Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Q&A with the Editor

A journalism student at Eastern Michigan University recently e-mailed me a questionnaire as part of her class. Below are her questions and my answers. I thought it might be fun to share it with readers.

Q: How long have you been working in the journalism field?

A: Professionally since May 1992. I also wrote for a short time at The Trojournal, my high school newspaper at Whitmore Lake High School, followed by The Eastern Echo at Eastern Michigan University, where I studied journalism from fall 1986 through spring 1991. I earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science in 1991 from EMU.

Q: What was the first paper you ever wrote for? How old were you? Was that the first time you had ever been published? If not, what was the first publication you were every published in?

A: My work was first published in The Trojournal at age 16 and then the Eastern Echo at 22, followed by The Dexter Leader in 1992 at age 24.

Q: What did it feel like to be published for the first time?

A: It was thrilling to see my work published. It motivated me to write more, strive to do a better job, come up with more interesting material, find and cultivate sources and make a difference in the community by producing informative, interesting and relevant articles.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

After working from May 1992 to August 2000 as a reporter and associate editor for The Dexter Leader and The Chelsea Standard, I was promoted to editor of both publications. In November 2006, I was named editor of The Saline Reporter and The Milan News Leader. All four publications are part of Southgate-based Heritage Newspapers, which is owned by the Journal Register Co. My favorite part of working at a small, community newspaper is that I have a hand in every aspect of the newspapers I am helping to publish. From reporting and photography to layout/design and proofreading to producing local video and posting to a staff blog, I enjoy it all. I feel invested in the total product and I am constantly thinking about ways we can improve in all of these areas.

Q: What got you interested in a career in the field of journalism?

A: I had an initial interest in high school and received very positive feedback from my teacher, but after working as a restaurant hostess in high school, I thought restaurant management would be the field for me. After failing algebra in college, however, I thought better of it, knowing I’d never be able to pass statistics. I took algebra again and passed to graduate and in the meantime took a basic journalism class and rediscovered my passion. I struggled initially in my reporting classes, as one professor in particular had me rewrite all my stories, but it made me work harder and become a stronger reporter with a desire to continuously strive to do better. You can always do a better job of reporting, whether it’s talking to more sources, exploring a particular angle more comprehensively, asking tougher questions, doing more research, etc. To this day, I never feel totally satisfied with what we have produced, despite leading the Chelsea and Dexter newspapers to three Newspaper-of-the-Year awards from the Michigan Press Association and personally winning numerous awards on a state and national level in general reporting, features, column writing, design, photography and general excellence. I always feel like we could have done more given more resources and time.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: To be honest, I don’t have a lot of spare time. I put in about 60 hours a week on average. When we’re on deadline Monday and Tuesday (these are weekly newspapers), I am putting in two 16-hour days, followed by another six hours on Wednesday before we release the papers to the press at noon. So, that’s 38 hours in 2 ½ days, followed by two eight-hour days and about five to eight hours on the weekend, depending on what’s going on, such as a community event or fundraiser. When I do take time off, I enjoy traveling. I’ve been to Hawaii four times, three cruises to the Caribbean, as well as several states. I also enjoy scrapbooking, downhill skiing and reading journalism magazines to stay up on the latest changes, advances and opportunities as the industry evolves.

Q: Who is your favorite author?

A: I am not much of a book reader. I primarily read newspapers and magazines, staying on top of current events and trends. I veg out in front of the television before I pick up a book.

Q: Who is your favorite musician?

A: I enjoy many musicians, from Mariah Carey, Joss Stone and Christina Agularia to Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit to Nickelback and Kid Rock.

Q: Do you feel that being a woman affected your ability to move forward in your career, either negatively or positively? Why do you feel that way?

A: I was the first woman editor at The Chelsea Standard, Dexter Leader and Saline Reporter. So, I don’t feel anyone blazed the path for me on a local level, although on a national scale I am sure that was the case with Barbara Walters, Helen Thomas and other famous journalists.

Q: If you could be in any other profession, what would it be and why?

A: I can’t imagine being in any other profession. I absolutely feel this is my calling. I, however, have discovered a passion for digital journalism as I have led the way at our newspaper group in video journalism and our staff blog. So, if for some reason I couldn’t work in journalism, I might be interested in exploring videography, such as creating documentaries.

Q: How did you come to be an editor?

I was promoted to the position in 2000, after working eight years as a reporter and associate editor. At the time, I felt I still had more to learn as a reporter, but those higher up in the company had the confidence in me and insisted I give it a try. I do enjoy guiding these newspapers, mentoring and growing my staff and having creative control, but I wish I had more time for reporting. I miss producing more in-depth stories and the rush you get from being the first with a story important to the community, one that exposes corruption or criminal wrongdoing, creates a lot of buzz and produces change.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of editing?

A: Editing is not as exciting as reporting. I guess the most rewarding aspect is that I feel I have saved the newspapers embarrassment by catching some pretty big mistakes by a reporter, whether it was erroneous information, misspelling, grammatical errors, AP style mistakes, a lack of thoroughness, or encouraging a reporter to continue investigating and following up on a particular issue.

Q: What is one thing you'd like to pass on to students looking into a career in journalism?

A: Make sure you’re prepared for the future of journalism and wherever that may lead you. The future is pretty uncertain now, so you need to have a variety of talents, training, knowledge and experience, and you must be willing to embrace change. Journalism is not just about getting the story and printing it anymore. You have to present it in a number of formats, from the initial breaking story online, to the traditional print format with more detail to a two-minute video format online and a blog posting. You must know how to write, report, take photographs, produce video, paginate/design pages and produce podcasts, and be ready to learn to do more as technology evolves.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Poets know it

Last night I had the uberpleasure of judging the first-ever Poetry Out Loud competition at Saline High School. The program is under the umbrella of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation and was coordinated at SHS by amazing English and Language Arts teachers, Shelly Yelsma and Carolyn Kreple. (My daughter has had the pleasure of learning from both these outstanding teachers who inspired her to read and write and dream. Thanks, ladies!)

From left are SHS Poetry Out Loud winners, Dillon Burns, Kelsey Tillman and Megan Anthony. Way to go, superstars.
32 high school students recited a poem, by memory and were judged (by me, school board pres Lisa Slawson, beloved English teacher and x-country coach Mike Smith and SHS asst principal fave Eric Diroff) on six pillars. We listened to each student and judged: physical presence, voice and articulation, appropriateness of dramatization, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding and overall performance.

Let me tell you right now. This was a difficult assignment. We listened, watched the interpretation and tried, in a few minutes, to decide if the brave and practiced student was very weak, weak, average, good, excellent or outstanding in each of the categories. I was drained and inspired.

The entrancing Megan Anthony recited "Playing Dead" by Andrew Hudgins and brought down the house. She was awarded $100 as first runner-up, and will go to the state competition. Dillon Burns recited Rudyard Kipling's "The Secret of the Machines" and was awarded sedond runner-up, an alternate to the state comp. He did a smashing job remembering the lengthly poem and was animated in all the right spots. Kelsey Tillman took home the gold for her reading of Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman." She was outstanding. She advances to the state competition and took home one hundred bucks.

Kudos to all the students for getting off their butts and trying something new.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saline Craft Show

The Saline Craft show Saturday was attended by thousands of people. There were all sorts of very cool items for sale. I loved the ornament pictured here made of scrap wood. In fact, I came home with one. There will be another craft show at the Saline Middle School on Dec. 5. Mark your calendar now.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Holiday events on tap in Saline

There are some great family events going on in Saline in the coming weeks. Here's the list we recently received from the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce:

33rd Annual Holiday Parade & Holiday Week in Saline

Presented by the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce

Saturday, December 6 – Parade Day

~ Shuttle Busses run between Busch’s Shopping Center and Downtown 4:30-8:30pm

(except during Parade)

~ “Hustle & Bustle” Downtown before Parade – Antique Circus Calliope, Carolers &

Street Entertainment, Hot Chocolate & Goodies at various locations

~ Holiday Parade Downtown 5:30pm “A Nostalgic Saline Christmas” with Floats,

Bands, Baton Twirlers, Unicyclists, Roller Derby Girls, Dance Groups, Hot Air Balloon,

Antique Circus Calliope, Train Boxcar, Mrs. Claus, Horses, Donkeys, Goats, Dogs, and

Santa arriving in his Sleigh

~ Saline Chamber Grocery Raffle Winning Tickets drawn when Santa arrives

~ Santa’s Village at Beanstalks Play Café after Parade – Photo with Santa and

Visit with Mrs. Claus & Elves, Stocking of Goodies for Kids

~ Saline Fiddlers Performance at Union School 7-8pm

December 6 thru December 13 - 3rd Annual “Holiday Shopping Rewards Program”

Save your Downtown Shopping receipts during Holiday Week and get special rewards!

A customer loyalty appreciation program hosted by the Downtown Merchants Association.

Details: Spotted Dog Winery, Pineapple House, Cobblestone Rose, Beanstalks,

Saturday, December 13 – “Treasure Trail to Santa” 10am-1:30pm

Kids start at Carol’s Hallmark to pick up treasure map and go on an excursion

through the shops at Busch’s Shopping Center to find Santa.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides, Photo w/Santa, Elves,

Stilt-Walking Juggler, Entertainment, Merchant Favors

Holiday Week Activities

Nov. 24 - Santa’s Mailbox Downtown available to Kids

Nov. 30 - Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony Downtown 5pm

Dec. 5 - Moonlight Craft Show at Saline Middle School 5-11pm

Dec. 7 - “Homes for the Holidays” Historic District Tour 1-4pm (W. Henry St.)

Dec. 7 - Fiddlers ReStrung at Saline High School 2pm benefiting “Toys 4 Tots”

Dec. 7 – New Horizons Band Annual Holiday Concert at Methodist Church 3:30pm

Dec. 7-12 - Santa’s Village at Beanstalks Play Cafe 6-8pm (Sun. 4-6pm)

Dec. 12 - “Giant Stocking” Drawing (Goodies from local merchants - 5 lucky winners!)

Dec. 13 - Two Twelve Arts Center Holiday Show & Sale 10am-5pm

Dec. 13 & 14 - “1930s Christmas” at Rentschler Farm Sat. 12-5pm, Sun. 1-4pm

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Local cartoonist's work featured in book

I have some great news to share about our cartoonist, Daniel Fenech of Saline. He has been recognized by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. His work has been named among the best editorial cartoons of 2008.

If some of you don't recognize Fenech's name, it's probably because his name appears in small type in the corner of the cartoons we publish every week on our commentary pages. In addition to running in Saline and Milan, his work appears in The Chelsea Standard, Dexter Leader, Ypsi Courier, Manchester Enterprise and The View in Belleville.

His work is now among the recognized works in the "Best Editorial Cartoons" of 2008 published by the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and Pelican Publishing.

Fenech has been creating cartoons for our papers for as long as I can remember and I am really proud of his accomplishment. If you want to buy the book, check out, Borders, Barnes and Noble or other area book stores.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Watch Your Speed

I did something really stupid today.
Something I rarely do.
Something that anyone who knows me well will say, wait, the only time I've ever seen you do this is on the rare road trip while listening to a NASCAR race on the radio and Tony Stewart is making a charge to the front of the pack.
Yup, you've probably figured it out by now.
The person all my friends make fun of, saying I drive just like grandma, was caught speeding in Saline this morning.
Anyone who travels toward Milan on S. Ann Arbor St./Saline-Milan Road probably knows the hill near Crestwood where the posted speed is 25 mph, just before it increases to 45 mph.
If you saw a van pulled over there today. Yup, 'twas me.
Feeling really, really, really dumb.
I was running a little late to an assignment -- and on my cell phone calling the person I was to interview to say I was running a little late -- and the next thing I know, there were flashing lights behind me.
I was clocked going 41 mph in a 25 mph zone. OUCH!
And the worst part is, as I frequently drive this road to get to and from my beat in Milan. (Yes, I'm the person in the silver minivan you've probably passed four or five times.)
You see, it's rare that someone doesn't pass me on this road and I just sit back and hope I'll see them pulled over further down the road.
Come to think of it, in the last two months since I've been traveling this road, I don't think I've ever seen anyone pulled over for speeding.
Well, except me, today, when I looked in my rearview mirror.
I got a ticket for going 35 mph in a 25 mph (a hefty $130 fine for going 6-10 miles over the speed limit, by the way) from a very nice Saline cop.
He was polite and very patient as I handed him about 10 expired insurance cards before I found the most current one. Ditto the number of out-of-date registrations.
I kept saying, I know one of these is the one you want. He just smiled.
So the moral of this post is three-fold.
One, watch your speed on S. Ann Arbor/Saline-Milan Road.
Two, rip up the expired insurance and registrations when you put the new one in the glove box.
Three, don't talk on your cell phone while you're driving.
In fact, I think Michigan should ban talking on cell phones while driving -- as other states like New Jersey have done.


You know what really grinds my gears...

A bad student section. Now, I don't want to put forth any names, but the school this applies to goes by a name that starts with "S" and ends with "aline." Certain football fans have carried on throughout the fall season managing to wear every color but their teams'. Let's just say, for example, and this is just a "for instance," that the schools' colors are blue and yellow. Now let's say the student section wore green for game one, black for game two (which happened to be the color of their opponents' jerseys), white the next, etc. On Halloween, the date of the first playoff game, the student section mainly wore costumes. This is acceptable. Those who weren't in costumes were not overwhelmingly decked out in their schools' apparel. That is unacceptable.

Why is this happening? Why is a student section attending games so thoroughly and relentlessly each week, but refusing to wear the teams' colors? A mom proudly reported to me once that the children have organized to wear a different color in unison each week. Um, that's obvious, but why? Shouldn't the student section be supporting the team as best it can, especially now that the team has had a turnaround season and is likely going to continue to succeed?

