Thursday, January 29, 2009

Just an explosion; not an earthquake

Northeast Ohioans are becoming really savvy about their earthquakes.

Ohio Division of Geological Survey geologist Mike Hansen said Thursday that he received more than 20 telephone calls and e-mails from Lake County (mostly from the Mentor area) about the 9:30 p.m., Wednesday explosion that took out an Eastlake house and seriously injured its two owners.

This explosion sounded much like that often heard with an earthquake.

However, says Hansen, an earthquake will cause a different sort of harmonic vibration whereas an explosion rocks and rattles a structure.

Hansen said the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver similarly received electronic inquiries from the Lake County area about the explosion.

What the reporting does suggest, Hansen also says, is that area residents are becoming more in sync with earthquake events, due in no small measure to increased media attention about such happenings.

Hansen added that the last earhquake event to occur in Ohio happened last September.

"I was just thinking how quiet it's been up there," Hansen said.
"But I knew that it was probably an explosion rather than an earthquake because none of our stations picked it up."

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reporter on ice, Pt. 2

It is Sunday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena.

After seven days and more hours than I'd care to count, my work is nearly finished at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

As I write this, the Senior Men's free skate is at its midway point with a performance by Adam Rippon. He was in 12th place after Friday's short program and out of the running for a gold, silver or bronze medal.

Rippon is 19-year-old Pennsylanian competing for the first time in the Senior Men's division after winning the 2008 U.S. Junior Championship last year. Remember the name. He is an up-and-comer.

Many up-and-comers have left their marks on this championship, including gold medal winners Kiri Baga (Novice Ladies), Joshua Farris (Novice Men), Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mager (Novice Ice Dancing) and Ross Miner (Junion Men).

At a time when this sport is being dominated by teenagers, 21-year-old Alissa Czisny of Bowling Green skated to a popular victory in the Senior Ladies.

Czisny is a technically polished skater who has had trouble executing jumps during the 12 years she has competed in national and international events. She was spectacular in Thursday's short program. Despite a fall in Saturday's free skate, her point total was high enough for her to claim a first national championship.

During the seven days here, I have spent almost as much time people-watching as watching the competition. As was the case in 2000, when this event was held at what then was called Gund Arena, the fans here have been a show unto themselves in the best way.

Here is one last thought from my perch overlooking the ice surface. Should any of you armchair admirals harbor a thought that figure skaters aren't "real'' athletes, by all means get up off your duffs and rent some ice time. Then, lace on a pair of skates and attempt a triple axel while gliding across the ice at 15 miles-per-hour.

When you regain consciousness.....

David S. Glasier

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Dynosteve

A few things come to mind when I reflect on the interview and story I wrote on Steve “Dynosteve” Leerentveld and his RDP Motorsport business in Painesville, where the Queensland, Australia native and staff build race cars and install supercharger turbo kits to high-end vehicles.

First, I have to consider whether I’ve ever been called “mate” so many times in one sitting.

Next, I realize that I won’t be surprised if I see Dynosteve and crew on TLC or some other TV channel. Leerentveld says they’ll soon begin filming “Ballistic Builds,” an “Orange County Choppers” type show where he’ll build race cars and interject humor. He’s got the personality for it, to go along with an uncanny fearlessness for making others laugh (it’s not every day that a reporter gets an on-the-record account of an entrepreneur questioning his business partner’s masculinity simply for wearing a pair of khakis).

But the two most surprising things to come out of that interview were the less-than-flattering things Steve had to say about his country and the devotion his employees show him, despite the business being open for less than three months.

Head mechanic Eric Petit is one of four workers who shut down his own shop to work for Steve. He put a lot of money into his own shop in Akron, but the economy began enforcing a stranglehold on it. Around that time, another current employee told Petit about Steve’s enthusiasm, previous success in Australia and overall know-how.

“Being that my shop wasn’t producing, I went ahead and closed it and decided to come here,” he said. “After I came up and saw this place, this was what I always wanted my shop to progress to. I just wasn’t ever going to get there, so basically it was a way to be where I wanted to be.”

