March 24, 2005

Amplitude Modulation

It's night and I'm alone in the car, so I have the radio on for some company. The traffic report comes on, and I'm hearing about an accident on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Traffic's backed up to the Gowanus Expressway, and I can picture the frustration of the drivers caught in that mess.

Suddenly, I'm jerked back to my senses. There's about a half-dozen deer ahead of me as I round a mountain curve, and one is smack in my lane. It's not that I'm about to hit them, except that none of the deer move at all. So I'm forced to brake to a near stop before they amble off the road. By the time I can continue, the traffic report is closing, and the weather report starts in as I lose signal and static grows louder. I switch back to a CD and finish my trip down the mountain through Shenandoah National Park with only a few other deer sightings.

Such is the beauty of AM radio. At night, especially, the AM waves travel long distances. I can remember nights in South Carolina trying to catch Braves games. If it wasn't on the radio in Greenville, I might be able to get WSB in Atlanta. And while trying to find that, I could usually catch something out of Chicago or Boston. Now, years later, I move out of New York City to rural Virginia and I still get my favorite NYC news radio station, WCBS880. A couple of other AM stations from NYC come in, too. From time to time, I catch 770 WABC and 1010 WINS.

It's hard to beat 880, with its traffic and weather every 10 minutes on the eights. Makes for good memories as I drive back from games.

Posted by JRC at 11:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

Renewal and resurrection

Spring is a time when we're reminded of new life. Flowers bloom, leaves sprout, and animals are born reminding us of rebirth. Next Sunday will be Resurrection Sunday and we will be reminded of Christ's victory over death as we sing glorious hymns that we all too often sing only once a year.

Over at Mountain Musings, Deb posts an entry about The Miracle of Life. This weekend the Girotti family was reminded of that miracle as Tom (the Dad) suffered chest pains. (He seems to be OK, Deb reports.) Then later in the day, the family watched as a sheep gave birth to two lambs.

Evidently it's that time of year in the Shenandoah Valley. Sure, I can look out the window and see the snow-covered Blue Ridge mountains. But down in the valley, farms are bustling with new life.

Yesterday we went out to my boss's farm to see two new lambs that were born Tuesday night. They are Baby Doll sheep, a small breed with compressed snouts. They truly look like toys--or baby dolls. These two lambs are tiny but active, scampering around on their spindly legs as they scamper after their mobile food supply.

We also got to really experience farm life up close, helping to grain the cattle and force a first-time mother cow to feed her day-old calf. It was fun, and I dare say we learned quite a bit. Two years ago we were NYC residents, and now we find ourselves doing this?

Throughout the visit at the farm, I was reminded of new life myself, but many of my thoughts were of the Creator that gives that life. And with Resurrection Sunday just around the corner, it brings to mind the third stanza of "Christ, the Lord, is Risen Today." The words of that stanza are so rich, and I'm glad that it's the stanza that I think of with that hymn.

Lives again our glorious king, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, He all doth save: Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Posted by JRC at 08:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

Extreme makeover: office edition

Our office has been in the process of remodeling for the past few months. This week it was my turn to get moved so that my office can be redone. Today (Friday) was designated as moving day, so after Monday and Tuesday (my busiest production days), I dedicated myself to packing up for the move out of my private office to share space in what will become a conference room. That and making sure I can fill the sports section next week.

Much of what I was sorting through in the office was left in my desk or on my bookshelf by my predecessors. I did no small amount of throwing things away.

At any rate, I left around noon to check out a call on the scanner then have lunch. I was finishing my packing but not yet done.

When I returned an hour and half later, I walked into a barren office. A motivated coworker had gone ahead and moved everything but my computer out of the office while I was gone. It wasn't a big deal to me, but it was a little shocking to come back to an office that was missing its desk and furniture, with the trim on the walls already dismantled.

Now I'm more or less settled into my new space. It'll be nice as a temporary setup. The conference room was the last room to be finished in the remodeling project, so it's got new carpet, new trim, and fresh paint.

Posted by JRC at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2005

Sidebar additions

I've just added some new links to my sidebar. Of course, they'll stay there for your reference, but I thought I'd point them out with a special post.

Newly added blogs
Bet at Dappled Things got her sister and family into the blogosphere. On any given day you can find posts from any given family member at Mountain Musings. The variety makes for some interesting reading. The Girotti family lives slightly more than an hour south of us in the Shenandoah Valley, so the mutual connection we share through Bet is magnified by our proximity.

Boston Commoner is a blog I've been checking for some time now and have failed to add to my blogroll. Jen lives in Boston, where she goes to church with Austin and Melita Matzko (former society mate and former coworker). When Jen blogs about city life and her church, it vividly reminds me of my days in NYC with my wife, helping in a small urban church there.

