Local newspaper commentary

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When the news crews show up in Grandview

Published November 17, 2015 by justicewg

Channel 4 interview JosephThe recent threat of a shooting at the high school brought the Channel 10 and Channel 4 news crews out to do interviews with parents. There was the standard “the kid was not unusual, seemed quiet and didn’t stand out” sort of interview. There was also a “this is such a shame, we have soccer teams and a football team that are going into the state finals, it is upsetting for this shooting threat to be in the news”

There is an undercurrent of anger about the fact that news crews showed up to do theses stories about Grandview high school, expressed more openly in some social media posts. Some of that anger is pointed at the child who made a threat, but also at the news organizations that show up at the school.

It is true that kids who work hard and excel in sports are deserving of praise, and there will be stories about the victories of the sports teams on the local TV news. But I don’t think there was any mistake made by the assignment editors for the news crews, they should have been out in front of the school when the story of the potential shooting became public.

Sports victories are fleeting

In 1970 I was in the county finals for the wrestling squad at my high school, it was cool to have an auditorium filled with people cheering for me. It didn’t do much for the rest of my career, either in sports or further in life. That was OK, I didn’t identify as a jock, and I put my sports victories behind me. I saw others in my school who excelled in sports and kept clinging to the sports victories as the highlight of their lives. Those kids had some of the saddest stories as grown ups, their accomplishments were minor at the local factories.

Sports victories are a good way to encourage kids to be skilled sportspeople, a life long habit of keeping in shape will lead to better health. But the career options for someone who mostly uses their muscles rather than their brains was never great, and the options are getting smaller. A lot of those factories went overseas, the rest will slowly become filled with machines that need no operator.

How will we be remembered?

Some big trophies to add to the cases at the high school will be impressive to look at. Let’s not fool ourselves, a winning team is a fleeting victory, no matter how high in the tournaments our teams go those trophies are just some dust catchers after a few years. Nobody will be hiring based on how well your team did in high school.

If the worst outcome of the incident with the kid who made alleged threats of shootings at the school had come true, Grandview would have gone into the record books alongside names like Columbine, and Sandy Hook.

Is bullying a sport at Grandview?

We don’t know what pushed the kid to make threats of violence against other students, but bullying is always a good guess. I have heard from some parents that it is bad at the schools.

In 2012 there was a special board meeting for parents who had problems with their kids being bullied at the school. There was a three hour meeting filled with pleas from parents who saw their kids bullied at school, around town, and in social media. Kids were threatened and sometimes beaten up. I ended that 2012 post with the assumption that the school would react with some substantial actions to deal with bullying. I saw no real changes that happened because of that meeting. There have been no more board meetings to talk about bullying. There is a Facebook group for parents that is focused on solutions for Grandview, but they seem to have no support from the school.

The school board doesn’t want to talk about bullying, but they do have a form that parents can fill out and submit to report incidents. The number of reports filed are listed on the school website. If this is accurate, it shows a spike in the problems at the school, starting in 2014.

News crews are the warning sign that something needs attention

I can’t see inside a school that has a board that mostly wants us to go away, and throws up blocks in front of those who want to see what is happening inside. My guess is that bullying is rampant, and the board will do nothing about it. If they ignore the news crews, it is like ignoring a warning light on your car dashboard – it might be OK for a while, but it will probably be a disaster in the long run.

We might see more news crews if the worst happens and bullying leads to violence at the school. I don’t see the board doing anything to stop this from happening.

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The city has a new blog on its website

Published August 31, 2014 by justicewg
Grandview City blog

Grandview City blog

Late in July, with little fanfare, the city of Grandview Heights started posting a new blog on its website. The name of it is not going to win any awards for creativity, it is called the City of Grandview Heights Blog.

I’ve been following it for the past couple of months, my general impression is “what took them so long?” Blogs are now the main venues for public relations of any business or city, along with the combination of Facebook, Twitter, and other online hangouts that are grouped into the “social media” label. With the fast pace of change the Grandview Yard development has been throwing at the city residents, it was long overdue for this blog to be born.

The Yard rules all

As anyone would expect, the blog is dominated by Grandview Yard news, a Faq, and announcements of public hearings on Yard developments. Since the announcement of the Nationwide Insurance campus back at the end of June, the city has tried to use newspaper stories to lay out the changes and strategy that the city will be following, but there is limited space a newspaper will allocate for what is essentially free public relations. This blog hopefully will keep the flow of information open with the taxpayers.

I have to admit, there was a story here in Grandview about the changes to the Stevenson parking, and the removal of trees for a re-designed intersection of First Avenue and Northwest Boulevard, that I missed. I was on vacation! Former city council president Steve Reynolds lead a group of residents in a protest about the cutting of trees for this project, even placing blue ribbons around the trees (which the city removed the next day). I still plan to try to get some comment from Reynolds about his protest – was it about the trees, or was it more about the process that the city used to fast track this plan, with little resident comment allowed?

It did seem to prod the city into holding more meetings. There have been a series of meetings to take suggestions for Northwest Boulevard Infrastructure Improvement Project ( the next meeting will be September 2nd). The Aug. 29th blog post details some modifications that the city will now use, saving a few of the trees.

Panzera being Panzera

Council President Anthony Panzera had a post with a long series of question and answers about the Yard, and how the development will affect the city in coming years. It’s a competent bit of writing, and probably hits all the points that people have been asking about the changes the city is likely to go through. He included a large photo of himself, in case you forgot what he looks like.

When he gets to the end and starts going into a long story about all the old familiar places that he used to shop at when he was young, that are long gone, I could almost hear the harps twanging as we took the soft focus drift back in time. Yea, that was as subtle as a hammer. Some people think Panzera is just too overt in his playing the political game. Others find it at least predictable, you don’t need to wonder when Panzera is trying to game you, the answer is, “always”.

BF story

B.F. story

Blogging has rules

The online world is filled with people linking to other blogs, quoting each other, showing images of content, and sometimes outright stealing content. The fact that it is all free to read gets confused with the idea that a physical object you are given is yours to reuse as you see fit. There are rules on the internet, and although you can go a long time with flaunting them, you will eventually run into someone who will slap you down.

Linking to somebody else’s work is fine. Taking short quotes from that work to illustrate a point in a review is fair use. However, taking a scan of a newspaper story – the whole story, not just a section – and posting it on the city blog is not cool. The story in Business First about Mayor DeGraw was a fine bit of bragging about the Yard, and it included a funny photo that made it stand out. You can’t scan the newspaper stories that you want to save and post them online like it was a scrapbook, the reporters at B.F. have this thing about being paid for the use of whole stories. I’m sure they explained this to the person at the city who removed the post from the city blog.

Here is another rule – blogging requires allowing comments from your readers. You don’t have to leave the welcome mat out for every crank with a malfunctioning caps lock key, holding comments for approval is common (that’s how I do it on this blog). If you don’t allow comments, it isn’t a blog, its just a PR release that happens to be placed on the web. I’m hoping the city realizes that it isn’t a real communication channel unless it is two way.

Grandview Police have not found Cooke’s killer

Published August 11, 2014 by justicewg

Jennifer Cooke There are a few anniversary stories in the media as one year has passed since the murder of Jennifer Cooke. The most important story – when the Grandview police will announce they have found the person who committed the crime – still has no resolution.

The Dispatch reporter asked the police why they announced that the crime was not a random act at the time of the initial investigation. Officer Cohill, a police spokeswoman, had no answer to that question. Neighbor Wanda Jones, who found the body, said that the police have stopped asking questions and have given no updates. Cooke’s ex-husband, David Culbertson, is still referred to as a “person of interest” but no other info was given. His attorney said Culbertson has not heard from police since last fall.

Channel 4 has a story that was headlined “Police still pursuing leads”, but the question that is not answered – what leads? There has been nothing of substance announced in any of the anniversary stories.

