Day-job blog is live

Lots of changes in N.C. The new web site launched Thursday — pretty much without a major hiccup, but not without stress. Guess I have to stop pulling all-nighters and eating like a senior on finals week. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Also, with the new site comes a blog, DigitalDiva.

It’s May, and we’re already had a day that reached 80 degrees. Things are blooming, so even though I live (oops, probably Freudian) my new job and new friends, I’m missing my old friends, and my old garden. Right now it’s being enjoyed by my mother in law. Image

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Categories: Journalism

Southerner

February 9, 2013 1 comment

I’m reading about a snowstorm in the Northeast — power outages, closed schools, teeth-rattling cold, and I’m chilled.

Metaphorically, anyway. Like looking back at old love. Cold and Rust-Belt distant.

Today another husband plays music across the room on his computer. Honest-to-God rock stars. Banging drums and fuzzy guitars vibrate the room. A son of friends makes this wonder.

My miracle nods his head to the beat, his back to me; cats scatter.

Out my window the North Carolina grass is bare and the sun shines in February.

It is not winter at home anymore.

Saying a Buckeye goodbye

Among  the millions of things left on my to-do list these days is to change the welcome screen on this blog. I am no longer a reporter and editor based in Northeast Ohio.

Ravenna Raven, Akronite, Knight Ridder alum. These are titles I have worn with pride for, well, pretty much forever.

Come July 9, I’ll have some new titles: North Carolinian, senior digital editor at the Greensboro News & Record, wife (as soon as I can get a marriage license) and, I’m told, transplanted Yankee.

I’m excited. Shell-shocked (two Ohio houses to clean and move, a rental house to find in N.C. while I look for one to buy).

It’s a new challenge in a new state, thankfully at a really fine daily paper with gracious and friendly coworkers.

It’s the job I dreamed of and spent the last five years preparing for – in a place I never imagined.

There are three cats to wrangle… Lifelong friends to tell… To some extent, a new identity to discover.

A job to leave. Here’s my goodbye column in The Suburbanite.

Unsettled by disaster in the digital age

The Akron-Canton Airport holds a disaster drill every three years as required by the FAA.A few days ago I played death and destruction at the Akron-Canton Airport along with about four-dozen first responders, investigators and reporters at an FAA-mandated disaster drill.

In the drill storyline, a passenger aircraft carrying 124 collided in mid-air with a cargo prop plane carrying two. The exercise gave emergency forces a crucial opportunity to practice worst-case scenarios, and take one more step toward making their training second nature.

As an editor and, for the day, once again a reporter, it gave me a chance to role play and practice juggling sides of my brain, a task we’re all charged with in this digital age: What do our readers need to know first? I scribbled furiously with half of my brain and joined the group in firing questions at the make-believe press conference: Deaths? Was this terrorism? Problems with either plane’s mechanical or safety record? All the while the other half of my brain calculated how long the press conference would take while sending web updates and tweets to readers and editors. Was there enough bandwidth to edit and send photos and video? Would the TV station file first or get a better interview? Were the folks back in our buildings working on crash histories for this airport, this airline, these pilots?

Adrenaline was pumping, and we all having a little fun.

God forgive us. Even a faux disaster is news.

Here, however, is where it got weird.

The CEO took the podium about an hour after the crash was supposed to have occurred. He gave us a statement, told us he would not be taking questions.

We all would be taken to view the crash site on a bus – together, a little herd of info stenographers – when it’s safe. We would be wearing fluorescent armbands emblazoned with the word PRESS. In the mean time, we can get information required for our reports on the airport Web site, which has been newly tooled to turn from blue to black in case of emergency. The site would provide statements on a given emergency along with a list of contacts – sources who also will likely be giving statements rather than talking because they no longer need to be on site to communicate in real time with reporters.

It was the best and worst of times: We can now get news to people faster than ever with the exact same technology that can be used to keep us all at arm’s length.