New links
I can't vouch for everything on the site, but SportsDesigner covers topics that are right down my alley. The blog has a lot of journalism links--many of which I haven't followed--that might be informative.

Over at, there's a page of journalism tools. Many of the links are to reference sites for fact-checking sports and general news stories. Other links on the page lead to sites of professional interest.

Anyone who has been a reporter, especially covering sports, has heard a cliche or two from an interview subject. Tom Mangan has a blog, Banned for Life, that documents the cliches that reporters encounter.

Some time ago, I posted an entry which linked to FDNY Trucks. Now I'm just adding it to my personal interest links on the sidebar.

Steve Spak is a fire buff who has been photographing the FDNY in action probably for longer than I've been alive. His photos have appeared in lots of publications, and his long-time interest in the department has apparently gained him some access that not everyone has. (I say that from experience.) The site isn't very well-designed, but there's a wealth of information/photos available if you have the patience.

Posted by JRC at 09:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Insanity: Ain't no way

I recently saw a photo on Yahoo News of a new ride in Las Vegas. It's so well named, it's uncanny.

Apparently riders gullible enough to go on Insanity are suspended out over the edge of the the 900-foot Stratosphere Tower. It looks like the ride spins around while arms swing riders out from upright seats to looking straight down. The tower already has a roller coaster on top, which seems bad enough. I like roller coasters and amusement rides, but these have zero appeal to me. The heights are too much.

Posted by JRC at 09:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005


My wife's cousin teaches elementary school, and today several classes at her school are celebrating Pi day.
They are using the date (3.14) to plan fun Pi-related activities. At 1:59 p.m. (3.14159...), everyone is supposed to sing "Happy Pi Day to you!" At some point, the students will run 3.14 kilometers and they will eat pie. My response is that they shouldn't be allowed pie unless they can calculate the area of the pie that their slice accounts for. Maybe that's too advanced. They are only third- and fourth-graders.
Nonetheless, it sounds like a fun day and a great way to teach.

Posted by JRC at 01:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 13, 2005

Reporter encounters Murphy's Law

Thursday night I went to cover a state high school basketball game at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The game was a "first" for me, since I'd been asked to send a story on the game to our daily sister paper. They've used my features before, but they'd never specifically asked for live game coverage for me.

I borrowed my boss's old Powerbook laptop. It had no working modem, but it did have ethernet hookups. I was assured that the school would have ethernet available to reporters. Nonetheless, I expected to have difficulty with the older laptop so I brought a couple of contingency options.

The game ended, with "my" team losing by three on a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer, and I did postgame interviews in the media room. I then set up shop with half a dozen other reporters in the same media room to write my story.

Less than an hour later, I had my story written and my task became one of sending the story. I had about an hour and 45 minutes before my deadline.

Most reporters were dialing in on a 28.8 dialup connection, but I found an ethernet connection and tried getting on. It didn't work.

I had my USB flash memory card and I thought I'd put the file on it and send from another reporter's laptop. That didn't work either. The Powerbook wouldn't recognize the USB card (although my newer eMac at work does).

My next step was to put the file on a Zip disk, but who has those anymore? I did that, but then sought the help of the school's sports information person. She and her boyfriend tried to help me get on the ethernet, but they couldn't figure it out either.

So the last resort--before dictating over the phone--was to go to the sports information office. They did have Macs with zip drives and Internet access. So I was finally able to send my story.

All told, I had about 30 minutes before deadline. Ol' Murphy tried to get me with his law, but at least this time, I won. The story ran the next day with very few changes.

Posted by JRC at 09:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

Final four, already?

Minutes from now I'll be on the road, headed to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond for the state high school basketball tournament. One of the girls teams I cover at the paper is playing in the Final Four tonight.

If they win, they'll play in the state Group A basketball championship game on Saturday at 11 a.m.

I'm looking forward to covering tonight's game for several reasons. First, it's cool to have a local team succeed. Second, VCU's got a very nice gym and it sounds like they're going to run a very professional tournament there. They'll keep game stats and provide items to make my job easier.

Even though I'm at a weekly paper, I'll get a feel for the life of a daily sportswriter tonight, since I'm writing a short story on the game for our daily sister paper. I've got a laptop and will send the story from the arena before leaving for the night.

Posted by JRC at 02:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Elevator destroyer

At the VPA conference over the weekend, we got on the elevator on the 19th floor to go down to supper with some colleagues. There was a uniformed man in the elevator with his arms full of boxes. I went and stood next to him, where I could easily see an original painting of a Navy ship and an Admiral at the top of his burden.

Turns out the elevator man was heavily involved with the commissioning of a new Navy destroyer, the USS Nitze. The ceremony was set for the next day at a nearby Navy base, and the elevator man had a crew of sailors helping load government vans with items for the ceremony the next day, including a huge floor mat bearing the ship's seal.

