Archive for January, 2008

A Super Week
January 31, 2008

Watching the festivities surrounding Super Bowl XLII in Phoenix this week reminds me of my trips to the Super Bowl. I have always been a big fan of “Super Sunday” and I have had the fortune of going to the NFL”s title game – and the circus that surrounds it – twice. Contrary to public opinion, the local Pittsburgh TV stations do not go to the big game every year. It’s expensive and – as we have seen during the week – there is little local interest until Super Sunday.

That being said, I have been twice and both times the Steelers have played in the contest. However, the two experiences were vastly different. Figure this out: I was at the only Super Bowl the Steelers lost – and had a great time. Then, I attended the Super Bowl that gave them the “One for the Thumb” and had a miserable time. However, I judge the Super Bowl experience not by the game but rather by the entire week. In the end, the game is really an afterthought.

At Tempe, Arizona the morning of Super Bowl XXX ( January 1996 )
Super Bowl XXX was in Phoenix in January of 1996. It was the finale of my first season covering the Steelers. I remember it was the first time the game was played in the desert and that experience of playing the game in a new location only added to the excitement. The weather was great and I got a chance to visit places like an Indian reservation and party at Merril Hoge’s pad in Scottsdale. I remember I was mobbed for autographs outside the media center because everyone thought I was an NFL player ( again, it was 1995 and I was 26 ).

The game will standout in my mind for two reasons. One, it seemed like a Steeler home game with nothing but terrible towels waiving in the stands – stands that started shaking when the Steelers made their comeback. Stands that shook so hard that Sally Wiggin, seated next to me, started grabbing my arm and squeezing real hard. The other memory? The Steelers really should have won the game. But after it was all said and done, I turned to Sally and said “Don’t worry. We’ll be back.”

Little did I realize that a decade would pass before Pittsburgh would reach the Super Bowl .. and when they did, it was in Detroit. No offense to Jerome Bettis, but Detroit might be the worse place to hold any winter event much less the Super Bowl. Wait. Check that. Siberia would be worse. It was cold and there was very little going on around the city. Heck, we were in Pontiac most of the week with the team at their hotel. Pontiac has a hotel, a car making plant and a store that sells soup … and that’s it. Quite a change from the desert paradise of a decade earlier.

The Steelers did win .. although the game wasn’t much to write home about. After all, Pittsburgh essentially made three plays to win it. But what stands out in my mind about that Super Bowl wasn’t the game, but rather the return to Pittsburgh and the massive victory parade.

As for this year’s game between the Patriots and the Giants? Who do I like? You will have to wait until tomorrow morning when the entire Channel 4 Action News This Morning makes their fearless predictions.

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Empowerment Thru Shopping
January 30, 2008

The news that a Save-A-Lot store may coming to the Hill District, giving the area a much-needed supermarket, should be welcomed news for residents and community leaders. However, they have concerns. They are hoping for more than a supermarket. They would hope it would have pharmacy and a bakery.

Now you may think this nit-picking, but imagine your local Giant Eagle or Shop-and-Save without a deli or a pharmacy or a bakery. Take it one step further. Imagine a grocery with only a couple brands of each product on the shelves. Try to envision not only a lack of selection, but also a lack of items to begin with — and those that are on the shelves are of lesser quality.

This is the contention of many who study businesses which cater to the inner city. While Save-A-Lot has not been accused of this, there have been many other business over the years which have come into urban areas and sold groceries of lesser quality ( high fat and sodium content ) or offered a stunning lack of selection. Residents are reduced to buying whatever is being offered there because of it’s proximity to their home and the fact that they can buy large amounts of food without worrying about how to get it home without a car.

It’s no coincidence that urban areas made up of mostly minority residents have a greater concentration of check-cashing businesses than suburban areas. It’s profiting upon a community’s weaknesses. It’s legal and – business-wise it can be justified – but it’s what’s described as “economic racism” and in the long run, it keeps the community from ever escaping a cycle of poverty and economic stagnation.

While I do applaud the efforts to build a supermarket for the Hill, I agree with the leaders there that it has to be more than just a glorified drug store where you can pick up a few items. It needs to be a full-service supermarket offering all the services that you and I take for granted at the markets in our neighborhood. It needs to bring the Hill closer to the American dream we all enjoy. Who knew that people could be empowered through shopping?

