Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stephen King has a hot one...



The name of the book, more than 1,000 pages long, is "Under the Dome."

It's a new novel by Stephen King. (That's him in the blue open collared shirt in mugshot photo accompanying book jacket.)

Worth reading if you want to learn about the pathos or inner workings of a small town--in this case Chester's Mill, Maine.

What makes a man or woman tick?

What is it truly?

And what happens when you put an entire community under stress (or under a dome)?

Maybe, if we're honest with ourselves, we all live under a dome of some sorts--be it physical, psychological, emotional, imagined, real...

That seems to be an underlying message of King's latest best seller.

Turn up your sound and click here for what King, who might be the world's most prolific author, says about "Under the Dome."

I like the book. I highly recommend it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tree of freedom planted at Winthrop


One of the reasons I've stayed at Winthrop University so long (now in my 25th year--longest I've been any place without getting fired) is because our university seems to truly treasure freedom of the press.

That's not always the case at other colleges and universities where image-conscious, overly sensitive administrators sometimes find themselves at odds with the student newspaper.

At Winthrop, our student newspaper, The Johnsonian, is free (meaning there's no prior restraint by any faculty or staff member before the paper goes to press). And the big majority of the time the paper gets things right.

I'm the faculty adviser for The Johnsonian, but I'm a hands-off adviser, reading stories or looking at pictures or cartoons or other material--before publication--only when the staff asks me to. (Very seldom do the students call on this old set of eyes to review anything before they run with it.)

To their credit, the students on the staff of The Johnsonian work very hard--for no pay or for a pittance of a stipend.

They don't do it for money.

They don't do it for glory.

They do it because they love it.

And they love it, in great part, because of something called the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Johnsonian is free--free to be a rambunctious (but hopefully responsible) watchdog, free to cover or uncover whatever it wants to, and free to be playful, funny, adventurous and satirical.

All of those qualities are at the core of our democracy.

Visit any university or college.

Yes, take a good look at that school's promotional material--all of its glitzy Web sites, brochures and pamphlets.

But to get the real skinny on the place (and to gain a sense of how much the university respects its students), study closely its student newspaper.

Does the paper seem to be free to responsibly print whatever it wants?

Do the students who work on the paper engage in robust debate--through journalism and informed commentary--about critical issues at their university?

Does the administration at that particular university let the student journalists flap their own wings? Is the student newspaper, thanks to an administrative and faculty hands-off approach, truly a laboratory for learning about and practicing journalism? Are the students at the paper free to explore and document all aspects--good and needing improvement--about the campus community?

Yes to all of the above at Winthrop.

A few years ago, a visiting professor from Shanghai, China, spent a year teaching at Winthrop. He and I became close friends. He would hang out in my office, and he became very interested in journalism and mass communication.

One evening, he called to see what I was up to. "Pon, this is production night at The Johnsonian, and I usually stop by there and give the students a boost and take them some refreshments," I said.

When he asked if he could accompany me to The Johnsonian offices (in the basement of Bancroft), I agreed to let him tag along.

I'll never forget his reaction at seeing all the kids busily working into the late night on their pages, pictures and stories.

"Larry, where is professional to supervise them? " he asked.

"It's totally their baby, Pon," I responded.

"What if they make mistake, Larry?" Pon wondered.

"I hope they don't, but if they do, I ask them to run a correction in the next edition of the paper," I said.

Later that evening, I told Pon (and I still fervently believe this) that if he wanted to see the heartbeat or core of America and democracy, it was right there--in the basement of Bancroft.

It's not in Washington, D.C.

It's in the basement of Bancroft being played out by those student journalists.

And it's all thanks to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

First Amendment freedoms thrive at Winthrop University, and now we have a "Liberty Tree" (a willow oak) that's growing near the front main entrance of campus.

That Liberty Tree symbolizes freedom of expression at our university and for our students, faculty and staff.

May it grow strong and thrive, and may its roots take hold deeply in Winthrop soil and may it be a reminder to all of us about what makes Winthrop such a good and honorable place.

In the picture accompanying this blog post, notice the recently planted Liberty Tree behind a few lovers of the First Amendment. Kneeling in the front (next to the 45 words of the First Amendment), from left, are Guy Reel and yours truly. Standing, from left, are: Haney Howell, Justin Brown, Bill Click, Debra Boyd, Tom Moore and Karen Kedrowki. (Photo by Judy Longshaw of University Relations at Winthrop)

Special thanks to Karen and Justin for winning a grant and bringing that tree and plaque and many quality First Amendment lectures and programs to Winthrop this past semester.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Newspaper article says it all


This ran in today's edition of The Johnsonian, the student newspaper at Winthrop University.

Funny thing: I always tell the woman who cuts my hair to make me look like George Clooney.