I wish that I could have worked things to go to the commissioning ceremony and take part in the VPA conference. But alas, there's just one of me. At least we got to ride the elevator with the Navy man.

Posted by JRC at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

I'm supposed to do what?

The Virginia Press Association conference always features workshops geared toward different aspects of print journalism, and typically big-name journalists take part in special sessions. But there's also an afternoon session in which winners in various disciplines discuss their work in a panel discussion.

The head of the VPA awards committee had called me several weeks ago, asking me to be one of three panelists in the sportswriting workshop. There was to be a daily sportswriter, a twice-weekly sportswriter, and me representing weeklies. I was told to prepare 10-15 minutes worth of talk about my three winning sports feature stories.

In preparation for that, I prepared a handout with all three stories and the photos that ran with them. The handout had footnotes pertaining to things I wanted to emphasize, and of course, I'd written my own notes.

Saturday morning I went down to pick up the schedule and see where my workshop room was. To my surprise, I found that I was the only sportswriter scheduled (along with a moderator, Michael Stowe from the Roanoke Times) for the session. Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed--though not panicked--at that point.

After a lunch with some colleagues, I headed back to the room to expand my notes to include the stories in which I was also in the running for awards (sports events and sports news).

Thankfully, everything went well. These workshops are never highly attended, even though I know you can pick up helpful ideas at them. There were about 15 people in the workshop, although many of the attendees were my coworkers.

The moderator helped things flow, directing the discussion to various sports writing topics. Among the ideas we discussed were

  • approach to sports coverage, especially for non-daily papers
  • time management
  • focusing less on blow-by-blow coverage and focusing instead on the people playing the sports. The story lines that make sports interesting come from people, not the mechanics of the playing a certain sport
  • using community sports coverage as a tool to get young people reading the newspaper and becoming life-long readers.
  • handling disgruntled readers

Thanks to Mr. Stowe and one main attendee, we managed to use up a whole hour in the workshop. For my efforts, I was surprised to get a little gift bag from the VPA people. My nametag throughout the conference also had an extra blue ribbon declaring that I was a panelist. Kind of fun for my debut at VPA. And no, I don't expect the same every year.

That workshop was the only one I attended, but I would have been interested in a few others if they didn't cost extra money or if I hadn't been preparing for mine. Just before my workshop was one entitled "Political Reporting in an Era of Blogs and Hyperpartisanship." Panelists included Mike Allen (White House correspondent for The Washington Post), Don Wycliff (public editor at the Chicago Tribune), and Matthew Yglesias (staff writer for The American Prospect).

Saturday morning, Allen was also the featured speaker at a breakfast session. When Bush made his secret Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad, Allen was one of the few on Air Force One.

Posted by JRC at 12:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's Press (Association) time


Apparently, it's the time of year when state press associations hold their annual conferences and awards banquets. I'm just back from the Virginia Press Association conference, held in Norfolk this year. At the same time, Bet from Dappled Things was taking her journalism students to the South Carolina Press Association conference in Spartanburg.

At Saturday evening's banquet, I won two first-place awards and a second-place award for my first-ever awards in my first full year at the newspaper. I took first in sports feature writing and first in sports news writing, with a second-place finish in sports event writing.

The awards are handed out according to type and size of publication (weekly/daily and circulation). Papers in the VPA range from tiny weeklies and twice-monthlies on up to the big daily papers like The Washington Post.

Our circulation is one of the lower in our classification, but everyone on our editorial staff took home at least one award. Writing (as opposed to photography and layout) was our strength, earning us enough points to finish fourth in the overall sweepstakes award for our fairly large classification. That was a suprise to all of us.

It was a nice weekend, with Darla taking Friday off so that she could come with me. We enjoyed two nights in a nice room on the 19th floor of the Marriott Waterside hotel in downtown Norfolk.

Posted by JRC at 12:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 03, 2005

A new week

Why am I posting this on Thursday? Because I'm writing about my day Wednesday. It's the day when my publication cycle begins, so it's kind of like starting a new week. My Wednesdays are like your Mondays.

Often my posts include photos or descriptions of the exciting things I've covered. Well, this post is a break from that. Instead, I'll share one of Wednesday's crowning achievements: I cleaned my keyboard.

The nasty grey keys on my white e-Mac keyboard have been urking me for some time. I guess its the combination of newsprint and finger oils, but it seems like that keyboard is a grime magnet. Now it's back to the white it was meant to be. Ah, relief. A good start to my new week.

Oh, and I had a meeting, set up an interview, wrote a story for a special section coming out in a few weeks, and went to a regional basketball championship game.

Posted by JRC at 12:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack