CityBeat Blogs - Community http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-42.html <![CDATA[Local Leaders Collaborate to Combat Infant Mortality ]]> Some parts of Cincinnati suffer from higher infant mortality rates than third-world countries. In the city as a whole, infants die at rates more than twice the national average.

We’ve been asking, “Why?” for a long time; this mysterious plague wiping out our infants hasn’t been solved even as our hospitals are recognized worldwide and as it continues to be at the forefront of our public health discussions.

Local politicians, hospitals, health experts and advocates are hoping the answer is one that's been lying in front of them the whole time: collaboration.

Today marked the official conjoining of local politicians, health experts, advocates and Cincinnati’s top hospitals providing birthing services in hopes of working together to reduce the areas’ infant mortality rate to below that of the national average within the next five years.

The new partnership is comprised of Hamilton Country Commissioners Todd Portune and Chris Monzel, who co-chair the effort; the Center for Closing the Health Gap; Mayor Mark Mallory; Councilmember Wendell Young; and hospitals including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Christ Hospital, Mercy Health, TriHealth, UC Health and the UC College of Nursing.

While the hospitals are typically competitors, the disturbing, long-standing statistics Monzel described as an "embarrassment" have fueled area health providers to set aside competition and unite Cincinnati’s top health experts to bring Cincinnati's infant mortality levels below the national average within the next five years.
“We’re checking egos and names and brands at the door,” said Commissioner Portune. "Enough is enough."

Efforts to reduce infant mortality, Portune explained, have been active for years; however, because they've been fragmented — disconnected from one another — establishing best practices just hasn't been possible.

Initial funding comes from an agreement that County Commissioners Portune and Monzel made with Jim Kingsbury, UC Health president and CEO, as part of the county's sale of Drake Hospital.

Representatives plan to meet on a regular basis to share best practices, exchange ideas and report data.


In February, Mayor Mark Mallory entered the city into the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a national competition to inspire city leaders to solve urban problems. His proposal involved the creation of the Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which would have followed new mothers in high-risk areas through pregnancy, creating a database of new mothers and monitoring pregnancies.   

In Mallory’s submission, he put the problem into perspective: “In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital, and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate.”

Although Cincinnati was named one of the top 20 finalists out of more than 305 cities, it was not selected as one of the five to receive up to $5 million in funding to jump-start the initiative.

Infant mortality rates are measured by the number of deaths of babies less than one year old per 1,000 live births. In Cincinnati, infant mortality rates are at 13.6; the national average is 6.

Cincinnati’s black community is especially afflicted by infant mortality. In Ohio, black infants die at more than twice the rate of white infants.

To look at a map of infant mortality rates in Greater Cincinnati by zip code or to read about some of the leading causes of infant mortality, visit the Cincinnati Health Department's website.

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<![CDATA[Curmudgeon Notes 5.15.2013]]> Some Cincinnati IRS employees violated IRS rules and maybe the law by harassing scores of Tea Party and similar conservative groups seeking vital nonprofit status.  

As an example of IRS intrusiveness, the Enquirer reports that the Liberty Township Tea Party received a questionnaire demanding information the IRS is not allowed to seek. “The letter was signed by a local IRS official, who did not return calls seeking comment,” the paper initially reported. Who? Name names. If the IRS employee signed and sent an official government document, there’s no reason to grant anonymity. 

Later in its initial full page A-section story, the Enquirer quotes Ohio IRS spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins saying, “Mistakes were made.” By whom? Again, names, please. Americans increasingly favor the passive voice, “mistakes were made” but no one made them. If the paper pressed for names of mistake-makers, it’s not evident. And who was fired? Anyone? 

The Associated Press — whose reporter broke this scandal story — says the Cincinnati mess is at least two years old. This isn’t new. We’ve seen IRS harassment of activists before and probably will again. Each time, it’s a scandal. Or should be. 

Any loss of residual confidence in IRS nonpartisanship is a helluva lot more serious than the muddle surrounding the killing of four Americans in Benghazi or the murder of three spectators at the Boston marathon. 

I’m sure it’s coincidence that the Cincinnati IRS harassment preceded the 2012 election. And I’m sure those employees were motivated only by zeal to protect the purity of the 501(c)(4) status from improper or illegal political activity. But I’m also sure that any agnostic or atheist Republicans are looking at this Cincinnati-born national IRS scandal as proof that “there is a God.” Now, to keep that wrath boiling with hearings until 2014 elections. 

The Associated Press says it’s the target of a sweeping Justice Department search for the news service’s confidential sources.  Monday, AP reported the Justice Department “secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors . . . in what the news cooperative's top executive called a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’ into how news organizations gather the news.

“The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of calls.

“In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.”

Maybe it’s time to call in the Plumbers. 

I’m no fan of public radio’s Ira Glass. His whiney voice sends me to WLW 700 AM radio for something more insanely macho. Now, he’s shoveling natural soil enrichment in recorded promos for public radio fund raising. I heard them on WVXU-FM’s just-ended fund drive. His point: We should all be happy because everyone who listens to public radio helps support public radio. Not true. Never will be. At WVXU, fewer than 10 percent of us donate to its support. That means Ira Glass’s everyone are mostly parasites, listening but not paying. (Our family is a sustaining member of WVXU and WGUC . . .  )  

How do our local news media track Macy’s commitment to ethical sourcing of its house-brand clothing from Asian countries where factory fires, collapses, etc., are just a cost of doing business? Contracts go where labor is cheapest. People work or go hungry. It’s only going to get worse when huge numbers of youngsters mature. Macy’s said the right things after hundreds died after a Bangladesh factory crumbled, but now it’s up to reporters to stay on the story. 

