Thursday, December 28, 2006

'New' Beatles album interesting

I decided to post about one of the presents I received for Christmas. No, I will not write about handerchiefs or flavored coffee, functional and tasty as they are.

The only CD under the tree -- and one appearing on my "Christmas Angel" suggestions list -- was the new Beatles album, "Love." The CD is a remix of Beatles recordings, expertly handled by George Martin (aka "The Fifth Beatle") and his son Giles.

As someone who grew up listening to songs by the Fab Four when they were released four decades ago, now familiar with every note and little background noise, I found this new release interesting and entertaining. Let's face it: Lots of 1960s pop music was formulatic and forgettable, but the musicianship and genius of the Beatles endure.

The Martins' handling of these Beatles songs is genius, too. After all, who else would have thought of mixing into one track versions of "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "In My Life," "Penny Lane," "Piggies" and "Hello Goodbye"?

Unlike the previous "new release" of a Beatles album, "Let it Be ... Naked" (2003), "Love" is a substantial project and one worth the listener's time and money.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Shoeless Joe on film -- as a spectator?

As a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, I am on a couple of researcher lists. A post today especially caught my interest, because of my research of Red Faber and other members of the Chicago White Sox before, during and after the Black Sox scandal.

Some folks are waging a campaign to get John Wesley Donaldson, an early 20th century pitcher barred from the big leagues because of the color of his skin, inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A web site promoting Donaldson has some extremely rare film footage of the star in action, most likely in one of the hundreds of barnstorming contests in which he appeared.

The camera pans to show spectators. Wait! Look closely at the group appearing at 25 seconds on the timer. Who is that man whose straw hat is partially obscured by a foot in the foreground? Could it be Joe Jackson, the virtually shoo-in for the Hall of Fame who wound up banned from organized baseball because of the Black Sox scandal? Some researchers think it is a possibility.


What self-respecting Grandpa doesn't show off a picture of his first grandchild now and then? Here is Claire at about 5 weeks.

Monday, December 18, 2006



After nearly 25 years of selecting comic strips for daily newspapers, I think I have figured out why the comics page sparks so much reader reaction.
  • Comics are popular among readers.
  • Readers achieve a comfort level with their favorites. (I feel the same way when a TV show I like is cancelled -- until another new show comes along.)
  • Everyone can have an opinion about the comics, and they can't be wrong.
I expect to receive plenty of feedback over the next few weeks, as the Telegraph Herald makes another change on its comics page. This change is necessitated by the decision of cartoonist Bill Amend to stop writing "Fox Trot" on weekdays and Saturdays effective on Jan. 1, 2007.

Actually, I have to put some thought into the comics lineup. I want a good mix of features, in hopes that at least one of the strips will snare the interest of each and every comics reader.

To that end, I have decided to give "Frazz" a tryout in January. Readers will have a chance to share their opinion about the strip, which features a popular and thoughtful school janitor, through an online poll.

Meanwhile, Amend will continue to do the Sunday "Fox Trot," but is that enough to make it worthwhile? Or should we run "Frazz" seven days a week? I'm sure readers will have their opinions.

Next up: Ray Schalk

Ray Schalk
(Photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame)

After a few weeks reading and copying a few hundred newspaper article, I am confident that the late Ray Schalk, Hall of Fame catcher, will be a viable subject for a full biography.

Though much of my free time the past four years has centered on star pitcher Red Faber, I can say with some confidence that Schalk was a better catcher than Faber was a pitcher. Both outstanding. Both Hall of Famers. But I found no newspaper articles from the first quarter of the 20th century, quoting baseball experts, that described Faber as the best player anywhere in his position. Many did say just that about Schalk, a long-time White Sox catcher.

My opinion about Schalk was reinforced by the acquisitions editor at McFarland & Co., which published my Faber biography. He thinks Schalk would be a "terrific" subject for a biography.

I hope that we're both right.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Second printing

My biography of the late baseball star Red Faber isn't hitting the Best Seller list, but it is going into a second printing.

I learned today from my publisher, McFarland & Co., that the book is temporarily "out of stock."
The folks at the publishing house in Jefferson, N.C., hope to have more copies printed yet this month.

While I am encouraged that book sales apparently exceeded the publisher's (low?) expectations, I hope folks who want books as Christmas gifts will be able to get them.

The Dubuque retail outlet for the biography, River Lights Book Store, ordered more books late last week. Hopefully, its order was shipped before the "out of stock" sign went up. The Tri-County Historical Society and I have served as "interim supplier" until River Lights' next shipment arrives.

Tonight, I dropped off another half-dozen books to River Lights. As I entered the store, a customer asked the clerk about the whereabouts of the Faber book. She was a little startled to have the author step forward, pull a copy from his grocery bag and offer to autograph it. Before I left, another customer asked me to sign two copies.

So far, we have been able to arrange supply to meet demand. But we're all crossing our fingers for UPS or FedEx to deliver River Lights' order on Thursday.

"Pride of the Yankees" showing Thursday

Though I am out of the office for four days of vacation "at-home" this week, I am looking forward to heading back downtown Thursday evening.

After sitting in for a brief meeting at the office and signing a few Red Faber books, I will head over to Carnegie-Stout Public Library to "host" the Dubuque Film Society's showing of the baseball movie classic, "Pride of the Yankees," the Hollywood version of the Lou Gehrig story.

The program begins at 6 p.m. Refreshments (including popcorn!) are free.

After the showing, I look forward to a discussion of Gehrig, heroes and baseball during simpler times.

Play ball!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thought the 2006 elections were over?

The Associated Press again sent editors and broadcast executives a ballot with this simple instruction: Pick the top stories of 2006.

Easier said than done.

Sure, the war in Iraq is an obvious pick for No. 1 on the list. After all, this war affects the world on many fronts - U.S. politics, international relations, social issues, and more.

But what about the No. 2 story of the year? Or No. 3 or No. 10?

Is a top story defined by its impact on people (war and natural disasters, for example) or by the interest it generates (the flash of notoriety for John Mark Karr, who falsely claimed he killed JonBenet Ramsey)?

