Thursday, October 4, 2012

Onto the next 'drill' during 'It's Hotter in Cleveland'

If you haven't read my last post yet, take a looksy!  It's Part I of my awesome experience taking part in the "It's Hotter in Cleveland" disaster drill exercise this summer executed by over 51 local, state, & federal agencies.

I'm thrilled and honored I was given the opportunity to join in on the operation.

Onto the afternoon session.....with pyrotechnics!

The next session moved outside of the Port of Cleveland warehouse. This DRILL scenario had a car drive by throwing a bomb-type device out the window causing many casualties.

I seem to meet my college buddies at the strangest places. Sure enough, not realizing I'd see him, I ran into a college friend of mine, Patrick Cusick, who is with the Cleveland Department of Public Health and Office of Emergency Preparedness. He too was extremely helpful in explaining the who, what, why, where, when, and how of this day. 

And icing on the cake, Pat and I got to role play victims of the car bombing. All in a day's work as an assignment editor!

After the explosive was thrown from the car, there was a short chase, the suspect crashed and police immediately took control of the scene. Police cautiously checked on the status of the suspect.  Once the suspect was no longer a threat, other agencies were allowed on site.  The bomb squad was needed to make sure there were no more live, active devices in the area.  Evidence started being catalogued and gathered. Emergency personnel started treating the injured patients while a team from Dr. Gilson's office (The Medical Examiner) arrived to assess the deceased victims.

It was GREAT seeing members of The Medical Examiner's Office I mostly speak with by phone or email:  Dr. Thomas P. Gilson M.D., Hugh Shannon, and Powell Caesar.  They are all such wonderful people!

I role played dead person #6 = a 38-year-old female with a depressed skull, multiple fractures and hemorrhages.  Let me tell you, laying on the gravel on a hot Cleveland day also gave me perspective of the conditions these folks work in day in and day out.  My co-workers were STILL picking gravel out of my hair at work. God love Robin Swoboda for being honest telling me I had flat and gravel hair!

At the end of the exercise, a wrap up mock press conference was held where Dr. Gilson and members of the Cleveland Police gave a statement and answered questions about the 'incident.'

At the very end we were given the grand tour of the Cleveland Police Mobile Command Unit.  Very cool, exciting, and so interesting to see what they have in the field during major breaking news situations.

All in all, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never, ever forget.  What I learned will definitely help me execute aspects of my job much better while making so many wonderful contacts.  In my business, especially with what I do, you must reach out to others constantly to gather up-to-the-minute information on current news stories. It helps when the lines of communication are always open and the relationships strong!

I'm no expert but everything I viewed during the 'It's Hotter in Cleveland' disaster drill looked like it went off without a hitch. Everyone really knew their role and appeared to execute their job as expected.

I apologize in advance for anyone I leave out of my acknowledgements.  A big thank you to Laurie Turner, Emergency Manager with the VA, and Marek Owca from MetroHealth Medical Center, who were of great assistance and the leaders in this drill. 

It was also great seeing:  Jim Armstrong, Adam Gercak, Kevin Sur, Larry Gray, Jim Kopniske, Shelley Shockley, and Melanie Fisher....

My day embedded in a disaster drill

You ask, "What does an assignment editor do in her free time?"

Silly!  She immerses herself in one of if not THE largest, full-scale disaster drill Cuyahoga County has executed.

Throwing myself into the social media, blogging world has allowed me to have some amazing contacts including Erica Creech, who is the Communications Planner for the City of Cleveland Department of Public Safety and Office of Emergency Management.  Erica invited me to take part in the disaster drill this summer involving 51+ agencies from Cuyahoga County--agencies from the local, county, and federal levels.

Here is a quick, brief, and very simplified overview to set the stage on why before I share what I saw and how it unfolded.

Simply put, the emergency disaster drills are required at least every three years.  Oftentimes, the city or county or state are able to ascertain grants to pay for them. The head honchos of this particular drill, which took place at the Port of Cleveland, began their planning in December of 2011.  They pulled together at least 51 agencies to participate -- ranging from the FBI to local police, fire, EMS, Homeland Security, Cleveland Public Power, Coast Guard, area Health Departments, Medical Examiner's Office, Red Cross, area hospitals, various city halls, VA agencies, SERT, well you get the idea!  (And I do apologize if I did not list you all by name).

