Photos of Mark Mallory’s Union Terminal Swearing In Ceremony

Tonight I headed over to Union Terminal to see a reenactment of today’s earlier swearing-in ceremony for Cincinnati’s new mayor, Mark Mallory. Filled with much more pomp and circumstance than the day’s traditional Oath of Office ceremonies held this afternoon at City Hall (where also City Council members were sworn in), this was more a party than a ceremony, though there was much speech-giving and back-slapping. And I guess deservedly so.
It’s another side of the city that I don’t think many get to (or maybe want to) see. That’s why I’m here. I brought my camera to the occasion and snapped a few photos. Admittedly not my best work (my flash was on the fritz), but I think it still captures the feel of the night (and a lot of the Who’s Who that were there). Enjoy.

PHOTO CAPTIONS: In the first photo, Mayor Mallory was sworn in by his brother, the newly-re-elected William L. Mallory, Jr. In the lower photo a painted portrait of the new mayor is unveiled in front of the audience toward the end of the ceremony.

Scenes from the Hamilton County Board of Elections

No doubt about it. It was an interesting night to be at the Board of Elections.
On an evening when it appears the shape and form of city government was changing right before our very eyes, it was neat to be at the epicenter of all the celebrating and tears and cheering and back slapping and giant bear hugs and happy disbelief among the first-time winners.
Leslie Ghiz saw me as she walked into the press room. I could not help myself and grinned from ear-to-ear. I was so happy for her and we gave each other a big hug and a kiss – not because I was rooting for her necessarily. It was just the moment, and journalist or not – you just feel happy for people who are just so rightfully happy for themselves. It was like few things I have experienced before – and never at the Board of Elections. You could have sliced the good karma in the room and served it up to outsiders like pumpkin pie.
Reporters, print and television alike, chatted among themselves and into TV cameras about how a new day seemed to be dawning in Cincinnati politics. Then you look around the room and see the new faces hugging the incumbents, then they shift quickly and start talking business with serious looks on their faces – staring fervently right into each others eyes, a glaze fixed on the future. You couldn’t help but feel a little hopeful.
There was a sense and chatter about how things look like they are going to be different than they have been in my memory and quite possibly the memory of many people in the room (I didn’t get around to asking Jim Tarbell – he’d know for sure). A new mayor, four new faces on City Council, even a radically different Cincinnati Public Schools school board. Wow. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next.
[I took photos of part of the evening and recorded audio for Friday’s Cincinnati Advance Radio. We’ll be talking about the outcome of Tuesday’s election. Please tune in.]

Our own little Judith Miller case…

I must give props to local Blogger Brian Griffin for bringing attention once again to an incident in January 2004 where five Cincinnati City Council members voted to subpoena Cincinnati CityBeat contributor Leslie Blade to testify before Council.

The Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to Mayor Charlie Luken and members of Council in protest of that action.

Here’s the text of that letter, written by then-SPJ president Marc Emral:

David Pepper
Chairman
Law and Safety Committee
Cincinnati City Council
801 Plum St.
Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202-1979

Councilman Pepper:

The Cincinnati Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is alarmed with the recent subpoena of Cincinnati CityBeat reporter Leslie Blade issued by council. It sets a bad precedent.

We’re concerned that committee members’ questions about the story could proceed down a path that negatively impacts the ability of reporters to do their jobs and do damage to news gathering in the city. This subpoena could put a chill on relationships between reporters and their sources. The story was written largely from public records, which are easily obtainable by anyone. In our opinion, further questioning of the reporter serves no useful purpose.

We ask that the subpoena be withdrawn.

Thank you,
Marc Emral
President, Cincinnati Pro Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists

As Griffin so aptly pointed out, five Council members voted for the subpoena: Laketa Cole, John Cranley, Sam Malone, Alicia Reece and Christopher Smitherman.

The subpoena was never withdrawn and subsequently Blade testified before Council and no one but Smitherman questioned the reporter. Malone did not even attend the meeting and later declined comment, according to an account in CityBeat.

I became president of the Chapter in April 2004 and never fully followed up on this situation. Looking back on it, I think I should have. Though I believe, if memory serves me correctly, CityBeat editors felt satisfied with our response and realized not much was going to come out of the hearing, which ended up being true.

Despite no major pitfalls for the paper or the reporter (she testified, did not reveal sources, the Council member got to ask his questions with already-pubicly-known answers and that was it), it still riles me to think it happened. These five Council members got away with setting a horrificly bad precedent and slapping the face of journalism in Cincinnati. And we never really let them know we felt about it, held them accountable or really explained to them why it was such a bad, bad idea. I wonder how long it will be until it happens again? And I wonder if we’ll handle it differently?

