Inside the Newsroom

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top Five New Year's Resolutions

Happy holidays, good people. I do so enjoy this time of year, which is fairly obvious to the 40-some people who receive holiday cards from me each year. I annually have carpal tunnel...

Anyway, it's time for New Year's Eve and New Year's festivities, of which I'm very stoked to participate in. Going with that are the daunting New Year's resolutions people choose in the coming days to guide their next 365-day venture. I thought I'd pick five for kicks, because knowing me I won't keep them, and I figure the more I pick the better my odds are that at least one will stick.

1. Read more. I don't know how this would be possible, but it's the only thing I really consistently like to do that isn't bad for me, so I figure the more the merrier. Maybe if I can start finishing books in 3-4 days rather than a week, I'll pull this off.

2. Stop typing "mute" when I mean "moot" in AIM conversations. My mother and boyfriend are spelling nazis who won't let it go, and it's the one spelling mistake I always make that I'm legitimately ashamed of.

3. Regain my athleticism. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm flabby, because I'm neither stupid nor narcissistic. But I would say I could use some preventative toning. It would be nice if my workout routines were substituted with more sports and weight lifting. Then I'd basically be my roommate in a nutshell. I guess at least I'll have one resolution staring me in the face each day.

4. Do not succumb to the draw of World of Warcraft. Some of you may not realize this, but I'm a gamer of sorts. My preferences lean towards fantasy games, which junior year of college led me into the world that is Warcraft. WoW is an evil, addictive, interactive game that sucks the life force and energy of all who play it. I used to play Dota (a modification) on weekends from 12 p.m. to 4 a.m. I believe I've kicked it and haven't played in months--it was making me tired once I started working here. I am determined not to relapse. Maybe one day I'll be strong enough to play just one game and stop. But let's not be hasty.

5. Teach Princeton not to be a bad puppy. That's actually not true; he's a very sweet, caring and attentive puggle pup. And he hasn't had an accident in a few days, and he hasn't chewed my headphones or my dress shoes in a few weeks. So now the question is... are there mystery poops I don't know about lurking under a table? Will this resolution make the best of me? Or will my roommate's dog's behavior mirror how unbearably cute he is? Time will tell...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas friends

It's Christmas Eve, 6am. I have a few gifts yet to pick up. My family is still sleeping. I cannot. I'm too excited. Tomorrow is Christmas.
To me, it's a feeling like falling in love for the first time.
Secrets, surprises, pleasing someone you really adore. Stretching the limits of giving, creating.
Can't eat much.
Well, ok, I can eat plenty. It's the holidays!
My little sister is in town, sleeping soundly in the guest room now. She is pregnant with twins. My two little nieces will be born in the Spring. A gift.
My children and husgand are sleeping upstairs. Quiet. A gift.
Anticipation. Appreciation.
Merry Christmas friends.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Treasure Trail to Santa

Treasure Trail to Santa saw some 300 children Saturday in Saline. Here are some photos from the event.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Milan Chamber Awards Handed Out

Norma Shull Smith (left), Chet Nagle, Carrie Ritchie, Christine Mann, Daniel Fromm, Chris Wetzler, Linda Gilson and Jim Gilson pose in front of a Christmas tree Friday at the Milan Senior and Community Activity Center, where the chamber gave out its annual awards. Nagle picked up the Business of the Year Award for Nagle’s Market, Ritchie and Fromm were given the Community Service Awards, Wetzler accepted the Lifetime Membership Award, and the Gilsons were thanked for organizing the annual Milan Christmas Parade, which was held Dec. 6. Don Harkness also earned a Lifetime Membership Award but was not at the event. Read the story at

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Movie review!

Another piece from my intern, Olivia Hornshaw. She attended a screening of the film "Four Christmases" and her review can be seen below.

"Four Christmases" leads the box office with holiday fun

The holidays. Time to, once again, put up a tree, open presents and visit with family. Sounds pretty typical, right? That's pretty much how everyone's Christmas goes, and "Four Christmases" was no exception, except for the fact that the two main characters repeat the process four times in a single day.

Kate (Reese Witherspoon) and Brad (Vince Vaughn) lie to their parents annually to get out of the Christmas family holiday traditions. Each year, they plan an expensive vacation for themselves instead.

But not this year. After a thick layer of smog rolls in and all planes in the Bay area are grounded, the couple is caught by a local camera crew broadcasting the news and all their families see. The cat was out of the bag.

The couple's families then contact them and both Kate and Brad promise to visit each of their houses in one day. Since both pairs of parents are divorced, that adds to four lovely Christmases at four different houses.

