Thinking about teacher’s child porn trouble and my old school’s website

Today, I found out some news about someone who went to school with me, pretty much since kindergarten. In fact, I think he lived two blocks away. I probably haven’t seen him since junior high, which is what we called middle school in those days.

He was very smart and probably could’ve done anything. Eventually, he became a teacher in Florida, near where we grew up. That, I knew. Nothing else, since we hadn’t kept in touch.

Now, I found out he’s in big trouble, pleading guilty to a count of child pornography possession. He’s not the first person I knew, and also not the first teacher.

Don’t ask me what I think. I don’t know the guy. I know what I read, and you can look it up if you have any interest. (I won’t share anything else because what I read made it clear there was electronic possession, and it came from outside this country. Therefore, there’s no threat nor need-to-know in this blog post. Anybody who’d need to know already does.)

That got me thinking about the school where I started teaching. Regular readers know I did way too much there and was taken advantage of. That included figuring out how to be webmaster of the school’s old website. I was assigned that responsibility since I had my own site for my classes throughout that time.

I know since I left, the school had a big web problem and apparently had to pay to get the job done. (It’s funny how they finally found money when they had nothing for me, but I got the last laugh through education, experience and respect.)

lenny michael charlot
June 6, 2012: Honored at the Teacher of the Year luncheon

All this thinking got me to check out the school’s website and I was not pleased.

Below is the email I sent to Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ superintendent, the board chairperson, and the board member whose district includes the school.

Keep in mind, the school is between North Miami and Miami Shores. The majority of the school population was Haitian when I was there, and I have no reason to believe that changed over the past five-plus years.

(I kept the web links in for time purposes, and so you can see for yourself how things are being done and what I’ll be discussing. It’s exactly like the email I just sent.)

email

Hi! Please take just one moment to think about the importance of getting complete, accurate information out to all of your stakeholders, at all of your schools, and looking professional in the process.

I know Superintendent Carvalho recognizes the significance of not just appearing but also being competent, and would think he, the Board Chair and District 2 Board Member will feel as badly as I do after seeing what I just saw on the website of the school where I used to teach, run the website, serve as grade chair, electronic gradebook chair, EESAC secretary, Rookie Teacher of the Year, Teacher of the Year, and too many other things.

Today, I was shocked by what they’re showing the world on the internet.

First, on the District’s information page on Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy http://www.dadeschools.net/schools/schoolinformation/school_details.asp?id=5141, the Principal’s Message writes the old school name (Hubert O. Sibley Elementary) which was changed years ago. He does it *three* different times in one single message. His message is not timely. There is no year on it. How long do you think it has been since he updated it? (And just wait. Keep reading and you’ll see I found it at three other locations!) The picture on top has that old school name on it. And there’s a link for the 2012 bond referendum still up. What grade are the children who were born that year in now?

Clicking onto the school’s actual site (which redirects to https://www.hubertosibley.org/

On the homepage:

The Principal’s Message https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295193&type=d on the right side is exactly the same as I wrote about above, with the wrong school name.

elementary on homepage

“Who is Hubert O. Sibley?” on the left side should be “Who was” since he’s dead. Also, a phrase inside the link https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=297771&type=d looks more like an old phone company than a correctly-spelled description. (I’ll explain it to you later in this letter, if necessary.) A more recent picture of him would also be nice. I know the school had a painting when I was there. Personally, I think the students at the school would relate more to him as an old man in a suit, rather than what they’d consider an old picture of someone in a strange-looking uniform.

who was

phone company

While you’re there, look at the directory of links on the left side. There seem to be two links on most pages on the site and that’s bad, because I don’t think the first link works any of those pages and the second links to one particular person (a math coach) who is listed on every faculty and staff page, and more as you’ll see. FYI: It should probably link here https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/staff/, but that page isn’t totally up to date.

Back to the homepage:

The “Food Menu” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/food_menu/ has a blank calendar, like they’re not serving anything for breakfast or lunch. My first thought was that the page could link to a District page since schools tend to serve the same foods. Don’t worry. I found where it should go: http://nutrition.dadeschools.net/#!/rightColumn/193. I would actually separate the District menus page from the “To Apply Online for Free and Reduce Price Meals” page. (It should really say “Reduced.”) I’d also add the page to pay for lunch, which is right there, and could save time in the lunch line.

The PTA page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295215&type=d looks very old and I don’t think any of the teachers listed have taught at the school in years. Furthermore, Ruth Robert’s name is spelled wrong. It’s not “Roberts” as you can see in her email address. (She’s one of those former Sibley teachers.)

The “Mission Statement” underneath is complete right there, so why do they begin another sentence (which never ends) and wastes the reader’s time to click a link when the new page simply restates that mission statement?

mission

Don’t forget, the homepage is the most important one you have.

Look at the top, and the “About Us” section:

There are at least two errors in “News and Announcements” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/news/. The first link there (Middle School Mock Trial Virtual Competition, https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=524303&id=0) has a hyphen where there shouldn’t be, and the paragraphs ends referring to “finals rankings.”

bad hyphen and finals rankings

The third link (Social Media Toolkit, https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=520826&id=0) needs no explanation. Just look at it, and notice the repetition and lack of proofreading. I remember teaching the students to proofread. Also, there’s nothing to click where it says, “Please click here.”

repeat and no click

In “Upcoming Events” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/events2/?id=0&v=1&m=9&y=2018#today, there is nothing planned past October? When did you publish the school calendar? (We’ll get to more on that.) And why not post the whole school year on one page instead of separating by month? Wouldn’t that be more reader-friendly?

In “School Improvement Plan,” (redirected to https://www.hubertosibley.org/pdf/5141.pdf), is 2014-2015 really the latest available? How many more recent ones were finished but never posted? I know a thing or two about this, considering I used to sit at the former assistant principal’s desk instead of teaching my students, and typing, doing math and coming up with ideas to write. I also went to a session at another school for administrators on how to do the SIP when again, I should’ve been teaching. We’ll get to more on the assistant principal. Until you get there, think about who gave him permission for me to not do my job.

In “Photo Albums” (plural in the menu but singular on the page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/album/), the “School at a Glance” is no more than a glance because there are two pictures and one is fake! https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/album/#!albumREC_ID=105733&s=0

In the “Video Gallery” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/video/, there seems to have been no videos uploaded in two years. I’d consider deleting any whole section with nothing but old material to avoid embarrassment. The reader won’t miss what he or she isn’t trying to find.

Now, to the “Academics” section:

The “Classes/Homework” page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/classes/ shows there are zero classes offered at the school. Make that “0 classes” for every subject.

The “Departments” page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/departments/ is similar with “0 classes” for every subject, but staff member numbers are listed and they’re NOT zero.

Also in “Departments,” the Principal’s Message is the exact same old one from the District’s info page, the school’s homepage, and in the “About Us” section. That means it’s wrong in three places the school controls (and that message, in turn, gives the wrong school name three times in each of those places).

That math coach I mentioned earlier, after Mr. Sibley’s biography, is listed in addition (like that math phrase?) to the folks who actually work in each of the other departments (like cafeteria, custodial, security, etc.)! Check them all out.

But more importantly, check out Administration https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=297881&type=d. Yes, she’s there too, but worst of all is the page includes the former assistant principal I referred to earlier who was the subject of many news reports, including the links I’m about to show you, and who will continue to serve time in federal prison for almost the next two years! (Go to bop.gov and look him up.)

clippinger bop

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl/pr/public-school-assistant-principal-sentenced-58-months-prison-and-25-years-supervised

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article161855528.html

https://www.local10.com/news/crime/assistant-principal-granted-200000-bond-after-arrest-on-child-pornography-charges

https://patch.com/florida/miami/miami-beach-assistant-principal-allegedly-went-666prv

https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Miami-Beach-Assistant-Principal-Accused-of-Child-Porn-Leaves-Jail-412607673.html

https://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/crime–law/former-florida-assistant-principal-gets-nearly-years-for-child-porn-charges/vlpCjTWGq7EaIA1SvIyFgJ/

https://www.local10.com/news/crime/family-supports-assistant-principal-arrested-on-child-porn-charges-at-hearing

https://wsvn.com/news/local/assistant-principal-arrested-on-child-porn-charges-faces-judge/

https://www.briansilber.com/don-clippinger-miami-florida-arrested-allegedly-downloading-child-pornography/

https://miami.cbslocal.com/2017/02/02/bond-set-for-assistant-principal-charged-in-child-porn-case/

https://www.facebook.com/FDLEpage/posts/1648494785191744?__xts__[0]=68.ARDRJOdCWkzwN6bUPoYBJY6OnIo7yovY3-U9pjp4R8GI4FyLDYXW2EU3L3mEhlZIFatYBlM2YGEfOeu6RATypuiXVkes62s7-A6o_FsXuH-Hq–0rAGR-8-EICrjVyJzSseUyLlAp6Nek0H8WsTgT2DKagWVvAPCZB2kTUKEJgFEsXlzP9N7IMdqJ2lCj-FAhWojhOqi8HvUxW2HJdqov6T3o7Q&__tn__=-R

I don’t know how this happened. You’d think somebody would’ve/should’ve noticed!

Continuing in the “Academics” section:

The Bell Schedule (singular in the menu and plural on the page, which is the exact opposite of the Photo Album mention from earlier) https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/bell_schedules/ lists bell times for two prior years but nothing for this year. Why would anybody care about an old bell schedule? (You’re making me think of Mrs. Sibley, a belle rather than a bell!)

Now to the “Students” section:

Under “Student Links” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295194&type=d, you see that same math coach again! As I mentioned earlier with most pages on the site, the directory of links on the left side is a waste because the upper link doesn’t work and in this case, the content that the lower one links to could actually be on this page! (Remember about being reader-friendly?)

Go to that lower link https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295194&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=links and you’ll see the first two items are old school calendars! You’ll remember I asked about this year’s school calendar, when discussing the About Us/Upcoming Events page. Old, outdated information confuses people, whether it’s on calendars, bell schedules, the school’s name, or anything else you can think of outside a history class. You want to inform, not confuse.

Under “Clubs and Activities” https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/departments/clubs.jsp, look at Fairchild Challenge https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295204&type=d and you’ll notice information about 2008 and 2009! I was teaching at Sibley *Elementary* in 2008 and 2009 (this page has the school’s name with Elementary four times, which shows how outdated it is) and even volunteered to chaperone the afterschool trip down to Fairchild for the awards ceremony! Again, what grade are the children who were born then in now?

I see they’ve decided to call Reading https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295201&type=d a “Club and Activity” and even though I haven’t seen the old school website I ran for years for free, since the principal could never find the money, I could swear they took my writing verbatim and copied and pasted it over. Has the Suggested Summer Reading List changed in about the past decade? I know my writing, and the introduction probably hasn’t. Were any new books written in all that time?

They did the same with Science https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=295202&type=d and listed a 2012 event as one of two short paragraphs. That second paragraph may also be my writing because I remember trying to get the former science coach to give me something to write. By the way, in 2006, I got former WTVJ-NBC6 chief meteorologist Paul Deanno to Sibley for Saturday School. We’ve been friends since my first TV stint in Philadelphia. I still have the picture I took, even after 12 years. Do you want me to send it, to show what Sibley is doing in science, these days?

Just beneath “Clubs and Activities” is the “Food Menu” again, and I already mentioned it.

Finally, to the “Parents” section:

The “EESAC Info” page redirects to the District page, so it doesn’t mention any names of people at the school. It should, in addition to minutes and a schedule of future meetings. I was EESAC secretary for about seven years. The school is supposed to be recruiting as many stakeholders as possible, and I remember how difficult it was to get a quorum.

I mentioned the PTA page earlier.

The “Intervention Opportunities for Math and Science” page https://www.hubertosibley.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=301576&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=563974 looks like part of a memo from the District to school administrators with no explanation for parents (which would be the point of it being on the website, right?). It lists a website without a link to it, and that page only concerns science. On top of that, it looks scary at first glance, with so much on there, especially to parents who don’t know English so well. If the information in what looks like a memo is so important, then why not link directly to each resource described? That would mean taking time to go to the District page, finding the resource among so many other things, and linking right to it. Are “Intervention Opportunities” important enough and therefore worth the time and effort? I’d think so! Then, the school’s page (or the memo) ends with email addresses for science supervisors in elementary, middle and senior high schools, but no links to click to write to them. And it’s a dead giveaway the page was copied and pasted sloppily, like others I mentioned, because Sibley is not a senior high school!

And last, the “Parent/Student Handbook” https://www.hubertosibley.org/pdf/2018-2019%20School%20Parent%20Student%20Handbook.pdf is a mess. Look at the spacing for the name of the school.

spacing

The District’s mission statement on page 3 is different than the school’s, which has been around since I worked there.
There’s no year listed on the handbook until the top of the Superintendent’s Message on page 4, like any letter would have.
The Principal’s Message on page 8 is the same wrong one I mentioned three times earlier. This makes four occurrences. I mean, the name of the school is different on the Principal’s Message than it is on the cover! Who’d sign their name to that nonsense?
On page 9, one assistant principal gets the name of the school correct. The other doesn’t mention it, but spells “Miami Dade” (referring to the County School District) without a hyphen.
On page 11, Mrs. Sibley is referred to as a “Southern bell” again. That’s almost like Ma Bell, which became BellSouth and now AT&T.