I glad Macy’s says it will continue to buy products made in Bangladesh. Pleasing writers of anguished Letters to the Editor and leaving Bangladesh in a virtuous huff doesn’t employ or feed anyone. I’ve been in and out of developing countries for half a century. Lots of cheap unskilled or semi-skilled labor feeds more families than one machine (that breaks and rusts unrepaired). Whether it’s subsistence farming, breaking stones with hammers for roadbeds, pedaling a rickshaw or laborers carrying building materials up ladders in baskets on their heads, it’s work that feeds. We can feel guilty, but walking away helps no one...else. 

BBC accuses the Plain Dealer of racist news judgment over stories about kidnapped young women freed recently after a decade of imprisonment and abuse. BBC based its provocative judgment on its count of stories about two of the three young women, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry. “In Cleveland, the newspaper stories were mainly about the white girl,” BBC News Magazine reporter Tara McKelvey wrote. “In the 10 years Berry was missing, the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper published 36 articles about her, according to a search of electronic news archive Lexis-Nexis. During the nine-year period that DeJesus, who is Hispanic, was missing, the newspaper published 19 articles about her case.” 

This is typical of American news media where MWW (Missing White Woman) gets more coverage than black or Hispanic girls and women, according to academics McKelvey quoted. 

But Chris Quinn, the Plain Dealer’s assistant managing editor/metro, rejects McKelvey’s accusation. He says it’s not only wrong but “based on an analysis so simplistic we would have thought it beneath an organization such as yours.” Quinn said his “much more thorough review” shows the reverse of the BBC tally. “The number of stories about DeJesus actually is greater than the number mentioning Berry, contrary what you assert. Your analysis did not include all variations of the DeJesus first name, a rather glaring lapse.”

Quinn continued, “Because of the racial aspect your network chose to focus on, we also included in our review stories about Shakira Johnson, a black child who went missing around the same time as Amanda and Gina. The hunt for Shakira was as big a community effort as the hunt for the other missing girls.” Here’s his tally: 

Stories mentioning Shakira Johnson and not Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry: 145
Stories mentioning only Gina DeJesus (or Georgina DeJesus): 24
Stories mentioning only Amanda Berry: 17
Stories mentioning Berry and DeJesus together: 8
Stories mentioning Berry, DeJesus and Johnson: 6
Stories mentioning DeJesus and Johnson together: 2

And Quinn closed, “The suggestion that this newspaper has used race as any kind of filter in its story choices is offensive in the extreme. We’re shocked that such a poorly reported story could be posted by a network with your reputation.”

You can thank Time magazine and writer Steven Brill for prying comparative hospital costs from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Enquirer carried a sample for local hospitals. 

According to Poynter.com, the journalism website, Brian Cook at the department’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tells Brill the move “comes in part” because of Brill’s article from March about health-care costs. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is also offering $87 million to the states to create what she calls “health-care-data-pricing centers.” 

Poynter continues, saying the centers will make pricing transparency more local and user friendly than the giant data file. Brill says the report “should become a tip sheet for reporters in every American city and town, who can now ask hospitals to explain their pricing...If your medical insurance requires you pay a percentage of a procedure’s cost, that’s very useful information.”

When are reporters going to call their bluff when speakers wax lyrical about the joys of good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns? Instead of spreading these fantasies, interview people who train others in the defensive use of  handguns. Or talk to police and military firearms instructors and combat veterans on how difficult it can be to overcome the normal resistance to shooting another person.

Look at news stories that describe how many rounds officers fired in armed confrontations; adrenalin does nothing to steady the gun hand or restrain how many times an officer pulls the trigger. And these are the best we have. 

I’ve used handguns for more than 50 years. I passed the official Ohio 12-hour concealed/carry course for a CityBeat cover story. If anyone thinks that training prepared them to provide armed response in schools, movie theaters, malls, etc.,  they’re suffering a potentially deadly delusion. It’s time reporters began to add that context to the debate of guns in our society. 

College campuses are perfect for training student reporters. These schools typically are rich with conflicts of interest, executives with edifice complexes, misspent millions, and bureaucrats eager to escape blame or avoid offending alumni. The Columbus Dispatch reported this example last week about suburban Otterbein University, a United Methodist four-year school.  

It said Otterbein agreed to stop requiring students involved in sexual-assault cases to sign confidentiality agreements because student newspaper journalists discovered it was violating federal law. After initially denying it, the Dispatch reported, an Otterbein official told reporters for the student newspaper that he didn’t realize Otterbein had had victims, as well as others, sign a nondisclosure clause. 

“We just followed the bread crumbs,” Chelsea Coleman, a 21-year-old journalism and public relations major who wrote the Tan & Cardinal story with another student, told the Dispatch

One need not agree with Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman to appreciate his recent criticism of how news media handle stories involving expertise. In his New York Times op-ed column, Krugman singles out the Washington Post but he could have included many if not most news media. 

Citing a controversial study by Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, the Post warned that Americans are “dangerously near the 90 percent mark that economists regard as a threat to sustainable economic growth.” Krugman pounced. “Notice the phrasing: ‘economists,’ not ‘some economists,’ let alone ‘some economists, vigorously disputed by other economists with equally good credentials,’ which was the reality.” 

Reporters can be too eager to substitute formulaic brevity for accuracy: doctors say, psychologists say, weight loss experts say, police say, reporters say, etc. My advice: beware of any news story that identifies someone as an “expert” without a clear explanation of their expertise. 

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<![CDATA[Western & Southern to Buy Anna Louise Inn]]> It's over. Big guys, you won.

Western & Southern in a press release today announced an agreement with Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB) that will sell the Anna Louise Inn in Lytle Park to W&S for $4 million, ending years of entanglements between the two entities over what should be done with the property in need of millions of dollars in renovations. 

As part of the deal, ALI will move to a new location in Mount Auburn at the corner of Reading Road and Kinsey Avenue, in the same vicinity as the United Way of Greater Cincinnati and The Talbert House. The settlement also provides CUB time to construct the new Inn, so none of the current residents will be displaced. CUB will still retain its $13 million in funding to develop the new property.

