Thursday, April 30, 2009

Passing through

My heart breaks for the souls on the tour bus who died or survived the horrific crash Tuesday near Soledad. Who can imagine the terror?

They were nearing the end of their extended tour of the United States from the tight quarters of buses. Together they had experienced all the landmarks and the terrific things to see in the Western States, so they must have developed friendships. The sense of camaraderie created among fellow travelers on such trips are often the highlight of travel. But in an instant, the trip of a lifetime turned to horror. New friends were lost. Family members died. They are far from home, they don't speak the language.

It is rather phenomenal that none of the travelers on the fated bus care to share their experiences and their thoughts about the accident publicly. We respect their wishes, of course, and I'm not aware of any local reporters trying to bully interviews from the victims. But it's something American journalists aren't really accustomed to.

In America, survivors of tragedies seem more than willing to tell their stories whenever someone with a camera or a notebook shows up. They'll tell us all about the phone calls they made before the plane went down, the calm response of fellow passengers before the ferry sunk, the heroic efforts of the crews who came to their rescue.

I don't know what conclusion to draw from the reaction of the French travelers aboard that bus on Tuesday. I would guess that perhaps they are more circumspect, that the permeation of the culture of celebrity, in which all Americans expect to someday find their 15 minutes of fame, has not yet reached France. Perhaps they believe that the "healing process" does not necessarily require an appearance on television.

Nevertheless, we wish our visitors well and we pray they may soon recover from this horrible tragedy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fun and Kooky Facts About The Herald, Past and Present

In no particular order:

1. The first banner headline in The Herald (then known as The Peninsula Daily Herald) in June 1924 read: “Great Whiskey Haul.”

2. Sports writer Kevin Merfeld chased a squirrel out of the snack lounge the other day.

3. Edward Kennedy, the editor of the paper until his death in 1963, is best known as the man who gave the world an extra day of peace after he broke the embargo on the German surrender at the end of World War II. He was an AP reporter covering the war at the time, but lost his job and was all but blackballed in journalism for breaking the embargo.

4. Ted Durein, who was editor of the paper for a time, is credited with bringing the Crosby Pro-Am Golf Tournament to the Monterey Peninsula while he was sports editor.

5. I can think of at least three couples who married after meeting in The Herald's newsroom.

6. The Herald's founder, Allen Griffin, commanded Company F, 364th Infantry Division, during World War I. He rejoined the Army during World War II and participated in the war in Normandy, Brittany and Belgium.

7. There's a King James' version of the Bible published in 1936 in the newsroom morgue. There's also a French-English dictionary that doesn't seem to have been used since 1936.

8. The Herald published a couple of editions from the King City Rustler’s office in the days immediately after the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989.

9. One of The Herald's former interns, Clara Moskowitz, appeared on the ABC News Now program earlier this week to talk about a story she wrote for Live Science that describes studies indicating that prove people who smile a lot seem to have better marriages.

10. You can find sportswriter Dave Coffin’s byline in copies of The Herald dating back to 1968.

11. John Steinbeck occasionally wrote articles exclusively for The Herald.

12. The Herald won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for a photo essay produced by John Kaplan shared by The Herald and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

13. Not a day goes by when someone doesn't mention "Fresno" in the newsroom.

14. While working for The Herald, I got the chance to attend a Papal Mass and meet the Prince of Luxembourg in consecutive days in 1987.

15. The Herald office was located on the corner of Pacific and Jefferson for more than 30 years. It was easier to get to a restaurant for lunch back then.

16. Nowadays, a lunch truck pulls into The Herald parking lot each day around 12:30 p.m.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Senior Achievers

Thanks to Grant Nakajima for sharing these photos from The Herald's Senior Achievement Awards program Wednesday at the Beach Resort Monterey.

Pacific Grove High's Honor Students Molly Speacht, Jaclyn Carpenter and Jeehee Cho

Monterey High School's Kayla Harvey, Kasey Nakajima, Ariel Dooner and James Caress

Monterey High's Kasey Nakajima

Thanks to Grant Nakajima, who shared these photos from The Herald's Senior Achievement Awards ceremony at the Beach Resort Monterey on Wednesday.