I can go on and on, as you can imagine. My first big thought is DISAPPOINTMENT. My second and third are lazy and cheap. That goes completely against the school’s mission statement, which is “Develop ourselves to be better people and professionals so that we may develop better students.” I put everything I had into my work at Sibley – we were even an ‘A’ school for a year when I was there – but I left at the end of the 2012-2013 year because I knew something there wasn’t right. I was right, and it’s still there.

I know you want to see your stakeholders getting complete, accurate information – so students will be better educated – and it’s obvious they’re not. You need people who can do better, at least at Sibley.

Thank you for reading, and please do the man justice. You named the school after him, and he can no longer help fix problems down here.

Lenny Cohen
Formerly employee #280155, if I remember correctly

Click here to visit the section 2006-2014: Teaching Time.

message
How nice this was changed on Monday, Oct. 22! I can only imagine the curses.

Also, the “Food Menu” was replaced, the “Bell Schedule” was updated and the “Administration” section it its old state was removed.

These are other changes I noticed midday on Tuesday, Oct. 23:

Keep up the good work! I know you can do it!

Please leave your comments in the section below. I’ve never done this, but there should not be any names mentioned in the comments here. And don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. Don’t rely on social media with its hacking issues and censoring like this, this, and this. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

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The case against us all paying for private schools

Several times a year, before elections, a man in Florida emails me about who to support in elections down there. The goal is to receive money (Isn’t that everyone’s?) for private schools. In this case, it’s Jewish religious schools. And that’s despite public schools being free for everyone – Jews too – and paid for with everybody’s tax dollars.

So don’t tell me there’s no alternative when public schools are required to bend over backwards to meet all students’ needs.

school student AThe first time I got the email, I wrote back, asking the nephrologist (a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases) how he got my name and my email address. He was very polite and offered to take me off. I said it wasn’t necessary. I really wanted to read what he had to say. Information is power and I was a teacher for eight years, spending several lousy months at a Conservative Jewish day school.

The private school was the worst of my experiences and probably the least educational of the three schools where I taught, including public schools in two Florida counties.

Most of the parents whose children I taught at the religious school wanted special programs, and they wanted their children in those programs with people of the same culture. There’s absolutely no question in my mind.

I briefly compared the different teaching experiences when I wrote about why I left the field in general, on the eve of my Florida certification expiring in late June.

hochberg

 

religionsSo the problem I had, personally, was “class” and not religion. I actually liked listening to the religious lessons, from attending the second grade morning prayer service daily, to sitting in on the religious classes in my classroom, while planning and grading papers. I didn’t have to, but I know the religious teachers appreciated it, since my presence helped the children’s behavior.

Yes, many students had behavior issues, just like at any other school. The only differences I noticed were race and their families’ wealth.

From what I saw, the parents paid tuition in the five-figures and knew they could get away with anything. There’s a true saying that children learn in three ways: by “example, example, example.” In other words, they watched their parents (children notice more than many adults believe) and were raised to feel entitled.

Keep in mind, I’m writing about one school. It was a Conservative Jewish one, and Conservative (with a capital C) meant that stream of Judaism was started to “conserve” religious practices, about 100 years ago, that the older Reform movement had given up. So Conservative doesn’t mean the opposite of liberal. It allowed egalitarian seating and the use of microphones (electricity).

In fact, these days, Conservative is pretty much considered liberal since Reform has been bringing back some tradition. It has become the most popular in America, taking Conservative congregants who want shorter services, musical instruments during services and intermarriage (usually as long as the couple promises to raise Jewish children). There’s also paternal lineage (Reform considers children with a Jewish father Jewish, as long as they’re raised Jewish), usually more English during services, and absolutely no questions about egalitarianism or same-sex couples getting married.

Of course, whatever a Jewish person’s thoughts are, they have to be comfortable with the specific synagogue they attend and that includes the clergy, other congregants and financial obligations. A school setting is similar.

Orthodox schools vary greatly, but most separate the boys and girls into different classes at some point. I don’t know whether religious schools or any private schools require teachers to be certified by different states, or whether they have to teach the state’s curriculum or administer standardized tests, but I’m pretty sure it varies.

Grown-ups whose parents had them attend some Hasidic schools are now angry and feeling hopeless, since they know Jewish law and are good at Yiddish, but illiterate in English! There is hardly any secular instruction. See recent articles here, here, here and here, one of which says a New York state senator refused to sign off on the state budget unless Hasidic schools in and around NYC

“were given more autonomy over curricula.”

That’s despite the article saying most of the students

“are doomed to a life of struggle and poverty.”

Of course, religious schools are free to teach anti-gay hate, or that men and women have different roles, or that evolution is science fiction. That’s the case and if you don’t believe me, look at Congress or too many state legislatures!

So this morning, I got this email with the subject line,

“The Future of the Florida Jewish Community Will Be Decided November 6,”

since we Jews are always scared of the worst possibility.

email

Keep in mind, there are plenty of issues with Andrew Gillum but they involve separate subjects. Ron DeSantis is far right-wing. I’ve told plenty of people I’m happy to not have to choose in the Florida governor’s race.

Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D)

For U.S. Senate, he endorsed the current two-term governor who has his work cut out for him with Hurricane Michael, and will for awhile. How he performs may change some voters’ minds, but the Florida Democratic Party claimed Rick Scott “oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the nation’s history” and PolitiFact Florida rated the claim Mostly True. Still, he was elected twice since then. Senate incumbent Bill Nelson is running for his fourth term. As for the Iran deal, which I was also totally against, I don’t think the reference was appropriate for endorsements on a single-issue. The author basically said so when he mentioned his group’s mission at the end.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D)

Right: A liquor store in Panama City Beach around landfall.

I don’t know enough about the state attorney general candidate but am glad the current one is finally stepping down, and I’m impressed the endorsed CFO candidate is a Democrat, simply because they rarely get this guy’s recommendations. Every good cause should have bipartisan support, as party majorities rotate from one to the other, and back. The only variables are how often, and how wide the margin is.

I had some questions and wrote back, specifically about tax money from the public going to rabbis.

i wrote

And as he did some years ago, he politely answered. I honestly can’t challenge him since seems to know the subject and how to explain it, having studied it for years.

his answer

I can’t say I agree with laundering public tax money so it goes towards religion. That’s different that paying a religious organization for doing secular work.

Jeb Bush's Facebook page
from Jeb Bush’s Facebook page

This is the land with the legacy of Jeb Bush, who accelerated the number and importance of standardized tests more than anyone could imagine. He and his friendly legislature also found ways to get millions of dollars for money for school choice. (Sounds great, doesn’t it?) Count the ways you can take advantage, here.

And then there are charter schools that are public – paid for with money taken from school districts and required to administer state tests – but run by outsiders, often companies, out to make money. And studies have gone back and forth whether they get better results than traditional public schools, despite being able to turn away students, pretty much at their will. (That’s as if test scores are the only surefire way to judge education.)

The man who emailed represents a group called Jewish Leadership Coalition and its Facebook page says it’s “a non-for-profit 501(c)(4) Social Welfare Organization comprised of various Jewish leaders and organizations that have joined together to advocate for greater public funding for secular education in Jewish day schools.”fb jewish coalition

It gives a website that doesn’t seem to work, and doesn’t come up in searches, but this 2013 article announced that it started and who would benefit from the money.

ou jlc
https://www.ou.org/news/jewish_leadership_coalition/

The families whose children go to these schools tend to have more kids than the average American family, and they eat only kosher food. The costs add up. So do the number of students!

Other states with large Jewish populations have groups similar to the one above. This website helps parents in six states get government money to pay tuition that public schools don’t charge.

teach advocacy
https://teachadvocacy.org/

I understand parents with strong religious beliefs want their children brought up in their faith and to have extensive knowledge of it. That’s very difficult in a 24-hour day, where students receive a well-rounded education so they can become professionals who can contribute to society.

clock school

Outside of school these days, “free time” seems to be the “in” thing. Competing with that are all the extracurricular activities parents sign their children up to do, even at the school where I taught. It was a way to make money. Perhaps some of that has to go. Nobody can have it all.

money dollars

The rich make teacher unions look like the boogeyman, as you saw in the response to me, as if all they do is take money. Unions don’t want to protect bad teachers. (I’ve been a shop steward, but it wasn’t my idea.) They want good teachers and to see that those good teachers get the protections like a fair contract and the due process they deserve – to avoid being taken advantage of by bad administrators, not to mention parents who think they know more about education than the supposed experts.

In May, a religious friend conducted this Facebook poll:

Facebook poll

I think the principal was out of line and probably ruined his relationship with this “special needs” student, which may have been hard to build and would probably be harder to rebuild.

I responded.

Facebook response

The man who simply said “They listen to their parents” has a wife who is Director of Special Programs at – you guessed it – a (different) Jewish day school!

It’s natural in every financial transaction that the buyer wants to pay less, while the business (or school) wants more. There has to be a fair solution.

And for years, I’ve had what I consider the perfect solution.

I think public school teachers hired by the district should go to the private schools and teach English, math, science and social studies. Perhaps also electives like physical education, music and art. That would be half the day, and it would be paid for the same way public schools pay for educators and materials. Any tuition crisis would be instantly alleviated!

In my solution, the religious side could teach its material during the other half of the day. So half the school would study religion, and the other half would do secular studies, and then they’d switch!

half

What about religious holidays, like half the month of September and the entire eight days of Passover? The schedule could be adjusted. The public school teachers would volunteer to teach at these schools, especially those who take off for all the holidays anyway. It would be a blessing for the religious school parents to have their children in school while they prepare for the holidays, rather than watching over them because school is canceled, so their teachers could take off to prepare for their own families!

Also, the public school teachers would teach the public school curriculum with no interference, and students would take the same tests as the rest of the general population (without overkill for anybody). Plus, the students would be exposed to people who don’t all look, sound or believe like them.school crossing sign

I want to know what you think about this.

It would also eliminate the worst thing that happens: Parents not sending their children to public schools, but taking the scarce money devoted to education away from them. Which state’s legislature pays enough for quality schools? What school system has enough money to really do its job right? Who pays their teachers what they deserve as professionals? What district gives every one of its poorest students equal access to a quality education at their neighborhood school?

In February, USA Today published a list, ranking the states by the quality of their schools. (Eight of the top nine, and ten of the top 12, are states between the mid-Atlantic and New England! Take that for what it’s worth.) Florida ranks number 29 and the lead to the article on the Sunshine State is pretty grim:

“Florida’s public schools receive some of the lowest funding of any state school system in the country.”

Read the article for the state rankings (luckily all on one webpage) and the results of being too cheap when it comes to educating children, but there’s one I have to share: Florida is 48th out of 50 in the percentage of adults, ages 25-64, with incomes at or above the national median. In other words, you get what you pay for and this is pitiful! Imagine who in the U.S. is behind Florida, despite all the visitors who go there and spend money!

I’ll tell you that your child’s teacher is most important person in the school, besides the students, and every school in every state has good ones and bad ones. Hopefully those bad ones don’t last long but the good ones can be convinced to stay, and we all know money talks.

So do you think my compromise idea would work? Is it at least worth a try? How would you tweak it?

Please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, justice and becoming a Justice

President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will be giving the Senate Judiciary Committee calendars from 1982 to back up his continued denial of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford. That’s according to The New York Times, late Sunday afternoon.

The year 1982 was 36 years ago. Do you have your calendar from back then? Heck, were you even alive back then? (I was and I remember, but my calendar situation was mainly my parents’ responsibility at that time.) At least Judge Kavanaugh can’t say his was accidentally deleted from wherever we keep our calendars, these days. On the other hand, looks like we’ll be keeping our calendars forever!

two men holding pen and calendar sitting beside table
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I explained in a lawsuit about 17-18 years ago (half the time since 1982?!) – when I mentioned plans and the other side immediately asked for my calendar – they’re good for some things and not for others. Calendars will tell what your plans were when you wrote (or saved) them. They were your intentions. Calendars won’t tell whether you actually followed through with the plans or changed them. Maybe you got sick.

(“So as I told you, despite what my old calendar said, no, I didn’t go to a movie with my friend Harry, that night!”)

Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Anyway, the calendar is supposed to help with Judge Kavanaugh’s denial, at least to some degree.

Let’s see. He was born in 1965. (Damn! All these “old” people’s birth years are getting closer and closer to mine!)

Dr. Blasey Ford is expected to testify in an open hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Click here for details on the conditions requested and what to expect, at least at this point. Just don’t swear by it under oath, since things are changing.

Kavanaugh graduated from Yale Law School in 1990 and clerked for some other federal judges. He actually interviewed for a clerkship with then-Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, but was denied. Instead, he clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement led to Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace him.

Justice Neil Gorsuch
Justice Neil Gorsuch

During that clerkship, he worked alongside Neil Gorsuch (born 1967!). He and now-Justice Gorsuch attended the same prep school! Small world.

SIDEBAR: Remember, Justice Gorsuch’s nomination came after President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, who remains Chief Judge of the Federal Appeals Court, DC Circuit, where Kavanaugh has been a Circuit Judge since 2006! Again, small world.

But the Republican-controlled Senate never took up Judge Garland’s nomination.