Petit’s obviously not the first to do this, but for a boss who’s only been in America since October? It’s a big risk, but one he’s confident will pay off.

As for Leerentveld’s comments about the land down under, let’s just say you won’t confuse anything he said with hometown pride.

“I could care less if Australia sank into the water,” he said. “I have no intention of moving back to Australia.”

He didn’t blink when he said this. More than anything, he seems to enjoy the social life he’s acquired here, particularly hanging out with John Venaleck, his best friend who co-owns the venture with him. They go to bars and all sorts of functions, whereas back home, he subscribed to a go-to-work-come-home lifestyle.

He says he wasn’t the only the one who lived that way, that it was common for most his age. Since the extent of my Australian knowledge revolves around watching drunken Americans on “The Real World: Sydney” a couple years back, I’ll take his word for it.

He had nothing but pleasant things to say about Painesville, Lake County and Greater Cleveland as a whole. He even likes the snow! If that’s not a reason to make him feel welcome, what is?

-- Brandon C. Baker

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reporter on ice

I am outside my comfort zone this week and loving it at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

From hard news to TV columns to business to sports of all sorts, no two days are the same. One of the best features of this job is the variety of assignments that come my way.

That's why I didn't blink when News-Herald sports editor Mark Podolski asked me to take care of business when the best U.S. figure skaters pulled into Quicken Loans Arena.

Because I covered the event when it was here in 2000, I'm not a total newcomer to the world of figure skating. But it's been a while, so it was almost like starting from scratch when I started filing stories on Monday.

For the most part, I've concentrated on the best feature stories I can find or competition stories that tell stories about the 268 talented young men and women who are competing in the Novice, Junior and Senior divisions.

When I do need to brush up on the technical aspects of a performance or behind-the-scenes information about the skaters, I've often turned to Linda Przygodski of, one of my "neighbors'' in the media workroom.

Linda has been a life-saver, and is to figure skating what the Food Network is to food.

David S. Glasier

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Let it snow? Oh, no

One of the fun things about covering the weather for The News-Herald is knowing that nothing is ever "normal," or more accurately, average.

And January has been far from average.

Out of the 21 days thus far for the month the temperature has risen above freezing on only seven days, the last day being January 13.

And no day has been warmer than 43 degrees.

Thus the daily average departure from normal is a chilly minus-six degrees.

As for snow, we are currently tied with 1985 as the ninth snowiest on record at 25.5 inches.

That means we will easily see ourselves rising in the standings.

In eighth place is the 27.4 inches that fell during in the month in 1994.

Back-to-back third and second places finishers were the 32.8 inches in January, 2005 and the 32.9 inches that fell in January, 2004.

The all-time snowiest record for January was the 42.8 inches in January, 1978.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A cautionary tale

The upcoming inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama has been on my mind in recent days, both as a citizen and as a TV critic.

In the latter capacity, I'll be writing about coverage of Tuesday's inauguration by broadcast and cable networks.

Every inauguration is a historic event, of course. Orderly transitions of power, in even the most challenging of times, are one of the hallmarks of our democracy. But there are extra layers of history in this inauguration.

Obama will be is this nation's first black president. On the day after the national holiday commemorating the life and career of civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he'll take the oath of office with his hand on a Bible also used by Abraham Lincoln in one of his inaugurations.

That history already was being discussed Saturday as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, the leading cable-news networks, offered blanket coverage of Obama's and Vice President-elect Joe Biden's train trip from Philadelphia to Washington D.C.

A little before noon Saturday, I broke away from the TV to make a quick trip to the corner store. I was in an aisle looking at replacement shoestrings when I overheard a conversation between two young employees in the next aisle over.

The young man and woman were both in their late teens or early 20s.

"Everybody is saying Obama is a socialist, but he's really a communist,'' the young man said.

"Yeah, I know,'' the young woman added. "This is really a dark time in our history, if you know what I mean.''

I waited a couple of seconds before poking my head around the corner to catch a glimpse of the two young people. For a moment, I thought about saying something to them. That young woman really needed a calling out on the "dark time'' crack. For whatever reason, I looked at them and walked away.