Ariel Dooner of Monterey High School

James Caress, Monterey High's valedictorian, below

Top, Carmel High School's Caelan Urquhart, Shannon Mae Welch and Tyler Greenway.

Above, Monterey High's Kasey Nakajima, James Caress, Ariel Dooner and Kayla Harvey.

Left, Monterey High's Jodie and Kasey Nakajima.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Youth Not Wasted on the Young

By far, my favorite duty as editor of The Herald is hosting the annual Senior Achievement program.

We finished up the 42nd presentation of the banquet last night. It was an inspiring evening that recognizes accomplished, talented and genius high school seniors. Each of these students, the cream of the crop, will be lauded by their schools and by different organizations within their school districts during the weeks leading to their graduation. But The Herald's Senior Achievement Award program is the only time that these students, from different schools and with a wide range of talents, come together to be honored.

This year The Herald recognized 62 students at about two dozen schools from King City to North Monterey County schools.

For the past two years, I've been responsible for introducing each of the students at the event, which this year was held at the Beach Resort Monterey. It's an arduous task; I'm at the lectern for 90 minutes and describing the accomplishments of so many wonderful kids (I tend to develop a bad case of the flop sweats when speaking to crowds), but I can't help but get charged up by the students' enthusiasm and passions.

They are focused and disciplined. And they should inspire us all that our future generation will be in good stead.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Savvy & Thoughtful

I spent several fascinating hours with The Herald's Readers Advisory Committee on Tuesday. It was only the group's second meeting, but they are a smart and articulate bunch and they have plenty to say about the direction of The Herald.

We will approach future meetings with better focus, but Tuesday was my first opportunity to hear their opinions and their ideas. I came away loaded with ideas that can fill a focused agenda for the next five years.

While no recommendations came out of the most recent meetings, several issues were very clear to me.

First, members of the panel all agreed that The Monterey County Herald should not pull back from its coverage area. Faced with continuing reduction in resources and staff, we have toyed with the idea of scaling back our coverage of Salinas to concentrate more on what we consider our "core," which is the Monterey Peninsula. Salinas, after all, has a newspaper of its own. But our advisory panel seemed to be collectively aghast at the thought of ignoring Salinas. The folks on the Peninsula do not live in a vacuum, they said, and most of them recognize that news from Salinas does impact them in meaningful ways. Ignoring Salinas would simply foster additional misunderstanding among the citizens of Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula, and would make it that much tougher to tear down the "Lettuce Curtain" that divides the two communities.

Second (and this was gratifying to hear), committee members told me they actually appreciated the diversity of opinion that we allow to inhabit our Opinion pages. Whatever their political stripe, they said they enjoy reading reasoned arguments from folks with whom they disagree, particularly the syndicated columnists. They like that we allow locals to mix it up with their letters and their extended pieces -- and they encouraged us to foster even more of it. Diversity of opinion, they said, is what democracy and freedom is all about. They are grateful we provide the outlet.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The New Champs

Saturday was a banner day for the athletes at The Monterey County Herald. The newspaper's basketball team swept through the media competition at the Good Old Days invitational tournament to earn the championship trophy. 

I don't mean to trash talk the competition -- specifically, KSBW-TV, The Weekly, The Californian, Jammin' 97.6 -- but The Herald was simply superior. 

It was a great Pacific Grove type of day. The sun was out, the wind was down and the crowds at Good Old Days really seemed to be enjoying themselves. Mayor Dan Cort was a gracious host: He was furious at The Herald for the front-page tree ordinance story on Saturday, but refrained from griping about it when I encountered him at Good Old Days later that day. 


Friday, April 3, 2009

Twitter Dither

The Herald is plunging headlong into the digital age with its Twitter and its Facebook presence and its Web sites and its blogs.

In my travels, reader reaction is all over the map. Our core readers (about my age and set in their ways) tell me they don't cotton to all this Internet junk and they don't think we ought to waste a lot of our time with it. They prefer the feel of a real newspaper, especially now that The Herald ink doesn't come off on their hands.

But times have changed and The Herald can't afford complacency. It's no secret that newspaper circulation continues to take a hit. In readership, if not on the financial ledger, newspapers make up for that reduction with unique hits to their Web sites. As many people are reading The Herald now than when I first started working here, but about a quarter of them are doing it online.

So that's why I'm learning to Tweet.