Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Truth shall set you free ...

During one of the busier news days in some time -- State of the Union, Samuel Alito confirmation, Coretta Scott King's death, Academy Award nominations, postal worker rampage -- the Associated Press found time to make a historical correction on Tuesday.

Turns out that, according to 19th-century documents recently acquired by The Associated Press, The AP was founded two years earlier than historians and The AP itself believed.

For those of you keeping score at home, The AP was formed in May 1846 when Moses Yale Beach, owner-publisher of the original New York Sun, offered to share news from the U.S. war with Mexico with rival newspapers.

For many years, even The AP through it was founded in May 1848.

Now that the truth is out, I feel better. How about you?

Law and Order

Andrea Alsup was sentenced Tuesday for her role in the murder of April Johnson last fall. I was on hand because the session opened with a hearing on the news media's request for Expanded Media Coverage (commonly known as "cameras in the courts"). After that hearing -- Judge Fautsch approved our request, over the defense's objection -- the sentencing hearing began.

Unlike "Law and Order" on TV, there was no changing the channels to find lighter fare.

The sobs from relatives and friends of April Johnson -- and from the defendant, who earlier pleaded guilty to a lesser felony charge, and her supporters -- filled the tiny courtroom. Though they bitterly disagreed about what punishment the court should exact -- prison or probation -- they were united in their respective experiences of loss.

After Judge Fautsch sentenced Alsup to a prison term and ended the session, a young woman shouted at the judge. That brought angry rejoinders from the Johnson contingent. Law enforcement personnel stepped in to make sure nothing escalated.

Indeed, this was not television. It was real life on a Tuesday afternoon in Dubuque. And there were no winners.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Mock trials and tribulation

The Drake University mock trial team, of which our younger daughter is a member, spent some time with us this weekend. We hosted the 16 or so students for a late-night supper and overnight accommodations (in our home and my dad's). It provided yet another reminder that today's "younger generation" includes lots and lots of quality people. Here are bright, energetic students who give up their weekends to travel all over (mostly in the Midwest but also points as distant as Texas and Connecticut), wake up early, dress in business attire (yes, suits) and match wits with their comtemporaries in a "courtroom" setting. After hearing bits and pieces about mock trial all school year, Ann and I saw our first competition on Saturday at Loras College. We found it interesting, and the energy and enthusiasm the students put into the competition made it that much more enjoyable. Worried about today's "younger generation?" Don't be!

Friday, January 27, 2006

'Reader of the Week' competition stiff

I've been unfaithful to this blog this week -- no posts for three days -- but I have my reasons (excuses). Anyway, this evening I reflected on who would receive my fictitious "Reader of the Week" Award. Many weeks, the award would have gone to a Dubuque man, known to me, who submitted his letter to the editor about all the great things going on in Iraq. The letter was clearly written and persuasive. It was also copied, word for word, from the Republican National Committee web site. Apparently, plagiarism is OK during times of war. Unfortunately, he was edged out for this week's "prize" by a reader who called our newsroom to leave me a message of complaint that the Telegraph Herald "is showing too many black people on the front page." This reader, who lacked the courage to give his name, also lacked the knowledge of the existence of caller ID. He wins in a landslide.

Monday, January 23, 2006

'Solving Sudoku' set

“Solving Sudoku,” an hour-long seminar, is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, on the campus of the University of Dubuque, which is co-sponsoring the session with the TH.

Our presenter will be Emily Moore, a mathematics professor at Grinnell College. She is conducting mathematics research on an area of combinatorics called graph theory. Sudoku puzzles use many of the forms of reasoning found in combinatorics.

However, take it from me: You don’t have to be a math whiz to enjoy Sudoku.

The seminar is free but seating is limited. If you want to attend, please make your reservation. (And if you reserve, please show up, so another Sudoku player won’t be denied a seat.)

To RSVP, contact Sarah Bakke: sbakke@wcinet.com, or call 563/588-3820 or 800/553-4801.

Military funeral still news

Two or three readers contacted me Friday when they saw that morning’s front page, which carried a photo taken after services for U.S Army Reserve Maj. Stuart Anderson, the Peosta serviceman who died in the line of duty in Iraq.

The military, citing the family, told the news media they weren’t welcome at the funeral or burial. Then why, unhappy readers asked, did we print a Page 1A photo showing the flag-draped casket carried by an honor guard?

The death of a local serviceman in a war zone is news; and it is news when he or she is laid to rest. I’m sure that if the military had its way, the news media would cover no such services. Send-offs and homecomings only.

