Monday, August 30, 2010


11 months I blogged about my sense of loss of friendship.  I can count on one hand people who were friends that were near and dear to my heart but as time passed those friendships have slipped away.  One of my favorite friends reminded me quite gently in a comment that it's a part of the ebb and flow of what life brings us.

Sunday night I had an opportunity to renew a very old friendship.  One that stretches back to grade school.  I first remember Gary when I was in the second grade but we didn't become best buds for about two more years.  He was a little intimidating at first but then I think we discovered a mutual sense of mischievousness when it came to teachers, girls, and the social strata in general that comes in elementary school.  We spent a lot of time together and got into as much trouble as two kids growing up in a small town could get into without actually breaking the law.

The 6th grade was the best.  We had a great teacher Milton Pippenger who later went on to become an outstanding superintendent of schools in Kansas.  Mr. Pippenger fanned the flames of what would become my life's work, journalism.

But Gary moved to Kansas City just before the start of the 7th grade and my life was somewhat adrift.  It took awhile for me to find my compass and it came in the form of another friendship.  But that's for another blog.  Gary and I remained friends but time and distance did its damage.

As fate or irony would have it we both ended up in Lawrence attending the same high school, but we never reformed the bond that we had shared in Abilene.  We had different friends and different interests, but through all the years we always kept track of each other.  The gulf that had grown was finally bridged in 1994 when I went to Boston to run the marathon and Gary offered to let me stay at his house.  My life, at the time, was in a shambles.  I never let on to Gary about my personal undoings but seeing him, reliving our "greatest hits," gave me a sense of renewal and revisiting the past helped me move forward with my life.

The latest twist in our enduring friendship came during my drive from Florida to California.  I don't why Gary decided to call me as I sat in a Amarillo steak house but he did and the glee in his voice was unmistakable when I told him that I was moving to Sacramento.  Gary had failed to mention in the occasional emails that we traded that he was slowly but surely moving to Sausalito while running his business in Boston.

Tonight we met up in a small restaurant in the East Bay to catch up.  Gary remains an anchor and a touchstone for my life.  Every time we get together he reminds me of when I was a snot-nosed gawky kid and gives me a glimpse of how far I've come in my life.  That's a good thing.  We may not terrorize the Bay Area the way we dreamed of terrorizing Abilene but we both still dream and that is a good thing indeed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Modesto Midnight Half Marathon

I toed the line for my first official race since moving to Sacramento.  Yes, I ran the triathlon relay but this one was just me, the clock, and about 500 other souls.  I traveled a little more than an hour south to Modesto for a half marathon.  Though the race title suggests it starts at midnight it actually goes off at 9 p.m.  I guess the hope is that everybody finishes by midnight!

When I think of Modesto, I think of the Modesto Relays.  It used to be one of the great staples of American track and field when I was a teenager.  It's a modest city of more than 200,000 people situated in the San Joaquin Valley.

I decided to run this race after its director sent our station a request for media coverage.  On a Saturday night it's tough to utilize the thin weekend resources for a road race.  I thought I could at least contribute by running and blogging about it.  I was more than a little surprised when I saw live trucks their from our competitors, KCRA and the Telemundo station.  The only thing that surprised me more was that I was actually cold when I got there and had to done a long sleeve shirt to guard against the cool night air before racing.

My goal was to run the 13.1 miles at my marathon pace.  That meant 8 minute miles and a time of  1:45.  I wanted to get to 10 miles and maybe push a little bit to the finish and hope my legs felt fresh.  My last half marathon in March in Fort Myers was not very satisfying.  I was toast after nine miles and struggled home.

The gun went off and I settled into a pace that felt comfortable and sensible.  The course traveled from the heart of downtown Modesto and snaked its way through various neighborhoods with very little street lights and some so-so traffic control.  I didn't catch a split until mile two which I ran in 7:47.  I was worried that I was going too fast but decided to plunge ahead and forget the watch.

Just before three miles as I approached a busy intersection the police officer had the runners stopped and was letting traffic through.  I was stunned but about 10 yards from actually hitting the intersection he stopped traffic and let the 20 or so gathered runners move forward.  I quickly got over that shock and soon realized I was starting to catch a lot of people.  I was passing folks at the rate of two about every quarter mile.

A lot of the runners had the good sense to have little head lights attached to their hats or just carrying it in their hands.  I was grateful for the illumination but I found myself in a no man's land of darkness after six miles and hit one of the course cones in the darkness.  It tweaked my hip and I almost took a spill but after letting a profanity I kept moving.

I felt very good but I was anxious that I was running too fast and would hit the wall.  In the darkness the miles seemed to take forever but finally by mile 9 I realized I felt plenty strong and I was still passing people.  I hit 10 miles and checked my watch.  It read 79:19.  I was a little alarmed.  I started doing the math and realized I might be able to run 1:44.

The last three miles were uneventful except for one runner who I passed after ten miles came back on me at 11 and I decided to up the tempo and try to carry it to the finish.  I left him on the dark streets passing other runners before we swept back into downtown where I hit the finish line in 1:42:44.  I was elated until I looked at my Garmin and it read 12.96.  There were a lot of trees and it could have blocked the GPS but my guess is the course was a little short.

When I got home and checked my splits I was pleasantly surprised.  Mile two had been a fluke.  My first mile was spot on 8 minutes and I hit 8 minute miles or just a shade under most of the way until the end when I went 7:45 and 7:38 to finish.  Plus my legs were fresh and I know I could have run another three miles at that effort without much of a problem.

I've got three more weeks of hard training and St. George is still five weeks away.  I really think the goal of 3:30 that I set for myself six months ago is well within my grasp.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Burning Down the House

Journalism is in a world of shit.  It's not just what's going on with bloggers, websites like Drudge and Huffington, or the talking heads of political crap at FOX and MSNBC.  Local media never ceases to amaze me at its inability to resist salacious details that involve the rich and famous.

No, I'm not talking about Lindsey Lohan or Tiger Woods, I'm talking about a story that two local television stations aired.  Both stations basically reported the same story which was much ado about nothing.  What's even more laughable is that the third local TV news operation did a story today about the public outrage over one of the station's coverage of the non-story.  It was a thinly veiled attempt to basically cover the same story everyone else had covered.  I wanted to vomit.

The irony in it for me is that our newsroom had known the details of the story for several weeks.  In fact the night before the story broke on our competition I had an extensive conversation with one of our journalists about where we had gotten.  We pretty much knew that there was nothing newsworthy to report.  TMZ and Perez Hilton we're not. 

I'm proud of our organization, the thoroughness, the hard work, and the ability of our staff to reach out to their sources to make sure that we didn't make the same mistake that our competitors did.  It's a wonder anybody watches television news in this day and age.  I hope and pray that we never fall prey to the quick and dirty, or the slim and sleaze that has marginalized the profession that I love.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Circle 4 Ranch

I spent the longest portion of my career in television news in Kansas City working at WDAF TV.  My first of three, yes three stints, began on Monday October 20, 1980.  Mike McDonald had rescued me from the little dictator, Gary Long, who had ruthlessly ruled the roost at KARK.

It was the beginning of a remarkable run for both my professional life and for the station.  WDAF had long been the Kansas City market's running joke.  I can remember sitting at KMBC watching their newscasts and taking an oath to never work there.

McDonald was pulling together a team of aggressive, young, reporters and producers to support the anchor team of Stacy Smith and Cynthia Smith.  Dan Henry was the resident comedian and weathercaster and the final piece of our anchor puzzle would arrive from Green Bay when Frank Boal took over the sports team.

