Saturday, August 2, 2014

An Excellent Story on NPR...

I have to admit that I have had second thoughts this past year about going to Chicago for a weekend. My husband and I used to do that a lot -- it's not that far a drive and it's a great town.

What has given me second thoughts? All the press on the shootings/murders there, that's what. I keep thinking that it's not safe anymore and Steve and I can figure out somewhere else to go for a getaway.

Then I saw this story today on National Public Radio's website. It's an interview with two young students who wrote an op-ed this week for the Chicago Tribune called "You Don't Know Us." After reading the article, it made me think twice about what I am reading in newspapers -- even ones I used to write for, and the Trib was one of them.

But I can't lay this one on them -- I've been reading about the Chicago shootings on NBC's website and because of it thinking I shouldn't consider Chicago as a weekend destination. The bottom line is I gave Chicago the short shrift because of it, and that's wrong.

What is even more wrong is the media painting the Windy City as a war zone. I really don't want to treat mainstream media like grocery store tabloids, but I'm thinking it may not be that far off the mark anymore...and that's a shame.

Monday, July 14, 2014

This used to be a no-no

Writing obituaries was not the best job at a newspaper, but it was an important one. I learned to write them from the late Gloria Shafer at the Battle Creek Enquirer. You did not screw up an obituary, she stressed -- it was usually the last thing written about someone. To that end, she wrote her own, long before she died - that way she knew it was correct.

I should have guessed that one of the newspapers I worked for -- the one in my hometown, no less -- would get it wrong. They spelled my name wrong in my little brother's obituary -- and I was working there at the time!

Here's the one they goofed up today.

Monday, June 30, 2014

30 days...

That is the number of days we had to post in Blogathon 2014 and with this post, I have done just that.

Also just got home from my brother's wedding and am the topic I wanted to write about will be tomorrow's post.

In the meantime, here is another goofy siblings photo from the wedding.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

New family member...

My new sister-in-law...the other photo is me with my sibs. Hope we didn't give her second thoughts!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

Two of the best...

Forty years on, it's still good to read about these two journalists. Their reporting on Watergate and their book, All the President's Men, is the reason I went into journalism. During my stint as a "loaned" Gannett reporter to USA Today, I lived about a block away from this iconic hotel. Didn't get any better than that.

Read or listen to this NPR story here.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


I spent yesterday at my local Sam's Club -- not inside, but in the parking lot. Twice a year, I volunteer at an e-waste recycling day there that is sponsored by my local club and an organization called Recycling Jackson. I've been doing it for many years. A side note - my husband, a.k.a. "Captain Nature," is the board chairman for RJ as well as a conservation and recycling enthusiast. He's turned me into one as well.

It's amazing what people get rid of -- thankfully, many (but not enough) are recycling, rather than throwing out this stuff. For the first time in I don't know how many years, we were inundated with mostly televisions -- and some really not that old.

Yes, I know flat screen and similar type televisions are the norm today -- except in my house. We don't watch a lot of television. But seriously -- do we always need the best and greatest the minute it hits the market? Based on what I saw yesterday, I guess the answer is "yes." Okay, I'm not going to get people to stop buying electronics the minute a new one appears on the retail horizon. But, do me a favor and read these recycling facts and statistics by, a social change organization for young people.

Then recycle the electronic device you are replacing. It's not that hard to do.

  1. 1. 80 to 85% of electronic products were discarded in landfills or incinerators, which can release certain toxics into the air.
  2. 2. E-waste represents 2% of America's trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste. The extreme amount of lead in electronics alone causes damage in the central and peripheral nervous systems, the blood and the kidneys.
  3. 3. 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed worldwide every year.
  4. 4. Cell phones and other electronic items contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver. Americans dump phones containing over $60 million in gold/silver every year.
  5. 5. Only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled.
  6. 6. For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be recovered.
  7. 7. Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year.
  8. 8. E-waste is still the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America, according to the EPA.
  9. 9. A large number of what is labeled as "e-waste" is actually not waste at all, but rather whole electronic equipment or parts that are readily marketable for reuse or can be recycled for materials recovery.
  10. 10. It takes 539 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor.
11. Electronic items that are considered to be hazardous include, but are not limited to:Televisions and computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes, LCD desktop monitors, LCD televisions, Plasma televisions, Portable DVD players with LCD screens.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Who's reading what...

I love reading a newspaper -- the paper version, not the digital one. While I appreciate the fact I can access just about any newspaper I want on my computer, tablet or phone (and do just that), I still like sitting in a chair, coffee in hand and reading an actual physical, paper newspaper.

Apparently I am not alone - the last figures reported by the Alliance for Audited Media shows that (at least for the top 10 shown here) that print papers have higher circulation than their digital editions. I expect that to change as more and more people are using their digital devices to read newspapers, rather than paper versions of not only newspapers, but magazines and books. We'll see.

Read more about this here on the Alliance's website.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ten interesting quotes about news...

