Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Blog

On Thanksgiving Day, you may missed a story that wasn't on the front page, but probably deserved to be.
It wasn't about controversy, crime, government or sports.
But it was about something possibly more important than any of these: You, the reader.
It was a piece assembled with feedback on what readers are thankful for this Thanksgiving.
It was a step in trying to get more readers involved with the paper, telling stories themselves.
A variety of people responded, ranging from our loyal senior citizen readers, to mothers and fathers thankful for their children.
The two youngest responders were teens. Felicia Navarro, a 10th-grader at Waterford Kettering, was thankful for her "cool" mom, family and friends.
Rashaun Black, a 13-year-old student at Jefferson Middle School in Pontiac, was thankful for life itself, for his parents who are great role models, for his church and for Barack Obama.
The importance of readers seeing their own stories in their hometown newspaper cannot be understated. For, it's the readers that give us a reason to exist.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

auto reviews

The Oakland Press publishes auto reviews, several a week, both from our own writers and from syndicated services. The reviews are a mixture of domestic and foreign carmakers.
Recently, what with the domestic auto industries economic troubles, we have received emails from readers who tell us we should review only domestic models, not foreign ones.
They point out, quite correctly, that this county and this region are heavily involved in the domestic auto industry and our ecomomy is a reflection of the Detroit 3's economic health.
For that reason, we already attempt to balance our reviews so that at least half are from the domestic automakers in our own back yard.
And that is not a complete reflection of all the models that are available. The fact is that there are many more foreign automakers who sell their models in this country than domestic ones.
On the domestic side are GM, Ford and Chrysler.
On the foreign side, from Japan, there are Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru; from Germany there are BMW, Mercedes, VW, Porche; from Korea there are Kia and Hyundai.
But the division is not nearly that precise. What about the subsidiary companies such as Saab, Volvo, Daewoo, etc? And what about the models produced by the Detroit 3, but built in other countries? And then, what about the cross-production deals such as Ford/Mazda and GM/Toyota?
We could, of course, review just the cars produced here in SE Michigan. But to do so would be to ignore the fact that America is a net importer of automobiles and that Americans can choose many other models. Would that make sense in the corner of America that holds the future of domestic automaking?
To review all models available in this country presents a much more accurate view of the competitive and global field automakers face today. In these tough times we all need the best information available.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sports on the front page?

At the top of our Sunday Page A1 is Lake Orion High School's dominating victory that sends the Dragons to the state finals Saturday at Ford Field. Yes, there is a lot happening in the world with the struggling automakers, job losses and the transition to a new president, but the prep football triumph warrants a front page display. Lake Orion is seeking its first-ever state football title - that in itself is news. This traditionally strong program with thousands of followers is on the verge of taking the next step. The interest in this story extends far beyond the high school walls. These types of playoff runs bring communities together and more than just the players, their parents and their classmates are interested. Obviously, Keith Dunlap and the rest of our sports department will continue their stellar coverage in the days leading up to the big game vs. Rockford. Don't be surprised if the news department pitches in with some coverage, too, as we set the scene from all angles. Sometimes, we hear from readers who urge us to keep the sports on the sports page. For the most part, we do. But we have an obligation to pursue the news that everyone is talking about. In this case, it's the exciting ride of a group of teens making their community proud.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mallard coming back!

OK already! We heard you! Mallard Fillmore is coming back. However, he will be in a new location, on the Opinion Page. "It always seemed out of place on the comic page. By the way, you have the best comic page in the state," said David E. Parks of Waterford Township. We never know how readers may respond to the addition or subtraction of a feature. But you let us know on Mallard. Dozens of you called to protest and we are responding.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A newspaper favorite

Believe it or not, one of the traditionally most well-read parts of newspapers of all sizes is the police blotter. It can be found on an inside page in the front section but it remains a viable part of the paper. Some of the items may seem rather mundane but the purpose is to inform people of what is going on in their neighborhood and the efforts of local police to keep them safe. Our reporters who compile the blotter also try to keep an eye out for the quirky items that make for interesting reading. You may have noticed that some areas are in the blotter more frequently than others. That’s because some police departments are open and cooperative with us, while others are less so. Daily blotter readers know the Waterford and Troy police departments, along with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, frequently provide items. When I was a police reporter, some officials expressed concern to me that their communities would look crime-ridden if they provided information to us. Another school of thought is that residents will feel more secure if they know what their officers are doing. Police blotter is another example of our intense focus on local news, and we appreciate the police departments that help us bring it to you.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Saving the Detroit 3

The newly empowered Democrats in the U.S. Senate will take up a bill next week to loan domestic automakers $25 billion from the massive $700 billion financial bailout. There are doubts they have the votes to pull this off now, and if they don't they will likely try it again after the new Senate majority is seated next year.

There also are doubts about whether a mere $25 billion bailout would have long-term effectiveness — mostly because a cash infusion would not solve any of the domestic automakers basic problems with health-care commitments and whether it will be enough to help the Detroit 3 rapidly change their vehicle lineups.