Want to play along at home? We listed a handful of Top Story nominees (trimmed from The AP's original list of about 30) on the TH Web site.

Enter your selections by Monday, Dec. 18.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

All in the Family

Sunday was a special day during a special time for our family. It was Claire's baptism day, when she officially joined the family of Christ.

Newlyweds Jane and Kenny, friends of Kate and Will since their Luther College days, graciously agreed to be Claire's godparents.

Not only did Claire sleep throughout Mass and the baptism afterwards (even the water from the baptismal font did not awaken her), she slept through nearly the entire luncheon staged in her honor.

What a kid!

The only regret that time with family was too short. However, we will reconvene in a couple of weeks for Christmas.

I wonder if Claire will be talking by then.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Great turnout at Carnegie-Stout

More than 50 people attended my presentation Thursday night on the late Dubuque County Baseball star Red Faber. The program was presented at Carnegie-Stout Public Library.

Thanks to all who turned out and added to the evening with some interesting and challenging questions!

I have no further public appearances in the tri-state area confirmed, but I have had some communication with possible hosts.

Meanwhile, I get calls about where the book may be purchased. In Dubuque County, your best bets are River Lights Bookstore, Wacker Plaza in Dubuque (immediately east of Kennedy Mall, and south of Shopko); and the Cascade Pioneer office (on behalf of the Tri-County Historical Society).

Thursday night, I was asked whether I had heard from Red's son about the book. Then, the answer was no (except for the phone call that the book had arrived). Urban II phoned on Friday and said he is in the chapter detailing his father's 1915 season. (His reading was delayed by some health problems.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fox Trot creator to cut back

It was a phone call I neither expected nor appreciated.

My Universal Press Syndicate sales representative called to say that Bill Amend, creator of the popular "Fox Trot" comic, has notified Universal that he is cutting back the comic to one day per week -- Sundays.

Amend, apparently, wants to devote time to screenplays.

Worse, the change is effective Saturday, Dec. 30. After that date, Peter (left) and Jason Fox, will not appear in the TH Mondays through Saturdays.

That doesn't give me much time to identify a replacement strip.
Further, I will need to decide whether to keep "Fox Trot" on Sundays only (I'm inclined to say yes).

Didn't Amend have a contract? Yes. However, Universal, which prides itself on being creator-friendly -- it leads the industry in giving its clients repeat strips to give cartoonists vacations -- also gave Amend an "out" clause in his contract requiring little or no notice.

Why is it that the creators of the most popular strips are the ones who bail? Bill Watterson ("Calvin and Hobbes") and Gary Larson ("The Far Side") were two who "retired" prematurely.

The comics page is not my No. 1 concern. However, it is a high-interest feature for many readers, and we want to have a fun variety of features for them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Red and the Iron Horse

I have appearances at Carnegie-Stout Public Library the next two Thursdays.

At 7 p.m. Dec. 7, I will give a 30- to 40-minute slide presentation on Red Faber's life. Afterwards, for folks who are interested, there will be a sale (thanks, River Lights) and autograph session for my new Red Faber biography.

At 6 p.m. Dec. 14, I am the "host' for the showing of the classic baseball movie, "Pride of the Yankees," the Lou Gehrig story. My duties are to introduce the award-winning movie and, after the showing, moderate a brief discussion among audience members. In preparation, I watched the movie over the weekend. (See Babe Ruth, shown above with Gehrig, playing himself.) The careers of Gehrig (1923-39) and Faber (1914-33) overlapped, so I checked into how many home runs the Iron Horse hit against Red. The answer: Four. When? July 13, 1925; May 6, 1928; May 4, 1929 (one of three homers Gehrig hit that day); and July 14, 1930.

It's an interesting movie. Hope to see you the next two Thursdays.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Researching Ray

I spent a good chunk of the weekend after Thanksgiving poring through old newspapers (via the Internet) to research the likely subject of my next book, the late Ray Schalk.

There was plenty to be found, including:
  • Appearances in two World Series, including the tainted 1919 (Black Sox) affair.
  • The tributes from some of the game's greats, including Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and John McGraw, who rated Schalk the game's top catcher.
  • Catching a baseball dropped from the top of Tribune Tower.
  • His retirement activities as a college coach and bowling alley proprietor.
And more.

There is plenty of information available for a full biography of this Hall-of-Famer. Full speed ahead!

Favorable review

When I saw the envelope, with the return address of Richard Lindberg, I knew what it was about. Lindberg is the unofficial historian of the Chicago White Sox and author of several books, including the authoratative "Chicago White Sox Encyclopedia."

Lindberg was good enough to give me a "dust jacket blurb" for my Red Faber biography. As is common in these sorts of projects, his comments were prepared after reading a handful of chapters, before the entire manuscript was final.

What would he think about the finished product?

With your indulgence, I would like to share his critique:

"I received the book in the mail this weekend, and wanted to commend you for the engaging and thought-provoking narrative. It is a fine book, well-written and thoroughly researched. It appears that you have solved the Mostil-Faber riddle nicely, although new questions are are raised about Barrett and Mostil!

"McFarland did a nice job of design and layout, and the picures enhance the strength of the text. A biography of the old Redhead was long overdue, and you have succeeded in filling an important gap in the historiography of the White Sox, as well as Iowa baseball.

"My congratulations to you, and all the best!"

Whew! After working on such an extensive project, and becoming immersed in it, it's hard to know whether others will be interested or whether it will be accepted. It's exciting (for me at least) to receive this affirmation from an author and a leading expert on White Sox history.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

Thanksgiving 2006 was a special day for our family. Claire (3 weeks old today) crossed state lines for the first time, and she met her great-grandparents (who went to extra effort to get to Dubuque, since Great-Grandpa's accident a couple of months ago). That made it possible for a memorable four-generation photo. Claire also met Aunt Ellen and Uncle Greg, who are home on college break, for the first time.

And, for the past decade, no Thanksgiving in the Cooper family is complete without entries in the Turkey Trot. Our numbers were down significantly this year, with only Madame X (above) and Greg competing. Ellen was still not 100 percent after a minor traffic accident on Saturday, and yours truly is resting a bum left knee. Claire's parents also sat this one out (though we're not sure about her Dad's excuse!).