BACK TO THE STORY: You’ll remember, President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch to succeed the late Antonin Scalia. He was 49 and the youngest (successful) nominee to the Supreme Court since none other than Clarence Thomas! Justice Thomas was 43, back in 1991. You may remember, his nomination proceedings to replace the retiring Thurgood Marshall (quota?) were contentious from the start over the issue of abortion and Thomas’ conservative political views.

Then and now: Clarence Thomas at the EEOC (1989–1990), and as a Supreme Court Justice

Whose name is missing from that last paragraph? Law Professor Anita Hill, of course!

She’d worked under Thomas at the U.S. Education Department and then at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It wasn’t until the end of Thomas’ confirmation hearings that her behavior allegations against Thomas were leaked to National Public Radio’s Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg (still on the job!) from a confidential FBI report. I think we have déjà vu.

SIDEBAR: Just wondering if any of the TV networks have correspondents who focus on the Supreme Court. I remember in 1991 when NBC News took Carl Stern off the air after decades on the SCOTUS beat. It was pointed out that left nobody exclusively covering one of the three branches of our government, gathering sources for NBC. You can read more about the decision-making and see some familiar names (to us old people) in this Washington Post article. Stern, a lawyer, is now George Washington University’s Emeritus Professor of Media and Public Affairs.

1991 Anita Hill
Prof. Anita Hill (1991)

BACK TO THE STORY: Many of us actually learned the phrase “sexual harassment” during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill frenzy. Hill – a Yale Law School graduate and University of Oklahoma law professor – testified a mutual friend introduced her to Thomas. Then, he asked if she’d leave a private firm and work as his assistant at the Department of Education. After being happy for three months, he asked her to go out with him socially and everything changed when she told him it wouldn’t be right, since she was her supervisor. (I’m summarizing her statement from that same link above, sure to bring back memories for us older folk.)

“I thought that by saying ‘no’ and explaining my reasons, my employer would abandon his social suggestions. However, to my regret, in the following few weeks he continued to ask me out on several occasions. He pressed me to justify my reasons for saying “no” to him. These incidents took place in his office or mine. They were in the form of private conversations which would not have been overheard by anyone else.

“My working relationship became even more strained when Judge Thomas began to use work situations to discuss sex. On these occasions, he would call me into his office for reports on education issues and projects or he might suggest that because of the time pressures of his schedule, we go to lunch to a government cafeteria. After a brief discussion of work, he would turn the conversation to a discussion of sexual matters. His conversations were very vivid.

“He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals, and films showing group sex or rape scenes. He talked about pornographic materials depicting individuals with large penises, or large breasts involved in various sex acts.

“On several occasions Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess. Because I was extremely uncomfortable talking about sex with him at all, and particularly in such a graphic way, I told him that I did not want to talk about these subjects. I would also try to change the subject to education matters or to nonsexual personal matters, such as his background or his beliefs. My efforts to change the subject were rarely successful.”

Then, Prof. Hill testified,

“During the latter part of my time at the Department of Education, the social pressures and any conversation of his offensive behavior ended. I began both to believe and hope that our working relationship could be a proper, cordial, and professional one. When Judge Thomas was made chair of the EEOC, I needed to face the question of whether to go with him. I was asked to do so and I did. The work, itself, was interesting, and at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures, which had so troubled me, had ended. I also faced the realistic fact that I had no alternative job. While I might have gone back to private practice, perhaps in my old firm, or at another, I was dedicated to civil rights work and my first choice was to be in that field. Moreover, at that time the Department of Education, itself, was a dubious venture. President Reagan was seeking to abolish the entire department.”

There were no problems for her first few months.

“However, during the fall and winter of 1982, these began again. The comments were random, and ranged from pressing me about why I didn’t go out with him, to remarks about my personal appearance. I remember him saying that ‘some day I would have to tell him the real reason that I wouldn’t go out with him.’

“He began to show displeasure in his tone and voice and his demeanor in his continued pressure for an explanation. He commented on what I was wearing in terms of whether it made me more or less sexually attractive. The incidents occurred in his inner office at the EEOC.

“One of the oddest episodes I remember was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table, at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, ‘Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?’

“On other occasions he referred to the size of his own penis as being larger than normal and he also spoke on some occasions of the pleasures he had given to women with oral sex. At this point, late 1982,1 began to feel severe stress on the job. I began to be concerned that Clarence Thomas might take out his anger with me by degrading me or not giving me important assignments. I also thought that he might find an excuse for dismissing me.

“In January 1983, I began looking for another job. I was handicapped because I feared that if he found out he might make it difficult for me to find other employment, and I might be dismissed from the job I had.

“Another factor that made my search more difficult was that this was during a period of a hiring freeze in the Government. In February 1983, I was hospitalized for 5 days on an emergency basis for acute stomach pain which I attributed to stress on the job. Once out of the hospital. I became more committed to find other employment and sought further to minimize my contact with Thomas.”

Hill ended up taking a job at Oral Roberts University.

“The dean of the university saw me teaching and inquired as to whether I would be interested in pursuing a career in teaching, beginning at Oral Roberts University. I agreed to take the job, in large part, because of my desire to escape the pressures I felt at the EEOC due to Judge Thomas.

“When I informed him that I was leaving in July, I recall that his response was that now, I would no longer have an excuse for not going out with him. I told him that I still preferred not to do so. At some time after that meeting, he asked if he could take me to dinner at the end of the term. When I declined, he assured me that the dinner was a professional courtesy only and not a social invitation. I reluctantly agreed to accept that invitation but only if it was at the very end of a working day.

“On, as I recall, the last day of my employment at the EEOC in the summer of 1983, I did have dinner with Clarence Thomas. We went directly from work to a restaurant near the office. We talked about the work that I had done both at Education and at the EEOC. He told me that he was pleased with all of it except for an article and speech that I had done for him while we were at the Office for Civil Rights. Finally he made a comment that I will vividly remember. He said, that if I ever told anyone of his behavior that it would ruin his career. This was not an apology, nor was it an explanation. That was his last remark about the possibility of our going out, or reference to his behavior.”

In case you were wondering (and who of a certain age wasn’t?), further discussions of pornographic videos Thomas had allegedly rented, including the now-famous Long Dong Silver, must’ve happened during questioning or cross-examination.1991 arlen specter

Anyway, members of the Judiciary Committee didn’t treat Prof. Hill very nicely. For reasons we don’t know and can only imagine, two women who made statements supporting Prof. Hill to Senate staffers never testified.

Then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden (D) was committee chair. The late Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, then a Republican, gave Prof. Hill an especially hard time.

“Professor Hill, now that you have read the FBI report, you can see that it contains no reference to any mention of Judge Thomas’ private parts or sexual prowess or size, et cetera, and my question to you would be, on something that is as important as it is in your written testimony and in your responses to Senator Biden, why didn’t you tell the FBI about that?”

Déjà vu, once again.

“Professor Hill, you said that you took it to mean that Judge Thomas wanted to have sex with you, but in fact he never did ask you to have sex, correct?”

And then the former Philadelphia D.A. asked,

“What went through your mind, if anything, on whether you ought to come forward at that stage, because if you had, you would have stopped this man from being head of the EEOC perhaps for another decade? What went on through your mind? I know you decided not to make a complaint, but did you give that any consideration, and, if so, how could you allow this kind of reprehensible conduct to go on right in the headquarters, without doing something about it?”

You can see and hear some other lowlights in these clips:

2018-02-05 Anita Hill Gage Skidmore
Feb. 8, 2018: Prof. Anita Hill (by Gage Skidmore via Wikipedia)

Thomas denied everything and called the hearing a type of “high tech lynching.”

As we know, the nomination was moved to the full, Democratic-controlled, Senate, and Thomas was narrowly confirmed, 52-48.

Despite the Déjà vu, those were accusations of sexual harassment. The allegation against Kavanaugh is attempted rape.

Kavanaugh denies it happened, but he has had confirmation trouble before. In 2003, when President George W. Bush (#43) nominated him for his current job – Circuit Judge for the Federal Appeals Court, DC Circuit – it took him three years to get approved! He was considered too partisan and wasn’t sworn in until 2006.

Let’s not forget Judge Kavanaugh already has a job for life. Every federal judge does. It says so in the Constitution.

gavel judge

In fact, I got called for federal jury duty back in 1995, while producing afternoon and early evening coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder trial for WSVN in Miami. This was just before the L.A. jury was going to deliberate the verdict and we potential Miami jurors were warned, our case could last weeks.

I was angry after waiting a whole day in the courtroom doing nothing. Finally, we were questioned and I told off a federal judge using the line, “You have a job for life but I have to earn mine every day!” (You’re welcome again, Patrick and Alice!)

At the end, they divided everyone up into groups. Those in my group were very happy to be there, even though the judge hadn’t announced which group would get to go home, have to come back, etc. (Yes, we got sent home for good.) What I won’t do for a job!

So Judge Kavanaugh will not get any more job security if he is confirmed. He will just get more publicity as a justice on the nation’s highest court. (Would you still want that?) And the opportunity to influence the entire country. Also, don’t forget the ability to sell more books further into the future. Plus, maybe a movie, The Notorious B.M.K. (His middle name is Michael.)

Nina Totenberg
Nina Totenberg (NPR)

In 1987, President Reagan’s nomination of Judge Douglas Ginsburg (no relation to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of the movie mentioned in the last paragraph) to the High Court ended with his withdrawal nine days after it was announced. Judge Ginsburg, 41, was President Reagan’s second choice after the Senate refused to confirm Judge Robert Bork.

The reason was NPR’s good ‘ol Nina Totenberg  found out Ginsburg had used marijuana “on a few occasions” as a student in the 1960s and as a Harvard Law assistant professor in the 1970s.

That was a big deal at the time. President Reagan ended up nominating David Souter and not long after, President George H.W. Bush (#41) nominated Anthony Kennedy, who – again – is retiring now. But the way the FBI conducted background checks changed forever, causing a lot of other people to have to answer questions about whether they’d experimented with smoking pot.

Judge Ginsburg continues to serve as a Senior Circuit Judge in that same Federal Appeals Court, DC Circuit, I’ve already mentioned twice. No more ‘small world’ reference. It’s getting late and two pieces of more important news just happened.

Of course, a background check is different than investigating a person who is under suspicion of a crime, but the FBI does that for the president, in order to avoid an embarrassment like the Judge Ginsburg incident. Investigations are not left to people appointed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, as was recently suggested, because that’s obviously political.

Rachel Maddow wikipedia
Rachel Maddow

Maybe this will again change the questions that candidates for high positions, who will need to be confirmed by the Senate, will have to answer. The questions will have to be more specific than whether somebody sniffed glue in high school, which was one of the additions after the Judge Ginsburg incident, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow showed!

Let’s stop for a moment and recognize the stories uncovered by these two female journalists.

Perhaps new questions to be asked as soon as the Kavanaugh case ends will include dates of every “base” achieved ending in loss of virginity, as the analogy has gone, which could be a threat to the privacy of willing and non-willing second parties.

Perhaps it will be the height of the #MeToo movement because it could uncover old crimes committed by men who are supposedly upstanding citizens these days. That would be an important lesson to young men with high career hopes, but probably not amount to anything because no president would nominate anybody so much more prone to rejection rather than confirmation.

And we’d never know who they are.

Besides, how many men, in addition to more women these days, would be considered 100 percent innocent of any coming-of-age antics that has probably been around since just after the introduction of the world’s oldest profession?

That brings me to a point somebody – I forgot who – brought up on Facebook last week, probably in a meme.

What about the thousands of victims of priest sexual abuse, just the ones right here in this country? They didn’t speak up right away, for obvious reasons. Should their stories not be heard, even if there’s a statute of limitations to prevent criminal charges?

Then why are people calling for a vote on Judge Kavanaugh before hearing from Dr. Blasey Ford? Should Prof. Hill have not been heard, all those years ago?

According to the York (Pa.) Daily Record, last Monday – less than a week ago – a Pittsburgh-area man and Catholic school kindergartner filed a class action suit as lead plaintiffs,

“seeking the full disclosure of all Catholic dioceses’ records concerning sexual abuse by priests. …

“The complaint notes that the recent grand jury report that identified 301 predatory priests in Pennsylvania (click here to see all 1356 pages) ‘emphasized it did not believe the report identified all predator priests and that many victims never came forward.’

“‘Lack of a complete accounting and disclosure … constitutes a clear and present danger,’ the suit concludes.”

So while Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gets ready to testify against Judge Kavanaugh this Thursday, I’ll close with two pieces of news just in and can’t be ignored as I was about to publish:

First, The New Yorker‘s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer are reporting “Senate Democrats are investigating another allegation of sexual misconduct against” Judge Kavanaugh, this one dating from his time as an undergraduate at Yale.”

According to Axios,

“The second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, claims that Kavanaugh waved his penis in front of her face while she was inebriated at a dormitory party during the 1983-1984 academic school year. She told Farrow and Mayer that she believes an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh’s actions is warranted.”

Judge Kavanaugh’s response:

“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations.”

And from White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec:

“This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man. This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh.”

On the Judiciary Committee: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Christine Blasey Ford
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

Then, “just minutes” after that accusation, according to Axios,

“The office of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley released the unredacted initial letter” Dr. Blasey Ford “sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein in July detailing her account of the (alleged) incident” that both Dr. Blasey Ford and Sen. Feinstein expected to remain confidential.