A combination of hard work and luck took this dumpster of a station from #3 to #1 in just about two years.  The keys were the new found stability at the anchor desk, improving ratings at NBC, and holding the television rights to the then wildly popular Kansas City Royals.  The addition of a 6 p.m. newscast proved to be the final piece of the puzzle.  Action 4 News as it was known then had the only 5 p.m. newscast in town and thus the #1 slot because at the time nobody else did news at that time slot.  But it took the addition of news at 6 to give the station the kind of credibility it needed and in the capable hands of Dennis McCullough the newscast steadily rose in the ratings.

The names that helped power the push to number one are many, some even well known, like Gayle King and Del Walters.  Jan Smith, our city hall reporter and soon to be wife to legendary White House correspondent Sam Donaldson, ended up at the fledgling FOX News.  But a lot of behind the scenes people like Mike Lewis, Bruce Lindsay, and Jenny Wolfe brought their touches as well.  Other brilliant young producers would come and go, Howard Bernstein and Marsha Kindrachuk come to mind, we saw a lot of talent come through our doors only to leave for bigger markets and more money.

Our night side crew was killer.  Bob Thill who later left for KCTV and then for his own production company, was simply the best reporter on the streets of Kansas City during my tenure there.  He could handle everything from crime, to city hall, to the silly features we would dream up.  A classic moment came after he covered the hard core punk band, Wendy and the Plasmastics, taking a pie in the face just as he signed off from his live shot.

Mike Maier was a photographer was a lightning quick temper and a razor sharp wit that constantly kept me on my toes.  He was a bear of a man who lived worked hard and played harder.  Being around Mike was like walking a tightrope but the thrill of witnessing his newsroom escapades and tirades proved more thrilling than any ride at Worlds of Fun.

Doug Sudhoff, now a professor at Northwest Missouri State was the steady horse in our stable.  He worked tirelessly and without complaint as an under appreciated reporter.  Doug made my life easy because I didn't have to worry about his effort like I did with some other folks.

The station hit its pinnacle shortly after 1984 with the addition of Oprah Winfrey's new show as a lead in to our 5 p.m. and a staff addition in Dave Helling, quite simply the best political reporter in Kansas City television history, and that's taking nothing away from KMBC's Mike Mahoney who I deeply admire.  Helling is the smartest reporter I've ever worked with.  His desk would be stacked with video tapes and GAO reports, voluminous government studies, that he would sift through for story ideas.  Helling could turn a complete package with multiple sound bites without ever leaving the station.  He always thought ahead, asking questions of his interview subjects for stories he knew that he would turn in the days or weeks to come.  His output of work was prodigious.

I brought my own touches to my job.  My shows had a style about them with snappy writing and outside the box efforts at news gathering.  My newscasts were such that our competitors could tell when I was producing a particular newscast by its pace and particular sense of storytelling.  I took it as a compliment that KMBC's management worked tirelessly at getting me to take jobs outside the market.

The wheels began to come off in 1986 when the station decided not to renew its contract with Oprah.  KMBC quickly snatched up the hot property.  From everything I heard our GM Earl Beall fought to keep the show but the tightfisted owners of Taft Broadcasting would hear none of it.  I felt trapped now entering my seventh year as 10 p.m. producer.  Despite an incredible track record I couldn't land an executive producer job anywhere and my path at WDAF was blocked by Jenny.  Part of the problem is that I'm hit and miss at job interviews.  People either loved me or hated me, there was very little middle ground.

I grew suspicious that McDonald was blocking my efforts to move up at one of the other Taft stations so when a potential EP opportunity came my way in the late spring of 1987 I jumped at it.  I flew to Phoenix to interview at one of sister stations where I would become the new 10 p.m. producer and move into the EP slot because the current one was having a baby and not expected to return.  In the past I always told McDonald when I had opportunities at other Taft stations, this time I didn't.