Test It Tuesday Returns
January 29, 2008

I thought I would let you know about a new segment we’re starting on Channel 4 Action News tonight starting at 5. Actually, it’s not new but rather the return of an old favorite with a new twist.

You might remember a few years back, we did a segment called “Test It Tuesday” hosted by Susan Koeppen. Each week, she would take items that made all sorts of claims and put them to the test. From the pot that allowed you to strain pasta without taking the lid off to the voice-activated light switch, she would see if these products lived up to the hype.

Well, we’re bringing “Test It Tuesdays” back – and guess who’s filling Susan’s shoes?

You guessed it. Now I admit I’m not Susan ( I think based on appearance you can see that ) and I doubt I’ll be doing consumer reports for a national broadcast network after this, but I am someone who loves gadgets and gizmos. So now I’ll be testing items each week with the help of you – the viewing audience. I’m inviting viewers to not only participate but also send me suggestions.

Since you are out there — shopping, watching infomercial and occasionally buying things on QVC at 2 in the morning — I invite you to send me suggestions of items to put to the test. Together, I think we’ll not only have fun but also solve life’s most difficult question — does that thing really work?

So tune it tonight at 5 – and every Tuesday from here on — as we put the latest and greatest gadgets, gizmos and products to the test. Also, be sure to look for the “Test It Tuesday” web page on this website. There, you will be able to see “Test It Tuesday” reports, read my “Test It Tuesday” blog and both suggest products as well as volunteer to help me test things out.

See you at 5.

No Coffee, But I’ll Have One Satellite To Go
January 28, 2008

Another first on Channel 4 Action News this Morning. I actually went through a two-hour show without a single cup of coffee. I consider this a major achievement given the time of day I get up. However, as I was making coffee for the crew, I just didn’t have that “Java Jones” this morning. Even Kelly was wondering if I was not feeling well. Actually, I’m fine … and I guess I’m just taking a break from the caffeine circuit. Then again, I have been feeling kind of weired recently. I didn’t eat anything yesterday even though I worked out at the gym and hit golf balls for a solid hour at the indoor driving range at Neville Island.

I was thinking about having a cup though when I read about this: A U.S. spy satellite that has suddenly lost power, is out of control and could crash to Earth either next month of early March. What’s worse is that government officials not only do not know where it’s going to land, but also they are takings teps to – in their words – mitrigate any possible damage.

OK, am I the only one alarmed by this? I don’t trust the government to get much right but I would hope they could keep a satellite from crashing back down to Earth – and possibly landing in my backyard or worse. I know the odds of that are long, but the fact that we should even be thinking about the possibility is frightening to say the least.

Maybe it’s time to get back to my coffee routine.

Doing Your Part
January 25, 2008

I think I have mentioned that this year I’m taking part in a unique program. It’s called Leadership Pittsburgh and the goal of the year-long class is to expose local leaders from various fields to the problems and challenges facing our society. It happens through group discussion, visits to various organizations in Pittsburgh and lectures from various people in our community.

Thursday, my group heard from Saleem Ghubril. He heads the Pittsburgh Project which creates after-school projects that takes at-risk kids off the street and allows them to serve the needs of the greater community. He said something during our discussion that will stick with me for as long as Pittsburgh is my home.

(WTAE city skline backdrop, courtesy Matt Robinson & PittsburghSkyline.com)

Referring to the recent title bestowed upon the Burgh – “America’s Most Livable City” – he challenged us to do our part to make the slogan a reality. While Pittsburgh is a great place to live for most of its residents, it can be a struggle and a nightmare for thousands who need public aid and assistance. An estimated 10% of city residents use human services. That adds us to thousands of men, women and children.

Ghubril’s challenge is for those of us that can make life better for others to do so. Whether that means donating dollars to the causes we care about, volunteering one day a week to help a non-profit group which is committed to serving it’s less-fortunate citizens or even spending a day serving as mentor to a child.

It’s not what we do as citizens in this community, it’s the need to do something. While we are a model city, even our civic leaders would admit that this is not a model without flaws. There are things that don’t work .. and people who do fall through the cracks. I try to volunteer my time to raise dollars for organizations through my charitable work and appearances. After listening to Ghubril, I think I can do more. I sure we all can.

