Monday, May 30, 2011

VIDEO OSU Athletic Director Smith goes right to "Buckeye Nation" on last night's Tressel decision.
AP @rustymillerap OSU off the hook on Tressel payday.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Something Memorable

Memorial Day just around the corner, a time when he reflect on those who are no longer with us. It's based on the end of the Civil War, but has come to mean more as we give thanks for the men and women of all stripes who protect, serve, and nurture.

It's the "nurture" part I'd like to keep in mind this weekend.

Probably lost in the shuffle of all the storm and usual "don't speed or drive drunk" stories we'll see this weekend is this news release from the Fund for Our Economic Future.

Northeast Ohio's Rate of Local Government Spending is 70 Times the Region's Population Growth, 2.8 Times its Inflation Rate and 2.4 Times its Economic Output

This is a very depressing read.

The Fund is the group made up of 100 or so foundations and public-interest groups concerned that we in Northeast Ohio have lost sight of what kind of world we're leaving for the next round. They've actively engaged in talking about what it costs to live the NEO life, and in particular the really crappy deal we seem to be getting for our money.

Mainly because it isn't our money. It's the money from our kids. And the money from their kids. The bottom line is we are sucking the well dry, digging deep to take what might sustain the next generation, and sucking that to the bone too.

Mpst reasonable folks will understand the need for government to spend more on safety net programs during tough times, but it's also reasonable to expect the money isn't being flushed down the rat hole. The report notes, in northeast Ohio's 17 counties alone, there are "...868 separate entities spend $20 billion dollars to run themselves..." -- a poster child for new thinking and pressure to advance smarter government management if ever there was one.

At a time when Ohio is among the nation's leaders in losing people -- know any families where young people are begging to stay here for their economic prosperity? -- the Fund's report notes local government spending outstrips the rate of population growth by 70 percent. This is what we mean when we talk about unsustainable. Fewer people, more spending. More "public investment" paid for by fewer customers.

In the private sector, this means the company is on a fast track to go out of business. In the public sector, it means the next generation would be crazy to stick around and pay the bill for our feckless behavior, lack of accountability and inability to choose leaders who focus on the future.

We are a region of fiscal crack addicts, and the pusher is the government we elect at the most local level. These foundations making up the Fund have been making the case over the past few years for the need for radical change in the way northeast Ohio does its public business. At a time when Ohio is clearly no longer the driver for economic growth it once was, and at a time when northeast Ohio seems to be engaged in a spiral of mediocrity and leadership paralysis largely devoid of innovative thought, the burden falls more and more to these foundations to help fill the need.

Remember this when it's your time to vote for the future. Decisions you remember to make now become the conditions the next round has to live with. Maybe that should be this year's lesson for Memorial Day: remembering not only those who's sacrifice we honor, but what we actually used to be.
If you have any pictures of storm damage, especially in Cuyahoga Falls or any of the other places where the weather hit, send them to

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PHOTO: hail yes. AUDIO: funnel but no touch downs. The latest weather update.
Word from Cuyahoga Falls PD: two funnel clouds reports but no touchdown confirmed; tree and other debris, no injuries at this time.
Reports of storm damage in Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Just To Be Safe...

Can't go anywhere without the "end of the world" story. A California preacher says Saturday at 6:00 is the start of the Rapture, with the unhappy ending coming in the weeks and months ahead.

We've had quite a bit of conversation on this story. Some in the newsroom think it's a waste of time to even mention. Others thing -- with furrowed brow -- that we should engage our readers and listeners in the deeper discussion of Revelations and Rapture talk, and the impact of doomsday theology.


I think there's a degree of fun to all this, so sorry my furrowed friends. It's also worth reporting, so sorry squared to my news elitist buddies.

There's a rich history of doomsday in Christian theology; Google "end of the world" and you wind up with "about" 483 million references. "Doomsday 2011" only nets "about" 10,100,000 references.

