Friday, April 28, 2006

Heroes On Board..Flight 93!

The other day on "The Focus" I had a chance to talk with Dennis Roddy a reporter with the Pittsburgh Press-Gazette. Dennis and three other reporters wrote an article for the newspaper in October of 2001 detailing the lives of those who boarded United 93 on September 11th, 2001.

He covered the stories of the four hijackers who boarded the plane while the other reporters talked with the family members of the passengers and crew. The plane crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania when the passengers rushed the cockpit. Otherwise they too might have hit another target on that fateful day.

I asked him if he was ready to see "United 93" Hollywood's first major film about 9/11. He said he had mixed feelings, but was curious to see how the event and people involved would be portrayed in the film.

After reading what he and the other three reporters wrote, I realized that almost 5 years later I may not be ready to see such a film. I remember covering 9/11 while I was working in Beaver Dam. It took about three days afterwards to realize that in doing the story from local angles and hearing the non-stop coverage provided by radio networks and television that I didn't have time to realize the enormity of the event.

From the sounds of it the film's producers took careful pains to tell the story. I certainly hope that is the case. For many of us the wounds remain fresh even though we didn't know anyone on the planes or in the twin towers or Pentagon. If you don't believe me read the account that Dennis and the other Pittsburgh Press-Gazette reporters wrote. Even now the sense of loss and disbelief still smarts.

I'm including a link to the story that ran on Sunday, October 28th, 2001. The version I printed out ran about 25 pages, but if you have the time it's well worth the read.

Here's one excerpt from the article:

"Flight 93 became an asterisk to a day of horror that claimed almost 5,000 lives, toppled buildings that stood like a twin Colossus on the New York shore, took down one side of the Pentagon, and ushered in a war without rules against an enemy without a state.

What made Flight 93 different was a decision reached somewhere over the skies of Western Pennsylvania, after passengers learned on cell phones that they were likely to be flown into buildings as the fourth in a quartet of suicide attacks.

They decided to fight."

Sadly if you do want to see the movie you will have to go to Oshkosh or West Bend. It's not coming to Fond du Lac.

Am I ready to see a film about 9/11? Honestly?

Here's the link;

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The New Michael Jackson

Is Tom Cruise the new Michael Jackson? I'm not referring to Jackson's alleged child touching problems, but more the outrageous behavior aspect.

Once upon a time I did movie reviews and a daily entertainment feature for another radio station. One of my guilty pleasures is watching "The Insider" while I'm typing up news stories or preparing "KFIZ Today" for the next day. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have become a staple for the show.

Recent examples of Tom's weird behavior have included the couch jumping incident on Oprah, comments on "The Today Show" about Brooke Shields use of prescription drugs and now his Jackson-like attempts to aviod the media. Okay I don't blame him on the last one. He didn't go as far as donning a disguise like Michael, but the three black SUVs taking seperate routes with only one containing the cute couple was a stroke of genius.

One of our staff members wondered why Tom never had a baby with wife #1 Mimi Rogers or wife #2 Nicole Kidman. Maybe Tom's just middle age crazy?

I still enjoy his movies and never really allow Hollywood shenanigans to prevent me from seeing a film I'm likely to enjoy. After all whether it's reel life or real life Tom Cruise is providing us with entertainment.

I wish Tom and Katie good luck on their marriage or as some might term it "Mission Impossible III."

Friday, April 21, 2006

Job Well Done

This week saw the end of leadership roles for two women at the top of local government. Brenna Garrison-Bruden's 12 years with the Fond du Lac County Board, the last four as County Board Chair concluded. Lindee Kimball's term as President of the Fond du Lac City Council also ended, although she continues to sit on the Council.

Tuesday night was tough for Brenna who is giving up the County Board to pursue a Master's Degree. She was touched by the heartfelt thanks Board members extended to her as they signed in for new two-year terms.