It’s out and you can read it here.

To me, it looks like another alleged victim has just been betrayed.

Folks, will this ever end?

Please leave your comments in the section below, and don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

Certification expiring, definitely done teaching

The first thing I have to say is this blog was planned for today. It doesn’t have anything to do with Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision on public unions. Instead, it has to do with the calendar.

teaching certificate

The reason, as you see in the picture, is that my Florida teaching certificate expires tomorrow and since tomorrow will be Saturday, that really means today. I never had any intention of returning to a classroom, and never took any courses to do so. In fact, I left Florida, and it’s a lot harder to transfer teaching licenses from state-to-state than it is for driver’s licenses. Instead, I’m happily in the company of former teachers, some of whom left the classroom decades ago for their own reasons, and moved on with no regrets.

I became a teacher because I’ve always tried to help people. Before starting in 2006, I spent more than ten years successfully selling TV newscasts and web articles to the public, so they knew what was going on and became better citizens. I’ve worked all shifts at all hours, depending on resource needs and breaking news.

I may have come from a unique background but I did a whole lot more than spending eight years as a public school teacher in a large urban district. I became well aware of school districts’ needs, including the students, parents, teachers and other employees that depend on them.

I worked most of that time in Miami-Dade County, the fourth largest school district in the country. Broward County, where I worked briefly, is the sixth-largest. I found out how things get done in large bureaucracies. Those neighboring places are among the most diverse areas of the country with many needs ignored in the state capital, as I wrote in Wednesday’s blog.

2008-11 fall fest wild things are
Nov., 2008: classroom door after studying “Where the Wild Things Are”

My opportunity to teach came two years after returning to Florida from Philadelphia for family reasons. I was pretty much thrown into the classroom at Hubert O. Sibley Elementary (now Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy, named after the longtime president/CEO of the South Florida Educational Federal Credit Union) in the middle of the year. The regular 2nd grade teacher was about to go out on maternity leave. I had no formal training and scrambled to pick up as many of the regular teacher’s routines as possible, but my colleagues — who became like big sisters — helped by explaining lesson plans, while I knew how to make photocopies for them. Our relationship strengthened from there!

hubert sibleyThat was during the day. At night, I spent the next few years driving to schools around the district, taking the education classes I didn’t take while in college. It was hard work, and long days and nights, but I had students to use as examples while studying for my official teaching certification, and luckily the classes were sponsored by the district. That’s how much they needed teachers.

I moved to 1st grade for my first full year and got my students from the start. The one-year age difference was big for those children and they were out to please. I also benefited from a new team of teachers and best practices. My colleagues in all grades voted me Rookie Teacher of the Year.

Eventually, teachers moved or retired. I wasn’t the new guy anymore. Instead, I was grade chairperson.

My nights changed, as well. Instead of going to certification classes, I was getting busy getting schooled for state endorsements in English for Speakers of Other Languages and Gifted.

science projects sibley
Science projects my classes voted to do, and did according to the scientific method, included “Which kind of drink cleans pennies best?” and “What kind of laundry detergent removes dirt stains better: liquid or powder?”

Due to my different background than other teachers, the administrators “asked” me to figure out and run the school’s website. When we switched from actual gradebooks to putting in attendance and grades online, I was the point-person for any teacher with problems. In the middle of every quarter, I stayed hours late, printing out progress reports for every student in the school and dividing them up by teacher to be distributed. At the end of every quarter, I stayed hours late again, printing out report cards for every student in the school, and dividing them up by teacher.

smoke safety
Fire officials had students walk through a special trailer to teach them the danger of smoke.

That wasn’t it. Every year, I was removed from class to help administrators with the school’s annual School Improvement Plan. I sat at the assistant principal’s desk, in front of his computer, offering assistance with typing, technology and math. Eventually, after a few years, I spent days before that out of the classroom and in another school’s auditorium, full of assistant principals learning the district’s new procedure for that year.

May, 2007: my father teaching my class about dentistry at Sibley Elementary's Career Day
May, 2007: my father teaching my class about dentistry at Sibley Elementary’s Career Day

It was around this time the principal chose me to run a 12-month after-school/summer program if only we’d win the grant, so I spent more time away from the classroom, in an office with a computer, writing text and filling in blanks. The principal insisted that even if the money came through, he’d see to it that I stayed grade chair for 1st grade. Unfortunately, the grant wasn’t made to be.

I stayed too busy as grade chair for 1st grade, secretary of the school’s Educational Excellence School Advisory Council (EESAC, a Florida thing), and point-person for its annual Career Day.

Fall, 2006: I brought WTVJ NBC6 meteorologist Paul Deanno visited Sibley Elementary's Saturday Academy to teach about weather
Fall, 2006: I brought meteorologist Paul Deanno visited Sibley Elementary’s Saturday Academy to teach about weather

Separately, I got then-WTVJ meteorologist Paul Deanno to speak to children attending the school’s Saturday enrichment classes. (Paul is now chief meteorologist at KPIX in San Francisco.) Also, WPLG news anchor Calvin Hughes did a question and answer session with some of our 5th graders in the studio, through the school’s closed-circuit TV station. When things seemed to be going slowly, I quietly passed a handwritten question to the student interviewer. The assistant principal noticed and looked amazed! (I’d worked with both Calvin and Paul at Philadelphia’s KYW-TV.)

June, 2012: receiving my "Apple" for winning Teacher of the Year, the first to say Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy
June, 2012: receiving my “Apple” for winning Teacher of the Year, the first to say Hubert O. Sibley K-8 Academy

Then, I was elected Teacher of the Year and was told on the afternoon of the banquet in my honor that I was so good, I was being moved from 1st grade gifted to 3rd grade inclusion. Those were the lowest students, most in 3rd grade for the second time. Some reward!

Then, when I had to change classrooms for the first time in years — upstairs for the first time ever — I was made the union’s shop steward. I tried my best with each one of my growing responsibilities (including grade chair for 3rd grade, despite working with much more experienced teachers who actually knew the 3rd grade curriculum!), but decided that was probably going to be my final year at that school. There was only so much one person could do.2012-06 Teacher of the Year marquee

I’ll never forget the cries, up and down the 3rd grade hall, when the results of the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) came out. If a student failed the reading section, that student would probably have to redo 3rd grade because that’s when a students stops learning to read and starts reading to learn. The test was so important, absolutely nothing got in the way before it. Any extra resources were directed towards 3rd grade, not to any younger students, as if reading comprehension doesn’t take years. Were those younger students supposed to suddenly rise up in 3rd grade after pretty much being ignored for years before? When I taught 1st, the principal asked all teachers of younger students to give up our last hour of the day, which was our planning time, to help the 3rd graders.

I couldn’t tell whether those children’s cries up and down the hall were happy or sad. Teachers were given a list of 3rd graders, not by whose class they were in, so we had to read the names in alphabetical order to ourselves, pausing until one of our students’ names came up, and then let that student know his or her future. What a way to be told! I think a full quarter of students were held back at Sibley each year.

Since then, the assistant principal transferred to the same role at another school and is now in federal prison for child porn possession. (It was not school-related.)

As for the principal, I’m surprised he’s still there. The exact moment I decided to leave Sibley was when his secretary asked me, as EESAC secretary, to sign a paper. Let’s just say there were issues with that paper. Too bad I had no chance to take a picture with my phone, but I warned the EESAC president at the time, who was also going to be asked to sign. Then, the principal called me back downstairs in the middle of a 3rd grade teacher planning meeting I was leading to explain why he wrote what he wrote. There was no excuse and I told myself I’d never be associated with anyone like that again.

I hear nothing but complaints from former coworkers who haven’t transferred out to where their talents and energy would be appreciated. The school’s grade has been C for the past three years, a D before that, and C for the five years before that. But the year before, I was proud to say we actually earned an A.

No, I don’t have a master’s degree. It would be nice, but there was no time. Instead, I think I’ve seen more things and done more jobs reliably without extra pay (other than for being grade chair) than most public school teachers anywhere have.

One was the funeral of a 1st grade student’s mother. His estranged father had dressed up as Santa Claus and knocked on their door. That’s when he shot the mother to death. The boy transferred out, to a school in Fort Lauderdale.

In 2013, I switched to a Jewish private school that happened to be at the synagogue where I grew up. (Actually, it merged with another and this was their new location.)

hochberg classroomMany of the parents were respectful but too many were gung-ho about all the supposedly latest technology and a teacher who was a TV producer, etc. It was such a change from parents who were mainly poor Haitian immigrants, simply happy their children would have a positive American male influence. And it was such a disappointment!

So much for smart kids! There were certainly some, but way too many were needy and wouldn’t have made it in public school. Of course I’m generalizing, but the only advantage in life they had was that their parents were rich. When you’re that rich, and there’s a train coming while you’re being driven to school, there will be an announcement not to mark any students late that day. Are there excuses like that in real life?

mandatory meeting
Mandatory meeting with three hours notice? What was so important? What if somebody actually had plans?

I had no problem with the religious aspects but the way teachers were taken advantage of never ended. That’s what’s in contracts when parents are lawyers. They pretty much owned the teachers.

hochberg turkey tango
Nov. 19, 2013: 2nd grade teachers Mrs. Guttman and I doing the Turkey Tango at a schoolwide show. That was the year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided.

I left in January, 2014. If not, I would’ve had to come up with an idea for a program and offer it to students, whose parents would pay extra for them to stay after school, with the school and me splitting the extra tuition money.

The school isn’t there anymore. No website. It ended up merging with another school. Not even schoolwide shows like above could save it. Good riddance!

The last place I taught was Colbert Elementary in Hollywood, FL, after taking a few months off in early 2014.

I started as a permanent substitute as the place was renamed Colbert Museum Magnet Elementary. The name and curriculum changes were tries at improving the school, or at least the test scores. I hope it worked out. Remember, this was Florida.

colbert classroom
April, 2014: my Colbert classroom

As I remember it, each grade had to choose one thing from the curriculum per quarter and show it in museum form. That meant decorating the halls, for one, and inviting everyone to visit for an evening. We in first grade did aquatic life at the end of the 2013-14 school year. I was fairly new but got by. Unfortunately, the walls weren’t too good at holding tape and probably had to be repainted several times since then.

colbert museum

I had a great summer in Israel but didn’t have it in me to keep teaching. I had just had enough. It wasn’t the school’s fault. There was a great principal, Patricia Yackel, who was able to recognize every student in the entire school by name. Amazing! I didn’t care much for the assistant principal.

It was the day after Labor Day, 2014, early in the school year, and I’d known I couldn’t take it anymore. When I left, I told the assistant principal because Ms. Yackel wasn’t in the building at the time. That was a shame.

Despite all I’d been through, I still feel better about public schools and think every child should have a good one near his or her home.

Also, I’m against those “school choice” advocates trying to take money from public schools and let for-profit charter school companies run some. They can decide who they let in and refuse, while public schools can’t do that, so charter schools have a distinct advantage when it comes to test scores.

I also don’t care for private schools since they can also admit who they choose and don’t have to follow the same requirements other schools do. Besides, they lobby state legislatures for money they wouldn’t need if the children simply went to public schools, which most can. Others go for religious issues, which I understand. Then, there are those who have, or claim to have, special needs and require special settings. Meanwhile, the school takes the money to supposedly lower tuition but as I wrote, require more of the teachers, who usually make less money.

Wednesday, I got an email from a Florida doctor with an agenda. You could say I stay on his list for an education, even though I don’t know how he got my name. This is part of what he wrote:

“The outcome of the Primary Election on August 28 and General Election on November 6 will determine the future of our community for generations. One outcome could lead to expansion of vouchers to the middle class. Another outcome could threaten the $20 million we currently receive. We have arrived at the crossroads and all you need to do is vote. …

“Jewish schools received more than $20 million this year from state and federal programs but middle-class families will not experience tuition relief until the Florida Legislature passes an Education Savings Account (ESA) which will provide every Florida family an annual per student scholarship of about $7000 for use in paying tuition at a private school, irrespective of income level.
“This year’s elections are a tipping point. Immediately after the election, the new Governor must appoint 3 new Supreme Court judges. A Republican Governor will appoint judges who favor school choice programs. Judges appointed by a Democratic governor will create a majority that will support lawsuits that block vouchers and even threaten current funding.
“If we maintain a pro-school choice majority in the Florida House and Senate, ESA’s are a likely reality within the next 2 years.”

His endorsements will come and we can bet who they’ll be, at least in the general election.

Then yesterday, I got this from a national group writing about its efforts in Pennsylvania:

“We have helped secure millions of dollars for Jewish day schools through government advocacy.
“This includes funding for EITC and OSTC (Scholarships Tax Credits), enhanced security, school specific grants, and more. ALL of our children have benefitted over the past several years. And, our budget successes this week continued that trend.

“There are 8 communities with Jewish day schools in Pennsylvania, and we aim to serve each and every one of them.
“But we simply cannot do it alone. Your support will make a real, lasting impact on our children and families.”

So the point here was to ask for money.

But despite the emails I receive, please don’t think of this as a Jewish issue. It’s one area where Jewish and Catholic schools come together, and public schools don’t get the money.

Some parents and politicians have their own agendas.

