Ohio Newshound

Same old same old

March 26, 2014
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Just chillin’ out, workin’, suppressing and debunking Facebook rumors.

No big deal.


It’s Good to Know These Things 12 Years Later, or My Life is a Fall Out Boy Song Title

March 22, 2014
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Dave and Married Female Friend, trading stories of horrid dates over the years on Facebook:
Married Female Friend: “So did you know I had a huge crush on you in college? These crazy dating stories make me think I should have said something back then since I’m nowhere near as batshit as some of these folks.”

Dave: “Well, I know now. And honestly, I had a big crush on you, too.”

Married Female Friend: “Gah, Dave! This is one of those horrible missed connection stories! Shame on us, seriously.”


In Dreams Part 2(?)

March 21, 2014
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[Wait. The last time I wrote something here was FOUR YEARS AGO???]

Couldn’t sleep tonight. Again.

Head cold. Stress. Money. Life. Work. [Pick two or three]

Weeeeeeeird dreams lately. Weird. Fancy lake house in the Pacific Northwest. Shenanigans involving neighbors. I wish I could afford a house like that. I wish I could afford *A* house.

Also, in the same dream somehow, a low-rent Jake Gyllenhaal lookalike was a private investigator and together we linked four apparently unrelated murders (including one of a Korean dry cleaner) to a previously unknown serial killer. We chased a suspect through the rain, into a parking garage, where he sped off in a van. I shouted something like “Hey stop!” (You know how you can never *quite* remember stuff that was said or written down in a dream?) How cliche.

A lot of my dreams involve mysteries that would do well to be written down in long form. Also, they involve a lot of guest appearances by celebrities. One of my favorites of all time (while I was loaded up on Chantix) was Kate Beckinsale and Simon Pegg as British intelligence agents helping me chase down Russian mobsters in London who were shooting at us with bright blue darts tipped with drugs that made time slow down and red darts that made time speed up if they hit you.

Also, I recently had a dream (again set in the Pacific Northwest) involving a ferry that went missing for decades that I and some other intrepid amateur detectives ended up finding intact on dry land (weird), in the process solving another mystery that I can’t remember.

My brain is like a 7-11. Always open, full of cheap thrills, caffeine and nicotine. Occasionally I play the lottery and hang out outside of it, like I wish I’d done in high school because that sounds cool and like a very Jersey thing to do.

One killer update

January 12, 2010
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I will never be a famous blogger if I don’t actually blog. I have come to accept this, I suppose.

There are 10 (alleged) murderers now locked up in the county jail. Nine will be going to trial (one pleaded guilty).

The number of victims? Four (4). Only four. Four suspects in one killing, three in another, two in another. And one lone suspect.

None of them used weapons, as far as I know. Fists and feet, is what I’m hearing.

You’ve got to really, really hate someone to just literally beat them to death. Whatever happened to shooting or stabbing someone? Apparently in Portage County, criminals aren’t that creative.

Needless to say, I’m going to have a job security for some time, covering all these murder trials.

Posted in Crime, Life, Loss

It’s Funny, But …

November 5, 2009
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… I’m so busy at work, so buried in stories …

… I haven’t wasted more than five minutes any day since I’ve returned …

… I have been working my tail off to keep the paper in copy, and doing a hell of a job of it, in my estimation …

… I’ve been working smarter, not harder, as has everyone else …

… I’m not having AS MUCH fun as we used to, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world …

… I’m getting in early, staying late, leaving sad because I love being in the newsroom, living the news …

… I wasn’t as missed as I thought I would be, having already had at least a dozen people say “I never knew you were gone! I just knew I wasn’t seeing your name in the paper as much.” (Try “at all”)

… It’s still the greatest gig I’ve ever had … so much so that failing the police exam and being off work for nine months is quickly becoming a distant memory.

Welcome Back! Now Get to Work!

October 24, 2009
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My first week back at The Newspaper was an interesting one. A few drug arrests, a John Plough story (naturally), I started a new Twitter account and had a great chat with our sheriff (he looked tired and worried about his budget).

