Tuesday, March 4, 2014
A relative calm has descended upon the newsroom at WLUC.
Steve Asplund, the hardest working man in the news business, has been named the news director at the station. Rather, re-named. He was news director for a few years back in the mid-90's, as well.
And don't worry, he'll remain as the 6 pm anchor. What most viewers don't realize is that Asplund's most important work has always been done off-camera, as assignment editor, producer, writer, photographer, editor, fill-in engineer, snow plow operator. Hell, if TV6 had a cow out back, Asplund would be milking that in his spare time.
He works 70-80 hours a week. No lie. He loves his work, he loves the station.
That's why it was almost criminal what he had to endure for the last two years during the tenure of the former news director, Regena Robinson. For some reason, Robinson locked Asplund, the assistant news director, out of the entire decision-making process in the news department. The hostility was palpable.
Maybe it was a personality clash. Regardless, it was a waste of Asplund's skills and enthusiasm, and it made for a very uncomfortable newsroom because Asplund was universally liked and respected by both the veterans and the youngsters in the news department.
But he kept his head down, worked his 70-80 hours a week, and now he's got the job he deserves. WLUC is the better for it.
(Full disclosure: I was the WLUC news director from 2004-2011)
Meantime, a former TV6er, Rick Tarsitano, who was surprisingly terminated by Robinson a year ago, is in negotiations to become the new news director at ABC10.
He's been a reporter at ABC10 for the last year, but in the wake of Cynthia Thompson's resignation as ND, Tarsitano was appointed interim news director and has done a creditable job. Now management wants to make him the permanent news director.
No one could quite figure out why he was forced out at TV6. Another personality clash? The fact was, Tarsitano was one of the most talented reporters in Marquette when he was let go.
Now we're going to see what kind of management skills he has. He'll be facing a stiff challenge: ABC10 doesn't have nearly the money or resources that WLUC has, and it'll be facing a brand new competitor when WJMN starts its UP newscast in the next month or so.
And who is WJMN's news director and anchor? That's right, Cynthia Thompson, formerly of both ABC10 and TV6. TV news in the Upper Peninsula is a never-ending merry-go-round.
It's been a weird season at Marquette Mountain.
The best snow in years and yet the numbers are down. Way down.
Vern Barber, the GM, figures the mountain has attracted almost 30% fewer skiers and snowboarders this season.
Go ahead, take a guess why.
Yep, it's too freaking cold even for skiers. When you consider that the thermometer has climbed above 30 degrees for only a few days in the last three months, and has generally stayed below 10 degrees, it's easy to understand why we've stayed off the mountain.
The only thing that's kept Marquette Mountain afloat this season has been its ever-expanding race schedule. Teams, young and old, come here from all over the Midwest to race. And unlike the casual skiers, the racers don't have a choice; even if it's minus 10 and the wind is howling, they're going to be racing (and spending money in Marquette) because they've already registered and paid the fees.
Barber says this is the coldest winter he's experienced in his 32 years on Marquette Mountain. Sounds about right.
You got a great story to tell?
You'll get your opportunity to tell it and preserve it for posterity when National Public Radio's StoryCorps trailer rolls into town this July.
StoryCorps brings people together--parent and child, brother and sister, friends, teacher and student, neighbors-- to sit down and tell their stories.
It might a childhood memory, it might be a hunting story, it might be something traumatic.
But the stories are usually evocative, poignant and fascinating.
StoryCorps is hoping to find 200 such stories in the U.P. A couple of them will likely end up being broadcast on NPR nationwide. The rest will be taped and stored at the Library of Congress. They'll become a part of this nation's history.That's pretty cool.
Participants will also be given a copy of the interview--something to hand down to your grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Public Radio 90 will be announcing in the next couple of months how you can sign up for StoryCorps.
You got news? Email me at email@example.com
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Huge news from Cliffs Natural Resources.
The Empire mine, which had been scheduled to close by the end of the year, will now remain open until at least the end of 2016. There's an option for a third year, as well.
The last minute agreement with ArcelorMittal was announced Thiursday morning.
The agreement means 700 miners won't be losing jobs by the end of the year.