Really!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reporter of the year wows 'em at Winthrop




Gina Smith, who quite likely broke the biggest story of 2009 for a South Carolina journalist, visited our university earlier this week and spoke about her work.

Gina is a statehouse/government reporter for The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

She's the enterprising journalist who surprised S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford last June when he got off a jet in Atlanta (from a secret trip he made to Argentina to rendezvous with his mistress.)

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sanford and his wife are separated.

Some key legislators in South Carolina have called for his resignation.

A state Ethics Commission investigation has pointed to 37 potential ethics violations committed by the governor.

Impeachment proceedings might be on the horizon (or might not be.)

Even Sanford's dog abandoned him. (Well not really, but you get the picture.)

Sanford called a press conference soon after being interviewed by Gina at the airport. He came clean and seemed contrite, admitting that he had not been forthright to his staff and to others about where he had been (not hiking on the Appalachian Trail.)

Here's the million dollar question.

Had Gina not confronted him at the airport in Atlanta, would he have called that press conference and spilled his guts?

We'll probably never know.

In the pictures accompanying this blog are Gina Smith (dressed in black and holding the coffee mug), Kristen Gainey, president of the Winthrop chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (sponsor of Gina's visit), and yours truly (the old blogster).

Thanks, Gina, for coming to Winthrop and sharing your story about that airport encounter with the gov.!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving pictures



Memorable Thanksgiving Day at my condo. Rarity because I had all three of my kids there with me.

Stars have to line up.

Rainbow has to be a certain hue.

Wind must be completely still.

All that and more required before I have my three kids with me for a meal and family time.

It happened and we had a good one.

In the photos with me in Rock Hill are youngest daughter Elizabeth of Nashville, Tenn; daughter Dorothy of Durham, N.C., and son Crawford of Melbourne, Fla. The bichon frese puppy is Jackson (named after Michael Jackson.) He's a handful but we love him.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Potato casserole fills the hole


Looking for a scrumptious side to go with that honeybaked ham or turkey?

Here's how to create a delicious potato casserole:

1. One bag of frozen shredded hashbrowns

2. Cup of sour cream

3. Can of creamed chicken soup

4. Chopped onion

5. Cup of shredded cheese

Mix all of the above in a glass baking dish. Bake uncovered @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Enjoy! (I had this dish over the holidays this week; definitely a big hit with everyone on Thanksgiving Day.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Children of Rock Hill

Who are the children of Rock Hill, S.C.?

Who's responsible for them?

Ran across this beautiful video from Rockthrill.net.

Says it all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dreamweaver



Students in the mass communication department at Winthrop University are getting their feet (and hands) wet with Adobe Dreamweaver software as they construct Web packages.

Winthrop mass communication major Debra Seth brought this 1976 song, by Gary Wright, to my attention in class today.

Name of the song?

Dreamweaver.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sermon hits home


Scott Carroll (pictured with this blog post) says that people should learn how to worship before they actually worship.

He says no church should automatically assume that its members know how to worship.

Carroll, speaking to the congregation this morning at West End Baptist Church in Rock Hill, S.C., gave several pointers for effective or meaningful worship, including:

1. Get pumped BEFORE you set foot in the Lord's house. Meaning get psyched up. Get excited. Get in the proper frame of mind (and for goodness sakes open your mind!) to learn something new that will change your life. Whatever you do, don't dread going to church. Don't view church as another Sunday morning of polite drudgery. Doesn't have to be that way. Shouldn't be that way, Carroll says.

2. While you're in the sanctuary and at the worship service, don't detract from others. Don't write your grocery list or to-do list. Don't yawn or fall asleep. Don't frown or sigh or be a nuisance...

3. After you leave church, focus on the positive of what you learned, heard or experienced in the worship service. Find something good and helpful (from that worship service) that can boost others and bring them closer to God.

Good, engaging food for thought from Carroll.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Magazines go with "augmented reality"


Who could imagine that you could see a video by opening a magazine?

That's what Esquire magazine is doing, thanks to a new technology called "augmented reality."

Learned about this from Aubrey Gillespie, who sent me this link of Esquire magazine and the video.

Aubrey is a student in my Media Writing class at Winthrop. Thanks Aubrey!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dorothy, Patrick and Joelle and baby

Dorothy, my oldest daughter, and her husband Patrick live in Durham, N.C.

They've been praying for a baby.

Now they may have found one--from Joelle, who lives in Ohio.

This past weekend, Joelle drove to Durham to meet Dorothy and Patrick for the first time.

She is the birth mother. Dorothy and Patrick will be the adoptive parents.

We wish them all well.

Turn up your sound and click on the slide show (with music) at this link to see what happened when a young woman from Ohio connected (finally in person) with Dorothy and Patrick.

Powerful anti-abortion trailer

Don't know what side of the abortion debate you are on, but an independent film maker has just created "Blood Money."

