Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rest in Peace, Paper Newspaper

It's only a matter of time before the paper newspaper -- you know, the one delivered to your door -- is done for and all news is digital. I'm sorry that I will likely live to see it -- I am a huge fan of newspapers, and though I like digital, I prefer a paper in my hand.

Gannett just spun off their digital side into a company called TEGNA. Though they still have print newspapers, a great deal of their energy goes to digital publication. That's where the audience is -- I understand that. I just don't think what they are publishing is news.

And, what the heck -- let me get more grouchy. I was on the website of a newspaper I used to work for as a reporter -- the Battle Creek Enquirer. I like to look at their staff list, as there are still some of my former colleagues working there.

But...get a load of their titles.

Content Storytelling Coach? Seriously? How about Local Storyteller? Or Planning Editor? 


Monday, June 29, 2015

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I Hope I Live Long Enough...

...to see the next generation of change. No, I'm not planning on leaving Earth any time soon. Volunteering at a recycling site earlier this month made me think of this.

When I looked at some of the electronic waste coming in for recycling, it hit home to me -- again -- how much things have changed. Someone brought in an IBM selectric typewriter. Boy, I wanted one of those when I was in my 20s. They were the Rolls Royce of electric typewriters. Now they are junk.

Similarly, I was working at another recycling site a year or so ago and someone recycled a bag cell phone. I had one long ago when I was commuting to a job in another city 50ish miles away. It was the latest and greatest thing back then -- I had the very first iteration of them -- and it wasn't cheap. And you could not rely on having any sort of signal to make a call.

The college students working with us that day were interested and amazed at the bag phone - they couldn't believe it. Had to admit, I felt a bit old!

With my grandparents, it was going from riding horse and buggy to riding in cars. With my parents, it was going from listening to the radio to watching TV. My generation and beyond has had to deal with cell phones, e-books, computers and more.

So what will be next? Time will tell. It will be interesting to watch!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sounds Good to Me!

I so hope this issue is now history -- though, given there is an upcoming presidential election year, conservative mouths will be wagging. I was pleasantly surprised at the Supreme Court decision Friday - I thought they didn't have enough votes. I am so very glad for my friends in these marriages that I was wrong. Well done, U.S. Supreme Court!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Maybe they'll give Pulitzer Prizes for press releases!

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.
Here I am reporting from an operating 
room - photo by Doug Allen

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...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!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Even Happening to the Big Guys

Three major U.S. newspapers have laid off or bought out staff in the last six to seven months. One was USA Today -- who has done this before, and having worked for Gannett and USA Today myself (long ago), I'm not surprised. Sad, but not surprised.

The New York Times bought out and laid off staff in December. USA Today did it in March. Now's it's The Wall Street Journal's turn. WSJ eliminated entire teams of reporters, according to what I read, and they closed international bureaus. They said they wanted WSJ to become more of a digital operation.

That's all well and good, but I firmly believe it will mean less quality for what was an outstanding newspaper. Hated their editorial page views, but the other sections are outstanding. Sure hope they stay that way, but I seriously doubt it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Is Good Writing Dead?

Yes, it is. The ability to write and spell correctly is gone. I really think it is the byproduct of the instantaneous internet and social media.

Here's what happens when you post a story that basically says this accident occurred, but not much else. Do copy editors even exist anymore? Hey reporters -- proofread before you post -- okay???

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sometimes I Wonder....

...about what life would be like if we didn't have the Internet, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Or what life would be like without smart phones, tablets and the like.

Having been born in 1960, I know what it's like to not have all of this. It just wasn't around when I was a kid. Now I am sounding like my grandmother, who told me about driving a horse drawn wagon to school listening to the radio before television was around.

Granted, change is inevitable. But what bothers me about the changes today is what it has done to communication. Yes, there is a ton of communication - but rarely is it face to face. It's a text or a Facebook posting or a Tweet. And it's rarely full sentences anymore.

Family gatherings consist of the family members texting rather than having conversations, Or staring at their smart phone and looking at Facebook instead of the faces in the room.

Don't get me wrong - I love the Internet, Facebook and all the new electronics.

But I miss face-to-face communication. And I don't see it becoming popular again anytime soon.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day...

...to the best Dad, ever! And to quote him..."Don't let the day get away from you!"

Saturday, June 20, 2015

I Feel Like I'm Back in the 60s

...and not for a good reason. Granted, I was very young then, but my parents were adamant about instilling in their children that all people are created equally -- no matter gender, nationality, age, beliefs, or color of their skin. I was blessed to grow up in that atmosphere.
Library of Congress Photo

It was a horrific time, particularly for African Americans -- watching the news at night was painful. But the civil rights movement was strong and it eventually accomplished it's goal -- civil rights for all Americans, no matter your origin.

