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News and quick-hit commentary from around mid-Michigan ... from the Morning Sun.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Second graders tour The Morning Sun

It's never too early to become media literate - and a group of second-graders from Mt. Pleasant's Vowles Elementary School got to see first-hand how their local newspaper is put together.
The group toured the Morning Sun, and staffers Tony Sapienza, Nancy Shackelford and I got to be their tour guides.
We showed them how ads come together, told them how news gets to be news, and how it all gets onto paper.

The presses weren't running, so we could stop and take a good look at the remarkable, precision machinery that puts ink on paper.

I pointed out how we can print in color, and how the web-fed offset press works.

And how, after everything's printed, folded and cut, it comes out at the end of the line, ready for inserts, packaging and distribution. I'v been around it for years, but I'm still amazed at what happens to produce The Daily Miracle.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Prudence, paranoia and the white minivan

It's easy to see how the whole white van thing got to where it was - because people did exactly what they're supposed to do, and reacted the way they can be expected to act.
Let's go back to the beginning of the incident at Fancher School. A group of kids - and remember, Fancher houses fifth- and sixth-graders - runs ahead of the rest of the class after outdoor physical education.
Waiting outside the school in a white minivan is a man who is a substitute teacher for the school district, but who doesn't get assigned to Fancher very much. His wife was subbing at Fancher that day, and he's there to pick her up.
Being a responsible adult, he speaks to these apparently unsupervised kids. Nothing's wrong.
But imagine this: One of the kids goes home and tells a parent, "This creepy guy talked to us outside school today."
If you've been a parent of a sixth-grader, particularly a sixth-grade girl, you'll know that any male over 30 is, by definition, "creepy." But if you're the parent of a sixth-grade girl, and she tells you a "creepy guy" talk to her outside school, you'd be a responsible adult and make sure the school administration knew about it.
The school administration, being responsible, would then gather information about what happened. Maybe there was a threat, maybe not, but it's prudent to let police know.
There's enough weird stuff going on that it's best to err on the side of caution.
It's also prudent to give parents a clue. Imagine the headlines if something really were amiss: SCHOOL KNEW ABOUT THREAT, DID NOTHING - subhead: SEARCH FOR MISSING GIRL CONTINUES
No, let's get the police on board and notify parents. That's prudent and responsible.
As soon as the note from school went home, the Sun began to get phone calls and message-board postings from people - good parents who wanted to be responsible - who wanted to know more about the incident. The newspaper did the responsible thing, gathered what information there was, and presented it.
The police did the responsible thing and increased patrols around Fancher.
In short order, police identified a possible suspect, but determined there was no wrongdoing. That, too, was made public.
Finally, the actual guy in the actual white minivan comes forward and tells what happened. Now it all fits, and it's all perfectly harmless.
What strikes me is that everyone did the responsible thing. We were looking out for one another. Every single move was aimed at keeping our kids safe.
And our kids are safe, because we look out for them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Are we ready for hybrid cars?

Is the answer to the automakers' woes 'going green?"'s Derrick Z. Jackson thinks so:

Toyota sales in Japan are up, driven by the new version of the Prius:

The Canadian Press says Nissan is trying to catch up on the hybrid front:

The hybrid Honda Insight has become the largest-selling vehicle in Japan, according to a company press release:

But not everyone loves the Insight. Jeremy Clarkson writes the most devastating car review I've ever read.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Your Monday morning links

Conventional wisdom takes a beating this Monday morning.

Firms nationwide say they're doubling or tripling work forces to upgrade millions of homes, businesses and government buildings to make them more energy efficient, reports The reason? The stimulus spending and an accompanying batch of new tax breaks for efficiency.
CEOs and analysts expect the demand to last, in part due to some fine-print strings attached to the stimulus money that push states to adopt ongoing efficiency incentives.

Steven Henderson asks, in, could a backlash to Gov. Jennifer Granholm -- call it the "Granholm effect" -- threaten what should be a strong Democratic year?

The Swedish government says it won't prop up Saab, the Swedish car company owned now owned by General Motors. reports that the last thing they want is to seem to be bailing out a despised foreign company.

Suzanne Garment, writing an op-ed piece for, says the president was irresonsible in his approach to AIG's bonuses.

And a provocative piece from David Barash on
Marx was wrong: The opiate of the masses isn't religion, but spectator sports.

Go State!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

From the Sunday sites

Add Brighton to the list of school districts closing schools in face of dropping enrollment. reports that parents' battles, including an online petition, went for naught in saving the Miller Early Childhood Center, which currently houses 568 students.

Congress is sending money to schools. But reports that some dollars are going to districts that don't need it, while some poorer districts are getting little. reports that these are tough times for Starbucks. It's been closing stores by the hundreds and laying off workers by the thousands. People started skipping Starbucks even before the recession got really bad. What to do?

How are we dealing with tough times? says thrift and responsibility suddenly sound sexy. Balance, both in lives and in bank accounts, oozes desirability. Instant gratification, by contrast, sounds like the cheap thrill it really is.

How can business prosper in these times? My old friend and editor Jack Telfer at reminds us of how treating customers like they were the people who pay the bills pays off.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday morning reads

Heading into the weekend, check out these must-reads:

The Grand Rapids Press looks at polling data showing Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Rep. Peter Hoekstra as the leading candidates to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2010.

Meanwhile, we're reporting on a non-politician who might seek the office, too.

The Globalist puts together in a simple, easy-to-digest format, a look at the troubles facing General Motors.
Note: It doesn't seem to be a marketing problem or a product problem. It's a health care problem.

Bloomberg News
reports that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, plans to award $2 billion in extra compensation to about 1 million U.S. hourly workers this year after sales jumped in the recession. Through

How'd the president do on "The Tonight Show?" Well, except for that little Special Olympics gaffe ... Read about it in The First Post.

The New Criterion reports that while supposedly living in a market economy, today’s Russians understand making money by stealing, but not by producing. Efficiency remains a foreign concept. One scholar remarked that Russian spirituality allows people to deal with abstractions but leaves them unable to repair an elevator or television.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quick read - Tuesday

CNN is reporting that President Obama's address Tuesday to a joint session of Congress will have a heavy emphasis on the economy and will try to strike an optimistic tone, aides said. is reporting that Rep. Dave Camp was one of the participants in Monday's Fiscal Responsibility Summit called by the president.

Camp has been a leading voice of opposition to the stimulus plan in Congress. (Video)

A new Washington Post poll says 64 percent of those polled back the economic recovery package, and the same percentage support the mortgage proposal. Only 10 percent said the bill was too heavy on spending and too light on tax cuts, the primary contention of the Republican leadership in Congress. Overall, 60 percent of poll respondents approve of how Obama is dealing with the economy.

But CNN says its new poll says most Americans are fearful about the state of the country

Willie Nelson's answer to economic downturn: Back to the land, according to