Definitely powerful and moving and food for thought.

Click on the hotlink boldface headline above to see a trailer to "Blood Money."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Magazines alive and well


When you think of struggling media, do magazines come to mind?

See magazines as on a downward spiral?

Think again.

Ellen Geer, a Winthrop University alumna, sent me this intriguing video, "Twenty Tweetable Truths About Magazines," of how well mags. seem to be doing in 2009.

To access the video, turn your sound up and click on the hotlink boldface headline above.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tom Sorensen connects with Winthrop students




If you're been reading the Charlotte Observer very long, you've encountered stories or columns by long-time Observer journalist Tom Sorensen.

I had especially gotten interested in Sorensen after reading one of his columns (about the Carolina Panthers) a few months ago in which he shared that he had cancer. At that time, he called himself "the cancer columnist."

He asserted in that particular column that he could get away with writing a lot of stuff that others couldn't, because he's the cancer columnist.

That aside, read Sorensen if you want the true skinny about the Carolina Panthers. He has a sort of self-deprecating style that immediately appeals to a lot of Observer faithful readers.

So how did Sorenson and Winthrop University students cross paths?

We had wanted for several weeks to have Tom as a our special guest at a session of the Winthrop chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. We actually had him booked a few weeks ago to come to one of our meetings. But then he had to beg off because of undergoing chemo and suffering from lack of energy.

We understood and wished him the best. We still liked him.

Then I had a thought (a scarey thing, I know.)

If Tom couldn't come to Winthrop, we'd come to him.

That's what we did last night at Shoney's at exit 90 on I-77 (Carowinds.) A group of Winthrop students (and Judy Longshaw and her husband), and yours truly shared a few bites with Tom Sorensen. We all swapped lies with one another and had a good time.

I should mention that Tom had just arrived back from Phoenix, Ariz., where he watched and reported on the Panthers crushing of the once-mightly Arizona Cardinals. We appreciated that he could join us and give us some of the stories behind the stories that grace the sports pages of The Observer.

He seems to be feeling well, and we are thankful for that.

Keep writing, Tom Sorensen. You've got a gift--for covering sports and for inspiring others.

Did I mention that he's working on a book? Bet it will be an engaging read.

(Thanks to Kathleen Brown and Judy Longshaw for snapping the pictures that accompany this blog post.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to break out of a rut



If you're writer, you've been there.

For some reason, the ideas seem harder to come by.

Sentences are like big boulders that won't move.

Brain clog (smog?) seems to have taken over.

How to break out of the rut?

Well, for one thing, get over it!

There's no such thing as writer's block. Never has been. Never will be.

What if a nurse, getting ready to stick you with a needle, suddenly became paralyzed and said: "Oops! I can't do this. I have nurse's block."

What if a professor walked into a classroom and told her class: "Ladies and gentlemen, I can't teach today. I have professor's block."

What if your car mechanic said he couldn't repair your engine because he had mechanic's block.

Really and truly ridiculous when you think about it.

Strategies for getting your creative bounce back:

Many of the following ideas for infusing your day with creativity come from a Oct. 27, 2009, Wall Street Journal article written by Alexandra Levit, a business and workplace author and speaker.

1. Block out some time on your calendar to think about creativity. That way you elevate its importance in your mind. Clear your head of everyday worries and challenges. Put on some music and let your mind go long. Dream. Think. Imagine.

2. Change your reading habits. If all you read pretty much consists of one publication or Web site each day, expand your horizons. Read something new or different.

3. Read before you doze off into slumberland at night? If so, jot down ideas on a notebook on your nightstand; ideas might also come to you in the middle of the night.

4. For that matter, have a pen or pencil and paper with you everywhere you go. Write down interesting things that you hear, see, smell, touch...--anything that provokes an interesting train of thought.

5. Break out of your comfort zone. Never been to a wrestling match or a NASCAR race, for example? Go to at least one of these and you'll experience the world from an entirely different perspective.

6. Don't be afraid to just bounce around ideas--even if they're stupid. Keep throwing your ideas out there. Keep brainstorming. Once every so often, something sticks!

7. Realize that the brain is a webbed site. Your brain is connected to every part of your body. That means if you've been sitting or lying down all day, the brain might be close to shutting down. Get out and exercise. Get the blood pumping! Word is that when Einstein couldn't think clearly about his theories of physics, he'd ride his bicycle. Massage or stimulate your body and you do the same with your brain.

8. Know that creativity doesn't necessarily understand a deadline. Keep working. The good ideas will come--eventually.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Friends of the opposite sex?

If you're a woman, is it possible to have a friend of the opposite sex?

What about vice versa?

Turn your sound up and click on the boldface hotlink headline above to learn the latest on this touchy but interesting question from media personality Bridgette Alese, who has her own show.

