Monday, December 22, 2008

That was the week it was

Happy Monday and Happy Hanukkah (the official AP Stylebook spelling) to all in the Tribe.

This past week, friend wife has been a bit under the weather, and then the weather was a bit under the weather. More about that later.

On Monday, my wife began what she called her never-ending birthday celebration, which actually ended on Friday. 

As part of the celebration, we saw the Capitol Steps on Thursday at the Shubert. It turned out to be a fund-raiser for Christian Community Action (CCA), which made it that much more special. 

If you haven't seen Capitol Steps, try to catch their act. It's political satire with a beat, and these folks are funny with a capital FUN. They harpooned everything from the Clintons to Sarah Palin to, of course, W. 

But almost as funny was one of the introducers. 

The Platinum Sponsor of the event was the Stratton Faxon law firm, which, by the way, also is the prime sponsor of the Labor Day road race in New Haven. These guys give away more than 10 percent of their fees to charity. That's great and they should be commended for it.

They should, however, spend a little bit for communications consulting (at the Word Hive Communications LLC, we'd be happy to help). 

Stratton Faxon's business is plaintiff's law. Some of the practitioners of this are known, somewhat uncharitably, as ambulance-chasers, and the public tends to paint the entire industry with a broad brush.

One of the partners of Statton Faxon took the stage, before the Capitol Steps came on, to help introduce the troupe and take a bow for being the prime sponsor. That's fine. There was a banner hung in front of the background curtains with the firm's name on it, at least as big as CCA's banner. So far, no problem. You pony up the big bucks, you deserve to take a bow.

But the lawyer took it bit too far. He launched into a long defense of plaintiff's lawyers and tried to explain and justify the famous case of a woman who got a multimillion-dollar judgment from McDonald's  over spilled hot coffee. 

Look, if you need to justify your business, maybe you shouldn't be in it. Any firm that gives as much of its income to charities as Stratton Faxon doesn't have to justify itself. People that good-hearted aren't the type who go to accident scenes and hand out business cards. 

Everybody knows, or should know, that plaintiff's lawyers have a purpose and the good ones do a service to people who are getting stepped on. 

A little free advice. Next time, take your bow, say you were happy to do whatever it was that you did, smile and sit down.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

Page 2

Another raft of news sources have been stilled and another diminished this past week.

The weekly newspapers owned by the Journal-Register Corp. will close, its staff out of jobs and another source of oversight over the doings of local government is or soon will be gone. 

No matter how weak they had become, these weeklies were a source of news people needed to know and news people wanted to know. You'll notice comments at the end of the Independent story, much of which is a lot of carping about the lack of hard news in the papers. 

Some of it, I'm sure, is justified, but a lot of it translates to, "they didn't report the news I'm interested in in the way I want to see it." Many Independent readers are local-news junkies who aren't interested in the chicken-dinner events that, like it or not, are what many if not most weekly-paper readers look for. 

The watchword in most newspapers, aside from the New York Times and national publications of that ilk, is for local-local news, and that's what weeklies give. Staffs work long, long hours for low pay and few benefits. There used to be satisfaction, but most of that is gone because so many weeklies are owned by chains that shouldn't have bought them in the first place. The chains bring in some hotshot from Kansas who tells you how to cover local news in Branford or Hamden or Guilford or Milford.

In addition, Channel 8, the local ABC affiliate that also does news shows for My9, a station that shares facilities with WTNH and does a 10 p.m. newscast, has laid off a number of  news staffers. The Late 8, as they have been known for decades, has been doing what many local TV stations do. The programming is: If It Bleeds, It Leads; Press Releases; Read the Local Paper; Localize Feeds From Network.

Add this to the problems being faced by the Tribune Co., which owns The Hartford Courant and the New Haven Advocate, as well as WTIC-TV, Channel 61 in Hartford, and you have a bleak future for news in Connecticut. 

Page 3

I know this is going to sound petty, especially for those who live on streets that have hardly seen a plow or evidence of one's passage, but I would like to thank all the plow drivers who work on wide streets such as mine. 

In fact, there was one who was so dedicated that he stopped his plow in front of my house, backed up, ran his plow the length of my yard, then backed up another time, just to make sure that enough snow and huge chunks of ice were dumped on my freshly shoveled sidewalk and driveway.

My street is as wide, if not wider, than major thoroughfares such as Fountain Street, Whalley Avenue, Whitney Avenue and The Boulevard. Why, in this time of restricted budgets, curb-to-curb plowing is necessary is beyond me. I once stopped a plow driver who had just dumped a bunch of snow into the driveway I was shoveling out and asked him that question. He said he was ordered to plow from curb to curb and told he could lose his job if he failed to comply.

I know the fact that my street is one that the mayor drives on his way home has nothing to do with this situation. 

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks. 

Until next time...

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