Archive for December, 2007

2007 .. The Stories I Remember
December 31, 2007

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe another 365 days have come and gone … and there have been many moments worth remembering. I thought I would share with you my view of 2007 from the point of view of the stories that I covered. Stories that stuck with me.

Steelers Like Mike .. and so did I

I usually do not brag, but I’m going to pound my chest one final time. I can since I was the “only” member to the Pittsburgh media (sports or otherwise) to predict Mike Tomlin would be the next Steelers head coach when the team narrowed its focus to four candidates. I did it right here on this blog … and I felt hiring Tomlin was a no-brainer. He was Bill Cowher 15 years earlier. I knew he would be a good fit – and after meeting him and seeing him go 10-6 in his first season – I’m even more sure.

A Phone Bill Becomes a Blogosphere Hit
A simple write-up in the USA Today one summer morning turned it a story idea. A young Pittsburgh woman named Justine Ezarik received a 300-page iPhone bill — and did a video blog about the waste of paper. I tracked her down and interviewed her. What started as a local interview became an Internet hit .. with my one-on-one discussion with her being viewed over 2 million times on YouTube alone. She has gone on to become an Internet star .. and my interview became the most viewed in the history of our website.

Behind the Scenes with the Candidates
I always wondered how candidates get ready for these televised debates. The question became the foundation for a story … and thanks to the willingness of both camps, I was able to spend time behind-the-scenes with mayor Luke Ravenstahl and republican challenger Mark DeSantis. While I have been openly critical of the mayor at times, I was blown away by his pre-debate preparation which did not involve mock debates. He simply sat down and reviewed bullet points. In the end, his performance did enough to convince voters he should be mayor.

Changes at Channel 4
It’s the story behind the scenes. When people you work with move on … and other take their place. Of course, we will miss meteorologist Don Schwenneker. “Big Weather” will be a big hit in the Windy City. On the morning show, we said goodbye to executive producer Dana Brown – a young woman of fantastic talent who is well on her way to becoming a network producer. This fall, she left for our DC bureau. Her replacement, Jennifer Sloan, has not missed a beat. She brings the same kind of enthusiasm Dana did – but with a fresh perspective. It’s why our morning newscast was #1 from the start of the year through to New Year’s Eve.

Robin Roberts Battles Breast Cancer
We have never met face to face, but we spend almost every morning talking for at least a couple of minutes. Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” – and her daily chats with Kelly and I – have become one of the popular parts of our program. That’s why we were so stunned when she told us one morning she had breast cancer. However, the honestly and frankness she displayed during her diagnosis has served her well during her treatment. She is an inspiration to all of us and we pray for her – and the millions of women who bravely battle this deadly disease.

The Trouble with Turf

I knew it was bad while I was reporting live from Heinz Field before the Steelers-Dolphins game that Monday night. Feeling my feet sink into the newly-sodded turf at the stadium. The rain didn’t help. What followed was a quagmire of indescribable proportions – and suddenly I was doing story on the turf at Heinz Field. Please – for the love of football – some install field turf next season and let’s stop talking about turf.

The Pierogie Race

Look at the Pierogies in costume. Look familiar? I don’t blame you if you could not guess the Fab Four was myself, Kelly, Demetrius and Melanie. We came up with the idea of putting on the costumes and taking part in the traditional race at PNC Park. The best part? No one knew we were under those costumes – a fact that hit home when someone heckled me for not winning the race and I could not say a word. By the way, we let Melanie win.

Have a Happy New Year .. and I will talk to you all next year.

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Hey Brother, Can You Spare Bus Fare?
December 28, 2007

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I have few pet peeves. Aside from the glorification of no-talent young starlets who get into accidents and use drugs, I can pretty much deal with anything. However, last night on the streets of Pittsburgh I was reminded of the one thing that drives me crazy. And it happened not once, but twice.

I’m walking down the street Thursday afternoon when a guy tries to get my attention while I’m on my cell phone. I put it down for a second and he says, “Hey brother I need bus fare”. I keep walking and get back on my cell phone. As I’m walking away, he starts shouting “you the guys on the news”. After several shouts, I finally wave my acknowledgement and move on.

Fast forward to last night on the South Side. I’m shooting a segment for the 11pm news, when some guy who’s not all that together yells at us “put me on the news”. Then, he proceeds to come up and tell my photographer and me about a fight with his old lady and shows us what he says are stab wounds and not to worry about him. Then, of course, he asks for bus fare. I politely tell him no – twice. He leaves saying as he walks away, “Why aren’t you helping a brother out?”.

