Category Archives: My Newspaper Stuff
The media loves a little Black Friday shopping insanity, and this year, I actually got to be a part of it. Right here in dinky little Rome, NY, the shoppers at our local Wal-Mart went nucking futs! There was trampling and shoving and somebody even got stabbed! It’s one of those things where you never think it’s going to happen in your neck of the woods, then suddenly…stabbing.
Now I wasn’t there, but as Rome’s local crazy shit-covering newsman, I got to write about it for my day job. I love writing about crazy crap going down.
If you’re so inclined, you can read my articles here. I’ve written two so far. I don’t normally talk about my day job on this blog, but sometimes something cool actually happens.
Also, be prepared to visit one of the worst websites in the entire Internet. And I work there! Lucky me.
Alas, I had a pretty busy weekend, and because I still haven’t seen Part 1 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I couldn’t exactly go and see Part 2. So for anybody who’s really become a fan of my movie reviews so far, we’re all just going to have to wait. Perhaps I’ll review both of them together. That should be pretty fun. I loved the book of Deathly Hallows, so I’m looking forward to the movie. I reviewed Half-Blood Prince for my newspaper. Maybe I’ll be able to dig up that old review.
But just so I don’t leave everybody without something to look at, my girlfriend Alyssa discovered a fun new web comic that had a Harry Potter joke: Head Trip.
I used to go to midnight showings back when I was movie reviewer for my newspaper, The Daily Sentinel in Rome, NY. If you check out the Awards page of my blog, you can see that I won third place in a statewide journalism competition for my movie reviews. I don’t remember which three I submitted though. I did Transformers 1 and 2, Dark Knight, Avatar, Watchmen, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and…a few others, I think. It was a blast. I’d attend the midnight showing but still have to go to work at 7 a.m. the next day. But they not only reimbursed my ticket, but I got overtime pay for watching the movie!
Fun story how that all came about, actually.
Way back for Spider-Man 3, my friend Shannon David and I got together to go see the midnight premiere. Shannon is an old friend from high school, and he still lived in my hometown of Auburn, NY. He was going to the premiere in costume as Spider-Man, and I couldn’t pass up an invite like that! So I whipped up a very crappy, homemade Venom costume to wear!
We had a blast, even if it involved me driving the hour+ back home, attending the midnight premiere, driving the hour+ back to Rome and then waking up to be at work at 7 a.m. That day was really…not awesome, let me tell you.
Anyway, my boss/editor overheard me talking about going to a midnight showing of a movie. That gave her the idea that I could do that for the paper, and write movie reviews. I think it was all an effort to get more young people to read a newspaper, which is fine by me. She picked the first Transformers as the first movie to review. That was the big tent-pole movie of that summer. For some insane reason, I didn’t immediately jump on this outlet. I waited until next summer and picked another movie. Then I finally started doing more and more movies.
Then my editor retired at the end of 2009 and took her interest in my movie reviews with her.
The editor that was left has zero interest in my movie reviews as a cultural piece. He’s a fan of the classics. He told me I could keep doing it, but not just for any movie. They had to be significant movies, like Avatar was a big deal at the time. But I realized I wasn’t really following the cultural zeitgeist of movies and had no real way to decide between a movie worth reviewing or a movie I just wanted to see on my own. So, alas, I abandoned the movie reviews. I just didn’t have it in me to argue with him why he should pay me to go see the likes of Thor or X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
But now I have this blog! So it’s all worked out in the end.
I’m sure everybody has had to deal with a deadline, usually when an essay or a project is due. But I think on-the-scene newspaper reporters have a unique sort of deadline problem, which stung me up, down and right-round Monday morning.
First, a little background: my newspaper, The Daily Sentinel, comes out in the afternoon. The deadline is 11:30 a.m. for Page 1, and Noon for the rest of the paper. Usually, it’s easy to get everything done by then. But on Monday I had to cover a high-profile criminal sentencing in County Court. And the judge, the attorneys and the attempted murderer weren’t particularly concerned with finishing on my time frame.