I think there were two days I worked 12 or 14 hours. I started one day at 8 a.m. and didn’t put the finishing touches on my story until 10 p.m. when my source FINALLY called me back. I think that was Tuesday. Wednesday was also a long day, where I had to go BACK to the office to finish up a story for Thursday. Thursday I worked a split, going in at 8 a.m., leaving around 3 p.m., going back at 6 p.m., finally getting home after 10.

The more things change … Man, am I glad to be back.

Back In The Saddle. On a Mission.

October 19, 2009
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So after 9 months and 3 days of unemployment, I got the call I was waiting for:

“I’d like to welcome you back to the family,” my former (and future) boss told me, as I sat in the car in the drive-thru of an Akron-area fast food joint.

I got home, parked my car and did some primal scream therapy. For a good reason.

I’m now the the police/court beat reporter for the Record-Courier in Portage County. A job which, I won’t kid you, I’ve wanted for years. I have always done good work when dealing with crime and big breaking news and trials.

I hope I can just make my good friend Marci proud by taking over her old job. Strangely enough, the Akron Beacon Journal had a front page story about her death today. A story that I’m sure affected everyone from the newsroom who knew her.

So my work, starting Monday, is dedicated to her memory. And to the memory of a few other people I’ve crossed paths with over the years, who are gone from our lives or have moved on.

This is for you.

If I Get Laid-Off During a Recession*

October 3, 2009
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*- Apologies to author Tim O’Brien (no relation) for borrowing (parodying? parroting?) the title of his work “If I Die In A Combat Zone”

If I couldn’t turn back the clock to the day I was laid off or any day previous to prevent losing my job due to economic conditions in the newspaper industry … If I couldn’t turn back the clock and go back to college and choose another major so that I could do something else like become a nurse or a lawyer or anything else …

… I would offer the following advice to anyone who is getting laid off or has been laid off recently and worries about the next few months. It’s less job-seeking advice and more “how to live now that you don’t have a job” advice. Some of this advice, my own advice, I wish I’d followed in retrospect. Some of it I did, and learned from the experience, and am better for it.

This isn’t expert advice. It doesn’t come from some B.S. book or anything like that. It’s just my own experiences, better or worse.

1) Don’t Panic. Easy enough, right? We all go through the stages of grief, which definitely suck, but we all go through them at our own speed. So don’t freak out. Don’t commit suicide. Don’t threaten suicide. Don’t go smash-up your former workplace. Burning bridges is a bad idea, because when the opportunity arises, you may have to re-cross that bridge. Seriously, it was a job. It may have been a DREAM job, but it is not worth killing yourself over.

2) Use Your Severance Wisely. If you get a severance, and companies don’t have to give you this but some do, use it carefully. If you can, maybe put down a chunk of it against your rent if you have an understanding landlord. Don’t go spend it all in a shopping spree to help yourself feel better. You’re going to need to parcel it out slowly. Maybe put some in an interest-earning account. It won’t earn much, but it may earn a little. And use that medical coverage, if it is being maintained for a month or more beyond your termination/release date. Talk to your doctors, dentists, chiropractor. Set up a check-up ASAP and get as many medications you might need and can afford ahead of time so you won’t be wanting later. Get the number, name, address of a good free clinic from a trusted physician and utilize it when the benefits run out.

3) Cut Up Your Credit Cards. You will thank me on this one. It’s one of the pieces of my own advice I didn’t follow. I kept using mine, and I’m now drowning in credit card debt. Pay off what you can with the money you have saved, and just cut up your cards and toss them out. You’re going to be going out looking for a job soon, and

4) Work Your Contacts. As a journalist, this was easy for me. I have dozens upon dozens of business cards I kept on hand throughout the years and I called tons of these folks for advice or possible jobs. Neighbors, old friends, school friends, friends-of-friends, social clubs … these folks know other folks, some of whom might be looking to hire. Alumni organizations are great to network. I’m glad there is a growing one from my college in this area. I’d have been really lost without some of their input and advice. If you went to a private high school, the alumni network is another great way to get back on your feet.