It takes massive planning, endless hours, and much dedication to pull it all together.  Just as you had fire drills in grade school, it's the similar concept though on a much grander platform.  We all have to be prepared in an emergency but it just doesn't happen.  Practice makes perfect.  These drills ensure those who keep us safe know exactly what to do should anything ever happen around us.  We are located in close proximity to two very large and active power plants, a massive body of water, and a number of airports.

I was invited to take part in the "It's Hotter in Cleveland" exercise. I jumped at the chance, though a tad apprehensive not knowing exactly what to expect.  Media were included because during an emergency, media will be there.  We (as media) can get a first hand look at what our rescuers do and WHY we shouldn't get in their way but in the same breath, the Emergency Management Team understand we need to do our job.  Media was just as much a part of this drill so coordinators could see how they could use the Media to get information out to the public in the quickest manner during a mass emergency.

We had a pre-planning session where we met with the main players in charge of this drill, got everything explained to us, and even donned the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) suits that rescuers wear to protect themselves from differing conditions dealing with heat, chemicals, electrical, biohazards, etc. 

The simple gist of this drill, and yes -- IT WAS JUST A DRILL.  Anyone speaking on camera or tweeting referenced "It's just a drill."  So the gist of THIS drill:  There was an incident in Detroit (radiological) with mass casualties and many victims were brought to Cleveland via our Port anyway they could get them here (boat, air, etc) for treatment.  The actual drill ran all week long.  The day I participated we were at the Port.  The next day they executed drills at area hospitals.  Bottom line:  EVERY single agency must be included and work together to assure success.

Before the drill even began, my respect for rescue teams grew 1000x after trying to put on the PPE suit.  You can't.  You can't put the suit on alone.  You need a handler to help get the heavy suit on with multiple pairs of gloves, and shoes, and the gas mask and head gear.  Then imagine wearing this outfit carrying fire extinguishers or oxygen tanks, a two-way radio.... rescuing people from a burning building AND having to use a cell phone or radio to communicate with other personnel while wearing multiple pairs of gloves.  I have a hard time dialing my cell or typing on my computer when my nails are longer than usual.  Seriously!

The day of the drill -- AMAZING!  I arrived at the Port of Cleveland.  I saw many contacts I've known over the years, I met some contacts I've spoken to via phone or email or Twitter and met even new comrades I hope to work with for many years to come!

We signed in, were assigned a 'guide' if you will who was expected to travel everywhere with us for legal purposes and answer any questions we had.  My guide was Dan Ball, who was awesome in explaining what was happening and if he didn't have an answer, knew exactly who to contact!

Setting the stage:  Victims were brought to the Port of Cleveland needing help and assessment.  They may have radiation so rescuers in the PPE suits had to off-load the victims from the arriving boats then begin the extensive decontamination and evaluation process BEFORE leaving the Port to go to an area hospital.  Seeing the wheels in motion simply riveting.  There were various stations set up outside the Port where they evaluated each and every patient.  And when I say every patient, I mean even animals /dogs. Let's say a seeing eye dog was brought with his owner.  He, too, needed to go through a decontamination process. Once they were cleared, Animal Control would take charge of what's next.

Emergency personnel made sure the victims were not filled with radiation.  You have to remember there could be terrorists mixed in this casualty group--just another roadblock rescuers had to confront.  After the first decon session, they were taken into a tent to be worked on more closely and then brought out of the tent and put on a gurney for one more check over with a type of radiation detecting machine.  Once they passed that test, they were taken inside the Port of Cleveland.  Inside were more stations set up to determine where each patient should go next depending on the severity of their injuries.  For example, they had "Immediate," "Delayed," "Minor," "Patient tracking," "Triage nurses," and a makeshift "Morgue" for those already deceased.

What was cool during the drill is that every single person working had a job, a title, and wore that title on a placard or vest on their chest such as exercise safety controllers, labor units, PIO's, safety office, logistics, finance administration, coast guard, police, fire department, emts, medical examiner, red cross, etc.... they all had a special role and were key players in this drill.  'Evidence collection stations' are needed as well and folks to keep impeccable records.  Once a patient is sent to an area hospital, officials need to keep track of them to make sure they made it to the hospital and know exactly where they are at all times should family try finding them.

