Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Ideas everywhere, and some are really entertaining

Laura Kessel was right.

Not only that, but turnabout is fair play.

You see, she started her column last week with my name, so if she can resort to that, I guess I can start with her name if I feel like it.

She had a point, though. Her point was something I told her many years ago when she started writing a column.

To quote her quoting me: “When you get an idea, write it down.” That was what I told her.
I guess I will have to elaborate on that.

She mentioned last week that she often has dreams which have great potential for columns. And all column writers need to have a storehouse of ideas, because when they sit down to write, they need something to write about.

Several years ago, I couldn’t think of anything to write about, so I spent 22 inches of valuable space lamenting the fact that I couldn’t think of a topic for my column.

I thought it was a pretty lame way to fill space, but Bill Crosier thought it was great, and I am not one to dispute him because he is one of my all-time most loyal readers.

Every Monday at Rotary he mentions something I wrote about the day before. Now that is loyalty.

And coming from one of Lake County’s all-time great police chiefs and chief deputy sheriffs (or is it chief deputies sheriff), I take his comments as compliments of the highest order.

But I digress.

Laura was saying that she has dreams that would make good columns, but by the time she wakes up she can’t remember what she was dreaming about.

I have the same problem about remembering dreams. I once put a tape recorder beside the bed, so if I woke up in the middle of a great dream that had as its topic a matter of profound national interest, I would wake up and begin dictating the column.

I tried this once. Do you know what you get when you play back the tape? Absolute gibberish!

The words may be filled with sound and fury, but they signify absolutely nothing.

So I told her: You must have a backlog of ideas for columns, so that you will never come up with nothing, even though that “nothing” may be something that Bill Crosier finds entertaining.

Today, although I had intended to write about something else, I will amplify my comments about making notes for future columns.

The “something else” I was planning on writing about today is the rapid, downhill decline of the Cleveland Plain Dealer since they started delivering it four days a week, expecting people to buy on newsstands the other three days, and not be unhappy about it.

I also said that I will never, but never, read a newspaper on a computer, as the PD people expect me to do.

A lot of people called to say they totally agree with that sentiment.

More than a few callers said that if The PD people think they are going to carry a computer into the bathroom to read the paper, they have another thing coming.

(I have no solutions for reading a computer in the bathroom, which seems to be the venue in which a lot of people choose to read the paper.)

And trying to work a crossword puzzle on a computer in the bathroom is preposterous. You could drop the conjugation of an entire verb into extremely cold water. And you might flush away a useful though little-known word such as “erstwhile,” which I will have more to say about next week.

As I told Laura, whenever you think of an idea for a column, write it down. Save it. Never throw it away. It might be just a single word, but it could lead to a column 22 inches long — which is my weekly goal.

I have thousands, literally thousands, of notes bearing single words to remind me of column topics. They may not be interesting to you, but at least they are interesting to me.

These notes of mine are literally everywhere. They are in my pockets, in my office here and at the college, in my car, and everywhere else I may feel the compulsion leave a note.

I shall offer but a single example. I have a note that says “Hamp.” It refers to the last CD I bought by Lionel Hampton, and it is a reminder to quit stopping at Half Price Books in Mentor every time I have a few minutes to kill, because every time I do I buy $40 worth of CDs.

Make no mistake, I love every one of them. But I’ve got to stop! That one Hamp CD sent me to my basement, rummaging for Hampton CDs I hadn’t played for a long time. I found six or eight of them.
I don’t have time for that when I have hedges to trim and weeds to pull.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Special friend's death brings thoughts of another life

If you believe everything you hear, everything you read and half of what you see, you will become a well-rounded person.

And you will end up not knowing much of anything for sure. That’s why I refused to believe what I read in the Cleveland paper a couple weeks ago.

The headline said: “Paul W. Cassidy, 94, dies, was Parma Heights mayor.”

My reaction was: I find that hard to believe, because I was sure he was going to live forever.

He was just a fledgling mayor when I met him. We became very close friends. He was one of the nicest, most genuine people a newspaper guy could ever hope to know. But the story of his death said he was mayor for 43 years (almost as long as Art Baldwin was mayor of Waite Hill), so I guess it was not in the Ultimate Plan for him to live or to be mayor forever.

I know what you are wondering: What in the world was I doing in Parma Heights? You can’t even get there from here.

Well, there was a reason for my being there. And actually it was Parma where I lived for 15 months. But Parma Heights was surrounded by Parma, and it was easy to confuse the two.

The year was 1959. Bolton Publications consisted of two daily papers, The News-Herald and the Dover Daily Reporter, plus two weekly papers, the Parma News and the Brooklyn News.

There was a shake-up in the leadership here, with people being shuffled back and forth between Willoughby and Parma, and one of our best people ending up in Columbus as a “corespondent.”

It was decided that I was needed at the Brooklyn-Parma News to take charge of that operation. And boy, was I in charge! I was the editor, reporter, sports editor, society editor, copy boy, photographer and film developer.

Yes, I was a one-man staff. There was a secretary, an office manager and two or three ad salesmen, but I was the only person on the news side.

Our offices were upstairs over the Parma Hardware store at the corner of Ridge and Pearl roads. We had no printing press. That was located in Dover, where I drove every Wednesday to put the paper together, as it were.

My arrival in Parma was trumpeted on the front page of the two weeklies, taking note of the success I enjoyed building up membership in the Willoughby Jaycees to award-winning proportions.

That immediately led to a visit by dignitaries from the Parma Jaycees asking me to hold a similar membership drive for that organization — which I did.

But the first official visitor to enter my “office” over the hardware store was Paul Cassidy.

He said he was the mayor of Parma Heights, and added he would appreciate good coverage of his city and its activities.

I assured him I could do that. (There was indeed nobody else on the premises who could give that assurance.)

“I’d like you to have lunch at Pete’s Wayside Inn,” Paul said. I jumped at the chance. I was to have lunch there many times afterward. It turned out to be the venue of choice for Paul and those of his political persuasion.

“How many kids do you have?” Paul asked. “Two,” I replied. (That would be true until the following February, when No. 3 arrived.)

“Here,” he said, “are four passes (good for all year) at the city swimming pool.” It was a truly nice gesture.

There were citywide elections coming up that November (1959), and at some point Paul said, “come over to our house on election night and watch the returns with Elise and me and a few friends.”

What a party! The “few friends” turned out to be a few hundred!

Here’s what I remember most vividly. I went into a bedroom to get rid of my coat and the only occupant of the room was a very well-known businessman who was head of a huge company (Forest City, you would recognize his name) and he was sprawled on the bed, surrounded by papers, legal pads and other paraphernalia and he was on the phone. The only phone. There were no cell phones in those days.

I asked Paul what he was doing. “Checking on election results,” the mayor said. It seems there were a number of zoning issues on ballots across Cuyahoga County in which he was interested.

“They must be important issues,” I said. Paul said they were.

That’s the way I remember Paul Cassidy — a great guy, a good friend and a fine mayor who was the center of activity everywhere he went.

I was brought back to The News-Herald in July 1960 to help straighten out a problem, purchased a house on Center Street in Willoughby, and here I remain — two subsequent homes later.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Feeling the pain of the loss of a longtime golf buddy

Much is said about first impressions, and we all know you have only one chance to make a good one.

But I have, at least in my mind, a pretty decent record of sizing up people the first time I meet them.

If the first impression is a good one, it portends a healthy — and lasting — relationship. If it’s not so good, well, I guess you can always give that person a second chance.

Jack Cahill didn’t need a second chance with me. The first time I ever met him, many years ago, I knew immediately that he was the real deal — a genuine person you would like to know, be around and even socialize with.

I got to know him very well over the years. I played golf with him several times, and on a long-ago Florida golfing trip we were even roommates.

If I were to venture that he never made an enemy, that would be undeniably accurate.

He had a winning smile, a pleasant demeanor and a way of making you like him.

The good doctor died a little over a week ago, and I have been giving a lot of thought to what I might say about him. Every syllable of it is good.

Dr. John J. Cahill described his occupation at Rotary meetings as “baby catcher.” I guess that would be accurate, because he delivered a lot of babies; and I have personal knowledge of one of them who turned out to be not only a wonderful person, but also a great mother in her own right who raised three terrific children any parent would be proud of.

But Jack did a lot more than deliver babies. He also made a name for himself in the development of hospital emergency rooms.

He was a charter member of the American College of Emergency Physicians and developed the training and certification of the first Emergency Medical System (EMS) in Lake County.

The firefighters he trained in EMS procedures were especially fond of him. And he was at one time the supervisor of all emergency room services for what was, at the time, the Lake County Memorial Hospital system.