Another highlight of the day was receiving a phone call from our Thai friend Chai, who happens to be in the US on a journalist's tour. He was in San Francisco, and not close enough to join us for Thanksgiving. However, it was great to speak with him and catch up on family events.

It sounds cliche, I know, but it's true: We have many reasons to give thanks.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hitting the wall

Instead of heating a microwave meal, I started my lunch hour Monday at the riverfront, where the America's River Partnership staged the dedication and ribbon-cutting for the Port of Dubuque Recognition Wall.

The wall is pretty impressive. It features a color photo of the river and bluffs, with names of the many donors overprinted in white type. The wall served as the backdrop for the program. (In the photo above, Greater Dubuque Development Corp. executive Rick Dickinson speaking). Mother Nature provided an above-average November day.

And, by the way, I didn't go hungry. After the ceremony, donors and other guests adjourned to enjoy a light lunch (courtesy of Hy-Vee) in the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Two weeks

I've been a Grandfather two weeks now, and I think I'm holding up well despite the responsibilities.

Grandma last week spent a few days with Claire and her Mom, who is generally doing well -- despite not sleeping consistently. Her Dad had to get back to classes and work. I provided chauffeur services.

Already we're looking forward to Thanksgiving, when Claire will visit Dubuque for the first time in her whole life.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Good night at River Lights

I was gratified by the healthy turnout at River Lights on Friday night, when co-workers, friends and baseball fans stopped by for my booksigning. I don't know how many books I autographed, but there was only a lull of five minutes during the two hours I was "on duty."

Thanks to all of you who stopped by, and others who couldn't make it but left books for me to sign.

Some folks asked when else I would be available to sign. Here are a couple of opportunities, one here in Dubuque and the other in Chicago.

Thursday, Dec. 7 -- Carnegie-Stout Public Library, 11th and Locust, Dubuque. 7 p.m. I will give a presentation about Faber and the biography project in the Auditorium, on the third floor.

Saturday, Jan. 6 -- Emile Roth chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (Chicago). Chicago Public Library Roden Branch, 6083 Northwest Highway, Chicago, Ill. 60631. 1 p.m.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Book 'opens' in Cascade

The first book-signing for Red Faber: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Spitball Pitcher took place Monday evening in Cascade, Iowa, Faber's hometown.

The occasion was the annual meeting of the Tri-County Historical Society, the organization that first stepped up to support and encourage my pursuit of the biography project. The group made its archives available to me, and generously granted permission for publication of several historic Faber photos from its files.

Monday night, I presented a slide show on Faber's life, answered questions, signed a few books -- and experienced a sense of closure. My three-year-plus project started in Cascade, and I was pleased to bring it home to that community.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Grandparenthood puts other events in perspective

For most (all?) American voters, today could not have come soon enough. The accusations, recriminations and allegations have been more than a little too much.

So, in the interest of public service on Election Day 2006, today's column will deal not with the nastiness, negativity and conspiracy theories associated with the campaign. Folks who want to read or hear more about that won't have to work hard to find that elsewhere.

Instead, I will address something much more important and fascinating: My first grandchild.

For several months now, when folks learned that our daughter and son-in-law were expecting, the grandparents among them raved about grandparenthood. Invariably, they said it would be a life-altering experience.

Also, it seemed that every grandparent I spoke to had the world's most beautiful grandchild. And I'm sure they were right - until Friday evening, of course.

Since Saturday afternoon, when I met Claire Ann, I have tried to get used to this new role of Grandfather. Wasn't this assignment to have come later in life?

I'm too young for this.

When I was introduced to Claire, she was just in her teens - in hours, not years - and so we didn't have much of a conversation. She seemed more interested in eating and sleeping. We'll catch up on things another time.

Anyway, while pondering these new responsibilities, I surfed the Web and came across some quotes to put this grandparenthood deal into perspective. There is the Welsh proverb that states, "Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild."

Some other examples:

"A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween." - Erma Bombeck.

"What a bargain grandchildren are! I give them my loose change, and they give me a million dollars' worth of pleasure." - Humorist Gene Perret.

"Being grandparents sufficiently removes us from the responsibilities so that we can be friends." - Psychologist Allan Fromme.

"It's funny what happens when you become a grandparent. You start to act all goofy and do things you never thought you'd do. It's terrific." - Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

I can hear some readers say, "You were goofy before grandparenthood. Now you'll be worse?" Anyway, if you read this far, thanks for indulging me.

Monday, November 06, 2006


The book is here!

The UPS truck on Monday delivered the first copies of my Red Faber biography to the house today. I'm not sure what that means for deliveries of online orders or the shipment to River Lights Bookstore, but they can't be far behind.

My first book-signing event will be in Faber's native Cascade, at the annual meeting of the Tri-County Historical Society. The program starts at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Meet the (grand)parents

We had the opportunity to meet our first grandchild, day-old Claire Ann, on Saturday afternoon. She wasn't too talkative, but entertaining nonetheless.

Joining us at the hospital were and Uncle Andy and Aunt Josie, while Aunt Ellen and Uncle Greg checked in from distant precincts by telephone.

Another visit is planned for next weekend, when Grandma Cooper will spend nearly a week helping out the new parents. How lucky we are to have the most beautiful granddaughter in the whole world!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Welcome, Claire Ann!

I had Chinese for lunch today, and my fortune cookie read: "Good news is on its way."

It didn't take long for that prediction to come true.

A few hours later, at 5:43 p.m., our first grandchild, Claire Ann, entered this world. Mother and daughter are doing well, and Dad survived the ordeal as well.

Tale of the tape: 8 pounds, 5 ounces and 19.5 inches.

Claire will meet Grandma and Grandpa Cooper on Saturday, after which her photo will appear on NewsConference.

Faber biography events set (11/3 update)

Release of the Red Faber biography is just a couple of weeks away, and some associated events are hitting my calendar.