The movie itself was cute. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a chick flick, but it was definitely filled with its own fluff. Especially with it being a holiday movie. Everything has to be just so for a holiday movie to be considered a success.

Witherspoon and Vaughn were a cute onscreen couple, nonetheless, but almost annoyingly so. In fact they were a little too perfect, which actually fed into the story line very well.

The movie's pace and plot were both decent. By about the third time seeing the couple hop in the car and drive to the next location, the whole routine had gotten a little tedious. when it's just the two actors and a stretch of green-screened highway behind them, that gets boring. Quickly.

But all in all, the movie was good and the ending made up for the lack of excitement in the car. The casting, no doubt the main reason the film is earning what it is, serves its purpose and is keeping the movie afloat during the holiday season. There could have been more family confrontation given the number of relatives the audience sees, but oh well. It's a nice way to kill some time if you wish to sneak away from your own relatives on Christmas.

I give it a B+.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ready, Set, Sports: the Intern Edition

My lovely intern, Olivia Hornshaw, recently wrote a column about salaries in the MLB. I have posted it below with my edits. Enjoy!

"Money, money everywhere..."

What makes a person want to play sports professionally? Is it their love of the game? the fact that they've discovered they're good at something? What drives a person to put themselves through the stress of playing day in and day out?

For many, the love of the game has morphed into something truly awful: a love of salaries and the feuds that ensue. Overpaid athletes are the worst aspect of professional sports. It turns once legitimately talented players into absolute crybabies. Major League Baseball is an excellent example of this.

Take New York Yankees third baseman, Alex Rodriguez. Though I can't stand the man, I have to admit, he is quite talented. And he knows it, too. He's proven to many other players in baseball that if you run your mouth long enough, you'll eventually get what you want.

Last year, just after the Yankees season came to an abrupt ending, A-Rod opted out of his remaining three years left with the Yankees. His agent, Scott Boras, has always been a mastermind at negotiating large contracts. By December, A-Rod had a contract worth $275 million for ten years, and an additional $30 million if he broke the all-time home run record as a Yankee. Apparently, whiners do get what they want.

Moving from one third baseman to another, Miguel Cabrera is next on the hit list. Cabrera was sent to the Tigers in what many people thought was a blockbuster deal: six minor league players for two major league players. It turned out to be one of the worst decision the Tigers made all season.

After acquiring said third baseman, the Tigers needed to negotiate a contract that ensured Cabrera would stay with the Tigers, but also gave him everything he was looking for. He held out and held out, until he finally got what he was after: a whopping $153.3 million contract, keeping him here until the year 2015.

Unfortunately, the season was disappointing for the promising third-baseman-turned-first-baseman. David Dombrowski has to be kicking himself right now. Think of how much money he wasted on Cabrera, which could have been better spent acquiring a new pitchers for next season. Athletes who whine long enough and receive enough early hipe have team owners trained like circus elephants.

But the bottom line is, these players would be worth it if they really did perform. The unfortunate part is that, more often than not, they don't. If you're going to whine about how much money you think you deserve to be paid, you better be able to produce. If you can't produce, your value as a player will go down, not to mention your reputation professionally.

Part of the problem is probably a lack of incentive. Players who are signed onto big-time contracts don't have to work for it anymore. Large salaries only encourage players to loaf around, performing well below what they'd be capable of otherwise. Because the money is already theirs, and no one can take that away. Plus other players on the team end up feeling under appreciated because they aren't receiving the same large paychecks. So the team suffers, too.

The whole situation is a total turnoff for fans. Underachieving teams lead to major drops in attendance at games, which typically ends with the original hotshots relocating to somewhere else. So, really, the team is back where they started with nothing to show for it.

And what are the fans left with? Another waiting period for your team to rise once again. Two years ago the Tigers had what looked like a World Series winning team. Give Dombrowski two off seasons and a pocket full of money, and he can manage to screw up what was once a good thing. Now Tigers fans are disappointed once again.

Perhaps current salary caps don't quite squelch the disparity they were intended to fix. Perhaps the MLB and its owners should take a look at Wall Street and learning something: the spending is bound to come back at you, and not in a positive way.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Santa comes to Milan

I am a fan

I am a fan. I am not a fan of a Hollywood actor, famous musician, celebrated author or Noble Peace Prize winner. I am a fan of Tim Dellot in Saline and Martha Churchill in Milan.