For the uninitiated, the term “brother” is a term meaning that he is black and I am black .. and because of that connection, I should help him out by giving him money for bus fare. Now, these may seem like isolated incidents but it happens to me almost every time I’m downtown. At least one “brother” will ask this “brother” for “bus fare” .. and usually it’s a person who looks able enough to be working or at least be able to earn bus fare on their own.

Folks, I am a compassionate person and give money to those less fortunate through charitable contributions or volunteering my time. You can look at my bio and see my list of charities and causes. I have people who can vouch for me on this score as well. However, I am sick and tired of men coming up to me asking me for money, believing that because I am black ( and the “brother” reference makes that point ) somehow I should give them money because I am helping out my people. To use this line of logic is not only insulting but also unfair to the thousands who could use my help and any financial contribution I could make. I consider it a low-level “guilt trip” and I’m not interested in getting on board.

I wish there was a way those who accost me ( and that is the way I see it ) would read this blog and understand my frustration, but the truth is they do not have access to computers or the internet. If they did, perhaps they wouldn’t be asking for bus fare .. especially from me.

Swin Cash: She’s Money!
December 27, 2007

It’s a phrase that was popular during the 90’s .. and I think it applies to a woman I met exactly ten years ago. A woman who was but a teenager at the time, but has become a woman of exceptional talent and success. A woman who has become a person an entire community can count on. A “money” performer.

Swin Cash is well known to many who play high school sports in this area. During the 90’s, she was the best basketball player in the area and only Suzie McConnell-Serio matches her locally on the accomplishment scale. Swin has won a NCAA title, 2 WNBA crowns and one gold medal.


But it’s off the court where she excels. She has become both a model and TV broadcaster. She has become active in the Boys and Girls Clubs. She wants to work with the likes of Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch to bring economic development to her depressed hometown of McKeesport .. and now she has started her own charitable concern: Cash for Kids.

The goal of the organization is simple: Funding other programs to keep kids off the streets. However, her organization is also setting the example as she gives back to something near and dear to her heart: Harrison Village.

The housing complex where she grew up and first started playing ball is in desperate need of repair. So she is funding the renovation of the basketball and softball areas as well as building a refreshment stand with restroom facilities. (Watch The Video Report Here)

Part of that fundraising effort will include a New Year’s Eve party in West Mifflin. You can find more about that event at her web site, swincash.com.

On a personal note, I have gotten to know Swin over the years and from our first encounter – when I made her student-athlete of the week in 1998 – I have always thought she was bound for great things. Since then, she has met movers and shakers like Oprah Winfrey and Denzel Washington, but she has always been that little girl who never forgot where she grew up. Most of all, she has become what she did not have as a child … an athletic role model. There were no female pro athletes when she was growing. Now there are.

Home for the Holidays
December 26, 2007

Happy Holidays! Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. Sharon and I spent our holiday back home in Chicago at my parents’ place. On Christmas eve, they hosted a dinner with included my mom’s sisters as well as my brother-in-law and Sharon’s cousin and boyfriend. Here are some the photos from the night:

Here’s the Stockey family ( Andrew, Dad, Mom and Brian )

Sharon with her “sister on her mother’s side”, Maria

The Bey sisters ( Rae, Jean and my mom, Elzabeth )

It was special just to be home with so much family, but the moment that I will always remembered happened later that evening. My Dad showed all of us this DVD which had a film taken back in 1963. It was a two minute clip of my parents – at age 25!

They were just married and my father just got his CPA license ( an amazing a rare fee for a black man in 1963 ). They looked so young and so much in love. My mother was beautiful and my dad looked like a kid. They were in their kitchen preparing dinner and my dad grabbed my mom and started dancing – to what I have no idea since there was no volume. I could see on the TV behind then was President Kennedy speaking. While I have seen many photos of my parents as young people, I had never seen video of the two .. and it struck in a way that made me so happy and a bit tearful at the same time. Tears of joy I guess as my parents approach their 45th wedding anniversary this year.

May the magic of the holiday season touch you the way it touched me on Christmas eve.

Cutting the Cord
December 21, 2007

It took 39 years .. but I finally cut the cord.
After Ashley DiParlo’s “Plugged In” story about 2007 being the first year cell phone spending surpasses landline phone spending, I went ahead and got rid of my home phone. It wasn’t easy. After all, since I was a child there was always a phone in my house and I always believed you needed to have a dedicated line in case of an emergency.

