A tough day

Wednesday was a challenge for me.

Editing The Daily Record’s story about the layoffs at The Sun was difficult because the journalists let go were “my people” — men and women who are about my age, many of whom I worked with for many years. One of the editors let go Tuesday, Ray Frager, is one of my best friends, and we started working together at The Dallas Morning News in 1982. We were on our interviews together, and he got hired first — for which I have never forgiven him. But I got to The Sun first (after an ill-advised detour to Hartford, Conn.), in January 1985, and three months later, when we had an opening for an editor with his skills, I was the one who called him and encouraged him to apply.

So Wednesday was spent trying to keep track of who was going and who was staying. And updating my Facebook status more on one day then I had in the entire year or so that I had been on it. I got more Facebook messages and instant messenger messages than I ever had.

And to top everything off, the top-seeded Goucher College lacrosse team, which includes freshman attackman Gordon Waldman, lost its semifinal Landmark Conference playoff game to Scranton, 10-9.

And did I mention that I had to do what I actually get paid for doing: putting the paper out. A bigger paper, ironically (I’ll have to ask former Sun Copy Desk Chief John McIntyre if I used ironically correctly … most people don’t), because in The Daily Record’s recent redesign we have actually added four pages of news to the paper every day.

One of my former colleagues at The Sun, Lane Harvey Brown, now a freelance writer and editor in North Carolina, I think put it best in a response to one of my updates. It was, she said, like watching a fire and knowing that your friends are trapped inside.

Things have to get better, don’t they?

(By the way, another former Sun colleague, David Michael Ettlin, has a very detailed and emotional story on the layoffs at his blog, The Real Muck. I highly recommend it.)

At PSC hearing, water runs dry

baltimore-flooding_saut.jpgThe water main break at Lombard and Gay streets in Baltimore City did more than snarl traffic Tuesday morning, making many people, including me, very late to work.

Midway through some juicy testimony at the Public Service Commission, Chairman Doug Nazarian had to shut down a hearing because the water had dried up at the PSC’s headquarters in the William Donald Schaefer Tower on the corner of Baltimore and St. Paul streets.

The hearing was on the Constellation Energy deal that would make Electricite de France half owner of the company’s nuclear business, and it’s already on a tight schedule. The commission had expected the hearing to last through Monday and Tuesday, but expanded the timeline on Monday when it was clear that testimony would take a lot longer than initially thought.

A delay in the hearings could be problematic for Constellation. The company is hoping to close the deal this summer, so it is looking for a speedy completion of the hearings. The PSC has said it will make a ruling around June 8.

Lucky for Constellation, PSC staffers scrambled to find a new venue for the hearings Tuesday afternoon away from downtown where City Hall, the National Aquarium and T. Rowe Price all closed. The hearings resumed in the House of Delegates building in Annapolis.

Following Nazarian’s announcement, there were some borderline-lewd comments from the crowd about using or not using the bathroom in the Schaefer Tower, but we don’t have to get into that here.

NABJ to honor sports writer Michael Wilbon

The National Association of Black Journalists has announced that Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon will be honored with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Wilbon will join other honorees at the Salute to Excellence Awards Gala on Aug. 8 in Tampa.

A sports writer for the Post since 1980, and a columnist since 1990, Wilbon is one of fewer than 10 black columnists at major daily newspapers in America, the NABJ said in a release. Wilbon and then-columnist Tony Kornheiser also were the founding co-hosts of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption in 2001, now a widely popular a show.

On a personal note, I’ve always admired Wilbon’s reflective writing style in his columns. As a reader, I know that he’s bringing his depth of experience to each argument he makes — whether I agree with him or not. Unlike Kornheiser (and this is not to single him out), he has kept on with his Post columns and allowed us to get to know him as a TV personality and an author.

“Wilbon has been able to seamlessly merge television and print in a way that we should all be proud,” NABJ Vice President for Print Ernie Suggs said in a news release. “Through his columns and on PTI, Wilbon has never been afraid to challenge athletes on tough issues like performance enhancing drugs, their politics, their image and race, gender and cultural significance.”

Wilbon is one of the sports writers from what some of us journalists call the “print dinosaur” generation who has been able to thrive as new mediums are thrown his way while still remaining a skilled and diligent writer at heart.

With the advent of blogging, the 24-hour news cycle, and other technologies, writers today are required to spread out their time and attention. I wonder if Wilbon will be one of the last sports reporters in multiple mediums who is able to bring to his readers and listeners that full weight of knowledge based on years of developing relationship with sources without other distractions?

Connecting with: Joan Schramm, Annapolis business owner

This is the second in an occasional series of interviews with local businesspeople who blog or use social media to promote themselves or their industry. Our goal is to show the business and legal community how to harness the power of the Web professionally. If you’re interested in being profiled, contact @mddailyrecord on Twitter or email jackie.sauter[at]mddailyrecord.com.

In step with Joan Schramm, career coach, social media strategist and founder of Momentum Coaching.

Hi, Joan. Tell us about yourself and where you blog from.

My name is Joan Schramm, and I live in Annapolis. My blog, Accelerating Momentum, offers tips, strategies and resources for career and personal development. I’ve been blogging since 2005.

What prompted you to start?

I wanted a way to reach more people on a regular basis than I could with my newsletter or my website. I thought a blog was the perfect way to get my message and information out, and give my readers a better sense of who I am as a person and what my coaching business is all about.