Channel 10 has a headline, “New Evidence In Unsolved Grandview Heights Murder”, but the evidence they have found is only some video from a civil court hearing of a woman who said Cooke’s ex husband had been stalking her. If the accusations against Culberson are all true it would be an indication that he was a jerk. There is a long way to go between being a jerk and being a murderer. Sorry, Channel 10, unless you have some evidence of violence or threats of violence against Cooke, your “new evidence” is weak sauce.

The lighter side of lawsuits – (G.W.)

Published February 14, 2013 by justicewg
Photo by Gerry Dincher

Photo by Gerry Dincher CC Flickr

Back in 2003, a lawsuit against a city official was in the news, and it was a little ridiculous.

A relative of then mayor Sexton had been mentioned in an email between council members, and the word “shacked up” was used to describe a living arrangement. Somehow this email became public, and was the ignition point for a lawsuit against the council member. After the story of the lawsuit was printed in the This Week Grandview, I sent a letter to the editor, and made this post in my old blog.

(From 2003)

“To the Editor:

I read with great interest the story in This Week Grandview about the lawsuit that the Mayor’s brother has filed against council member Kelley Finan.

I have always been happy living in my shack, and I never realized that using the term “shacked up” could be thought of as an insult. I’m proud of my shack – it has an indoor outhouse, the roof only leaks a little, and when I finish painting the outside it will be the pride of the neighborhood (but that’s what I’ve been saying for the last ten years).

I take great offense that the Mayor’s brother would insult shacks like mine – I think I have suffered harm, mental distress, and if I had a job it could cause a potential loss of income. In the great tradition of Americans who deserve to sue for every insult, I am considering a lawsuit for a MILLION dollars. If that is not possible, I would take a set of tires for my pickup truck. It’s been up on blocks for a while, and if I can get some tires – even used ones with a little tread left on them – I will consider this matter closed.

(Suggested music to play while reading this letter – Love Shack, by the B-52s.)”

(From 2003)

Some points about this old post.

Yes, there really was a lawsuit because a council member used the words “shacked up”. Yes, the newpaper really did print my letter.

I’m not sure what the results of this lawsuit were. I know what the important result was, council members and school board members became paranoid about using their email to express any honest emotion, for fear of being sued. Most of them will not use email at all. That’s a loss for the community. There is taking a normal amount of care to be sensitive, and there is being terrified to say a word because you might get sued. We have gone way overboard with the lawsuits, and I don’t know what the solution to this is, but we have lost a lot in a litigation society.

I used to have a special icon for the funny posts on my old website. I thought it was needed, because no matter how ridiculous the topic of a post, there are always humor impaired people who need a big flashing sign that says “this is a joke”. You know what? The heck with those people. If you think I was serious when I suggested statues of Marx and Engels be placed in Grandview Yard, you just have a little fit over it.

This post is not a commentary of the lawsuit currently in litigation against superintendent O’Reilly. I’m sure all parties to that action are not seeing much to laugh about. Back in the old days, I think this sort of situation would have been resolved by people getting in each other’s faces and screaming for a while. Now we pay lawyers a lot of money and spend years in court.

Reading the TW-TVN May 3, 2012

Published May 7, 2012 by justicewg

I’m still trying to figure out how to abbreviate the new Grandview combo newspaper. The Tri-Village News was TVN and ThisWeek Grandview was TWG. The ThisWeek publishers violated the corpse of the TVN and use that name in the masthead of the new paper. I don’t feel like going along with this grave robbing by calling the new combo paper TVN, and TW-TVN is too many letters.

The website for the newspaper smashup is so poor that I can’t even link to any of the news articles I want to comment on. Maybe this is just a transition period, but if the publishers think that the ThisWeek website is “good enough” we are well on the road to crappy local news coverage.

Find the dead tree version of the newspaper for these articles.

Keep the adults out of it?