Another side of the job

Leaving my sister’s house Friday night I happened upon a terrible accident along Interstate 74 just about two miles or so from Harrison. Two people died, another was sent to the hospital.

And I stopped to take a photo that appeared in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer.

I didn’t even think much about it when I pulled up to the sheriff’s cruiser on the highway, identified myself as press and crossed over to the other side of the closed highway. I’ve done that many times. I called the Enquirer’s Metro desk to let them know I was there, got my camera, a few lenses and headed closer to the scene.

A deputy along the way asked me to identify myself, pointed to the accident scene and said,”One dead in that car, one dead in that other car and the one behind it went to the hospital.”

I thanked him for the head’s up – which meant I wouldn’t need to be there too long waiting for an investigator to talk to me. He then told me I could go wherever I wanted around the scene – something not very typical of most accident scenes. So I did, walked within about 20 feet of the car with a dead person in it and started taking photos. I didn’t think twice.

It didn’t really hit me until later when I mentioned it to a few people. Probably shouldn’t have, but there was the, “So, did you get caught in the traffic on the highway after Shelly’s party?” question. I answered honestly and then watched the horrified look on the people’s faces as I told them what I did and saw (but not in too graphic detail). To me, though, it was just another day on the job – and a few extra bucks in the wallet. Sort of.

Journalism – as does police work or being a doctor or an attorney or a mortician or a coroner – exposes those who work in it to all sorts of bad stuff. Luckily this journalist doesn’t have to see that kind of stuff too often. I remember more experienced reporters telling me I’d remember the first dead body I’d see on the job. I do. Very well.

But since then the shock wears off. We joke about what we see, I think, to take the edge off of what we’ve seen. Officers and firefighters at scenes stand around – often just feet from the accident – and laugh and joke and carry on. It seems so surreal to think about it later on.

People wonder why journalists cover this kind of stuff. What service does it provide to show fires and accidents and murder in our newspapers or on our televisions. Interestingly enough that question is answered every time I find myself at one of these tragedies. Just like in the past, people who found out I was there wanted to know what happened, when it happened and how bad it was.

Judith Miller up close

During the Society of Professional Journalists annual convention in Las Vegas I had the opportunity to photograph New York Times reporter Judith Miller for the organization’s magazine, Quill. Miller was there to accept a First Amendment Award from the Society, give a speech and take questions from the conventioneers.

I would love to write more about my experience, including some of my thoughts about the whole Judith Miller situation. Time is limited, though, as I organize and finalize plans for this Friday’s Cincinnati SPJ banquet (wanna come?). But suffice it to say that I think she’s done a wonderful thing for the collective “we” of journalists and, in turn, a great service to the public. Talking with an attorney-friend of mine the other day I referred to her as a martyr for all of us who believe in a strong First Amendment, adding that, for now, she’s my personal Jesus Christ of Journalism. She went to jail for 85 days so I wouldn’t have to.

Frankly, no matter your opinion of her reporting leading up to the war (and, believe-you-me, there’s plenty of blame to go around for much of the media covering the build-up), this is not the issue at hand. Not even close. Judy Miller stood hard-and-fast on an unwavering principle of journalism: Promises are promises.

The public is better served by these agreements – no matter how big or small. If anonymous sources cannot be protected I will be one of many journalists and other media professionals who will welcome you to the spun, press-release’d, press-conference’d, sound-bite’d and vanilla version of the world where everything is vetted, cross-checked, approved, plotted, conferred, manipulated, misinformed, calculated and white-washed and made-for-TV into a one-world-view of the, well, everything. Gone will be investigative reports of any substance, insider information on the government and corporations and the underbelly of anything. Without protection in some circumstances who would talk?

As a journalist people tell me things everyday that lead me on ideas for stories. Some make it in the paper, other’s don’t. Not that every tip needs the utter and rare protection of being anonymous under the scrutiny of a grand jury – nor do I believe many sources think it would ever be an issue. But it could be. Easily. Watergate would never, ever have happened in this climate. Woodward and Bernstein weren’t star reporters at the time they started meeting with Mark Felt, the famous “Deep Throat,” in a parking garage. They were good journalists, keeping their word to an anonymous source for 30 years – and only until Felt revealed who he was. Watergate, keep in mind, in the end, was really just about a run-of-the-mill burglary. Those happen all the time. It was just the people who were involved and what they were burglarizing that made it into such a big story. Nobody died, some people lied and everyone – except those who died later on – are all alive. Today, in 2005, we’re talking about stuff on a little grander scale than that. War, invading other countries, revealing the name of an undercover C.I.A. operative, dead American soldiers. Wish we were worried about little break-ins at the Watergate Hotel. My God, how simple life would be…

As a working journalist, past newspaper staff reporter and an active member of the media community, you do not want promises by journalists to be so easily dissolved. Judy Miller, like her or not, stood and stands for something. Something so important and so critical to good, solid and crucial journalism that much of the public does not know, care or understand what exactly has transpired, much less why it’s so important to them. But it is.