How long have you Twittered and what do you like about the service?

I’ve been on Twitter since June of last year. I love interacting with so many different people. The info that gets passed around in unbelievable. I’ve discovered so many new people, blogs, businesses, and things that I probably would have never found without Twitter. I’ve become friends with people I probably would have never found, either.

What’s your favorite part of blogging?

The ability to write about things that are important and know that there’s a chance of affecting someone’s life. I feel such a connection with my readers sometimes – it’s like we’re operating on the same wavelength.

List three or four of your favorite or most popular blogs?

My favorite is DrewRozell.com – Insights for Consciously Creating a Very Cool Life.

I also always read Continue reading

Video: Swine flu press conference

Gov. Martin O’Malley, accompanied by state health officials, addressed the media Monday about the emerging swine flu virus at the State Health Department’s Command Center in Baltimore City.  Watch the video below to see the command center–and to hear from O’Malley and state health secretary John Colmers about what the state is doing to confront the problem.

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Fun blitz begins in Baltimore Saturday

Looking for a good time? Carnival Cruise Lines, which launches officially on Monday (and yes, we’ll be covering it), is bringing the fun in a big way to downtown Baltimore this weekend.

The event will raise funds for the Maryland Special Olympics and features a ton of free events and activities like a world record giant beach ball, sand sculptures, hip-hop dance performance, 3-D chalk art, an interactive aquarium, kid zone, and about a zillion other things to entertain folks on the cheap.

For more details and a map of activities, click here.

I have to say the marketing folks at Sandy Hillman Communications have certainly done their job in making a big splash with the arrival of Baltimore’s first year-round cruise service. The marketing blitz began about a month ago with weekly mail outs that included a beach ball, a foldable Frisbee, a beach bag and other info items about the cruise line. And taking hostage of the Inner Harbor for a day is no small feat with events spread between the ESPN Zone and Oriole Park.

Now the only question is, will the cruise line live up to the hype? How will the tourism industry be affected by the recession this summer and will Carnival’s big splash here be met with subdued interest?

Wells Fargo: the loser kid in the corner?

wells-fargo_opt.jpgI took this picture Wednesday at the Baltimore Homeownership Preservation Coalition‘s 2009 foreclosure prevention workshop.

The event was held at the classy Tremont Grand hotel, and after the opening remarks in a second floor ballroom, I noticed this table set up in the dimly-lit corner, beneath the grand staircase leading to the third floor.

Why did it stick out? Because it’s a booth run by Wells Fargo, the company that the city of Baltimore sued last year for “reverse-redlining,” or predatory lending practices directed toward Baltimore’s black community. Many of these loans, the city alleges, resulted in foreclosures and the further deterioration of some of Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods.

So why is bank accused of accelerating the foreclosure crisis sponsoring an event to help mitigate the foreclosure crisis? Good PR, I imagine. But it also says something about the nonprofit and housing advocacy community’s feelings about Wells Fargo — that they’re innocent until proven guilty and that they’re not completely persona non grata.

The newsroom on the TDR redesign

front_page.jpgWe’re pumped up about the redesigned paper this morning.

It’s a project that’s been underway for months, and it demanded a strong effort from _everyone_ on staff to execute. And damn, we think it looks good.

At a time when newspapers around the country – and right here in Baltimore – are cutting back, we’re adding an average of four pages to our daily paper. It’s a bigger news hole (translated: more space, more stories, and more work for us) but we’re up to the challenge.

Most of the credit goes to Todd Zimmerman, our Assistant Managing Editor/Visuals, who’s lived and breathed fonts, leading and point size for the last six months.

Those of us on the Web staff are even more excited about our upcoming Web site redesign – stay tuned!

We had some fun with the video below. We hope you don’t mind; we’re a bit giddy today.

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Take your rugrat to work?

Happy Take-Your-Child-to-Work day!

So are there any children at your office this morning? I haven’t noticed any here, but we’re hardly a large enough company (locally, anyway) to have a special program.

I remember attending a TYCTW day program (likely in ’95-ish) with my aunt at Marriott International in Bethesda. (At the time, it may have been “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” I think the event went gender-neutral in the early 2000s).

Marriott had packed the day with activities – the highlight of which was a cooking demonstration with one of Marriott’s head chefs. A quick Google search reveals that the Bethesda-based company still does the demo every year. (Coincidentally, the hotel chain released first quarter earnings this morning).

I wonder if most workplaces are a positive environment for kids to be in this year. On the other hand, maybe there’s a lesson lurking in our employers’ economic woes: the real world doesn’t have recess. What do you think?

Inner Harbor: now featuring recycling bins

new-image.JPGBaltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon kicked off Earth Day on Wednesday by announcing that the city has installed recycling bins around the Inner Harbor. Now, tourists and other promenaders will be able to sort their trash: general refuse will go into those weird, solar-powered compactor things, and recyclables will get their own special bin.

It can be really difficult to find a place to throw something away on the street, especially if you’re not on a main street or right downtown. The other day, I carried a piece of trash about 7 blocks down St. Paul Street while walking to work from Charles Village. There were trash cans on the other side of the street the whole way (my crossings were timed in a comically inopportune way).

And recycling something is generally out of the question unless you have access to a home or office.

According to the Department of Public Works, if these Inner Harbor bins are successful (AKA people don’t throw regular trash in them), they could start to pop up in Patterson Park.