Back home, I resumed watching coverage of the train trip. The cameras panned across crowds gathered along the way. The people in those crowds were young, old, white, black and Hispanic. Some of them waved as the train passed. Many of them smiled.

Hours later, as I write this, I'm still thinking about the two young people in the store. Obama ran on a platform of change. What I heard those young people say demonstrates that some things never change.
David S. Glasier

Friday, January 16, 2009

What we hear on the scanner

While most people would prefer a quiet, calm night.

I am quite the opposite and prefer a flurry of activity.

As part of my job, I’m required to keep an attentive ear to two our newsroom scanners. With the help of our copy desk, we typically can catch a variety of late-breaking news.

A majority of the time, we hear nothing or sporadic blasts of static (which can be be little annoying).

The typical things I listen for are “fire,” “injury accident,” and a host of other tidbits that catch my attention.

in the time I’ve covered night cops for the News-Herald, the scanner has been my best friend in tracking down breaking news; however, there have been times it’s been a source of mild entertainment.

One time in particular comes to mind.

In August, I heard something about a “boy trapped in vending machine.”

I know what you’re thinking. “Jacob, you must be daydreaming.”

I wish that was the case. After listening for a few minutes, the scanner continues to spout snippits about the incident.

The first question running through my mind was “How did the boy get in the vending machine to begin with?” More on that later.

After calling the Mentor Fire Department, they informed me the boy was released after being in the machine for 10 minutes. Luckily, he was not hurt and I assume was more embarrassed than anything.

The real kicker is how he got in.

The stuffed-toy vending machine consists of a motorized claw that drops toys down to a chute, where people can collect them through a door. The 5-year-old boy apparently crawled through the door and then must have realized he was trapped.

Having covered police and fire for two newspapers for nearly two years, I thought this was pretty unusual.

Apparently, it’s not that uncommon.

After a quick search on the Internet, I found a video clip of this girl, who apparently climbed into a similar vending machine. The incident, which happened in South Carlina, shows that the child was able to get out with help, seemingly unharmed.

The story I wrote ended up running as a brief.

My only regret is that we couldn’t use the pictures we had taken.

I guess it goes to show you never know what you’re going to hear on the scanner.

- Jacob Lammers

We Like Positivity. Really.

There’s a myth floating around out there, and it’s a nasty one.

It’s that reporters really like writing about negativity. That somehow, our adrenaline races because of another person’s misfortune.

Many of us like it to the extent that it’s part of our job description and that we’re fulfilling our duty by honestly and objectively reporting on events and decisions that affect a lot of people.

But to make the sweeping generalization that we actively await the “bad” story??

If that were the case, I would have jumping-jacked my way into the newsroom on a regular basis for at least the last year. Stock market plunged? Donuts for everybody! More foreclosures? Happy Hour’s on me!

Things didn’t go that way. Instead, myself and others at this newspaper had no choice but to let readers know about cost-cutters, layoffs and closed storefronts. With layoffs, in particular, it wasn’t easy discussing whether they’d receive severance packages and listening to their bosses confirm the unfortunate news. But the fact remains, reporting current events is what we do, regardless if we have a soft spot in hearts for the subjects or if we completely disagree with how a certain situation played itself out. It’s our responsibility, point blank.

That said, it’d be completely untrue to deny that it felt good to write a few, well, feel-good stories. Many of them involved parties wanting to provide hope and solutions for the recession.

I didn’t get to attend Lakeland Community College’s Jumpstart Networking Breakfast, but in talking to author Ted Janusz for the event’s preview story, I felt like the guy had a real chance to inspire the audience. He billed it, “Top Ten Ways to Recession-Proof Your Business,” so people naturally would come. Still, he planned to talk about time management, wisely investing and other topics that play the backseat to today’s woeful economics.

I felt even stronger about the group of twenty somethings who created Zolio, the multimedia, Web-based résumé builder. Nobody can predict these things, but their technology could eventually have the effect of a Facebook or Twitter, especially at a time when people need to better market themselves to potential employers.