5) Use Government Assistance. I haven’t signed up for food stamps … yet. But it’s coming, and it’s coming soon. Your taxes have already paid for this, so get while the getting is good. Better to save that money in your severance for other bills, and subsist on the basics for a while. Apply for unemployment, too, as long as you haven’t been terminated for cause. You will need it. Be forewarned, most unemployment benefits won’t pay out until your severance money is gone.

6) If You Can Downgrade, Do It. Look for a new car/home insurance company that might be able to give you a better price. Save your statements and take them to your insurer’s competitors. This could save you loads. I wish I had done this earlier …

7) Entertainment Can Be Cheap. If you’re a movie junkie and you just can’t live without that rental on a Friday night … keep in mind many local libraries rent DVDs as well as books. I have seen every film I want to see on my local library’s DVD shelf by now. They even had some classics I hadn’t seen in years that I re-visited with fondness. And there are some movie theaters that run second-run or original run movies for $1 or a little more. That means you could go to the movie theater and see TWO films AND buy popcorn for the price of just ONE film at the regular first-run cinema.

8) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help. Overdraft your bank account? Call the bank and see if they can’t eliminate some of those overdraft charges. I did, for a particularly bad financial week, and they were uber-helpful. It wasn’t much, but it did make a difference. If you have family who can help, ask them. I’ve got an AMAZING family that has done everything from send money to send potential job ideas, pieces cut out of the newspaper that gave career advice (though I’ve noticed that at least 8 out of 10 “professional career advisers” are complete bullsh*t artists who wouldn’t be “professional career advisers” if they could get a real job themselves … beware anyone who calls themself an “expert” on anything, especially “Internet dating” or “careers.” )

9) Don’t Give Up Hope. This is basically the same thing as “Don’t Panic.” I’ve had a lot of really shitty nights where I thought nothing was ever going to go my way. I had a job interview that came up, and where I thought I was awesome, they thought I was awesome, too. The Big Boss didn’t see it that way, though. But I kept on plugging away, firing off my resume wherever I could.

Still waiting for that call back from my dream employer. And while my cupboards are bare and I’m behind on my bills, I’m not giving up. I do wish I’d done some things differently, made some better decisions about my finances and my life in the interim … but I’m alive and that’s what matters right now. We’re in a national funk, and I’m in a personal funk, but I (and we) will make it out somehow.

ALMOST FORGOT: 10) If You Can Freelance, Freelance. This goes out mostly to the graphic designers and writers among us who got the big, ugly ax. Or anyone with skills that people seek on a freelance basis (I don’t know … mercenary work??? I hear there are some wars going on around the globe …). I’m in the middle of my second freelance gig with the same Northeast Ohio hospital. I make my own hours (I don’t get paid if I don’t do the work, so I’m inclined to work my @ss off …) and I get to do some interesting stories. I even came up with one of my own that I’m going to pitch to a magazine. There’s nothing the bean-counters love more than not paying benefits to someone who does the work anyway. And for relatively cheap.

OH, AND: 11) Don’t Stop Looking For New Jobs.

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The New T(w)ools of Journalism: My Reply to Daniel Lyons

September 24, 2009
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In the most recent issue of Newsweek, Daniel Lyons¬† says Twitter is “stupid.” He goes on to describe how Dane Cook and other celebrities use it to communicate and archive the most mundane moments of their lives for their “followers,” and how that helps them build a cult of personality and idiocy.

I tend to agree with his estimation, after being outraged reading just the headline. But I also think he’s slightly off-track in dismissing everything it brings to the table, like those who said TV would never replace radio, or the guy who though that porno theaters would survive the VHS era. And the guy after him, who thought porn on VHS would never be supplanted by DVDs. And the guy who thought that DVDs would never die, only to see his stock plummet when someone discovered: “Damn. I can have porn on the Internet!”

Moving on … I’m a heavy Twitter user myself (some weeks more than others) because I enjoy the tiny moments of 140-character hilarity that my “followers” and those I follow bring to the Twitter buffet table. I like repeating funny comments and quotes and being able to think up my own to try and make people laugh. Or make them more politically active. Or to outrage them.

Or to inform them. Which is why Twitter has been embraced by some journalists, to their credit. And mocked by others, to their loss.