Sadly, many talking heads – including one surprisingly misguided Harvard professor this week on the radio program “The Al Franken Show” was dastardly wrong and misinformed on the situation and continued to spread more misinformation to a national audience. That stuff has got to stop. I generally expect and receive better from Franken.

If you listen to Judy Miller, her explanations seem very plausible, the dots match up and paint a very clear picture. She and her newspaper weren’t doing this for no more reason than to stand up for what’s right and what’s important to the media, and, in return, to the public. Miller’s comments to the SPJ convention Monday were recorded by C-SPAN and could have been obtained before this guy went on the show. The good Harvard prof obviously had not heard her comments from the convention.

If you look into Miller’s eyes, hear her talk and let her bear out the minute details of her situation, it makes perfect sense. Not an opportunist, a plotting, manipulative person or journalist. Doing her job? Yes. Competitive? Probably. But you want a competitive press, don’t you?

I commend her for actions, her courage and her willingness to ride out this storm and, above all, her outstanding journalism ethics. And those who suggest otherwise, I think, might be not looking at the big and the little picture. It’s high time they did.

Photo Captions
All photos Copyright 2005 by Joe Wessels
In two photos Judith Miller discusses her situation at the SPJ convention before joining a panel of other journalists in similar situations.

Patricia Hurtado – a reporter with Newsday – discusses her battle to stay out of a court case she was covering during a panel with the AP’s Josef Hebert and The New York Times’ Judith Miller. Attorneys involved with the case subpoenaed her to testify so she could no longer cover the trial, she said. Far right, media law attorney Bruce Sanford who also addressed the audience.

In one photo, Miller talks with Associated Press reporter Josef Hebert, also involved in a subpoena case similar to Miller’s, but with less attention. They were on a panel together at the convention.

Miller holds hands across the table with an audience member at the SPJ convention who heard her speak.

A crowd rushes the stage after Miller’s panel to get one-on-one time. Miller addresses the crowd.

After leaving the conference hall, Miller spends time with Cleveland-based freelance writer Wendy Hoke to be interviewed for Quill, SPJ’s magazine (two photos).

Representative democracy: “Hold that thought…”

I’ve noticed something lately. Council members are busy people. And they have odd – even rude – ways of getting out of conversations they don’t want to be in. Sometimes it’s even a little funny.

A few nights ago I was sitting with two other reporters – one retired, the other a full-timer – at a popular old downtown eatery once owned by a City Council member.

Sitting down was – low and behold – that former owner and now Council member. He was sitting just inches away from me at another table. Now, I’ve talked to this guy a couple dozen times, mostly out at places around town, but I’ve interviewed him, too, on the phone for different stories. Once I even ran into him the next day, and because he acted like he knew who I was on the phone (maybe he even said it), I thought I’d say hello. I’d hate to be rude, after all.

Wasn’t I surprised when he gave me the polite smile and handshake and asked how I was doing, but obviously had no idea who I am. I happened to be with another reporter – young, attractive and has her photo in the paper every so often – and he lit up like a Christmas tree, saying her name and asking her how she was doing and carrying on – all while I stood there. This has happened twice now with this same person. Both me and this young, attractive reporter think this behavior is pretty funny. And it is.

So, back to the other night. The esteemed former reporter, editor and college professor piped up to say hello to the Council member, making a crack about what a swell idea it would be to put baseball at Broadway Commons. Polite laughter ensued. Former reporter then tried to make some small talk when the Council member held up his finger and said politely, as someone was trying to get his attention, “Hold that thought one sec.”

The Council member then turned around and walked straight-away right out of the restaurant and down the sidewalk.

The three of us just looked at each other and laughed, shaking our heads.

About an hour later another Council member popped into gladhand and chat it up at a going away party that was sprouting up around our table for another group. Keep in mind, presently I’m in the throes of planning a candidates’ town hall meeting that will be broadcast live on the radio show I co-host from the newly re-opened Kaldi’s Coffeehouse in Over-the-Rhine.

Just about a day before this evening I had sent every candidate an e-mail about the forum. About four candidates have confirmed. This candidate had not. I thought I’d just double-check real quick with him that he had been told about it.