Do you know them? Readers in Milan are probably familiar with Martha. She's everywhere. She writes the "Past Tense" history column for The Milan News-Leader, and serves on the Milan City Council and Milan Area Historical Society. But what about Tim? I didn't know him personally until I received an e-mail from him last week after announcing our staff lay-offs to some sources listed in my e-mail contacts.

"I'm sorry to hear about the cutbacks at the paper. I don't have a submission at this time, but would be willing to assist, as a volunteer, with proofreading, editing, follow-up calls, and the like," he wrote. "My job was recently eliminated and for the near term, I have a free afternoon or two each week..."

What a great guy, I thought. A lifesaver. Someone who cares enough about his community newspaper and its future to lend a helping hand.

When Tim came into my office yesterday, we chatted a bit while I gave him some potential assignments. I gave him information on the Moonlight Madness Craft Show and Holiday Tea in Saline. No pressure to cover them though because, after all, these are freebies and I have no right to make demands on his time.

Today, I opened my e-mail and there they were: a series of e-mails from Tim with about a dozen photos attached and captions identifying everyone pictured, as well as information about the event. He did just as good of a job as anyone I've worked with.

Just as impressive, for the last two weeks, Martha has been sending e-mail after e-mail with photos of various events in Milan. She was at the Thanksgiving Dinner at the Milan Senior Center and Open Mic Night at the Lighthouse Coffeehouse in Milan.

What's impressive to me is that they're both doing it from the kindness of their hearts. There's no financial incentive. They're doing it as a way to give back to their communities, capturing the events of today that will be tomorrow's local history, and recording it for eternity. These images capture the heart of two small towns. Their towns. That's why I am a fan.

If you know Tim or Martha or see them taking photos for The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader, shake their hands. Become one of their fans, too. They're helping us continue to produce two local newspapers filled with familiar faces and providing a record of local events and history.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

We Are Not Alone

After witnessing staff layoffs at Heritage Newspapers last month and losing a full-time reporter at The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader, I was interested when a friend e-mailed me information about an interactive forum co-hosted by the National Press Club about the future of journalism. So, last night I attended the forum, "Protecting a Free Press while Journalism is in Turmoil," at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor and was reassured, although I knew it from reading about it for the last several years in the Columbia Journalism Review, that our newspapers are not alone as we see a steady drop in advertising, circulation and resulting staff cutbacks.

Among the forum's speakers were representatives from print, online, radio and television as moderator Gil Klein, director of the National Press Club's Centennial Forums, posed questions we're all facing in the media industry and in communities across the country as we try to maintain a free press in the face of a declining economy and evolving industry.

I was particularly struck by a statement Klein shared from a previous panelist, as these forums have been taking place across the country: "This could be the golden age of journalism if we could only find a way to pay for it."

Indeed. As technology advances, newspapers across the country are able to connect faster and in more ways with the public. From posting breaking news online as it happens, to podcasts of press conferences, news videos and the print product itself, newspapers have a variety of tools to deliver the news and get immediate feedback from the public. It's more of an interactive relationship as readers post comments on newspaper blogs and e-mail reporters with comments and story ideas.

As panelist Omari Gardner, news editor of digital media for the Detroit Free Press said, though, it's a double-edged sword. "Now there's an expectation from our readership ... that we give news as we get it." This, the panelists said, can lead quickly to burnout by journalists as they are expected to do more with fewer resources and fewer people on staff to help pick up the slack. News reports may not be as thoroughly researched or sourced in a rush to get the story out and in a variety of formats by a scaled back staff.

Jonathan Wolman, editor of The Detroit News and publisher of its Web site, also among the panelists, said major metropolitan dailies have seen a double digit decline in advertising in their print products and modest gains online. "We've enjoyed an increase in advertising activity (online) ... Can I say it has replaced the lost advertising from the paper itself -- not even close to it," he said. The challenge, he said, is monetizing the news online.

Wolman said advertisers seem as confused as those working in the industry about media and its role as technology advances online, yet excited about the digital universe and what it has to offer in terms of different platforms and delivery methods. In five years, he envisions readers getting their news through hand-held devices with content provided by those surviving the downturn in the industry.

As newspapers go online with news reports in video format and TV news publishes written stories online, Klein asked if there's room for all the players. Vincent Duffy, news director of Michigan Public Radio, said there certainly will be a thinning out of the herd. "There will be some media that will not survive and it's not because of the current economic situation," he said. "It has been coming."

Duffy said despite all the gloom surrounding the newspaper industry as tens of thousands of jobs have been cut and papers scale back in size, public radio is doing well as a nonprofit enterprise. Duffy said his radio reporters not only produce reports over the airwaves, but they're also shooting video and photographs and writing news stories for the Web site. He said in the next five years, he thinks public radio will get bigger and fill some of the void left behind as some newspapers shut down operations. There will be a price to pay, however.