He and his beautiful wife, Mary Ann, raised five fine children. The only one I knew well was Tim, one of the twins. He is a successful banker with First Merit, and I presume the others are also doing well.

I knew Jack best at our Rotary Club doings. He was president the year before I was, so I saw him often in those days in the middle 1970s.

Rotary doesn’t seem to pay much heed, if any, to golf these days.

But in those halcyon days, the Golf Committee was the most important function of the club. We had an outing once a month, with at least 16 or 20 members playing.

For the uninitiated, that is four or five foursomes. Jack was a director and later president of Acacia Country Club, so that was one of the lush venues we got to play.

Hey, we played at a lot of good places — Madison, Pine Ridge, Kirtland. The golfing was great, but the dinners and the fellowship afterwards even better — especially the cookouts and poker games at Mel Andrews’ barn in Mentor.

We have only one golf outing a year now. The only guys I can think of who are still around from those early days are Dr. Walt Sargent and Dr. Paul Ferris. And, of course, me.

There were about 16 of us who went on those unforgettable golfing trips to Naples, Fla. One of our great challenges was keeping one of our members away from the bottle, if you know what I mean.

What we learned was that while he was a very good golfer, he was totally unable to play while sober. So we just let him drink. (Don’t try to guess, you probably never knew him.)

It was on one of those trips that Jack Cahill and I were roommates. He was never much for staying out late, as some of the guys were.

Jack and I also had the pleasure of serving together on the board of Lake County Bluecoats Inc. In fact, he was on the board before I was. I think he was a charter member, since the organization here was founded by a group of local doctors.

Jack led a wonderful, productive and diverse life. His Roman Catholic faith was a large part of it. He had admirers everywhere he went. He did many more things than I have had space to chronicle here, including leadership roles he played with the Willoughby Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Lake County.

The masses of people who showed up at the funeral home to pay tribute to him and his family is a tribute that will not be forgotten.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Change of routine means the news isn't getting through

A part of my daily routine has been interrupted, and frankly, I don’t like it.

I am a creature of habit, and when something happens to cause a change in my habits, I get a bit grumpy. And other people notice it.

I don’t like being grumpy. I would rather be happy. Or sleepy. Or even dopey. Or sneezy. Let us leave Doc and Bashful out of the conversation. We are talking about serious stuff here.

One of my daily habits in recent years has been to read two newspapers, cover-to-cover. I do this by holding the newspapers firmly in both hands and modulating from the front to the back.

Sometimes I save the sports sections for last, as in having dessert. But I read only two papers because I don’t have time to read three papers and still do everything else I have to do.

Oh, there was a time when I read five papers every day. But that was back when you could get five papers delivered to your front step, or driveway, as it were.

I read five because I was afraid I might miss something important — especially something local.

But three of them are now nowhere to be found, and although I miss them, there is nothing I can do about it.

First, the Cleveland News disappeared. I really miss that paper. It had a great sports section, and I especially liked Ed Mcauley and Ed Bang. And Howard Preston, the Man in the Grandstand.

I read the News lying on my stomach in the living room, usually at dinner time. My mother and grandmother had a terrible time getting me to the table for dinner because I was busy reading the News sports pages.

I don’t recall that my father and grandfather ever gave me a hard time about coming to the table, but the two ladies sure did.

The next paper to go was the Cleveland Press. It was a well-written, well-edited paper and the bosses there reached their hooks into The News-Herald on a regular basis to grab off a reporter, which it could do because the downtown paper could afford to pay them more than we could.

When the Press folded, we hired three of its best people who were left without jobs. The best of the bunch, Bob August, worked here a long time. He was a true wordsmith who had his roots in sports but who later started writing a general interest column.

And it was a bell-ringer, an award-winner that made me proud to be associated with him.

The area’s papers kept disappearing. Next to go was the Painesville Telegraph. It disappeared because we purchased it and, after a short period of time, ceased its publication.

So now I was down to reading two papers a day – The News-Herald and The Plain Dealer. I still read The News-Herald seven days a week, as you might imagine, but now The Plain Dealer doesn’t deliver the paper seven days a week any longer.

The owners expect me to read it on a computer three days a week, and that will never happen.

Reading a paper on a computer is something I will never do. I would rather watch a re-run of a Mel Brooks movie than read a paper on a computer.

You may have a different approach. It may not bother you to read a paper on a computer. And frankly, I am grateful to the many people who read this column on a computer, because that is the only way they can get it.