The Anna Louise Inn, which provides safe and affordable housing for low-income women, has called the Lytle Park location home since 1909. The new agreement will dissolve all ongoing litigation; most recently, W&S accused ALI of potentially discriminating against men.

In 2009, W&S passed up on an opportunity to purchase the Inn for $3 million, before CUB obtained city- and state-distributed federal funding to renovate the building and stay in the neighborhood, a decision Western & Southern admitted it regretted. Since then, the Fortune 500 company has been battling with the ALI in hopes of getting another chance to purchase the property. 

According to the CUB website, the settlement came about for several reasons, including concern that ongoing litigation with W&S would have caused it to lose tax credits earned through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which were due to expire at the end of 2013 and cannot be used during ongoing litigation.

Now W&S plans to renovate the building into an upscale new hotel, which will essentially give the company a monopoly on real estate in the Lytle Park neighborhood.

It's a bittersweet change for the women and staff at the Inn, explains CUB President and CEO Steve MacConnell, but "ultimately, it's the right decision," he says. MacConnell says CUB learned about the plot of land just three to four weeks ago, when they started seriously considering a move. "After two years of litigation, the women — and us — we were all feeling so much uncertainty," he says, "and ultimately what's best for the women is what we've always had in mind."  


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<![CDATA[Clifton: Private Parking Bad for Business]]>

One of Cincinnati’s largest neighborhoods and business districts is adamantly against a proposed plan to lease the city’s parking systems.

A Dec. 7 letter to the mayor from Clifton Town Meeting President Peter Schneider calls the plan “baffling,” “short sighted” and “counter-intuitive.”

The city administration wants to lease all Cincinnati parking meters, garages and surface lots for 30 years in exchange for an upfront payment of at least $40 million and a share of the profits.

The city wants to use $21 million of the upfront payment to help close a $34 million hole in the upcoming budget.

Schneider writes that the proposal is bad for business, making it harder for customers to find cheap or free parking near retail areas like Clifton’s Ludlow Avenue corridor.

He also worried that a private operator would ratchet up the price for parking, making the facilities “unidirectional ATM’s (sic) benefiting a third party that provides minimal or no value to the citizens.”

Schneider also complains that Cincinnatians have not been given details of the deal or the opportunity to weigh in on it.

“It is unconscionable that the City administration would allow a similar plan (to the citizen-defeated red-light cameras) affecting parking meters and services be railroaded through City Hall without the appropriate sunshine and input of the populace,” he wrote.

He also compares the proposal to Hamilton County’s mishandling of the stadium deals, claiming that a similar long-term lease is unwise.

Schneider ends the letter by admitting that there are some aspects of outsourcing that could be beneficial, such as private management of surface lots or garages or maintenance, but the idea of privatizing everything goes too far.

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<![CDATA[Controversial Voter Fraud Billboards to be Removed]]>

A Cincinnati outdoor advertising company announced Tuesday that it will take down controversial billboards that opponents claim are aimed at intimidating voters.

Norton Outdoor Advertising had been contracted to put up about 30 billboards that read “Voter Fraud is a Felony!” The billboards also listed the maximum penalty for voter fraud — up to 3 and a half years and a $10,000 fine.

Opponents of the billboards claim they were strategically placed in predominantly low-income and black neighborhoods in Cincinnati as a means to discourage those largely Democratic voters from going to the polls.

The billboards were funded by an anonymous “private family foundation.”

In a statement posted online, Norton Executive Vice President Mike Norton said the displays would be taken down as soon as possible. He wrote that the foundation and Norton agreed after hearing criticism that the sentiment surrounding the displays was contrary to their intended purpose.

The family foundation didn’t intend to make a political statement, but rather make the public aware of voting regulations, he wrote.

“We look forward to helping to heal the divisiveness that has been an unfortunate result of this election year,” Norton wrote.

Norton had previously told CityBeat that the billboards were not targeted but distributed randomly throughout the city.

Several Cincinnati officials wrote to the company requesting the billboards be taken down. 

ClearChannel Outdoor Advertising announced on Monday that it was removing similar billboards in Cleveland and Columbus.

The billboards throughout Ohio had garnered national criticism and media attention.

 A rival outdoor advertising company is putting up 10 new billboards to rebut the voter fraud ones. 

The new red, white and blue billboards will read “Hey Cincinnati, voting is a right not a crime!”

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in an emailed news release that he reached out to Lamar Advertising Company to ask if they would donate the billboards throughout Cincinnati.

“We should be encouraging folks to participate in our democratic process, not trying to scare them,” Sittenfeld wrote. “I salute Lamar’s generosity and their support in encouraging citizens to raise their voice and not be scared away.”

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> UPDATED 11:20 a.m.: Here's a picture of Nick Nolte in a bumper car.

Fact-checkers at The Columbus Dispatch said a new TV ad by Ohio treasurer and Republican U.S. Senatorial candidate Josh Mandel “might be the most audaciously over-the-top ad to run so far in the expensive and bitter race for the U.S. Senate.” The ad accuses Democratic Senate incumbent Sherrod Brown of missing more than 350 official votes and voting to raise his own pay six times. The Dispatch points out that Brown has a 97 percent voting record during his entire time in Congress, which started in 1993 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, according to GovTrack. According to the Dispatch, “Mandel … borrows a tactic from GOP campaign guru Karl Rove’s playbook: Identify your own weakness and find a way to assign it to your opponent to confuse voters.”

The Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday approved new summary language for Issue 2, which would take the decennial redistricting out of the hands of politicians and task a nonpartisan commission with redrawing congressional lines. The Dispatch reports that the new summary removes factual inaccuracies and included previously omitted information about who would select members of the new citizens commission. Secretary of State and Ballot Board Chairman Jon Husted said the board tried to make the language as generic and concise as possible, but Democrats and voter advocates say the new language is too long and technical and would confuse voters.