Cliffs officials had previously said an agreement with ArcelorMittal was a very remote possibility and they had been making plans for the shutdown of the mine.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Don't be surprised if the biggest, most publicized issue in this year's City Commission election is marijuana. Namely, decriminalizing marijuana possession in the city of Marquette.
The newly formed group, Legalize MQT, is planning to run a slate of three candidates for the three open commission seats.
All three will favor making possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana or less nothing more than a civil infraction with a fine of $100. Just a ticket, in other words. No court appearances, no community service, no probation, no criminal record, and of course, no jailing.
Attorney Brian Bloch, physician Curt Marder and recent NMU graduate Mike Marthaler are behind the move and Marthaler, in fact, will be one of the three candidates. The other two candidates (not Marder and Bloch) will likely be named in the next few days.
Legalize MQT, which raised almost $1000 in a fundraiser last week, will hold further events in the months ahead and will provide logistical support and mount a mailing campaign for its slate of candidates.
Legalize MQT tried to sell its agenda to the current City Commission in December but found no interest. That's what brought about the election campaign. The non-profit group is also looking to put a decriminalization referendum on the Marquette ballot in 2016.
Similar marijuana decriminalization laws are now in effect in other college towns--notably Ann Arbor and Madison.
Is Marquette, which prides itself on being progressive, ready for such a change? We shall see. What might be concerning is if the marijuana issue dominates the election campaign at the expense of other, more substantive issues.
Yeah, they tell us that all the confusion and incompetence that accompanied the rollout of Obamacare has been ironed out.
Well, there's still confusion and inexplicable disparities among locals.
Case number one, a 60 year old Marquette woman who just signed up for coverage. She'd previously been covered by her husband's employer, but her husband just turned 65 and is now covered by Medicare. She went to an insurance agent (at City Insurance) and found a policy for herself with a $338 monthly premium and a $4000 deductible.
She's thrilled, loves her policy. Not only that but her son got essentially the same policy for less than half the price, and after subsidies, will be paying less than $100 a month. He's thrilled, too.
Case number two, a retired Big Bay couple, both around 60. They're not so thrilled.
They previously had a policy with a $415 monthly premium and a $5000 deductible (for the two of them) but were told, with the advent of Obamacare, their new policy would now carry an $897 monthly premium and an $11,700 deductible. Yikes.
They're not so happy and don't understand why they're paying for maternity coverage.
Turns out, with all the rollout problems, they got a one year reprieve on their Obamacare coverage. Still, they're wondering, why were they assigned such a huge increase? And why can't they choose the kind of coverage they want?
The disparity in cost and coverage does seem strange and needlessly confusing since they're all Michigan residents, and all the same age.
Best advice: Go to a local insurance agent and have her/him explain it and sign you up. No fuss, no muss, no extra cost, no pulling your hair out.
Vision, determination and drive. That's a pretty good way to describe Nheena Weyer Ittner.
She's the lady who brought us the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum.
And now, eight years after the idea was born, she's brought us (with the help of Stu Bradley, Brad Jackson and a bunch of kids) the Marquette Skate Park.
She and the others had to go out and find $300,000 from the city, foundations, companies and individuals for the park. It wasn't necessarily the most popular cause in town--skateboarding teenagers with trousers hanging down around their knees generally don't win a lot of sympathy from older folks.
But Nheena and the others managed to track down the money and got the park built. All because of vision, determination and drive.
Seems they're still about $30,000 short, due to change orders and unexpected last minute costs.
If you want to help out, they're having a party and an auction Thursday, the 27th, at the Blackrocks Brewery Cannery on Washington Street. That's the old Coca Cola building. 5-7:30 pm.
You'll be able to learn something about the beer business, enjoy a brew or two, help out the kids, talk to Nheena and figure out how she does it: how she just plows ahead, against all odds, and gets things done.
Speaking of admirable women, how about Aoy LaChappelle, the owner of the Rice Paddy?
She's heading back to her native country, Thailand, this weekend, with $7500 in hand. That's money she and her friends have raised from her customers over the last year or so.
She'll be spending it on shoes, socks, uniforms and food for kids in her hometown of Phraputthabat. It's a pilgrimage she makes every two years.
She's done well for herself (working 80 hours a week) in Marquette; she continues to spread the wealth to the less fortunate back home.
She's someone who could probably win the mayor's race in both Marquette and Phraputthabat.
You got news? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org