Archive for March, 2007

Hitting the Links – On Vacation!
March 27, 2007

Just wanted to drop everyone a note and let you know I’m going to down Myrtle Beach with the guys for a little R&R ( for those of you who know, that means golf ). I will not be blogging until next Monday.

I did want to let you know that I appreciate everyone who has read this blog – and those who have written back. It has inspired me to continue sharing my personal thoughts on a wide variety of topics. Thoughts that I hope you enjoy reading.

See you next week – and please don’t break into my house while I’m away. Sharon and Boobaloo are still here – and at least Boobaloo will bite you. Don’t know about Sharon.

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One Action-Packed Weekend
March 26, 2007

Working mornings has made me appreciate one thing – the value of your time off. Usually, I leave work Fridays after 1pm and return Monday morning at 3:30am. Assuming I hit the pillow at 6pm on Sunday, that’s less about 53 hours of weekend time .. and there’s so much to do over the course of weekend. Of course, you know the feeling of not having enough time to get it all in. However, this weekend was different for me.

It started after I got home Friday about 3pm and walked our dog, Boobaloo. After a quick shower, it was back in town to meet Sharon and friends for drinks and appetizers at Hyde Park – a new restaurant/lounge on the North Side. They have some wonderful food — and martinis. Only stayed there an hour because I had to be at Mellon Arena by 6:30pm for an exhibition basketball game between some Pittsburgh celebrities and some current Steelers. My team featured local TV guys like Demetrius Ivory and some others as well as the son of the late mayor, Corey O’Connor and former NBA star Armon Gilliam. Franco Harris was our head coach. I played ten minutes, failed to score – and we only lost by two – but it was a thrill to play on the Arena floor in front of a couple thousand fans.

Back home at 10pm, I went to sleep before waking up after 6am Saturday ( my version of sleeping in ) and headed downtown for the inaugural star climb for the American Lung Association. Michelle Wright was the host – and she recruited some of my fellow WTAE co-workers ( Ashley DiParlo, Sally Wiggin and assistant news director Roberta Petterson ) to join 60-plus participants in a 45-flight race through the stairwell of Oxford Center to the top. That’s 1080 steps! We all did and we all made it – although it’s tough to catch your breath running through a stairwell.

After that morning run, it was off to the Strip district to buy some kalamata olives and feta cheese. Why? Sharon and myself were serving as celebrity chefs later in the day for cook-off in Fayette County to raise funds in the battle against colon cancer. We make enough for 125 people that morning before grabbing some lunch ourselves and a quick afternoon nap. Then, we both left late Saturday afternoon for the event. Once there, we were joined by Mike Clark and 450 people for an evening for food, fun and fundraising – all the brainchild of Joseph Caleigh ( a colon cancer survivor and the chef at “Caleigh’s” in Uniontown.

The even wrapped up at 9pm Saturday. Plenty of time for Sharon and I to hop in the car and drive into town to a party being hosted by Traffic Watch 4’s Melanie Taylor. She and her husband have a new house and she invited all of her friends and family as well as the morning team to come over and have check it out. It was a great time meeting all her friends as well as having some time for those of us that work together to be able to relax and enjoy each other’s company — and to sit on the deck on a cool, but pleasant spring night. Sharon and I finally got home after 1am Sunday morning.

Up at 7am the next day – and time to go food shopping. We have almost nothing in the house and we stocked up on everything a working couple needs — orange juice, salsa, dog food. We managed to finish up about 11am. Enough time for me to throw on my Sunday best and hit the links for a round of golf with the guys at Hickory Heights. It was wet and the ball didn’t fly very far, but it was nice getting in a round on a gorgeous day in western PA.

After a quick stop at the 19th hole, it was home for a dinner of lamb shanks with Sharon, some fun time with Boobaloo and then, off to bed. Boy, I’m tired just recapping the weekend – but it’s prove you can get everything in during these spring weekends. Weekends tat go by way too fast. Maybe I’ll work on the yard next weekend.

Ready for the Boom Town?
March 23, 2007

Seems every time I open the local newspaper, it seems a new downtown housing project is in the works. Whether it be a high-rise condo, renovated building turned into apartments — or this new concept living space on Forbes Avenue known as the “Gardens” – Pittsburgh is in the midst of its biggest construction boom in decades.

It means Pittsburgh is finally joining other major cities in the drive towards downtown living and lifestyle, but is it too much, too soon? Are people in western Pennsylvania ready to pull up stakes are leave their big backyards and rural homes for the allure of the new downtown renaissance?

