Friday, February 13, 2009

Bodies Controversy

The call or e-mail of disapproval from the outside is never fun for a reporter to receive.

That’s because many of them carry animosity, and sometimes, downright rudeness. But it can’t be all glowing compliments, and to some extent, that’s what we signed up for.

Another thing you sign up for as a reporter is the opportunity to be critiqued by tens of thousands, in our case, and anyone with access to the World Wide Web.

Your words will be broken down like a power forward trying to man-up a speedy point guard.

On one hand, it’s nice to be held to such high standards of grammar, ethics, reasoning and overall professionalism. On the other, that tends to let some forget that you’re, you know, human.

Either way, if you get called out on a mistake, particularly one you can admit was unnecessary, you’ve got to own up to it.

That’s what THIS reporter is doing on THIS post.

I used a phrase in this story about the recent Lubrizol layoffs that angered some of the employees who continue to work there. Here’s what we’re talking about:

(Corporate Communications Senior Manager Julie Young) said the company might consider more budget reductions in the future if the business climate worsens, but hours and pay would be considered before removing bodies.

The complaints centered around the ‘removing bodies’ part, mostly to say that the workers there aren’t just bodies, but dear friends and providers for their families. What’s more, Young endured some criticism because her name appears next to it.

She didn’t deserve it at all. That’s why I told her she could give any of the angered my contact information to further discuss it. After all, she was paraphrased by me, not directly quoted.

The fact is, a better term could have and should have been used. In case everyone didn’t get to speak to Young, I, once again, extend my apologies to anyone who took offense.

In reality, it was an attempt to interject some new terminology into what seemed like layoff story #3,647 in the past six months. It wasn’t a great attempt, and I was made aware of that.

Next time — and this economy ensures there will be a next time — I’ll try harder.

It’s the human thing to do.

-- Brandon C. Baker

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Glad to help

Over the years I've gotten a lot of requests that have ranged from folks needing to know how to contact a state wildlife officer to what kind of critter is this?

But a request arrived via phone two days ago that had even me scratching my head.

The obvious News-Herald reader was concerned because she was planning on a surprise birthday party for Memorial Day, which happens to be on May 25 this year - the earliest it can be.

What the reader/caller wanted to know was what were the odds of it raining that day.

It seems one of her relations said that it almost always rains on Memorial Day besides being cold.

She wanted to know if that was true.

Fortunately for me I was able to access records on holiday weather from the National Weather Service.

Of the four times that Memorial Day has fallen on May 25 since the switch from May 30to the last Monday in May, a trace amount of rain has fallen just once.

The reader/caller was grateful for the information. Another satisfied customer and I was only too happy to help.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Viva Spanish! on its Teachers and a Hot-Button Issue

In order to help Viva Spanish! Language Programs teach Spanish to young students and/or workers at public entities and companies who serve the Hispanic population, prospects must do more than just talk the talk.

Whether her staff is teaching its lessons to fourth graders at an area Catholic school or continuing its pilot program for employees at the Cleveland Clinic, Viva teachers also evoke the culture of the countries where the language is spoken, said Gladys Benitez-Reilly, the owner and president of the Willoughby-based business.

The teaching could incorporate entertainment, little known facts and other tidbits, but Viva isn’t just looking for dictation and recitation.

“We want people to understand the Spanish community, as well as the language,” Benitez-Reilly said. “With our kids, we’re really trying to promote the value of learning. A lot of kids in the schools that we work with don’t have a lot of diversity in their schools. If we can help them understand that there’s other people out there, that there’s people different than them, then we’ve done a good job.”

“La Presidente” has seven instructors on staff, and they’re all native Spanish speakers who live in Northeast Ohio, but hail from the likes of Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia and the Dominican Republic. They undergo constant training, but they all have college degrees. For teachers who want to take part in the school segment, experience with children is a must.

‘We will talk with and interview anyone,” Benitez-Reilly said. “Our goal is to make this a great place to work. It’s empowering for (teachers) to see people interested in their culture.”

It’s no coincidence that interest is increasing along with the rise in our country’s Spanish-speaking population. Of course, there’s also no shortage of controversy and opinions regarding how quickly said population should learn English.

That’s not lost on Benitez-Reilly, but neither is the idea that some of the people in question should be given more time before being subjected to such criticism. In my story last week, she made the point that so many immigrants have come over to make better lives for their families, and frankly don’t have the time or energy to put into learning a new language just yet. She says it’s no different than Germans, the Irish and other nationalities who previously made their way to the U.S.

I agree. Whenever I hear someone bellyache that Spanish-speakers, particularly immigrants, need to learn English because “they’re in our country,” I can’t help but think of sour grapes.

The reality is that America’s fastest-growing minority population includes many families who prefer speaking to each other in their own language. It’s pure evidence that the country is becoming that huge melting pot that we’ve always bragged about. Should they eventually learn English? Sure. But to angrily insist that they do it immediately, as many have done on Web sites across the net, including this one, in my opinion, reeks of separatism much more than someone greeting you with, “Hola.”

Well, I tried, but I’ll leave it to Benitez-Reilly, a Cleveland native with parents from Paraguay and Venezuela, to really drive home this very important point. Really, the following is a reporter’s dream quote about a hot-button topic, and one I also whole-heartedly agree with:

“The truth is, that second, third and fourth generation are all going to speak English. I really don’t believe the country’s going to become half-Spanish or anything. At the same time, you have a lot of immigrants that are here, and they’re all making money and they’re spending money. They’re a huge consumer group. People who are smart are going to be marketing to the Hispanic market because they’re huge! They’re 15 percent of this country right now.

“If you don’t market to them, you’re going to be losing. That’s why everywhere you call, it says, ‘Press 1 for English, press 2 for Spanish.’

“People know that’s the truth. If you want to serve the general population, you have to attend to the Spanish. Even if you don’t think it’s a good thing, it’s still a reality.”

-- Brandon C. Baker

Photo by Duncan Scott/The News-Herald

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