All this talk is enough to make some empty their bank accounts and spread the word. I think "empty their bank accounts" is a phrase that ought to rank pretty high. These doomsday scenarios are great business, from Hollywood to talk show topics to just filling time on late-night TV. Even the government's Centers for Disease Control got in the act, with a spoof on how to prepare for the coming zombie invasion.

For my money, I'm going with the free viewing on YouTube.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

DEVELOPING Southwest to discontinue AirTran CAK-Milwaukee service in wake of merger deal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Party Boys

Maybe this was the conversation in your house: "Really? He didn't know? He didn't tell her until seven years later?" Another politician, another scandal. Why don't they learn?

Unless it's a really, REALLY large rock you've been living in the past few days the big news isn't about war, the economy, the environment, or even the NBA Draft.

It's all about Arnold and Maria. The Terminator and a blood-line link to Kennedy legacy and royalty. And infidelity.

Rich Hollywood Star (RHS) allegedly targeted by woman who works for him; they have unprotected romps (you know what that means) around the house when wife and family are away. Worker becomes pregnant but RHS allegedly thinks it's her husband's child. She stays in the employ of RHS family, eventually retiring after 20 years of service. Word gets out after RHS -- who then became GOC (Governor of California) eventually faces the music after he's out of office. Wife of RHS devastated, separation ensues, nation natters on, cable television has something other than Casey Anthony to obsess over.

Add Schwarzenegger to the list of political notables sullied and soiled, along with Eliot Spitzer, Marc Dann, David Vitter, Jon Ensign, Wayne Hayes, Bill Clinton -- for their treatment of spouse and family. Their word to love and honor meant little. Should it matter to us?

Anyone who thinks public officials are superhuman and exempt from the same temptations and stupid behavior we see in our own families has another thing coming. But should it be something to consider, or even hold high as a determining factor, when it's time to hit the ballot box?

You choose to pay for movies or watch television programs with these fallen stars; it's hard to turn on the TV on any given weekend and not come across an action flick with Arnold battling human and alien enemies. You need only switch on CNN at night to check out Spitzer as pundit-reformed-disgraced politician. Dann, Vitter, Ensign and Hayes are Washington examples of Boys Gone Wild, and despite Clinton's status as the king of such scandals in our lifetime he's now largely revered as the President who actually managed the government without leaving us drowning in debt.

Does the personal foible translate into the professional weakness? What's worse, the slip or the silent cover-up? Or are we voters tiring of these scandals to the point where we realize it might be unrealistic to expect better of our leaders?

What's more important, electing them based on remembering where the money in their wallet came from or them remembering where they dropped their pants?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What Don Doesn't Want To Hear

The story of the City Hall shuffle this week -- Communications Director to Chamber of Commerce liaison, Assistant Law Director to Communications spot, Chamber of Commerce liaison to Economic Development -- is very inside politics. It does raise a few questions, however, on just who had the ear of the person who made all this happen.

Those following the inside soap opera of inside politics, and not just the Plusquellic Administration but any political organization, quickly get used to seeing faces come and go. The bureaucracy of government is where you'll find those with long service records; political operatives, however, come and go. It's true for the White House. It's true for the Statehouse. It's true for City Hall.

The key question in any reshuffling, however, is whether it makes the operation of the office and mission of the organization stronger. To that end, any shuffling in the Communications end carries with it some gambling. Those who serve as go-between for politicians and the media usually find themselves in no-win positions. Advocate blindly for the boss and reporters will quickly grade your credibility accordingly. Advocate for the reporters and the boss will question your loyalty.

The reporter side aims to reveal, question and confront; the political side aims to set direction, accomplish the mission and protect the boss. There is always tension between both, and it's that tension that distinguishes the American style of governing from most other countries. It isn't always pretty, but it establishes up front how the people's business is still up to the people.

Mayor Plusquellic faced a conundrum: insiders tell me he didn't have faith his message was getting out. He didn't have confidence his agenda was the agenda. Someone had to pay that price, and it wasn't going to be him. Frankly, that requires a level of introspection even the hardiest of politicians don't attempt. Leaders need a straw man to knock about, a punching dummy to exorcise frustration on. In most political offices, that winds up being the communications person. In this political office, that was what Mark Williamson did.