We learned from remarks of two local fire chiefs and a spokesman from the mythical airline that four people had been taken to area hospitals, chunks of burning aircraft had fallen from the sky and landed near a high school was on lockdown while its stadium blazed. Loved ones of crash victims were ferried to a local hotel where representatives of the pretend airline gave them life-changing news. Bits of counterfeit carnage were being recovered by federal types on the ground in a field near one runway.

All this we knew because someone told us, and because it was posted on the Web. And at least for the purposes of the exercise, it was supposed to be good enough.

Almost seven years ago, I was one of a team of Knight Ridder reporters covering Hurricane Katrina from the Biloxi (Mississippi) Sun Herald. We slept on creaky cots in the circulation room, took makeshift “Navy showers” with buckets in the parking lot and lived on canned ravioli and peanut butter for longer than I care to remember. We were a smelly, determined group. For a brief while, an Internet signal was our main connection to readers and the outside world.  Throughout the day we would file continuous web updates as well as report, edit and deliver the print newspaper to people who weren’t fortunate enough to have power, water or sanitation, and who often were missing loved ones.

Our workflow was before its time: We told people what happened on the Web then told them why in the newspaper.

And in a world in chaos, people need to know why, so much so that they will step out of lines for food and water to get the information we provide.  That’s a trust that needs to be repeated here, years later when so much information is available digitally.

Getting information to people quickly is a blessing, but we can never be fooled or become so complacent by the quantity of information given to us that we forget to seek what readers need to know.

During Katrina, lots of government agencies communicated with their world, and us, a good deal of the time through email and the Web. But newsrooms weren’t yet working with skeleton staffs and were unused to communicating electronically, so it just never occurred to us to settle for what a source handed us.

We used technology when it was practical. When it wasn’t, we got out of our offices and into the community. We told stories of loss, generosity and inspiration. We asked business people and officials working in the Gulf to account for themselves, face-to-face.

That’s not to say that the airport folks would use the web site as shield, there’s no reason from any behavior in the past to believe that’s the case, but some agency will.

It’s our job to know which tool to use, and to go places where it’s sometimes not that easy to be.

It’s unlikely the next event that brings us all together will be a drill, but it will be a test.

New Franklin may be next site for shale drilling

Copyright 2011, The Suburbanite

By KYMBERLI HAGELBERG

Editor

New Franklin is normally a quiet little town. Lately, though, the lights are on into the night while crews work on some sort of well in a field near the high school — and in the morning, Pat Boiarski and her neighbors are finding promises in their mailboxes.
According to a Southern Ohio mineral leasing company, there’s a lot of money in the ground, buried thousands of feet beneath their homes, farms and businesses.

“We got a contract that offered to pay us more than $12,000 to start drilling,” Pat Boiarski, of Renninger Road, said recently. “Just like that — about 25 hundred bucks an acre, plus royalties.”

The Boiarskis were contacted by Pleasant View Management Ohio, a company that hopes to buy up mineral rights in New Franklin and other parts of Summit County for gas exploration.

The company is interested in acquiring the rights to drill into the Utica shale formation beneath the county through a controversial process called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Essentially a well is drilled to a depth of 6,000 to 8,000 feet into a shale formation, then lines are drilled horizontally to create fractures in the rock. A mixture of water and chemicals is pumped into the cracks at high pressure to release the gas.

Proponents of the drilling say fracking has the potential to revitalize economically hard-hit areas in Northeast Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Opponents say that the chemicals used in fracking can pollute groundwater and cause air pollution, and that the construction necessary to build the wells creates too high a burden on infrastructure in rural areas where drilling often takes place.

“The contract (states) they will ship in water if we have trouble, but you’re still washing clothes and dishes and showering in it,” Boiarski said. “If they destroy the water table, will they buy my house when it’s worth nothing? And they need millions of gallons of water to do this. So where does the water come from — will they drain the Portage Lakes?”