To the good people in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Mexico and South America who read this column on a computer I say, “Thank you very much. God bless you.” But that is not the way I prefer to read a paper.

When people ask, “When did you start working at The News-Herald?” I tell them, “1941.”

The paper was printed two days a week at that time — Tuesdays and Fridays. I delivered it on the lakefront, mostly in the Arrowhead area. I collected six cents a week from my customers.

Then it went to three days – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. By the time I graduated from college and started working here full-time as a reporter, it was being published five days a week.

I think it was when I was in the Army, 1953-54, that the Saturday paper was added. I became the editor in 1967, and in 1973 the Sunday paper was first published.

So there you have it. We are still home-delivered seven days a week and The Plain Dealer, as of last week, is delivered three or four days a week, depending on how they define Saturday.

I think we’ve got them on the run. Another year or two and we may be the only daily paper home delivered in Lake County.

And that will free up a lot of my time in the evenings to watch the Indians. Please, I don’t want to stop at a gas station on the way home to buy a paper three days a week.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Gift of giving a great help to organizations

A week ago (it was still July then; where has the summer gone?) I told you about the series of lectures that are regularly offered by the “Leave a Legacy in Lake County” partners.

The repertoire consists of four topics at the moment. It will be expanded soon — perhaps even without notice.

Now being offered throughout the county are “The Marvelous Mansions of Lake County,” “The Remarkable Ladies of Lake County,” “Road to Freedom” (the story of the underground railroad in the county), and “Betcha Didn’t Know about Lake County.”

Each presentation, about an hour long (or less if necessary to fit the schedule of a service organization), is narrated by Kathie Purmal, executive director of the Lake County Historical Society.

On almost every occasion, it falls upon me to introduce her and say a few words about the Legacy series.

Sometimes, some of the other partners chip in to offer their insights into the process of charitable giving. For that is the purpose of the programs/lectures — to encourage members of the audience to remember their favorite non-profit organizations in their wills.

Kathie, a storyteller par excellence, spins the yarns on the above-noted topics. Legacy members point out why it is important to give support to non-profits, to sustain them and make them viable for future generations to enjoy.

The Legacy non-profit members are the Lakeland Foundation, the Lake County Council on Aging, the Lake County Historical Society , the Lake-Geauga Fund of the Cleveland Foundation, the Holden Arboretum and the Lake Health Foundation.

There are many ways that these non-profits can be given support, either by direct contributions or by mentioning them in a will.

Kathie talks about many of the millionaires who left their marks in Lake County, making it a better place to live. John D. Rockefeller, Harry Coulby, Fergus Squire, the Corrigan Family, the McKinney Family and Leonard Hanna are but a few who did so much to enrich the lives of others.

But as I always point out, you don’t need to be one of these philanthropists of legend to leave your legacy in Lake County.

Anybody, and I mean anybody — and everybody — has the means, in some small way if not in a large way, to leave an imprint on the county — most often by mentioning a favorite charity in a will.

It does not have to be one of the Legacy members that is a benefactor. It can be your church, or as I often point out, the Lake County YMCA, the Fine Arts Association or any other favored non-profit that tugs at your heart strings.

Not long ago, a woman who had a few thousand dollars she wanted to donate to a worthy organization chose the Lake County Blue Coats Inc. to be the recipient of her largesse.

Perfect! Exactly the kind of benevolence I am talking about! Just a few thousand dollars, left in a will, can be of major help to one of these organizations. When you are drawing up your will, think about it.

If you have an attorney, an accountant or an estate-planner, that professional can help you in creating a gift to benefit a non-profit organization that could use your help.

Some of the bequests are easy to give and some are a little more complicated and require professional help.

For example, there are retirement plan assets, living trusts, charitable remainder trusts, charitable remainder unitrusts, charitable gift annuities, insurance programs and others that include real estate options.

Planned giving has many benefits. The gifts can “change the world” by making a difference in lives, serve as a way to memorialize a loved one (or yourself), bring significant tax benefits now or in the future, or provide increased income through life income gift plans.

One of the greatest benefits comes with the knowledge that you are making a difference.

Everyone should have a will. I have one. And although I am a person of modest means, I have made provisions for my three favorite non-profits — the Lake County YMCA, the Fine Arts Association of Willoughby and the Lakeland Foundation.

If you have any questions, or would like to explore leaving your own legacy, you can call 440-525-7094.

You might be surprised at what you are able to do to help others — all within your own means — and to feel good about it.