The Cincinnati Post-Enquirer? Or a new life?

As a reporter at The Cincinnati Post – and a freelancer at that – my eyes get a little wet thinking about its likely impending demise. But every so often I get a glimmer of hope when I hear someone tell me how much they have appreciated The Post over the years. It happens a lot – and by well-known people and everyday citizens. It’s been remarkable and something – whether its nostalgia or honest-to-goodness heartfelt truth – I rarely ever heard reporting for any other paper.

Not that I have anything against The Cincinnati Enquirer. I loved and am thankful for the many years and many times I got to work for and with my colleagues there. I learned a lot about journalism from the copy editors and reporters I pestered incessantly in my days as a copy boy/news aide, geez, starting back in 1998. I am thankful for the internship I had there in 2000 that helped me get jump-started in this profession. In fact, I have some great friends who work there and even more people I do not know well but greatly respect who also work there. I know, as a public, we like to criticize that paper (and that’s a good thing), but so many journalists there are true professionals.

But something happens when a town goes to just one daily newspaper. News cycles tend to follow the newspapers. By their own admission, TV, radio and, well, the hyper-critical Bloggers-know-best cacophony of local Bloggers and aggregate news Web sites follow suit. And with that, one viewpoint. One idea of what’s news. It’s dangerous in our democracy. And now we know, unlike what some predicted the Internet would help solve, the world could still use a few professional journalists carrying the torch.

And, some would rightly say, for the most part, in Cincinnati single-sided news has already happened, despite the fact that The Post is still publishing, albeit with a diet-sized reporting staff.

Next year, The Cincinnati Post’s 30-year-old joint operating agreement with The Cincinnati Enquirer will end. And some would rightly say, so would The Post. Gannett officials informed Scripps executives they have no intention of continuing the agreement. Why would they? Their dunk-and-drown, pillow-over-the-face smothering of The Post has just about done the trick and is nearly complete. (Did you know when the agreement was signed in 1977, The Post had a higher circulation than the Enquirer?)

Hold the press a second. Something is afoot, something rather remarkable. Local newspapers around the country are being bought up by… holy crap!…locals. It has not happened here, like its happening in Los Angeles and Baltimore and elsewhere.

But could it? Maybe.

First, a reporter from the Enquirer came up to me at a news scene and asked whether The Post would be buying The Enquirer. Cute, I thought. But not very funny. Turns out, he was serious – and maybe on to something.

Then, a prominent former politician – just a few weeks later – told me the same thing and added, “I’m helping some Scripps investors accomplish this.” A few weeks later, I confirmed discussions were happening with the Scripps family and Scripps executives and Gannett officials about this very deal. Scripps owns both The Cincinnati Post and The Kentucky Post and WCPO-TV locally, plus own a wide array of successful cable networks such as DIY Television, The Food Network and Home & Garden Television, along with a bunch of others.

Scripps analysts hate the newspaper business. But they love that cable operation. Scripps family stockholders love the newspaper business and, I would assume, love the money, but maybe aren’t so thrilled with the cable business, or so I am told. Hmmm.

Things got more interesting when another, different prominent local politician said a group of business people are working to buy The Post when the JOA ends. They would like to run The Post head-to-head in the morning against the Enquirer. I like that idea even more.

Is it a long shot? Probably. Impossible? Not at all. Profitable? Tough to say. But, for now, the talk is good news all around. Especially with the information that people around the country – those with the capabilities to do so – are buying up newspapers for the common good. Stay tuned. Or, ahem, keep reading…

Native American journalist at XU

Mark Anthony RoloThere are a number of speakers who travel in and through Greater Cincinnati without even a blip on the radar screen. Forget the much-publicized visits from George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, Laura Bush…the list could go on and on (can you tell I’m a wee bit tired of all this election stuff?). It’s been fun getting to know the local Secret Service office staff – even if they won’t tell you their name or smile much. I don’t take it personally.

Others come and go without much notice, but make great speakers whether you agree or disagree with them or their positions. One of those, I think, will be Mark Anthony Rolo. He’s a Native American journalist. Rolo is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe.

He will speak at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 16 in Xavier University, Alter Hall’s Kelley Auditorium. It’s part of Xavier’s Equity & Excellence series and in observance of National American Indian Heritage Month.
I look forward to asking him about something that caught the journalism world by storm last year: the shootings at a Red Lake, Minn. high school. The shootings happened on an Indian reservation, a sovereign nation, and journalists were perplexed and angered there were not able to cover the story the way they felt they should. Simply put, the Native Americans on the Red Lake Indian Reservation do not honor the Freedom of the Press the same way.

Also, check out Miami University’s speaker series. They have an impressive list upcoming with the likes of Gail Collins, The New York Times’ opinion page editor, former CBS Evening News anchor and “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer, former White House Press Secretary and PBS host, Bill Moyers, among others.

Toledo: We don’t suck as bad as Cincinnati

Well, ain’t this pleasant. The City of Toledo, faced with the news they have lost 27,000 resident since 2000 and the prospect their population will shrink below 300,000 for the first time since 1940, has this to say in it’s defense.

“If you look at the numbers, you can see we are very close to passing Cincinnati in size,” said Brian Schwartz, the Toledo mayor’s spokesman.

I love it. What’s wrong with the whole Ohio northern shore? Now we have a whole other city to hate, as if just being Cleveland-haters wasn’t enough. (Yesterday I saw a radio station ad on the side of a Metro bus with a shiny, beautiful photo of Cincinnati’s skyline and a dismal, dark one of Cleveland’s skyline. Under Cincinnati, “Mojo.” Under Cleveland, “No Mojo.” Yeah, take that Cleveland.)