So let me challenge you, like Ghubril challenged me. Find something you care about – and get involved – and let’s truly make Pittsburgh “America’s Most Livable City”.

A License To Fight?
January 24, 2008

I have often wondered who commission all these studies we report about on the news. I used to think someone just sat in a room and thought, “Hey, I wonder whether couples who fight are healthier than those who don’t”.

Well, someone has actually done a study on that very topic.

The University of Michigan has tracked 200 couples over the last 17 years and found the mortality rate is twice as high among couples that do fight than those who suppress their emotions.

Looks like I’m headed to an early grave.

I’m the one in our marriage who hates conflict. I would rather let a problem fester than deal with it immediately – which is the exact opposite of the way I am at work. I hate to procrastinate.

Sharon, on the other hand, loves to talk things out. She’s not afraid of sharing her feelings and concerns.

Now, while I feel there are way too many studies in the world, I do think this particular one gives all couples reason for pause. In the end, whether it’s about your lifespan or just being happy, we all need to share our feelings with the people in our lives.

It’s never an easy thing to be honest – especially with yourself. However, that might be the only way to find true happiness – whether it be at work or with your wife. With that in mind, maybe I’ll try to open up a bit more – and maybe even get into the occasional shouting match with the Mrs. After all, I would like to be around as long as possible.

Selling .. and Scrambling
January 23, 2008

I told you a few months ago about Sharon and I – and our attempt to sell our house amid the worse housing market in years. We wanted to move closer to the city because, even though we love where we live, after four years the commute from Washington county was just killing us .. especially yours truly.

However, real estate is one of those unpredictable things. Just last Friday, after more than a year on the market, someone came by our house and loved the look and made us an offer. We had the home under contract in 24 hours. Great! Then, a day later, a guy pulls up to the house in his white Mercedes and says he’s interested in looking inside and buying. When it rains, it pours!

Now for the down side. Our buyer loves our little abode so smuch, theyt want to get into the home in six weeks. Since they are buying, who am I to say no. But the speed of the sale has Sharon and I in one of those strange situations where we have to find a place to purchase — and fast! That kind of takes the fun out of casually shopping for a new home.

So where do we go … and what will we buy? When you are under the gun, it makes you think about what is truly important. For us, it’s about being close to the city and still being close to our friends. It’s about convenience to I-79 & I-279 which takes Sharon to work and takes me into town. It’s about a place where there is someone to do outdoor work and maintenance because I hate to mow the lawn.

But most of all, it’s about finding a place to go home. I have been a nomad much of my life, always leaving half my belongings unpacked because I think I’m going to have to move at a moment’s notice. I know it’s kind of silly for someone who has been in Pittsburgh for 13 years, but that’s my quirky hang-up.

Wish us luck as we engage in the speed round of house shopping. At least it’s a buyer’s market.

Last Word on the "Lynching" Controversy
January 22, 2008

It was an on-going mini-series on my blog Friday.

I’m speaking about my reaction to the Golfweek cover photo showing a noose in reaction the controversy involving comments made about Tiger Woods by a TV announcer. The cover photo which somehow sneaked past the sensibilities of the Golfweek editorial staff.

As you might remember ( feel free to scroll down a few lines in case you have forgotten ), as a Golfweek subscriber I e-mailed a letter to editor Dave Seanor criticizing the choice of cover and cancelling my subscription. Well, about a half hour after that, Golfweek fired Seanor. I’m not taking responsibility for that. I doubt my single e-mail made a difference. Rather it was the collective e-mails of thousands of offended people.

Well, last night I received a response from Golfweek’s new editor. Craig Horan acknowledged my letter and apologized for Golfweek’s error in judgement. Golfweek went onto say that Seanor never viewed the cover in question before it went to print.Then, he asked me if he could use my letter – along with dozens of others – as part of a special issue due out this week apologizing for the cover photo as well on their website.

I never expected to hear a word from them .. and was honestly surprised that I not only received a response but was asked for permission to use my letter. I guess sometimes one lone voice is heard.

I’m thinking about e-mailing the oil companies next.

