Saturday, December 28, 2013

Back after three years

A lot has changed since the last time I posted. I've been let go at The Gazette, gone through two jobs in entire different fields and as 2014 is set to begin, I am ready to start another new adventure. I am one of the many newspaper dinosaurs who has lost a job because of the shrinking market. After 32 years, it continues to be hard trying to find my place in the employment world. I can only hope 2014 brings me some stability and renewed vigor for whatever job I end up with. To anyone who may happen to stumble over this post, all my best for the new year

Monday, September 13, 2010

It has been awhile

In fact, it has been over a year since I have written in my blog. Why you ask? I really don't have a good answer. It has been a time of change at home and at work. Our family moved to a new house and I have had my job change drastically.

I hope to write more frequently about a variety of things. I doubt many besides myself will ever see my writings, but that's OK. It is a good exercise and hopefully I'll have some interesting topics to cover

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The pain and the pride

It has been an emotional week, to say the least. Colleagues I have seen daily over the last nine years were victims of a staff reduction at The Gazette. When the news came out on Tuesday, I found it very hard to concentrate on the task at hand.

I felt pain and sorrow for my former co-workers. I felt anxiety not knowing what will happen with my and other co-worker's positions on the copy desk. I also felt some excitement because I could have a chance to be part of something revolutionary in this industry.

There have been plenty of blogs and stories written about The Gazette's reductions. Some have been venomous, some supportive and some at a point in-between.

I can only go on what I have witnessed. I can tell anybody reading that there was pain in Steve Buttry and Lyle Muller's faces when they gathered the newsroom for an impromptu meeting on Tuesday evening. If anybody thinks it was easy for them to send good, hard-working people on their way, think again. It wasn't and anybody in the room that night could see it.

Some have taken them to task for the cuts, using some pretty harsh rhetoric. They are both veterans of the business, willing and able to handle, and answer, any criticism that comes their way. They have faced their critics and responded.

Again, going on my experiences, both have been available and willing to speak with me throughout this process. They can't answer all the questions, but they have answered what they could. Steve held several meetings and had sent out numerous e-mails in an effort to keep us as up-to-date as he could. I appreciated the information and respected Steve for his willingness to tell us what he could. That hasn't always been the case with other editors.

Of course none of those updates could have prepared us for last Tuesday. That isn't the kind of information you put in an e-mail or talk about in a group setting. It's a rotten part of business, no matter what your job may be.

Gazette Communications has been called many things over the past five days. I have read with interest what the people have said, colleagues and naysayers alike. I've agreed with some and disagreed with some.

After all that has been said, I am still proud to be a part of this organization.

I was proud the day I was hired, I was proud during 9/11, I was proud doing sports pages each day, I was proud during the flood and I will remain proud whenever I walk out the door for the last time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February fun?

This month is always an interesting one for me. I have birthdays for my wife and mother, along with Valentine's Day all in a five-day stretch.

The annual worry of what to get my wife was on for awhile, but I took care of it early. She wanted a new kitchen sink (no kidding). Now me, with no concept of what to look for, got her to look with me one day, but I had to go out and do the rest. I picked one out and brought it home. (Full disclosure here: Her birthday isn't until Thursday, but it was a little hard to hide a sink, so she already knows so the surprise element is gone.)

She looked it over and seemed pleased. Now all I have to do is find somebody to install it for a somewhat reasonable price. I have a couple leads, but if anybody out there knows anybody who is handy with sink replacement, I'd appreciate a heads-up.

Of course, I will have to get a little more than a sink. What that will be, I'm not yet sure, but I will come up with something.

Then there's two days later and Valentine's Day. My wife will tell you (and I won't disagree) that I'm not the most emotional guy around. I am more practical in my thinking and that hasn't served me well on Valentine's Days past.

So, readers, I am open to suggestions. I have a few ideas, but I am always open to more.

Again, any help would be appreciated.

My mother's birthday has become easier. She winters in Florida, so sending card gets the job done. She would just like me to visit down there more often. Maybe someday that will happen.

For's back to work

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kach-ine money

I've watched and reported on thousands of basketball games. I've seen great performance after great performance. I've seen shooters who can't miss, defenders who shut down the opposing team's star and I've seen teams put together those special nights where nothing seems to go wrong.

