Archive for April, 2008

The Politics of “Nope”
April 30, 2008

The above is a play on the title of the popular book by Senator Barack Obama which championed a new way to look at politics and running this country. I had hopes that given this election – featuring both an African-American and a woman in prominent roles – would be different.

I thought perhaps the days of mud-slinging and personal attacks were done. I really believed that given the state of this country and the serious issues facing America, this would be a very different campaign. Instead of the politics of “Hope”, we have been treated to the same old politics … or in this case, the politics of “nop”e.

The latest in this campaign which maybe breaking new ground, but quickly wallowing back into the mud is Obama’s public “divorce” from his pastor: the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. While Wright’s comments have been seen as controversial and devisive, the realy issue is whether Obama is truly outraged by those comments or reacting to poll numbers which show him slipping.

While we may never know the answer, what we are learning is that politics will always be about personality and not about policy. While we say as an electorate we want a serious discussion abuot policy, nothing moves polls like character debate .. and that’s exactly what the candidates are giving us. Think about it: what do we remember from the last debate? Not the last 45 minutes of substantial issue discussion, but the first 45 minutes which was taken up with who lied and who “mis-spoke”.

As the campaign progresses, I doubt we’ll ever see this serious discussion of the issues … we will just continue to talk about who said what and who knows who and this supposed “breakthrough” election which was supposed to finally take race and gender of the table have made race and gender front and center.

It’s a shame. Instead of making progress, this election has maintained the status quo … and we, as an electorate, are the worse for it.

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“Boobaloo” Says Thanks
April 29, 2008

The stitches comes off this week … and “Boobaloo” could not be doing better. Our bischon/poddle is feeling great following his bladder stone surgery a week ago today. Sharon and myself once again want to thank you for your e-mails and prayers for Boo’s speedy and safe recovery. However, instead of me saying thanks I thought I would let Boo himself speak to you .. and since he rarely speaks English, I can’t wait to hear what Boo has to say. Boo …

Thanks Dad. I just wanted to let all my two and four-legged friends out there to know I’m grateful for all the good wishes while I was in surgery. I was pretty scared about it, but not as nervous as my mom. But I told her not to worry and that I would be OK.

I can’t believe all the e-mails you sent my  dad on his blog. I never  thought anyone would read what my dad writes on a daily basis. I mean he always runs through what he’s going to write with me the night before .. and I always yawn.

Now that I’m back to normal, I can go running around the house, eat off my mom and dad’s plates and chew on my toys. I’m so happy. Once again, thank you for making my mom and dad feel better with your e-mails while I was in the hospital. Now that I feel better, maybe dad will stop taking all these pictures of me. I’m camera shy.

 

Boo, thanks for writing .. and I had no idea you were so eloquent with your words. Then again, I did not know you could type.

 

The Week in Pictures
April 25, 2008

Working the mornings – and the toll it takes on your mind and body – there’s nothing like Fridays. You can see the home stretch in sight and you know the weekend is here. You also know it’s the end of another week and so much has happened these last seven days.

So instead of talking about it, I thought I would show you some snapshost taken over the last seven days.

“Boobaloo” comes home.Here’s a picture of “Boo” on the couch at home just hours after we brought him back from the vet following surgery to renove bladder stones. He’s doing great, although he always tries to lick at his stitches. He’ll be recovering for the next week before those stitches can be removed. However, he is in good spirits and still likes to lick my face and cuddle up with Sharon. Thanks to all of you once again for your thoughts and prayers. We now know that we are not alone in our passion for out pet.

Election Night: Pennsylvania primary night found me in Philadelphia at the Clinton rally waiting for returns. As you can see, I was not alone. There were 22 satellite trucks outside the hotel .. and even more cameras inside the Hyatt ballroom. Notice there was not a lot of room for us media members and once you did have a spot to stand and broadcast, you dare not leave. A big thanks to our sister station, WGAL and reporter Barbara Barr who helped us tremendously in our effort to cover Senator Clinton.

The party’s over: At least for the time being. This is the aftermath of the Clinton celebration. All this … and the race is far from being decided. Thank goodness I did not have to clean up.

