Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Senior Over-Achievers

Identical twins from Stevenson with identical curriculum vitae. Kids who rushed through high school in three years. Students who arrived in the United States with no grasp on the language and cultures. Captains of their sports teams. Musicians. Volunteers.

Probably the most fun I have at The Herald each year is the presentation of our Senior Achievement awards.

The event this year is Thursday in Monterey and it recognizes the 62 highest-achieving high school seniors from throughout the county. Each school, from North County High to King City, is represented. The students are enthusiastic, grateful and . . . well, brilliant.

Look for the list and photos of this year's honorees in The Herald on Thursday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tom Wieder

Tom Wieder was old school, the sort of newspaper guy who showed up to work each day in a white dress shirt with sleeves rolled up and a narrow black tie. He was unflappable, precise and willing (and able) to debate the smallest detail because, when it comes to newspapers, small details matter. He was a soft-spoken gentleman, so his wry humor always snuck up on you.

Tom died on Saturday night at the age of 84.

He had been at The Herald for 40 years, leaving his career in journalism when he opted not to reapply when Knight-Ridder took over paper in 1997.

I worked with Tom when I first showed up at The Herald 25 years ago, on the copy desk. At the time, the copy desk was filled with the wise and wizened veterans of The Herald, guys who had been roaming the Peninsula since the days of Ed Ricketts, John Steinbeck and Minnie Coyle. It could be frightening for a journalist of the new age to join a desk with the accumulated experience of that old copy desk, but guys like Tom made me feel welcome. Guys like Tom allowed me to connect with the history of Monterey County and The Herald, and I'm the better for it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Link to Reynolds' Appearance

For those who missed Julia Reynolds on KQED-TV on Friday, click this hyperlink.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Reynolds on KQED

Reporter Julie Reynolds is scheduled to appear on KQED's "This Week in Northern California," a live news program that features journalists who discuss the prominent issues of the past week.

Reynolds will be talking about Operation Knockout, the historic raid on Salinas Valley gang members that resulted in 37 arrests.

The show airs at 8 p.m. today on KQED.

Reynolds was interviewed on Thursday by KQED radio about Operation Knockout. Thursday's interview can be heard at .

Jarring Consequences

A big dumpster rolled into the newsroom this week to encourage spring cleaning. I don't believe we've dumped anything since we moved into Ryan Ranch almost 20 years ago, so we've uncovered some incredibly historical items, a whole bunch of useless items — and at least two dozen unused staplers.

Digging through the stuff in my office, I found my favorite correction ever written in a file of oddball journalistic screw-ups I've collected. I didn't date the thing, unfortunately, but it's from an edition of the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian more than 25 years ago. This is how it reads:

"In a news story yesterday, the telephone number for Davis Memorial Chapel was inadvertently listed as the number to call for further information on a class to familiarize prospective patients with surgical procedures. The Register-Pajaronian regrets the jarring consequences that may have occurred due to this typographical error and hastens to inform readers that the correct number to call is 724-4741, ext. 255."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Friends Take Friends to Salinas

Our editorial review board talked about promoting a "Take a Friend to Salinas" campaign.

The discussion was sparked by a letter to the editor from a Carmel woman who declared that she would stop seeing a dentist she admired in Salinas because of all the violence. Several of us live in Salinas; I've spent the majority of my career at The Herald in our Salinas bureau. Many of us have children who played — or who are playing — youth sports in Salinas. My own son played PONY baseball for a Salinas team.

Now comes word that Monterey PONY softball teams won't play in Salinas, that neutral ground is being sought to play Salinas-Monterey games. Pacific Grove PONY is considering a similar move.

Perhaps it's my familiarity with the city that makes me feel this way, but I've never felt in danger in Salinas. I worried myself sick when my kids were finally old enough to drive and had to navigate through certain areas of Prunedale, but I've never feared for their safety in Salinas. Of course, I do believe the dental patient and the PONY parents are overreacting, but I don't blame them for their concern.