My cell ( and now only ) phone

But then, Sharon and I looked at our phone usage. First of all, I’m never home and she is
rarely there. Unless Boobaloo learns how to dial and has a group of fellow dogs he needs to
bark at over the phone, there is no one there to use it. Then, when we do check messages,
it’s always some telemarketer or it’s my parents ( for some reason, they just don’t call me
on my cell phone despite my frequent requests ).

We both live in this mobile world and even when I’m at home, I’m on my cell phone. I just
like the convenience and people find it’s easier to remember my cell number than my home
phone number. So today, I cut the cord … and probably saved $60-$70 bucks. Now, I do
admit that I’m a little nervous. I mean what do I if someone is trying to reach me and my
phone is charging overnight? Perhaps it’s channel 4 trying to get a hold of me in the event I oversleep. All I know is that it’s time to take that daring leap ( some would call it daring ) and really join the 21st century.

I cut the cord a few times in my life. When I was born. When I left for college. Now, at 39,
one final cut.

Happy Holidays! I’ll talk to you again after Christmas!

Career Implosion Made Easy
December 20, 2007

A question: Don’t you actually have to have a career before you can blow it up?
I ask this because of three recent incidents in the news which makes me wonder – and probably you as well — what the heck were these women thinking.

Up first, Britney Spears’ sister – Jamie Lynn Spears – who suddenly finds herself pregnant at age 16 from hr 18 year old boyfriend who she met at church .. and it was a surprise. Here’s the biggest surprise for me: I did not know Britney even had a sister. Apparently, she plays some wholesome character on some kid’s show .. although I have a feeling that job is out the window. What shocked me was all the media coverage of this – including people wondering what the impact will be on the kids of America? Here’s what I think: The kids of America are smarter than to follow the lead of the sister of one of the biggest train wrecks in recent memory.

Then, there is Alycia Lane. I’m sure you don’t know who she is .. but most of us in this news business do. She is an anchor at the CBS station in Philadelphia .. and she was recent;y arrested after an altercation with a New York cop which include her use of a derogatory term. After the incident, she placed a phone call to Governor Ed Rendell because they’re friends and she needed somebody to talk to. Since then, she has been sent “on vacation” and her image removed from all station promotional campaigns. Here’s the kicker: the woman makes $700K .. and this is not the first time engaged in questionable behavior.

Both these people were on their way to success when the self-sabotaged their careers by engaging in – at the least – questionable behavior and put themselves in messes of their own making. What really saddens me is that they will likely have careers beyond this moment of major misjudgement because that is just the celebrity-obsessed culture we live in. Meantime, a man who has done all the right things is being forced to end his career because of a questionable rule.

Ron Wabby is the long-time football coach at Brashear High School. In my dealings with him, I have always found him personable, kind and putting the kids he coaches first. However, after 30-plus years as a teacher, he has decided to retire. The kicker here is that he still wants to coach football but some rule in the Pittsburgh Public Schools forbids it because you must be a teacher to coach any sport at a city school.

I think in an age where good coaches are hard to find this rule is ridiculous, especially when you consider the coach in question has shown his credentials over three decades. In this case, it’s red tape and questionable rules which are causing a good coach to call it a career .. and the biggest losers are the kids he once coached.

My First Murder …. Story That Is
December 19, 2007

Not exactly the most relaxing of headlines, I know. Still, it’s an experience that is worth sharing and thanks to the blogosphere, I can.

Monday after nine am, I was out on another story when my photographer Kathy Driscoll and I were sent to the Midtown Towers on Liberty Avenue. There we learned of a stabbing that had taken place at some point earlier in the morning. Upon arriving, we discovered the Medical Examiner’s truck ( a.k.a. “The Meat Truck” ) came by to pick up the dead body. In the end, the man was stabbed by his cousin following some sort of dispute.

Let me not bore you with the case details. Instead, I want to share with you the feelings I had as I watched this entire thing unfold. This was the first murder story I had covered in person. while I never saw the body or the blood, I could sense the air of sadness. I did not know the man, but I could not help but be saddened by the knowledge that someone had been killed just 12 floors above me.

When the detective came out to address the media, it was somewhat depressing to hear him talk of this human life taken in such antiseptic terms: A middle-age black male found stabbed once in the chest and lying on the living room floor. The body found by the mother around 9am. The reference to the homicide being a “family incident”. A dispassionate description of the final moments of a life extinguished before it’s time.