 Two pair:It’s quite a hand .. and I’m not just talking cards. That’s myself, Kelly, Sally and Jake as the King and Queen of Clubs and Spades respectively. Our full outfits for our performance  in last week’s PIttsburgh Ballet Theatre interpretation of “Alice in Wonderland”. What I found amazing is what the make-up did to the ladies. Look how different Sally looks .. and Kelly Frey as a brunette? Then again, I like the look but I don’t see Kelly making the switch anytime soon. On the flip side, I think in about 30 years I might keep the gray hair and go with the full beard.

So that’s a snapshot of the week that was. Never dull and always different. Please have a wonderful weekend .. and I hope the next seven days hold as much adventure for you as it did for me.

How’s “Boobaloo” Doing?
April 24, 2008

Thanks again for all the e-mails and the kind wishes ( even got an e-mail from a dog named “Benjamin” wishing “Boobaloo” well ) regarding Boo’s surgery for bladders stones. As of last night, the vet told us everything went well in surgery and that he is recovering … and he is wagging his tail. We weren’t allowed to visit him last night because if Sharon or I showed up, he might get too excited. The vet tells us if everything goes well overnight, I can pick him up this morning. I’ll keep you posted but we are both pleased that Boo seems to have made it through the worst.
Primary Night

Back to work .. and while Boo was in surgery, I was in Philadelphia covering the Clinton campaign’s post-election rally at the Hyatt in Center City. I snapped some photos and what will stand out here is the lack of space in the ballroom. We had 22 satellite trucks outside and even more cameras inside cramped into this small space for Senator Clinton’s speech. It was not only local and national media, but crews from England, Austrailia and Japan.

As for the Pennsylvania vote itself, I wanted offer these insights having covered the campaign for six weeks now. The result did not surprise me. If anyone was listening, I said in my reports the polls favored Hillary .. and her 10-point victory comfirmed that. It was also proven that the win failed to close the gap between her and Senator Obama in the delegate race. He still has a sizable lead there.

Pennsylvania did do two things. First, the win gave Clinton enough new cash to keep this bitter battle going into the convention in August in Denver. It also exposed the nature of this race .. which is far from the new politics of hope that Obama has claimed it would be. It’s now mud-slinging at it’s highest level and it has left both candidates bruised and battered, showing off their flaws and their weaknesses.

When all is said and done, Pennsylvania will be seen as the point where the tide turned in the election … turned into a tidal wave of negative campaigning and just a prelude to a battle that – from what I have observed in the campaign trail – will be more bitter than any comment coming from Obama about western Pennsylvania voters.

 

Boobaloo Update
April 23, 2008

Sorry for the delay in updating Boobaloo’s surgery. The vet pushed his surgery for bladder stones to Wednesday morning and I have been in Philadelphia the last two days on primary coverage and unable to get to a computer.

That being said, Boo made it out of surgery and the vet tells us all went well with his procedure. Sharon and I could not be happier. He is resting and the vet wants to keep him overnight and suggested we don’t stop by and visit so he would not get too excited. It’s hard for us to go the whole day not seeing him, but the vet tells us that it’s best for his recovery.

I will pick him up tomorrow morning  assuming all is going well. Still, he must be scared being by himself in that animal hospital but we know the staff will take good care of him.

On a personal note, I want to thank everyone for taking the time to write such thoughtful and wonderful e-mails,. I received so many that I could not write back to all of you, but it’s nice to know that we are not alone as our “son” goes through this difficult time. It makes me realize that the relationship between TV anchor and the audience is far from a one-sided affair.

I will have more for you in the days ahead, but it looks good for Boo … and thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts and blessings with Sharon and myself. They mean more than you will ever know.

T

Surgery For “Boobaloo”
April 21, 2008

While this is a personal blog, I often keep very personal details out of this blog because I’m sure most of you would not care and I need to keep some privacy in my crazy life. However, since I have told you about our dog many times in this blog, I thought I would share something very personal about “Boobaloo” and a little frightening

“Boo” has become our “child” the last eight years since we found him chained up in a backyard in the North Side neighborhood we used to live in. He is more than a pet, he has become family. He is smart and has his own personality. Both Sharon and I talk to him and while he doesn’t speak, he does acknowledge us and often just by his bark or his look you can see he’s responding to us.