In this case, our photographer remained on public property, off the church premises, to show a glimpse of the news event. No TH staffers attended the funeral or burial. (Photo (c) Telegraph Herald 2006. Reprinted with permission.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

In the line of (jury) duty

I finally cashed the check I received from the state of Iowa a few weeks ago. It was for $12.10, representing $10 for my time and, I assume, $2.10 for my mileage, after being summoned for an Iowa District Court jury pool. I don't have a captivating story about my service as a juror. I can't tell you how I saved someone from the gallows. I was not part of a jury deliberation scene like that depicted in the 1957 film classic "Twelve Angry Men." I never was part of deliberations, and the case was only a civil matter. In fact, I never got to be a juror. I participated in jury selection but one of the attorneys used a "strike" to remove me from further consideration. Court officials are careful to point out that no one should be hurt or embarrassed to be "struck;" attorneys have their reasons, etc., etc. Anyway, after a long day -- mostly consisting of waiting around -- I was thanked and excused from jury service for at least two years. That's too bad. Some people try to get out of service -- some have good reasons, I'm sure -- but I wanted to have the experience. Nonetheless, I will admit that I was somewhat relieved when I heard later that "my" case lasted more than a week -- longer than anyone had predicted. Anyway, a couple of weeks later, I received a photocopied certificate of appreciation and $12.10. The money will wind up in the church collection basket, but I wonder if state government could save a few bucks if they made it easier for jurors to decline payment or donate it back to state coffers. At $10 a day, it could add up.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

New Orleans comes to Hazel Green

A month ago, Doreen Ketchens and her band, Doreen's Jazz New Orleans, also known as The Show Stealers, performed in Bangkok, one of the world's largest cities (metro population 8.6 million). Saturday night, her scaled-down, three-piece band gave a great show in Hazel Green, Wis. (population 1,184). The venue was the wonderfully restored Hazel Green Opera House, owned the past couple of years by Telegraph Herald colleague Sandye Voight and her husband, Chuck. The place was packed --the 80-some seats were filled, and a couple dozen standees filled the aisles and tiny lobby. The audience was treated to New Orleans-style jazz by a clarinetist and vocalist who has been described as the female Louis Armstrong. Also on stage was her husband, Lawrence, playing tuba, drummer Tony Bazley and the Ketchens' 3-year-old daughter . Though they escaped Hurricane Katrina's wrath, the devastation on New Orleans and its tourism trade found the band in need of work. A month ago, the U.S. Embassy in Thailand brought the band to Bangkok as a thank-you for the Thai people's generosity toward Katrina relief. Before their last number Saturday, Doreen mentioned that it was her first visit to Wisconsin and made reference to a "cheese hat." Within seconds, Chuck Voight presented her with the genuine article, which she wore through "When the Saints Go Marching In." The free-will offering for the band raised $700. The band has several public appearances scheduled through Jan. 22. Try to attend a show. Visit the Telegraph Herald Web site for some video clips and Doreen's remaining schedule in the tri-state area.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dancing with the celebrities

Last weekend, the Telegraph Herald published a brief rebuttal to Rod Blum's Jan. 1 "Double Take" column in which Rod stated that comedian and political satirist Al Franken was hypocritcal because he calls conservatives "bigots" while hiring only one black among more than 100 employees. I was surprised the morning of Jan. 2 to find an e-mail message bearing Franken's e-mail address and "signature." The message, which we published Jan. 8, complained that Blum's assertion was totally false. I didn't want to publish the rebuttal until I was sure that it was legit. (Unfortunately, we sometimes receive communications from people who are not who they claim to be.) At my request, I received a personal cell phone number and other information I could use to verify authenticity. I called the number and had a 10-minute-plus conversation with Franken (or the world's best Franken impersonator). Franken said he appreciated my follow-up but admonished me for allowing Blum to make such assertions (which came from a top-selling book) without checking into it; I pointed out that while I appreciated his point, it is also true that I am prepared to publish his rebuttal without demanding to see a roster of his employees, with photos to verify ethnicity, etc. Anyway, we published Franken's rebuttal the next Sunday. Blum, who confirmed that the source of his information was the book, "Do As I Say (Not As I Do)," indicates that he would like to respond to Franken's objection. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

No, 'Calvin' is NOT coming back!

