Wednesday, May 31, 2006


My day started with a phone call from a concerned reader asking why the Telegraph Herald did not report on the attempted abduction Tuesday morning of a 12-year-old girl while she walked to school.

The anonymous caller said her friend was the one who phoned 911 after the girl escaped her box-cutter-wielding abductor and ran to the friend's house.

Some of the chronology described to me did not quite ring true. For example, how could a pre-teen girl, "kicked" into a motor vehicle, escape abductor(s) holding box cutter(s)?

The caller was polite, but she wondered why we weren't on the ball about this major incident. Some e-mails along those lines -- some less polite -- reached our newsroom.

Long story short: There was no incident (except for the excitement of a bunch of police cars rushing to the scene and officers interviewing neighbors). The alleged victim had made it all up.

Unfortunately, 24 hours later, the rumor mill was still in full gear. Had the police issued a statement that the abduction report was "unfounded," many concerned people could have had rested easier.

We'll have a story about the situation in Thursday morning's edition. But for many worried citizens, it will be too little too late.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Old Stomping Grounds

We spent part of Memorial Day weekend traveling to and from the Twin Cities. Our overnight stop Saturday was in Winona, a place we once called home. It was interesting and challenging to find our way around town, primarily because we moved from Winona so many years ago (24) after living there but 15 months.

We drove by our old house and did a brief walking tour of the neighborhood. Surprisingly, a next-door neighbor is still next door -- a reality that makes us glad we did not stay any longer than we did. (We're not fans of loud motorcycles. Sorry.)

Winona, in southeastern Minnesota, is squeezed between the Mississippi River (top area of photo) and Lake Winona (foreground), which was formed when the Mississipi changed course who knows how many centuries or millennia ago.

The city is runner- and biker-friendly. It has asphalt trails around each of the bodies of water that make up Lake Winona. and we enjoyed a run around the larger lake -- good for 3.5 miles. (If only we were running when we lived there!)

We especially wanted to stop in Winona to catch up with a former newspaper colleague, Jim Galewski (pictured). We hadn't seen each other in years -- I think it was 1988 -- but had kept in touch through our respective Christmas letters. It was a pleasure to stop by the house to see Jim and his wife, Anne. Jim is one of the most remarkable people I know. He always has been a positive, "heart of gold" guy -- and he remains so despite being dealt some tough breaks in life. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the early 1990s, but continued to work at the Winona Daily News until he took disability retirement in 2003. Still, Jim works a part-time public relations job from his home, does wordworking and remains a volunteer for the Boy Scouts. He also writes a column for the Daily News. In visiting with Jim, I immediately found that he remains more concerned for other people; I dare say that most of us in his situation would have it the other way around.

Winona is embarking on a Martime Museum project. We told Jim about the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, and suggested that he make the trip. It could be good column fodder, and perhaps enlightening to the people of Winona. We hope he takes us up on it.

Friday, May 26, 2006


I came across a quotation this morning. It caused my mind to
jump to some of the situations I encounter, in my job as a
newspaper editor, where it is applicable. Humorist Dave Barry
(yes, that's him pictured) is credited with this gem:
"No matter what happens, someone will take it too seriously."
How true! I interact with many people who apparently have too much time to get riled up about this thing or another. Sure, everyone has his/her peeve or hot button, but some people seem to make it their full-time occupation.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thrilling conclusion

My spring season of officiating high school soccer came to an exciting conclusion Monday, when the Hempstead girls defeated Senior, 1-0. I served as the referee.

It was a "golden goal" situation: After 90 minutes of scoreless play, Hempstead ended the game with a goal 52 seconds into the final overtime period.

It an even, hard-played match on a gorgeous afternoon in Dubuque. It sounds cliche, I know, but it was "picture perfect" -- not only the weather but the spirit and intensity of the game.

Thus concludes my 10th season of officiating high school soccer in Iowa. (It would have been 11, but I took last season off so that I could watch my son play his final year of prep soccer.)

In discussing conditioning and the physical requirements of refereeing soccer, a sage official once observed, "I get a year older each season, but the players stay the same age."

My renewal forms to remain a certified official for the 2007 season are due in little more than a week. And I'll be a year older ...

(Photo (c) 2006, Telegraph Herald. Reprinted with permission.)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Reading dying out? Hardly!

How often we hear the observation, "People just don't read anymore!" Sure, we have television, the Internet and other diversions (distractions?). But I have to wonder whether reading is actually in decline -- especially after working a stint at the Telegraph Herald/Dupaco Community Credit Union used book sale on Saturday. (Anecdotal "evidence," I know.)

Though I was not on duty at 7 a.m., volunteers who were there said at least three dozen people were lined up outside the book sale site -- the former Hartig Drug store near the Town Clock -- waiting for the doors to open. Thousands of books flew out of the place. And it was steady during my 9 a.m. shift.

The sale continues Sunday afternoon -- if there are any books left.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Well said, Ben

Here's a quote, courtesy of the Freedom Forum calendar:

"When men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the publick; when truth and error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."
-- Benjamin Franklin, 1731

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Editor on the airwaves

Tom Berryman has invited me to be a guest on his lunchtime radio program Thursday. Tom, a former radio newsman whose full-time job is with a credit counseling service, recently started "Voices of the Tri-States" on KDTH. It will be an interview followed by listeners' calls.

What will be our topic? The First Amendment? National Security? Local politics? No, Tom invited me after seeing my column announcing that Lio would replace Garfield on the Telegraph Herald comics page. So, we'll talk about comics.

If you are close to your radio between 12:35 and 1 p.m. Thursday, tune in to KDTH -- 1370 AM.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Happy Birthday to us!

