Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ohio lost a good one

Ohio lost a true public servant when Chief Justice Tom Moyer died last Friday and sadly most of its citizens probably don't realize it.

Moyer was a periodic visitor to the Times-Reporter during my tenure as editor. He didn't bring with him the traditional entourage that normally accompanies high-ranking public officials. (Former U.S. Rep. Bob Ney used to bring so many people that I'd have to reorder business cards after he left.)

But Moyer apparently didn't believe he was anything special. Introducing himself to editors, he'd offer simply, "Hi, I'm Tom Moyer."

What would follow would be a casual conversation about the current state of the law -- the kind you might have at the kitchen table if the chief justice happened to be your father.

Moyer believed judges should be appointed and not elected, arguing that politics had no place in the judicial system. I’ve come to embrace that line of thinking, given some of the trials in our own county.

Moyer also seemed to have the wrongly accused-innocent victim in mind with at least several of his decisions. He believed prosecutors should share with defense attorneys any witness statements and other evidence before trial. He also questioned the extent of the weight given to “expert” witnesses when they testify to a myriad of circumstances.

A friend of mine, former Plain Dealer Columbus bureau chief Jim Underwood, knew Tom Moyer well and testified to Moyer’s quick wit.

“One of my first memories of him was when he was an assistant to Gov. Jim Rhodes,” Underwood said. “During a campaign year, Rhodes came into one of the communities I was covering as a young reporter and promised to build a much-needed highway in the region.

“As I was getting ready to write the story, an editor suggested I check the files and sure enough, Rhodes made the same pledge in a prior campaign. I was covering Rhodes at another stop and spotted Moyer. ‘Hey,’ I said, ‘This is the second time he has promised to build that damn road in Licking County.’

“Moyer just nodded and whispered to me, ‘That road is so important to the community he's going to build it twice for the good folks in that part of the state.’”

* * *
Journal Register Co., former owner of the Times-Reporter, is thinking of changing its name.

According to Editor & Publisher, CEO John Paton, who has been charged by lenders with the task of remaking the once-bankrupt company, wrote in his blog: "While some of our newspapers have been around since before the American Revolution, the Journal Register Company name is only about 20 years old or so. That name has certain connotations both pro and con.

"I am wondering if the name now needs to be changed to reflect our new focus on multiple media platforms and hyperlocal journalism. What do you think?”

E&P notes that Journal Register, which managed the T-R in the '90s, acquired a reputation as a chain of relentless cost-cutting and unambitious journalism.

Its CEO at the time was the late Bob Jelenic, whose focus was on coverage of local sports. He loved the labor-intensive baseball and softball box scores in his papers and made it known in no uncertain terms.

"I find it very disappointing that some of our publishers and editors still do not fully understand the value of local sports," Jelenic wrote in a 1995 memo. "The more local names that we can get into the paper the better our future will be.

"Therefore, for the last time, I am mandating that your coverage of high school, commmunity college, legion, Little League All Stars and Babe Ruth All Stars, include the entire box score for the primary teams in your market. So there is no misunderstanding, following is a list of teams that the Trentonian covers on a daily basis with box scores..."

Jelenic, a Canadian, also was a huge hockey fan. Fortunately, there were no hockey teams for the T-R to cover in its circulation area, which probably irked the hell out of him.

Mr. Paton, change the name.

* * *
Mark Judy, whom I worked closely with over two decades, is the latest casualty of the contraction in the newspaper business. Judy wore many hats at the T-R, including graphic artist and information technology chief.

One minute he'd be fixing your computer and the next he'd be working on a map of the Christmas parade. Or downloading mistake-laden documents. Or posting the Buehler's circular to the Web. Or, well, you get the point.

Mark's a good guy and I wish him the best.

* * *
Work continues on the home of Dover High football player Danny Jeandervin, who was seriously injured in a sledding accident in January. I'm told Danny's home is being retooled by volunteers to allow for his physical needs.

I'll be happy to publish a list of those who helped and/or donated to the project if someone gets it to me.


Bob said...

Hello Dick-
I agree with you on Tom Moyer, great man, true loss for Ohio.
As far as your "tongue in cheek" I did not realize when I tried to bring some of the active participants in the process from our office to meet the "big wheels" than ran the paper, that it would put me in a position of not being a down to earth Member! I learn something new everyday. I should have known that you are more of a "one on one" type of Editor.
Best to you,
Maybe we will run into each other, neither one of us have an entourage these days :-)



Dick Farrell said...

As I was driving south on I-77 toward Dover the other day, I noticed a sign on the freeway that credits the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the new interchange under construction at County Rd. 80.

Let there be no mistake, folks. The credit for that interchange goes to Bob Ney, who secured funding for that a decade (or longer) ago.

The recovery act is a Johnny-Come-Lately, at least as far as that interchange goes.

Nice to hear from you, Bob.

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