And there are many taxpayers who questioned the original bailout package for a variety of reasons. Capitalism vs. socialism, living within our means, taxing our children's future, etc. Adding automakers to investment bankers creates another layer of questions.

Here in SE Michigan, however, there are solid supporters in both business and politics because the industry is a fundamental part of our economic base. And whatever happens to the domestic automakers -- short-term or long -- will have a profound effect on all of us.

There is no doubt, this debate is big news.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

oil prices

A recent poll revealed that about twice as many Americans know the current price of a barrel of oil within $10 compared to the number who know the name of the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
This archane bit of information on the current price of a commodity is in fact quite useful.
When the price of a barrel of oil goes up or down, the price of gasoline tends to follow. For example, the price of oil was about $140 last July, and here in mid-November it is less than $60. The price of a gallon of gas in July was well over $4, and is now below $2.
The price of a barrel of oil is also a pretty good indicator of the stock market -- at least it has been during the recent economic meltdown. When the price of oil is trending up, it is usually because there is some good news about the economy. When it is heading lower, it is because of belief among trader that the economy is shrinking and the demand for oil also will shrink.
Throw into this mix the recent report on the world energy outlook. The International Energy Agency predicts world energy demand will rise 1.6 percent per year on average between 2006 and 2030 and called for average energy investments of $1 trillion a year to ward of severe price spikes.
One more good reason to keep an eye on the price of a barrel of oil.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why This is News: Frenchie

 You may wonder why you've been seeing a Picasso-like rough self portrait of a man wearing a beret on our front page several times lately. 
 While the picture may look happy, it's actually a heart-breaking story.
 It's the story of Wilford "Frenchie" Hamilton, a local homeless man who was beaten to death in downtown Pontiac. The suspects are two 14-year-olds from Jefferson Middle School in Pontiac.
 They're charged as adults with first-degree murder, awaiting trial.
 If you're wondering how a 14-year-old could be charged with an adult felony, it's because adult charges may be used in especially heinous crimes. 
 And if you think Frenchie's life wasn't worth much because he was homeless, you're wrong. In a compelling look at Frenchie's life that ran Sunday, reporter Shaun Byron let readers know that Frenchie at one time earned a six-figure salary, had a love for art and anything French. He even worked at The Oakland Press at one time. 
 But the demon in his life was alcohol. It robbed him of everything, and robbed him of having a safe place to stay. 
 And the combination of Frenchie being on the street, and some bored school kids getting in trouble, cost Frenchie his life. 
 While you might say, "Why is Frenchie's picture on your front page again?" you might be better off saying, "Why would young kids want to hurt a hapless street person?" 
 And one step beyond that: "What should we do with them?"

Following the election

Sick of the election? So are we. But that doesn’t mean our election coverage ends when the results are tallied. In the days following the Nov. 4 vote, our reporters have done several stories to add perspective to what the changes mean or to highlight interesting outcomes that may have been lost in the shuffle of a crowded ballot. For example, we did a story on how 23-year-old Home Depot worker Jesse Lambert is the new Holly Township supervisor after knocking off incumbent Dale Smith. And we discussed how two heavily favored Republican countywide officials — Clerk Ruth Johnson and Drain Commissioner John McCulloch — were nearly ousted in stunning upsets. Yet another story chronicled Joe Fabrizio’s defeat of incumbent Clarkston District Judge Dana Fortinberry — it’s a rare feat to displace a sitting judge. Also, Democrats’ visions of taking command of the county commission were dashed when Republicans held their slim 13-12 majority. That victory wasn’t clear until the middle of the night, after we went to press. These local stories are in addition to numerous Associated Press pieces on President-elect Barack Obama building his team. On election night, the results come rapidly and our immediate goal is to inform readers of the winners and losers as completely as possible. In the days following the vote, we take a step back and explain what it all means.


Barack Obama's historic election to the presidency was a hot seller for newspapers. We pretty much sold out our Nov. 5 paper. We printed extra papers because election editions always do well. But we underestimated the keepsake appeal of the paper. Some of these stories are difficult to predict. Stories about Prince Di's death, the arrest of O.J. Simpson and, of course, the Twin Towers bombing are comparable in recent memory. Now we are offering commemorative metal press plates of our "Obama Wins" front page. Call 248-745-4758 to place your order. At $29, it will make a nice gift.

Monday, November 3, 2008

'Obsession' story criticized

Some readers are criticizing our decision to print a story on the "Obsession" video a day before the election. One reader said we are trying to sway the vote. Which way? I asked. The Oakland Press was among newspapers which distributed the DVD "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West." The Clarion Fund, author of the video, has been criticized for distributing "Obsession" as anti-Barack Obama propaganda in 12 swing states, even though the film was produced long before Obama's ascendancy as a candidate. Our goal in convening a group to watch and critique the DVD was an effort to give a chance for some feedback, and also to foster understanding.