Carolina Panthers--what this team needs



The Carolina Panthers lost yesterday in Charlotte to the Buffalo Bills.

The Panthers were supposed to beat the Bills, but alas, Jake Delhomme threw multiple interceptions, playing a key role in the Panthers losing another game.

Jake, of course, doesn't bear full responsibility for the defeat. Others, among them the Panthers' Kenny Moore, who fumbled a very catchable punt with only a few minutes left in the game, should be blamed.

I happened to be there at the game yesterday, sitting in a section that seemed to have more Bills fans than Panthers fans.

If I hear "Let's go, Buffalo!" one more time..., I'll puke.

But anyway, everyone seems to be wondering what's wrong with the Panthers.

What's mainly wrong is they don't have a winner as a QB.

What they need is a proven winner to help turn the whole Panthers culture around.

What they should do: Get a guy named Tim Tebo when he graduates from the University of Florida.

I'm not a big Gators fan, but Tebo, who won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, seems to almost carry his team to victory every week.

He refuses to lose.

The Panthers should bring him on board.

Secondary solution: Get a QB hometown (Charlotte) guy; his name is Chris Leak. He led his team, the University of Florida, to the national championship when he played quarterback there. He's a winner, leading Independence High School in Charlotte to at least three straight state championships in football.

Those are my suggestions.

Are you getting this, Carolinas Panthers?!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Newest member of Timbs family



Meet "Michael Jackson," a loveable, black button-eyed, rambunctious bichon frise puppy that I got in the back country of North Carolina on that fateful day (a few months ago) that MJ died.

I'm beginning to call him H.M. (High Maintenance) Jackson, because he requires so much time and attention.

Is he worth it?

Yes!

Here's what I learned about Jackson after reading an article by Stephanie Horan in the November 2008 edition of "Dog World" magazine.

1. He's the "standard of the lapdog."

2. He is sweet and playful and personable and has a cheerful disposition.

3. He can easily learn tricks. This breed has been used as a circus dog to perform tricks.

4. Regular bathing, brushing and trimming are essential for Jackson.

5. He does best in an adult household or with older children.

6. He welcomes the chance to run and play and be wild in the yard or whereever.

7. He can be manipulative and quite stubborn.

8. Food rewards win his attention much more successfully than force.

9. He is not hyperactive or excitable.

10. He's always ready for playtime or a walk.

11. He loves to dig in the yard or in the dirt.

12. He has a high-pitched bark that can put you on edge.

13. He is NOT easy to housetrain and can be quite stubborn in this respect. Can take him up to 3 yrs. to be reliably housebroken.

14. Regular grooming of his fur/hair is essential to prevent matting which can lead to nasty sores and other skin problems.

15. Does his coat shed? Yes! But instead of falling on the ground or on the furniture, the hairs remains in the coat until it's removed by brushing and combing. Any shed hair left in the coat can form mats, and we don't want that!

16. Should be thoroughly brushed at least once a week, but more often is better. When we brush him, we should try not to miss mats and snarls.

17. Brushing and combing must be done prior to bathing him.

18. He's prone to tear staining, and this can cause allergies or infections. Tear-stain remover can be found in pet stores (but we've been using a warm wash cloth and that seems to work ok!)

19. He's prone to skin allergies that cause itching and scratching. Grooming/brushing helps avoid this.

20. He makes an outstanding therapy dog.

21. His best friend is the next person he meets.

22. He's high maintenance but lovable and worth it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cold feet and hands at the Wooly Worm Festival



It's fall break at Winthrop and time once again for the Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk (Avery County), N.C.--just a few miles out of Boone and near the Tennessee state line.

Spent a few hours at the festival couple days ago, and it was plenty COLD.

Should I return to the scene of this crime--where thousands of folks come from all over to watch wooly caterpillars race for cash prizes--I'll wear thick socks and insulated boots.

Still, Saturday was great fun and a chance to soak up mountain culture--music, crafts, games and food with family and good friends.

Just so you know, wooly worms are reputed to be good predictors of how harsh or cold the upcoming winter will be. (Something about the depth or richness or darkness of their colors correlates with snow and freezing temperatures.)

Sideline note: You never know whom you might encounter at the Wooly Worm Festival. Saturday, right there in the thick of one round of wooly worm races, and helping referee the races, was Tommy Burleson.

Old-timers might remember that Tommy, from Newland, N.C., starred on the N.C. State University Wolfpack basketball team that won the national championship a few decades ago.

You couldn't miss Burleson--even among the throngs of people at the Wooly Worm Festival. He's 7 ft. 4 inches tall (or thereabouts.)