A job offer came, but it was for less money.  Larry Rickle, a consultant, who knew the Phoenix situation and was at our station the day the offer came through, told me I should take it.  I think that probably played the largest part in my decision making.  I went to bed that night 75 percent sure I would take the offer and then at 4 a.m. I got the worst case of food poisoning in my life.  I got next to no sleep and the phone rang at 8:30 a.m.  It was McDonald, furious, cussing like a madman, wanting to know about the Phoenix situation.  Someone in Phoenix had leaked word of the offer.  I told him I wouldn't be coming to work that day which only made the tirade even worse.  His anger made my decision easy.

I left WDAF in June 1987 and started my new job in Phoenix in early July.  I was in a top 20 market producing the #1 10 p.m. newscast at a well staffed station and a chance at management.  The future looked bright in the Valley of the Sun.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ESPN Shits the Bed

Regular readers of this blog know that I don't have a lot of respect for ESPN.  It does a few things right in terms of sports coverage but it does far too much wrong and damage to the whole arena of this sports loving nation.  The latest casualty of ESPN's master plan for world wide domination could seriously damage a renaissance that started about 14 years ago.

A man by the name of John Dye created a simple board which tracked high school track and field.  It quickly grew into something of a phenomenon for those of us who love high school track and cross country.  As the board called Dyestat grew in popularity amazing things began to happen.  Kids, coaches, and crazy fans like myself began to share stories and information. Then along came Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenheim touching off a running revolution that the American high school's hadn't seen since the likes of Gerry Lindgren and Jim Ryun.

Dyestat nurtured and encouraged a generation of high school athletes to dream and dare to be great.  I tend to focus on distance runners but this "fire on the track" spread across all the events.  The last five years have been amazing, from Galen Rupp to German Fernandez, to a decathlete like Curtis Beach or a weight man like Mason Finley, the marks and times have been stunning.  And you can include the girls in on the act as well, from distance stars like Jordan Hasay to the middle distance ace Laura Roesler or javelin specialist Hannah Carlson to this list of future Olympians.

Enter ESPN, looking to expand its sports brand into high school sports.  I am sure they offered John Dye a bundle of money for the site, I can't blame him for taking the money.  Dyestat was folded into ESPN Rise effectively killing Dyestat.  The vibrant chat boards have fallen silent.  The insightful articles written by Dyestat's tiny staff of devoted fans gone.

In its place ESPN has turned to a staff of youngsters who while well intentioned, have produced some laughable material.  Not all of the stories are bad but ESPN has blundered and the fans of Dyestat are crying out.  Certain states like California are really feeling the pinch with the start of cross country just around the corner.  Athletes, coaches, and fans that had grown used to a wealth of information leading up to the season have nothing.  Maybe it's just growing pains but sports leader has once again blundered badly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It Was Bound to Happen

I noticed soreness in my right calf Sunday afternoon following that morning's 16 mile effort.  Nothing during the run, which was uneventful, indicated that something was amiss.  As usual I didn't take it very seriously and didn't bother to ice it.

This morning it was still pretty sore so I decided not to mess around.  I went to the drug store and purchased an ice bag and a chemical ice pack.  I failed to turn on my ice maker in my apartment refrigerator when I moved in two months ago!  Even though I could do the easy 3 I had planned for Monday I didn't.

Regardless of how it feels tomorrow I'm not going to run.  Too many times in the past I have rushed things and ended up making issues like the calf soreness worse.  Ice and Advil are on the agenda.  I'm actually looking forward to this mini-break.  I'm beginning to feel really fit.  Sunday's run was a breeze.  At this point I just need to do the long runs because everything else is icing to the cake. 

My guts tell me I should wait until the weekend before trying to run again.  I've always got the exercise bike at the apartment complex fitness center if this doesn't start to feel better in a couple of days. I'm not limping but it sure is sore.  Ah, the joys of age.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Most Americans live under the mistaken belief that we live in a democracy.  We don't.  We live in a Republic.  Our founding fathers feared the tyranny of the majority when they wrote our Constitution.

I bring this up because I've been having an interesting email discussion with a News10 viewer who is upset about Proposition 8.  He's a military vet and he likes to throw out the word democracy and under God a lot.  He's unhappy like a lot of Californians who voted to ban marriage by same sex couples.  They believe that Federal Judge Vaughn Walker is thwarting the will of the people.