Monday, Nov. 13 -- Tri-County Historical Society annual meeting. Knights of Columbus Hall, Cascade, Iowa. 7:30 p.m. I will give a presentation on Faber, followed by a book-signing. This will be my first signing event, and I'm pleased that it will be with the organization that was so cooperative and supportive during my project.

Friday, Nov. 17 -- River Lights Book Store, Wacker Plaza, Dubuque. Book signing. (5-7 p.m.)

Thursday, Dec. 7 -- Carnegie-Stout Public Library, 11th and Locust, Dubuque. 7 p.m. I will give a presentation about Faber and the biography project in the Auditorium, on the third floor.

Saturday, Jan. 6 -- Emile Roth chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (Chicago). Chicago Public Library Roden Branch, 6083 Northwest Highway, Chicago, Ill. 60631. 1 p.m.

There are other events pending. When those are confirmed, I'll post an update.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The rest of the editorial

I returned home from a two-day business meeting today to see a flier from congressional candidate Bruce Braley. This mailing in particular caught my eye because it showed the Telegraph Herald masthead. The flier reprinted Sunday's TH editorial, which endorsed Braley by a slight margin over Republican Mike Whalen.

That's OK. Candidates have long touted their newspaper endorsements. Braley's web site announces endorsements by the TH and The Des Moines Register. Whalen's site does the same with the Quad-City Times (Davenport) and The Gazette (Cedar Rapids). It is somewhat flattering that the candidates consider endorsements important.

However, I am unhappy. The flier conveniently omits the portion of the editorial that takes issue with Braley on health care.

When I receive the courtesy of a request to reprint something we published, I stipulate that the piece must be reprinted "as is," without alterations, unless we give specific approval. The reason: We don’t want others misrepresenting our work. I feel that is exactly what happened here.

No one from the Braley campaign contacted me, and I would not have OK'd the way our editorial was manipulated. As the flier depicts it, a reader might erroneously conclude that our editorial had nothing good to say about Whalen (except general reference to both candidates being "solid" and "capable"). That was not the case.

I’m sure the Braley camp will point to the disclaimer. In tiny type -- not even a capital letter is used – the flier states, editorial excerpted.

Here is the portion of our editorial the Braley camp did not share with voters:

However, Whalen scores more points than Braley on the issue of health care. Both candidates acknowledge that the current system needs repair. However, Braley would move toward universal health care to help the 47 million Americans without coverage. Turning over all health care to the federal government is not a good idea. What assurance do citizens have that government is up to the task, and could provide for quality and timely care at an affordable cost? The recent implementation of a Medicare prescription plan surely won't inspire a vote of confidence. Whalen's suggestion that health care be more consumer-driven, with his "private, personal, portable" plan, is more realistic.

Both candidates have good ideas and, if elected, would challenge the problems. Unfortunately, voters might not realize that about them. Both Braley and Whalen allowed a partisan free-for-all advertising campaign of wild accusations and misstatements about their opponents. Unfortunately, neither had the political courage to call on their respective parties to take down ads that clearly misrepresent (if not out-and-out lie) about their opponents' positions, and there were some they personally approved. That is the biggest disappointment of this campaign.

On the positive side, the Braley web site does carry the entire editorial, including the section above, without alteration.

In any case, I do not appreciate how Braley manipulated and misrepresented our endorsement.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rush to judgment

Two or three times a year, I help judge journalism contests. Thus, two or three times a year, I recall this statement attributed to the late German chancellor Otto von Bismarck:

"People who enjoy eating sausage and obeying the law should not watch either being made."

I would modify that quotation: “Journalists who enjoy winning awards should not watch journalism contests being judged.”

Don’t get me wrong. Journalism contests serve an important role in our industry. They can serve as a morale-booster (for the winners), motivator (for winners and losers) and educator (for judges and others who study the winning entries for innovation and ideas).

The Telegraph Herald recently fared well in the Inland Press Association competition, including two first-place awards (for excellence in editorial writing and for picture use) and a handful of second- and third-place honors. Inland is a multi-state organization, with about 1,000 member newspapers -- not all entered the contest or were in our circulation category -- so we are proud of our showing.

And, of course, we commend the judges on their knowledge and insight. After a contest in which we do not place, well, clearly the judging was inferior. Or something like that.

However, our results notwithstanding, the judging of these contests varies widely. Over the years, we have been surprised to win an award for what we considered a marginal entry – and shocked to have a “can’t-miss” entry shut out.

My best example of the unpredictability and occasional inconsistency of various contests: In 1997, Michael Gartner, then editor of The Ames Tribune, received the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. A few weeks later, the Iowa Newspaper Foundation contest winners were announced, and Gartner finished second. The winner looked quite sheepish in stepping forward, ahead of a Pulitzer winner, to receive his plaque.

However, when it is all said and done, over the course of years and various contests, the better newspapers get their due.

For journalism’s top prize, the Pulitzer, organizers hand-pick the judges from among the nation’s best-known journalists. They convene in New York, where entries are scrutinized and groups of judges, working together, discuss and debate the merits of the finalists.

A few years ago, I was invited to be a judge of the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards. Judges convened in Cincinnati, where we were assigned to a single category. Mine was column writing. We spent the better part of two days reading columns, culling the field, re-reading, culling again, re-reading and finally talking about the merits of our finalists. It was not a scientific process – in the end, it comes down to judges’ opinions -- but it was thorough.

Most state and regional organizations don’t have the time – or budgets – to conduct their contests in that manner. Some of the nation’s top journalism schools judge the Inland contest. But in most cases, state newspaper associations and Associated Press bureaus arrange “swaps” with peers in other states. For example, on Friday I helped judge the Colorado contest, and Colorado editors will judge Iowa’s contest in three weeks.

This is where the sausage analogy comes in.

The associations recruit judges from member newspapers – whose publishers generously donate their employees’ time and travel – who fill a hotel conference room and start reviewing thousands of entries. At its peak on Friday, we had 53 Iowa journalists judging 5,000-plus Colorado entries.

In these contests, the outcome of a particular category is usually determined by a single judge. Hopefully, that judge has experience or expertise in the subject he or she is judging (be it sports columns, editorials, photography, graphics and so forth).

