Thursday, May 29, 2008


There's an old saying that goes, "I was sad because I had no shoes; until I met a man who had no feet." In this case, it wasn't a man with no feet, but a kid with no ears who gave me some perspective.

My daughter has Psoriasis. A problem that causes little rash-like bumps all over her body. It's harmless, and not contagious, but makes her look different. Sunlight seems to make them go away, and Wednsday morning, the dermatologist put her on phototherapy. Basically, they expose her to UVB light. It's kind of like a tanning booth, but I learned that you don't call it that in the presence of a doctor. We'll have to take her in twice a week for this phototherapy, which while not too much trouble, is still kind of a nuisance.

Enter the perspective...

Wednesday night, Christine Long and I did a story about the Swoap family. They're a great family with four fantastic kids. What made for the story was their son, Ty. He has
Treacher Collins Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the development of the facial bones and tissues. Among other things, it caused him to be born without ears. He's only four years old and has had 15 surgeries. Watch the story and you'll be amazed at the things this family and this brave kid have gone through.

Every so often my job puts me in a position that really makes me see how small some of my "problems" really are.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007


I checked my smoke detectors today. You're supposed to check them when you do the time change (which I did), but anyone who's watched the news today knows why I checked them again. I was out at a fire which killed four people last night. They didn't have smoke detectors. It's become a ritual of mine. Every time I cover a fatal fire, I recheck my smoke detectors.

This job can have an interesting effect on your psyche. There are now a number of things I have done or won't do because of this job for example:

I won't ride a motorcycle. For those of you out there who are advocates of the two-wheel wind in your hair experience, more power to you. It's a perfectly legal activity, and I'm told that it's a lot of fun. I'm glad you enjoy it and I wish you well on your rides, but in this job, I've seen too many of your bretheren killed or maimed to join you.

I won't live in a house trailer. Again, I'm not commenting on whether or not they're a good place to live. In my experience in this job, they burn too fast, so I won't live in one.

I won't have one of those deadbolt locks that is keyed on the inside as well as the outside. I shot a fatal fire where the person died trying to get his keys to unlock his house from the inside.

My child won't have a computer with internet access in her room. This one came up in the past week as Zack Ottenstein and I went on an internet predator sting.

I've said in previous blogs that this job and all you see affects you. I recognize that the fears I just listed are probably irrational fears, but they're my fears and they were put there by what I've seen in this job... Last year, when a child was killed in a house fire on Floyd Street, I bought fancy new smoke detectors that are wirelessly linked so if one goes off, they all do... Today I checked to make sure they're still working.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Address challenged

In news, you spend a lot of time trying to find certain locations: a school, a fire/crime scene, the home of someone you need to interview... you get the idea. With the advent of GPS units and things like MapQuest, you can find an address pretty easily, but I've come to realize that there are an inordinate number of people and places that are evidently address challenged.

By address challenged, I mean that if you ask someone there what their address is, they say, "What direction are you coming from?" Why do they need to know what direction I'm coming from? Does their address change if I approach their house from the north rather than the south? I really don't understand.

Actually I do. It's because a large number of people apparently don't have addresses. The larger the city, the less you see this. You still see it quite a bit in Toledo, but this was especially prevalent in Huntington, IN, home of the last newspaper I worked at. In Huntington, I didn't live at 1755 Freedom Street. I lived at, take the bypass until you get to the intersection where Arbys and K-mart sit. Turn so you're going away from those and go until the road forks. Take the left fork. Go three streets and turn left. It's the second to last house on the right.

The smaller the town, the more this comes up. Two examples for your consideraton...

A) Markle, IN... I was looking for a street. Not a specific house, just a street. I stopped in a gas station and asked for directions. The girl at the counter stared at me blankly for a couple of minutes and said, "I don't know where that street is. Who lives there?" When I explained that I didn't know, I just needed the street, she asked one of the customers standing there who asked the same question, "Who lives there?" It would seem that in Markle people can't find streets or addresses, but they can find each other.

B) Bloomfield, NM.. In this instance, I was looking for the middle school. Unable to locate it, I stopped for directions. The guy at the counter thought for a second and said, "You know where Cindy's Diner used to be about 10 years ago? It sits right behind that." Now, seriously, if I knew where things used to be 10 years ago, would we have been having that conversation?

Apparently, that was a big thing when I worked in New Mexico, giving directions by where things used to be. I would get things like that on assignment sheets all the time. Finally, I stood up in in a staff meeting and said that people had to stop assigning me to places that used to be. The only building that used to be that I could find was the Old Post Office, and that was because it actually had a sign out front that said, "Old Post Office."