Boiarski said she wants more information about the process before she decides, but she’s worried other people may act more quickly.

“I went to the meeting. It could be a perfect storm,” Boiarski said. “In this economy, the thing most people were asking was, ‘Where’s my check? How long does it take me to get a check?’

“People need money,” she said, “and that’s all a lot of people were thinking. That’s frightening.

Limiting Laptop Loiterers

This ran on my site today at Fairlawn-Bath Patch. Follow the link to take our poll and find out if you’re a laptop hobo.

By Kymberli Hagelberg Email the author 9:00am
The folks at Gawker have been writing recently about anecdotal reports that some customers in New York City are being politely asked by Starbucks employees, or police, to either buy something or leave.

One of the articles describes the languid customers as “loitering laptop hobos.” It includes an (initials only) account of a man who was pretty peeved when an officer told him he had outstayed his welcome at a Manhattan Starbucks.

c. Fairlawn-Bath.Patch.com

At this point, no one from Starbucks headquarters has returned my call for comment. This story will be updated the second a reply comes in.

So, for now, all I have are more anecdotal, er, facts — if local ones. I’ve spent many a caffeinated and productive morning at my local Starbucks and no one there has given me so much as an exasperated glance from behind the cappuccino machine. On Tuesday, employees at both Starbucks within the boundaries of Fairlawn-Bath Patch told me that they have never been told to tell anyone to pay up or be gone.

Still, the story has me questioning my own coffee house etiquette: What defines a loitering laptop hobo? Am I one?

In my pre-laptop waitressing days, we used to call these customers “campers.” You didn’t want a camper in your section because a 20 percent tip on a $5 tab (from a table that sits occupied for three hours) is a poor payment for anyone’s effort.

My campers staked their claims in a restaurant where tables turned over, at minimum, every hour. I’ll admit that I sometimes expedited their exits by clearing the table of placemats…then silverware…then water glasses… You get the idea: more tables, more money.

This seems different. Maybe. Coffee shops have created a marketing culture that encourages customers to sip and sit a spell. So, is it rude to change that course, or just a good business practice in tough economic times?

Sure, I have camped in my share of Starbucks, but never without a purchase — or two.

Is that enough? I’m pretty torn now. How much table time are a few cups of coffee and bagel worth?

Excuse me while I go pay for a refill.

9/11 10 Years Later

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

This story started out as an extended cutline, my part of the Huffington Post Sept. 11 Anniversary project Touched by Terror, which included photos from all 800-plus Patch.com sites. You can find this (with photos from Tim Lombardi’s scrapbook) and all the 9/11 coverage from my Fairlawn-Bath Patch site on our topic page.

Journalists sometimes raise an eyebrow at anniversary journalism as low hanging fruit, but in every anniversary is a chance to find something or someone you didn’t know… and the best ones are right around the corner all along.

Bath Township Resident Recalls Time at Ground Zero
Cuyahoga Falls Fire Captain Tim Lombardi spent 10 days searching the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11 as a member of the urban search and rescue team Ohio Task Force 1.

By Kymberli Hagelberg

Even before Tim Lombardi was certain he would be sent to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, the Bath Township resident stood in his driveway, looked up, and knew something was very wrong in the sky.

An airplane that should have been headed to Cleveland Hopkins Airport was going the wrong way.

“I had a clear view of what could very well have been Flight 93,” Lombardi said. “Maybe 10 minutes after, I saw two fighters, F-14s or F-16s, shoot right over my house and head northeast. That’s when I knew it was serious business.”

Capt. Lombardi is a firefighter/rescue specialist with the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department. In 2001 he also was a member of Ohio Task Force 1, the first urban search and rescue team outside New York to arrive at the Twin Towers.