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld became the first elected official in the nation to host an online town hall. The Enquirer reports that Sittenfeld is taking questions on the online tool CrowdHall and by next Friday will have answered them via text or video. He is also asking Cincinnatians to post suggestions as to how they would balance the budget or spend the new casino revenue.

Rush Limbaugh on Thursday theorized that Al Qaeda colluded with President Barack Obama to give up Osama bin Laden to help Obama look good and win reelection. 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defines “middle income” as $200,000 to $250,000 a year. The Associated Press reports that Romney made the comments during an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The Census Bureau meanwhile reported this week that the median household income is just over $50,000. CityBeat’s reporting staff wishes management would promote us to middle income level.

Speaking of ABC, they’re being sued by Beef Products Inc. for $1.2 billion over a report of the beef filler “pink slime.” The beef company says the defaming report disparaged the safety of pink slime.

Obama again apologized for America called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and called on him and the Muslim Brotherhood to stand with Washington against protesters who are attacking the U.S. Embassy in what The New York Times called a “blunt phone call.”

Jimmy Kimmel took the iPhone 4S onto the streets, telling people it was the new iPhone 5, proving that Apple cultists enthusiasts will love anything the company puts out.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> The sole Republican and independent members of Cincinnati City Council have called a special meeting of the group tonight to address black on black crime. Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican, and Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an independent, want their colleagues to allocate an extra $300,000 for CrimeStoppers, which offers cash rewards for tips leading to the arrest of suspects in crimes. Winburn and Smitherman, both of whom are African-American, say more needs to be done to help quell shootings and violence in Avondale and elsewhere. The special session is at 6 p.m. at City Hall, located at 801 Plum St., downtown. Smitherman also is president of the NAACP's local chapter.

Winburn, however, was part of a council faction that voted two years ago to dramatically reduce funding for the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). The program involves using “violence interrupters,” usually ex-offenders, to intervene with gang members and offer advice for leaving their lives of crime. City Council cut CIRV's budget from $861,000 in 2010 to $184,000 for 2011, which reduced the number of street advocates from 16 to five. Councilman Cecil Thomas, an African-American and a retired police officer who heads council's Law and Public Safety Committee, opposed the cuts and said CIRV needs more support.

The unexpected death of attorney and real estate investor Lanny Holbrook in January has led to an awkward legal battle over a promised donation to a Catholic high school. In fall 2001 Holbrook pledged $500,000 to McAuley High School in College Hill, in return for renaming a section of its building The Nancy & Lanny Holbrook Art Wing. A few payments were made, but Holbrook fell behind before his death. Now the school is seeking the $430,000 that was never paid.

A well-known Cincinnati chef who once had his own television show on WKRC-TV (Channel 12) was arrested in March for drunken driving. Officers stopped Jean-Robert De Cavel on March 16 in Fairfax. De Cavel refused a Breathalyzer test, and eventually was convicted of a reduced charge of reckless operation. He served three days in a driving program and got his license suspended for six months with limited driving privileges. De Cavel owns Jean Robert's Table, and is a former executive chef at The Maisonette.

Sunday was Earth Day, and Kemba Credit Union marked the occasion a day early by offering free paper shredding services at its locations in Bridgetown, West Chester and Florence, Ky. More than 100,000 pounds of paper were shredded and recycled, using special equipment donated by Cintas Corp.

In news elsewhere, George Zimmerman was released early this morning from the Seminole County Jail in Florida. Zimmerman, the man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February, posted $150,000 bail and left the Sanford jail fitted with an electronic monitoring device that the Sheriff's Office and Seminole County probation officers will use to keep track of him while he awaits trial on a charge of second-degree murder.

The trial of one-time vice presidential candidate John Edwards begins today in Greensboro, N.C. Edwards is accused of accepting more than $900,000 in illegal contributions during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to pay the expenses of his mistress and hide the extramarital affair. Edwards rejected a plea deal in the case, which would've required him to admit wrongdoing and serve some time in jail.

What liberal bias? President Obama received more negative coverage from the mainstream media than GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, according to a new study. The Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Washington nonprofit that examined 52 key newspaper, television, radio, and Web outlets from Jan. 2-April 15, found Romney’s coverage was 39 percent positive, 32 percent negative and 29 percent neutral. That compares to Obama’s coverage, which was 18 percent positive, 34 percent negative and 34 percent neutral.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to lure Far Right voters after losing narrowly to his Socialist rival in the presidential election's first round. Francois Hollande came top with 28.6 percent of the vote, compared to Sarkozy's 27.1 percent. It's the first time an incumbent president in France has lost in the first round. The second round of voting will be held May 6.

Syrian government troops reportedly stormed the Damascus suburb of Douma early Sunday, with soldiers shooting at an armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. A United Nations team of observers has arrived in Syria to try to get both sides to abide by a cease-fire agreement.
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<![CDATA[Enquirer Prints Photo With Expletive]]>

Confirming rumors that swirled for two days through media circles, The Enquirer’s top editor has written a memo outlining how some editions of Sunday’s newspaper included a photograph with the word “fuck” in it.

Once editors learned about the photo, several thousand copies of the newspaper that hadn’t yet been distributed were trashed. The edition was reprinted without the offending photo.

Enquirer Editor Carolyn Washburn confirmed the gaffe in an email to staffers sent at 4:10 p.m Monday, which CityBeat received today.

“I learned about this after midnight Saturday when someone in our operation saw this photo and alerted us,” Washburn wrote. “We stopped the presses to change the photo and threw out thousands of papers still sitting at our dock.”

Reportedly, Washburn has been fielding complaints from readers who received the paper for the past two days.

The page in question was laid out by a “design hub” in Louisville, which is part of a push by The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s owner, to centralize some functions like many copy-editing duties into regional locations.

The same design hub was responsible for a similar incident in December when a Gannett paper in South Carolina, The Greenville News, published an article with the word “fuck” randomly inserted into it. The gaffe caught the attention of several websites including The Huffington Post and Romenesko.com.