Ya think?

It's like we've turned back time -- a young white man turns a gun on an African American bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina and multiple African American men have been shot to death in incidents involving law enforcement and others. This reminds me, again, of watching the evening news in the 60s -- the deaths of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind here.

This has to stop. I wish I knew how.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Brian Williams - Sorry To See Him Go

Yes, he embellished - nay, he lied about several of his experiences. Like most liars, he was found out. Did is affect is credibility? Absolutely. Could his credibility be restored? I think it's possible.

Please know I don't condone what Brian Williams did. But NBC overreacted -- yes, he deserved to be on unpaid leave for as long as he was. But, in my mind, Brian Williams reads the news. For the most part, he doesn't report it. There's a difference. Doesn't give him the right to lie about his experiences, but I'm not surprised. And to me, it doesn't reflect on the rest of the news staff at NBC.

When I was a newspaper reporter, accuracy was important -- particularly for reporters. About everything. We turned our noses up at television news -- and we used the term "news" lightly. Unfortunately it's the case for both television and newspaper journalism today -- but that's a topic for another blog post.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

TBT - 1981

The view from my dorm room at Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

This Day...33 Years Ago

My alma mater, Kalamazoo College, is holding its commencement exercises today. It's a beautiful ceremony that is usually held on the College's quad. Hopefully, weather didn't intervene and the ceremony didn't go indoors.

I bring this up because I remember the day I received my degree -- in English -- like it was yesterday. My college experience included a study abroad in Sierra Leone, as well as several internships in both television and newspapers. It was an amazing four years.

And...I didn't want to leave. Well, I did, but not in the way most think. College was safe -- a place to live, a place to eat and something to do all day. I didn't have a job lined up -- the economy in 1982 was similar to what it is today.

My niece, Emily McIlree, recently graduated from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was going through the same emotions -- time to leave the "safe" haven and jump into the real world. She is very marketable -- a degree in graphic design and a bunch of experience under her belt.

Is this every college graduate? Hard to tell. I can only image what hangs over today's graduate -- not only a recovering economy, but student debt that just blows my mind. Yes, I had student debt when I graduated -- $10,000 to be exact -- and I paid it off. That's nothing compared to today's grads.

Best of luck to Emily and to my now fellow alumni (class of 2015) from Kalamazoo College.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

It Can Be Dangerous To Blog...

...if you are in Saudi Arabia. I saw the story on NBC News of 31-year-old Raif Badawi, who was convicted and incarcerated there for his liberal blog. He was sentenced to 1,000 lashings and a decade in prison...for just voicing his opinion. Be strong, Raif. You are in my prayers.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Captain Nature

I'd post a photo of Captain Nature here -- but it's my husband, Steve, and he's not a fan of publicity about him.

I will, however, talk about one of his passions -- recycling. My first experience with recycling was when I was a youngster and my mom had my brother and I volunteer at a glass recycling place in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

Mom was pretty much ahead of her time when it came to things like that. She did not tolerate littering by anyone, especially her kids, and was all about environmental sustainability.

Fast forward to 1997 when I met Steve and 1998 when we got married. My husband is very passionate about the environment -- his degree is in fishery and wildlife management. He works for the State of Michigan for the Department of Environmental Quality, overseeing...you guessed it -- recycling programs.

Because of our recycling (yes, he drew me into it), the amount of trash we put on the curb is minimal -- one or two bags in month.

We both volunteer for a non-profit that collects just about every recyclable there is -- and what fascinates me the most is the electronic recycling. It is amazing what people toss aside -- yes, I am glad they recycle, but the quest for the next greatest electronic thing really stumps me. Why?

Yes, when things break down they need to be replaced. But to dump what you have for the latest flat screen TV, smart phone, etc. I just don't get it. It's a byproduct of our "gotta have it" society.

Do you really need it?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Throw Back Thursday

Circa 1993 -  I was a Ioaned reporter at USA Today. One of my favorite summers...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Gives Me Hope Good Journalism Isn't Dead

This is a USA Today story regarding investigative journalism that makes me hope there are still reporters out there with the passion, as well as newspapers who support them.