As for me, I missed writing the news, took a wonderful managerial opportunity in the Tri-Cities of VA/TN, but couldn’t turn down a chance to return to my beloved Philadelphia. (I don’t regret the return; just the workplace.)

Back home, I’ve written news about the school district, listening and writing about budget issues, cuts made in the past, getting money from the state, and finding (and paying) lots and lots of new teachers. Click here for an example of one of my articles. I loved doing this and long-term projects such as the Democratic National Convention and NFL Draft, because most articles involved shootings, crashes and fires.

Enough already, and onto something meaningful. This former teacher hopes to make an announcement soon.

Click here to visit the section 2006-2014: Teaching Time.

Please, if you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Who would’ve thought of me as some type of music expert? Definitely not anybody who knows me! I’ve been planning this blog for a little while and the lyrics immediately came to my mind as the headline. (Of course, I’ve never heard of Five Man Electrical Band. They sang Signs in 1971.)

It’s actually pretty funny, considering the last post’s headline was a takeoff of Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson. The lyric goes “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” but I used somebody else’s name.

So signs. A fun post before vacation.

Philadelphia is the birthplace of our country. Where free speech was instituted. Maybe that’s why it’s known for some unusual ones.

I live in a high-rise so I found no need to put any up but by far, the most popular type is the one that tells delivery drivers to take their packages somewhere else.

I don’t know why people would order something and not be home to receive it. That means the driver has to stop, fill out a card, and delay everyone else’s packages. Why not just ask that it be delivered somewhere else?

Some people…

nice sign

… are nicer than others.

mean sign

Everybody wants their mail delivered, and not anybody else’s.

right address

While some signs are simple, I can’t figure what all these are about.

too many signs

I’m not exactly sure about this one either, but I do know it’s not meant for me.

Jesus signThe people living here are apparently very generous — with choices — but only for drivers who press hard enough to ring the bell and knock loudly on the door, and then find out nobody is home. If that’s the case, the driver gets to toss the package over their back gate! Like tossing packages never happens.

package choicesThe people who live below also offer choices. They start out nicely by writing “please” and then letting the driver choose which of two addresses they’d prefer to make their delivery! But by looking at the sign, I’d guess they didn’t even plan to be home. At least that information would save the driver from pressing hard enough to ring the bell and knocking loudly on the door! Of course, they probably expect somebody to be home at the address the driver chooses. Otherwise, it may mean a third stop. If that’s the case, I’d hope the driver gets to return the package to the warehouse and make the person pick it up. That’s too many delivery attempts in too few minutes!

pkg1

This sign also gives the driver a choice between two addresses, but at least both are businesses and open during the day when packages are delivered.

choice sign 2

This next one is for drivers who may not be too bright. I also put smiley faces on my 1st graders’ good homework…

package use doorbell
… but never combined them with exclamation points.

On the other hand, this person writing to the “Mail Person” needs better penmanship!

hardly readable

When I was working at CBS in Miami, I had a new computer delivered there. It was great! First, the boss was able to check it out and make sure all settings were correct. Then, he installed the programs I’d need in order to work at home. That was my idea.

And it came in handy when he was out and I left a little early, feeling sick. That night — July 27, 2005 — former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Art Teele shot himself in his head, committing suicide in the Miami Herald lobby! He’d been convicted of corruption and removed from office. I got home, turned on the TV and was the only person from the station able to put up a story.

Another time, I was about to head to the Keys on a Saturday morning when a small plane crashed into a lake in Aventura. The weekend morning news had a picture, and I listened and wrote a story. Then, I was on my way.

I never minded working from home, especially when it saved me from a rushed trip to the office for a single story.

Parking spaces are prized in Philadelphia. Garages are even more so, if you can get in and out. I found somebody decided to use chalk to make sure nobody blocked them…

no parking
… and prove they know the beginning of the alphabet!

ppa septa wideSpeaking of cars and parking, maybe someone above can teach the Philadelphia Parking Authority how arrows work. Here we are, on Aspen, approaching the corner of 24th Street. You can see the corner is a bus stop. You can take the 48 from Center City and get dropped off right in back of my building.
ppa septa tight

But take a closer look at the signs for drivers who want to park. The middle sign shows it’s not allowed past the sign because of buses. But the bottom sign says it’s allowed on both sides of the sign.

They say “The PPA don’t play” but it should at least make up its mind.

That reminded me of a sign on Front Street, south of South. You see how people with residential parking stickers can park their cars in their zone without having to obey days and time limits. I’m in zone 6. This is what I found last year, and shared with a reporter co-worker.

front street ppa sign

It may not be right but it’s easier to understand than this group of signs at a busy intersection in Bristol, VA. Remember, you only have until the red light turns green, if you’re lost and lucky enough to hit a red light!

2015-03-15 lots of street signs
Try figuring this out!

Some signs would save money if they weren’t changed.

district attorney krasner outside
Why does the name of the district attorney elected in November have to have his name up?

It’s kind of hard to see, but this is the second of two doors, also with Larry Krasner’s name.

district attorney krasner inside
Would anybody lose out if there were no names on signs, and only the stationery was changed?

And as we get closer to the bottom…

sign dog peeing
… this low sign was obviously meant for dogs who could read!

And I can’t leave out this classic from downstairs in my own building.

no dumping
OK. It’s funnier when approaching from a distance and can’t see the details on the right.

Anyway, I’m off for a week. Thanks for reading. You can check out some relatively old web stuff from when I was Digital Media Manager at WCYB in the Tri-Cities of TB/VA, 2015-2016. The format changed twice since then, and everything looks a bit different than it did, but I was able to capture some still shots here. The writing was more formal than this, but not completely A.P. style. That would come later.

And please, don’t miss out. If you like what you read here, subscribe to CohenConnect.com with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. I’m also available for writing/web contract work.

feature signs

P.S. This is a bonus I found the next day in the 2000 block of Spring Garden. The sign was up the stairs and not easy to shoot when I zoomed in, but I felt worth a look. Should the “USPS/UPS Guy” have to be subjected to this? Should passers-by like me?

nasty to usps

Be nicer to Mike Jerrick, and other thoughts on what’s making news

People who know me can never, ever say I’m not loyal to people I like and respect. You’ll see that in a moment, along with an example of the opposite. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

newspaper jerrick
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/mike-jerrick-good-day-philadelphia-morning-show-format-20180319.html

Yesterday, one of Philadelphia’s daily newspapers published an article called “Is the morning news format that fuels Mike Jerrick’s ‘weird uncle’ shtick on its way out?”

I’m going to give the writer the benefit of the doubt because reporters don’t usually write headlines, and the headline goes after the format rather than the person.

The article started by criticizing Mike Jerrick’s on-air behavior on International Women’s Day, March 8. It quoted Peter Jaroff – assistant professor of media studies and production at Temple University and a former WPVI-6ABC producer – who described the situation perfectly.

Jaroff told the paper,

“You’re supposed to chat and fill up time and be engaging to your audience, and that can get you in a lot of trouble.”

Let me repeat: “Fill up time and be engaging.

He didn’t say for how long or how often. Let’s look at the situation.

WTXF-Fox 29 puts on a six-hour morning show.

(I mentioned people who know me. They also know I hate the phrase “show” rather than “newscast” because a newscast is special with the responsibility of informing people about important current events and controversies – even though they typically air too much crime and too many fires, often without putting any of it in perspective. A “show” can be anything.)

Jerrick is on the air for four hours straight, from 6 to 10am. His broadcast, Good Day Philadelphia, actually starts at 4. (Yes, it’s the same name as all the other local Fox stations call their morning shows because they copy.)

Speaking of copying: Today, were we supposed to look at this and know where St. Mary’s County is? No clues. The company itself owns three Fox 5s. That doesn’t include affiliates. But this didn’t cost a cent!

It begins with hard news. Certainly, a lot of the content is from the day before because very little happens between 11:30pm and 4am, except for the crime and fires.

Jerrick is as good as anybody when he goes on the air at 6.

But let’s start before 6.

mike bio
Mike’s bio, but is it FOX or Fox? (Absolutely NOT Mike’s fault!)

I worked with him for 15 months. I’ve seen him at 5:30am daily, before the public at 6, telling producers and an executive producer his intelligent, educated, experienced opinion – usually right – on what stories he should be talking about and which shouldn’t air. Four hours, or actually six, can be a long, long time – and a lot can happen to change things.

There will never be a TV station that has the staffing it really needs.

Jerrick would start out doing the news, correcting mistakes in scripts based on what aired earlier, what has changed since then and what he knows is the truth. (In other words, somebody else’s mistake.) He won’t let a live reporter go without making sure viewers have all the facts they need.

That may throw off the time, and producers have to go almost by the second – which probably makes them crazy – but realize Good Day Philadelphia producers do two straight hours in the control room. That’s a lot, even for the most disciplined, attentive, anal person trying to get as much new material on as possible.

The producers can’t read every script before they air. Scripts are still being written moments before, especially in breaking news situations. Jerrick and his counterpart, Alex Holley, may be told a few quick points in their earpieces and given a line or two. Very few TV news anchors can do that as flawlessly as they do multiple times every morning, while keeping tabs on what the live picture is showing, or if the signal goes bad.

At 7:30am, there’s often a live interview with a newsmaker, victim, etc. Jerrick and Holley consistently show the right tone, depending on the situation.

I haven’t forgotten their great job with the return of a station intern, wounded in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, who lost a loved one. Or the controversial Philadelphia sugar tax that mostly affects soda. Or the superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia about needing 1,000 new teachers when the other teachers hadn’t gotten a raise in five years and put up a billboard on busy I-95, making sure everyone sees the claim Philadelphia doesn’t value its students. I remember Jerrick and Holley making sure to present both sides, playing devil’s advocate when necessary, and give everyone a fair shot – for journalism and conscience.

mike jerrick alex holley
Mike Jerrick: http://www.fox29.com/about-us/mike-jerrick-good-day-philadelphia-co-host;       Alex Holley: http://www.fox29.com/about-us/alex-holley-good-day-philadelphia-co-host

I know because in each of those situations, I took notes and when each was over, I quickly got in and out points to put the video on the web, and wrote stories that started with the new information Jerrick and Holley were able to gather. Often, they made the interviews memorable experiences and that’s exactly what TV goes for: memorable experiences involving people associated with your station. The bosses get credit, the station makes money, but it’s Jerrick, Holley and company who actually do the work.

I’ll tell you now, I have not watched for a moment since I left last Aug. 10. Too painful. And that personal story is far from over. The people I’m writing about may not know that but their bosses sure do!

So how can Jerrick and Holley go from being hard news people – bringing viewers every new fact possible while guaranteeing their accuracy, while sitting inside a studio – and suddenly become time fillers at 9? They’d have to be extremely talented and well-rounded, or bipolar!

Sure, they report breaking news the executive producer decides is important enough until 10:00, but the *show* transitions from hard news to arguably nonsense and no matter how slowly that process takes, and the audience changes, it still involves the same on-air people.

steve keeley
http://www.fox29.com/about-us/steve-keeley-fox-29-reporter

It’s very rare, but I remember the morning hero, reporter Steve Keeley, breaking three new stories live at three different locations one morning! It’s a combination of his sources and reading everyone’s social media (and I included every police and fire department’s tweets in three states when I wrote everyone’s).

The station is too cheap to hire other people.

STOP FOR A SIDEBAR: All I ever got from the station, other than hard times, was a green t-shirt and hat for the St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2017. Most other places give gift bags when you start.

But I got a Good Day Philadelphia Weekend shirt that one of the anchors, Bill Anderson, actually spent time and money to make all by himself! Don’t believe me? He did that to connect with viewers and increase ratings – and then the bosses took him off the show and gave him a reporting franchise, For Goodness’ SakeSome thanks and appreciation!

Bill is still doing what he does, great reporting, substitute anchoring, and wardrobes.

Yes, folks. This is the fourth largest TV market in America and this is what a local native – great person, great at his job – obviously feels forced to do. Somebody should be ashamed, and it’s sure not Bill!

BACK TO THE STORY: At 9, one of the 4-6am anchors usually joins Jerrick and Holley. They’re given a list of topics to ad lib about. That means no real scripts for them or their director, who has to make sure the right video is playing. Reporters who were on the air earlier usually change stories – not because of news happening, but planned events. Everyone’s time is planned out so there’s no waste, or rest on a bad day.

There’s a lot for the anchors to keep track of while making small talk with weathercaster Sue Serio, the most open, genuine human you’ll ever meet – and traffic reporter Bob Kelly, who has to keep track of all roads and transit in the region, get all the facts as they change without getting confused, and then find the live shots or make the graphics you see without any help. Oh, and then it’s Kelly’s Classroom or Camp Kelly, depending on the season, and Breakfast with Bob weekly.

sue serio bob kelly
Sue Serio: http://www.fox29.com/about-us/sue-serio-fox-29-weather-anchor;       Bob Kelly: http://www.fox29.com/about-us/bob-kelly-fox-29-traffic-reporter

So there’s a hell of a lot that goes on that viewers don’t see, except for the same faces, over and over again. How they seem to know everything – and at that hour – is incredible! They deserve credit, not scorn.

Of course, the viewers want the local angle, rather than the network or cable morning shows. There’s a place for it but honestly, it’s not for me.