Sunday’s incident occurred just two days after four veteran copy editors at The Enquirer left after taking an “early retirement” severance deal to reduce the newspaper’s expenses.

Here is the full text of Washburn’s email:

Sent: Mon 4/16/2012 4:10 PM

From: Carolyn Washburn

To: Cin-News Users

Cc:

Subject: in case you are getting calls about a photo in Sunday's paper


A photo ran on the state government page of a protestor holding up a sign that used the word f#*&. It was caught on the press and replated but it still went out to several thousand homes.

Here is how I am responding.

Yes, the photo was completely inappropriate, on many levels.

I learned about this after midnight Saturday when someone in our operation saw this photo and alerted us. We stopped the presses to change the photo and threw out thousands of papers still sitting at our dock. Unfortunately a few thousand papers had already gone out to carriers.

I deeply apologize and am working this morning to understand why this photo was chosen in the first place and why it was not caught sooner. I take this very seriously.

Again, I apologize.

Carolyn

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<![CDATA[Enquirer Sheds 12 Newsroom Staffers]]>

The bloodletting in the newsroom at The Enquirer is over, at least for now.

Editor Carolyn Washburn sent an email to the newspaper’s editorial staff this morning, announcing the names of 12 people who have decided to accept a voluntary “early retirement” severance deal offered by The Enquirer’s parent firm, The Gannett Co.

CityBeat already has reported that political columnist Howard Wilkinson, longtime photographer Michael Keating and Editorial Page Editor Ray Cooklis were among those departing the media company.

Other editorial staffers who are taking the buyout are business reporter Mike Boyer; Features Editor Dave Caudill; news reporter Steve Kemme; Copy Desk Chief Sue Lancaster; Production Manager Greg Noble; Butler/Warren Editor Jim Rohrer; sports copy editor Bill Thompson; Copy Editor Pat Tolzmann; and Copy Editor Tim Vonderbrink.

They join Assistant Managing Editor/Sports Barry Forbis and Deputy Sports Editor Rory Glynn, who announced their resignations in March.

In her email, Washburn wrote that the company will throw a party in its conference room for the departing staffers on April 12.

As one ex-Enquirer reporter said when hearing about the plans, “Some sendoff for those leaving. Washburn is throwing them a ‘proper party,’ whatever that is, for them on the 20th floor, no doubt in the sterile training room where staffers learn about inane new corporate initiatives. A ‘proper party’ for the loss of 350-plus years of experience and institutional knowledge would be an employee tavern of choice with an open bar, but what would Washburn know?”

Gannett announced the buyout offer Feb. 9 and gave employees 45 days to decide whether to apply for the deal.

At the close of the offer period, editors reviewed applications and made final decisions; some people who apply for the deal potentially could've been turned down if their position is deemed essential to the newspaper’s operation.

Under the deal, newspaper employees who are age 56 or older and have at least 20 years of service with Gannett as of March 31 are eligible. Although executives said 785 employees meet the criteria, the deal only is being offered to 665 employees “due to ongoing operational needs at the company.”

As part of reductions mandated by Gannett, The Enquirer has laid off about 150 workers during the past two years. Also, employees have had to take five unpaid furloughs during the past three years.

Gannett recently gave Craig Dubow, its CEO who allegedly left the company due to health reasons, a $37.1 million compensation package. The Columbia Journalism Review examined what Gannett could’ve bought with that money instead, including paying for the starting salaries of 1,474 staffers at The Indianapolis Star or 310,720 annual subscriptions to The Tallahassee Democrat's website.

Here is the full text of Washburn’s email:

From: Washburn, Carolyn

Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 8:39 AM

To: CIN-News Users; ohiodaily

Subject: saying thank you to our new retirees

It's official now. In the next couple of weeks we will say thank you and best wishes to these colleagues who have decided to take the company's early retirement offer. The complete group is, in no particular order:

Dave Caudill,
Greg Noble,
Jim Rohrer,
Sue Lancaster,
Pat Tolzmann,
Tim Vonderbrink,
Bill Thompson,
Michael Keating,
Mike Boyer,
Steve Kemme,
Howard Wilkinson, Ray Cooklis

Ray will be here until April 27. Greg's last day in the office was a week or so ago, before a furlough and vacation. Everyone else will have their last day next Thursday, April 12.

We will have a proper party in the 20th floor conference room on April 12 at 4pm.

I'll meet with some small groups in the next few days and we'll have a full staff meeting the week of April 16 to talk about what's next, now that we are confirmed on who chose to retire. There is a plan. :)

We will be very sad to say goodbye. But I am happy for these folks who decided this was the right thing for them.

Thanks again to Dave, Greg, JR, Sue, Pat, Tim, Bill, Michael, Mike, Steve, Howard and Ray. 

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<![CDATA[Enquirer's Opinion Editor Takes Buyout]]>

(**UPDATE AT BOTTOM)

The Enquirer’s sole remaining editorial writer is among the employees who will be departing the newspaper as part of a round of “early retirement” buyouts.

Executives accepted the buyout application submitted by Ray Cooklis, the newspaper’s editorial page editor, multiple sources have confirmed. Cooklis assumed control of The Enquirer’s Op/Ed pages in July 2009 when his predecessor, David Wells, was laid off.

Cooklis, who also is a classically trained pianist and previously served as a music critic, didn’t respond to an email this morning seeking comment.

In recent months, the daily newspaper has been criticized in journalism circles and on some blogs for only publishing one original, locally produced editorial a week, so it’s unclear what impact Cooklis’ departure will have.

Sources say others who are leaving The Enquirer include Features Editor Dave Caudill; photographer Glenn Hartong; reporter Steve Kemme, who covers eastern Hamilton County; Copy Desk Chief Sue Lancaster; Bill Thompson, a sports copy editor and occasional music critic; and Copy Editor Tim Vondebrink.

CityBeat confirmed Tuesday that political columnist Howard Wilkinson and longtime photographer Michael Keating also were leaving the newspaper.