With that in mind, the Iowa Newspaper Foundation extended special invitations to previous Iowa winners to judge similar categories from Colorado. (Dave Kettering of the TH photo staff came to Des Moines to judge many photo categories.)

Many hands make light work, but there is not time to give an in-depth reading to each and every article. If judges did not trim the field after a quick read, to spend the most time with the best five or six “finalists,” we would still be in Des Moines.

I judged Sustained Coverage, and one paper’s one entry consisted of at least 60 full-page “tear sheets.” Other papers also had substantial entries – after all, the category was Sustained Coverage. Judging that one category in one circulation class took me more than three hours. Did I get it right? I think so, but the results are based on my opinion and mine alone.

The judges take their responsibility seriously. After all, we hope that the work of Iowa newspapers will receive similar professional consideration when our entries are placed before Colorado journalist-judges. We will find out what they decided in early February.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Open house

Sunday's activities included a stop at the open house at Mazzuchelli Middle School, the new facility of Holy Family Catholic Schools.

The school is attached to Wahlert High School, which all four of our kids attended, and is a combination of new construction and remodeled Wahlert classrooms. It is blended so well that a visitor (this one) couldn't recognize what parts were once part of the high school and what parts are new construction.

Who knows? Perhaps one day this sparkling facility will be known as Saint Mazzuchelli Middle School. The Sinsinawa Dominicans are among the leaders pushing Father Mazzuchelli for sainthood.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Campaign Season becomes Crabby Season

I have worked on daily newspapers more than 30 years. Over that time, a journalist can get a feel for campaign season.

In the final two or three weeks before Election Day, people get crabbier. And suspicious. And accusatory. Folks will find reason to complain. It is “crunch time.” The stakes are high. Many people are working night and day for their candidates or issues, and the strain is starting to show.

Democrat or Republican, it really doesn’t matter. It’s a non-partisan reality.
This campaign season is no exception.

It has gotten to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised to receive a complaint that, if the Telegraph Herald carrier tosses the paper toward the left half of a subscriber’s front porch, that will prove the paper’s liberal bias. Or, on the right half, our conservative leanings.

Over just the past couple of days, I have been called a socialist. We lost a subscriber because we covered Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s speech at Clarke College without challenging all his statements and detailing the skeletons in his family’s closet. Another subscriber said my decisions on what letters to the editor are published are based on the TH Editorial Board’s endorsements.
The various complaints of excessive liberalism or conservatism don’t surprise me. The stronger people hold to his or her beliefs, the more likely they are to consider media coverage or commentary to be unfair and contrary to their opinions.

In a scientific survey we commissioned a year or so ago — the great majority of respondents said the TH was neither liberal or conservative. Among those who felt otherwise, about half said we are liberal and the other half said we are conservative. I figure that’s a good place to be.

One thing has changed, at least in my observation, over the past three decades. It’s unfortunate that people seem less willing to accept that folks who hold a different opinion are not automatically bad, evil or stupid.

Democracy is about discussion, debate and decisions. Thoughtful people should be able to disagree without demonizing the other side. But it seems that people are less willing to believe that.

Take heart: Two weeks from Tuesday, Election 2006 will be history.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

They were British?

As someone who did most of his growing up in the 1960s, I like to believe that I know my oldies. I do well with naming 1960s pop and rock hits, the artists and release years (and sometimes even season of the year).

And while I know some trivia about the major artists -- Elton John's name is really Reginald Dwight, etc. -- those facts are not my strongest suit.

Still, I was surprised, after buying a British Invasion compilation, The British Are Coming Vol. I, to discover that several of the bands on the CD were British. Can't say that I thought about it much, but I assumed they were American. For 40 years or so, I didn't realize the acts were also part of the Invasion.

Sure, I knew the Kinks and the Searchers and Donovan were all British. Even the Tremeloes.

But Mungo Jerry, whose one hit was "In the Summertime"? And the Foundations? And how about Status Quo with their psychedelic "Pictures of Matchstick Men"? Now they sound American. Don't they?

What is it that caution about assumptions?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

To the printer!

Lisa Camp, the managing editor of McFarland Publishers, informed me this morning that my Red Faber biography is going to print today.

Allowing time for packaging, shipping and delivery, books should reach the tri-state area in 2-3 weeks, or, as Lisa said (to play it on the safe side?), "before Thanksgiving."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tribute to Gordie

The potrait tribute to the late Gordon Kilgore, long-time KDTH newsman, was presented to the National Rivers Hall of Fame (Jerry Enzler accepting) last week as part of KDTH's 65th anniversary celebration.

Its plaque reads: In memory of our friend, Gordon Kilgore from his co- workers at AM 1370 KDTH, 92.9 KAT-FM, 97.3 KGRR and 101.1 WVRE.

Kilgore was a colleague and competitor. From its inception in 1941 until 2000, KDTH was owned by the Telegraph Herald's parent company, Woodward Communications, Inc. Kilgore, who died last month, retired in 1993. Over the years -- especially during the Flood of 1965 -- Kilgore became a lover of and advocate for the Mississippi River.

Congratulations to artist Gary Olsen for the creation and to Paul Hemmer and the rest of the team at Radio Dubuque, current owner of KDTH, for the tribute.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Quotation for the occasion

After seeing the offensively inept Chicago Bears somehow come from way behind to defeat the Arizona Cardinals in the Monday Night Football game, 24-23, I thought of what National Baseball Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez once said:

"I'd rather be lucky than good."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Motivational meet

I broke away from my indexing chore (see previous post) Saturday afternoon and, with Madame X, headed to Iowa City for a mini-getaway weekend. We burned some of my frequent-guest points with Marriott and enjoyed dinner at Mondo's.

The main purpose for the trip was to run in Iowa City's annual Run for the Schools. We both entered the 5K (3.1 miles) and we both finished second in our respective age groups. My official time of 19:57 (my wristwatch had 19:55) was 14-15 seconds slower than my previous 5K on Labor Day, where the course was billiard-table flat. Today's course had a couple of gentle upgrades, but it also featured a much-appreciated downslope finish.