I’ve often thought of Mike Jerrick as Johnny Carson. Who except Dom DeLuise and Joan Rivers ever had a public spat with Johnny?

I mean, Jerrick is from the Great Plains (Kansas), smart, funny, and – yes – older. That’s valuable and lacking in too many places today. I wasn’t around when Carson (from Iowa) started on The Tonight Show in 1962 and wasn’t allowed to stay up late enough to see him until I was old enough, and still, a lot was over my head.

No, not everything goes as planned. That’s the nature of live TV. How the people on-air react is what separates amateurs from professionals. The anchors you see on that station I really don’t like are professionals.

So Mike and Alex’s job is basically to fill time, and it works because they’re often #1 in the later time periods. That means they do very, very well – especially because one of their competitors is the nation’s powerhouse station.

Something ironic: The article with the title about a format possibly being on its way out barely touches on history. It used to be a white guy doing the news. Or two white guys. Same with weather and sports. Then came Adam and Eve – a man and a woman. The article quotes University of Maryland journalism professor Linda Steiner as saying network executives see that “as the kind of ideal nuclear family.”

But this isn’t Leave it to Beaver. This is Fox. So you have to expect a little pushing of the boundaries, especially from a station with the brand We Go There.

As seriousness turns to silliness, children have headed out to school. If they’re home sick, how would you compare Jerrick’s behavior to afternoon soap operas in the past? Or to the lowlifes too often seen on daytime talk and reality shows, these days? Do you want your kid watching Maury (a KYW-TV3 alum) or Springer? The difference is, Mike is the serious newscaster, earlier in the morning. (I’ve never asked him which role he prefers, if either.)

And HBO’s John Oliver used Jerrick as an example of someone who spent “the entire day (International Women’s Day) acting inappropriately.”

Yes, times change. Jerrick – with daughters and grandchildren – would be one of the first to support #MeToo.

He also keeps colleagues on their toes and the audience interested. I give management and the parent company no credit for that. Absolutely none. It’s the people you see, and I don’t have a bad thing to say about any of them. And when the show is over, they clean up (if necessary), meet to discuss the good and the bad of the morning, plan the next show, and then go out to shoot all the special segments viewers see. It’s usually not far from 12-hour days.

Do you think all the pre-NFL Draft features happened on their own or by magic? It was big planning, changing clothes and going with the flow – just like at the newsdesk but with a little more wiggle room.

Kellyanne Conway wikipedia
Kellyanne Conway, Wikipedia

So he said “bullshit” when President Trump’s assistant Kellyanne Conway – a local woman – used the phrase “alternative facts” about the Trump inauguration’s crowd size. WHO WASN’T THINKING THAT? And he took his punishment knowing he shouldn’t have used the word, and knowing the station had to pretend to care about Federal Communications Commission rules.

Tom Snyder – who anchored here at KYW-TV3 in the late 1960s – shot a bird on WABC in New York, in the early 1980s. This is how he remembered it, years later, on CNBC.

I can imagine the same situation here.

And who was totally honest about needing to take a few months off?

Nobody is perfect but Mike Jerrick – with the job he has – is pretty damn close. (I can say the same about Alex Holley who, among so much else, has made her own family out in Texas, our own family.) It has earned him promotions and made him a national figure. And I sure hope he’s not working for the money. (I’ve always said money is freedom.)

Ryan Lochte wikipedia
Ryan Lochte, Wikipedia

And don’t tell me Ryan Lochte (pre-2016, Rio) didn’t deserve to be laughed at after his interview,

Robert Kardashian OJ Simpson trial 1995
Robert Kardashian (right) & O.J. Simpson, 1995

along with anything to do with the Kardashian family. (See the newspaper article link.) When I hear that name, I still think about lawyer Robert from my O.J. Simpson days, rather than his unbelievable ex and offspring. (So I’m also a fuddy duddy. Act surprised.)

Dave Garroway 1955 Wikimedia Commons
Dave Garroway, 1955, Wikimedia Commons

I’d never put any of them on my show and I doubt Mike would either, unless they did something SO ridiculous that everyone was talking about it.

The article pretty much says Jerrick found his niche and compares him to the Today show’s first host, Dave Garroway, buried here at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.

So bottom line: Mike Jerrick is the right person for the job, the station is lucky to have him and I will blame any future fall in ratings with changes in front of and behind the camera, or the end of an era – not Mike.

(For the record, I was NOT in contact with ANYBODY associated with the station for weeks before, or while writing. The thoughts are completely my own.)

Speaking of people I like, I can’t say enough about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre survivors outside Fort Lauderdale. They’ve spoken forcefully and eloquently about the need for stricter gun laws.

vote voting electionJust wait, but some of them and other high school students will be old enough to vote by this year’s midterm elections. Mark your calendar for Tuesday, Nov. 6. Every member of Congress will be up for (re)election, along with about a third of the Senate.

Plus, 39 states including Pennsylvania and New York (I’ll get to that one in a few moments) will be (re)electing governors, and there will be many state legislature elections. (If I remember correctly, in ancient times in Florida, you could register to vote at 17 but not actually vote until your 18th birthday.)

Then, in two (hopefully) short years, more than half of today’s high school students will be able to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

gun outlineAnyone who dismisses the Stoneman Douglas student group over their ages is stupid because they’ll be voting before you know it, and are already convincing other voters! Same for that Fox News host, Todd Starnes, who was troubled by how Cameron Kasky took down Sen. Marco Rubio, the one-time presidential candidate, over whether he would agree to refuse further political contributions from the National Rifle Association during a CNN Town Hall. (Click here to watch and read it all.)

feature
Cameron Kasky, CNN’s Jake Tapper (a Philadelphia native), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

The young people are absolutely right about the need to make gun laws stricter. As for what changes, there are many so I won’t be specific. However, as powerful as this group and their supporters become, I worry about all the federal judges President Trump is appointing, and at least one justice so far on the Supreme Court. The young people and 100 million other Americans may convince some legislatures to vote their way, but those bills-turned-laws will have to be upheld if challenged.

I’ve mentioned Kasky’s mother has been a friend for many years. Besides beating a sitting senator in a debate, he’s the one who had to leave the 60 Minutes interview that aired last Sunday for a family dinner. (Ask them, not me.)

TVNewser called that episode “on pace to finish with 10 million viewers, which would make it one of the most-watched episodes of 2018.”

It’s not my place to name Kasky’s mother because she has not spoken out publicly (nor does she have to, with her son doing the job much more than adequately), but for those who are getting over school shootings or need a reminder of how devastating the situation has been for not only the community but 17 families, his mother shared this post on Facebook on Sunday.

Carmen Schentrup father

No, there are no words that could comfort that father – certainly not from this NRA woman

nor people who come up with crap like this…

nra instagram example

nor this self-proclaimed “physical education instructon and football coach” in an outer Atlanta suburb with whom I have two friends in common. He apparently feels it necessary to use some dumb “gun permit” that never expires, that somebody made up, as his profile picture. I’ve read his take on gun issues too many times. I think his priorities are off and he has too much time on his hands. I hope we never meet.

roy groshek

Before leaving the topic, a possible solution to the guns-in-schools problem.

This morning, Axios reported “How urban schools avoid mass shootings” (that’s the headline) via the Associated Press that

“As schools around the U.S. look for ways to impose tougher security measures, … they don’t have to look further than urban districts such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York that installed metal detectors and other security in the 1980s and 1990s to combat gang and drug violence”

Also,

“Security experts believe these measures have made urban districts less prone to mass shootings, which have mostly occurred in suburban and rural districts.”

And,

“Officials in some suburban and rural school districts are now considering detectors as they rethink their security plans after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”

Let’s hope tougher security measures including installing metal detectors is a solution to save lives.

Now, a slightly less vicious political story (and I mean slightly):

Yesterday, I mentioned Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon running for governor of New York against fellow Democrat Andrew Cuomo. (I’m shocked this politician doesn’t have his picture at the top of his official webpage!)

People magazine reported she tweeted alongside a two-minute video,

“New York is my home. I’ve never lived anywhere else. … I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today. …Our leaders are letting us down.”

In the video, Nixon noted she grew up with her single mom in a one-bedroom fifth-floor walkup.

She has been a vocal critic of Gov. Cuomo’s educational policies. According to People, she accused the two-termer of being the main cause of the divide between the state’s “richest” and “poorest schools.”

Today, JTA reported, “Her two eldest children from her first marriage are Jewish and have both been bar- and bat-mitzvahed.” (I hate that phrase! You can’t simply add an –ed to a word that’s not English!)

It also said she’s

“an active member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Manhattan’s most prominent LGBTQ synagogue, and has spoken there multiple times”

including her June 2011 Friday night sermon, the same day same-sex marriage became legal in New York state.

Back then, she lavishly praised Gov. Cuomo for his leadership in making that happen. I wonder if she changed her mind.

Nixon is getting support from former co-star Kristin Davis…

and fellow lesbian actress/activist Rosie O’Donnell…

but now, the New York Post is reporting Nixon is being “denounced” by arguably the Big Apple’s most prominent lesbian politician, former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Besides being the first openly lesbian governor in the U.S., I think Nixon would be the first governor in the U.S. to go topless. Just a thought, for those interested. Or would you have preferred to see Richard Nixon topless?

And rather than me leave you on that last note, there’s an update after I showed you:

* how Rupert Murdoch wanted money from Facebook for having his content on its site (no, people who work for him put it up, in hopes the public will click and see his websites’ articles and advertisements, and help his businesses), and

* how CNN’s Jeff Zucker accused Facebook and Google of having a duopoly or monopoly on money from digital content, and wanted regulators to look into the two companies (even though CNN was a monopoly on 24-hour cable news from June 1, 1980 to 1996 when MSNBC started on July 15, and Fox News Channel went on the air on Oct. 7, except for the 16 months ABC/Westinghouse’s Satellite News Channel competed).

Today, there are two articles that ask, “Can Amazon Chip Away at Google and Facebook’s Digital Ad Dominance?

Adweek reports that yesterday,

“Data aggregator eMarketer … released a report indicating Google and Facebook’s (aka “the duopoly”) dominance of the digital ad market is about to be less dominant, as “smaller players” like Amazon and Snapchat are on the rise.”

And according to Recode,

“Google’s share is expected to decline from 38.6 percent last year to 37.2 percent in 2018, while Facebook could shrink slightly from 19.9 percent to 19.6 percent.”

I guess that should make Zucker, who I compared to a sore loser, pretty happy. He’ll have less of a problem!

Meanwhile, Recode also reported Facebook and Google banned cryptocurrency advertisements, and Twitter is planning to do the same.

sky news logo

Ironically, it says Sky News – which Murdoch owns a minority interest in and is competing with Comcast/NBC to buy the rest, so he can sell it to Disney/ABCfirst reported Twitter’s plan late Sunday night!

comcast fox disney

So let these crypto companies call good ‘ol Rupert and advertise on 21st Century Fox and News Corp. websites. That’s even though Recode says,

“the crypto industry is still new, unregulated and fraught with fraud.”

Shouldn’t stop the mogul from accepting a dollar, or pound, you think?

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Sad stereotypes too strong to silence (for now)

Texas Flip n Move logo

Last night, I did something I rarely do: open a Facebook post to the public, rather than just friends.

Today, I’m blogging about the online battle that followed, something I hadn’t planned to do.

pexels-photo-267482.jpeg

The story was about one of the hosts of a show on the DIY Network — part of Scripps Networks Interactive and sister to HGTV, the Food Network, Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, Great American Country, TVN, Fine Living and the Asian Food Channel.

You’re certainly familiar with some of them unless you’ve been living under a rock.

Unfortunately, it has since been reinforced to me that too many Americans have been living under figurative rocks.

diy network logo

Texas Flip N Move host Toni Snow — who along with her sister Donna — are “real estate entrepreneurs” who “compete head-to-head in a fast-paced and thrilling real estate flipping competition,” according to the show’s website.

It goes on, if you understand flipping, “Our flippers are under the gun to buy low, work fast and sell high.”

budget

And in a recent episode that was shot, produced and edited, Toni Snow asked a participant who was willing to pay full asking price for a refurbished school bus, “You’re not even gonna bicker a little bit, Jew us down?” according to CNN and People magazine.

Toni Snow NY Post Fox
Toni Snow from the New York Post, captured from http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2018/01/17/diy-apologizes-for-anti-semitic-slur-that-made-it-on-to-air.html

I’m not a regular watcher of that channel nor show, although I think I once saw part of an episode that was shown on HGTV.

I could say things about people from Texas but I won’t.

The network told CNN in an apology, “An inappropriate comment unfortunately made it past our team” and that they “immediately pulled the episode to edit it for future broadcast.”

im sorry

My original point was that Toni Snow needed to be edited out. In other words, she should be fired and the episode should never be shown again.

fired

That’s not hard to do.

Look at what’s happening over sexual misconduct these days. Kevin Spacey’s role in the movie All the Money in the World was recast with Christopher Plummer. Scenes from the film about J. Paul Getty’s grandson’s kidnapping were reshot in nine days, costing millions of dollars, a month before its opening. All the promotions/trailers had to be reworked. (See trailer #1 and trailer #2.)

all the money in the world
Sony-TriStar-Imperative Entertainment-Scott Free

Toni Snow reminds me of Hillary Clinton saying half of now-President Trump’s supporters fit into a “basket of deplorables,” back in Sept., 2016, less than two months before losing the election (watch here). I also thought about President Obama, competing against Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying economically struggling Americans “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy towards people who aren’t like them” back in 2008 (watch here).