A letter to the editor from M. Lombardo points out a quote from Grandview superintendent O’Reilly was not so hot. “Keep the adults out of it, it screws up the process” (said in the context of a bullying meeting) does imply that kids will be left on their own, and if the bullying doesn’t stop then the victim needs to try harder.

There are endless experts and consultants who have the secret to stop bullying. After a quick survey I think they can be summarized as so:

  1. Teach kids how to respect each other, use mentors, teach the victims to deflect and de-escalate, and ask for help with the worst offenders.
  2. Don’t turn the school into an enforcement agency for policing every slight between kids. They have to be mostly left alone for part one to work

If super O’Reilly was caught emphasizing part two and they missed him saying part one, he was unfairly quoted. However, there is a very obvious reason for administrators to push part 2, they have enough work dealing with kids who break the school rules, refereeing every fight between kids adds to the workload. I wonder how O’Reilly will respond to this letter. Criticism of the super in the newspaper is a rare item in Grandview. *

Gang of Foxes, more Heroin

The police reports leads with a odd story about a pair of foxes that attacked a newspaper carrier at the intersection of Cardigan and Roxbury. I’ve had it with these roving gangs of Fox employees making it impossible to walk outside in Marble Cliff. It’s time to round up a posse and track down these no-good “news anchors” and deliver a sound beating. Rupert is in so much hot water that we can get away with it.

Some heroin left over in a rental unit after a DEA drug bust back in March was reported to the Grandview police. So now we know that the DEA can’t do a thorough search, and the Grandview police has to hold the drugs and ask the DEA if they want their stuff. The part of the article where they are “waiting to hear if the DEA will take possession of the drugs” sounds like some cop snark to me.

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*Something interesting is happening with the searches that bring visitors to this website (my site stats allow me to see the words that are used). Some are using terms that sound like they are accusing Lombardo of attacking O’Reilly. Knowing the defenders of the super and the SSG, I could see them overreacting to the letter in the paper and go into an attack on the people who are asking for their kids to be protected from bullies.

No, I’m not joking. There are people in Grandview who are so dedicated to defending the superintendent and suppressing complaints from parents that we could have a backlash against the parents of the bullied kids (see my long story about the SSG). We may have the parents of the victims of bullying being bullied by other parents. It may not be played out in the newspaper, but the word could get sent to them that they are being “whiners” and they should STFU.

Message to parents of bullied kids – please document any such complaints you receive, and send them to me.

The end of the Tri-Village News?

Published April 26, 2012 by justicewg

The Dispatch bought out the SNP newspaper publishers last year, and it now looks like the end is on the way for the suburban papers that were printed by the SNP (the company that owned the papers was called “American Community Newspapers II LLC” at the time of the purchase.)

The story in the Business First says the two newspapers which covered the Grandview area will be smushed together into one publication carrying the title of “ThisWeek Tri-Village News”

What will this mean for news coverage in Grandview Heights? If the level of attendance at school board meetings and city council meetings is not improved by the ThisWeek staff, it could be a big loss for the city.

Alan Froman, with ThisWeek, is a stalwart at attending both the school board and city council meetings. He is a good observer of the often boring meetings and was able to extract the important stuff for an informative story. Having a single reporter who has a long history with the organizations is important to learn the facts that might slip by a less knowledgeable person.

Mr. Froman will continue to report for the combined newspapers, according the staff listing on the ThisWeek website. That’s good news – but it also means that there will be less reporters at the meetings. However good Mr. Froman’s coverage of the news, he is only one person. The alternate angles that a second reporter brought to the coverage was important. This is a loss for Grandview.

(later) The servers have been turned off, all links to old news stories on the Tri-Village newspaper website now re-direct to the ThisWeek server. With the turn of a switch all the history of Grandview recorded in the Tri-V newspaper has been flushed down the tubes. Maybe they will complete the microfilm archive of the paper, but who has the time to read old unindexed microfilm?

I checked the Wayback Machine in the hopes that something might be saved. Nope – they set the robots.txt file to deny all archiving of the newspaper. History has been deleted.