Admittedly, there are indeed people who need things like this. A coworker of mine used to go to her favorite greenhouse by taking the highway at the end of her street until she got to the billboard by where the cows used to be and turning right. This was pretty much how she used to find everything (her children would actually pack food if they were driving anywhere with only Mom). But even she has embraced the 21st Century, admitting that with MapQuest and a cell phone, she can find anyplace.

So, is it just me or has anyone else out there besides me noticed the address challenged? You can drop me an email or send me a letter at:

WTVG 13abc
Take 475 to the Airport Road exit, turn so you're going away from the movie marquee. Go until you get to the intersection with the Baskin Robbins and turn left. Go until you get to the intersection with the Speedway and turn right. Go to just before the second traffic light and we're the big brick building on the corner on your right.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Back to the Blog

Ok, so it's been a reeeeeeeally long time since I've been blogging. Chalk it up to summer being a time when the beast goes on a diet, laziness, or whatever, but I'm going to get back at it. I actually have a few things to talk about in upcoming entries, my seven days in the Findlay floods leaps to mind, but I'm going to come back with a rare burst of honesty in the news. On Sunday, Jennifer Jarrell and I chased a story about three guys who were arrested for allegedly breaking into the Omnisource and stealing copper. "Perp walks" are usually pretty uneventful. You sit at the police station for several hours until you finally get a few seconds of activity when the cops walk the guys they arrested down the hall to take them to jail. A large percentage of the time, the person will make an effort to hide their face. Reporters will usually toss a question or two at the perp, but he/she will rarely answer. If the person in cuffs has something to say, it's usually proclaiming innocence, but on Sunday, we got a rare burst of brutal honesty out of one of the three guys in custody...

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Point of view...

Over the last few days, I've been thinking about my view of the world. I think I noticed it because of Stewart Pittman's article in this month's News Photographer magazine where he wondered, with all of the death and pain he's waded through over the years, what kind of karma he's collecting. Whatever prompted it, I've noticed that I have kind of a strange view of the world around me -- most of my points of reference on the world are bad.

Following the fire rescue I mentioned in the previous post, I got an email from old friends who live in Archbold. They had heard my name on TV, checked our website, found my blog and emailed me from there. They wondered about when I moved to Toledo. I gave the date, but also described it as about two weeks before the children were killed in the apartment fire at Norwich Apartments.

As I was driving through town with my wife and kid the other day, I mentioned a couple of places I was familiar with as we passed by. The scene of a shooting, a drug house, a place that was raided for prostitution, a fatal crash scene...

When I talk to friends of mine from the business and they're updating me on things, it involves things like, "Remember that kid who shot and killed his dad on that farm just outside town?"

Just this morning, my producer asked if I needed a map to Woodley Street. I said no, it's where that last murder/suicide was.

Read the about me section of this blog. It's basically a list of the worst events in recent Toledo history.

So much of what I remember of people and places has some sort of bad element to it. It has bothered me at different times that it doesn't bother me more. A friend once told me that it's because I have a place to put the emotions that should go with some of the things I've seen in my career and the fact that it bothers me that it doesn't bother me is enough.

In his article, Pittman wonders what kind of karma he's collected over the years. We're observers to these events, so I really don't think we could be collecting bad karma any more than the people we see standing on a corner watching a traffic accident. But I do think that we're collecting an odd persepctive on life and the world.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Being there...

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When I first got into photojournalism, one of the first adages I learned was, "F-8 and be there." The F-8 is an average lens setting, and the being there part is obvious: The photojournalist is the only one in the news profession who absolutely, positively has to be at the location of the event to do his job.

The corollary to this is what my dad and grandfather told me over the years, "I'd rather be lucky than good." Luck plays a huge part in the being there end of our profession, and luck was there when I was shooting exclusive fire rescue video on Wednesday.

Just to make this blog a little longer for the folks who have been giving me a hard time about that, I'm going to go back to Tuesday and start from there...

My normal shift on Wednesdays is 9:30am to 6:30pm, but on Tuesday our Assistant News Director asked me to change and work nightbeat to cover a vacation.

So, Wednesday afternoon, Zack Ottenstein and I were on our way around town to collect information on an alleged rapist. Our trip went from the jail to the detective bureau downtown to the courthouse and finished at the Northwest Police Station near Sylvania and Douglas, where the Special Victims Unit is.