Today, the news is scandals; that is news, but the many children who don't have food - that's not news. This is grave. We can't rest easy while things are this way. – Pope Francis

People write negatives things, cause they feel that's what sells. Good news to them, doesn't sell. – Michael Jackson I've come to recognize what I call my 'inside interests.' Telling stories. And helping people tell their stories is a sort of interpersonal gardening. My work at NBC News was to report the news, but in hindsight, I often tried to look for some insight to share that might spark a moment of recognition in a viewer. – Jane Pauley

The one function that TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if it were. – David Brinkley

Everything is being compressed into tiny tablets. You take a little pill of news every day - 23 minutes - and that's supposed to be enough. – Walter Cronkite

Bad news isn't wine. It doesn't improve with age. – Colin Powell

If the news isn't there, don't create it. If I look at local news, I don't know what's real. – Willie Hereton

People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news. – A.J. Liebling

I think everyone knows the news has become ridiculous. It's entertainment driven. – Adam McKay

Gossip is news running ahead of itself in a red satin dress. – Liz Smith 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Was this the turning point for the news media?

It was 20 years ago this month that O.J. Simpson was arrested and charged with the murders of his wife, Nicole, and Ron Goldman. From the minute the crime was reported, to Simpson’s chase and arrest and his eventual acquittal the following year, the news media grabbed it like a dog with a bone and never let go.
The “Trial of the Century” made CourtTV a household name, and in my opinion, changed news gathering permanently – and not for the better. Yes, it was a story to be reported and followed, but the news media went viral on it.

Things got worse when the trial started. Simpson’s trial was one of the first to be televised…and "all things celebrity" was the norm for the U.S. news media from there.

Today news centers around what happens to be trending, in my opinion. Poverty, high unemployment, starvation, ineffective schools, ineffective Congress and state governments (at least in my state – Michigan) – not as fun as what the Kardashians or similar celebrities/athletes, etc. are doing – and therefore do not make the headlines as much.

The trial of the century got huge play – and the news media hasn’t let up on focusing on such stories since. I admit – I get sucked in by this type of news coverage myself – but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to read about or watch news on these other important topics.

Twenty years later, Simpson is still news – and I understand why. Doesn’t mean I like what spawned from it as news media priorities since then.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

To the best Dad, ever -- Happy Father's Day

And you had a good example to learn from...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Don't call it local news anymore...

I published this post almost a year ago...and unfortunately nothing has changed in the local news media since then -- at least in my opinion.

I was recently in my hometown of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and looked at the Sunday edition of its newspaper, the Oshkosh Northwestern. Not only am I familiar with the paper because I grew up reading it, it was my first full-time reporting job out of college. I learned a lot from my editors there. Back then it was privately owned. Now it's a Gannett paper. I'm quite familiar with Gannett -- I've been a staffer at three of their newspapers in my career.

What struck me going through that paper -- and it didn't take long -- was the fact there was so little local news. I think I counted three local stories in the front section, with wire copy making up the rest.

Though very disappointed, I was not surprised. The same holds true for many newspapers across the nation. I now live in Michigan and subscribe to the Jackson Citizen PatriotThough I am a subscriber, I only physically receive the paper at my home three days a week -- Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. They figure I can read it online all the other days.

Like my hometown rag, this paper runs more wire copy than local copy. They also re-run stories that are in the Monday, Wednesday and Friday papers on the "delivery" days in case you didn't buy it at the newsstand (What? I"m a subscriber! I shouldn't have to get it at a newsstand!). At least the Northwestern delivers seven days a week to subscribers.

What I don't get? Research shows locals still look to their local papers for local and community news. The National Newspaper Association's annual survey of local subscribers shows that 83 percent of readers rely on newspapers for local news and information and 75 percent read all or most of the paper. Yet, dailies are cutting staff and the amount of local news they run.

Of those readers with internet access, 49 percent said they never read the paper online. Local newspapers - are you listening?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Proud of this guy!

This is a blog worth reading. And yes, I am related to him. It's my brother! He encouraged and convinced me to blog.

Andrew McIlree

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Yup, I wrote it...

Back in the Dark Ages, otherwise known as the beginning of my journalism career (the 80s and 90s), publishing a press release as is was a huge no-no. There were a number of reasons for that -- it could have been poorly written, or not written using Associated Press Style.

Needless to say, they were edited like crazy. In some cases, they were assigned to a reporter to follow up on and turn into a story. With a byline.

In addition to freelance writing, I also handle communications for a local non-profit. I keep the website up to date as well as write press releases and provide other media information.

Imagine my surprise when I saw my press release published in my local newspaper in Jackson, Michigan...with a byline attached to it. The funny thing is, it wasn't mine! The writing was -- but the byline was that of a stringer for the paper.

Really? No, I didn't want my name on it. That's not the point. But taking credit in the form of a byline for a press release? Yuck.

I realize that the way small town journalism is today means there are probably not as many opportunities like the one I had when this photo at the right was taken -- I witnessed the kidney transplant of a local resident -- one I had interviewed about his journey prior to the organ transplant. I also followed up once he was home.