This race was selected partly because it comes midway between the Labor Day and Thanksgiving Day races in Dubuque. It helped me maintain some motivation for getting up to run on these dark, increasingly cold mornings.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Booking it

I've neglected this blog the past week (and no one has complained!), but I have my reasons (excuses).

My best excuse: Two weeks ago today, I received the page proofs for my book Red Faber: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Spitball Pitcher. My publisher (McFarland, of Jefferson, NC) wants the proofs back as soon as possible because it has a press run scheduled on or about October 30. So I need to hustle to proofread all the pages and build an index. I squeezed in a vacation day Tuesday; nights and weekends have not been enough.

The proofs were mailed Tuesday afternoon (whew!), but the index is still going to take some time; I am about one-third of the way through the book. Meanwhile, there are some marketing matters requiring attention.

McFarland emphasizes that the press date is not firm; things could change. However, IF the schedule holds, there should be a finished product by mid-November.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Good news from Thailand (er, Switzerland)

Ever since the coup in Thailand a couple of weeks ago, I have been concerned for my Thai editor and friend, Chaichitri Limcharoon.

Chai is editor of his family's daily newspaper in Thailand's second-largest city, Chiang Mai, and president of the Chiang Mai provincial council. In addition, he is a leader in press associations, including the Confederation of Asian Journalists.

Our families have become acquainted the past decade, going back to the summer of 1995, when we hosted Chai in our home for six weeks. I visited his country later that year. The entire Cooper family visited Thailand in late 1998. I made another trip there in 2000, to attend cremation ceremonies for his late father. Chai and his lovely wife, Pat, came to the U.S. in 2002 to attend our older daughter's wedding.

How did the coup affect Chai, a prominent journalist and regional politician? My e-mails went unanswered -- not terribly unusual for Chai, who keeps very busy -- but I was concerned nonetheless.

So, this morning I placed an international call to Chai's cell number. That cell phone is a virtual appendage of Chai. With the 13-hour time difference, between Dubuque and Chiang Mai, I figured that my call would reach him about 8:30 p.m. today.

My time calculations were correct -- except that Chai was nowhere near Thailand.

"Brian!" he answered. "We are in Switzerland."

My next thought was that he was in exile after the coup.

Nope. Just on a business-and-pleasure trip with his wife and two children. His duties with the Asian journalists group take him all over the world.

The coup had no impact on him, he explained, because he is a regional politician. I hope that is all there is to it -- military governments have a tendency to not embrace a free press.

Chai said he will be visiting the Thai ambassador to the US, in Washington, in November. We'll compare calendars to see if we can get together.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sunday evening on the riverwalk

Dubuque enjoyed perfect autumn weather on Sunday -- and it made for a great afternoon for a stroll on the city's riverwalk. And, after watching the Chicago Bears pull out a come-from-behind road victory over the Minnesota Vikings, Madame X and I went strolling.

We found that the Mississippi Queen was making one of its occasional stops in Dubuque. It's an impressive vessel. Just imagine what the city was like in the 19th century, when these boats plied the river and jammed Dubuque's shoreline.

Meanwhile, it appears that renovation work on the historic Dubuque Star Brewery building is progressing. At least most of those torn-up plastic sheets covering the windows are gone! The structure will be a jewel at the north end of the Port of Dubuque campus.

Tourists, such as those on the Mississippi Queen, pay good money to come to Dubuque and enjoy the beauty along the riverwalk. We get to enjoy it for free! Let's hope that there are several more pleasant days remaining this year for leisurely walks along the Mighty Mississippi!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Dunking for dollars

Popularity has its price. Or something like that.

On a sunny (fortunately) afternoon last week, I found myself on the hot (or wet) seat. The occasion was the culminating event for the Telegraph Herald/Woodward Communications pledge drive for the annual United Way campaign.

Employees put up money to "elect" five of their peers to go into the dunk tank. You Know Who was one of the five. Later, at the event, folks paid a dollar to United Way for three throws to try to dunk us.

I was much relieved, before taking my seat, to learn that the water in the 500-gallon dunk tank was warm. Still, sitting up on that chair watching all the futility among the throwers, I got a bit chilly by the end of my half-hour shift.

Those who had particularly bad aim and an inability to deal with failure (for example, Promotion Director Connie Gibbs, as shown in the middle photo) took their three feeble throws and then ran up and struck the target with their hands.

The other dunkees were Patricia Tobin, Steve Fisher, Mike Fortman and Dave Kettering (who took these photos). Eventually, all five of us warmed up and dried out -- and raised a few hundred dollars more for United Way.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mad Dog Driver in Mad Town?

I snapped this image Sunday afternoon in Madison, Wis.
Enter a "comment" and suggest your own own caption.

Kathy, for example, submitted: "Looks like a dog-gone good day for a Sunday drive!"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Update on attack on editor

The Ottumwa Courier, of which I was once editor (1982-86), has published an update on the case of the Iowa editor who was attacked a couple of weeks ago. The Courier's article is posted below, with the permission of Publisher Tom Hawley. (I am posting the photo provided by Iowa Newspaper Association.)

Ottumwa Courier staff writer

CENTERVILLE -- A second suspect will be charged in an alleged assault on an area newspaper editor on Sept. 1, an attack which may have been prompted by an article the editor wrote back in April.

"We've got an additional charge on an additional person, same charge as on Wade Adams ... assault with intent to inflict serious injury," said Centerville Police Chief Dan Howington. He declined to name the second suspect, who has not yet been taken into custody. The original suspect in the case, Adams, 27, was arrested immediately after the incident, and is currently free on bail.

In the meantime, said Howington, the investigation continues. Daily Iowegian Managing Editor Dan Ehl said the night he was beaten, he had brought two writers from England to a local bar and grill. The pair were interviewing subjects for a book, and things were going fine, Ehl said Monday. He said he didn't know the manager of another bar, Adams, was in the area.

"I did not even recognize him until he started screaming [at me] ...," Ehl claimed. Ehl said he knew of one previous contact with the man. Ehl had gone to a regular meeting of the Centerville City Council. At that meeting, the police approached the council, requesting the City not renew the liquor license for The Hot Spot, a bar managed by Adams. Ehl said he wrote about the council meeting and the licensing dispute in an article, not an opinion piece, that went on the front page as city council coverage typically does.