But unlike political offices in far-away Washington or Columbus, where the communication liaisons change frequently, Williamson is different. He's not the faceless spokesman, or the contact-du-jour you find at the offices of the Representative or Senator. His was a face the community was familiar with, for decades on television and nearly as long from City Hall. Williamson himself, as with Plusquellic, has become a local institution of a sort. Despite the Mayor's misgivings, giving such an institution the outright boot holds far more political headache than finding a place for him elsewhere.

Out of sight, out of mind. J. Edgar Hoover used to do this in the F.B.I. with agents who disappointed, famously sending them to Billings. Josef Stalin sent his to Siberia. Not to belittle the public servants who toil for us in far-off regions, but it's reasonable to note military officers who fail but can't be canned ought not be surprised when they are reassigned to a radar installation overlooking the Bering Straits. In private industry, it may be some department close to the restrooms where an offending executive is banished to do little harm. This is the price when the boss loses faith.

It is entirely within the purview of the boss to make sure the team in place serves the needs of the boss, especially if that boss faces one of the more challenging re-election bids just four months away. This the reason civil service doesn't extend to political at-will positions such as Deputy Mayor, or Chief of Staff, or even Communications Director. This Mayor -- and ones to follow, regardless of the outcome in September -- deserve the right to choose his own leadership circle. Moving those pieces like those on a chessboard not only comes with the territory, it helps keep the rest of the team on their toes and often brings in renewed focus and energy.

But in this case, there's one aspect the Mayor should be thinking about which may escape the ego of office: do you still have someone close to you, someone you trust, someone who can close the door and speak frankly about your decisions and actions? Is there a member of your circle with the fortitude to call you out, and your leave to do so, in the same kind of language and approach you employ with others? Who is your sounding board, someone who has credibility and wisdom to not only affirm when you are on the right path but also point out the wrong direction?

Legend has it that triumphant Roman leaders, hailed as conquerors, would have a slave with them in the chariot as the thousands heaped adulation. The slave would whisper "Look behind you, remember you are only a man" or "Remember that you are mortal." Every leader needs that critical element of someone who doesn't buy the hype, someone who knows the value of no often eclipses the ease of yes, someone who understands metal for the sword is stronger after the hammering and out of the forge.

Bill Clinton had his James Carville. George Bush had his Karl Rove. Barack Obama has his David Axelrod. Who plays that role with Don Plusquellic? His confidants in years past have moved on to other positions in the community, and while they may still be close enough to be considered "inner circle" are they close enough for the daily whispering required? Joel Bailey, Joe Kidder, Ray Kapper, even Tom Sawyer provide wisdom and alternate viewpoints, but they are advisers and not everyday actors. In the heat of the moment when decisions are made, are those other voices in the second floor Mayor's suite of offices strong enough to assume that role, taking with it the abuse that comes from being the bearer of bad tidings?

Those who know Don Plusquellic's hard-driving personality know this is neither an easy nor pleasant job.

With a plain-spoken Williamson out of sight, Plusquellic must make sure he still has someone by his side, not only willing but with the credibility and freedom to be able to cut through his sometimes acerbic personality and go beyond the toxic antics of politics.
A German court has convicted 91-year-old John
Demjanjuk of thousands of counts of acting as an
accessory to murder as a Nazi death camp guard.
He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thinking Missouri...

The ankle bone's connected to the leg bone. The leg bone's connected to the thigh bone. What's this got to do with Ohio?

A timely reminder from two fronts on how actions in one part of the country have such a big impact on another part of the country, and how flood waters and environmental laws spilling inside one set of borders is only part of a bigger picture.

"The Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District began increasing reservoir water releases today after actions taken in the flood-stricken lower Ohio River region were successful in reducing water levels.

Water levels on the Monongahela, Allegheny, Beaver and Ohio rivers will begin to rise gradually today and the public should expect higher than normal flows for weeks depending on the forecasted weather. Anyone going in or near the water should consult river and weather conditions and show caution during these high flow times.