"What we don't have and what we will miss is having a media of record," he said. "We (public radio) don't have the staffs to cover the Detroit City Council (and other municipal boards) ... every time they have a meeting or story to report."

Wolman noted that some big cities may lose their anchor newspapers, particularly in today's struggling economy. He said the bedrock of coverage traditionally has come from newspapers, which, in the past, had larger numbers of journalists and a broader reach. "We see this distress in the news business and it can have terrible repercussions if it doesn't turn around," he said.

Gardner noted that one of the dangers in today's economy and with newsroom cutbacks is that veteran journalists are being let go and younger reporters with less experience and lacking institutional knowledge are being brought in to work at a lower wage. While it might save the newspaper money in salaries, the reporting is not as thorough. "In a knowledge industry, you have to invest in knowledge," he said.

Gardner said for those newspapers that survive the next five years, they will be smaller, more nimble and more customer-oriented, producing news stories that readers want or consider relevant to their lives. Wolman added that sports and entertainment news has become just as important to report as coverage of city hall in order to serve readers' interests.

As Klein said in his opening comments, the newspaper industry is in unusual circumstances, but what everyone must understand is that a free press is essential to a free society and free enterprise. Protecting the mission of a free press and its value to society are crucial, no matter what format the news is presented in.


Me, Myself and Jana: Q&A with the sports writer

In lieu of not being as special as my editor, Michelle Rogers, I've decided the best way to publish a Q&A about me is to ask the questions myself. Ms. Rogers was recently hounded by hordes of fans at the university level for her experience and poise and contributions to the journalism industry. She was thoroughly interviewed, and the transcript from that conversation can be seen below.

I have fans, but most of them are simply Facebook friend requests from high school boys. For those wonderful fans of mine, who I don't want to feel left out or unimportant, I will now publish an interview with me so my avid readers know a little bit more about moi.

Q&A Time!!

1. What is your name?
Jana. If anyone sees paraphernalia with that name stenciled on it, please make the purchase. I will pay you back. I have difficulty finding key chains and pencils with my name on it.

2. Where were you born?
Detroit, baby! No I'm not hard enough. I was born in Ann Arbor and raised in Saline.

3. What is your favorite word?
Vivacious. The letter "v" is a sexy letter, so this word rolls off the tongue. Being vivacious is sweet, too.

4. What is your least favorite word?
"No." Don't like hearing it; don't like saying it.

5. What turns you on?
Coffee and chocolate... oh, and good books.

6. What turns you off?
Cubicles and spiders.

7. What sound do you love?
Rain and Van Morrison's voice

8. What sound do you hate?
Utensils screeching on plates

9. What is your favorite curse word?
*&#$.... Those symbols don't mean anything because I don't curse, right mom?

10. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
I originally wanted to change majors (I graduated with a sports management degree, not a journalism degree) to film and video studies. I would love to try my hand at film editing and producing. I've already written a handful of screenplays.

11. What profession would you not like to do?
Anything that has me stuck in one spot with no freedom or change. Office Space is my worst nightmare realized.

12. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I took the courtesy of ordering you a coffee... oh, and you'll be sitting next to Van Morrison for the whole of eternity...

In conclusion, no one will read this, but it was just as fun filling out as those forwarded friend surveys I get sometimes. I hope my singular fan in Alaska (shout out!) feels a little bit closer to home now. Perhaps in the future, more questions will be asked by me of me. Here's hoping...

Also, for those of you oblivious to the amazing show that is Inside the Actor's Studio with James Lipton on Bravo, these questions come straight from that show. Tune in sometime. It's amazing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

World AIDS Day

When we were living in Hong Kong in 1995, my brother Dan called me in the middle of the night. He said he wanted to say good-bye. He said he was ready to go. Dan died of AIDS in a hospital bed in San Francisco with our family around him. I was thousands of miles away and felt so sad. I still do.
Today is the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day and I hope you will join me in thinking for a moment about my sweet brother and the 25 million people worldwide who have died from AIDS. More than half a million people diagnosed with AIDS have died in the USA alone. Some 60 percent of these people did not live to the age of 45. Dan was 41.
Check out
Our oldest brother's daughter, Brooke is involved in this LA-based nonprofit that helps care for African children affected by AIDS. You can help.
Another good option is
Still, it hurts here at home. I don't know what to tell you. Just, keep your heart open to people who are hurting, even if they are different from you.

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