"Calvin & Hobbes" repeats concluded their 17-week run in the Telegraph Herald on Dec. 31. It was only a temporary arrangement, dictated by creator Bill Watterson. I made the temporary nature of the run quite clear in my column -- seven times, dating back to May, when I asked readers if they would rather have Calvin for 17 weeks or none at all. Still, over the past week or so, I am fielding letters and calls from readers -- some are quite outraged -- that I cancelled Calvin. OK, I know that not everyone reads everything in the TH every day. That includes me, and that includes my column. But, the limited engagement of Calvin -- and that it was outside my control -- was reported repeatedly. But let me try again: Regretfully, Calvin is NOT coming back -- at least to my knowledge -- and there is nothing I can do about it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Tribute to our First Citizen

What a great turnout last week for the public reception to honor the most recent recipient of the Telegraph Herald First Citizen Award, Leo McCarthy. We gave the guest book to Leo and Joy (pictured) before we remembered to count the number of attendees, but at one point in the evening, it was about 120. So, I'd estimate the final count was around 150. It was obvious, with the strong turnout, that Leo is a popular and respected member of our community. Among the well-wishers were 11 previous winners of the award: Jerry Enzler, Bill Kruse, Arnie Honkamp, Eldon Herrig, Hunter Fuerste, Donna Ginter, Dave Rusk, Larry Friedman, Jim Theisen, C.J. Buelow and last year's honoree, Dick Wertzberger. Several other former honorees phoned to express their regrets; they wish they could have been there to honor McCarthy, a lawyer who has helped countless organizations, often with legal and fund-raising endeavors. As noted in our story on New Year's Day, Leo has experienced a serious health setback -- ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease -- but he remains as active as his health allows. Our thanks to Bart Kintzinger and the entire crew at Rafters restaurant for a great setting and great service. (Photo (c) Telegraph Herald, 2006. Posted with permission.)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Something other than Mexican

I'm no culinary expert, but, for the only time I remember, I experienced Himalayan fare today in Madison, Wis., where we visited our oldest two children (as well as our son-in-law and future daughter-in-law). We wound up a Chautara, 334 State Street, which features dishes from Nepal, India and Tibet. Its owner is Rajan Pradhan (pictured). For our appetizer, five of us chose dal, a lentil soup. Delicious! I enjoyed a dish called Bandipuri, grilled chicken covered in a sauce that included a tomato-based sauce, curry, mushrooms and I'm not sure what else. (Remember, I often eat food but rarely write about it!) Ann enjoyed her dish -- mung bean patties, one of the many vegetarian choices on the menu. Madison is much larger than Dubuque, and as home to a Big Ten university with many international students and faculty, it is not surprising that the Wisconsin capital has more diversity in its restaurant lineup. However, as I note that Dubuque is about to get two more Mexican restaurants -- both along Kennedy Road and both featuring Magaritas in their names -- I can't help but wonder if Dubuque couldn't support a wider range of restaurants.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Not like the movies

In old movies or TV shows set in a newspaper office, invariably somebody hollers, "Stop the Presses!" I thought of that about 2 a.m. this morning, when a colleague awoke me with a phone call. He called from his home, where he saw, live on CNN, that the miraculous news -- that 12 of 13 miners trapped in West Virginia had survived -- was terribly wrong. That meant that the Telegraph Herald's front-page story heralding the miracle was also terribly wrong. Unfortunately, our press had been cranking out papers for an hour -- with only about an hour of pressrun remaining. With hundreds of carrier personnel needing to stick to their schedules, so that thousands of readers can read their TH on time, stopping the press for a news update is an extreme option. I certainly considered that, given the nature of the story, but we were in a tough spot. At 2 in the morning, there was no one left in the newsroom to shout, "Stop the presses!" Other pre-press personnel -- the folks who output the negatives that produce the press plates -- had also checked out for the day. For me to track down those folks, wait for a revise from The Associated Press and update Page 1A would have taken far too long (especially with some papers well on their way to their destinations). So, the TH, like hundreds of other papers (in the Eastern and Central time zones, particularly), had to grit their teeth knowing thata top story had changed before the paper could be delivered. Ugh!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Congratulations, Leo McCarthy

On Tuesday evening, the Telegraph Herald will host a reception honoring Leo McCarthy, latest recipient of the newspaper's annual First Citizen Award. We expect a big crowd at Rafters Restaurant (2728 Asbury Road) for the reception (5-7 p.m.), largely because McCarthy has been so active and so pivotal in so many community programs. He has experienced some serious health setbacks in the past year -- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease -- but has maintained his positive outlook and good humor. The presentation program, which will include introduction of previous First Citizen honorees in attendance is set for 6 p.m. We hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A video you can't rent

We had a good time at a New Year's Eve party at a colleague's home. Everyone there seemed to have a good time -- some more so than others -- but not to the degree that police intervention was required. (As I write this, at noon New Year's Day, I make the assumption that the party has concluded.) As entertaining as the evening was, it did not compare with that reported by our scientist daughter. The host couple included a physiology professor, who, after fielding several questions about his work, opted for some Show and Tell. He showed his guests a video of, shall we say, matter moving through the digestive system. All in attendance found it fascinating, our daughter reported. Somehow, I don't think the video would have gone over as well at the party we attended -- though I'm confident that some revelers today are contemplating their digestive systems.

Happy New Year!