Did Burleson star on the same teams at N.C. State with David Thompson? Maybe someone out there in the blogosphere can enlighten us about that by posting a comment.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Myrtle Beach Herald making its mark in journalism



Here's a story that I wrote and that I got published in the November 2009 edition of Publishers' Auxiliary, a journalism trade publication. The photos accompanying this blog post are of editor Charles Perry and embattled Horry County (S.C.) Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland--both of whom I mention in my story:

By Larry Timbs
Special to Publishers’ Auxiliary

Even if the staff at your community weekly newspaper is small and your resources aren’t anything close to that of your competitors, don’t rule out doing investigative reporting.

Because sometimes you get lucky, like the 6,500-weekly circulation Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Herald did in September, and you break a really big story.

As in being the first newspaper in your circulation area, which includes the McClatchy-owned 52,000-circulation daily Sun-News, to discover and report that the chairwoman of your county council owes the state ethics commission a whopping $300,000-plus in fines.

Myrtle Beach Herald editor Charles Perry said he was stunned that when looking for one piece of information he stumbled upon something much juicier.

Call it a classic case of journalism serendipity or call it whatever you want—luck, providence, skill, hard work—but it paid off for Perry big time.

While Perry combed the Internet for information about a local city council candidate’s ethics fines, he noticed another familiar name on the ethics debtors list—that of Horry County (S.C.) Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland.

And not only was Gilland on the debtors list, she was on it big time—owing the state ethics commission more than $300,000 for not filing 11 campaign disclosure forms. Plus, the fines were mounting daily for each day she didn’t pay.

Perry, 28, editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald since late April 2009, couldn’t believe what he had found, but there it was plain as day: One of the most powerful political figures in Horry County owed the state ethics commission a huge sum of money, and no one seemed to know about it, and, if they did, they were mum.

His blood pumping and heart racing, Perry recalls that he couldn’t write the story fast enough.

But write it he did, breaking the story online and putting it on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

A few hours later, that same evening in September, the Myrtle Beach Herald’s TV news partner, WMBF News, was all over the story, as were other news media in Horry County and elsewhere in South Carolina.

But the little guy on the block—The Myrtle Beach Herald—got the ball rolling.

The Myrtle Beach Herald, one of four weekly newspapers owned by Waccamaw Publishers, has an editor (Perry), a copyeditor and two part-time reporters, along with a few occasional freelancers.

But it’s a fearless, hard-working, community-minded newspaper that will doggedly pursue just about any story, according to Perry.

That kind of stick-to-it-ness pays big dividends, he said.

“(L)ately our work has set us apart,” Perry wrote in a recent column about the Liz Gilland blockbuster story. “In the barrage of TV news reports about County Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland’s ethics fines, you probably didn’t hear our name mentioned.

“But we broke the story. It was on our Web site, myrtlebeachherald.com, before any other outlet reported it.

“Yes, we get beat on most crime stories,” Perry conceded in his column, and there are some events we just can’t cover. Our competition is also talented. This town has some great photographers and reporters.

“But in recent weeks, we’ve shown that we’ve got a pretty good group, too.”

The Myrtle Beach Herald and its sister Waccamaw Publishers weekly newspapers—Carolina Forest Chronicle, Loris Scene and Horry Independent—have stayed on the story about Gilland. The papers have reported, for example, that her ethics fines, as of this writing (Oct. 14, 2009) continue to mount daily, for each day she doesn’t pay, increasing by $1,100 a day. They’ve interviewed Gilland herself, who admits that she’s gotten herself into trouble but who also calls it “much ado about nothing” that has worn her out. Plus, the weekly newspapers have written interview-based stories quoting state officials who say Gilland’s wages could be garnished by the S.C. Department of Revenue to pay the ethics fines.

“A lot of it was pumped a little bit by the media, but that’s their job,” Gilland, a longtime county council member, is quoted as saying in an article published early in October in the Myrtle Beach Herald. “All of the injuries were self-inflicted. It didn’t hurt the county. I didn’t hurt the county. Nobody was wounded. I didn’t steal anything. All of my wounds were self-inflicted. I’m going to go about my business and serve the county.”

Perry credits fellow Waccamaw Publishers journalists Michael Smith, Ashley Bruno (a county reporter who files stories for all four weeklies) and Kathy Ropp (editor of the Horry Independent) as doing outstanding work on the Gilland story.

“It hasn’t just been just our coverage (from the Myrtle Beach Herald). It’s been a fantastic collaboration of strong (Waccamaw Publishers) community newspapers,” Perry said. “It’s making phone calls, looking at documents and doing the things we are supposed to do. . . We don’t have the resources of these large daily newspapers or TV stations, but yet we’re the ones that broke the story. . . I can’t say enough about the people I work with. We lean on each other. . . I’m not going to lie. We get beat on stories, but this also shows we can do good investigative work. . . I’ll put us up with the best of them.”

“People talk about the Sun-News,” Perry noted. “In a lot of cases we’re sort of an afterthought (as a newspaper) in Myrtle Beach. We’re really a small operation, but I honestly think we’re starting to make a name for ourselves.”