If the press release byline is the new media, then we're all in trouble.

Monday, June 9, 2014


It's June, but to me it seems to be March...winter lasted way too long!

Friday, June 6, 2014

This goes to show you can just about conquer anything...

I may spend this entire Blogathon writing about the awesome stories I've seen in the news media lately. Trust me - I don't use the word "awesome" and "news media" in the same breath very often.

I saw it on the NBC Nightly News this week. A young man in Florida overcame the rigors of losing his mom to cancer, as well as homelessness and graduated as valedictorian of his high school class with a 4.0+ grade point average. He also gave the commencement speech to his fellow students. This awesome young man will be attending college -- and rightly so.

Congratulations, Griffin Furlong. You are an inspiration to us all.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Making Assumptions

Like many Americans, I have been following the story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. As usual, I feel the news media has jumped to conclusions about this young man. No, I don't know what exactly happened five years ago when he left his unit. But neither does anyone else. That information will come when the military does it's investigation into this matter.

Until then - don't judge. About the fairest coverage I've seen on this so far is in The New York Times.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Renews my faith in humanity...

Yes, there are still good people out there.

Richard Coleman
It's amazing, but in my quest to blog about the news media, I see these awesome stories and I just can't help commenting on them. Today I read about a New York woman who saw a homeless man every day for years on her way to work in New York City.

Then, all of the sudden, the woman, Juanita Vega, didn't see the man, Richard Coleman, anymore. As it turned out, he died and was destined to burial in a "potter's field." Ms. Vega, with the help of her boyfriend, who works at a funeral home, paid to have him properly buried in a cemetery in New Jersey.

Read about it here. God bless you, Juanita Vega.
His final resting place, due to the kindness of Juanita Vega.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A New Experience With Some Awesome Athletes

This past Saturday I volunteered, along with my coworkers, at the Michigan Special Olympics Summer Games at Central Michigan University. It's the first time I have volunteered at one of their events and it was a humbling and eye-opening experience.

Why? I'll tell you why.

I did not see one of the athletes, no matter of what age, throw a temper tantrum, swear or do anything else derogatory because they missed a shot -- in this case, the competition was bowling. Everyone was pleasant to each other, no matter what team they were on. There was a lot of high fives and "Good Job!" exclamations by both athletes and coaches.

One young lady, who looked like she suffered from Down's Syndrome, threw a strike. She turned around with a big smile on her face and then teared up.  So did I.

Well done, Michigan Olympians. Now I know why they call you all "special." You sure are.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Today's Media, Be It Social or News

I had the pleasure of attending the Ripon College 2014 Commencement last month -- the main reason being my niece, Maureen "Mo" McIlree, was graduating with (like her aunt) a degree in English. The best part of the service was seeing Mo get her degree. The second best part was listening to the speakers, David Plotz and Hanna Rosin of the online magazine Slate.

It was an excellent commencement address, and rather than me paraphrasing it, you can read about it here.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Blogathon 2014 Starts Today!

Okay, I'm at it again. Yes, I blog, but not as frequently as my other writer colleagues. After participating in Wordcount's Blogathon 2013 and almost blogging the entire month, I vowed that I would participate in 2014 and THIS TIME I would blog the entire 30 days.

So it's out there - I'm a participant and plan to go the distance this year in the Freelance Success/WordCount 2014 Blogathon. While lately I've been writing about the news media and it's lack of accuracy (among other things), topics may run the gamut during this competition.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fast is Better Than Accurate...Not!

I had the pleasure of watching my niece graduate from Ripon College this past weekend. An added plus was listening to David Plotz, editor-in-chief of Slate, and Hann Rosin, journalist and founder of the women's website DoubleX.

During a panel discussion, which included Ripon alumnus and Los Angeles Times editor Mark Porubcansky, the topic was today's media. What these three veteran journalists sadly acknowledged is that quickness overshadows accuracy in much of the news media today.

I totally agree -- and here are some examples I came across while reading the "news" (and I use the term loosely) this morning. Quick sure doesn't mean accurate...or intelligent.

We celebrate the arm in Jackson...

I didn't know John Barnes was writing Tim Skubick's op eds for him. Bet Tim and John didn't know either...

'Nuf said...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I just don't get it

If only my mother had the internet. She loved correcting everyone's grammar and I guess I get that trait from her -- not to mention majoring in English in college.

But instead of pointing it out to people as they are speaking, I am a nut about pointing grammar and spelling errors out on billboards, television shows and ads...and my favorite target -- newspapers.

As I've pointed out previously, one used to get fired for making mistakes like the one I'm about to show you. Today, however, you just get grumps like me blogging about it. Ironically, this was the paper's e-version -- which they could correct, if they wanted to.


Friday, February 7, 2014

There is a reason...

....that the nickname for this paper -- the CitPat -- is frequently altered to use a slang term for poop. You get my drift...