I have been here for 12 years and while I ‘m not a Pittsburgh native, I do feel I have enough standing and have seen enough things to offer an opinion. My opinion is that two major challenges face the city as it tries to convert itself into this new age city. The first is that Pittsburghers are resistant to change when it comes to residential issues. Think about it. People are having trouble navigating the route 28 detour because few, if any, have ventured across the river. Can you imagine people picking up and leaving their long-time abodes?

Then, there’s the issue of cost. While Pittsburgh’s enjoying a boom when it comes to new companies and new opportunities, I doubt the young people the city covets will be able to afford to live in these new projects without putting themselves into a difficult financial position. Rents tend to be high — and when condos start in the $300k — the prices tend to eliminate all but the well-to-do young worker. Such high costs lead to people out-of-state buying up properties because – by comparison – Pittsburgh is affordable.

I’m excited about the changes in Pittsburgh. It’s one of the reasons I have stayed here for many years, but one of the city’s biggest attractions is it’s affordability. You can enjoy the big city feel at small town prices. I just hope in Pittsburgh’ push for urban living, it keeps it’s small town appeal and doesn’t price itself out of the market for those who are proud to call this community home.

Meet "Brokaw"
March 21, 2007

Hey, it’s the first day of spring! Finally, sunshine headed our way. I have no deep thoughts today for you or any insightful comments to share. But I do have a cute dog alert for you this morning. Check out these priceless pictures of “Brokaw”.

“Brokaw” is the name of our executive producer Dana’s dog. She is a news junkie – like myself – and yes, her dog is named after the famed network broadcaster. “Brokaw” has become the official mascot of the morning show and it’s easy to see why the gang loves him so much.

He is soooo cute! I love dogs and while I do love my own “Boobaloo”, “Brokaw” comes in a close second.

Spending Some Time with the Future
March 16, 2007

While there have been no formal complaints, I know the down side of my blog is that I don’t use enough pictures. I guess this is because I never seem to have my camera around to capture those “Kodak moments” or whatever they call them now. Well, let’s try and remedy that. It’s Friday photo day — and here are some snapshots from my latest event.

These are journalism students at Peters Township High School. Last Thursday, I was asked to come speak to two different classes about the wonderful world of broadcast news. Wendy Bell had spoken to them before, so I had a tough act to follow.

At the same time, I had a rare opportunity — a chance to speak to those who will occupy my chair 20 years from now. These students are the future of broadcast journalism. I was struck by how far along they are than I was when I was in high school. Not to get into the technical side of the business, but they have learned the skills to be a journalist in the new age of media.Anytime you get a chance to speak to students, please take advantage. It’s your chance to give something back – and discover just how far along you have come in your career. I think it’s the ultimate sign that you have truly grown in your field when you are asked to impart some knowledge to those that will follow. Plus, it’s cool to go back to school and realize that you have a lot more in common with today’s youth than you realize.

Thanks to Nicole Sitler and all the students in the journalism program at PT for having me — and a “shout out” to Kaitlin and Grant ( on the right in the above photo ) who did such a great job hosting the forum. Also, to all the students, thanks for reading my blog. It’s a joy to share my personal thoughts and it’s nice to know what you have to say also has meaning for a younger generation. BTW PT, my offer stands. If you have questions about our business and want to learn more, e-mail me anytime.

The Deal is Done
March 14, 2007

I’m going out to play Powerball this weekend .. and I’m going to win!

After all, I’m rolling right now. Months ago, I wrote in my blog Mike Tomlin would be the Steelers next head coach – and he got the job. I’ve been telling people for weeks – at least those who have asked me – that the Pens would stay in Pittsburgh. I just wish I had blogged about it so I had the proof.

Yes, the dead is done and the Pens are sticking around for the next three decades. It’s a great time for Pens fans and Mario Lemieux continues to play the role of hero. Only this time, he had to play hardball with the politicos. Usually, the teams are the bad guys in these deals because they not only threaten cities with relocation, but when they get their deals they usually takes our tax dollars to create the palaces. Tax dollars we normally don’t have and the promised economic growth never materializes.
This time, though, the Penguins were the good guys. Mario was promised an arena seven years ago – and I don’t care if the mayor, county executive and governor were not in office at the time. There was still an obligation to build this building and the fact Lemieux’s group had to wait seven plus years for this to happen borders of lunacy. If Mario had chosen to move the team, it would not only have been his right but also I would not blame him one bit.

That being said, this arena issue was really not so much about keeping the hockey team here as it was a much-needed structure getting build. One that would allow Pittsburgh to continue its’ renaissance and compete for events such as concerts, shows and even the NCAA basketball tournament. The Pens proved only to be vessel to push this program forward.