Back to the guys (or gals) in the PPE suits.  Honestly, I am in awe.  Again, they need help donning their suits.  They can only remain in them for 30 minutes.  They have a bell which rings when they only have 5 minutes of air left.  The folks in the suits then swap out at the end of their 30 minutes and then, they too, must go through a whole decontamination process to make sure THEY were not affected.  Medical staff on hand take the vitals of the PPE guys and ask them how they are feeling then they must sit for 20 minutes.  After that 20 minutes they must take their vitals again.  Once in the suit, you can't suit up again for that day.  Honestly, I was in that suit for no more than maybe 15 minutes and DRENCHED and exhausted when I exited the PPE suit.  I don't know how these rescue teams do it.

While in the PPE suit not really being able to talk, they have various signs they use to communicate with their fellow team members, especially if they are in danger.

After each session, there is a 'Hot Wash' where each department head gives an overview of how they think the drill went, if there are areas to improve, and any other feedback.  Then after the drill is complete there are more in depth de-briefing sessions and reports filed by each department.

On to the next be continued......

Monday, March 5, 2012

My hardest week in television: Tragedy in Chardon

I sit here wracking my brain at the last 27 years as a broadcaster and I can't seem to recall a harder week--professionally and almost personally.

I stretch back to the Kirtland Cult Killings in April of 1989. Another horrendous story. I was a newbie in television news with only a few years under my belt eager to experience all and every thing news. I was young, working at WEWS, and extremely pumped that we beat the competition on this story. I guess the fast flowing adrenaline did not allow me to focus on the tragedy at hand as it was happening. Though awful, with a stunning development that as a student at Hiram College, I may have met Jeffrey Don Lundgren on a tour of the Kirtland Church, it still does not compare to this week.

I ponder the East 87th Street house fire from May, 2005 where 8 children and 1 adult were killed. I was actually on the news desk working the overnight shift that night. I heard the call and got the wheels in motion for our coverage in Cleveland's most deadliest house fire. I was moved, but not like this.

The shooting at SuccessTech and the hostage standoff at CWRU did not elicit the same feelings I experienced this week.

The collapse of the Twin Towers came very close, maybe even paralleled the turmoil within and the non-stop working hours. Many tears were shed the week of and weeks following 9/11.

Yet, the events on February 27, 2012 in Chardon, Ohio has affected me in ways I never imagined. I can't quite put my finger on it and may never have an explanation, except remembering how I've felt all week.

Personally, nothing will compare with the death of my Mother and then 6 months later my father figure. I'm still not over her death--really never will be. Daily I carry so much grief around in my heart from that life altering day. Maybe life as I knew it changed when Mom died leading me to how I feel today--dictating how circumstances affect me now.

This unexpected calamity happened in our backyard. Chardon IS and has always been the poster child for 'hometown America' and Northeast Ohio's 'adopted city.' If you are from here, you've more than likely visited the Great Geauga County Fair in your lifetime or the Maple Sugar Festival. We'd go every year. We'd hit the pancake breakfast and have contests on who could stir the maple sugar fastest to make candy while we were twirling around in the ferris wheel.

We knew people from Chardon. I had an intern, a big football hero, who went to John Carroll and lived in Chardon. He wound up opening The Hilltopper Restaurant.

Going to college right down the road from Chardon could be another reason I hold it near to my heart. And taking it one step further, Mom's family had a farm in Chardon when she was growing up. She'd tell us such great stories of her family memories from Chardon, Ohio.

The day of the Chardon High School Shootings I was getting my car fixed in Portage County. The first I heard of the news was a breaking news text alert on my cell phone. All I could do until I could race into work was monitor what was happening via the service department's lounge tv. Even at that early stage, it seemed so surreal. Was this really happening? I felt like I was watching the events unfold on tv in slow motion.

This could not be happening down the road in Chardon, Ohio. Certainly not.