The Corps plans to lower water levels at its 16 upper Ohio River Basin reservoirs to normal summer pools by the Memorial Day weekend. Current high water levels are impacting some recreation areas."

Read carefully, it just stands to reason all those submerged fields, towns, cities and farmlands along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers would have an impact at some point up the Ohio. It is so bad in Missouri that levees were blown up, flooding hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland, rather than washing out towns, villages and cities under threat.

What we send downstream eventually winds up in New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico or, at worst, overflowing all over Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Hence the complicated systems of dams and locks to control these mighty fluid highways so people and commerce flourish instead of seeing their future flushed downriver every time there's a hard rain.

Really not much different when it comes to laws and tax policies states find themselves coming to terms with these days.

Michigan's GOP is under fire for approval of a new law that would tie that state's environmental laws to federal standards. Supporters say it would essentially provide a level playing field for businesses navigating EPA requirements, setting a common bar between state and feds. Critics say it would take away from unique needs in Michigan the federal rules don't address, in a state with more freshwater coastline than any other.

The same argument goes for tax laws. AkronNewsNow's Chris Keppler is working on a story detailing some of the very impressive and exciting economic prospects coming from local colleges and Universities. He says those folks in charge of developing our intellectual capital point out the muscle making those products isn't here in Ohio, or even the United States. Tax policies have a lot to do with it: starting up a business in the Buckeye State means less in the pockets of the risk-takers than in some other states.

That "less in the pocket" may sound like they're all greedy bastards, keeping profit for their own personal use. But most job creation comes from small business just like these start-ups, and it's those companies providing the true engine for the recovery fueled by their imagination, their hard work, and their smarts. Those profits make them rich; they also pay for the people, products and services that make up economic prosperity.

We have advance warning this spring that river levels will be high because of concern over what all the water will do to our neighbors, friends and fellow Americans down river. The same applies to the river of the economy, except it's the stream of cash that matters.

In Ohio's case, it would be nice to figure out how to keep more of it here rather than continuing to send it flowing there.

President Obama visiting with NYPD and NYFD, family of 9/11 victims. Coverage on WAKR and at 1:25 p.m.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Feeling Missouri: Show Me

The debate on whether or not to release Osama bin Laden death photos and videos of his at-sea funeral turns the White House white-hot, as voices ranging from his security team to loud public voices urge President Obama to keep the images secure.

Read on for more but warning: images contained in this post are graphic and upsetting.

Update 1:30 p.m. May 4: President Obama tells "60 Minutes" he will not release photographs of Osama bin Laden's body.

Most of the arguments against release seem to turn on good taste, whether it's responsible journalism, the potential to inflame and even a barometer of the President's call to release his birth certificate to please the conspiracy theorists.

I'm feeling a bit Missouri in all this. Show me. Let me decide if I want to see and whether I believe. The price of democracy and the telling of history as-it-happens is too high to shroud in good taste.

There's serious precedent involved.

Within the past decade, this same government (regardless of who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a hallmark of the U.S. system of democracy is our government does change -- just the faces) gave our critics and enemies plenty to inflame. The Abu Ghraib images showing torture of prisoners in one of Iraq's most notorious prisons -- at U.S. military hands -- was enough to spark protests across the globe. The images are, without question, troubling even though the graphic nature of the violence is clearly more psychological than physiological. There are even more graphic photographs from Abu Ghraib and all a simple Google image search away. Not as if you haven't seen them all before, either published by your local newspapers, on television, even used as props in congressional testimony. It was hard not to miss these photographs.

It's also a good time to remind ourselves of the graphic photos released of the bodies of Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay in July 2003. Here's the FoxNews coverage when the military released the photos. The Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC down under) noted U.S. military commanders at the time had few qualms on release, noting news organizations in the Middle East routinely published photos of slain U.S. servicemen, including the bodies of those mutilated.

Go back a generation, to the graphic photographs of the My Lai massacre.