I saw a performance Sunday that ranks right up there, not only because of the performance on the floor, but the story behind the story.

University of Iowa sophomore Kachine Alexander put up numbers rarely seen at any level of basketball. All the 5-foot-9 guard did was score a career-high 26 points, grab a career-high 21 rebounds and dish out 10 assists during Iowa's 97-89 triple-overtime win over Penn State.

Yes the numbers were great, but how she got those numbers was the impressive part. Kach isn't the best outside shooter, isn't the best ball-handler and isn't the best inside scorer you will ever see, but she is the best "want-to" player out there. Alexander "wants" to get every rebound and she "wants" to get every loose ball. You can see it in her face. You can see it in her actions. Even with a back so painful she couldn't sit down, Kach was indeed "Kach-money" for the Hawks against the Nittany Lions.

Now here is the story behind the story, where it all could have turned to "craps" for the Iowa guard.

Alexander was beginning to make her mark with the Hawkeyes last season. She had a steal that locked up a close win at Illinois early in the Big Ten season. It appeared she was on her way to a solid freshman campaign.

Then semester grades came out and Alexander came up short. The focus and drive she had on the basketball court didn't carry over to her first-semester course work and she had to sit out as the Hawkeyes went on to grab a share of the Big Ten title and an NCAA Tournament berth.

Alexander made no excuses. She accepted her punishment, went to work in the classroom and was a hard-working practice player the rest of the season, determined to make amends.

"It was rough," Alexander said told reporters earlier this season. "I put myself in a bad position. I've buckled down. It will never happen again."

According to Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder, during her spring training sessions, Alexander didn't do the workouts everyone else did. She had her own workout.

The payoff for the hard work has come on the court and in the classroom. Her play on the floor has been there for everybody to see and her classroom work has also shown significant improvement.

Iowa fans can only hope history repeats itself with men's basketball player Anthony Tucker, who, ironically, like Alexander is from Minneapolis. He had a strong start to his freshman season, only to get sidetracked by illness, a suspension, and ultimately grades.

I hope Tucker seeks out Alexander and asks her for a little advice. I hope he sees the drive and determination she needed to get back. Tucker is a great talent and is being missed as the Hawkeyes struggle in Big Ten play.

I've never met Alexander, but I've heard she is well-spoken and a great teammate. She is quickly becoming a leader on and off the floor for Iowa.

Last Sunday's game was one for the ages. Alexander did it all. She's done it all on the court and in the classroom.

She's simply "Kach-money."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The "other job" in sports

People constantly tell me that my job must be so much fun. "Your job is watching and reporting about sports. That must be so cool."

Yes, it is enjoyable, but it is work, no question about it. I love being around the day-to-day ebb and flow in a sports department. Everyday brings something different, and often unexpected.

But there is another side of sports for me. For the last 13 years, I have had a second career that has brought me just as much enjoyment. Back in 1996, a new YMCA opened in Papillion, Neb., where I was living at the time. The Y had been a big part of my life as a kid growing up and when the new facility began hiring, I decided it would be a nice part-time job. The Y had given me so much and the chance to do the same for others was too good to pass up.

Now, 13 years and one move later, I am still dragging myself out of bed at 4:15 each morning to be at the YMCA. I had opened the Cedar Rapids facility every weekday since 2000 until the beginning of the year when I shifted my hours to work later in the day twice a week. But I still come at 5 a.m. to get my workouts in. Some habits are hard to break.

I get a lot of funny looks when I tell people I work until 11:40 each night, only to be back at the Y by 5 a.m. the next day.

The obvious question is: Why?

The simple answer: I enjoy the people. I enjoy their stories. I enjoy their enthusiasm. Most of all: I enjoy what the YMCA represents.

The Y to me has always been about helping people. It is the Y's mission to build a person's spirit, mind and body. I like to believe I help the members with that each day I am here. I hope I build their spirit with a kind comment. I hope I build their mind with any news of the day that I might be able to pass along. And I hope I build their body by encouraging them to stick with a program when it might seem too hard or too tiring.