This is an embed of the Facebook post. Be warned, not all is polite.

I have to note how hateful some Toni Schroeder Schwind comes across like those quotes politicians used above, just clinging to the past. I don’t know her but her profile pictures indicate she’s not Jewish, yet she insisted more than once,

“This comment has been around for ages and I think somewhat over reaction was an over reaction. Get over it.”

(Yes, her words.)

I’d say to ask a black person about the N-word, or another minority about slurs about them. Who is she to judge what’s offensive to most Jewish people?

And I wrote “most Jewish people” because some of my friends say it’s no big deal, or it’s the intent that matters.

I also originally angrily posted, “Only #Jews! What other group would tolerate that?”

jewish symbols
Jewish symbols
menorah
Even a menorah at the Bristol Motor Speedway‘s Speedway in Lights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seems liberalism has replaced religion for many non-Orthodox Jews and that bothers me. Their thoughts and practices are certainly up to them, but it leaves me with a bad taste. I wonder what will be in the generations to come.

Others would say I should be doing more. Again, that’s their opinion. Most of us know stereotypes like “two Jews, three opinions” carry a bit of truth.

As for the speaker’s intent, who knows? I’m not a mind-reader. I did write in a private message off Facebook,

“I find people who say things like that about Jews and prices to have bad intent. The reason is simply, one side wants the price higher and the other wants it lower. It’s adversarial by nature.”

One friend wrote there are worse words and phrases.

I responded late last night,

“Look at the reaction from the post at this hour, and also all the news articles. It’s not exactly like the president using SHole because he’s the president. Besides, if people hear it on TV, they think it’s acceptable. Don’t give the public too much credit.”

girl watching tv

Something very similar happened at the TV station I worked at in the northeast Tennessee/southwest Virginia Tri-Cities region after I left.

I explained it,

“Are slurs against any minority group tolerable in 2018? After I left the Tri-Cities, a member of the local synagogue – the only one between Knoxville and Charlottesville – contacted me after the station I worked for did a story about a guy holding an auction and using the same phrase, just like his father taught him! It aired at 5:30. At 11, there was an apology. But he was just white trash and not on the payroll. What gets me is that it’s missed in the editing process. Of course, so do curse words on signs at anti-Trump rallies.”

 

cbs fuck trump pence
Like this. Can you find it? From the CBS Evening News, captured from http://www.ftvlive.com/sqsp-test/2018/1/17/you-might-want-to-look-a-bit-closer

Yes, I used a phrase where the stereotype fit (and not about somebody from Texas, as I promised earlier). I’m certainly not perfect. I tend to be middle of the road politically, but absolutely not politically correct. Society needs civilized discussion.

I’m guessing a photographer who grew up locally shot the interview, wrote the script and edited it. That’s what happens in small non-union markets.

jew people down wcyb

I have files of both the original piece and the apology but won’t show them publicly because the anchorwoman on air had nothing to do with putting together the story. She just read it, along with having to read the apology hours later with her face on air. Her co-worker who should’ve known better caused her to suffer enough embarrassment, and she was simply subbing on someone else’s newscast while that person was on vacation!

wcyb flag
Casey is innocent

I had this last thought while trying to fall asleep last night:

archie meathead cellar
Archie and Meathead (Mike)

“This conversation reminds me of an episode of All in the Family. It definitely was not my favorite because there was more drama than comedy. Archie and Meathead were locked in the basement and opening up to each other while drinking. Mike tried to convince Archie their fathers were very similar, but wrong as it turned out. Mike had changed completely, becoming a leftist. Archie, his older father-in-law, was more defensive and blindly insisted his father could do no wrong. Most of us have (had) relatives like that, even those who came to this country as immigrants. They lived among each other (in shtetels?) and had no way of understanding anybody else’s feelings or experiences until getting out in the real world. That’s the way things were then. Today, whether traveling a few blocks or watching TV, most people become exposed to others and realize it’s wrong to use and perpetuate stereotypes.”

You can click here to watch 14 minutes of the 1973 episode. They start talking about their fathers just before 8:30 in.

all in the family

At last check, the (very slightly edited) episode “Snow Sisters’ School Bus Flip” is scheduled to air again Friday, Jan. 26 at 8pm ET, Saturday, Jan. 27 at 3am ET and Sunday, Feb. 4 at 3pm ET.

Shame on DIY and Scripps Networks Interactive for having low standards, avoiding a teaching moment and not dumping it.

F caption grade sized

Follow-up, fewer watching TV news, future president?

color bars

First, I have to thank everybody who looked at Monday’s blog post. The analytics were incredible, the best ever (and that’s all that counts, right? 🙂). If you haven’t seen it yet, it gives a brief overview of the place I worked for 15 months until August. Feel free to comment below it, or on my Twitter page. You can also subscribe to these blogs with your email address and get an email automatically every time I post.

skype

One thing I left out was that during the long interview process, in early 2016, while I was working a great job in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA, the future boss asked me at the end of a Friday Skype interview to write up a critique of the station’s website. I was literally told it was “to see how smart” I am. Two other managers were sitting right there. I was given a week, but finished it that weekend because I was so excited about the possibility of returning to Philadelphia.

Look below and see, it was a very long and thoughtful critique, and included multiple pictures. During my interview at Fox 29 — coincidentally on Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2016 — the boss even joked about still reading it! I guess it was good. Too bad most of it was never implemented. That was a clue of what was to come, but it was too late. I had already moved and started the job. (The document is a slideshow. Click below to move forward, back, or to stop it.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That’s all I have to say here on the subject of that station.

Just this week, a Pew Research Center report announced fewer Americans rely on TV news, and what type they watch varies by who they are. It found,

“Just 50 percent of U.S. adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57 percent a year prior in early 2016.”

starburst down

That’s a 14 percent decline! Not only that, but the number takes into account local TV (still first place), cable TV (still second place), and also network TV (still third place).

14

I think the demographics are even more interesting. According to Pew, college graduates and high-income people watch much less local TV and network TV news. Cable news varies little.

The research doesn’t say but perhaps these people are working longer hours or have more access to news on electronic devices. Or they find the product dumbed-down. The first two possibilities can’t be changed but the last can.

But I think the biggest finding has to do with age. Pew divided the population into four groups, from 18-29 through 65+. It found across all groups, the younger a person is makes them much, much less likely to watch local, network, and also cable TV news. That sounds ominous for the future.

old tv sets

Again, the research doesn’t say, but I’ve learned from working with people young enough to be my children they have no history of getting the news from a scheduled TV newscast, or even cable. They were raised with technology that hadn’t been invented when the older people were growing up. They have no special tie to the TV set, having to watch on schedule, and probably can’t imagine watching in black and white.

pexels-photo-261510.jpeg

(To go along with that, a huge majority of my students — who were younger around the year 2010, plus or minus a few — hadn’t even heard of a typewriter!) Also notice radio and newspapers were not even considered in the research.

radio newspaper

Note the research was not done on web reading but following my train of thought, Americans will continue to use newer technology to get their news, which makes the web — whether desktop, tablet, phone, or whatever comes next — more and more important. We cannot continue to dumb it down, make mistakes, and hire cheap, good-looking but inexperienced people in big cities. We also need to root out the so-called journalists that lack ethics.

desktop phone tablet

Click here to see the results in a chart, which also divides the American population by gender, race, and politics.

The Radio Television Digital News Association — and we know its agenda — asks, “Is the news for local TV stations all bad?”

Its former chair Kevin Benz admits, “Stations are producing more newscasts because local production is cheap with higher payback potential from selling local advertisers.” Let’s not forget we’re coming off an election year with lots of ads.

The organization claims “profitability has been trending level or up since 2010” and “This is also far from the first time local news has been written off due to changing consumption habits … but newsrooms have been slow to adapt.”

pexels-photo-267482.jpeg

Back in the Tri-Cities, I was told many people get their news from their Facebook feed. That’s pitiful and of course, Facebook benefits but the publishers really don’t, other than a click to their own websites.

In the past year, not much has come out of the Facebook Journalism Project led by former news anchor Campbell Brown — who has since shown her true politics with The 74 Million, advocating for charter and private schools by taking money away from public schools. (I wrote about that in “Why teaching isn’t for me anymore” here, almost two years ago.)

According to Digiday, problems are that publishers have different business models and want different things from Facebook. And Facebook has mostly let publishers see new products before they launched, and listen to their feedback on various subjects at twice-annual meetings with nice meals. Subjects have included Instant Articles and starting a subscription product so you can’t read unlimited articles for free. There’s also discussion about separating factual news from somebody posting fiction.

oprah
File: Oprah Winfrey

It didn’t help that NBC tweeted about Oprah Winfrey possibly becoming president in the future during Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards.

NBC’s website has now clips of her speech and this description:

“The media mogul received the Cecil B. DeMille award at the A-list event, and brought the crowd to its feet with a rallying cry for solidarity amid the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.”

The harassment scandals were huge. That’s what Oprah addressed. I’ve even written about it twice: here (“What is conscience? Elusive in the media, unfortunately”) and here (“Hey, you accused! Would Mom say, wait until your father gets home?”).

I’ve also tweeted about women who weren’t getting paid the same as men.

Variety reported, “Host Seth Meyers even joked about the prospect in his opening monologue. The tweet from NBC said, ‘Nothing but respect for OUR future president. #GoldenGlobes.’”

The next morning, the network put out a statement, blaming outsourcing. Of course, the first tweet was removed.

How horrible! Oprah hadn’t yet spoken at the time, she never mentioned anything about becoming president, viewers won’t know the difference between a tweet from NBC Entertainment or NBC News if it doesn’t say, and why would the network let a third-party vendor tweet on its account, especially without overseeing? The network has no competent employee in-house? Disappointing!

nbc sad
The peacock isn’t proud

And late-breaking Thursday morning, we learned 18-year Fox News veteran James Rosen left the network – without Fox giving a reason – after eight of his former colleagues claimed he “had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists,” according to TVNewser.

Mediaite reports,

“One accusation involved him groping a female colleague in a shared-cab—an action she did not consent to. He then reportedly attempted to retaliate after his sexual advances were denied by attempting to take her sources, which would serve to damage her professional image.”

Also, the Washington Post says it suspended 28-year reporter Joel Achenbach for 90 days what it called “inappropriate workplace conduct” involving current and former female colleagues. He apologized in a statement, but the paper will continue to investigate.

I’m going to end on a better note, in contrast to what I wrote about Monday. Know I’ve been interviewing with different national and international companies here in Philadelphia. Tuesday, I found out I made it to the next round with one firm, and I’m obviously very happy about that. I told the woman on the phone who was simply following up on her morning email that everybody has been so supportive. We’d talked before and her response was simply that they are a partnership, rather than a corporation, and that there is no need for competition amongst (potential) employees.

That’s nice to hear, and it gives me hope.

P.S. On a personal note: Tuesday night in Florida, my mother fell in the kitchen. She hit her face on the floor. There was lots of blood, but no concussion. Turns out, she broke her pelvis in three places: two in the front, and one in the back. No surgery required, but she’ll have to spend another day or two in the hospital. The next two weeks are supposed to be very painful, and it could take her four months to get better. The doctor suggested time rehab since she can’t do much. Please keep her in your thoughts. 😦

No more newscasts, but what a farewell!

wkptI’ve mentioned the sad state of the U.S. broadcasting industry these days, with big companies eating up smaller ones like never before. There are too few independently-owned stations left — run by business people, some better meaning than others — who actually live in the market they are supposed to serve on the public airwaves. Decisions were made in the building. The buck stopped there. (Last February, I wrote about the state of the media and especially journalism, bringing up President Harry Truman.) Now, it’s mostly shareholders, money and politics that rule the roost.

Speaking of politics, government limits have been loosened or eliminated. For example, it used to be a group could not own more than five TV stations. Now, some own well over 100, having their say — often too much — in dozens of cities. Since going digital, a single station can have five subchannels and some of that spectrum was recently auctioned off in an event held by the feds themselves! Conglomerates say they can do more, but the reality is fewer people are working for them than the earlier owners and they will do whatever they can to save a dime. (To too many, the goal of storm coverage means being first and then promoting the hell out of it.)

That brings me to our former ABC competition in the Tri-Cities. For 13 months, I was digital manager at the #1 station, WCYB, and it was probably the best job I ever had. I participated in daily department head meetings, learned from great news directors and taught new reporters. It was part of the five-city Bonten Media Group that was bought by Sinclair after I suddenly and unexpectedly moved back to Philadelphia.

map philaNo, WKPT-ABC19 was far from the best but they returned to having a local newscast for their last several years, at least on weekdays. They deserved credit for that. They’re also locally owned, which is so rare these days. That means they had no sister-TV stations to help, no opportunity to benefit from economy of scale, they were the only one of the big three network affiliates on UHF, and it all hurt. But they continued until their partner since the 1960s, ABC, pulled the rug from under them and switched to a subchannel of the conglomerate Media General-owned (now swallowed up by Nexstar) CBS affiliate. So no more newscasts there, and the Tri-Cities have had just two instead of three local sources of TV news for the past year and a half. The people deserve choices and this limits competition in a pretty poor, rural, conservative region.