Ohio Task Force 1 sent Lombardi and about 70 specialists including search and rescue, medical, hazardous materials, search canines and rigging experts from Wright Patterson Air Force base in Dayton to the World Trade Center. The crew rode to New York with an Ohio Highway Patrol escort. “Normally we would fly a C-130, but they had locked down the airspace,” Lombardi said. “The military was going crazy trying to figure out what was going on.

“We all thought we were getting into World War Three.”

Tim Lombardi spent 10 days searching Ground Zero in 2001. Photo by Roger Sommer

The Pit and The Pile

Fifteen hours later, Lombardi arrived at Ground Zero. It would be another day before he and his Ohio TF1 brothers got a look at the site – what searchers called “The Pit and The Pile.”

Ground Zero was otherworldly. “It was the Apocalypse,” Lombardi said. “Like you used to see in the ‘Outer Limits’ on TV: a barren, smoking landscape, trees with no leaves.

“Things were pulverized by the forces that were generated,” Lombardi said. “When I went on the side of the pit, I remember seeing something that I could identify as a piece of a desk, and maybe the back of a computer.”

Search for survivors

“Everything else was dust,” he said. “The whole 10 days I never saw a piece of concrete bigger than a football. … But you knew, theoretically, the possibility … in some of those voids there could be people who survived.”

Lombardi worked with Squad 2 at the Liberty Street Division, one of four sections at the World Trade Center. The group searched some of the heavily damaged buildings that surrounded the Twin Towers, as well as the Pit and the Pile.

They recovered only bodies – and body parts.

“We had worked our way through one building and got to the top of it, and we looked across the roof and there was nothing but rubble,” Lombardi said. “It turned out to be the outside of the Trade Center. There were nine women’s shoes for every one men’s. What it was is that they slip on, they’re not tied on. When that airplane blew through there, the meaty things absorbed the energy and got pulverized.” Lighter things, papers, wallets, ids, watches, necklaces, bracelets – and women’s shoes – floated in the blast, then settled on the roof. ”All that stuff was just scattered there.”

Lombardi was present at two iconic rescues. “You remember the movie ‘World Trade Center;’ we saw that whole (rescue) when it happened,” he said, “when those Port Authority security guys were brought out. They were below ground in the second tower, that’s why they made it.

“After that there were some guys in Ladder 6 in a staircase – just a staircase – with a little bit of debris around it who also survived,” Lombardi said, “but they turned out to be the only ones.”

Part of Squad 2’s job was mapping the location of every body or piece of physical remains so the remains could be retrieved later.

In his own notes from Ground Zero, Lombardi writes about the “constant smell of death, concrete, drywall and burning plastic. … Your choice was to breathe through a filter respirator all the way up … or motivate yourself to take the lead and stay ahead of most of the dust.”

Type A teamwork

Lombardi and his Squad 2 colleagues drew straws to see who would get the job that would take them beneath the rubble, or 27 stories into the sky to secure beams of what was left of the skyscrapers.

“They’re all team players,” said Scott Hall, public information officer of Ohio Task Force 1. “They have to be, but they’re also something else. You take all these Type A people and throw them (together) and what comes out is scary – the amount of drive and determination they have – but it works. Tim was no exception. He went into where giant buildings just fell and (into) void spaces where you could fall 50 feet to the ground with really no regard for his own safety. There was a mission, and every day there was something you never encountered before. That’s a special person, that’s what Tim is. He put his life on the line. They all did.”

Looking back

Shortly after the deployment, Lombardi wrote about the big-picture effects of the attacks. “We have all had a reality check of the basics of life which are so important, both individually and as a nation: Unity, courage, empathy, love for one another and our freedom.” As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, he acknowledges that the experience marked him in a less abstract way. “I just learned to live day by day. I appreciate my loved ones. I always make sure to say I love you before I go – anywhere.

“I’ve seen the worst people can do to one another,” he said, “but I’ve also seen the best.”

Lombardi was a firefighter for 24 years when he served at the World Trade Center. He joined Task Force 1 in 1997 and retired last year. He still works at the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department.