Thursday, September 28, 2006

100 Miracles

Wade Bates, one of our KFIZ on-air personalities, asked me while we were standing in front of Ma & Pa's on South Main Street in Fond du Lac if I'd ever covered anything like it? He was referring to the group of "100 Miracles" or 100 Sargento Foods employees celebrating their $208.6 million Powerball jackpot win. Course not. I've never been part of reporting any such event. But pardon the pun, I feel lucky I was able to do that.

There were some good stories to come out of it. Like winner Mary Entringer who said she and her husband have children who could have used some of the winnings to make their own lives easier. However Mary said her kids told them no, use the money to buy the Lake home up north that you've always wanted.

The money may not be a blessing for everyone. One person told me about a couple she knows who have a son that's one of the winners. He has had past problems with drugs and alcohol and they aren't sure what kinds of temptations that money may put in front of him.

Sargento Foods helped out those lucky employees by providing a financial consultant to aid them in making decisions about their winnings. The employees returned the favor when most of them decided to keep their second shift jobs at the cheese factory in Plymouth.

Fond du Lac City officials were overjoyed for the national exposure. Phil Moses of Ma & Pa's rightly said that exposure was their own version of a lottery win because people will continue to buy lottery tickets from them well into the future hoping the "Miracle Mile" will give them a big win.

The event was staged under several big awnings that slightly resembled a circus tent, which had me wondering if what I was covering could be termed a "media circus?" There were reporters from across the country attending the happening.

I never knew the lottery had so many people working for them. They kept the winners focused and until they were ready the media at bay. The United Way sold brats, Sargento had samples of their cheese, the lottery had their own booth. It, like the win, was a one of a kind event.

A day after the event someone said to me it would be interesting to visit with the winners in five years and see what came of them. Instant wealth can change anyone's life. Those "100 Miracles" have a chance to change their lives in positive ways. Hopefully Dame Fortune will continue to have something good in mind for them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Complaint Department

Nobody likes to hear complaints, but I got two in two days. You have to understand that it's rare for me to receive two complaints over even a few months time.

Occasionally I'm going to do a news story that rubs someone the wrong way. That goes with the job. It's incentive for me to do better and remain sensitive about the news that we do.

The first was from a Lomira man who receives our KFIZ Today newsletter. He didn't like the blurb that was included in the news about Charter Communications changes for the former WB and UPN local affiliates. I thought since thousands in the area are cable subscribers that they might appreciate hearing what Green Bay and Milwaukee stations would be carrying the new CW network. He wasn't happy because he's a satellite dish subscriber and has some beefs with Charter. Just information, that's what news is all about. He left his name and where he was from, but not a phone number in the voice mail complaint.

The second was from the relative of a North Fond du Lac police officer who had resigned. She didn't like the story and felt it smeared a good person. It was in fact mainly information from a complaint the Village police chief had brought against the officer that prompted a settlement in which the officer settled for a six-day suspension without pay, but would never serve due to his resignation. She claims he took a better job and that might be the case, but when I offered to tell her and his side of the story she bulked and wouldn't go on record. She also wouldn't tell me who she was.

One thing she did say that irked me was that I get all of my news out of The Reporter anyway. Granted I cover some of the same meetings, news, court hearings and see their reporters there too. However if all I had to do for news was read stories out of the paper I'd be putting in much less time each week developing my own story ideas and covering events. She failed to note that the very story she called to complain about wasn't featured in the paper that day.

I do incorporate suggestions made from those who complain. You'll never hear details about sexual assaults get too graphic in a story I do because of one complaint I received earlier in my career. One librarian called me about the way I used to pronounce "library." I think about it every time I say the word. You won't hear me motor through reading the news because of another complaint I received about a reporter I worked with who used to speed through her stories.

I'll tell you a story about one of the first complaints I received while working for a radio station in Manistique, hometown. Every day I would get a call from a person who it would seem wasn't a listener. He would always ask for the current weather conditions and time. It never failed that he seemed to call right after I gave the weather and time on the radio. Finally one day I asked him why he always called for the weather and time. He explained to me that he liked to walk and had a special path mapped out along a road. He was blind!

If you are going to call and complain at least let me know who you are. I always start out at a disadvantage. When I get a call at KFIZ I always answer the same way. "This is Bob Nelson, how can I help you?"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hard Concession

It was a long wait for what was supposed to be a victory party on Fond du Lac's North Main Street. Incumbent Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager waited out the results up the street at the Ramada Plaza Hotel as a contingent of reporters from across the state gathered at Theo's where she would make an announcement.

As Tuesday night stretched into Wednesday morning Lautenschlager's opponent in the Democratic Party Kathleen Falk was slowly building an insurmountable lead. In the end Falk got 53 percent of the vote across the state. When I first arrived for some reason I figured I'd be there to hear Lautenschlager give a victory speech, but as time wore on it became obvious that the gathering was going to be hearing. a concession speech.

While awaiting the announcement there was plenty of time to kill. I had a couple of diet sodas, sat at the bar and scratched down some notes on other election results, but I also had time to talk with other media representatives and do a little eavesdropping.

One radio reporter from Madison gave me her view on Falk, it wasn't very flattering. Other reporters were relieved to see Paul Bucher lose in the Republican primary to J.B. Van Hollen. Watching TV reporters do stand up reports saying they were still waiting for an announcement was interesting. One reporter made sure her lips were just right and checked herself out in a compact mirror. That's the nice thing about radio. Everybody is beautiful in the mind's eye.