For Lindee it was a challenging year as new Council President Mark Jurgella noted. Some may criticize, but she remained level-headed and talked in the positive about city government the entire year.

The good news is there is no lack of women in leadership roles in private business and organizations. I thought about that and would like to mention a few. FAVR, Bethany House, ASTOP, the Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership, the Fond du Lac Area Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Marian College, Moraine Park Technical College, the Volunteer Center of Fond du Lac County, the Fond du Lac Area United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the list could continue.

Of course if you include goverment roles there's the County Clerk, Treasurer, Clerk of Courts, Register of Deeds and others on City Councils, Town and Village Boards.

As for Brenna and Lindee I have no doubt their leadership roles will continue as well. They both were fair in using the gavel at meetings. I wish them both continued success.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Naked Flag Pole

I'm a bit sad when I walk into the Fond du Lac Police Department on North Main Street these days. There are three flag poles. One has the U.S. Flag, another the Wisconsin State Flag, and the other sits naked. It has been for some time now.

That flag pole used to have a POW-MIA Flag on it, but the one the Department had wore out. It had to be destroyed. I'm told Veterans groups were contacted to see if they could arrange a replacement. That effort did not succeed. I even tried to intervene and contacted an area politician. I'm still waiting to hear back.

The Fond du Lac Police Department has a number of Veterans. Some of whom have served in recent wars including the one with Iraq. They have at least one current officer I'm aware of on military leave to serve in Iraq. A flag that symbolizes prisoners of war and those missing in action seems like a natural to sit alongside flags representing our country and our state.

Memorial Day is coming up. It sure would be nice to see someone present a new POW-MIA Flag to Police Chief Tony Barthuly. Some things should not be overlooked, some people should not be forgotten.

If you can help please contact the Fond du Lac Police Department at 906-5555. You can also contact them at

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Easter!

It was nice to see the recent effort of City and County of Fond du Lac employees who donated stuffed animals to brighten the Easter holiday for needy children.

Sandy Foote is the Community Services Officer with the Fond du Lac County Sheriff's Department. She told me she got the idea and decided to e-mail employees at the City-County Government Center never dreaming they'd donate over 500 Easter-related stuffed animals.

They were distributed to area shelters, clinics and schools who come across children from families that can't always afford things like Easter chocolate or jelly beans.

Sandy wrote another e-mail thanking those employees for their generous donations. Because of her humble nature she had Chief Deputy Sheriff Mick Fink pose with all those fuzzy bunnies before they were given out. I had the chance to pass by Sandy's office several times while the stuffed animals were taking up residence. It instantly elicited a smile, even when she wasn't seated in the office with them.

She shared with me that a recent tour of the the Sheriff's offices brought in "at-risk" children, who haven't had many good encounters with law enforcement officials. She says all those happy hares melted a few hearts.

Easter is after all about sacrifice and redemption.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Gasoline Blues!

It was amusing the other day to hear an industry expert say that the price of gasoline will probably hit $3.00 a gallon by Memorial Day. It doesn't seem to scare as much after we endured $3.50 a gallon or more in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Okay I was going to rant about prices going up at the pump 5-cents a gallon or more at a time and only coming down a couple cents when it does come down, if at all. Say what you will about the real driving factor in gasoline costs, but come on how can a major supplier come out with a quarterly profit of $100 billion and tell us it's out of their hands? That ain't rain I feel on my back!

I have to admit that I do now make travel decisions based on gasoline prices. We have a station vehicle, which I rarely use, but when I made a trip to cover a news event the other day in my car I turned in mileage. First time I've done that. It did sort of reimburse me for all the station business I do in my car without thinking twice about it, until now.

Every day events that once didn't bother you begin to take on new meaning. I got stuck at a railroad crossing the other night waiting for one of those 2-mile long procession of railroad cars from our friends at CN to go by. There were 4 cars ahead of me and I waited and waited. My patience started to wear thin until I saw the car behind me, a pizza delivery car. Then I began to wonder how patient the person waiting for the pizza was. Hope there wasn't a time incentive for the delivery, you know if it's not there within a half hour we eat the cost etc.