I am not squeamish when it comes to the human body in death. I have done stories in morgues and have seen the recently deceased undergoing an autopsy. But I had never dealt with death by homicide … and it can be quite traumatic. While we read about people being killed every morning on Channel 4 Action News, it never really hits home until you actually are there for the aftermath of one of these killings.

It’s a shock to the system … and then, the moment is over. As we left the crime scene, I noticed that the world went on. That people walked briskly from one place to another, conducting their daily business as usual. Unaware that 12 floors above them, a violent crime had taken some one’s life. Such is the cycle of life .. and death is part of life. Even murder.

Majoring in Chemistry
December 18, 2007

Confession time. The best grade I ever got in science in high school was a B. However, after a year and a half of doing this morning job, I guess I should have majored in science because according to viewers who take the time to stop me on the street, I’m getting straight A’s in chemistry.

It’s probably the nicest, and most common complement I receive from viewers and it happened again at a Christmas party over the weekend. The woman said, “I just love you and Kelly. You have such great chemistry”. That sentiment was repeated at the gym the next morning as I was working out and the woman next to me said the same thing.

It’s always nice to be complimented on your work, but you can tell people are seeing something more than just you on TV when they remark about the chemistry you have with your co-anchor. In our field, pairing anchor teams is a little like science: you toss two people together and see what happens. In my experience, one of three things is going to happen when you spend two hours together with someone every morning. Either you will become the best of friends, you work together professional and not passionately, or you end up wanting to kill one another.

Fortunately, in our case, we have become friends. I have learned more about outdoor gardening and home remolding than ever and Kelly at least appreciates the subtleties of hitting out of a sand trap. We laugh and joke, we complain and compliment, we share handshakes as well as hugs.

I think the key to chemistry in this business is the willingness to put aside your ego for the success of the team. I always try to play the straight guy and tend to follow Kelly’s lead. She is a seasoned journalist and I’m new at this. At the same time, she allows me to be more relaxed and light-hearted, which makes for a much more upbeat program. It’s the team concept that let’s us succeed as individuals.

I always hope that no matter where I go or who I’m paired up with, I will always have some sort of chemistry with my co-anchor. I just wish I had figured out this chemistry thing back in high school, Then again, maybe I would be doing something else for a living if I had.

Fair-Weather Nation
December 17, 2007

They bailed just after halftime at Heinz Field, giving up on any hope of victory once they trailed by 15 points. Afterwards they did nothing but make excuses – poor excuses – for a losing effort.

I’m not talking about the Steelers. I’m talking about a rather large group of their fans.

After covering the team for over a decade, I think I am more than qualified to talk about Steeler fans .. and how embarrassed I was by some of them on Sunday. Pittsburgh trailed Jacksonville by 15 points with more than 15 minutes to play on Sunday, but shortly after that go-ahead score there was a steady stream of Steeler fans who made their way to the exits. I found that smelling of fair-weather football fandom. Folks, remember these Steelers also trailed Cleveland by 15 points this season …. and came back to win. I know it was cold and I know it was windy (believe me, I’ve been to enough games and froze my butt off over the years), but still you have to wonder what some people are thinking.

I’m not sure what has happened, but there is now a seismic shift in the way Steelers fans support their team … a manner that has changed since I started covering the team back in 1995. I’m not sure if it’s because when they moved to Heinz Field and fans started congregating during games on the South End Zone plaza, moving them closer to the exits. It also moved many out of their bright yellow seats, giving Heinz Field that semi-empty look all game long. I guess since we have gone from Steel town to white-collar city, we should expect a change in attitude and fanaticism.

Maybe it’s that desire on the part of some fans to have to be the first ones out, no matter the score, so they can beat parkway traffic and get home early … early enough to see the conclusion of the game at home. I know when I was a sportscaster, a group of media guys would have a pool picking the time in the game when the first fan would leave. Each year, that time has become earlier and earlier.

Even worse, some of the “knowledgeable” football fans of Pittsburgh show just how much they don’t know when they call into these post-game shows. I was watching one of these shows (on another network) and watched the host’s pained expression as someone called in to insist Ben Roethlisberger should have been benched in favor of Charlie Batch because Ben missed two days of practice during the week … and Ben had thrown three touchdown passes in helping the Steelers tie the game.

I’m not indicting all fans. Most are passionate about their team and, given the amount of money they spend on tickets, tend to stick it out for all four quarters regardless of the weather to support the Steelers. It’s the other fans who show up late, leave early and then complain that this team — which just won the Super Bowl two years ago — doesn’t do anything.

We demand a lot of our football team — and rightly so. I just think the team should expect the same level of commitment from all its fans.