Also, you cannot deny the on-ice performance of the Pens played a crucial role in stirring up public support and increasing pressure on public officials. Do you really think fans – who have shown up in record numbers this season- would have been as fervent if the Pens were a losing team? A talented team and a promising future was all part of the plan.
Finally, as Mellon Arena comes down in two years, one thing makes me smile. At least the building is paid for. Not the case when we tore down Three Rivers Stadium with 30 million left on the tab for that structure.

Goodbye Coach Garry
March 12, 2007

I think there is no American institution that shows what this country is all about quite like the small town funeral. When someone in a small community passes, the funeral home becomes more than a place where a memorial service takes place. It becomes a meeting place, a place to share memories and a place where old friends are reunited – of course not under the best of circumstances.

Such was the scene at s funeral home in McDonald, Pennsylvania. Located in Washington county, McDonald is a small, rural community whose residents have lived there for generations. In this little community, Jim Garry coached high school for more than four decades. In small-town America, the football coach is second only to the mayor in terms of recognition – and sometimes overall importance. But Jim Garry was more than a football coach, he was a developer of young boys into men.

He coached at Fort Cherry high school – a small school in the smallest of classifications. All he did during his tenure was win 265 games and twice take his Fort Cherry Ranger team to the finals. He produced one WPIAL rushing champion and two NFL head coaches – Marvin Lewis and Marty Schottenheimer. But, once again, it’s how he molded young men during a turning point in their lives that will be his legacy. A legacy that was fully written upon his death at age 80.

I did not know coach Garry well, but I was treated to his kindness very early in my career as a sports anchor in Pittsburgh. During a story about a gambling scandal at Boston College, he was only to happy to talk to me and give me some very key quotes regarding one of the young men involved – a young man who he had coached. One of the few young men he coached that made a bad decision. It was a little thing, but it stuck with me and over the years I would do stories on the team and he would always take time to talk with me .. even allowing me over to his house one time for a discussion.

I went to his wake last week. There, I encountered a filled to overflowing funeral home. It was filled with flowers and well wishers and former players. Players who had not seen their coach in years and teammates who had not seen one another in decades. They shared stories of the man and stories about one another and their days on the football field. Leave it to coach Garry to bring back long lost friends and put smiles on their faces .. even in a time of grief.

Someone once told me that the true mark of a man is how many friends he has to carry his casket to its final resting place. Judging by the turnout at the funeral home and the love of the people inside, coach Garry’s casket didn’t need to be driven to the cemetery. It could have been passed along a line of former players, stretching from the funeral home to the grave site.

Goodbye Coach Garry. You will be missed — by not only your players but also your community.

What Makes a Good Anchor?
March 9, 2007

A recent visit with journalism students at Peters Township High School included a question from one you woman that got me thinking. She asked me a relatively simple question – what makes a good TV news anchor? The smart-aleck in me wanted to respond “please ask someone who is actually good at anchoring”.

While it appears simple, but our job is a little tough to explain — especially for me having been on the job less than nine months. Even the name of our job is difficult to decide upon. In England, we are called newsreaders or TV presenters and here in the states, some just call us “TV guys”. The job looks simple if you are sitting at home – just sitting at a table and literally reading copy – but the duties go well beyond the relatively brief segments you see on the air.

So far that aspiring young woman with the red hair in the second round who asked, I have some thoughts that might help in deciding if you have “the right stuff” to be anchor:

1. Personable and approachable
Let’s face it. Those of us who wind up being anchors may not always be the best at what we do – but we are people who tend to be personable and approachable. If you don’t like the person bringing you the news, your not likely to watch.
2. Believable and trustworthy
I can be as happy and outgoing as anyone, but does that mean when something terrible happens in our town, you are going to watch me? That’s where believability and trustworthiness comes into the picture.

3. Thinking on your feet

While there is a script for the news, there is no script for “breaking news”. When things happen, we are expected to speak off-the-cuff. In many ways, it’s like doing play-by-play in sports, only the subjects you often ad-lib about are much more serious.

4. Caring about your community
Anchors are not only the face of the TV station, but also the face of their community. I truly believe you need to care about the town you live in – and do as much as possible to make that location a better place. Whether it’s charitable causes, inspiring children or making a donation, I think whenever you can you must be an active part of the community in which you work
5. Being a team player
From working well with your co-anchor to listening and trusting the producers and reporters that work along side, you have to be able to be a tam player – giving up individual glory for the greater good. No matter how good you are or how famous you may become, no anchor can do their job without dozens of people working behind the scenes. It also helps to have a co-anchor who allows you to be an equal partner ( i.e. Kelly Frey ).
I hope that answers that rather simple question for that young woman in the audience at Peters. While it may seem easy, it’s anything but and while it can be demanding, there is nothing else I would rather be doing right now.
PS: Thanks to the students and staff at Peters Township for allowing me to come to campus Thursday. It was fun.