I meet people from all walks of life. Each day, I associate with lawyers, doctors, educators, former college and pro athletes and numerous other professionals. I see people ranging in age from 6 months to 90 years. I get inspired by all the senior citizens who come daily for exercise. Not only do they inspire with their actions, they also do so with their words. They possess a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, which I have used when I work at The Gazette.

My Y ties will prove valuable in this brave new world of the social media. Establishing contacts and networking are vital to the success in social media. As I have branched out into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and this blog, I have received several favorable comments from Y members who have connected with me on those platforms.

Each week, I get connected with new people. They know of my work at The Gazette so I receive several comments, pro and con, about the work we do. I also get plenty of suggestions on how we can do things better.

As The Gazette evolves and changes over the next couple months, I will look to cultivate these relationships even more. I have a great resource at my disposal. The Y is a people place and a good social network needs people to make it work. People visiting the Y when I work in the morning are driven. To get up at 5 a.m. for a workout shows their commitment. They are always looking to know more. I can be that source for them.

My love of sports has always run deeper than the big events. The Y isn't about stars. It is about the people.

People I have come to know and respect.

Like those people tell me, "Your job must be so cool."

It is, just as "cool" as my other one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why I do what I do

There are days when I wonder why I do what I do. The long nights, the tight deadlines and other elements involved with working the night sports desk at a newspaper can leave me angry, frustrated and exhausted.

Then there are nights like last Sunday when I remember why I got into journalism back in high school. The drama sports offers is unmatched. It is like a movie, but without a script. To steal a phrase made famous by the late Jim McKay, there is nothing like "the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat."

When I arrived at work Sunday, I knew it could be a special night for two Cedar Rapids athletes. Quarterback Kurt Warner was leading his Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship Game against Philadelphia at 2 p.m. Golfer Zach Johnson held the lead entering the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii. He wasn't teeing off until 5 p.m. The prospect of having a PGA Tour winner and a Super Bowl quarterback from our town on the same day was thrilling, yet problematic.

Why problematic?

In a nutshell, time constraints.

My co-worker, Tim Weber, and I had to go through all the scenarios on how we might want to present our front page: Warner win, Johnson lose, Johnson win, Warner lose, both win, both lose. Warner did his part, leading the Cardinals to a 32-25 win in a game that finished around 5 p.m. Johnson wasn't scheduled to finish his round until around 9 p.m. and there was no guarantee he would win, or even finish close to the top.

So Tim and I simply decided to wait. We didn't want to put a page together, only to have to rip it, and other pages up, if Johnson was able to win.

Of course, Johnson was in a tight battle throughout his round. Nothing was really decided until he put his approach shot on the 18th green, just before 9 p.m. After his tap-in birdie gave him the win in Hawaii, the wheels quickly began to turn.

We made a quick plan for the front page, which Tim executed brilliantly. Mike Hlas, the Gazette's award-winning columnist (you can read his always entertaining blog at was on hand in Glendale, Ariz., to cover Warner's exploits. We relied on the Associated Press to give us the scoop on Johnson. Tim combined those elements in a short period of time to produce a poster-like display titled "SUPER C.R. SUNDAY" (Go to to see that page).

I dove in and completed an inside NFL page and an inside page packed with photos from Johnson's triumph. Combine that with Iowa men's and women's basketball on the back page and college wrestling on another inside page, we ended up with a finished section just minutes before our 11:40 deadline.

Even through we were taxed for time, the excitement of the day carried me through. I followed Zach's plight on the Internet after watching Warner rally the Cardinals for victory. I couldn't wait to dive in and help put together a memorable package. Could we have done some things better? Of course. With the time we had, I thought it looked pretty darn good.

As I drove home that night, I thought about what I do and why I do it.

The Warner-Johnson double was one of those special days. It was exciting to be a part of. With the changes coming to our company, who knows if I'll ever get a chance to produce something like that again. I also thought about the high school kid, still thrilled to see his name or picture in the paper; the die-hard Hawkeye and Cyclone fans who look to us each day for the latest on their favorite teams and any other reader who relies on us for information.

The way we reach that audience has and will continue to evolve. But one thing will always remain constant for me: Informing the public about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat is why I do what I do.