One conversation between two men was hard not to hear. They were standing a few feet away from me. One of the men must have been a lawyer. He made a crack about how people who serve on juries are too stupid to get out of jury duty. I have friends who are lawyers and I respect what they do, but having had to sit in on a number of court proceedings over the years I'm sometimes amazed how some people pass the bar.

Speaking of bars, the staff at Theo's did a wonderful job with the press. It's hard to bus tables when you're dodging cameras, lights, microphone cords and the other equipment that comes with a full-blown media event.

Finally Lautenschlager arrived flanked by family and friends. She and some supporters shed a few tears as her campaign came to a conclusion. Afterwards she answered a few questions and not surprisingly the first one was whether her drunk driving arrest in Dodge County more than two years ago was her undoing. She handled it graciously enough, but noted there'd been other state officials arrested for similar circumstances who survived reelection campaigns.

There is a little truth to that. Governor Jim Doyle distanced himself from Lautenschlager shortly after her drunk driving conviction and has been an active Kathleen Falk supporter. Everything is fair game in politics and the drunk driving thing was an easy target for the others running for Attorney General. One person commented to me before I left, "Isn't it interesting how the two remaining candidates in the race have the least prosecutorial experience?"

It's going to be fun watching what skeletons J.B. Van Hollen and Kathleen Falk can find in each other's closets. Let the bloodletting begin!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Never Forget

A few months ago while talking about the film "Flight 93" in this blog I said I wasn't sure I was ready for a film about 9/11. Truth is, like everyone else, I'm still trying to adjust to the reality of what happened.

Over a couple days time I watched a few programs about the fifth anniversary and the aftermath of 9/11. Watching the chaos that was wrought still brings a sour feeling to my stomach.

Like Pearl Harbor, J.F.K's assasination and the Challenger explosion, 9/11 has now become an instant reminder of what people were doing when they heard the news that day. There are those of us who will "Never Forget," but then there's already a generation of four-year-old kindergartners who weren't even born when the terrorist attacks occurred. For them the day is something they will learn about in history books or carefully told stories from their parents.

I was actually working for a radio station in Beaver Dam when the attacks happened. I worked an afternoon shift and had just returned from a morning walk when I heard our stations broadcasting ABC News uninterrupted. At first like others I believed the plane they were talking about that hit the first tower must have been a small plane, until I watched the second plane hit.

It was actually three days later that the enormity of the event hit me. I was busy working on local angles to the story. One person I talked to was a frantic mother whose 20-year-old son had just moved to New York and was working in a building near the World Trade Center. She couldn't reach him and was understandably concerned. I eventually reached him and found out that like many others after seeing what happened he just had to do what he could. He gave blood and delivered water bottles to those he could help. It didn't occur to him to call Mom because he had survived.

I really never tire of heroes stories from 9/11. A good piece on 60 minutes talked about Tuesday's children, the kids that lost parents in the attacks. Most are still young or just hitting high school age. The grief is still strong, but they are overcoming their fears. One teenage girl lost a parent on one of the planes. She couldn't deal with airplanes at first, now she's taking flying lessons. America is all about resilence.

In the photo for this blog are flags at memorial field in Inwood Hill park in New York that were put up for the anniversary. Each included the name of one of the victims. For me it's easy enough to put 9/11 in perspective. More than 3,000 people lost their lives in the terrorist attacks. That's roughly the size of my hometown. As long as nature allows me to have memories I will "Never Forget."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sinners and Saints

Someone said to me the other day that they liked the current television ad gubernatorial candidate Mark Green is running playing on a comment made by Governor Jim Doyle that Green was an "extreme" candidate.

I know that person and am sure they won't be basing their vote this November on the ad alone, but how many people take what's said in campaign ads seriously? Hopefully voters do a little research instead of vote on what's being said in television and radio ads. There's some truth to what's being said, but often there's much more to it.

Any congressional candidate who tells you they'll be able to do something about gas prices better take a look at what grandpa was paying and how much impact their predecessors have had over the last 35-40 years.

Watch out too for the candidates who tell you they did this and accomplished that. If their claim to fame is state or county office they had to work with a bunch of others. Being one of 99 assemblymen or woman or a county executive that works with a number of department heads should tell you that somebody isn't getting their fair share of credit.

I'm glad I don't have to vote in the 8th Congressional District race. Two Republicans and three Democrats are vying for Mark Green's northeastern Wisconsin seat in next week's primary election. Because Nancy Nusbaum, Jamie Wall, Steve Kagen and John Gard are running so many TV ads I've taken to comparing them to some people they look like. I haven't seen any ads for Terri McCormick.

Based on the look alike factor I'd vote for Nancy because she reminds me of Angela Landsbury's TV sleuth Jessica Fletcher. Jessica could solve any mystery and usually in less than 60 minutes. Gard reminds me of that Subway sandwich eating spokesman who lost all the weight. Wall, Howdy Doody. Kagen, I'm still working on. Of course voting for people based on who they look like is ridiculous, but people do have some strange reasoning for the choices they make at the polls.

When I was growing up in the U.P. a state legislator was an automatic for reelection. It didn't matter who ran against him. He was trusted and well liked, but he became a little disenchanted with the job. One night after a few drinks at the State Capitol he propositioned a woman. It was an undercover cop. That did what no challenger could do, it unseated him. Does that story have an unhappy ending? Bill Clinton would be proud. This man was forgiven by people from the town he called home and ended up serving another long stint as City Manager. The only woman he ever kissed, other than his wife, while holding that job was Tammy Wynette who appeared at the County Fair one year. He told me that was the toughest thing he ever did while holding the job.

I liked the guy, would I have voted for him?