Now, our young dog is going to have to have surgery Tuesday. “Boo” has what is being described as “bladder stones” and while he shows no signs of any pain or discomfort there are signs that this illness istaking its toll. I won’t go into the graphic details, just suffice it to say we know he is not well. The good news from the vet is that this is not uncommon in bischons and it it is treatable with surgery.

While the prognosis is good, there is still plenty of fear and trepidation. He has always been healthy and the fact he must undergo surgery and stay overnight. For a couple used to having their “child” greet them when they come home, it’s more than a little unsettling. 

While we expect the best, you still fear the worst. I have never had a pet in my life and I still have most of my family members living, so I’m not used to dealing with personal loss. I hope that this will not be one of those times. I know in my heart he will be OK .. and jumping up and down on me in a few days.

While I don’t ask for much from those of you that read this blog – other than to be kind in your criticism – I would ask that you say a little prayer for “Boo”. I know he will be alright in my head, but the heart is never quite sure when it comes to these things.

I’ll have an update on Wednesday.

 

Pictures From Philadelphia
April 18, 2008

Hi everyone! After trips to Myrtle Beach, and more recently Philadelphia, it’s good to be back home and back on the morning show. I have some pics I took from the Democratic Presidential debate to show you … and I will do that in a minute.

First though, I want to say thanks to many of you who wrote to compliment our coverage of the debate and to pan the performance of ABC News. More to the point, I want to speak to those of you regarding my interview with ABC News President David Westin during the post-debate show.  You can find the interview on the front page of the website.

Many of you say “kudos” for “grilling” Westin about the line of questioning by moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous .. and how it was nothing but character issues during the first 45 minutes. I was fortunate enough, before I interviewed Westin, to hear the complaints of our studio audience at WTAE which was angered by the questioning and the lack of focus on the real issues of the campaign until about 45 minutes into the debate. For the record, I was only doing what I am supposed to so: ask the questions that you as the viewer would if you were there. My only hope is that the next time we get two candidates together for a discussion about holding the highest office in the land, we talk about the job and not what they do off the job.

Enough said. Here are some pics from Philly.

Outside the National Constitution Center .. banners for both candidates lined the streets

ABC’ Charlie Gibson in position for World News Tonight on the deck above the National Constitution Center. His live shot location was less than 50 yards from mine. What you don’t see is the large crowd watching Charlie

ABC’s George Stephanopolous just before he takes the air for World News. In my pre-debate interview, he told me he and Charlie Gibson would not set the course for the debate. They were just the ones throwing the pitches. Who could have anticipated how much control the pair would have.

The scene on Independence Mall hours before the debate. Supporters for bth candidates as well as protestors on subjects ranging from abortion to the Iraq war. There were even two people dress in full pink pig outfits in support of PETA.

 

Finally, The media room in the National Constitution Center. Way too much media for me, but at least the box lunch was good 

Caught in the Spin Cycle
April 17, 2008

It’s the morning after the democratic presidential debate here in Philadelphia. The sun is shining and I’m just rising out of bed here at the hotel with a massive headache. I’m guessing it’s from all the spinning I went through last night in the post-debate spin room. For those who don’t follow all this political stuff, the spin room is where big-name supporters of both candidates clarify and highlight what their candidate said .. and put even a bad performance in the best possible light.

I had a chance to speak with former presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark as well as David Westin, the President of ABC News. I queried Westin about the tone of the debate and whether it was too focused on Obama missteps and gaffes and I asked Clark, a Sen. Hillary Clinton supporter, if Clinton did enough to get people past their feelings that she is untrustworthy. I think you can guess what their answers were to those questions.

Now, allow me to put my own spin on the debate and what I saw. I felt it wasn’t so much that Clinton won than Sen. Barack Obama lost. He has had that presidential look and feel about him all campaign long, but that veneer cracked to some degree over the constant questions about everything from his relationship with his pastor to his choice of not wearing an American flag lapel pin. Obama seemed to be grasping for answers and not as smooth as he had been in previous debates.

However, I don’t think either candidate did anything to change the minds of voters in this state … and that is how you determine true victory. Both were evasive on issues ranging from gun control to joining forces as a ticket following the convention. You could sense a clear dislike between the pair … and more than a few subtle jabs back and forth.