Perry says the lesson of the Liz Gilland story for a small community weekly newspaper is this: Don’t be discouraged by your competition’s resources or by your resources. “Community newspapers can win,” he said. “They can break stories that can provide the kind of in-depth coverage that’s often written off as a thing of the past or believed to be something that only large papers can provide.”

One professional who’s a believer in Perry’s mantra is Matt Miller, news director of WMBF News in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (TV news partner of the Myrtle Beach Herald.) WMBF has been running the Liz Gilland story full throttle but with appreciative full attribution to the Herald.

Miller believes the Gilland story is important inasmuch as the county council chairwoman is a key political figure in Horry County. Plus, she’s another name on a list of politicians in South Carolina who’ve recently gotten themselves into trouble, and the public has a right to know about such.

In the case of the Myrtle Beach Herald, according to Miller, its small targeted circulation area, much smaller than, say, the likes of the Sun-News, works in its favor.

“They can focus on their community, and I think the Herald and the Chronicle do an excellent job at that. They don’t just do press releases. They go after investigative journalism. That’s why we’re partners with them. Charles (Perry) and Michael (Smith) are just awesome. They do a fantastic job.”

Larry Timbs is an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., where he teaches courses in print and Web journalism.

Monday, October 12, 2009

If it can happen...









Stephanie Johns, a former student of mine (now working at a TV station in Columbia, S.C.), sent me these funny tidbits.

All of these were actually published somewhere.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dog licks inside of computer screen

If you've read the old blogster for very long, you know I love dogs--big ones, small ones, smart ones, even unintelligent but loyal slobberknocker ones.

In that spirit, I present you a dog that cleans the inside of your computer screen.

As a friend, put it to me, "You know that you should clean the outside of your computer screen every so often. However, did you know that you're supposed to clean the inside of the screen, too? Not many people know this or how to do it. So, here's a complimentary cleaning."

Click on the boldface headline hotlink above to see the dog cleaning your screen.

Friday, October 2, 2009

One of my old favorites


Whodda thought that I'd be singing along with one of my all time favorites, Ms. Dionne Warwick?

Turn your sound up and enjoy this podcast of yours truly and Dionne.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Son-in-law cuts but leaves very few scars

If anyone out there needs a hysterectomy, check first with Dr. Patrick Yeung, a board-certified (OB/GYN) surgeon at Duke University Hospital.

He does minimally invasive surgery and leaves few tracks (scars).

Need a hysterectomy? You're in and out of the hospital in only one day or night.

By the way, Patrick is married to my oldest daughter, Dorothy.

He hits a mean golf ball, too.

For a TV clip of Patrick and one of his patients, turn your sound up and click on the boldface headline above.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Story of my life these days





These pictures say a lot about growing old.

But better to be old than to not be here at all.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Never forget Tiffany Wright



Damn the police.

Damn social services.


Damn all the supposed do-gooders responsible for protecting the weakest and most vulnerable people in our society.

They didn't do their job to save Tiffany Wright.

The former student at Bessemer City High School in Gaston County, where she ran track, was murdered early one morning a few days ago while waiting to catch her school bus. Her last communication, sent via text message to a friend, at 5:51 a.m.: "Where's the bus?"

She had dreamed of becoming a lawyer.

It seemed like her entire life had been an uphill battle.

What did the police and social services do to protect her when she most needed their help? What did they do to protect her unborn baby, which came into the world under the worst of circumstances and lived for only one week. Let's never forget baby Aaliyah.

They made phone calls and left voice mails (unreturned) for her adoptive brother, now described as a "person of interest" in the ongoing investigation.

And that's about all they did, far as I can tell.

Maybe they gave up so easily because she was black, 15, poor and pregnant.

What if she had been the granddaughter of the governor of North Carolina? What if she had been John McCain's granddaughter or great granddaughter?

Would the "protective agencies" have been more quick to act forcefully?

Every American should be angry about what happened to Tiffany Wright.

Here, in case you missed it, is the front page story that ran today in The Charlotte Observer. It's long but well worth reading. Also here, after that front page story, is a followup story, which appeared in the Sept. 26, 2009, edition of The Charlotte Observer.

Failed by system, dead at 15

Agencies tried to help Tiffany Wright, but their actions were too little, too late

By Christopher D. Kirkpatrick
ckirkpatrick@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Thursday, Sep. 24, 2009

Tiffany Wright stood alone in the dark, waiting for her school bus.

It was just before 6 a.m., and her foster grandmother had walked back home to get Tiffany's water bottle.

Tiffany, 15, was eight months pregnant but determined to stay on track in school. She wanted to be a lawyer. And after just a few weeks at Hawthorne High, she had impressed teachers as smart and ambitious, despite a difficult childhood.