The Telegraph Herald turned 170 years old last week. We trace our lineage to the inaugural issue of the weekly DuBuque Visitor, first published May 11, 1836. Multiple mergers and acquisitions later, the Telegraph Herald remains in operation publishing seven mornings a week, operating a Web site and producing several ancillary publications. The Telegraph Herald was created by the merger of the Dubuque Telegraph and (you guessed it) the Dubuque Herald in 1901.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Not many kicks on Route 66

I remember Route 66. Our family traveled that highway countless times between our home in the Chicago suburbs and Alton, Ill., my parents' hometown. I remember, 40-plus years ago, sitting in the back seat of the station wagon, looking over the expanse of farm fields of Central Illinois. I remember counting the telephone poles and watching for trains along the tracks that ran parallel to the highway. I remember being awakened when the trip's rhythm and the hum of the highway was interrupted by a stoplight at Lincoln, Ill., and who knows where else. I remember the final day of June 1966, when my mother, crying in the passenger seat, rolled down her window to ask the service station attendant -- yes, this was before self-service -- to please hurry as he pumped our gasoline. Yes, we were in a hurry; hours earlier, a heart attack claimed my Grandpa, and we needed to be in Alton. As a kid, I was unaware of the history of U.S. 66 -- the first major highway to link Chicago and Los Angeles.

Route 66 does not officially exist anymore. The route number was retired. It gave way to the interstate system, with its entrance and exit ramps and bypasses. Much safer. Much faster. But less personality.

Friday found me driving to St. Louis to retrieve our youngest (and his ample belongings) after his first year of college. Southbound on I-55, my "low fuel" gauge told me to exit. I did so at Divernon, where I saw a "Historic Route 66" directional sign. After filling up (more than $40!), I decided to drive a stretch of the same pavement I used to ride as a kid. (The road has been declassified to a county road.) I drove parallel to I-55 a distance of eight miles to Farmersville.

I must have picked the least interesting stretch of the old highway. Just farms and a few crossroads. No kicks on Route 66 this trip.

Sometime, when I have to make another St. Louis trip, I'll carve out extra time and explore other stretches of the old Route 66. They have to be more intriguing!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Story time

The Dubuque Area Writers Guild honored me with an invitation to read excerpts from my upcoming biography of the late Red Faber.

A member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Faber grew up in his native Cascade and Dubuque. He pitched 20 years for the Chicago White Sox. When the Sox won the 1917 World Series, Faber was the winning pitcher in three of Chicago's four victories.

The guild meeting will 6:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, at Isabella's, 1375 Locust St. (downstairs in the Ryan House). The public is welcome.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Comics of days gone by

On Tuesday, I will publish details about a new comic that will join the Telegraph Herald lineup to succeed a long-time strip.

Recently, while doing research for another project, I looked through back issues of the Telegraph Herald from July 1954. I noted the comics lineup, then researched the longevity of the comic itself. My source was Don Markstein's Toonopedia.

There are some "classics" on this list, certainly, but there are others that, as the dates indicate, enjoyed a limited lifespan.

Here are the TH comics from a half-century ago. The dates in parentheses indicate when the comic was in syndication, not necessarily the period that the TH carried the particular strip.

Twin Earths (1952-63)
Bringing Up Father (1913-2000)
Red Ryder (1938-64)
Blondie (1930-present)
Nancy (pictured) (1933-present)
Vic Flint (1946-56 daily; Sundays until 1965)
Boots and Her Buddies (1924-1960; Sundays until 1969)
Wash Tubbs (officially known as Captain Easy) (1924-1988)
Steve Canyon (1947-88)
Freckles and His Friends (1915-71)
Out Our Way (1922-77)
Our Boarding House (1921-81)
Li'l Abner (1934-77)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

On the hunt

At this time of year, it seems that everybody has a story about finding great quantities of morels, the delectable and ephemeral mushrooms growing wild in woods and forests.

This is not one of them.

My wife, who loves morels, has hunted mushrooms for years -- almost exclusively on her parents' farm in western Illinois. She was thrilled when we received an invitation to hunt in this area.Yours truly, a suburbanite who has hunted approximately twice, accompanied her late Wednesday afternoon.

In deference to the landowner, I will not divulge the site. However, it is a beautiful location with has a history of being prime territory for morels.

That was not the case for us. During our abbreviated hunt -- we had to get back to town for other commitments -- we found about seven morels. They were all in one general area.

I'm sure that were roughly several million morels out there, just hiding from us -- and probably laughing at us. Perhaps if we stayed longer, we would have found them all.

Still, we harvested enough for a delicious morels-and-eggs breakfast. And that made the hunt worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Passing the quiz

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack paid a call at the Telegraph Herald on Monday afternoon, when he spent about 45 minutes with the TH Editorial Board.

I greeted him in the lobby and started to escort him to the conference room. "I have a quiz for you," the governor said as we hiked the stairs. "What do the Iowa Cubs ballpark and your building have in common?"

Let's think quickly here, Brian.

Both are sites where lots of errors are committed? That can't be it. Hits? No.

I knew that both have newspaper affiliations. Michael Gartner, the primary owner of the Iowa Cubs, is a former journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner. But what does that have to do with the ballpark in Des Moines, Principal Park?

Before we reached the first landing, I had the answer, thanks to my attendance at an Iowa Cubs game a couple of seasons ago.

"The ballpark and our lobby both display The First Amendment," I replied. The governor did not say how absolutely impressed he was that I had the answer, but I'm certain that he was thinking that.

While it is not that unusual for a newspaper to display The First Amendment in its lobby, the same cannot be said for a ballpark. I wonder what the umpires think about that.

And I wonder if I can go back and write off my expenses for the ball game.