There were complaints from those watching that the debate focused on “sizzle” rather than “substance” and for the first 45 minutes that was true. It wasn’t until 9:03 p.m. that the first question about policy was asked. Once that happened, it seemed clear that there was virtually no difference between Clinton and Obama.

Bottom line from my own personal spin room: Last night’s debate will do little to change the Pennsylvania primary on April 22. At least, not enough to swing the election to Obama from the current single-digit deficit. Thus, the campaign will go on … and so will this ongoing battle for the nomination. However, I wonder if voters will get fatigued by all this campaigning. Remember, it’s August before the Dems actually choose their standard-bearer.

Still, the real winner of this debate will be chosen by you on April 22 when you vote.

I’ll see you tomorrow morning at 5 a.m. I know I’ve been off the anchor desk for quite a while and I have missed the gang in the mornings. I’m sure they have missed me too the last couple of weeks. I mean, who’s making them coffee in my absence?

 

Greetings From Philadelphia
April 16, 2008

Hi! I’m here in the city of Brotherly Love … and on my way over to the National Constitution Center for tonight’s debate between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and I have to tell you how excited I am to be here. Besides being in a city where there is every food known to man – and yes I’ll probably eat too much – I’m excited about being in the center of the political universe.

When I moved to the news side of the business two years ago, I hoped to have the opportunity to do things like this – and tonight, I’m at the biggest game of the year when it comes to politics. While I don’t think the Pennsylvania primary will be decided tonight, I think this debate could be the last one we see for a long time between these two candidates.

The buzz around here from the experts? Clinton needs to hit a home run — not just to make sure she wins Pennsylvania, but comes out ahead in the larger picture. She is trailing nationally, running out of money and you can hear around the Constitution Center the dull roar of those who think Clinton’s campaign may be coming to an end.

I’ll be here to host our coverage from Philadelphia along with Aaron Saykin. Watch for our live reports at 11 p.m. … and be sure to catch the debate coverage starting at 7:30pm. It’s a political junkie’s dream come true tonight on ‘TAE. Also, since I won’t be able to watch, make sure you cheer on the Pens for me. I think they can pull out the brooms because we’re going to see a sweep tonight at Ottawa.

Just Stopped By to Drop Off the Dirty Laundry
April 15, 2008

Sorry for not telling everyone .. but as you might have guessed I was away last week. I just got back from Myrtle Beach and a week in the sun, fun and golf of  South Carolina. Sharon and myself had a wonderful time with a few other couples and friends. I would love to show you pictures but silly me, I forgot my camera. I’m working to get some pics from our friends and I’ll be happy to show them to you …. when I get back.

As I said in the title, I’m just in town long enough to drop off my dirty laundry and head back out on the road. I’m heading to Philadelphia for Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate. I’m so excited to be in the city of brotherly love for what will be the final confrontation – and that’s what it will be – between Barack and Hillary before Tuesday’s primary. Because of that, I’ll be away from the blogosphere until Friday. I would blog while I’m away but I don’t have a laptop of my own believe it or not. Guess it’s time for me to get one. If I can get to a computer in Philly, I will try and blog and up-link some photos as well.

If not, I’ll be back with you on Friday. In the meantime, thanks for being so patient and understanding. I know blogging is an on-going story and when the story isn’t being updated, the readers sometimes move on. I thank you for sticking around with me during these blogging breaks.

Talk to you on Friday .. or sooner if possible. In the meantime, here’s my dirty laundry and I’ll probably bring back more from Philadelphia.

 

 

A Toast to Your Health
April 8, 2008

The title of this blog comes from an event which concluded this past Saturday night. There are so many benefits and charitable events that in which I have the opportunity to participate, but there are some that really stand out for how they are run, what they mean to a community and just how much they are to attend.

“A Toast to your Health”: Heritage Valley CEO Norm Mitry and his wife, Peggy, welcoming Sharon and myself

Heritage Valley Health Systems runs hospitals in both Beaver and Sewickley and in recent years I have gotten involved in their galas to raise funds for new equipment and facilities in their hospitals.

While there are many hospitals in the area that do this, Heritage Valley has come up with some unqiue ways to raise money. One event was their Country Club crawl which took those that bought tickets to various country clubs in the Sewckley area and served different foods and drinks at each stop.