The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s corporate owner, announced the buyout offer Feb. 9 and gave employees 45 days to decide whether to apply for the deal.

Under the deal, newspaper employees who are age 56 or older and have at least 20 years of service with Gannett as of March 31 are eligible. The Enquirer’s goal is to eliminate 26 positions through the buyouts, sources said.

As part of reductions mandated by Gannett, The Enquirer has laid off about 150 workers during the past two years. Also, employees have had to take five unpaid furloughs during the past three years.

Of the departures announced so far, Cooklis’ resignation could have the most immediate impact for readers.

Some progressive voices in Cincinnati dislike Cooklis because he is ardently right-wing in his opinions; they believe he too frequently blasted Democratic politicians, while turning a blind eye to excesses by their Republican counterparts and local corporations. Further, Cooklis lacked the courage to criticize some of the people and institutions that are among The Enquirer's many sacred cows, they added.

Still, Cooklis’ departure is a bad omen for local news, with some media observers worried that it means The Enquirer has abandoned its First Amendment duty to hold powerful people accountable for their deeds.

Virginia-based Gannett also owns USA Today, more than 100 newspapers nationwide and 23 TV stations.


(**UPDATE: Glenn Hartong is not taking the buyout. Despite some sources at The Enquirer saying that he was, Hartong is only 51 years old and, thus, ineligible.)

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Here they come again: the pigs, that is. Artists around Cincinnati are putting the finishing touches on another round of decorated fiberglass pigs that will be unveiled in May as part of the next Big Pig Gig. Co-sponsored by ArtWorks and C-Change, the event is modeled after the one held from May to October 2000 when local artists and schools decorated more than 400 statues and installed them throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The pigs eventually were auctioned off, raising money for area nonprofit groups. This year's pigs will debut at the Flying Pig Marathon in May and go on full display during the World Choir Games in July. The theme is the city's architecture, or as organizers call it, "pork-itecture."

A decision is expected today in a lawsuit to stop a $12 million renovation project at the Anna Louise Inn. Western & Southern Financial Group wants to purchase the land on Lytle Street where the battered women's shelter is located and build upscale condominiums there. Union Bethel, the group that owns the shelter, have said they feel bullied by the powerful corporation.

Gov. John Kasich is an odd man, so it should be no surprise that some items in his recent state budget proposal also are downright bizarre. They include reclassifying bottled water as a food so consumers no longer have to pay sales tax on it, and repealing a 2006 regulation that required all Ohio employers to have applicants fill out a form attesting that they weren't affiliated with any terrorist organizations. (Ahh, the early 2000s. Good times.)

Trustees at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College have authorized bids to construct two 10-unit hangars at its Cincinnati West Airport in Harrison. The new structures would be built next to existing hangars, which house 22 planes and are leased to capacity.

Longtime Reds sportscaster Thom Brennaman assessed the team's prospects for the upcoming season from its spring training camp in Goodyear, Ariz. The interview can be found at the website for WNKU (89.7 FM).

In news elsewhere, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich appears to have conceded that he cannot win enough delegates in the remaining primaries to nab the party's nomination. The ex-House Speaker from Georgia is reducing his campaign schedule, laying off about one-third of his cash-strapped campaign’s staff and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a “big-choice convention” strategy. Gingrich will now focus on winning in a contested party convention scenario in Tampa, Fla., when the party meets there in late August.

If you like the fact that an insurance can't drop you for a preexisting condition under President Obama's health-care reform law, or that a company can't impose a limit on paying the cost of your medical care, then you'd better hope the Supreme Court upholds it. That's because Obama and Congress have few contingency plans about what to do if the high court strikes down the mandatory insurance requirement.

A dispute is brewing in Israel over plans to prevent the Canaan, an ancient breed of dog mentioned in the Bible, from going extinct. In recent decades, many Canaan dogs were destroyed in rabies eradication programs, and now only a few hundred subsist in the Negev desert. But the Israeli government is threatening to close the operation that has been helping preserve the breed by collecting rare specimens in the desert, breeding them and shipping their offspring to kennels around the globe.

Syria's tentative acceptance of a United Nations-backed plan to end the nation's violent uprising has triggered skeptical responses from U.S. and British officials, amid concern that President Bashar al-Assad is trying to buy time and divide his opponents.

Neighbors of the west African nation of Mali have threatened to use economic sanctions and expressed a readiness to use military force to dislodge those behind last week's coup, urging them to quickly hand back power to civilian rulers. A summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has sent a team of diplomats to confront the coup leaders in coming days. Meanwhile, the United States has cut off aid to Mali in protest.
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<![CDATA[Enquirer's Top Sports Editors Quit]]>

The Enquirer’s top two sports editors are resigning from the newspaper.

Assistant Managing Editor/Sports Barry Forbis and Deputy Sports Editor Rory Glynn announced their resignations last week in separate emails to fellow staffers.

Forbis, whose resignation becomes effective April 4, is leaving to join Fox Sports as a deputy managing editor in Los Angeles.

In his email, Forbis wrote, “I’ll be working with Jason Whitlock, Jen Engel, Bill Reiter, Greg Couch, Reid Forgrave, Mark Kriegel and A.J. Perez, not to mention a bunch of old friends. It’s a talented group, the job pays pretty well, and, uh, it’s L.A., so I’d have to consider it even if everything were perfect here. It’s not, of course, but you know as well as I do the challenges we have faced and the challenges you will continue to face.”

Forbis also thanked his co-workers, adding, “I want you to know how privileged I feel to have worked with you. I’ve worked with a lot of great sports departments. I don’t know of any who did more with less. You guys are better at just plain getting it done than any group I’ve worked with.”

Glynn announced his departure in an email to the sports staff, which was then forwarded by another person to the entire news staff. The resignation apparently becomes effective Friday.