For those under 50, this chapter in our Vietnam War history won't be fresh. For those over 50, the mention of Lt. William Calley will evoke memories of the lust for war gone horribly wrong, the desire to kill for victory so contradictory to our mission and cause. I found this photo on the website of London's Daily Mail, in a 2007 story detailing the March 16, 1968 slaughter of more than 500 people by U.S. forces. Odds are this photograph won't come as a surprise; we saw it at the time. It still stands as one of the most horrific war crimes of a war seemingly full of atrocities. Let's not also forget one of the more enduring images from the Vietnam War: a Vietnamese army officer, in plain clothes, shooting a man in the head, the moment captured in Pulitzer Prize flash memory. The brutality of one man versus one man.

Go back to the generation of our grandparents.

Television wasn't in every household, and the descriptions of what Allied troops found in the Nazi concentration camps delivered by radio, newspaper and newsreel seemed unbelievable. Talk with anyone who's visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. for the tiniest sense of what it feels like, passing by piles of clothes. Ask someone who's been to the remains Auschwitz, or Birkenau, or Dachau, or Treblinka to get their first hand account of how walking calm fields today carries with it the sense of dread and sadness of the death camps -- a feeling that the ghosts of millions slaughtered by madness still remain so we still remember. Even with the newsreels, accounts and photographs there are still millions around the world who refuse to acknowledge. Despite the proof to the contrary. The photo above shows the crematorium at Weimar, Germany where thousands were disposed of before members of the 3rd U.S. Army liberated the camp in April 1945.

Then there's the crime Osama bin Laden was wanted for.

Fast forward to that bright September morning in 2001 when jets carrying everyday passengers became flying bombs on his order. You certainly can't forget those images; we saw them again, the planes flying into the World Trade Center. That day we saw the pictures and video of people leaping to the death rather than being burned alive. The images of a gaping, smoking hole in the Pentagon just across the river from the White House and U.S. Capitol. The furrow and spilled earth in a grassy field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the phone calls made by passengers-turned-heroes to stop yet another flying bomb from hitting Washington.

All these images are graphic and disturbing. So many more also exist in newspapers, books, video archives, the Internet -- as well as the personal testimony from those days of hatred and tragedy, and remembrances from the survivors, are emotional. They are still ugly, raw reminders of the inhumanity men, women and children face from zealots of all stripes who forget their own humanity.

Is there a blood lust in wanting to see the body of Osama bin Laden? Anymore than showing the world the images above, because the ugliness of mankind at its worst can be so unbelievable that it requires us to see for ourselves? Was there blood lust in wanting proof Hitler was dead?

Crime shows on TV routinely show the death photos of John Dillinger, or mob bosses gunned down in barbershops and outside steakhouses, as a matter of routine. We are a society where we'll pay eight bucks to watch movies where actors playing victims perish in spectacular Hollywood fashion. We are also a society where seeing the bloated legacy left behind when Rev. Jim Jones ordered hundreds of followers to swallow poison accompanied the graphic film of his followers also shooting to death a U.S. Congressman and 917 others in Jonestown. We are a society where the Zapruder film showing the murder of an American president is routinely viewed online and on television every November 22nd. We are a nation that sees video of a deranged man shooting an American president outside a Washington hotel just twenty years ago.

My friends from Missouri are proud to say they're from the "Show Me State." Eyewitness evidence matters, from the disturbing images above to today's world of photos, videos and audio.

Why show bin Laden's body and burial? Why were accounts of the hanging of Saddam Hussein needed? Why is it necessary to remind ourselves of the victims of fanaticism, such as those who beheaded journalist Daniel Pearl in February 2002? Should I post an image of that crime, to remind us that bin Laden's henchman Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- now at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in detention -- claimed he personally cut off Pearl's head for the world to see?