It is frightful to think that a 6-year-old can be killed by a random bullet while he's standing in his kitchen. And that a 10-year-old girl was shot in the leg by another stray bullet while walking with her mother. The constant drumbeat of news about the horrible violence that emanates out of Salinas eventually takes its toll.

But risks lurk everywhere — and the risk of infusing a child with misplaced paranoia can also be damaging.

As I write this, a huge phalanx of law enforcement officers is sweeping through Salinas to round up the most powerful gang members in the Salinas area. The governor and Attorney General Jerry Brown joined local law enforcement officials to discuss the results of the raid, which has been named Operation Knockout.

Whether the sweep will make a difference in out-of-towners' impression of Salinas remains to be seen.

In the meantime, those of us who know and admire the city would love to take the fearful to Salinas someday, to take you to dinner, to visit the schools and churches and to shop with the local merchants who deserve our support.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bucking the Trend

Everyone complains that the media only focuses on the negative, that the press goes off, half-baked and without a clue.

So when the media opened its doors to the public to sound off on the great issues of the day, the result has been online message boards and an upsurge of letters to the editor filled with negative expressions of half-baked ideas. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but most of the opinion we hear these days is that the other jerk is an idiot scoundrel socialist Nazi communist tea-bagging left-wing nutjob godless mouth-breathing racist. Fill in the blanks. It doesn't matter anymore, because the audience is sick of the noise.

And this stuff is everywhere. TV. Radio. Blogs. Tweets. Facebook. It doesn't enlighten. Everyone talks over one another. Everyone plays under the assumed rule that the loudest screamer wins. Civic discourse these days more closely resembles a blatherer's version of a bar fight.

Call it diabolical, call it un-American, but we believe that the majority of our readers adhere to higher standards. We may be bucking the media trend here, but we shall insist on civility in the expression of opinions.

Several weeks ago I promised that we would do a better job deleting the maddening anonymous posts that are simply nasty diatribes from our online comment boards. And on Tuesday, Royal Calkins described The Herald's new commitment toward civility in Letters to the Editor.

"(W)hile we will continue to publish some of the lesser letters, at least those of them that don't sink too close to slander, libel or horrible taste, we will redouble our efforts to give priority to those that explain positions, that provide information, that amount to more than an adult version of name-calling," Calkins wrote.

Our message is simple: We welcome your disagreement. We admit that our perspective might be different than yours. You can disagree with the last letter writer. We'd love to hear your informed opinion about things. But, when you do, don't publicly demean yourself — and others who might otherwise support your position — with the personal attacks.

Friday, April 16, 2010

California's Ink-Stained Wretches

Our friends and colleagues from newspapers across California blew into Monterey on Thursday for the annual three-day California Newspaper Publishers Association gathering.

While virtually all the attendees represent newspapers that readers have traditionally picked up off the driveway each morning and held in their hands, a significant amount of time is being spent at the convention this week about ways that newspapers can take advantage of their presence in the digital marketplace.

The kickoff luncheon speaker was Andrew Davis, executive director of the American Press Institute in Reston, Va. The focus of his message was the future of news, and all of it concentrated on the possibilities that the web, social networks and e-commerce have to offer. Several other general session presentations this week have similar themes. There has been a lot of talk about the wisdom of asking readers to pay for the content they view on newspapers' digital sites.

We are, of course, very interested in those presentations. Despite all of the "bad press" that newspapers generate about their own alleged pending demise, the truth is that most newspapers attract more readers now than ever before. Not all of it is the printed product — and circulation figures are certainly down for most every newspaper in the country. In The Herald's case, for instance, the combination of newspapers in circulation and the unique "hits" our website attracts each day exceeds the circulation numbers The Herald boasted back when I started working here 25 years ago, when only a print edition was available.