In his email, Glynn wrote, “Last week, I told Barry … that I’ve decided to resign at the end of the month. Barry knows this is something I’ve been wrestling with for months now; bless his persuasiveness, he’s talked me out of it on a couple of occasions. But it’s time.”

Glynn added, “You all don’t need me to go on about the challenges we all face. I’ll just say the ever-growing demands of this job and the demands of raising four kids are difficult to balance, and if sometimes I’ve focused too much on the first, now I choose to focus on the second."

Online Sports Content Manager Nick Hurm will replace the editors on a temporary basis.

As part of reductions mandated by its owner, The Gannett Co., The Enquirer has laid off about 150 workers during the past two years. Also, employees have had to take five unpaid furloughs during the past three years.

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<![CDATA[Flynn Elected as Charter President]]>

He might not have won in November’s Cincinnati City Council elections, but Kevin Flynn has scored a victory elsewhere.

Flynn, who ran unsuccessfully as a Charterite in the 2009 and 2011 council elections, has been selected as the president of the group that endorsed him. The Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati announced today that Flynn has been elected president of the organization, taking over for Dawn Denno, who didn’t seek reelection.

Flynn is a real-estate attorney from Mount Airy who also teaches at the University of Cincinnati's law school. He has been confined to a wheelchair since a serious automobile accident in 2002.

During his first campaign in 2009 Flynn placed 13th among 19 candidates in council elections. The top nine vote-getters are elected to the group.

Last year Flynn finished in 11th place — ahead of three incumbents who lost reelection — among 22 candidates.

Flynn is excited about the new position.

“When we see the high level of partisan politics in our national and state governments, I appreciate the independent, creative leadership Charter fosters in our city,” he said in a prepared statement. “The Charter Committee will continue to focus on bringing the best governance to Cincinnati, including thoughtful changes to the city’s Charter, and to support a budget and budget process which serves the best interests of the citizens of Cincinnati.”

Formed in 1924, the Charter Committee helped end the corrupt political machine operated by “Boss” George Cox, a Republican who dominated City Hall and local politics, arranging tasks like fixing tax rates for friends and contributors.

Charter successfully pushed to create the city manager form of government, which was designed to depoliticize the daily administrative tasks of municipal government.

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<![CDATA[Recorder Accepting Griffin Yeatman Award Nominations]]>

If you know an individual or group that volunteers their time to preserve and promote historic documents or sites in Hamilton County, you can nominate them for an award.

The Hamilton County Recorder’s Office is accepting nominations for its annual Griffin Yeatman Award. Created in 1994, the award recognizes people who work to help others understand historic preservation and promote public interest in the topic.

Application forms may be accessed here.

Past winners include Gorman Heritage Farm, Cincinnati Police Museum, Indian Hill Historical Society, the Cincinnati Observatory and American Jewish Archives, among many others.

The award is presented for excellence in historical preservation, research or achievement that has contributed to the preservation of buildings, sites, structures and objects pertaining to Hamilton County's history.

Deadline for submissions is March 31.

Griffin Yeatman was a Cincinnati pioneer and the Hamilton County recorder from 1828-35. He ran the Square and Compass Tavern, which was visited by famous guests including George Roger Clark, Andrew Jackson and Aaron Burr. Also, Yeatman was the first recorder elected to the position by Hamilton County citizens.

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<![CDATA[Pros and Cons of Privatization ]]>

The push to privatize services traditionally provided by government is the focus of a community forum slated for next week.

Since the Reagan era, privatization — or the outsourcing of public services to the private sector — has been touted as a way to make government more efficient and less costly. Critics, however, allege it is a form of union-busting that often leads to lower wages for workers and reduced accountability to the public.---

Co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area and the Christ Church Cathedral Outreach Committee, the luncheon forum will be held beginning at noon on Feb. 9.

Peter McLinden, regional director of AFSCME Council 8, and Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman will discuss the pros and cons of contracting out services to private firms. After their remarks, there will be time set aside for questions and comments from the audience.

The forum, which is free and open to the public, will occur at the Christ Church Cathedral Undercroft, 318 E. Fourth St., downtown.

Attendees may purchase food for $5.50 or bring their own brown bag lunches. Also, parking is available on-street at meters or in the garage of the building across the street from the cathedral, on Fourth Street between Broadway and Sycamore.

For more information, click here.

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<![CDATA[Simpson Wants Youth Job Improvements]]>

Cincinnati City Council is set to approve $960,000 to fund this year’s Summer Youth Employment Program, but the councilwoman overseeing the process wants to begin collecting data to track outcomes and increase efficiency.

Council’s Budget and Finance Committee this afternoon heard a presentation from city staffers about plans for the 2012 program, which is designed to provide employment and training for low-income youth.---

Generally, the program provides jobs for people between the ages of 14-21. The jobs last for 8-10 weeks and participants are paid at Ohio’s minimum wage, which is $7.70 per hour. They typically work about 15 hours each week.

Of the program’s $960,000 cost, $855,000 is paid using federal Community Development Block Grants. The money must be used for local community development activities such as affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, infrastructure development and eliminating urban blight.

Jobs for youth are available from four employers, three of which receive direct funding from the city. Those are the Green Leaf Program, through the Parks Department, which receives $106,000; the Cincinnati Recreation Department, which receives $189,000; and the ArtWorks program, which receives $120,000.

Additionally, the city will issue a request for proposals from contractors to provide a fourth employment opportunity. The request will be issued Feb. 3, and interested contractors must submit their applications to the city’s Purchasing Department by Feb. 24.

Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is helping develop this year’s program, in conjunction with the city’s Community Development Department.

During the past month, Simpson has worked with previous program administrators to identify potential improvements for the 2012 Summer Youth Employment Program.  The changes include implementing standardized pre- and post-program assessments and outcome measures across all programs, and requiring that each program administrator provide a curriculum and data-tracking measures for the job readiness and financial literacy training portions of its program.