Now, I admit he was having a conversation with another person and I knew I’d have to interrupt, but I’d be nice, brief and explain real quick what was going on. Here’s what happened instead.

“Hi, excuse me. How are you?”
“Good, fine. How are you?”
“Real good. Hey, I’m Joe Wessels, we’ve met before…”
“Yeah, hi.”
“…Sorry to interrupt, but wanted to see if you got my e-mail about the candidates forum that is going to be broadcast live at Kaldi’s during the Brian & Joe Radio Show that I co-host…”

Okay, at this point, he reaches for his Blackberry attached to a belt clip on his hip.

“When is it?” the Council Member said.
“August 17, 10 a.m. at Kaldi’s,” I replied.

Right as I’m saying this I’m watching him just casually spinning the jog dial on his Blackberry and just randomly flipping through whatever. Then he says this.

“Yep, got it on my calendar. We’ll see you there.”

What? C’mon. He didn’t look at his calendar. Am I an idiot? Okay, who cares that I’m a reporter. I’m an effin’ citizen, dude. Give me two seconds. Just two. Act interested. Care a little. Less self-importance and more substance.

After that “confirmation” he immediately started chatting to that other person, adding a casually flung “Good-bye…Good seein’ ya” on me just to clinch the sweet-ass blow-off and buh-bye he just gave.

Man, oh, man. He could work for the airlines. I felt more warm and cozy gettng the hairy eyeball from the airline pilot who just jostled the entire cabin when he landed crooked on the runway and, by company policy, is required to stand at the exit and thank the plane-ful of pissed off passengers as they de-board.

Here’s another one. It’s the story I was told about a certain mayoral candidate who blew off another young professional a few months back. I’ve had my own experiences with this guy, who, in our brief exchanges, is really nice, but a little distracted.

The person who told me this story – who happens to represent the largest construction company in this area at many public events – was at a meeting in Over-the-Rhine as an employee of her company. She thought she’d introduce herself to the mayor-wannabe. The whole time he kept looking around the room while she spoke, even eyeing people and nodding as she continued on – for only like three brief minutes, she said. She just wanted to say hello, let the Council member know her company was represented there at that meeting, get a hi back, maybe wish him a good luck this fall. Despite his wandering eye and seeming lack of interest, she still handed him a business card upon the conclusion of their brief interlude.

No mind that she was a little put-off by the whole conversation, she said, but she was still nice. That’s easy to understand. But I can also see where the mayoral candidate is at with all this. It’s politics. He has to be saying hidey-ho to everyone. But, as she watched him after they were “done” talking, he immediately went over and threw her card in the trash can.

Nice.

Anyway, I met another mayoral candidate a few days ago. We’d never met before so I was eager to say hello. He was real happy to say hi to me. Asked me about the story I was working on. Then as I was answering his question he walked away. At least one of his campaign workers mentioned to me how rude that was and apologized. But, geez, dude. Seemed he could use some legal drugs – like polite pills.

So, folks, I think we might have an epidemic going on here. Member of the media or not. Enquirer reporter or online blogger. Citizen with a burnt-out street light or the head of a downtown boycott, we’re just citizens. Citizens who need our representatives to represent us. And that involves listening.

Good news, though. There’s something we all can do. That’s why I’m supporting the nice candidates – albeit privately in my voting booth – for Cincinnati City Council. Those folks, for now, anyway, still say hello and ask how I’m doing when they see me or when I approach them. The others have a few months to take those polite pills.

Second Congressional Results: Moisture caused Clermont County ballots to be delayed

Covering the results for Reuters in the Hackett/Schmidt fight for Ohio’s Second Congressional District Tuesday evening at the Hamilton County Board of Elections turned out to be a later night than most expected. Why? Clermont County couldn’t count their votes.

A Cincinnati Enquirer story neglected to mention why the ballots were late, but quoted Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke as saying he wasn’t sure what the hell happened.

An unused portion of the story I filed for Reuters neglected to mention an explantion put forth by Hamilton County Board of Elections executive director John Williams. Apparently humidity in the air allowed moisture to seep into the Clermont ballots thus making them uncountable until they returned to the ambient room temperature where the machines were located at the Clermont County BOE. Clermont uses an optical-scan method for collecting and tallying votes.

Williams went on to say that he felt that eventually all counties would be required to use this system – and he isn’t happy about it for reasons like Tuesday’s delay. He advocates continued use of the punch-card method and buying an additional device than can electronically check the punch cards for over-voting and hanging chads.

“We’ve used the current system for 30 years,” Williams said. “I bet in another ten years we’ll go back to something like the punch cards.”