People tend to forget that we have three branches of government.  Each branch, the executive, judicial, and legislative acts as a check and balance.  Whether you agree or disagree with the intent of Proposition 8, the judge in this case had every right to make a ruling on its constitutionality.  As I wrote in an earlier blog, I agree with Judge Walker's reasoning.  As I also pointed out I probably would have felt differently about this issue 30 years ago.

But ask yourself this, what if the majority of Californians voted to put anyone named John into an internment camp?  Just because a majority of people want something doesn't make it constitutional.  Thank goodness we have three branches and even with it, the tyranny of the majority can often trample the rights of the minority.  Just ask Japanese-Americans living in California who were around during World War II.

Another California proposition which would legalize marijuana is sure to end up before a federal judge if it passes.  It's a classic state versus federal power quandary.  I wonder how these pro-Prop 8, anti-marijuana folks will feel if a federal judge stops the will of the people then?

Saturday, August 14, 2010


March 1980 I loaded my Toyota and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas to work as the 10 p.m. producer.  The station at the time was owned by Gannett and it was one of the top rated NBC stations in the country.  The network's ratings were even worse then then they are now if you can believe it.  We even had a helicopter which was unheard of for a market that size.

John Hudgens, who had returned to KARK after losing out to Brink Chipman in the tussle over who would run WTCN's newsroom, had been instrumental in bringing me to Little Rock.  I'm not sure what John saw in me.  The newsroom was full of talented people with tons of personality.  Anchor/reporter Ron Gardner befriended me immediately.  I think at the time was on marriage number five and it was number eight for his wife.

Bill Sadler worked out of the Pine Bluff bureau and he's currently the spokesman for the state police.  Steve Narisi was a great reporter and worked as a network producer for NBC for a number of years.  Perry Boxx, currently a news director in Madison, did just about everything under the sun.  Noel Sederstrom, now a news director in Minnesota, produced the 5 p.m.  The late Leo Greene produced the 6 p.m. and always kept a bottle of codeine in his desk which he sipped from regularly.e And least I forget there was Fred Williams, another man who could report, handle the assignment desk, and produce.  Fred went on to become a news director in Texas and later a GM.  He had also worked in Minneapolis for a short time but he was about as comfortable as a frog on a hot stove.

The photographers were great too.  I can only remember a few of their names, the mammoth Richard Little was a great guy, the best shooter was a guy named Phil and even Gary Coursen made a brief stop as a shooter there.  Gary's been a news director forever in Youngstown, Ohio.

The main anchor was a local legend, Roy Mitchell.  He was as solid as a rock but liked to get half in the bag between the 6 and 10.  Tom Bonner was the suave weatherman who's ego could fill the entire state.  Dave Woodman was the sports anchor and was about as good as they come.

The first couple of months were easy because it was horse racing season which meant I rarely saw the news director Gary Long.  Gary loved the horses and loved to drink.  Gary was a real innovator, probably the most innovative news manager I ever worked for.  When the horses had stopped running Gary started riding me.  The job turned into a living hell.  Every day when I came into work and Gary would spend 15 minutes telling me why my newscast from the night before had sucked.  I learned more in the next four months about producing than I had before or since.  My shows improved, I began to understand the need for pacing, the ebb and flow of sound and video, and I saw a master at work when breaking news hit.  Gary wasn't afraid to make decisions.

The moment of all moments for me came six months into the job September 18, 1980.  Saddler listening to his short wave in Pine Bluff overheard military chatter about an accident at a nuclear missile silo more than 100 miles to his north in a tiny burg called Damascus.  An airmen had dropped a tool which hit the fuel tank on a Titan II nuclear missile.  John Hudgens and the chief photographer named Lou made the drive from Little Rock and he did a phoner from the scene.  This was before satellite trucks and Damascus was well outside microwave range.