At 5:51, Tiffany sent a text.

"Wheres the bus?"

One stop away, replied her friend, already on the bus.

At 5:55, as the bus lumbered toward Tiffany's stop, people began calling police to report gunshots.

A school bus dispatcher radioed Tiffany's bus driver: Change course - something's happening ahead.

Tiffany lay dead in the road, shot in the head, that morning, Monday, Sept. 14. Her baby girl was delivered at the hospital and lived a week, but died Sunday.

Nobody's charged in the killings, but police call Tiffany's adoptive brother, Royce Mitchell, a "person of interest."

In the months before she died, local agencies took steps aimed at stabilizing her home life and keeping her safe. But her story exposes failures in the system that was supposed to protect her.

Among the missteps:

•In February, a Mecklenburg court clerk appointed Mitchell as Tiffany's temporary guardian - even though he was a felon who served time in federal prison. He was also tried in 2006 for murder, but found not guilty. And last year, he was accused of domestic violence, though the case was dismissed.

•In July, social workers told police that Mitchell, 36, might have committed statutory rape with Tiffany, but police didn't question him about it for seven weeks, and didn't charge him with the rape until after Tiffany was killed.

•This month, Mecklenburg social services failed to cut off communication between Tiffany, who was in foster care, and Mitchell, said a source close to the investigation.

On the day of Tiffany's killing, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police jailed Mitchell for statutory rape and indecent liberties with a child, naming Tiffany as the victim.

Police defend their work, saying they followed the industry's best practices - which takes time. Police didn't feel a need to rush, they say, because they believed Tiffany was secure, hidden in a foster home with no threat to her safety.

Police say it's hard to prove statutory rape: Of the 262 reports of statutory rape police received over three years, only 16 percent - 42 cases - were accepted by prosecutors.

Experts say statutory rape cases are complicated because they involve victims ages 13, 14 or 15 who often consider themselves voluntary participants in sex with someone at least six years older. So victims can be reluctant to help police.

But child advocates say in cases like Tiffany's, police should act more aggressively. An immediate arrest sends a signal to a suspect and can persuade them to stay away from victims.

"The cases may be difficult to win, but they're not difficult to charge," says Brett Loftis of Charlotte's Council for Children's Rights.

UNCC criminologist Paul Friday says: "Often, nothing is done in these kinds of cases because they're based on improper assumptions about the rationality of someone that age. But the minors are often unaware of disease, birth control and they can be exploited by someone."

Adopted by foster mother

Tiffany first entered the child welfare system as a toddler in Buffalo, N.Y., when her mother lost custody.

She was adopted at 4 by her foster mother, Alma Wright, an older woman with eight grown children, who was excited about raising another child.

One of Wright's grown sons was Royce Mitchell, a star quarterback in high school who'd gone on to play for a semi-pro team in Buffalo. But Mitchell also was indicted in 1999 as part of a drug trafficking ring and went to federal prison.

While he was in prison, authorities also charged Mitchell with an earlier murder, but a jury found him not guilty.

In 2004, Alma and Tiffany left Buffalo for North Carolina, settling near Kings Mountain. Tiffany made friends easily at school and church. She ran track at Bessemer City High School.

In 2007, Mitchell was released from prison and followed his mother to North Carolina.

But last fall, Alma Wright got sick. Friends at church helped out with Tiffany, inviting her for dinners and weekends. Tiffany spent time with Mitchell and his wife, too.

Alma Wright died Jan. 25, and Tiffany moved in with the Mitchells in Charlotte.

On Jan. 30, Royce Mitchell asked a Mecklenburg court to appoint him and his wife as Tiffany's guardians.

On his application, he wrote: "We are seeking guardianship because we were requested to do so by Mrs. Alma Wright before she died."

He wanted to transfer Tiffany to West Mecklenburg High School.

The court set a hearing for Feb. 5 and appointed a child advocate to study the situation and look after Tiffany's best interests in court.

There's no transcript of what happened in court, and the clerk who handled Tiffany's case declined to discuss his decision.

Frederick Benson, a Mecklenburg assistant clerk of superior court, appointed Mitchell the temporary guardian of Tiffany's welfare.

It's unclear if Benson, a lawyer, knew about Mitchell's criminal background. Court clerks are not required to perform background checks in guardianship cases, says Clerk of Superior Court Martha Curran. It's up to each clerk to decide what checks are necessary, and they often rely on court-appointed child advocates to advise them in such cases.

Tiffany's advocate, lawyer Martha Efird, declined to discuss her actions in the case.

It was in the weeks surrounding the Feb. 5 court hearing that Tiffany got pregnant, if hospital estimates are accurate.

But friends say Tiffany, who started at West Mecklenburg High in February, wouldn't realize for four or five months that she was pregnant.

On Feb. 27, clerk of court Benson ordered DSS to conduct a "home study" of the Mitchell household. Officials won't release their findings.