Back on campus
March 5, 2007

If you have ever read my bio, than you know I went to college at Ohio University ( that’s not the Ohio State University, this is OU located in the southeastern corner of the state ). I spent my college years ( 1986-89 ) in the town of Athens located on the Hocking River. It’s a small campus, but somehow they squeeze 16,000+ into the place.

While I’ve always been proud of the college I attended, I never had much reason to talk about much since I graduated. The sports teams have historically been mediocre and everybody confuses it with OSU. But this weekend, I was asked to come back to campus and speak to the next generation of journalists in a panel discussion.

Ohio U may not be much for athletics ( aside from being able to pump my chest when they knocked off Pitt in football last fall ), but we have a very good school of communications and the Scripps Howard Journalism school is among the best in the country.

The thing that really stood out during my day back on campus was how much things had changed physically. The old, cramped student center was replaced by a four-story high glass behemoth. The uptown business section – once loaded with nothing but bars – now had restaurants and boutiques. The journalism had replaced it’s old outdated word processors with the latest in computer technology.

While the campus had changed physically, the feeling had not. I felt a certain kinship with the current students there – and felt like I had really never left. 18 years had past – and I could still remember all the names of the dorm buildings and remember where each of my classes took place. While high school memories are often more intimate because of the changes you experience during those years, the college memories also hold special meaning because it really is your first taste of adulthood.

Now that I’m back and I’m an alumnus that the school wants to re-establish ties with, I want to do the same. I guess I’m at the point in life where instead of being annoyed with calls from the school seeking donations, I should embrace the opportunity as a chance to give back to a place that gave so much to me.

Still wondering if anyone ( besides me ) went to this school, check out our famed alumni:

Matt Lauer ( NBC Today Show )
Erin Keinzle ( WTAE meteorologist )
Roger Ailes ( President, Founder of Fox News )
Nancy Cartwright ( Voice of Bart Simpson )
Gary Trent ( NBA Player )
Arsenio Hall ( Comedian & Actor )
Peter King ( NFL Writer for Sports Illustrated )
With a little work, perhaps I’ll make this list someday

(Ohio University logo; courtesy Ohio University )

iPod .. Therefore, I am
March 1, 2007

Quick.

What’s the one piece of modern technology that you have that you could not live without?

I know most of you – men or women, boy or girl, child or adult – will say the cell phone. Makes sense. After all, we are now never out of touch and can instantly reach anyone at anytime. Of course, that’s not always the best thing. I used to be able to escape to the golf course or the beach and not worried about being contacted by the office.

For me, nothing has changed my world like my iPod. Six months ago, the only thing I knew about the iPod was that Apple did some cool looking commercials with silhouetted people dancing to U2 with earphones.

Then, things changed last fall. While having lunch with a girl friend of mine ( as opposed to a “girlfriend”. I’m married for goodness sake ), she told me she was getting an iPod shuffle as a gift for herself. I asked her what the shuffle was, so she took me after lunch to a nearby iPod store and it was there I was exposed to the world of the Apple iPod.

I don’t think of myself as tech-savvy guy, but I was instantly amazed with the product – and the ability to put my CD’s all on a mechanism smaller than a credit card. In the space of 30 minutes, I went from being curious to actually buying an iPod nano .. which allows me to save 2000 songs and carry with them anywhere I want.

Now, how the iPod has changed my life. I use it at work while I’m typing scripts or reading copy and — sometimes — just before we go on the air ( but don’t tell anyone ). The biggest change has come at the gym. While I like to work out, I get bored lifting or running the treadmill. Not anymore. Now, with the iPod, I’m jamming to my favorite tunes and actually doing more work in the gym. The difference can be seen in the pants I wear — which I find are getting roomier around the waistband.

OK, my AM producer tells me I’m obligated to tell you about what’s on my iPod. Since I have 1300 songs — and only a few lines – let me give you play list I use for my workout:

Bryan Ferry: Kiss and Tell
Christina Aguilera: Ain’t No Other Man
Go West: Never Let Them See you Sweat
House of Pain: Jump Around
Jeffrey Osborne” Don’t Get So Mad About It
Justin Timberlake: SexyBack
Lisa Stansfield: The Real Thing
Pink: Get This Party Started
Phil Collins: Sussudio

What do all these songs have in common? All upbeat songs that have a beat and pump you up — both physically and mentally.

Then, my cool down song:
Simply Red: Holding Back the Years

Strand me on any deserted island – and I can live without my cell phone and cable, but don’t take my iPod from me. It’s become the one item I can’t do without.