Meanwhile I find myself playing the gasoline lottery. How much money will I save gassing up at a certain time? I won it last week when I gassed up as gasoline hit $2.67 a gallon and watched it go up twice since to $2.74 a gallon.

I've decided I'm not going to let the price of gas totally impact my travel. Only difference is I'll visit relatives via e-mail.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Freedom of Speech!

There's nothing so precious as our right of Freedom of Speech. One of the best examples is the ability for people to speak before the Fond du Lac City Council. Recently we've heard from people on both sides of issues concerning the city's water, the humane society and proposed expansion of F-Dock.

There is a small problem with perception however. Those who sign up to speak are asked to give their addresses. However some don't give the full address for example on the water issue a number of people spoke from the Town of Taycheedah and while they have the right to do so those watching the proceedings on television at home might think they are watching another resident of the city express their point of view. We've also seen people from Madison and Milwaukee weigh in on issues. Again they have the right to do so, but sometimes they have ulterior motives and are using the podium to get across their own political self interests.

The Fond du Lac School District's recent referendum is another example of being able to speak your mind, which both sides did. The opposition talked about higher teacher salaries and benefits. District officials offered to sit down with those residents after the referendum and talk about it. Whether that will happen or the concerns brought up were again just so much howling at the wind remains to be seen.

The Internet and blog sites also recently heated up 1st Amendment talk when a blog site was temporarily shut down because of possibly libelous and sexually explicit comments made about a Winnebago County official. As one free speech expert put it "It's a whole new ball game." Anyone with an opinion can express it on a blog site, which I just did.

It's great to see people express their opinions, but as I've learned from my job you should try to see both sides of an issue. That can lead to compromise and sometimes fixing the very problem you're concerned about.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Are we overworked?

Are we overworked? Recently I heard the French have a 35-hour work week. Americans seem to super size their workload almost as much as we do our hamburgers.

I'm tired from Monday through Saturday, grabbing about 5 hours of sleep in a typical night and working long days. We used to talk about the 40-hour work week, but how many people work 50, 60 or 70 hours a week? I fall into the later category. I know I'm not alone. My brother John works 12-hour days, 6 days a week during the summer, gets 2 to 3 days off and then goes back on the same cycle.

What's worse is we take it home with us. A few years ago I might have said that when I left the radio station and went home for the day I was done. Now with the Internet I go home, take a break and then put another hour or more in on the computer working on a station newsletter, going through e-mail and sometimes typing up stories.

I talked with another reporter recently and found she too had a full plate and the heap just keeps getting bigger. When I started out in radio I was also holding down a job as a public safety dispatcher. Between the two jobs I was putting in more than 60 hours a week. I guess that set the tone. You see business professionals that happily put in their time, politicians, etc.

Then there's the professional pitfalls. For me it's watching TV newscasts and news shows, searching the Internet for more. That's not enough, I also have to check out the latest sports news.

What's most distressing are recent studies that found most Americans aren't getting as much sleep as they need. At least seven hours is recommended. Now teens are sleeping less too. It's no wonder coffee-flavored and energy drinks are doing so well.

It's hard to relax isn't it? It's just a matter of getting a good night's slee.........p!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Election Day Journal Tuesday, 4/4/06....

2:00 a.m. At work for a potentially long day. It always starts the same. I check my e-mail, voice mail and run a spyware program on the computer. Until 6 a.m. I write news, edit sound (taped interviews) and get news ready for our live morning newscasts.

5:00 a.m. I call our friendly area Sheriff's Departments and the State Patrol to see what's happened overnight. After that I spend some time editing our online newsletter KFIZ Today.

6:00 a.m. Our live newscasts begin. I enjoy this part of the day because even though I've been up now for several hours we help get other peoples' days started.

9:00 a.m. I start making phone calls to area school districts to confirm who we need to talk to for election results. Calls are also made to candidates to see where they will be for interviews this evening.

9:30 a.m. Off to the Fond du Lac Police Department to check through their reports. At 10 a.m. I drive out to a Highway 41 southbound exit ramp for a work zone safety press conference. It's sunny, windy and the traffic roars by the site, but three area workers have been killed in the last three years so it's important to be there.

12 p.m. I'm now at the Holiday Inn in Fond du Lac to cover the Fond du Lac Area United Way's annual awards luncheon. A good meal and some good company. On my way home, a little after 1 p.m. , I stop to vote. At 1:30 I stop home to catch a quick cat nap. It's going to be a late night.

2:30 p.m. Back on my way to work where I will again check e-mail, voice mail, edit sound from the press conference and awards luncheon and write stories. I then start putting together an elections result section for the newsletter and website.

6 p.m. I do some editing on tomorrow's edition of the newsletter and continue to work on newstories. An hour later I heat up some clam chowder in the station's microwave and munch on that while I continue preparation for election coverage.

8:00 p.m. Since we are carrying the Milwaukee Brewer's game we have to insert election reports during the game, but we're also updating results on the website. During this time I am updating the website, making calls to interview and congratulate the winners, doing reports and taking information from Wade Bates who's at the City-County Government Center to get Fond du Lac County results.

10:00 p.m. Most of the election results are final, but results for the Ripon Schools' referendum don't become final until the next hour. While I'm waiting I begin writing up stories on the results and editing sound for the next morning's newscasts.

11:45 p.m. I record two overnight newscasts with some of the results and teasing the morning newscasts. Afterwards I continue working on stories and editing sound from interviews.

1:10 a.m. My brain has now reached the mush stage and rather than write up something that's pretty pedestrian I decide to go home and catch a couple hours of shut eye. I do a last minute check of the station kitchen to make sure the coffee makers are off, turn off the lights and go home.

1:30 a.m. I'm home finally where I can get about two hours of sleep before going back to work to finish up election stories and begin what I hope will be a much shorter day. I'll pay for the long day, but it won't really hit me until Thursday. Is it all worth it? Sure I love what I'm doing! The only real disappointment is that just 20-to-30 percent of those who are registered to vote will have exercised that right. Glad I was one of them!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Award-winning journalism...

Here's a photo of the two awards KFIZ News won from the Associated Press of Wisconsin. One was for the Best Feature Story: "The Pope Did His Job," and the other for Best Hard News Story Non-Spot: "Andrew's Star." We won in Division Two.

The Way AP divides the state up is Madison and Milwaukee are Division One and the rest of the cities in the state are in Division Two. So actually there's more competition in Division Two. A spot news story is one told from the scene, such as a plane crash. A Non-Spot story pretty much covers the rest.

So how do you win two such awards? Talent, luck, bribery? To be honest it's all about the people and the story you cover. "Andrew's Star" was about the funeral of Ripon native Andrew Wallace who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq last fall. You might think that was a depressing story to tell, but actually it was a tribute. It fused two communities together, Ripon and Oshkosh. Ripon of course was Sergeant Wallace's hometown, but before being deployed he taught in Oshkosh and made his mark on his students. For Ripon Andrew was the first soldier they'd lost in a war since 1968. It was moving seeing the students and residents who lined the streets to get a glimpse of his procession to the cemetery, many waving flags.

"The Pope Did His Job" was another story that touched lives or rather the lives that Pope John Paul II touched. For that it required attending a mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Fond du Lac in the days following the Pope's death. We talked with Father Patrick Heppe and Holy Family Parish members about the Pope. Sure they were sad about his passing, but also happy to know that someone who served the church so well in his time on earth would now be reaping his heavenly reward.

Award-winning journalism isn't about telling a story from the head, it's about telling it from the heart.

Thanks AP and thanks KFIZ listeners. It's your story we're telling.