Finally, I was able to get into work. Similar to 9/11, I rushed in with my jeans and sweater, no shower, no food since Sunday making a quick stop back home tossing anything and everything into my car for the long haul. I knew I may be living at work or at the hotel next door, if need be, so needed whatever would fit from my cell phone charger to extra changes of clothes.

We excel in breaking news. Our non-stop, continuous coverage towered over the competition in every way, mainly because of our seasoned veteran reporters, anchors, and the hard working staffers at wkyc who all went above and beyond to cover this story all week long.

It's really hard to explain what happens during a breaking news story. There is mass chaos. That says nothing about an organization --it's just the nature of the business for a number of reasons: deploying your talent to numerous locations, processing hundreds of emails constantly flowing in, answering non-stop phones, trying to make calls verifying details pertaining to the story, feeding new details to my anchor people who could be going live in studio for 16 hours straight, being able to roll with new developments and change directions in a moment's notice, as well as just trying to keep the energy level up, stay hydrated and a little something in the belly so you don't pass out. There is sooooo much more than I just mentioned. It's absolutely insane but one of the many reasons I got into this business.

This goes on for days. You really don't have time to process what happened.

Then there comes that point where maybe the phone calls die down, you are able to leave work and depending on where you live, that short or long drive home in silence and solitude allows you to realize the events which unfolded. The tears begin flowing uncontrollably when you realize 3 young men just lost their lives at the hand of another confused young man and 3 others have been injured --the entire event took only minutes but will affect hundreds if not thousands of people forever.

Maybe this story has affected me so because it is 2012. This is the age of social media. In years past, you would see stories on tv and read about them in the newspaper. Today, it's hard to go a few seconds without seeing a new Tweet or new status update on facebook--many of them coming from all over the world.

We were receiving constant emails from viewers telling us about the victims' facebook pages, their twitter handles, friends of the victims sending us pictures from their facebook pages, and local media (whether it be print or tv) keeping everyone updated via Twitter and facebook.

The amount of information flowing in to the news assignment desk was insane. Crews in the field and staffers at 13th and Lakeside were exchanging information via email and text. Pictures were being sent both ways. Pictures coming into the station had to be verified, approved and then put on the air quickly. Emails were being circulated around by wkyc staffers so hopefully the reporters in the field knew where to go, what angles to pursue, any new information, and what the next game plan step may be.

I'm not going to lie. It was overwhelming, and at times, very confusing and frustrating. But you can't give up. You have to keep pounding the pavement, processing the information, keep the lines of communication open and just do anything and everything to tell the story and inform our viewers what is happening supplying everything they need to know.

I think at first, I was in work mode. I never shed a tear watching wkyc reporter Eric Mansfield interview Nate, the student who got grazed by a flying bullet. But I was stunned by the young man's matter of fact recounting of the morning's events and drawn in by his interview. He was clearly in shock. I was jarred that first day seeing parents hug their children, and first responders talk about the events. Then day #2, how could you not get teary eyed seeing Danny Parmertor's mom and dad give one of the most compelling interviews I've ever seen in my entire life. They recounted the minute they got the call straight thru them yelling at Danny in the hospital to breathe, don't give up, and pull through. I can't even imagine.

I think we, I, was too close to this story. Hearing Sheriff McClelland talk about meeting his wife at Chardon High and just seeing his sad face in interviews. It began weighing me down. These are all people I've worked with for years. They are our contacts, many our friends.

As each day went by, some new astonishing development unveiled or we came upon even more riveting sound from Nick's mom or Demetrius's mother or someone who just pulled at your heart strings reminding you you're human. The Parmertor family continues sending us home movies to let the world see Danny's great smile!

The more information that flowed into the assignment desk, the more you got to know the victims: Danny Parmertor, Demetrius Hewlin, and Russell King. I will never, ever forget them. I never knew them but feel as if I do.

Toward the end of the week, it was evident that everyone in the newsroom had been affected by this tragedy. We oftentimes spend more time with our co-workers than our families. We have to continue to be there for each other. We need to supply that shoulder to cry on or, as happened in the editorial meeting Friday, someone said something funny and we all erupted into laughter which eventually turned into tears because we all just needed to let it out, whatever emotion.