Monday, June 8, 2015

An Unlikely Connection

The following is a liturgy I did several years ago about a mission trip I was a part of after Hurricane Sandy

We got out to Jersey and landed at this small Cape Cod style house on the bay – it was painted a loud shade yellow and it was sandwiched in between two very large coastal mansion type homes.
Rich and Donna were the names of the couple who lived there – the house had been in Rich’s family for years and he inherited it from his aunt. Rich was self-employed, as was his wife, and although they had insurance, like many others in their position, it had failed them, as had the Red Cross and FEMA. They had no permanent place to stay since last October – they camped out in various homes of friends and family throughout the area.

Rich looks like Hulk Hogan and to say he was a little rough around the edges would be putting it mildly. He has no problem letting go with the F word – not calling anyone it, but using it as an adjective. He is not your typical Jersey shore resident. Nor is his home a typical Jersey shore home.

He shared with us later that he wasn’t one to take a handout, and he had grave concerns when he saw a group of four men, and more to the point, four women (what could they do?) come to his home. It was a little stiff that first morning…in hindsight, Rich probably thought he had a group of Bible thumpers there trying to save his soul and probably not there to be of much use otherwise.

We started proving him wrong right off the bat – we got out our tools and started hanging drywall (or what Easterners call sheet rock) in his little two bedroom home. Not only could he see that we knew what we were doing, but we laughed at his jokes, talked about all sorts of stuff, including his life and our lives. We were actually human. Not some group of Midwestern WASPs coming out to poo poo the poor Jersey guy and maybe do some work and then pat ourselves on the back.

Lunch time came that first day and Rich said that under no uncertain terms were we to provide our own lunch – he and Donna would do that. That first day they cooked out for us in their yard – and told us the story of how they did all their cooking on their grill after the hurricane. Every day after that, Rich would go to one of many of his favorite places to get us lunch – fried chicken, ribs, pizza – one day he went all the way to Atlantic City at 4 in the morning to bring back lunch for us. He said it was the least he could do. We tried, but there was no telling Richie no.

We just clicked – our entire group and Richie and Donna. He told us about family members who had been and are currently in prison, his rough upbringing, and how he doesn’t really fit in his neighborhood anymore. We told him stories about our lives. We shared a lot. If he was judging us because of what he thought we represented, that immediately stopped. And if any of us were judging him, because of his past or his mannerisms that also immediately went away.

On the last day, we finished off the drywall project, and he was nearly ready to paint the walls with next week’s group (though knowing Rich, he probably had it done before the group showed up). As we said good bye, Rich started to cry and thanked us for our help. He said gave us two silver angels – one for each van – to watch over us on the trip home. He implored us to be careful driving back to Michigan. He kept repeating “God bless you all” and then added – “and I’m an atheist saying this!” He also said that we had given him a lot to think about.

Needless to say, none of us leaving his house that last time had a dry eye either. While we have had incredible experiences and have learned something on each mission trip we have been on, we came away from this one with some truly transformative experiences.

We were just us – doing God’s work, not trying to save someone’s soul, but helping our fellow human being – giving back in response to what the Lord has given us. Maybe Rich will continue to be an atheist – who knows. That is a decision between him and God. But we are very confident in saying he probably looks at religion and Christians in another light.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

My Grandmother - Minnie McIlree

Minnie and Doc McIlree
I'm not sure my grandmother, Minnie McIlree, would be entirely pleased that I posted her photo on my blog, not to mention write about her. The photo at left shows my grandparents early on in their marriage.

I've written tons about Grandpa - now it's Grandma's turn. She was a wonderful grandmother -- kind and loving. She loved her family and put them before anyone or anything else.

You name it, she could cook it. My favorite were her egg pancakes -- also known as crepes. She made wonderful jam, with her specialty being rhubarb jam and raspberry jam.

You didn't want to be sick around Grandma -- particularly with a cold or sore throat. Why? Because she made you gargle with vinegar and water. Not exactly fun.

Her three children all had musical talent and it came from her. She used to sit next to me when I practiced piano and help me with the lesson.

She loved the fact that her grandchildren -- most of them -- were  tall. She wasn't tall. Throughout my single days she always told me that I should marry a man as tall or taller than me. I was once engaged to a man shorter than me. I introduced him to Grandma and she looked him up and down and then said to him, "She sure is tall, isn't she?" I don't think she was that upset when we broke off the engagement.

One of the things I admired most about Grandma was her writing. She kept a diary for decades -- right up to her death. It was chronicle of her life and I so admire her for doing it. Grandma basically recorded what transpired on that day -- she had nothing to hide and she let anyone, particularly her nosy granddaughter, read it. I truly think my love of writing came from her.