However, their best event is the one-of-a-kind “A Toast to your Health”. It’s such a massive undertaking that it only happens every two years. Organized by Alex Sebastain, owner of the Wooden Angel in Beaver, it brings together 15 different restaurants in western Pennsylvania .. and over 20 wineries from across the country. The result is a treat for all the senses.

“A Toast to your Health”: Taking a snapshot with Alex Sebastian, the owner of the Wooden Angel in Beaver and the man who plans this massive undertaking

Sharon and myself have had the honor of being more than just guests. We serve as honorary hosts and emcees, greeting the 600 people who came to the event Saturday night at the Airport Hyatt. While I have never considered myself a wine guy, it’s fun sampling the best the country has to offer … and also contributing to the effort to make a local resource like a hospital a little bit better for the community.

In the end, it certainly was a toast .. to the health of those who benefit from what these hospitals provide each and every day.

How Things Have Changed
April 7, 2008

I’m not a major donor to my university. I don’t have enough money for the school to name a building in my honor, so I try to do the next best thing. Every year, I return to Ohio University ( not Ohio State ) and speak to the next generation of journalists during its yearly spring conference at the prestigious Scripps school of Journalsim.

I’m always curious to see how things have changed over the years since I graduated and each time I go back, I am pleasantly surprised. This year was no different. While some of the same building are still there, there is a new student center which is the state of the art … and the other buildings have every modern convenience.

The recently built Charles Ping Center for student athletics

The Convocation Center – home to Ohio Bobcat basketball and to several student dorm rooms

One stop I always make on my visit back to Athens, Ohio is the radio-television building. The six-floor structure is home to the communications program as well as the broadcast facilities for WOUB TV and radio – the school’s public broadcast stations staff almost entirely by students. This was my first exposure to public broadcasting.

Among the upgrades to the facility was the newsroom – soon to be named after Fox News founder and Ohio University graduate Roger Ailes. Take a look inside:

 

The updated newsroom at my alma mater, Ohio University

It’s one of the most amazing newsrooms I have ever seen. It’s got 50-inch flat screen HDTVs, the latest in technological equipment and its all digital. I know commercial stations that don’t have this stuff.

However, the best part of my visit was meeting the students. These young people are the future of our industry and they are well prepared. They have grown up in the digital age and are prepared to be successful. I’m proud that I can come back and impart some knowledge but, in many ways, they are better prepared for the future than I was when I graduated. That’s what makes an almunist of any school so proud: to know things are better for the students of today than it was for them.

 

Cleaning Out A Cluttered Mind
April 4, 2008

Sitting on the set, I have so many random thoughts that I want to blog about that often thoughts enter the back of mind and get stuck there. Well, it’s Friday and I can clean out the back reaches of my mind.

Deadly Fire in Jefferson County

When I first heard about the deadly fire in Jefferson township that killed ten, including many small children, I could not help but remember a similar incident that I covered more than a year earlier.

I got the call before 6am on a winter Saturday morning and headed south to Waynesburg, Greene County. When I arrived, I discovered a mother and several of her children as well as a neighbor’s kids were killed in a house fire. A fire that was sparked by a space heater because the home did not have gas because they had not paid their bills in some time.

While the utility company will no doubt get some heat for turning off the power, it’s well within their legal right to do so when it’s customers do not pay for extended periods of time. The real tragedy here is that the economy is so bad that families cannot afford to heat their homes and often turn to space heaters .. which in my opinion are fire trap waiting to happen. I fear as more people must decide between heat and food for their families, space heaters will become the source of heat of choice … and more fires will occur.

County and City Becomes One

On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer. Mergers the services offered by the city and county into one unit servicing everyone — and making h a top ten city again when it comes to population. It seems like the opportunity of a lifetime – if it is done right.

But seldom are things that makes so much sense so simple. Consider what this proposal faces: county residents who are not going to want to assume millions in city debt, city residents who are not going to want to lose their power when it comes to governance and I have not even mentioned the hundreds of individual departments city and county wide that would be eliminated in such a consolidation – and all those jobs as well.

Change is not something that comes easily in tradition-rich western Pennsylvania. Don’t expect this largest of changes to sail through smoothly either.