The entire world is sending love to Chardon. There is a great picture circulating on facebook from a battalion in Afghanistan sending prayers to Chardon. A Chardon resident coming back from overseas went thru the checkpoint in Minnesota. When the TSA official saw where he was from, he offered his condolences and told him everyone is praying for Chardon, Ohio.

I truly believe everything happens for a reason --even tragedy. I may never know why something happens but I know for sure that out of tragedy and evil, so much more good blossoms. It's hard to look at this situation so soon and even begin to assess the good but it is there. Daily miracles continue from the events which happened the morning of February 27, 2012. From the Supt. telling everyone to hug your children, to the outpouring of love we've already seen, it is there.

As part of my healing, I put aside my Sunday 'to do' list and drove out to Chardon. It was quite emotional yet necessary for me to begin processing what happened. As I drove east on 322 toward Rte 44 I saw red ribbon after red ribbon tied on trees and poles. As I turned on Rte 44 I began seeing even more red and black ribbons & signs in peoples' yards. Burr Funeral home has a huge heart on the front. I really did not know what to expect when I arrived at the Gazebo. I was able to park right in front. Again, a very surreal moment. I prayed and placed 3 religious momentos at the growing memorial for Danny, Demetrius, and Russell. It's overwhelming to be in the midst of the Gazebo memorial. There was a steady flow of people the entire time I was there. 1 man from Elyria stopped me to ask if I was a local. We chatted. Yet another miracle bringing complete strangers together to pray over this awful happening.

Being on the square definitely helped my grieving process. It was not a morbid scene. On the contrary. The spiritual energy was amazing as I walked around reading the heartfelt notes watching people light the candles which had been blown out. The school across the street had hearts in every window. My next stop: Chardon High School. That was hard. The memorials at the school continue to grow. But hearing the 911 calls, the dispatch tapes, seeing the video from Monday of SWAT deployed and then to be standing at that very same spot was quite eerie for me.

It's a school in 'hometown America' with yellow buses parked in the back, a track and football field yet the visions that kept running through my head were students exiting the school, parents running up to the school, SWAT with guns drawn, and imagining the scene as it unfolded in the cafeteria as the alleged shooter struck those innocent 6 students.

I have no doubt that the residents of Chardon and everyone affected will rise from these ruins even stronger than before. Life must go on, though life has been changed forever.

Eventually, I, we all must get back to the normalcy of our jobs, but for me life has been altered as well. I wasn't expecting Mom to pass away when she did. After her death I grasped the mantra of living each day as your last because tomorrow may never come.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in daily living, unnecessary worries, and really stupid, petty problems that we lose sight of living, we lose sight of loving, we just lose sight. God always reels us back somehow. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a magnanimous tragedy of this caliber to reel us all back to hugging our children, loving our neighbor, and believing in our God.

God really does work in mysterious ways. 3 young men I've never met before will be a part of my life from here on out. Danny, Demetrius, and Russell, your heroic actions will be a beacon for me to follow for the rest of my life. Losing you has not and will not be in vain.

You will be with us, in our hearts forever.

I look forward to that day when I get the chance to meet you in Heaven, thank you in person for all you've done for me, and give you all the biggest hugs in the whole wide world!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Can't seem to get away from work--even on vaco

Life sure is funny! I've been on vacation for the last week and 1/2. One of the best, most magical vacations I've ever had --EVER! It consisted of seeing college buddies, experiencing Indians' batting practice from the field, entertaining my family in a loge at an Indians' game, being Season Ticket Holder Fan of the Game, meeting one of my Twitter buddies, quality time with old friends every day, Larchmere Porchfest, sun, fun, and relaxation!

But it seems 2 of the most exciting highlights revolved around work --while I was on vacation! Go figure!

One night I attended the Indians' -Rockies game with a co-worker and a former co-worker. We wound up having dinner up in the Terrace Club. We were laughing, talking, catching up when who walks in? NBC Sports guru Bob Costas. Really? Bob Costas. What are the chances?