Adams allegedly called Ehl the next day, shouting and otherwise expressing anger that the article would be harmful to his business. "That was in April. I guess he's been angry ever since," Ehl said.

When Adams began shouting at him outside of the bar and grill recently, Ehl claims he told Adams he simply reported what was discussed at the council meeting. He said the alleged attack, in front of several witnesses, came as a complete surprise. Ehl said he is "not much of a fighter." He added Adams is a big guy, and strong enough that even if Ehl hadn't been knocked down by what he called a "sucker punch," he couldn't have defended himself against the man.

Adams could not be reached for comment either at the phone number listed for his residence or at the Hot Spot Lounge on Monday.

"It was a shock," said Ehl. "While I lay there, I remember feeling a sharp pain [in my leg] while they were kicking me." He said he does remember being kicked in the head and body, but that he "must have passed out" at one point, and was told later by a witness Adams and an accomplice continued "stomping" on him. "I don't even know who called the police, but I'm glad somebody did," Ehl said. "I know afterwards, the bartender was standing out there."

Ehl found out his leg had been broken when he was taken to Mercy Medical Center in Centerville, where he was also treated for facial injuries. Ehl said he is pressing charges. "I hope he gets sent a message so he stops doing this," Ehl said. "It'd be nice to think I'd be the last one he'd rough up."

Ehl said he believes criminal charges could be raised from an aggravated misdemeanor to a felony. But that would be up to the prosecutor, and Appanoose County Attorney Robert Boswell told the Courier he never comments to the press about ongoing cases. He said the present case is in that time between "arrest-complaint" and "trial information" where he cannot discuss it. He explained after an arrest and complaint are filed by police, the county attorney has 45 days to present "trial information" on what he will charge -- or not charge -- a suspect with.

In an assault case, Boswell said, a county attorney may need to wait on evidence like "medical testimony" to decide what charges he will pursue. He did say that charges can be adjusted up or down by trial information time.

A delay in reporting

Though the incident happened early the morning of Sept. 1, the Daily Iowegian had not printed the article until Sept. 6.

Ehl said he's heard some criticism for the delay, and he understands the questions.

But Ehl said as an objective news source, he and the Iowegian had something of an ethical question facing them; how to report fairly on something he was so involved in. He said management at the newspaper hesitated, perhaps a bit too long, before running an article.

"[We] waited for the statement from the police; [The paper] didn't want to do anything unfair," he said.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm No. 10!

I voted this morning in the Dubuque Community School District's board election and referendum on the renewal of the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy.

I usually vote before heading to the office. That way, if my plans change (remember, the 2001 school board vote was on 9/11), or if I get hit by a bus later in the day, at least my vote will have been cast.

Anyway, when I voted today, the polls had been open 68 minutes, and I was only voter No. 10 at my site. I know that local school board elections often suffer low turnout, but this is pretty grim.

Let's hope that the pace picks up during the day and evening. The polls close at 8 p.m.

Results available tonight on

Monday, September 11, 2006

Current quotation?

The Iowa Newspaper Association weekly newsletter always concludes with a quotation. Though this week's quote came from a 19th century politician and writer, it seems to fit today, considering the tone and tenor of life these days.

It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.
-- Benjamin Disraeli

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Voices from the Warehouse District

Madame X and I enjoyed Saturday night's opening reception for the Voices from the Warehouse District exhibition -- so much so that we stayed hours later than we had anticipated.

Interesting art, good food and drink, and interesting conversation with a wide range of friends and acquaintances.

The paintings, sculptures, photographs and multi-media display are displayed in the huge old warehouse at 10th and Jackson streets. Until a few years ago , it was the home of Eagle Window and Door. Exhibit organizers did nothing to make it look like a gallery; it looks as if the Eagle Window had just swept out and shut off the lights.

The exhibition continues through Oct. 22.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Police: Iowa editor attacked over article

Apologies for the nasty photo, but I believe it is important to show what happened to one of my colleagues -- Dan Ehl, editor of the Daily Iowegian in Centerville, Iowa -- because of something he wrote.

What bothers me as much as the beating Ehl suffered is the fact that local police only got around to releasing details of the early-Friday incident until Tuesday afternoon. Iowa law has, for decades, required law-enforcement authorities to make timely release of the basic facts and circumstances of incidents.

Here is what Iowegian reported on its web site today:

On Friday, at approximately 1:22 a.m., the Centerville Police Department received a call of a fight outside Gordies Bar & Grill in the 100 block of North 13th Street.

When officers arrived, it was determined the incident was between two males outside a bar. Police said the investigation revealed the incident concerned an article written by Dan Ehl of the Daily Iowegian, who was a victim in the incident.

Arrested in connection with the incident was Wade Eugene Adams, 27, of Centerville. Adams (he is at right in the photo linked -- BC) was charged with Assault with Intent to Inflict Serious Injury, an aggravated misdemeanor, and Simple Assault, a simple misdemeanor.

Adams was held in the Appanoose County Jail before being released on bond.

Ehl was taken to Mercy Medical Center-Centerville, where he was treated for a broken leg and facial injuries.

The article dealt with a Centerville City Council meeting in which the police were asking the City Council not to renew a bar's liquor license. The bar is called The Hot Spot and is managed by Adams.

(Top photo distributed by Iowa Newspaper Association.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Didn't you get the memo?

My Tuesday got off to a rotten start when I was informed that my column (in the print edition of the TH) reported the wrong date for our upcoming fall Vacationland section.

Seems that the publication date was changed from Sept. 9 (the date I reported) to Sept. 16.

Notification of the date change was communicated in an internal memo in late June and distributed to seemingly everyone in our building -- everyone, that is, but the executive editor. I'm usually on the routing list for these "change orders," but for some reason not this one. Over the subsequent two months, however, I thought I might have caught wind of the date change. But no such luck.

It's my fault for going with the schedule I originally received and not double-checking with our folks producing the section, just to make sure there were no changes like these.