Third graders plot to kill teacher

This might have been the most disturbing story I heard all week. Several third graders at a elementary school in Georgia put together a plot to kill their teacher who punished them for acting up in class.

What makes this tale all the more terrible is the calculated way these children planned to murder their teacher. One was to be the lookout, another was assigned to distract her and still another was supposed to hit her over the head with a paperweight. One child even played the role of clean-up person.

I’m amazed by this story on so many levels. From a group of children working together to actually plot a murder to the decision now from the school board in that community to let these kids return to school following their suspension. While this is an isolated incident, the fact that we have children capable of hatching a plot like this speaks to the greater problem in our world with the messages being sent to our children about how to handle problems and reach resolutions.

Well, that pretty much cleans out what’s been in the back of my mind. Have a great weekend. I heading down to my alma mater – Ohio University – to speak to the next generation of journalists and maybe sneak in a round of golf.

Controversial Cover?
April 2, 2008

I guess Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will never be paired as running mates. I mean how can we have these two paired together for anything when some in our society can’t handle seeing a black man and a white woman on the cover of Vogue.

I was hoping I wouldn’t have to blog about this controversy that is a couple of weeks old by now, but after seeing another writer weigh-in on the debate in the Post-Gazette, I felt I needed to say something. In case you have your mind focused on more important issues – like the rising cost of gas – here’s the cover in question:

The man is NBA super-star LeBron James. The woman in his arms is supermodel Giselle Bunchden ( better known as quarterback Tom Brady’s girlfriend ). So what’s the problem? Some people have looked at his photo and somewhere, in the recesses of their mind, think it was inspired by a World War I recruitment poster with an ape carrying a fair-haired maiden. Others see it as King Kong carrying 30’s actress Fay Wray.

I guess you can tell from my sarcastic tone that I’m not buying this latest controversy. I’ll tell you what got my attention. As one writer put it, the most amazing thing about the cover is that James can hold a supermodel in one hand and dribble a basketball in the other.

Of course, the relationship and perception between black men and white women has been historically complex. However, I’m not going to get into that. I looked at the issue, and frankly if you look inside, there is nothing even mildly offensive about the pictures of the two stars. It simply shows two people in fantastic shape doing what they do best – and that’s look good.

Can we get over this race thing like … like now? Does everything have to be – pardon the pun – so black and white? Can’t two people who look different just pose and have fun on the cover of a magazine without the world imaging the racial frustrations of two centuries upon them.

Now there are probably some of you wondering if I have selective memory. There was the controversial cover of Golfweek with a noose on the front which was published for the “lynching” comment made by a TV announcer about Tiger Woods. Aren’t they the same thing you might ask. The answer is no. In the case of Golfweek, racism was already central in the discussion. Race was not even a factor when Vogue came out.

There is racial injustice in this world. That is not up for debate. There is racism and there is stereotyping in this world but while we should be vigilant and speak out when we see it, we also need to realize that not everything carries racial messages .. unless some of us place that meaning on those images.

Welcome to the Family
April 1, 2008

When I first got into broadcasting professionally, I got my big break in the town where I grew up: Hartford, Conn. I was hired by the Fox affiliate ( WTIC-TV ) to anchor sports on the weekends and report during the week.
What really made this new job such a thrill was that I started shortly before my 5th high school reunion and I can’t tell you what it meant to be able to go back to see your friends and they being able to see you on TV each night.
While working in TV is great, there is always something special about working in your hometown. My college friends from Pittsburgh who studied journalism told me that was something they hoped to experience someday. That’s something the newest member of our morning show team is experiencing now.
Amber Nicotra is our new morning show reporter, replacing Marcie Cipriani who will now work the more normal dayside schedule. Amber is Pittsburgh born and bred … a graduate of Duquesne University and a native of the North Hills. She earned her stripes working in both West Virginia and Youngstown, Ohio.

amber.jpg

Off-camera, she’s a fun person and very active. She tells me she likes to run … and, something that made me smile, she’s into golf. Best of all, she’s getting to live the dream of all student journalists who study in Pittsburgh: to broadcast to the viewers in western Pennsylvania … as well as her family and friends. For many, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Please welcome Amber home .. and welcome her to our morning show family .. and look for her every morning.