Obviously not all students can be grouped into this absolutely. But let's just say there is a very large number of individuals following the herd and doing what they're told. I decided early on to give the questionable group the benefit of the doubt, and observed their cheering behavior instead. Because if they're dressing in the wrong colors, fine, as long as they're doing it to unify themselves and are cheering for the team. That's the whole point, after all. The colors don't matter; the support does. Unfortunately, the games really are about the clothes. The group doesn't really cheer. Not a peep. Except for when it's time for the cheerleaders to do their "we cheer louder" bit, in which the cheerleaders and fans go back and forth pseudo-arguing about who is the better fan.

I've got that answer: it's definitely not you, students. The group's faithful cheerleaders threw them candy on Halloween. This is despite the fact that, frankly, they didn't deserve the candy because the parents were a louder and more excited crowd. Then, to improve upon their reputation even more, they chucked the candy pieces back at the cheerleaders while the girls were tumbling and hoisting one another. Yeah, that's not dangerous... let's throw hard candy pieces that we didn't deserve at the only group of students actually cheering while they hold one another on their shoulders. That'll send the message...

So, students. I know football games are fun and social and probably an excuse to party later on... but let's try to make an effort tomorrow. Your team plays Canton in the District finals. It'd be nice if you wore your schools' colors and cheered a bit. You have a trio of players that are putting up better numbers than this school has seen in years. It would be a shame if that moment was wasted on an unappreciative fan base. But, hey, there's always the parents. They appreciate it and are willing to use cowbells, foghorns, stomping, yelling and the like.

... and that's what really grinds my gears.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Catching up after a huge day

While running around the polls yesterday, I met up with politicians pumping hands, youth reaching out to vote for the first time and neighbors brimming with excitement about the change a'comin. Here's a guy who lives in Saline who was voting in his first presidential election Samer Chehadi met Pam Byrnes (who won her seat).

All over town, poll workers were working their star spangled smiles with the heavy turnout. Here, a lovely woman (make that two) was voting in person. No absentee ballot for Myrtle Gorang, age 94. She remembers working in the polls in Rochester when she was younger and was obviously engaged in the process as Debbie Roubal, a long-time poll worker, rewarded her with an "I Voted" sticker. Myrtle's daughter wouldn't say how she voted. (by the way, Starbucks and Ben and Jerry's were giving away freebies to sticker-bearers. Anyone hear of any other good give-aways here in town?)

Missy Caulk and her two adorable daughters supported McCain. Two brothers serve in the forces, but are not stationed in war zones. "I like what McCain would do over there. We don't just want the guys to come back safe, we want them back victorious. Allyssa, left, was voting for her first time. Way to go, gals. They voted in Pittsfield Township.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Fever!

It's a big big big day all around our nation. Here in Saline, at Precinct 3, the crowds were lined up by 7am. Voters spent about 20 minutes waiting to get to a booth inside the United Methodist Church. Campaigners for Ping and Parkinson, county commissioner candidates shared a table and talked to voters heading from their cars to the front door.
Some voters carried in flyers and newspapers to reference in the booth.
The enthusiasm, optimism and excitement were obvious. Nobody minded the wait.

Greg Endres, pictured here on his bike, has lived in Saline four years and was commuting in to Ann Arbor on his bike after voting.
I took my 11-year old daughter into the "booth" with me and showed her how the system worked.
Poll workers, dressed in red and smiling (it's still early!) were battling a bit with the ballot machine but were processing voters efficiently.
I must say, I felt really proud to be voting today. It's a big big big day. Polls are open till 8pm in the county. Watch our Web site for late-night local results.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Boo Bash a Scary Success

The Saline Downtown Merchants' Association and April Scarlett, owner of Beanstalks Play Cafe in Saline, organized the first Boo Bash in downtown Saline on Halloween. The event appears to have been a big success. While I was there between 5 and 5:30, about 50 kids were there. And the event was scheduled to continue through 8 p.m. There were all kinds of activities for kids. View video of it at Here area few pictures from the event. Enjoy!

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Milan Tackle Football Game Day

Scenes from Sunday's Milan Recreation Department tackle football game.


Milan Tackle Rec Football Final Game Warm-up

Players on the white team warm up for the last game of the new Milan Recreation tackle football season.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Symon Students Learn about Woodland Indians

Scenes from the Eastern Woodland Indian hands-on classroom last week at Clayton H. Symons Elementary School.

London Township gravel pit

A closed quarry in London Township is the temporary home for a mini village of expensive construction equipment that will be sold by Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers on Nov. 11. For more information on all that will be there, go to


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