MLK Day Break
January 21, 2008

Hope many of you are enjoying this three-day holiday weekend. I’m at work, but I still intend to celebrate the MLK Holiday .. by taking a day off from blogging. Don’t worry, I will be back bright and early tomorrow morning with more musings on the world from my point of view.

Please enjoy the day off .. and please take a few moments – as I will – to remember the work of Dr. King and the sacrifices he made so that all of us are able to live in a more color blind world.

Fallout From "The Noose"
January 18, 2008

Update, 11:14am: ( Associated Press ) Golfweek apologized today for putting a noose on the cover of its magazine to illustrate the controversy over a Golf
Channel anchor’s use of the word “lynch” in a comment about Tiger
Woods. The editor responsible for the cover, Dave Seanor, was replaced.

I would like to say this was my doing – but it wasn’t. I just think I was one of a growing number of voices who said “you are wrong”. Nobody wants to see someone lose their job and one can only hope the next editor will be a bit more thoughtful in choosing the cover.

UPDATE
January 18, 2008

Update: At 9:45am, I called to cancel my Golfweek subscription. I also sent an e-mail to the editors of the publication to express my feelings regarding the cover and to notify them of the cancellation of my subscription.

Did I Miss the Mark?
January 18, 2008

Frequent readers of my blog have no doubt noticed one of the more popular topics of discussion here in race … and racial issues. It’s not because I’m attempting to stir up the pot or become the on-line alternative to Al Sharpton. I just feel that this forum allows me to cast a light an issue which is not discussed in a frank and public manner. Just like sex, we tend to have a bit of prudish nature as a country when it comes to discussing race.

While I am an African-American, I don’t always have perfect “racism radar” and sometimes the most obvious issues will miss my attention. Case in point, the most recent issue of Golfweek.

As you know, I’m a big golf fan and get several golf magazines sent to my house — and among them is Golfweek which covers the business side of my favorite past time. Yesterday, I got home and found the latest issue in my mail … take a look.

Pretty startling, huh? I did a double take and went right to the article about Tiger Woods and the controversy involving the “lynching” comments of Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman. Since she made her inappropriate statements, she has apologized and been suspended – and Tiger has accepted her apology. The article in the magazine talked about the stir her statements caused.
Fine.
However, the cover photo of hangman’s noose was over the top. Even the editors of the magazine admit the image was “arresting” and would “draw attention to an issue that deserved some intelligent dialogue”. That being said, editor Dave Seaanor actually said he was “overwhelmed” by the negative response.

Hello! Didn’t anybody on the editorial staff see the problem in publishing this cover? I can’t believe a magazine that did a thoughtful piece about the controversy couldn’t see the storm it would create with it’s cover — which they know was designed to sell magazines. To be fair, just last week the magazine had a pill on the cover for it’s story on drug testing in golf. Boy, I long for the days when they actually put golf on the cover of the magazine.

I guess I should have been more outraged as well. While I was startled by what I saw when I opened my mailbox, I should have been angry. I guess being African-American doesn’t mean every racial issue strikes a chord. Maybe it’s because nothing surprises me when it comes to level of insensitivity in our society. That’s no reason to be tolerant of this sort of stuff. There are many ways to get my attention — good writing being one of those ways. However a noose – given the racist connotation it now carries – placed on the cover of a publication I go to for information about something that gives me pleasure is both insulting and offensive.
I will be cancelling my subscription to Golfweek as well as sending a detailed letter to the editor expressing my feelings towards the magazine and the cover they chose. Seanor says he expected some canceled subscriptions. I just wish he had also expected this backlash when he chose this “racist” cover photo – and that is exactly what it is.

Burning the Candles at Both Ends
January 17, 2008

I know many of you that watch the morning show might also get home in time for the 6pm news. If you are one of those people, you may have done a double take last night and asked the following questions: Was that Andrew Stockey sitting next to Sally Wiggin .. and was he wearing the same suit and tie he had on this morning? The answer to both questions .. is yes.

It’s not the first time I have done the morning and the evening shows. This time, Mike Clark was a bit under the weather so I came back later to anchor the 6pm broadcast. This morning, I’m paying the price. I’m exhausted and – after staying up late talking with Sharon about vacation plans – I’m going on four hours sleep. I’m also going on adrenaline.