I'm feeling Missouri today not because I don't believe, but because it's important not to forget. And turning our eyes away from the unthinkable misses the point: these are images that ought to be seared into our memories, lest we be afraid of the emotions that should rightfully work to keep us from allowing such acts to be played out again and again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Final: schools sail except Nordonia Hills, Lake Local in Tuesday voting.
The 99% Results: A big yes on virtually every school issue on the ballot.§ion=news&subsection=localnews
Stephen Dyer easily defeats Rhonda Kotnik for Barberton Muni Court Democratic nod.
Police levies in Boston Twp. and Twinsburg Twp. were also approved in final, unofficial Summit County election returns.
Green, Cuyahoga Falls, Nordonia Hills, Hudson, Revere school levies have also been approved. Both Falls and Hudson library levies get nod.
Summit County Voters: YES to schools, libraries, local issues.
Final unofficial returns: Mogadore levy passes also by razor thin margin - eight votes - combining Summit and Portage votes.
Early school levy returns: Tallmadge gives nod to both levies. Highland's levy wins by razor thin 11 vote margin in both counties.
Tallmadge a winner -- twice -- with voters tonight.
Highland: loses by 2 in Medina but up by 6 in Summit, providing a 4-vote approval margin.
Summit Vote Update: voters backing schools, libraries. Highland District holding slim lead.
Early numbers from early voting...Summit County results. Schools ought to be happy...
Feel free to bookmark this page; election results tonight for Summit issues.

Wanna See A Dead Body?

That seems to be the question of the day: should the Obama Administration release the photographs and/or videos from the daring raid Sunday that bagged Osama bin Laden?

This type of discussion plays out in local newsrooms all across the nation these days, as well as in the circles of the digital media world where non-traditional thought has the same First Amendment power as traditional newspaper, television and radio outlets.

Should you see the goods on Osama bin Laden, determining for yourself if that is indeed his body depicted -- or his body in the shroud buried at sea? Should the White House describe the graphic evidence, already depicted as "gruesome" by Mr. Obama's press secretary, and leave it at that?

We live in a world today of conspiracy theorists; everybody is from Missouri, the "Show Me State." We have plenty of reason to doubt the official line, after being fed weapons of mass destruction, closed-door meetings carving up large segments of the economy, secret talks protecting some businesses but not others, and even a Congress that votes on reforming a sixth of the nation's economy without knowing what's in the bill.

Our system of open government and access to records, for the most part, makes this a no-brainer. Public business means documents are open to the public. But there are notable exceptions: national security is one, protecting health information is another we may be personally familiar with when signing all those HIPAA documents with our doctors. Home addresses of police officers, for example, are routinely shielded to protect local cops from all-too-easy retribution from criminals. Court documents relating to juvenile cases are usually off-limits.

In the case of Osama bin Laden's death photos and video, however, the argument isn't necessarily national security -- unless you accept the argument it puts Americans at risk to inflame a segment of the world already passionate about doing us violence. Mr. bin Laden's HIPAA rights have expired, his address (so close to Pakistan's military university) is already known and he was shielded by a wife, not a juvenile. This is an argument about good taste, whether we are adult enough and if the conspiracy beast must be fed.

Not an easy call to make. Add to the mix the general feeling the "mainstream media" would exercise some caution in broadcasting or publishing graphic material against the wide-open world of the web where anything goes -- and then some. The White House may have felt comfortable providing photos to the New York Times and ABC News in the past, but today's media environment lies on the shoulders of more people than the usual cast of editors and news directors.

I recall seeing pictures of Michael Jackson in-state; if photos of the body of the King of Pop were fair game for publishing, why not the King of Terrorists?

- - -

These past five days have provided a flurry of activity in the news business, starting with the horrific outbreak of tornadoes that left Alabama and five other states to pick up the pieces of homes and comfort the families of the dead. It featured the marriage of two young people in an elaborate ceremony watched by an estimated 1.7 billion people worldwide. It culminated in the extraordinary late Sunday night announcement by President Obama that we had finally "got him."

Just about the entire U.S. "big news" organization plans to start the week focused on getting high-priced talent to London for the entertainment event of the year. I know some will argue the wedding of Kate and William was history, but please -- royals often marry without the non-stop news cycle of cute features news groups were filling time with before storms blew apart their news budgets.