I believe people still hunger for news and good stories — and that newspapers are ultimately the primary source for most of the stuff readers eventually find on TV, on the web, on the radio and on their social networking sites. The problem is that no one has yet to figure out how to lasso a workable revenue flow from online readers or from the aggregators who steal our stuff. And newspapers were never able to respond to the success of free-classified sites like Craigslist.

SIDE NOTE: I was happy to see that the California Newspaper Pubishers Association hired from the local talent pool while filling out the entertainment slots for its convention. Among the performers who are appearing at the convention are Taelen Thomas, who roamed the dinner crowd Thursday as John Steinbeck, the Dizzy Grover & Crover Coe jazz ensemble and keyboardist Scott Brown. And the culinary team at Monterey Plaza Hotel was scheduled for a cooking demonstration for the CNPA crowd Friday afternoon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Cream of the Court

The Herald's top dribblers once again destroyed the competition on the basketball court, winning the championship trophy at the Good Old Days media tournament in Pacific Grove over the weekend.

The Herald won the tournament for the second year in a row, and it defeated the team from Monterey County Weekly in the title game.

Player/coach Royal Calkins says the key to The Herald's success is that Joe Livernois never gets involved in the tournament.

This year's team included Laith Agha, Jon Ordonio, Marc Cabrera, Mary Barker, Daryl Thomas and Michelle Taylor.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My Old-Guy Manifesto

I don't want to be that type of old guy.

The kind of old guy I don't want to be has become an issue I've contemplated in recent weeks, now that I stand at the precipice of actually being an old guy. The signs are clear. I'm starting to experience the onset of wobbly old-guy ailments: aching joints, fallen arches, forgetfulness, graying temples, a hankering for VapoRub, the tendency to use words like "hankering."

Of course, there exist certain conditions to being an old guy that are unavoidable. And I am willing to accept the conditions over which I have no control.

For instance, I will suffer through the indignities of scheduled prostate examinations and will follow the doctor's directions for good prostate health. And, since I don't want to be one of those old guys, I hope that I won't constantly bore friends, family, casual acquaintances and random strangers with every last detail of my prostate situation and how the Medicare process worked.

Also, I don't want to be the old guy whose only social concern is his tax bill. What's up with those old guys, anyway? These old guys have enjoyed the full experience of an abundant life in the greatest country in the world, yet all they seem to care about in their sunset years are taxes? Age and a cantankerous spirit should not be a license to stop caring about others.

In fact, if I ever get to the point that all I do all day is whine about taxes, my family has permission to lead me out back and put me out of my misery.

I wouldn't mind being a cantankerous old guy, incidentally, but I don't want to be the old guy who is bitterly cantankerous all the time.

I don't want to be the old guy who sadly clings to the notion that he's still a teenager.

But I hope to be the old guy who has refined — and not abandoned — his teen-aged sense of justice.

I don't want to be the old guy who listens to AM radio when the game's not on.

But I would like to be the old guy who is still capable of making a fool of himself on the dance floor.

I don't want to be the old guy who limits his selection of literature from whatever happens to be on the shelf at Walmart.

But I would like to feel secure pulling a volume from the "satire" section of the local bookstore.

I don't want to be the old guy who surrounds himself with like-minded old guys.

And I hope you won't mind if I delete those stupid batch-forwarded e-mails that espouse insipid world views you've sent me with instructions to pass them along to all my other old-guy friends.

I don't want to be the old guy who stops caring about public education now that my kids are out of school.

But I'm not going to assume that I've suddenly gained transcendent wisdom just because I'm an old guy.

I don't want to be the old guy who only dines out at chain restaurants in a rigorous campaign to avoid surprises.

I expect I'll always savor a home-cooked meal.

I don't want to be the old guy who simply settles for whatever happens to be on television that night.

But a subscription to the MLB season package on DirecTV would be great in my dotage.

Speaking of which, I don't want to be the old guy who draws his final breath before seeing the San Francisco Giants win a pennant.