We kept our eyes on his every move (well not really). But when he went to leave, my girlfriend subtly asked if he'd mind taking a picture with all of us. He was quite gracious and did so. This was probably my one shot at ever speaking with THE Bob Costas. I mustered up as much courage as I could and introduced myself. I told him I worked for the local NBC affiliate in town. He perked up and the 1st question out of his mouth was, "Do you know Jim Donovan?" Are you kidding me? My hero and friend. I answered, "Oh yes. He's one of my dear friends. Do you know he's in the hospital?" Mr. Costas was surprised to hear about everything Jimmy is going through and was quite adamant in asking me to please send him best well wishes.

Again, I ask, are you kidding me?

After he left, I got the skinny from a friend. He apparently has very good friends in Cleveland he reunites with a few times a year. He was in town just for fun, realized there was a game and called to see if they could eat in the Terrace Club and enjoy the game. Uh, I don't think the Indians or Bob DiBiasio or anyone could ever say NO to Mr. Bob Costas. Really!

My next task was texting my friend Jimmy Donovan with the well wishes from Bob Costas! He was surprised, maybe not so much at the sentiment because they have worked together but that we saw him and spoke to him.

I must admit, the biggest thrill from this whole extravaganza was not necessarily the game, or even meeting Bob Costas but relaying the message and getting a response back from my hero and friend, Jim Donovan. I can't express how I felt at that moment.

A second highlight work related as well. Metromix Cleveland threw a huge birthday bash over in Lakewood. Why not? I was on vacation so I popped over and had the absolute best time of my life sharing in the fun, festivities, cornhole competition, dunk tank, bowling, birthday cake, and so much more, which included spending part of my vacation with cool co-workers!

All in all, a magical week which probably will not be paralleled or surpasssed anytime soon --but I can dream!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jim Donovan's medical leave of absence

An emotional three weeks. Honestly, more than three weeks. I am so blessed to work where I work but more importantly to have developed the friendships over the years with some amazing human beings.

I am proud to call wkyc Sports Anchor Jim Donovan friend. He and his family have become more than friends. They are truly family to me and my family. Before Mom died, she would call and wind up talking to Donovan, and then me as an afterthought! When Jim's wife calls, I wind up gabbing with her for a while and then passing her along to Jimmy!

Though I've known about Jimmy's medical situation longer than many, it did not really hit me until I watched him make the formal announcement on the air his last night of work. I sat there hanging on his every word. What you see with Jim on tv is what you get in real life: a consummate professional at the top of his craft better than most, who is one of the most caring and compassionate human beings alive. His wit towers above everyone's and I am speechless at his memory bank. You can tell him something once or he can glance over something just one time and it is etched on his brain forever.

None of us wanted to leave work that night knowing that for an undetermined number of weeks or months, a member of our family would be absent.

I gave Jimmy a big hug and kiss and told him he was guaranteed that I would be checking on him regularly. That's one thing I've not done very well over the years. If an employee leaves, I am the worst at keeping in touch with them, whether they be out of town or still in town. I don't know why. Not this time. For the 1st time in a long time, I realize how much I am going to miss my friend, and I refuse to let that happen.

Well, the good news folks is that Jimmy had his bone marrow transplant yesterday, and though he still has a long recovery, everything went very well. Yes, another emotional day. The news started going around the newsroom that surgery went well and Jim was feeling very good, strong, better than he has in a while. And then I never imagined what happened next. I received a text message -- from Donovan! Basically he thanked me for thinking of him and said it was an incredible day....I was flying sky high for the rest of my shift. Absolutely nothing was going to get me down today, let alone the rest of this week!

For those of you who may not have seen Jimmy's last show, He's been battling Leukemia for the last 10 years. He's been receiving treatment, and it's been working. Jim, always a very healthy man, has been amazing at how he's battled this disease without skipping a beat. He's up at the crack of dawn to do stuff for his family, be out at Browns camp, Indians batting practice, Cavs camp, public appearances, emcee events, or tape the bazillion of wkyc & STO shows he anchors. His caring family has assisted him immensely with support and the motivation he's needed through the years.

Jim shared, "I've gone through a lot of treatment for close to 11 years and right now a transplant gives me the best chance for a full recovery. My wife, Cheryl and daughter Meghan have been with me through it all and we figured now it was time to allow people to know what is going on in my life. My goal is to get healthy and to be back covering Cleveland sports as soon as possible."

wkyc President and GM Brooke Spectorsky added, "Jim Donovan is a huge part of the success of Channel 3 and we will be thrilled when he is in good health and back on the anchor desk. Our prayers are with him and his family, and we know the viewers of northeast Ohio will be equally supportive."