The Willoughby Chamber of Commerce also recently made our pages. Their award winners seemed like kind-hearted people who found time to give back to their communities while keeping pace with the best of their industry. Particularly striking was John Fowle, who’s probably already upset that I haven’t mentioned his staff yet.

Seriously, in just the preliminary phone call and first couple minutes of the actual interview, the owner of the chamber’s Distinguished Business of the Year repeatedly said, “it’s not about me, it’s about them.” He was certainly believable and willing to share credit for Willoughby Hills Auto Repair’s success.

The “bad” stories will keep coming, no doubt, but so will the good ones. And guess what, we like those!

-- Brandon C. Baker

Labels: , , , , , ,

Fatherhood as it applies to armed robbers

It’s easy to demonize criminals, especially the hardened, career types.

There have been times when I covered a sentencing and thought an old-fashioned Singapore caning would be the most appropriate punishment. But, every now and again, you get a reminder that these people are, well, people.

For example, I was at a sentencing a couple of years ago. I don’t want to say the felon's name. I don’t even want to say the court lest I should get the public defender in trouble. But this guy wasn’t on his first trip around the Ferris wheel.

It was armed robbery this time. After the firearm spec, he was going to see more than a decade in prison, and he knew it. He just had one request. He wanted to hold his infant daughter once. The next time he would hold her, she’d probably be old enough to date, so he wanted that one moment.

It’s difficult to be cynical while watching a repeat felon coo over his child. I’m not saying that the guy didn’t deserve his long prison sentence; but, in that moment, I realized that armed robbers can be affectionate (if unstable and, now, absentee) fathers.
--Jason Lea

Friday, January 9, 2009

Insightful Interview

As most would guess, being a business reporter allows one to meet several types of people. Shy, brash, hilarious ... Sources run the gamut, for sure.

However, when sales, earnings and other measures of success are brought up, those differences can diminish quickly. Even BEFORE the recession, that sort of information simply wasn’t up for discussion with a lot of entrepreneurs.

The majority of refusers head privately held companies, so their declinations are both legal and understandable. Still, that guarded nature shrouds aspects of their business from the residents who want to know more about the offices, warehouses and shops that fill their communities. Some public companies, on the other hand, will give you figures, but then offer little perspective or thoughts regarding them. Those instances are troublesome because they provide the reader with less-than-colorful quotes.

For that reason, my recent sitdown with Mullinax East Ford General Manager Dennis Pritt was most refreshing. Throughout the Q&A, Pritt was revealing and not overly conscious about image protection. He seemed to realize that he could actually command respect and uphold his brand’s name, while also providing insight and depth in his comments.

He didn’t pretend that Ford was the only viable option for consumers, and he didn’t act like the economic downturn was a foreign concept. It all seems simple enough, but many reporters will tell you this isn't always the case.

To be clear, Pritt is far from the first accommodating source, and he won't be the last. He’s just one that should be recognized for his candor during a time when few want to reveal how bad times truly are.

-- Brandon C. Baker

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Strange occurrences covering police beat

When people think of a night cops reporter, their immediate assumption is that I cover breaking news such as fires, late night car chases and the occasional murder.

A majority of the time those assumptions would be right.

Although covering night cops for the News-Herald and a previous stint as a police reporter near Sandusky, I have come across a number of incidents that have been bizarre or at the very least out of the ordinary.

One case that always comes to mind is a police report detailing an intoxicated male falling asleep at a restaurant. At first, I thought it was just a run-of-the-mill brief. After reading further, it became apparent the man passed out in his car while ordering food in the restaurant’s drive-thru.

In some police reports, I have found instances where police will use pepper spray or a taser to subdue a combative criminal, though I have rarely come across a case, where the situation’s reversed.

That changed when I heard about an alleged robber, who stole three digital cameras and tried to escape in his car, according to court documents. Before he could get away, a security guard stopped him, but was doused with pepper spray. The security guard was all right and the alleged criminal was eventually caught and charged with the crime.

The next incident I did not personally cover, but heard about from a fellow police reporter.