Thanks, Grandma. Though you didn't live long enough to see me get married, you'll be happy to know Steve is taller than me and you'd love his cooking!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Things My Grandfather Taught Me

Joseph R. McIlree
I don't exactly remember the first memory I have of my grandfather - Dr. Joseph R. McIlree - or, as everyone called him,  Doc.

I do, however, remember my last. Grandpa was in the hospital in Milwaukee in 1974. He'd had a stroke and our family went to see him. I just stood at the side of his bed and held his hand the entire time. The stroke had paralyzed his voice box so he couldn't speak.

I didn't know it was going to be the last time I saw him. Forty one years later, I still think of him often and remember the many things he taught me.

Grandpa was a veterinarian - mostly treated farm animals. I think of him every time I see someone trying to train their dog to do something and the dog isn't cooperating. He always said that in order to train a dog, you have to be smarter than the dog. Very true - and what I've discovered is it's a lesson that applies to so many other life situations.

You can see by the photo, he was a soldier. World War I, U.S. Army - served in Europe taking care of the horses - think of the movie "War Horse." That was my grandpa. He also told me once I was almost a quarter French - not sure if he was joking or not, but he hadn't met my grandmother yet.

He would sit in an upholstered chair in the living room of his house, and you had to pass by him to get from one end of the living room to the other. If you happened to be one of his young grandchildren, he would trap you with his legs as you were going by and tickle you. We loved it.

He loved my grandma's cooking, particularly her pie. It was his favorite food. I would ask him what his favorite kind of pie was, and he'd answer, "Pie." I figured he hadn't heard me, so I repeated the question and he would answer, "Pie."

One distinct memory I have of staying with my grandparents is the call of the mourning doves in their yard. For some reason, I never heard that bird at our house - or really remember hearing it anywhere.

Except now - since I've moved to Michigan and particularly since I live in a rural area, I hear them all the time. I look at it as my grandfather's way of staying with me.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Is it Mc or Mac?

Though I love my maiden name -- McIlree -- it often times bugged the crap out of me. Why? Because it was so weird to spell. Mc or Mac? Il or El? "How do you pronounce it?"

When I married in 1998, I was certain I was going to keep my maiden name -- I was really proud of it. But I was tired of spelling it, so I took my husband's name -- Noble. Now I get, "Is it spelled N-o-b-e-l or N-o-b-l-e?"


But back to what I promised yesterday. I was raised thinking that my family was of Scottish descent (moved to Ireland and then to the U.S.) and our surname was originally spelled "MacIlree."

Wrong. My younger brother, Andrew McIlree, has done extensive research on our family, and we are actually Irish. What little research I have done indicated the name means "son of the redhaired lad." If my brother and his wife have a son someday, then maybe it's true -- as Andrew is a redhead. It's the 692,573rd most common surname in the world and about 287 people bear this surname.

I was always told the name meant "royalty." Not sure the back story on that. As we've never been invited to royal weddings and all that, I'm thinking some relative made it up.

In Northern Ireland, it must have some history and here's why I think that. I've been to the U.K on several occasions prior to my marriage -- and EVERY time I left London to fly home, I was pulled over in security and everything...and I mean EVERYTHING...was searched. They even went through every page of whatever book I brought with me to read on the plane. I damn near missed both flights home!

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my brother and his wife were returning from their delayed honeymoon to Northern Ireland. Good thing I told Andrew about my experiences, because he went through the exact same thing leaving Ireland to come home. His wife did not, as she kept her maiden name -- Quinn.

So, instead of meaning "royalty," I'm thinking it has a rather negative meaning in the U.K. When I find out exactly what, I'll write about it.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

What's in a name?

What's in a name? What I learned about my McIlree ancestors, including my grandfather, Dr. Joseph R. McIlree (shown below) has always fascinated me. Tune in tomorrow and I will explain.

Dr. Joseph R. "Doc" McIlree

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I should have known better...

The tragic death of Vice President Joe Biden's son, Beau, brought home how much the news media has changed over the years -- particularly with the advent of social media. I was on a news site and happened to see a story regarding the death of Beau Biden and reaction from politicians and others. 

Good, I thought -- government officials and others were interviewed about it -- I want to read this. So I clicked on the story link...and found this:

Yes, Twitter posts. Also known as tweets. I was disappointed to say the least, but it's the times we are living in. Social media rules. Fine...but does it have to take the place of contacting a source and asking for a reaction or a quote? Apparently so. 


Monday, June 1, 2015

Day One

The start of Blogathon 2015. For me, it means trying to get more comfortable with putting myself out there.

Stay tuned...