Winburn predicts Pepper and himself in general election

I’m not a political reporter. But covering the Hackett/Schmidt results Tuesday evening for Reuters kind of made me one – for one evening anyway. And the radio show has made me a general assignment reporter on all sorts of beats all summer long. I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed exploring other areas through the show, and with my freelancing.

During my time at the Hamilton County Board of Elections I had the opportunity to meet Republican-endorsed mayoral candidate Charlie Winburn. As I worked on my Reuters story on my laptop just feet away, shortly after we met, I heard Winburn predict talking to a group of supporters that after the primary September 13 he’d be in a race for the Mayor’s chair between him and David Pepper.

Pretty interesting, I thought. Guess predictions by candidates aren’t necessarily news, but his confidence is pretty interesting.

See ya, Stupid Galvins. It was fun while it lasted.

In preparation for starting the radio show I compiled an e-mail list of every person, place or thing that I’ve ever met, coupled that with Brian’s list and wound up with an impressive e-mail list just shy of 3,000 e-mail addresses. On that list were at least one of the Galvin brothers, those stupid ones who have a radio show on WVXU.

Jene and Jerry have or, moreover, had (Jene left to help out the Springer on the Radio show earlier this year; Jerry continues alone), a radio show on WVXU. Every Sunday evening at 10 p.m. the two would come on my living room radio and rant about utter silliness. They make up stories, interview Jerry Springer, laugh at themselves, take calls and threaten that every show was their last show. I actually liked listening to the show, though many times I found it pointless. I’m thinking that might’ve been the point.
But pointlessness sometimes is good, especially on a Sunday night as I wound down from a hectic weekend. Many people who I’d ask if they heard their show had at one time or another and felt more strongly that pointlessness shouldn’t appear on their public radio station. I smiled and politely disagreed.

We purposefully made our e-mail list easy to unsubscribe from. So far about 500 e-mail addresses have asked to be taken off. Not a problem and it’s easy to do – just click on a link . I hate spam myself, and would hate to be contributing to that classification of junk mail. But I have to admit, it was really sad when I got the automatic unsubscribe message from our ListServ when Jene Galvin took himself off our list.

Now I’m just hurt. Jene and I spoke on the phone a few times long before the Brian & Joe Radio Show was even conceptualized. We met when I scheduled Jerry Springer to speak at an SPJ luncheon. What had I done to irk him so much that he would take the initiative to unsubscribe himself from another radio show’s e-mail list? Hey, I’m still on the Springer on the Radio e-mail list. Is it because the Brian & Joe Radio Show is on at the same time as Jerry in Cincinnati (I realize that our small, but loyal listenership may posses all the Arbitron books in Cincinnati, but that’s not our fault)?I wish he’d write and tell me. I’m here. I’m willing to listen. And I want to have radio buddies, especially ones that I admire.

Trying to have more interesting days…

Today and this evening have been spent, in large part, getting ready for tomorrow’s radio show. It’ll be our fourth show in what has turned out to be a very fun experience. It’s a lot of work, but, in my opinion, totally worth it. We’ve also received a tremendous response, with an article in the Dayton Daily News, mentions on popular local Blogs and a snippet in The Cincinnati Enquirer.

We’ve been very fortunate to have on great guests – tomorrow no exception – and it appears we’re going to march on with more interesting folks in-studio or on the phone. Hope you’ll take a listen, either live or in our archives (with Podcasts enabled, too).

***

Since March I’ve been a stay-at-home Pa to my cats, more out of forced necessity than by choice. Nonetheless, being a freelancer has been a great experience allowing me the freedom I’ve really grown accustom to in my adult life. At the same time, though, it can be boring. I miss having colleagues (even if in the past they’ve often been rather drab – but not all of ’em), a place to go everyday and, well, a 401(k).

There have been some days where it’ll get to be 5 p.m. and I am still wearing what I wore to bed and I haven’t stepped foot outside of my apartment, though I’ve worked my ass off. That’s a little disconcerting. I’m lonely, I guess, and I find myself craving some social interaction. Cats are great, but, hey, I can only interpret so much from a meow, not matter how hard I try.

***

Bought tile this morning for the new house. Stopped into Ohio Tile & Marble in Northside and had the nicest clerk help me and help boost my creative confidence. She was really cute, too, which is always a bonus. Ended up with this grayish black-speckled tile for the black bathroom and this nifty “starry” galaxy tile for the hearth downstairs.

In an attempt to keep me writing daily, here I Blog. Though tonight’s entry is rather blah. My apologies, and I hope tomorrow yields better material.

G’night.