I found the decision by NBC's Brian Williams and Steve Capus (shown at left during the 2010 RTDNF First Amendment Dinner in Washington) one of the most laudable; Williams in particular knows where the story is, what his audience expects and what his responsibilities demand as a network news anchor. He and Capus decided, upon Williams' arrival in London, to immediately turn around and fly back to the U.S. because of what just blew through the South. Too much damage, too many dead, 2010's Katrina in the making. It was the right call, and also positioned NBC to have it's top anchor talent at least in this country on Sunday night when the biggest story from the War on Terror since September 11th, 2001 broke in time to interrupt Celebrity Apprentice.

From CNN we expect all-out; Sunday night into Monday morning we got the same from NBC, turning it's coverage over to MSNBC when broadcast affiliates split away for their local news or rerun programming at midnight. On the radio, ABC Newsradio and CBS News Radio provided amazing coverage of the raid, the conjecture, and the spontaneous reaction that spread from Washington and New York to cities and college campus celebrations across the nation.

The network coverage of the bin Laden story -- Operation Geronimo -- was also met on the local level by local professionals in time of crisis in Alabama and the other southern states hit by the great twisters of 2011. Stations in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa represented many, many others in using all their resources -- and then some -- to give millions without power an open communications lifeline to the information they needed to survive the night and days ahead. Where to find water, food, shelter, clothing -- and even where to try and find loved ones still among the missing. Some of these folks on the radio did so despite their own homes reduced to rubble by 200 mile-per-hour funnel clouds scrubbing the landscape. They did so out of responsibility to their community, because they are the best our profession offers.

- - -

I think about the role the traditional media plays in these stories, especially when seeing the predictable "I saw it on Twitter first" stories. Sure social media is more nimble; it's the direct outlet of the people. New media isn't new anymore, and the power of sharing news and views using Facebook, Twitter, and texting shouldn't surprise anyone. But when crisis hit with the winds, radio turned out to be the life-saver and information tool for the masses desperate for glimmers of hope and news. When a couple of thirty-somethings tied the knot, the world's eyes were glued to screens -- television and data terminals -- so they could share in the experience. When the world learned a man depicted as "Public Enemy No. 1" by this country met justice at the hands of our Navy SEAL team, there were plenty of platforms going around to learn more.

Whether you learned from Twitter, television, the web, or a smartphone, it really doesn't matter who says they had it first. It matters where you heard it, saw it, or read it first. The marvel of today's media isn't how one technology replaces another, it's how so many choices now exist and the power we all hold in determining what is or isn't credible. Followers on Twitter can be expected to turn on the TV to see for themselves; listeners on the radio can be expected to go to Facebook to see what their friends think of what's happening; readers of newspapers can be expected to go to the web to satisfy their own cravings for more.

What remains constant is the need for competent reporting, reliable analysis and responsible coverage produced by the human beings at the other end of the keyboard, video camera, microphone or printing press. It's still the human element that makes those waves of electrons news for the rest of us to digest, and believe or not.

I believe, when we look back, this will be a golden age of the power of communication.

I'm able to read Brian Williams explaining on his blog why he skipped the royal wedding thanks to a Facebook post by my friend Nikki Burdine of WLEX in Kentucky at the same time I'm listening and watching the wedding on the radio, web and television during my shift of news anchoring the latest on the southern tornado damages just days before the news of the demise of the man who ordered the 9/11 attacks spilled over into the evening of slack-jawed Sunday night television watching.

It's golden because I have choices, and am empowered to use them as I see fit. The real power of the First Amendment isn't found underneath transmission towers or underneath printing presses -- it's found in everyday decisions by citizens like you and me making up our minds on what we choose to believe.

Even when it may be in bad taste.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fascinating post-bin Laden ABC Newsradio special tonight 7p 1590 WAKR and
LOTS of fascinating angles post-bin Laden breaking news. ABC Newsradio & 1590 WAKR with special wrap-up tonight at 7p.