A crew from NBC pulled into the station shortly after the 10 p.m. news having arrived to cover a different story.  When I told them what was going on they told me to call the network, but to not reveal their presence.  Well of course NBC knew Willie Monroe was there and told him to go to the scene.  By midnight Hudgens had returned to the station with some video and asked me to join him for the drive back to Damascus.  I declined and went to my apartment and went to sleep at 1 a.m.

Sometime after 4 a.m. my phone rang and it was a photographer named Joe screaming, "It blew! It blew!"  As I scrambled around to pull on my jeans I looked around to see if the world was on fire and thought to myself why am I still alive.  When I got to the station it would begin a long 18 hour day of endless coverage. 

The Air Force in its infinite wisdom had closed the blast doors after the leak began.  The pressure build up led to an explosion that blew the massive blast doors off and in the process sending the nuclear warhead slamming into the doors and cracking it.  Hudgens had been driving behind an Arkansas State Trooper about a half mile from the scene when the missile exploded.  Both men did 180's in their cars and raced away.  John told me later that after about two miles they realized they weren't dead and turned around and went back.

I got very, very, drunk that night, at the largess of Mr. Long.  I think I got to bed at 2 a.m. and slept through my alarm for a 7 a.m. flight to Wichita for a job interview at the NBC station there.  It was a blessing because I would later learn the news director, Al Sandubrae, is a real horses ass.  And it was all the better because in less than a month Mike McDonald would ask me to join his team at WDAF TV in Kansas City.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

20 Years

As I wrestled with my sheets Saturday night exhausted from an early morning long run it dawned on me that my trip to St. George in two months would mark the 20th anniversary of my best marathon ever.  It set my mind to thinking about the events that led up to that fortuitous day.

1990 was a tough year personally.  Running was about the only thing that was going right in my life.  I piled on the miles that spring which included a move from Phoenix to Kansas City.  Despite the hard work including my first 100 plus mile week in more than 15 years my racing was so, so.  The spring culminated with Kansas City's famed Hospital Hill Half Marathon.  I remember the race quite well.  I ran the first seven miles with Dr. Greg Hartman, an outstanding masters competitor at the time.  I was shooting for a sub 1:20 effort and I can remember Greg gently scolding me for pushing the uphills too hard.  He was right because by mile eight I was feeling flat and couldn't take advantage of the gentle downhills offered on Brookside Boulevard.  Then as I began the climb up Broadway back toward Crown Center and the finish line I realized Steve Riley was coming up from behind.  I began a three mile push to the finish and barely beat him to the line.

I was one unhappy camper.  I had failed to break 1:20 by a handful of seconds and I realized that I felt fresh enough to run the course again at the same pace as soon as I had finished.  The training that followed was lackluster and half-hearted at best through the next two months.  Sometime in mid-August I realized that an opportunity was slipping away and began training feverishly for St. George.  My mileage suddenly climbed from 50 miles a week to 80, then 90, then more than 100.  I added a steady diet of races in with the high mileage and suddenly I knew that my long time goal of breaking 2:40 for the marathon was within reach.  Steve Riley even pushed me through my final long run, a 26 mile effort in 2 hours and 56 minutes.

October came and I stood at the starting line knowing I was fit and full of run.  I ran within myself for the first seven miles of gentle downhill awaiting the testing climb and rolling hills to come.  I hit the halfway point in 1:21:20 full of confidence and full of running The time came to race shortly after 13 and a half miles when the bottom drops out on the course and I started to fly.  Coming off a series of 6:15 miles I was suddenly clipping along at 5:35 pace.  By 17 miles I had slipped by my good friend Craig Davidson feeling great.

Marathon running is about resource management and I knew I had to be careful not to go too hard too soon or I could fall apart and fail.  Mile 21 was my fastest at just a touch under 5:30 and I knew my goal was well within reach.  It wasn't until I hit the last mile that the effort started taking its toll.  I knew I would break 2:40, the only question was by how much.  Part of me wanted to get greedy and go for something under 2:39 but I held back and finished in 2:39:24.