Dave Chudowsky will be filling in Monday thru Friday while Chuck Galeti will be handling the weekend sports anchor desk, along with his STO show, "Chuck's Last Call."

For anyone who'd like send well wishes, send them to

Friday, June 10, 2011

Manny Acta & Chris Antonetti of the Indians

I lucked out and was able to attend the Summer Sports Series at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven featuring Cleveland Indians Executive Vice President and GM Chris Antonetti and Cleveland Indians Manager Manny Acta.

Honestly, my shift shuts me out of 97% of events most other media folks can enjoy, but hey, nature of the biz!

Any event involving Manny Acta well worth attending! He's an amazing human being, and as we've seen over the last few years, a student of the game of baseball who knows pretty much everything there is to know. He not only knows the game of baseball inside and out, but he did his homework and knows every minute detail involving the Cleveland Indians, past and present, major and minor leagues.

When I arrived at Landerhaven, I was greeted by present and former co-workers! What a nice afternoon! We had a wkyc table but since I was a last minute add, I actually sat with a former co-worker. It was amazing catching up with Tonya and meeting her current co-workers and son.

wkyc sports anchor/reporter Dave Chudowsky emceed the luncheon. Speaking of knowing his stuff, Dave did an absolutely amazing job as emcee, asking the hard and the right questions of two of the most powerful men in the Cleveland Indians Organization (including a few of my suggestions!).

Acta adheres to 'Wahoo Baseball.' These words are on his office bulletin board. 'Wahoo Baseball' = 'a clean game.' Every facet of the game played cleanly, but more importantly the defense and pitching. Oh yea, we'll take a homerun or timely hitting if we can get it. On the flip side, keeping the opponent out of the game by 1st pitch strikes, not giving up runs, mowing down the opposition, and staying ahead in the count all fits into the 'Wahoo Baseball' philosophy. A team of scrappy ballplayers who mirror the city in which they play (blue collar, working class), who have enthusiasm and passion for the game AND the city of Cleveland.

Acta's solid life philosophy seems to carry over into the clubhouse. He says he does not get frustrated by the game of baseball, it's a game. People who drive slowly in the left lane, that frustrates him! He says, "I do not watch or listen to the news. It's not healthy for me. Honestly, you are never as good as the accolades and never as bad as the criticism. I was a hero a few weeks ago and now they are calling me a different name!" Acta went on to say if there is something big going on in Cleveland, the US, or the World, one of his guys will fill him in to the news. He also believes that negativity doesn't rule the world. It's actually a very small percentage of what's going on around us but it's just louder.

If you hear Manny Acta speak, he says what is on his mind and tells it like it is. He DID do his homework and research before even being hired as the Cleveland Indians' manager back in 2009. He knew the depth of talent on the upper level down to the minor leagues. He truly believes with the this talent, the Indians can again regain the Dynasty they had in the 90's. He loves coming to the ballpark and seeing all the championship banners flying high.

Though Manny Acta monopolized the afternoon with his wit and wisdom, Chris Antonetti fielded some pretty hard questions. When asked about development and trades, he admitted, "You can't allow emotions to take precedence over the best decisions of the day." Fans see the outcome. Fans really don't see the leg work, the homework, and minute by minute wheeling and deal to try and make a move come to fruition. He did go on to share some of the emotions that flowed the day Victor Martinez was traded. He said there really was not a dry eye in the office, especially after working with this player for so long. Victor was not just a co-worker to all but a great friend who clearly did not want to leave Cleveland.

Bottom line, said Antonetti, "We want to win the World Series." We do the best job we can analytically, methodically, scouting-wise, our research and homework to make the best deals and win a World Series. Antonetti said that begins with the draft and continues year round. The Indians just drafted a local kid from Lincoln West, Brian Ruiz, who they are very excited about ...and are excited for the home grown ties! They are very excited about Lonnie Chisenhall and Drew Pomerantz.