The reason I’m writing now is I happened to find this 6pm, next-to-last newscast of their main anchor retiring on Thanksgiving, 2015. It happened about two months before the surprise and everyone still doing news lost their jobs. The 11pm newscast segment was too long to email. I didn’t know about Dropbox in those days. You’ve probably never seen anything like this sendoff!

Posted for educational and historical purposes only. All material is under the copyright of their original holders. No copyright infringement is intended.

This was the press release from Monday, Jan. 4, 2016:

ABC Moves Its Affiliation in Tri-Cities TN/VA TV Market

George DeVault, President of Holston Valley Broadcasting, announced today that the ABC Television Network affiliation for the Tri-Cities market is being moved from WKPT-TV.1 in Kingsport to WJHL.2 in Johnson City. The change becomes effective February 1.

According to DeVault, “ABC presented to us a proposal that would have had us paying the network at least 15 million dollars over the next 5 years. Although we ultimately agreed to meet the network’s terms, ABC told us a few days ago that it had decided to explore other options in the market.  WKPT-TV had been negotiating in good faith with ABC since October of last year,” DeVault said.

“A large source of revenue for network-affiliated TV stations has become fees paid by cable and satellite carriers in return for consent for them to carry the local affiliate’s signal,” DeVault explained. “A large portion of those fees ultimately goes to the network, however.  If the cable or satellite carrier refuses to meet the affiliate’s fees demand, the affiliate can pull its signal from the system.”

“The big systems operate in all or a great many TV markets.  We operate in one,” DeVault said.

“Media General, which owns WJHL, operates in almost 50 markets and owns or effectively controls more than 70 stations. If it threatens to pull its network affiliate signals in every market where both it and the cable or satellite carrier operate, it has immensely more bargaining power than one independently-owned, family-owned station like WKPT-TV operating only in market number 97.  That is why small operators like us are disappearing or being bought up by big group owners, and that is why networks like ABC prefer to be affiliated with the powerful group owners,” DeVault said.

WKPT-TV will become an independent TV station, not affiliated with a major network, effective February 1.  “To stay in the TV business will be a tough financial challenge,” DeVault said. “Many among our present staff will lose their jobs. Most notably we will be going out of the local TV News business.”

“It all boils down to power and money,” DeVault concluded. “Our friends at WJHL did not precipitate this.  It was all negotiated at the corporate level by ABC, of which we have been a loyal affiliate for over 46 years, and Media General’s corporate headquarters.  The networks and their affiliates used to be loyal partners.  We have been loyal to ABC to the end.”

-30-

The media: Certainty imperfect, definitely necessary and trying

article
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/let-me-tell-you-how-the-nedia-really-works_us_588fe174e4b04c35d58351a2

This is my first blog in several months, and only my second since arriving back in Philadelphia. The first was shortly after my return, so it has been way too long. That’s why I’m happy the article Let Me Tell You How ‘The Media’ Really Works… really got me thinking and helped me gather my thoughts, some new and others pent up.

I also thank the 21 Facebook friends from all over the country, with different backgrounds and different political views, who shared the link — which I’m sure Facebook’s algorithm, whatever it may be these days, used to help me come across it. I really don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, outside of work. I may click and see the first few personal posts, and check for birthdays. So please don’t feel bad if I don’t comment or “like” something you put on there.

networks

Besides, I’m grateful for the opportunity to get some deep thoughts out, once and for all, since everything stays on the internet forever. And I’m about to pay for another year of having this site.

(I should add, I spent most of Thursday writing this. Then I slept on it. Now, Friday, I’m adding two brand new items that occurred after the author published her original article.)

usa-mapSince I  figured out how to post again, I won’t say I agree with the article 100 percent, nor would I expect to, but I’ve studied, read, traveled, worked in several newsrooms in different cities with different managers with different companies, and noticed over two decades:

First, what everyone wants answered.

We are definitely aware of and have access to the latest ratings, so we know what you choose to see, when you change the channel, and when you turn your TV off. Online, we know what you click on and what you don’t. Plus, what you comment about and react to. The numbers we get cannot be perfect but they are the best available and the only thing the industry plus advertisers have to go by. They are certainly not the Bible, but we and our bosses certainly look at what works, what doesn’t, and try to please you. Honestly.trends-arrows-people-ratings

At the same time, while we have the responsibility to report the issues, the public has the civic duty to pay attention to what’s going on. If the people choose fluff, nonsense and BS, then it’s their fault and the industry will ultimately provide more. It’ll end up being society’s loss. So please stay away from that. Besides, I don’t feel fulfilled writing it.

Nobody is perfect. Experience as an employee taught me when to ask questions, when to bother people, and when to know when something is going wrong, or could be about to go wrong.

complaint

Even if you’re perfect, you can’t please everyone. People will always complain, way too many thrive on it, and often the people who bitch and moan have different opinions for opposite reasons. (One: “You’re too liberal.” The other: “You’re too conservative.” My reaction: We were probably fair.)

Sometimes the people who complain are right and we learn from whatever we did wrong, or could’ve done better, or what to think about the next time the situation arises. (And it will.) Sometimes it’s an accident and sometimes it’s technical. We apologize and correct. And every industry has a few bad apples. Hopefully they don’t last long.

jeff
http://www.tvnewscheck.com/marketshare/2017/02/03/ftfx-investigation-prompts-act/

We do the best we can to provide the best content, often under difficult situations. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a big city or small town. Recognize that. Say something nice and encourage, rather than complain. This article just came out TODAY.

Computers are slow or break down. Programs have bugs that providers have to fix. Not every day is everyone’s best. And I can’t even begin to talk for my colleagues who have to travel far out in the field, despite weather conditions, and gather information, get a signal out, be completely accurate while getting both sides across, and perform calmly while making their slot in the newscast.computer

These days, it’s a shame there are so many cowards who hide behind their keyboards and tell us we are wrong. They should grow up and make themselves known, provide evidence of the error and a suggestion to make it better. Then, they would earn people’s respect and be the real influence they supposedly want to be.

In the newsroom, I frequently take opportunities to walk up to higher-ups, knock on doors, and email others at home when necessary to ask questions or get clarifications. And never has anyone taken sincerity badly in any way. I actually like it when people ask me to explain myself, because there is always a reason for what I do. Everything should be done professionally, not randomly.

wxia
http://www.11alive.com/

At least in America, when you make yourself famous by running for office, or powerful for running a company that does big business, or rich for having a contract with the government, or even by receiving a paycheck from taxpayers, you are putting yourself out there and the public has the right to reasonably scrutinize you for answers. Those people don’t always like it and have tried lots of ways to avoid publicity. Public relations people know that getting ahead of a situation honestly is often the best course. People respect others coming clean, asking for forgiveness and showing improvement over time, because they tend to like underdogs and are usually willing to give second chances.

In this case I just learned about, did the commentator ask a follow-up to an untruth? Or tell her he’d never heard of what she was talking about on his broadcast? Or become adversarial, play devil’s advocate because it never happened? Or was he just happy one of his producers booked her and she showed up, so she got to say whatever she wanted?

bowling-green-massacre
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/02/03/kellyanne-Conway-cites-bowling-green-massacre-that-never-happened-to-defend-travel-ban/?utm_term=.f3562fb92383

That’s a media error by not challenging the person on the media’s air, and that goes for public call-in shows and comments on social media sites, as well. It this case, it’s ironic because it started with a prominent member of a team that has been criticizing the media.

So besides knowing our stuff and being well-rounded, we in the media have to be good, honest people, and above the board on everything. No appearances of any dishonesty, ulterior motives, etc. Always open with the highest standards.

We are often a diverse group in every sense of the word, and I don’t mean the automatic liberal, bean-counting way many would first assume. Consider so many different backgrounds, hometowns, families, experiences, friends, connections, etc. But we all tend to be curious, ask questions and tell stories. And everywhere, I’ve quickly learned who to defer to for background information on a subject. We should all listen more to each others’ stories.

social-media

I agree with the part of the article about news happening too fast. With technology these days, and the 24-hour cable world, decisions have to be made faster. That means there’s less time for thinking, planning, asking other opinions, and other important tasks. We’re not just TV or radio or newspaper people. There are also the websites and the social media that goes along with it. Like it or not, it’s social media that gets people to the web. Don’t automatically believe something if you don’t know the source.

Unfortunately, it costs money to run a newsroom and I wish that was out of the equation. News directors would love to have the best coverage and most crews on every story, especially the most important, yet they also have budgets and bosses to answer to. Unlike the past, we’re on most of the time from morning to night, and always on call for emergencies. There is never enough of something, but the results are usually darn good.

mediaWe have journalistic ethics and responsibilities. Journalists should be trained and reminded about these regularly, like politicians should reread the Constitution now and again, but that takes time and money. There are also specific procedures, which vary by station. But, as a former boss put it, there should be guidelines rather than rules, since every situation, story, and circumstance is different.

Like the public, journalists should know who to trust, in and out of the newsroom. People and organizations earn their reputations over time and often generations. Of course, things change. Organizations that were once good are sold, or there is other turnover. And newer organizations can bring in the right people. Look at everything and be skeptical.danger-no-rules

The FCC loosening regulations over the decades led to most TV stations being owned by out-of-town corporations. There used to be a limit of five stations per company, and only one in a market, and not in the next city, because people living in between can watch you in both places (a grade B overlap). But the government loosed the rules, companies slowly started to own or run stations in 100 places, and local decisions about public airwaves are made and enforced by layers of strangers, who lack of knowledge of certain communities, and require paperwork be sent (electronically), profits rise every quarter despite local conditions, etc. Whose fault is that and what would any business do?

Still, we are responsible for the public airwaves in the areas our stations are licensed to cover. Deregulation and relaxing the rules created a lot more sharing between stations, and blindly relying on others, rather each station doing its own independent work. Not to mention vertical integration and controlling both the means of getting the signal (cable, satellite, internet), plus providing the original content and perhaps denying the competition a fair shot.

budget

Budgets mean sacrificing the best, the experienced, and the most connected. This past year, one of the biggest media companies offered the bulk of theirs golden parachutes and nearly everyone accepted, knowing their contracts will eventually end and likely not be renewed, so they’d work longer and leave with much less. Instead, cheaper, inexperienced replacements are doing their jobs. Hopefully, they have potential and are getting great mentoring.

tegna
http://www.adweek.com/tvspy/heres-the-rundown-of-tegna-buyouts-so-far/169233

It would be nice if hard workers could grow old in the industry. I learned early on to respect my elders and their staying power. These are the folks who have been there and done it many times before, learned from long-ago mistakes and earned their respect. Yes, the technology always changes but gathering the facts to put on the news has not. Media corporations seemed to get rich with last year’s election, even if Donald Trump didn’t spend as much money as they would’ve liked during the primaries. NBC stations did especially well with the Olympics. Playing poor in 2017 doesn’t cut it and the public should know and be angry about it.

harry-trumanOn the other hand, all other industries play the same game. Shareholders invest to make money, and that’s not helping the product. Times have changed and there are so few sole-proprietors or family-owned businesses. Another bad thing about that is not knowing where the buck stops. Huge corporations have layers upon layers of managers, in-house, regional and at headquarters. We need another Harry Truman.

It’s always good to check out the competition, but just out of curiosity. There are good folks on every team. Some of what another station does may be better and some not. Everyone has good and not-so-good days. We can learn from each other and each other’s mistakes. But every organization has to be true to itself, its values and its audience. It’s another reason why more independence for stations would be a good thing.

The author’s views on breaking news are correct. It seems to take too much time to get to the truth. We want facts and video as soon as possible, before anyone else, and we’re doing it faster than ever before. Almost anyone can send pictures with their smartphones. We can describe what we see. We can discuss the area around it because we should be familiar with all parts of our region. We can call neighbors around the situation to ask what they see and hear from their homes, because we should have contacts around the region we are responsible to cover. However, there are time, coordination, and safety issues to consider before arriving at a breaking news story. Sometimes we are lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and sometimes the competition is. That’s life.

I’m blessed to be working on the web and not going out, meeting new people in person and having to remember their names. I stink at that and also did as a teacher. (“Is that kid one of mine?”) I’ve come to dislike being in the spotlight, and love learning new stuff every day.

I usually like what I do and want to keep doing it indefinitely, but I also regret I can’t do more. I’m pretty fast, but there are only a certain number of hours in a day and too many stories to do correctly, at least where I live. Nobody can be everything to everyone and trying is impossible and detrimental. Right now, I’m doing what I like best and learning other skills that support it, my organization, and also others should the need ever arise. In this business, you never know, and that’s also unfortunate.

busyAs I mentioned at the beginning, I haven’t blogged in months. Actually, it’s getting close to a year. Between moving and working, I haven’t had time to fully explain myself. But spending most of my day off on this is worth it. I thank the author of the article for writing, also my friends who shared it on Facebook for arousing my thoughts, and of course everyone over the years who taught me something. I hope you know who you are because I have recognized you for it.

I’m going to stay in the middle, avoid extremes and remain questioning while keeping an open mind. And I’m going to end by stealing the author’s last line, which I think may be the best and totally sums up this imperfect industry: “The truth is, we don’t even have time to create an agenda if we wanted to… and if we found extra time, we’d eat!”