I look back on this race as one of my most satisfying because I had a goal and a plan that I executed to perfection.  My efforts had paid off with a personal best and an age group award to boot.  Now, 20 years later, I'm training hard, running about half as many miles as I did back then, yet I'm looking forward to running my slowest marathon ever!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This One's for Hula - Lawrence High Football

I was skipping back through some of my past blogs and a comment caught my eye from the ever insightful Hula Girl.  It came after my break down of the greatest distance runners at Lawrence High School.  Her observation was that I must write about LHS distance runners because the football there must not be very good.  Oh Hula, you should look before you leap.

The Chesty Lions hold the national record for undefeated seasons at 31.  Lawrence High has won 27 state championships and in 1960 was named national champions.  Back then they were coached by Al Woolard who mentored his share of high school phenoms.  Before he arrived in Lawrence he coached a young football player who went on to fame in baseball by the name of Mickey Mantle.  Woolard also coached John Hadl, an All-American at Kansas who as a quarterback in the NFL was NFC player of the year in 1973s.  And there's Bill Neider, a pretty fair football player who won an Olympic gold medal in the shot put.

A few other players who donned the Red and Black also made their way into the NFL but Hadl was the greatest by far.  I would be remiss not to mention another legendary LHS coach Bill Freeman.  Coach Freeman pulled the program back to its top tier status after Woolard retired and the football program suffered through a drought, including a horrific one win, eight loss season my senior year.  Remarkably, one of the players on that horrible team, Mike Wellman, made it to the NFL.

Hula I must admit Lawrence High's grip as the football powerhouse of Kansas was broken when the city voted to build a second high school and Free State High School opened in 1997.  But Lawrence High's tradition is among the best, not just in Kansas, but in the nation.

Friday, August 6, 2010

End of an Era

Back in 1974 I signed on as a unpaid stat boy for Rich Bailey at Sunflower Cablevision.  The cable operation has served my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas for more than 40 years.  This week, the Simons family sold Sunflower to a company called Knology for 165 million dollars.

People in Lawrence loved to bitch about the media monopoly the Simons enjoyed because they also owned the local paper, The Lawrence Journal-World.  The sale means one of two things.  Either the kids want to divest themselves of their many media properties and this is step one or more likely, they need the cash to keep their dying newspaper alive.

Lawrence stands to lose a lot in terms of local programming.  Sunflower offered a local cable newscast and a ton of homemade programming, some of it quite good.  It all started with their sports productions which I had the privilege of working on back in the day.  We were good enough to compete for national cable awards.  The new owners are going to take a hard look at some of these local productions.  Those that make money will survive, like sports, other will likely not, like the news.  I hope I'm wrong.

The other albatross hanging around the Simons family's neck is Topeka's KTKA.  They purchased the ABC affiliate in 2005 and hired me to help start up a news operation with grand designs of becoming the information company for Northeast Kansas.  Unfortunately they overpaid for the station, hired a general manager who spun a lot of lies to the family, and never grasped the economic complexities of broadcasting.  I bailed out after a year because I could see the trouble coming.  They tried to sell the station about 18 months after that, right when the nation's economy tanked.

Right now they probably can't give the station away.  It probably bleeds the family on the order of a quarter million dollars or more a year.  I remember the hubris of Patrick Knorr when he told me the station would break even in three years.  Having worked in Topeka before and knowing full well the allocation of advertising dollars I laughed at him and told him seven years minimum.  But that's another blog for another time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Proposition 8

Now that I live in the land of silliness I get to cover some issues that will reshape this nation over the next several years.  Proposition 8 is one of those issues.  Californians voted two years ago to deny gay couples the right to marry.  A federal judge tossed the marriage ban today. 