Court starts at 9:30 a.m., and the judge calls cases in whatever order he pleases. So I have to be in my seat by 9:30 a.m. and just hope that he is able to wrap up all of his morning casework and the high-profile case in question by my deadline. That didn’t work out so well on Monday. It wasn’t until 11 a.m. that we finally got around to the case I was there to see: the attempted murder of a husband by his estranged wife.
The case: On the night of March 8, 2010, an estranged wife going to her husband’s home…and about an hour later, he runs out screaming for help with a slashed throat. She’s inside with several stab wounds to her abdomen. The police and rescue crews arrive and both survive – but they have conflicting stories. She says that she only went to visit him to discuss a few financial issues, but he was disgruntled, high on heroin and eventually came at her with a knife because she was in a new relationship. She says that he stabbed her in the bedroom, chased her through the house and stabbed her again while she was lying on the living room floor. Somehow his neck got cut during that scuffle.
He says that she came to visit him in a much more festive mood, and convinced him that they were going to have sex. He says that she told him she wanted to try on some bikinis for a trip to Florida, and that he should lie down on the bed and close his eyes. When he did, she put her hand over his eyes, whispered ‘I love you’ in his ear and then slit his throat with a knife. The man survived, jumped off the bed and ran through the house. She chased him and cut him again in the abdomen, as well as cutting the phone cord. He managed to get away and run outside to the neighbors, with her following him out and screaming for him to go back.
After a trial in January, the jury found her guilty of attempted murder. He was never charged because all the evidence points towards his side of the story. She never claimed that she followed him outside, yet they found her blood out there. Among other evidence. I sat through the whole trial and was as convinced as the jury that she was guilty.
Fast-forward to Monday, and she’s going to be sentenced. Sentencings are one of the more interesting stories I get to write about. Because after all the casework and adjournments, and many months after the crime, everybody gets a chance to talk and confront each other in the courtroom. The defendant gets to say a few words, the victim can say whatever they want to the defendant, the lawyers can talk and even the judge gets to say a few words. Family members also get to chime in. For a reporter, there’s a lot to listen to and write about.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get started until 11 a.m…with my deadline at 11:30. The first few people started talking, and I took diligent notes. Then people just kept talking…and more family were allowed to speak. And 11:30 came and went and we weren’t even at the defendant’s turn to speak. And the judge wouldn’t even tell us how many years she’d get in prison until the very, very end.
So there I was in a back hallway off the courtroom calling up a fellow reporter back in the newsroom. I was trying to think up how to word my story off the top of my head, while simultaneously looking up quotes in my notebook and trying to listen to the person who is speaking in the courtroom. Fortunately the defense attorney was droning on and on, giving me plenty of time to try and put my story together over the phone. So bad time to have general brain farts left and right.
But in the end, we got a story done and on Page 1, and we got everything we needed to get. It was a sloppy story and nowhere near as well-written or concise or well-put-together as I would have liked. But it was done, it was accurate and that’s what’s important at the end of the day. Still, that’s the sort of deadline problem I have to deal with on occasion.
Here’s my story online: Camelot Stabber
Once I was covering a trial and a defendant accused of murdering a police officer was taking the stand to testify in his own defense. Of course, after numerous pointless delays that morning in the courtroom, he didn’t get on the stand until 11 a.m. This was a man whose side of the story I’d been waiting to hear for 4-5 years! Who was finally going to explain to everybody why he didn’t do it (He did) and where he really was when the robbery/murder took place.
It was a packed courtroom, so it was very awkward of me to have to keep going in and out. I’d already called in my story that morning, it was ready to go…but dammit, I needed to get something from this defendant in that day’s paper. Page 1 was going to read that this guy was taking the stand, so it would be stupid to not have any of what he said. However, the testimony began with some background information, slowly building up towards the robbery.
And so between all my running around and the crunching minutes, my story lead with the fact that he once washed car windows outside a stadium.
Every once and awhile in my job as a public safety reporter, I get to handle fires, natural disasters and whatever else an angry, vengeful God can throw at the poor people of Oneida County, NY. This week it was a lot of rain. Not the kind they make movies out of, but enough to flood all the creeks and cricks and whatnots. I got saddled with writing about rain. Fortunately, I got to write this pretty cool news story about volunteer firefighters coming together to help each other out with flooding. Give it a read!