One Cool Relationship
December 14, 2007

It’s one of the cooler parties of the holiday season and one I never miss. WDVE pre-tapes it’s morning show at Diesel nightclub on the South Side. They have been doing it for years and it’s featured guests from the entire year as well as skits incorporating some holiday humor. Below is a shot of sports guy Mike Prisuta reciting a Steeler version of the “12 Days of Christmas”.

WDVE and WTAE have a very cool relationship. I wouldn’t say it’s a formal partnership, but rather a good friendship. The morning team of Jim Krenn, Randy Baumann, Mike Prisuta and Val Porter have always invited WTAE folks to appear on their top-rated morning show … and we have in large numbers. Jannelle Hall, Sally Wiggin, Jon Burton and myself always call-in or serve as fill-in anchors during the year.

WDVE Morning Team: Val Porter, Randy Baumann, Mike Prisuta & Jim Krenn

Aside from the great promotion ( for some reason every time I’m on WDVE, I get more feedback from people than when I do two hours of morning TV ), it’s a chance to let our hair down and have some fun in a non-scripted, fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants format. Thanks to our friends at DVE for letting us be part of the party once again.

Hey, I wanted to point this out to everyone since I like to think this blog is not just mine, but ours. The City Paper featured this blog in theirYinz Keep Blogging” section of this week’s paper. No praise or criticism, just an entry from this blog and a heads-up to readers that this might be worth checking out. I’m sorry I didn’t write something more exciting that day, but I appreciate the nod.

I also wanted to say “thanks” to everyone who took a few moments to write back and tell me how much they were moved by the story in Thursday’s blog. There were more than a few people who told me the tale of growing older with parents moved them to tears. All that I hope is that it will make us think twice about our parents as they age … and our responsibility to them.

Have a great weekend .. and good luck getting our holiday shopping done!

A Tale Worth Telling
December 13, 2007

You probably get one of these in your e-mail a week like I do. You know what I am talking about. Those long format stories sent via chain letter with some sort of tale with a moral at the end. Then, the sender asks you to pass it on to ten friends. I usually delete them before I read them because most tend to get a bit preachy, but the one I received below from a friend in Beaver County struck a chord with me. Take a look:

A frail man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and 4 year old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together every night at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the
glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about father,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl!

When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making.

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

Interesting read. I don’t need to tell you the moral of the story. I think it’s pretty obvious. Something to think about as you head into the holidays to spend time with your family.

Engage Brain Before Putting Mouth In Gear
December 12, 2007

It’s one of my father’s favorite saying. Though he did not invent it, the adage has stuck with me over the years. Engage brain before putting mouth in gear. Always think before you speak. In my current job, never has it been more important. When you spend two hours on live TV with a semi-scripted show, there is always tome to ad-lib and if you aren’t careful, saying the wrong thing can land you on the unemployment line. It’s like walking the high wire without a net.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because of what happened yesterday. Kennywood was sold to a Spanish amusement park firm. The sale is of significance because Kennywood is a local icon and anytime management changes, there is a fear of the unknown. Kennywood spokesperson Mary Lou Rosemeyer talked about the sale and, among her comments regarding possible changes. Mary Lou said, “The park’s going to continue to be what it is, what we all love. We don’t expect to see any changes. We don’t think it’s going to become a giant taco stand.”

Mary Lou Rosemeyer, Kennywood Spokesperson

Well, you can just imagine in this age of instant feedback the amount of negative e-mails she received and the number we got right here at Channel 4. Later in the day, Mary Lou apologized for her ill-conceived comments. You can find her apology and a story the sale of Kennywood on the front page of our website.

I’m not here to vouch for her character nor criticize her for her comment. It’s a shame one poorly chosen phrase would take the attention away from a very critical moment for one of western Pennsylvania’s most important institutions. What I do want to say is that this is a local example of what cam happened when we don’t watch what we say. On a larger scale, just ask Don Imus who lost his job over a less than well thought out comment.

The world has changed. No longer can you “joke” about things and expect no one to take notice. Just Monday night during a live broadcast of the Falcons game. Atlanta owner Arthur Blank nearly found himself in an “Imus” situation when he remarked about the possibility of Michael Vick returning to the NFL after serving his prison sentence for dogfighting. Blank said of Vick’s conditioning that if he is not careful and winds up “eating fried chicken and fries” in prison, he could gain weight. There was a immediate firestorm insinuating that Blank had said “fried chicken” because Vick was black.

