, was being put in charge of KSU shooting coverage and Harry would handle the State Desk. Never has there been a better case of the right man in charge of the right job at the right time.

Pat, for those who weren’t around a few decades ago, was effervescent, frenetic, driven, a buzzsaw in perpetual motion and both fiery and passionate about news coverage. And the best damn editor I ever worked with in my 43-year newspaper career. I was 38 when I came to the BJ and Pat quadrupled my editing skills.

With his ever-present DeNobil cigar, an unruly mustache and a vocabulary that skewered fools who tried to fake reporting, Pat went to work. He lined up a cadre of reporters. John Dunphy. Jeff Sallot. Ray Redmond. Others. And Pat was the zealot driving the chariot.

The stories poured onto the BJ front pages, day after day. Photos and notes piled up into cardboard boxes that Pat used for his files and eventually threatened to fill up the BJ’s third-floor warehousing area. Pat was relentless, which made the BJ unstoppable in its coverage.

No tip was too insignificant for Pat to explore – or assign a reporter to dig into. If the result didn’t satisfy Pat, he’d tear a little hide and get a deeper and more meaningful story.

Because quiet, unassuming Ray Redmond had a trustworthy relationship with him, the Portage County Prosecutor deliberately left the FBI investigation on his desk while he took a walk. Ray dug in and the BJ got the smoking gun: The National Guard’s actions were unwarranted. Ray turned the information over to Pat, who prodded his crew for reactions and more details.

The BJ story infuriated the Gov. Rhodes groupies. The truth really does hurt.

By the time Pat was through – he had a lust for Rolling Rock and the truth – the Beacon Journal had the Holy Grail of newspapering, its first Pulitzer Prize, in 1971. Three other Pulitzers came to the Beacon, and another to Knight Newspapers giant John S. Knight, but you never forget the first time.

It’s been 40 years, and Pat died in 2005, but he’ll aways live in my memory. Thanks, Pat, for showing me how a REAL editor does his job.

Click the headline to see Harry Liggett’s 2005 look at Pat Englehart.