Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NOMC disappointment

We can't report it if we don't know it. On the other hand, to what lengths can we go to get information, and what is our responsibility? Today's example is the closing of the North Oakland Medical Centers in Pontiac. Obviously, lots was going on behind the scenes that wasn't reported until it was too late for the community to do anything about it. Didn't Hospital Chief Executive Officer John Graham have an obligation to tell the public he had taken a new position in Saginaw? Didn't he or the board have an obligation to alert citizens that all was not well? Seven days in a row we called Graham's office seeking information and he did not respond. Who knows what might have happened if the public had been given more information sooner?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Knollenberg-Peters spat

Editing a newspaper becomes especially difficult during the final days of a campaign. Politicians are not beyond launching unfair 11th-hour attacks and journalists must be careful not to be used by them. In general, we just don't like doing stories on spats that arise in the final week before the election and try to take extra caution when we do because there is little time to correct errors. So we were skeptical when the Gary Peters congressional campaign pressed us to do a story on what it felt was an unfair campaign ad put out by the Joe Knollenberg campaign. Of course, the campaigns made the issue far more complicated than it needed to have been. Knollenberg claimed that presidential candidate Barack Obama criticized Peters' health-care plan as too extreme. In fact, as the Peters campaign stated, Obama was specifically criticizing U.S. Rep. John Conyers' "Medicare for all" plan. Knollenberg claimed Peters supports Medicare for all. While this may be true, Peters does not support Conyers' particular version of Medicare for all. What triggered the story was an Obama campaign statement criticizing the Knollenberg ad. We felt we needed to do the story as a service to people wondering why Obama and Peters were not on the same page on this critical issue. When possible, journalists need to sort through politicians' claims and counterclaims to get to the real facts. Unfortunately, too many politicians exaggerate and make misleading statements.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Meltdown explanation

Readers have the greatest ideas for stories. In fact, we are moving toward a citizen journalist model that puts the readers in charge. One reader wanted us to run a chronology of the financial meltdown — when it started, how it started and what happened along the way. Our specialty is local news, but the Associated Press supplied a wonderful story on the subject and we jumped on it. It ran Monday as the lead story in our home-delivery edition — the best explanation of the crisis that I have seen to date. Many of us are just now learning about terms like commercial paper and bank-to-bank lending. The more we learn, the more we can cope with these times. Please keep your suggestions coming. This story is available on our web site, Just type "Freddie and Fannie paid firm to court senators, kill bill" in the search field.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

gas prices

While the news from the stock market may be frightening, there is one bright spot -- the falling price of oil. Today the price of a barrel of oil dropped to under $68. A 50% drop in just 90 days. The price of oil has not been this low since June of 2007. At the same time the price of gas has been dropping -- although not at the same rate. Gas in SE Michigan is selling from $2.50 to $2.90 a gallon for regular -- about the same in mid-2007.

How quickly things change. In July, everyone was talking about the price of gas. It was affecting everyone's thinking and their actions. It affected their travel and weekend plans, their decisions about where to live, their calculations into what sort of vehicle to drive. Very few were talking about the stock market.

Three months later, the situation is reversed. Now, in comparison, gas is pretty cheap. But our thoughts are on how much we have lost in our 401Ks. It is affecting our travel and weekend plans, our decisions about where to live, and whether we believe we can afford to buy a car. Very few are talking about how it now costs $25 to buy 10 gallons of gas, compared to $45 three months ago.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Changing auto scene

The price of gas has dropped more than a dollar a gallon in the last two months. By the end of this week it will have dropped even more.

The question is, will this change people's thinking about buying trucks and SUVs?

Auto stocks were swept along on the wild ride down on the stock market, but for those who watched closely, the value of GM stock was pretty interesting on Friday 10/10 and Monday 10/13. On both days, GM stock jump up by around 25 percent in the first hour of trading.

Perhaps potential buyers big trucks and SUVs -- and there are people who need the unique capabilities of such vehicles -- are reassessing. If they add up the price cuts, incentives, cut-rate financing and the rapidly falling price of gas, there are some real bargains out there.

Friday, October 3, 2008

It is your personal vote

The secret ballot has been around for long that we take it for granted. But it is a relatively recent addition to the election process. The first U.S. president elected entirely on secret ballots was Grover Cleveland in 1892.

Before secret ballots were adopted, there was a lot of intimidation in the election process.

In the presidential election on Nov. 4, you, the voter, will have the benefit of a personal and private vote. You can vote for whoever you believe is the best candidate, and you do not have to answer to anyone about how you voted, because it will be done on a secret ballot.

The reason this is important is that U.S. elections are increasingly polarized. We talk about red states and blue states, but what we are really discussing is two distinct viewpoints about how the country should be run, and very little agreement between the two. Those on one side or the other seem to feel that the other side is completely wrong. That polarization, in addition to creating gridlock in Washington, produces an intimidating atmosphere for voters.

Fortunately we vote in secret, and your choice is yours and yours alone.

The Oakland Press will soon begin its endorsements of candidates running in the Nov. 4 election. These are published on our Opinion pages because they are our opinions of who would do the best job. We hope that you will find our opinions useful in your own search for the candidates you will choose. But please remember, they are our opinions. The only opinion that counts when you enter the voting booth is yours.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

motor city

One of the cool things about living in SE Michigan is that you can be driving down the street and there will be a car covered in fabric driving next to you. The shape is visible, but the distinctive details are hidden under a velcro-fastened coverup. These are prototype models of cars that have not yet released, but are being tested on our streets.

While such sights are so common here they barely merit a mention, I have never seen them anywhere else.

They are a reminder that Oakland County is truly part of the motor city. Our economy is uniquely tied to the automobile.

And this is the reason that so much of The Oakland Press news is about the business of making automobiles. We recognize that many of our readers work on the carmakers' assembly lines and front offices. But even more, many of us work for parts makers, contract firms and a host of other businesses that are tied to the design, marketing and manufacture of vehicles.