With a mug shot and a news release in hand, we were headed back to the station. We were at the corner of Douglas and Central when I heard the police and fire dispatch units for an occupied structure fire. Shooting a fire seemed very much preferable to going back to the station and being handed a stack of editing chores, so I said we should go.

Zack knew where the street was, and we were only a few blocks away. As we headed there, I heard the radio traffic that there may be kids trapped inside.

We pulled onto the street just as the fire trucks were coming to a halt. Not seeing any smoke or fire, I parked just past a hydrant at the middle of the street, figuring that we didn't want to get caught inside the hoses if the FD decided they needed that hydrant.

I pulled my gear and headed toward the house. About three houses away, I could hear the firefighters hitting the door with an axe, but it was the sight that really got me moving. I saw a woman with a baby at a second floor window and a ladder going up. Figuring this would go quickly, I dropped my tripod in the front yard of a house, shouldered the camera and started running.

I came past a tree that partially obscured my view of the scene and started rolling. I watched in black and white (we don't have color viewfinders) as a baby was passed down the ladder, and then a small child. Then the firefighters broke out the window with an axe and brought out a bigger child and finally their mother.

Thankfully, everyone was all right and the fire turned out to be fairly minor, started by a candle in the dining room.

We interviewed the battallion chief at the scene, and later, we interviewed the firefighter who was at the top of the ladder. Both said that it was a very easy rescue. They were pretty matter-of-fact about it, but it seemed pretty impressive to me.

In the interview, the firefighter talked about all the problems and obstacles that could have kept them from making that rescue: fire coming from the windows, being unable to get into the building quickly, having to negotiate around parked cars, trees, and hoses with the ladder, and that none of those obstacles were there for them. At the scene of the fire, one of the other photogs was talking to me about the obstacles (the distance he had to travel, the traffic, etc.) that kept him from getting there when the rescue was happening.

On this day, the fire department didn't have any obstacles, and neither did we. So, an "easy rescue" became exclusive video.

In breaking news, so much of the time, being there is at least 2/3 of the battle and as my dad and grandfather have always said, "I'd rather be lucky than good."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Bad day

Recently I had been talking about the fact that I've just had nothing to say in my blog. This was not the way I wanted to come up with something to write about...

Today was a bad day. Before I came into work I had to have our cat Guinness put down. Before anyone asks, yes, he's named after the beer. So is our cat Killian as well as Pauli. The most recent addition, a stray named Spots... well, Mallorie named named him. Guiness had been sick for over a week and had quit eating and drinking. We thought we had pulled him out, but he quit eating and drinking again, his weight had dropped from 17 to just over 8 and we just knew it was time, as did Dr. Ferguson.

So, why write about this in a blog that's basically about journalism? Quite simply, it was photojournalism that brought the big guy into our lives.

As journalists we're supposed to be "detatched observers," but how can you not be affected by all you see, who you meet and where you go? Sometimes it's easier to be detached, I was pretty detached at the fatal crash on SR2 yesterday, but everything we do, everywhere we go, and everything we see has some effect on us. Sometimes just more than others.

It was fall of 1994 and I was shooting stills freelance. On this particular week, I was doing shots in a shelter in Farmington, NM for Cat Fancy magazine. In the middle of the cat cages, there was this big, fuzzy, friendly guy. He had kittens all around him and as people would come through looking at the cats, they would jump toward the kittens. He loved attention and would reach out with a paw through the bars to the people, but they were too busy with the kittens. I took a liking to him and would play with him and pet him in between pictures. On my last day of shooting, the director of the shelter walked by and put a big red X on the card on his cage door. The red X meant his time was up. By this point, I was too involved and couldn't let that happen. And so, my then girlfriend, now wife, and I brought home a second cat. He and his sister (Killian) moved with us when we left New Mexico so I could take a staff job in Indiana. He kept an eye on our new baby when we added her to the family. A few years later, he escaped and was missing for four weeks. I even had a thank you for all the people who gave us tips about his whereabouts put on the editorial page of the paper where I was working. While he was missing another stray claimed us. He played with her for the next couple of years after he came home. A year or so after moving to Toledo, he was diagnosed with diabetes, leaving us giving him a daily insulin shot and keeping him on a special diet. Over the years, he slowed down some, but he was still pretty vital until about a week and a half ago when he came down with some kind of infection.

Finally, 13 years later, after a week and a half of fighting, medication and vet visits, the big red X caught up with us.

The coverage that we do always affects us and sometimes gives us a friend. Funny thing... the story I was shooting for was cancelled and the pictures were never published.