The Summer Youth Employment Program is of particular interest to Simpson, 33, because as a teenager, she spent two summers in the program.

“My first job was through this program, at a travel agency, and it taught me the value of hard work.” Simpson said, in a prepared statement.  “It gave me confidence in my ability to succeed, and helped lay the foundation for my future.”

The program is important, she added, because it “empowers our young people, keeps them off the streets, and provides them employment and job training skills for the future.”

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<![CDATA[Entine to Speak at Dem Club]]>

A best-selling author and Emmy Award-winning TV producer will discuss humanity’s common origins at an upcoming political meeting.

Jon Entine, author of Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity and the DNA of the Chosen People, will speak Jan. 17 at the Blue Ash Northeast Democratic Club. The topic of his speech will be “Our DNA – Why bigotry and prejudice should be a thing of the past.”---
 
The event is free and begins at 7 p.m. It will be held at the Blue Ash Recreation Center, 4433 Cooper Road.

Abraham’s Children is an overview of Western identity and explores the shared biblical ancestry of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Kirkus Reviews called the book “an epic tale…for Jews and non-Jews alike."

An Indian Hill resident, Entine is founder of the Genetic Literacy Project. The group is designed to foster a dialogue about the scientific, social and ethical implications of genetic technologies.

Also, Entine has been a writer, editor and producer on ABC’s Good Morning America and a special segment producer for NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokow. He and Brokow collaborated on the documentary, Black Athletes: Fact and Fiction, which was named Best International Sports Film of 1989.

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<![CDATA[Council Members to Attend Forum]]>

At least three of Cincinnati City Council’s four new members will appear at a meet-and-greet event next week in Price Hill to answer questions.

Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and P.G. Sittenfeld are scheduled to attend the Jan. 5 forum, which will be held at Elder Hill School’s Schaeper Center. It’s uncertain at this time whether the fourth and final new council member, Christopher Smitherman, will attend.---

Price Hill Will is organizing the session, which is free and open to the public. It will occur from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

The new members will introduce themselves and answer questions from the audience.

"This is a great way for the people of Price Hill to get to get to know the new members of council,” said Matt Strauss, Price Hill Will’s marketing director, in a prepared statement. “And just as important, it is a great way for the new members of council to get to know the people of Price Hill.”

Founded in 2000, Price Hill Will is a community development corporation that strives to bring economic development, community engagement and physical revitalization to the Price Hill cluster of neighborhoods.

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<![CDATA[Groups: Mortgage Change Would Spur Growth]]>

A national coalition of community groups, including two Cincinnati organizations, are urging President Obama to push big Wall Street banks into writing down all “underwater mortgages” to market value. The groups said the action would pump up to $1.6 billion into Ohio's economy and create more than 24,000 jobs statewide.---

The two local groups, Communities United for Action (CUFA) and Working in Neighborhoods (WIN), said such a move could add about $256 million annually to Cincinnati's economy.

In many cities including Cincinnati, about one-third of all mortgages are underwater, meaning homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are actually worth, according to a report compiled by the coalition, known as The New Bottom Line. If Obama required the banks to reduce the principal on all underwater mortgages to current market value, he could inject a direct cash stimulus into Ohio’s economy at no cost to taxpayers, the coalition added.

The action would save the average Ohio family about $3,406 annually on mortgage payments, the coalition said.

Also, it wants Obama to conduct a full investigation into the fraudulent activities of the Wall Street banks that caused the foreclosure crisis and economic meltdown; require a minimum of $200 billion from the big banks in principal reduction for underwater homeowners and restitution for foreclosed-on families; and target principal reduction and restitution to the families hardest hit by the banks’ predatory lending, including communities of color and regions of the nation with the highest percentage of foreclosures.

Instead of overpaying more than $280 each month on their mortgages, Cincinnati homeowners could spend that money on groceries, household necessities and other items, the groups said. As consumer demand increases, businesses would begin hiring, creating an estimated 3,783 jobs in the Cincinnati area and over 24,000 jobs in Ohio, they added.

The figures are based on a report compiled by The New Bottom Line, entitled, “Ohio Underwater: How President Obama Can Fix the Housing Crisis and Create Jobs.”

In a Dec. 6 speech in Osawatomie, Kan., Obama said the “breathtaking greed of a few” was responsible for plunging the U.S. economy into crisis, adding now is a “make-or-break moment for the middle class.”

“Will President Obama back up his election year rhetoric with real action?,” asked Marilyn Evans, CUFA's director. “Cincinnati area families from all walks of life think it’s time for this administration to hold Wall Street accountable for crashing the economy, and for overcharging homeowners.”

The New Bottom Line is a national campaign consisting of community groups, church congregations, labor unions, and individuals working to counter the political influence of big Wall Street banks.

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<![CDATA[LGBT Group Elects Officers]]>

The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Greater Cincinnati recently held its annual membership meeting and elected leaders for 2012.

Rusty Lockett and John Maddux were elected to another term as board president and vice president, respectively. Lockett formerly served as the center’s clerk before first being elected president in early 2010. Also, he has served as event chairman for Pride Night at Kings Island in September and is convener of the local LGBT Episcopal worship group, called Integrity.---

Additionally, Joshua Garner was elected as treasurer and Denise Taylor was elected secretary.

Other board members include Bill Abney, Michael X. Chanak, Crystal Loomis, Toby Martino and Nate Wessel. About 30 people attended the annual meeting.

Loomis, 26, is the newest board member. A native of Springfield, Ohio, she lives in Northside and is a University of Cincinnati student. Loomis began volunteering at age 13, stating, “I really enjoy helping people and being involved in the community; it is one of my passions."

In other business, next year's Pride Night at Kings Island was scheduled for Friday, Sept. 7.

Opened in late 1993, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Greater Cincinnati serves as a resource to the local GLBT community and its allies, offering meeting space and programs.

The center is located on the first floor of 4119 Hamilton Ave. in Northside. For more information, call 513-591-0200.

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