The rest of the day, things can only improve. Right?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Book reports

It's a rainy afternoon on Labor Day, the holiday bridging the unofficial transition from summer to fall. It seems a good to move books from the nightstand to the bookshelf.

As long as I can remember, I've preferred reading non-fiction -- especially biographies and particularly those of sports figures. After devoting most of my free time the past four years to writing sports non-fiction -- including a full biography of National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber -- it has been great to take some time away from writing to do some reading. None is a new release -- just "new" to me.

Here are most of the books on my "completed" list.

Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, by Richard Ben Cramer. Though "hero" is part of the title, this is no hero-worship biography. On the contrary, Cramer reveals the obsessive, greedy side of a man known as (and required to be introduced as such at his public appearances) The Greatest Living Ballplayer. On the field, DiMaggio was a superstar. Off the field, according to Cramer's intricately researched book, DiMaggio was anything but. Here is one reviewer's assessment of the book.

How You Played the Game: The Life of Grantland Rice, by William Harper. (1999). I started this biography during the spring, set it aside for another choice, and finished it this summer. As a former sportswriter interested in sports Golden Age of the 1920s, I was curious about the era's leading sportswriter, who seemed to have a front-row seat for all of the major events of his day. The book struck me as a little long, but a good investment in time nonetheless.

This Side of Cooperstown: An Oral History of Major League Baseball in the 1950s, by Larry Moffi. (1996). I might not have spent much time with this one, except I had plenty of free time (camping vacation in Colorado). Most of the retired players who consented to interviews with Moffi were far from household names. Still, the reader gains insight into the life of a major leaguer before he became a major leaguer. The oral history style -- all "in their own words" -- helps the book move along.

The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany,
by Stephen E. Ambrose.
I put aside the sports books temporarily for this one. The compelling account is mostly told through the experiences of a young pilot who later became a U.S. senator and presidential candidate George McGovern. The book, released in 2001, was among a half-dozen Ambrose projects that were the subject of ethical questions. including accusations of plaigiarism. Ambrose died of lung cancer in October 2002, and the furor subsided. In any case, the book helps a reader appreciate the youth, the sacrifice and the dangers of McGovern and other B-24 pilots.

Thus ends my summer reading book report.

Final exam

My "season" of racing concluded today with the Mississippi Valley Running Association's biggest event of the year, the Benefit Classic.

For me, the Labor Day race is my "final exam" to assess my training during the spring and summer. I might enter another race or two this fall -- the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving is a family tradition -- but they won't be as important to me as the Labor Day race.

I was pleased with my result in the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) event, exceeding my goals for time and place. Despite being a year older, I was able to cut more than 40 seconds from last year's time. Apparently, my decision last year to sacrifice sleep and run early on weekday mornings is paying off.

No deep message here, except perhaps a reminder about the importance of setting goals.

Today's result will make it easier to roll out of the sack Tuesday when the alarm clock shows 5:30. Wednesday morning might be another story.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Honest, Abe's museum worth a look

On our way back to Dubuque on Sunday, Madame X and I stopped in Springfield, Ill., to check out the new (April 2005) Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.

We're Illinois natives, and while I am no expert on Lincoln, I have read a few biographies and several other articles about our 16th president. He is a fascinating and tragic figure in U.S. history -- someone who would be virtually unelectable in today's era of television-driven campaigns.

The museum is in downtown Springfield -- and it's easy to find by simply following the road signs from I-55. There is a dollar-an-hour parking ramp a half-block from the museum entrance.

We took in both of the multimedia programs -- the high-tech Holavision show "Ghosts of the Library" as well as "Lincoln's Eyes" -- looked at the Gettysburg Address manuscript, dawdled through the First Ladies' dress exhibit and generally took in all there was to see.

And if people think the editorial cartoonists today are tough on George W. Bush, they should see the display of the vicious anti-Lincoln cartoons published by Confederate-state newspapers and journals.

We stayed three hours, and that was comfortable. We easily could have stayed longer, and read more of the descriptions at displays. But a visitor with only two hours would not feel terribly shortchanged.

I would list only two "negatives" -- and one is probably unavoidable. It was difficult -- nearly impossible -- for visitors to read most of the rare documents on display because the rooms were so dark, apparently to prevent damaging them through exposure to the light. The other issue, however, was avoidable: The thermostat was set too darn low! Brrrrr! The next time we visit, we'll take a jacket or sweatshirt -- yes, even in August.

This visitor's evaluation: The Lincoln Museum is worth the price of admission ($7.50, by the way).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Thousand miles of music

The past three days, I drove more than 1,000 miles: Dubuque to Des Moines and back on Friday for some newspaper-related meetings (400 miles) and Dubuque to St. Louis and back Saturday-Sunday (600 miles). We delivered our youngest child for another year of college, caught up with some friends and relatives and visited the new Lincoln museum (Springfield, Ill.).

All this driving came a couple weeks after completing our driving trip to Colorado -- which added more than 2,000 miles on the odometer.

Anyway, with more than 3,000 miles behind the wheel in August, I carefully packed my CD case. Some were old favorites (lots of Beatles), but most were "greatest hits" and compilations.

I also packed several CDs that, for whatever reason, I hadn't played in a while.
At the top of that list was the Jason White's "Tonight's Top Story." White is a singer-songwriter working out of Nashville who was part of the Freedom Sings troupe that played Dubuque in the Spring of 2004. (White wrote "Red Rag Top," which Tim McGraw recorded four years ago.)

Other CDs that received play time in the Cooper van this month were various "greatest hits" compilations, including those by ZZ Top, The Guess Who, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Steely Dan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

In the Jazz genre, I had CDs by Tierney Sutton (who played Dubuque's Winter Jazz Fest earlier this year), Dave Brubeck Quartet, Eddie Daniels and a duo effort by Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

A forgotten gem was the two-disc set of The Alligator Records 25th Anniversary Collection.

Then, there were other CDs that I packed but never played this trip. Those will be up first when I am on the road between Dubuque and Des Moines for a couple of trips in September.

Audience participation time: What CDs have helped you pass the miles this summer?