She told me about an officer performing a routine traffic stop. When the officer approached the driver and his passenger, he noticed that the driver was unusually nervous for such a minor traffic offense. Before he went back to his cruiser, he heard the driver say that he had hidden his marijuana.

After he searched the driver, the officer discovered a bag of marijuana hidden in his anal cavity.

By far the strangest thing I have come across happened in a courthouse.

While chatting with a bailiff, he showed me surveillance video of a man walking through the courthouse. Before he exited the building, the man lifted his leg and something rolled out of his pants onto the floor.

Before I could ask any questions, the video showed a judge walking by the object and doing a double-take. Upon further inspection, the judge discovered it was a piece of feces.

Although I wish I could share more stories, I thought these were the most interesting and bizarre occurrences I have covered thus far in my career.

- Jacob Lammers

Deputy aids reporter in time of need

Aside from my job, the few encounters I have had with law enforcement have included speeding tickets.

So unless I’m working it’s understandable if I’m a bit nervous when I see a police cruiser in my rearview mirror.

That’s not to say that I’m not grateful for local law enforcement. They keep us safe on the roadways, respond at a moment’s notice to any number of crimes and ensure that local citizens are protected.

Throughout my life, I have never had a reason to dial 9-1-1 or otherwise seek their aid; however, that changed about three months ago when I covered a raging fire at Dyson Corp. in Painesville Township.

Dyson Corp. was engulfed in flames Sept. 30 after pits of oil caught fire in the manufacturing facility. It erupted close to midnight and flames and smoke seemed to reach more than a hundred feet into the midnight sky. The total damage to the building was estimated at $2 million, according to the Painesville Township Fire Department.

After relaying a majority of the details via cell phone to my colleagues, I felt I had enough, considering I was close to deadline.

Walking back to my car in the rain, I saw that two Lake County Sheriff’s deputies had blocked the intersection to the factory. Nearby I saw my car, but was puzzled since my four-ways should have been blinking.

As I got to the car, I forgot I had left my lights on and in doing so had drained the battery. Since it was well past 1 a.m., I thought there was no way a tow truck would be available.

With no family in the area and co-workers at least 20 minutes away, I felt I really had no options. Luckily, I remembered the deputies at the intersection.
Without the slightest hesitation, one deputy brought his jumper cables and we had my car started in no time.

Needless to say, I want to say thank you to that deputy, whoever you are. I guess I never thought I would be in a situation where I would need help from local law enforcement. As I’ve come to learn, they are there when you need them.

- Jacob Lammers

A firefighter’s unlikely killer: heart attacks

Running into a building on fire might seem like the obvious culprit for deaths among firefighters.

But in the last several years, the number one killer among firefighters is heart attacks.

As surprising as this seems, I myself was caught off guard when I heard this statistic while visiting the Perry Fire Department.

A long list of names of firefighters and their cause of death is tacked to an office wall. It serves as a constant reminder of the dangers they face.

When Lt. Tim Sitz started putting the list up about two years ago, it was meant to inform firefighters of these dangers and how they could prevent them.

Since Dec. 23, 111 firefighters have died and more than 50 percent have been the result of heart attacks. Given the amount of stress the job entails, it is a likely contributor to the high number of heart attacks, Perry firefighter Steve “Russell” Butsco said.

“If you take the average firefighter. He’s the average Joe,” said Butsco, the department’s health and wellness coordinator. “Granted we’re not in the most perfect shape, but we’re mostly physically fit.

When that alarm rings, you get that adrenaline surge and your heart rate goes up.”
A few years ago the International Association of Firefighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs teamed up with the American Council on Exercise and formed a wellness and fitness initiative.

Taking a few tips from that initiative, the department invested in a weight room, which many firefighters choose to use during their down time.

Add an annual physical from the department’s physician and local firefighters are hoping they can beat the trend.

“We’re starting to learn and listen to make sure we do the right things to test people,” Butsco said. “Within our own department, we know we’ve run across things that have saved people.”

To view the firefighter list, go to:

- Jacob Lammers