In Cincinnati at least we are aspiring to be something. The downtown is on the move, Sheriff Simon Leis is patrolling Over-the-Rhine and sending work crews to clean the streets. In fact, juHamilton County Justice Center inmates clean up an alley in Over-the-Rhinest yesterday a crew cleaned up the alley behind my home, picking up trash, vacuuming up little pieces and weed-whacking the alley into submissive urban beauty. Fountain Square is less than two months from opening, completely re-done and transformed into something this area has never seen in a public place.

The Banks Working Group is meeting and will likely have plans soon that will transform our riverfront. Young people are getting involved in their city and making a difference. It’s really happening.

But, as Toledo Blade columnist Roberta deBoer points out, Toledo is way behind. And though their city officials might be scurrying to come up with an excuse or a defense to their population woes – and the best they can come up with is “soon we’ll be bigger than Cincinnati” – our town is on the move. People are moving back into the city and that trend will undoubtedly continue for decades. We did and are doing something about our woes – and it’s impressive.

Have you ever been to Toledo? ‘Nuff said.

And Toledo, while you have sights on us, we have our sights on our future. I think it’s too late for us to be a Toledo. Uh, thank God. But it isn’t too late for Toledo to be a Cincinnati. Take that.

Tuesday Night Potlucks On Tuesday Night

UPDATE: Notice there was no update? Yeah, sorry about that. I started back to school – a sort of last minute decision – and decided to postpone the potlucks for the time being. Stay tuned for more news…

Mark your calendars. Starting June 27, and every Tuesday for as long as we want, stop by Joe Wessels’s home (1222 Race St., Apt. 6) for a potluck dinner.

Join in the conversation about our city, our neighborhood, our lives – or nothing at all. Get to know the people around you.

Dinner starts at 6 p.m. Bring a covered dish. Whatever you want.

More information to come…

From the finish line…

I’m once again stationed near the finish line at the 8th Annual Flying Pig Marathon. I’m in the “media RV” parked at Yeatman’s Cove, here for reporters covering the Cincinnati run so they can write, relax and get comfortable while telling the story of this trully wonderful event.

But I’m not here covering for that. I’m Betsy Ross‘s ham radio bodyguard.

What that exactly means, neither Betsy nor I really know. Betsy runs Game Day Communications, a media public relations outfit that specializes in PR for sporting events. They’re good at what they do, and though I don’t know Betsy that well, she seems rather adept at what she does. And what I remember of her days as an anchor on WCPO in the 1980s and her more recent gigs filling in as a sports reporter and sports anchor at local television stations, she’s a fine journalist (she also had a stint at WLWT-TV after returning to Cincinnati).

I, though, have a ham radio license. I’m a dork. What can I say? Before you laugh (or after you’re done), wait. Though it’s a specialized hobby and one that not too many people partake in anymore, hams volunteer thousands of hours every year to help out events that really need their help. Like the flying pig. Hams at the Pig – I know, great pun.

We hams, or amateur radio operators, are stationed at every mile of the course, in the lead van, the tail van, in the media tent, with police officers, at the finish line, the starting line, the medical tent. Some aren’t assinged to posts, but people. The race director gets a ham, the fluids coordinator, the information coordinator, the volunteer coordinator, the school buses that pick up runners and transport them to the finish line gets one, too, plus many, many others. Then there are people that run the whole radio network. “Net control operators” who monitor the airwaves, direct radio traffic and keep everything in order.

Yeah, it’s a little dorky. But hams have been requested to return every year since the Pig started. Think that means they help. It’s free communication from people who bring their own radios they buy and train themselves in the hobby’s best practices. The people who use the hams don’t have to carry a radio themselves, know how to operate it, wonder if it works or wonder they are using it effectively. They’ve got a virtual army of volunteers ready and willing to help them out who get up early (just like all the other volunteers who put in hours and hours to make this thing work). I think it makes the whole event run smoother and I doubt many of the 12,000 runners (about 60 percent local, the rest from out of town) even know. Maybe now they will.

New photo galleries added

It’s been a while, but I’ve uploaded more photos to my Web site. Recently added items include photos of my 32nd birthday get-together with family and a few friends and my nephew’s coming-of-age 5th birthday extravaganza. Plus photos taken at the Heart’s Desire Party at the Red Cheetah and ASG‘s Civic Engagement Series at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Fairmount, led by Peter Block.

Save WOXY, go back to prom

I’ve known Jill Whitesill (ahem, “Jill Baker“) since she was nine years old. Reunited with her in recent months after a long period (she is the cousin of some of my old neighbors back in Colerain Township), in the interim she’s come a long way from the little girl who hung out at the YMCA where I worked into this ultra-cool, kind, hip, thoughtful and community-minded activist. She’s done a lot of growing up during our time apart and I’m happy now that I see her, well, just about everywhere and doing fantastic.

A few days ago I ran into her in Sidewinders Coffee in Northside where she told me about her efforts to help save one of Cincinnati’s many crown jewels, WOXY.com – quite literally the hippest radio station (now only on the Internet) in the universe. Jill has leaped into action. I hope you’ll consider supporting her efforts and save this great radio station.

Here are the details:

First, a Web site with more information.

Hosted By: WOXY.com Message Board Kids
When: 10 p.m., Saturday, March 4, 2006
Where: Alchemize, 1122 Walnut St. Cincinnati, 45202.
Cost: $5