A lot of money poured into the state to get Prop 8 passed.  A big chunk of change came from the Mormon church.  The Mormons aren't alone because the Catholic church backed the ban as well as do a lot of conservative Christians.
I'll be the first to admit that 30 years ago I couldn't have stomached much less supported the idea of Gay marriage.  As I grew older I came to realize that we fear what we don't understand.  The issue of Gay rights over the course of the last 30 years has unfolded much like the issue of civil rights for Blacks in post World War II America.
Gay marriage doesn't hurt me.  The fact that two men or two women want to join together and perhaps adopt or have children doesn't strike me as some great corrupting influence.  I don't see how it harms my family or my community.  Gays aren't any more morally bankrupt than straight people.  Take a good look at some of the people that have led the Evangelical movement over the last 40 years and the high profile cases of drug abuse, infidelity, corruption and for goodness sakes, homosexual behavior.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Proponents of the ban are decrying the judge for being Gay and for dismissing what the voters approved.  The judge did his job.  He interpreted the Constitution of the United States of America.  The Constitution guarantees the rights of ALL Americans, regardless of race, religion, or sexual preference for that matter. 

These homophobes remind me of what I encountered last year in Russia.  The city of St. Petersburg is coming to grips with a burgeoning community of activists who want Gay rights.  The average Russian sees that plea as a corruption of youth.  They believe that the Gay community is trying to promote homosexuality and recruit heterosexuals to join their ranks and become Gay.  The majority of Russians hold views that would safely fit into the America of the 1960's.  I pray that we never allow this country to be ruled by this kind of fear and ignorance

Walking a Tightrope

I'm approaching the two month mark with my new job in Sacramento.  As the night executive producer I have to walk a fine line between balancing the demands of my day side com-padres to the needs of our 11 p.m. newscast.  It's a minefield at times and when I'm not careful about where I step I sometimes come close to losing a limb.

My partner in news mischief is a passionate producer by the name of Tim Wells.  His slavish devotion to his newscast keeps me on my toes and serves as a reminder of my need to think outside the box when it comes to allocation of resources.  Tim is a carbon copy of what I was as a producer 25 years ago without the bad habits.  He fights for his newscast, he has a clear vision of what his newscast should be about, and most importantly he's an amazing receptor of information.  Tim processes everything that's going on around him including my snide remarks and acute observations of what I think he needs to do to elevate his game.   

The best part of our night crew is that it really is a team, something I credit young Mr. Wells with developing.  Our anchors are engaged in what Tim's trying to accomplish, our MMJ's are ready to run through brick walls, and are amazing assignment manager Leshanea Ruffin is spark plug completely dialed into the pulse of breaking news.  I feel like a kid who's walked into the world's greatest candy store.  I keep waiting to find to find one of those gross jelly beans that tastes like dirt or vomit.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Two Months

I headed back to the track tonight for another four mile tempo run.  As I made my way around for the first mile I could feel the effects of Saturday night's long run so I wasn't holding out much hope of duplicating Friday's run.  I figured if I could manage 8:30 pace for 16 laps I would be plenty happy. 

Mile after mile I was pleasantly surprised by my splits finishing up in 7:39 and averaging 8:10.  It made me realize just how much my legs were missing runs where some speed figured in.  For the past year I've been happy just to get out and slog through the miles.  I had rarely tried to push the pace figuring that anything under 9 minute pace was a bonus.  Tempo runs aside I'm debating whether to push my luck and incorporate two or three interval workouts into the mix before St. George. 

The race is two months away.  Interval work carries a lot of risk.  The last thing I need right now is a pulled or strained muscle.  I need to find a group that  is doing reasonable intervals like the Sunflower Striders, a group I used to train with in Topeka.  The intervals got me back to 7 minute pace for a 5K.

Meanwhile, the poor Czarina is suffering through a sweltering Southwest Florida summer.  Tonight she did a 12 mile run, 6 outdoors, and 6 indoors on a treadmill.  I don't expect that she's going to be ready for the big miles ahead.  The only thing that will save her come October will be the cool weather come race time on that mountaintop in Utah.