Acta touched on the talent the Indians have and some of his key players. Acta said going into spring training he has an idea of most of the players that will be staying with the team but every single player has to perform and earn their stay and roles with the team.

The top performers include shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Acta says, "He's the best for me. He's been outstanding. He's still evolving as a player only to get better which is scary." Outfielder Michael Brantley is the guy Acta wants to see at the plate with runners in scoring position. Catcher Carlos Santana is still adjusting. But Acta went on to say, "He's so valuable, it's unbelieveable." When asked about right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, Acta said "He's the best right fielder in the game. He made a mistake off the field and he's taking it very hard." Most of these players put a lot of pressure on themselves and just have to go one bat at a time.

Acta's not so sure about the "Bullpen Mafia" title but says his bullpen has done their job night after night.

Acta believes in his skilled coaching staff and says having Mike Hargrove and Sandy Alomar back on this team has exceptional value, especially with those two players, linking the past success to the present.

A few other topics that came up from the audience included instant replay and social media. Acta does not want to take the human element away from the game....while GM Chris Antonetti says he believes in IR to the point where it does not interrupt the game.

Both men are on Twitter and interact with their fans. Acta says having computers, technology, and social media at your fingertips has changed the game of baseball completely, especially with how fast you can get stats and breakdown the game while it's actually happening. Overall, that's good for the game. Acta likes his fans to see that he is like everyone else, goes shopping, eats out at local restaurants, and listens to music! He also gets tips on where to buy his fancy hats on Twitter but admitted that he's cheap at times and will go for the greatest deal!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Scooped the competition

Hello friends.

I know this blog intends to give you all a glimpse into the day and the life of an assignment editor.

I have to be honest. A) My new computer is not yet configured to allow me to save these blog posts. Yes, I am working on it....just imagine if I actually knew my way around a computer! And 2) I have been off the radar while the task of working the assignment desk has been non-stop and quite grueling.

I definitely do not have time while at work to share my daily grind. That's what the middle of the overnight hours or crack of dawn are for, unless you have a bum computer!

I apologize for doing you all a disservice by not sharing the hectic, chaotic pace up here on this desk.

As you all know there has been storm after storm, wall to wall weather coverage intermixed with my amazing Cleveland Indians' baseball...daily developments with the Cuyahoga County Corruption saga as well as countdown to jury selection for the Sowell trial.

Other top of mind stories have included national stories out of Joplin, Missouri, the NBA basketball playoffs, Arnold & Maria, Congressman Weiner, and the biggest story of all, the end of Osama Bin Laden.

One story that really makes me beam from ear to ear happened back in April.

At the end of the day, I'm usually tired but pumped up by a job well done.

Breaking news back on a Friday in April completely revved everyone.

After receiving a tip about a body found in Seven Hills, it was an awesome feeling to dial up my contacts (which you make after all these years in the business) and verify within minutes what the heck may be going on out there.

I immediately sent a crew before really having verification....

My crew said, 'yep, we got a crime scene out here and it's quite extensive and there is no other media on scene.'

That said it all. It was go time.

From that moment on, everything we'd been working on flew out the window and we focused on the new breaking news, on-line and on air.

Crews stayed late....crews came in early......I stayed 3 hours past the end of my shift to monitor what was happening, update and brief the next producer in to the station....

Still no station had anything on their air and when I left the station 3 hours after we aired the story, still no other stations had anything on their websites --Rare in a time of Twitter, Facebook, monitoring the competition, and checking everyone's websites.

But I'll take it!

What absolutely made my week and was the so-called 'cherry on top' of the entire story is a text I received from one of my contacts who saw our story and realized no one else had it! The gist of the text told me what a great job we did.....and then congratulated me on being the only station on the story.....and went so far as to tell me that they thought I was a great news professional....

Knowing the leg work I personally put into this story.....the ethics and accuracy we exhibited ....and then receiving this message from someone I hold in high regard and have the utmost respect for put a smile on my face from cheek to cheek and made what I do so worthwhile.

It is rare to be congratulated or patted on the back on a regular basis for a job well done. When it happens, by someone you hold up on a pedestal, makes you feel that what you are doing is well worth it and just soooooo right!