Look, I’m black and I like fried chicken and if someone told me eating too much would make me fat, I would not consider it a racial comment so let’s get past that right now. Still, the point is such casual remarks in our multi-cultural society powered by instant communication can get one into deep trouble.

Rule of thumb for everyone: If you are not sure what you are about to say will offend someone or not, don’t say it. Remember: Engage brain before putting mouth in gear. Words I live by every single morning. Words we should all live by, no matter what we do.

A Blog Break
December 11, 2007

Sorry, everybody.

I have a busy day ahead with the North Shore Casino groundbreaking and various other duties – which include making dinner tonight – so I’m going to take a break from blogging today. Sometimes I find it hard to sit and think of things to talk about when I have so much on my mind. With your indulgence, I’m going to take the day off — and try to blog again tomorrow.

Make it a good day and try to avoid the rain.

Cool Weekend
December 10, 2007

Unlike Steelers safety Anthony Smith, I never guarantee anything .. and that includes the weekend. I never know whether it’s going to be fun or a complete bore. This one wound up being pretty cool.

Friday, I had the honor of serving as emcee for the annual Ronald H Brown Leadership Gala at the Westin Convention which is presented by the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. While it’s a chance to celebrate those working towards racial equality in Pittsburgh, it’s also a chance for “Black” Pittsburgh to come together and share stories and renew acquaintances. There is a strong black community here and it’s rare we all get to celebrate our heritage and success.

A photo at the Ronald Brown dinner. On the left is, of course, Sharon and on the right is my cousin Tracey. Bet you didn’t know I had family in Pittsburgh?

One of the best things about being able to be a part of this is that I’m seen in a very different light by fellow African-Americans. As a news anchor, I’m viewed by many as a contemporary of theirs .. and that is exciting. But along with the praise comes to challenge of being more than just a face, rather it’s about trying to do something to further the goals and progress made by those who have come before me.

Of course, the whole weekend wasn’t pomp and circumstance. Sunday, my buddy Jim invited me to the Ray Mansfield Steelers Smoker on the south side. It’s an annual fund-raiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs and a tribute to the late Steeler center known as “The Ranger”. Steelers legend Andy Russell hosts the party – which essentially is a cigar party and auction during the Steelers-Patriots game.

I’m not a smoker, but I do like the occasional cigar and I actually smoked two last night. After sucking those down, I now know why I don’t smoke. Boy, did I have a headache and a bit of a cigar buzz. Still, it was nice to have a night out hanging with the “guys” and watching football. As for the game, all I will say is that I’m not surprised the Steelers got stomped – and I think way too much was made out of that “guarantee” by Smith. I may not know a lot of things life, but I do know that no team was every motivated by something someone said in the locker room. If you need that to get psyched up for a game, that maybe you should find other employment.

The Topic Nobody is Talking About
December 7, 2007

I think I had mentioned before I am taking a year-long class called “Leadership Pittsburgh”. For 25 years, the program has helped to expose the next generation of leaders to the problems confronting western Pennsylvania. My class of 57 business professionals meets once a month to gain a better understanding of the issues around our state.

Thursday, we met at Point Park University to discuss perhaps the most critical issue of our time. The issue facing our region and our country which, if not solved, could turn this nation into a second-rate power. It’s a ticking time bomb set to go off in the coming years .. and I have not heard the word uttered by a single candidate in the Presidential race.

Education

Our class heard from the superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, visited a local charter school and received some sobering statistics from the director of Pitt’s Education Improvement Initiative. The bottom line? No matter how well your school district maybe doing, our region as a whole – and our nation as well – is falling behind.

As a country, we are being surpassed in academic standards and achievements by China, Japan and India. Consider this: 2.5 million students in China are studying English. 25,000 American students are learning Chinese. Who do you think is getting ready for the future? Locally, school funding in the state of Pennsylvania is among the lowest in the country. While we do have school districts that are thriving, we have way too many students who aren’t making the cut at their own grade level – and it’s even worse for minorities.

I came away from my day of education about education feeling frustrated, scared and overwhelmed. But I also came away believing that education may be the single most important issue facing our nation. Why? Because it involves the future of our country and it’s one area where you can clearly see we’re in trouble .. and we knew this was coming. As a 1983 report entitled “A Nation at Risk” stated, there is no threat from foreign lands that’s more dangerous than the failure of our public schools to prepare our students for a future that demands they have the skills to deal with the ever-changing global landscape.

We can protect our most valuable resource — our children — but we need to make that a priority and we need to do it right now.

Have a great weekend.