There is nothing like an adrenaline rush to get you going. When I was younger, I got that rush from playing football .. and as you can see below .. I had a little bit of success as a running back. When you get older and your playing days are long done, you need to find something else to excite you. For me, it’s that rush of working in the non-stop world of TV news.

photo courtesy: My Dad

From anchoring the live show for two hours every morning .. to going out and shooting a story during the day about security in Market Square .. to coming back and anchoring the 6pm news, it was a non-stop day of excitement. I didn’t even mind returning those phone calls.

Plus, I figure I will have time to sleep this weekend. So if you see doing the 6am and 6pm, don’t worry. Know that I’m having fun because I’m doing something I enjoy and something I know I won’t get to do forever.

By the way, digging through the old photo file I found another picture from my past:

It’s me hanging out in high school with two of my dear friends at the time. Heather, on the left, is a mom living in Massachusetts and Ann, on the right, is married and has a home business in New York. I thought it was a cute picture of three friends before we left the bubble of high school and embarked on life in the real world.

A Waste of My Tax Dollars
January 16, 2008

First up, thanks for all the coffee suggestions. I never knew there were so many different types of coffee .. or flavors. I think I may take up coffee sampling as a hobby and try to surprise the folks here each morning.

Now, onto today’s post, and I have decided not to pay my taxes this year.

No, I’m not doing a Wesley Snipes here and acting as if I don’t have to pay taxes – and chances are I will end up giving my share to the IRS anyway. But if I could, I would not give the government a dime after what I witnessed on TV yesterday. You probably saw it as well.

The congressional hearings into steroids in baseball continued on Capitol Hill. Another great use of your tax dollars at work. What is the world is congress doing getting involved in this steroid issue? There is a war going on , the economy is tanking and we desperately need campaign finance reform and where does congress decide to spend its’ valuable time? Asking whether or not baseball players cheated a decade ago.

It’s a game, not life and death and at the time those drugs were not illegal. If congress really wants to be involved in stopping the use of drugs, how about focusing on the drug problem that is killing young people in the inner city instead of the drugs used by millionaire ballplayers to hit the ball better?

I cannot believe my elected officials have nothing better to do that focus on whether someone cheated in a game. If that’s the case, when will they hold hearings into the sport of wrestling? Ladies and gentlemen, it’s entertainment and nothing more. Baseball is just a game and to spend congressional manpower and hours on what amounts to a cheating scandal seems not only a waste but also an insult to those of us in this country with real problems.

OK, I will pay my taxes so I won’t get into trouble. However, I’m doing it under protest

Coffee Talk
January 15, 2008

First up, let me apologize for being off yesterday. I really was not feeling well and the only reason I apologize is because I rarely get sick. I can count ( on one hand ) the number of sick days I have taken here at WTAE. I hate being sick but I hate missing work even more because there is this incredible feeling of guilt when you are laying in bed instead of being at work.

But upon returning, I learned something that made me feel even more guilty – there was no one here to make the morning coffee. No coffee for a show I semi-seriously say is “powered by caffeine“. I don’t know how it happened but I somehow became the designated coffee maker on the morning show. Kelly, Demetrius and our producer Jennifer will all indulge in a cup of joe once I make it. I don’t know how they got through the morning without it.

That brings up another issue. The coffee itself and that is where I need your help. We have gotten into a coffee rut here. Because I wind up buying the coffee, I usually buy what I know which means Columbian Roast, Hazelnut and French Vanilla. I think it’s time for us try something new – but I don’t know what flavors are out there or where to go to score a pack. If you all could be so kind as to tell me your favorite flavors and where you go to pick them up, I know the entire morning show would appreciate it.

Jennifer Sloan ( right ) with our former producer Dana Brown

The other bad thing I realized once returning from my day off? Today is our producer Jennifer’s birthday. I know she told me but in my misery I had forgotten. She got some lovely flowers from her dad – and some cards from our crew here. So let me take this opportunity – and please join me – in wishing Jennifer a happy birthday.

See, this is why I do not like to take a sick day. You miss so much. Even the e-mails have stacked up.
Photo Courtesy: “In other words …” ( Dana Brown’s blog )