I’m talking about audience. The audience of Twitter-using, Twitter-deriding or Twitter-curious (call it “twi-curious”) people who have seen the CNN coverage, read the NY Times or Washington Post or LA Times coverage of the phenomenon and have either A) made up their minds, or B) are still confused, scared or uninformed about the power it could wield.

This is the same American public that has helped kill newspapers, made (first) Bill Gates and (second) Steve Jobs gods among men and watches the junk that now appears on primetime TV, goes to the movies and sees remakes of classic Hollywood slasher films, where “original” filmmaking is all about re-hashing scripts of Japanese J-horror flicks but with blondes who speak English or follows the “adventures” of people on “The Hills” or “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Basically, a public without taste. People who still think “MTV” stands for “Music Television.” But a public that is also without the willpower to anchor their attention to one thing (like a newspaper) with more than 140-characters and no 30-second sound bites. Twitter is for the attention-deficit among us, those who want 24/7 cable news coverage of bombs falling on Baghdad. And it’s journalistic gold. Several popular Twitter users are journalists “writing” from courtrooms or using Twitter to push their blogs *cough, cough*.

It’s also for those of us who want to see journalism survive. To transcend ink and newsprint and move into a new age where the old ideals of objectivity, fairness, education and muck-raking can live in harmony.

Speaking of blogs: I am of the firm belief that every journalist in America needs one. If only to post once a day what they’ve seen on their beat. To aggregate their own favorite blogs and those of their colleagues. We do SO MUCH Internet searching and use the ‘Net so frequently at work that it simply makes sense to keep our reading public engaged. Sure, there will always be people who need a paper and a cup of coffee in the morning so they can go to the pub/bar/Bob Evans for lunch and dish about that morning’s news.

But there are others who don’t care for the ink stains and the wet pages after the rain when the plastic bag fails or to dig their paper out of the snowbanks of cold Northeast Ohio. For them, those who can fiddle around on the ‘Net at work, blogs and Twitter are a god-send: Exactly what the person on the go needs to kill time on the bus or the plane on the way home (with the help of the ever-present iPhone, Saint Jobs be praised …).

Yes, Twitter is stupid. And yes, it has helped break news and kept people engaged with what was going on in Iran. Lyons, in Newsweek, gave it that much credit. But it’s stupid like a fox. A fox that reads in 140-character messages on his Blackberry.

Embrace it or not. I have chosen to do so because I can use my Twittering and blogging powers for good, rather than evil. To engage and instruct and inform, rather than to bore or stupefy.

My Dreams, They Are Sequels

September 23, 2009
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The massive, abandoned junkyard appeared in another one of my dreams last night.

It’s a foreboding place. Where you’d expect a horror film to end with the killer squished to death under several tons of wrecked cars or the ubiquitous car crusher. Dusty, empty save for rusting hulks of metal and pieces of machinery. Most likely, it’s modeled after a real quarry on S.R. 43 north of Kent. At least the entrance is.

My childhood backyard shows up from time to time, too. Occasionally there is a barn crammed in one corner, or a gravel path where there is actually a stream flowing out of the hillside. At least once I’ve quested up the hillside to a cave I know doesn’t exist to rescue someone. I’ve also seen creatures descend from the hills and chase me down the mountain where I could cross the river (which is fed by the stream) to safety.

When I was taking Chantix to quit smoking, I had some great, vivid dreams. One or two people I know tried the stuff and couldn’t handle the clarity of the night visions, so they stopped. I’m naturally imaginative, and sometimes I even thrill to the feeling after waking up from a great nightmare.

Call me crazy. It’s true.

I got the name for a character in a story I’m working on from a dream last week. I’ve had this happen only once before, from a dream I had while hooked up to machines in a hospital bed. I had vomited so hard the day before that I thought my heart would burst out of my chest. It didn’t, but I got a decent villainous character out of that drug-induced sleep. Haven’t decided where I’ll use him yet.

And almost every time I dream these days, it feels like I’ve dreamt it all before. Like there isn’t anything new. Even when there is.

Posted in Dreams, Insomnia, Writing
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