But Mitchell didn't keep custody long, according to several of Tiffany's friends in King's Mountain.

In late March, Mitchell left Tiffany at a group home called With Friends in Gastonia, according to Marlene Jefferies and Cruceta Jeffeirs, two adult family friends who watched Tiffany grow up.

The group home wouldn't confirm that. But the friends say the home reported to social services that Tiffany was abandoned. And she was soon back in foster care.

On March 31, Jeffeirs, a Shelby pastor, wrote a letter to Benson seeking custody of Tiffany: "My desire is to see Tiffany accomplish all the goals that she has set for herself and I believe she can do that in a stable environment with lots of guidance and love."

DSS officials in Gaston and Mecklenburg won't discuss Tiffany's case or answer questions about what steps they took to protect her.

But friends and family say Tiffany was eventually placed in the care of foster parent Susan Barber, in a townhome off Mallard Creek Road in Derita.

By July, it was clear Tiffany was pregnant, friends say.

Barber tried to shield Tiffany from talking to those she believed might be bad influences, according to Tiffany's cousin Brittany Page. But a source close to the investigation said Tiffany and Mitchell continued communicating.

Despite repeated attempts, Barber could not be reached.

As the school year approached, Tiffany prepared to change schools again, this time to Hawthorne High in Charlotte, which offers a special program for pregnant students.

Delayed investigation

On July 27, social workers reported to police that Royce Mitchell might have committed statutory rape with Tiffany.

It took eight days for a detective to look at the case, and three days more for it to be officially assigned to Teresa Johnson, a detective with CMPD's youth crime and domestic violence unit.

Another 12 days passed before Johnson interviewed Tiffany.

It's unclear when detective Johnson discovered Mitchell's background, but it wasn't enough to ramp up the investigation. Investigators say they believed Tiffany was safe in a foster home and faced no threats from Mitchell.

Police say their performance in the case followed procedure and met standards.

Police interview alleged victims immediately if the crime has occurred within the previous 72 hours, so they can gather evidence that may remain. But in cases like Tiffany's - where months had elapsed since the alleged offense - police try to arrange just one interview when children and teen victims of abuse are involved.

Police acknowledge that strategy takes time but minimizes trauma and reduces the chances that young victims might be led into inaccurate testimony by repeated questioning.

Police also let such victims decide when they want to be interviewed at the county's child-victim center called Pat's Place. There, specially trained interviewers talk to victims, while social workers, psychologists, police and others watch from another room.

Tiffany chose an Aug. 19 interview. She didn't say much during the formal interview. But later that day, Johnson won her trust and obtained enough information to move forward with the investigation.

No response from Mitchell

The next day, Aug. 20, the detective made her first call to Mitchell to ask him about the charge, she says. Johnson left a message and gave him a few days to call back.

When Mitchell didn't respond, she made calls over the next two weeks to social workers and a federal probation officer to ask Mitchell to come talk to police.

Police say they didn't immediately arrest him because they believed they could get better information if he talked voluntarily.

On Sept. 9, a federal probation official told Johnson that Mitchell was not coming in.

On Sept. 10, a team of social workers, police and other agencies held a standard follow-up meeting to discuss how to proceed in Tiffany's case.

On Friday, Sept. 11, detective Johnson phoned Mitchell's wife and left a message. She asked her to call back to discuss Tiffany, Johnson says, but didn't give details of the rape allegation.

That Monday, Tiffany was shot and killed.

As emergency vehicles rolled to the scene, Tiffany's school bus was diverted from its normal route. But the students could see flashing lights. Tiffany's friends on the bus, Cimone Black and Tamia Corpening, began to worry.

"I kept texting her phone...," Cimone said. Then she started calling, but all she got was voice mail.

The bus continued on to Hawthorne. For Tamia, the hourlong ride was excruciating.

Nobody said a word.

Staff writers Liz Chandler and Ely Portillo and researcher Maria David contributed.



Bond set, suspect held in rape case

Man charged with statutory rape of Tiffany Wright remains a "person of interest" in her killing.


By Gary L. Wright
gwright@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Saturday, Sep. 26, 2009

A $175,000 bond was set Friday for the man charged with committing statutory rape with Tiffany Wright, a pregnant teen who was fatally shot at a school bus stop last week.

But Royce Mitchell isn't likely to get out of jail, even if he makes bond. Federal authorities have placed a hold on Mitchell, who remains under federal supervision since his 2007 release from prison.

Mitchell, 36, is Tiffany's adoptive brother. He also has been charged with taking indecent liberties with a child, and police describe him as a "person of interest" in Tiffany's killing.

At Friday's bond hearing in Charlotte, Mitchell's lawyer questioned the sex charges against her client, telling the judge that Tiffany had denied having sex with Mitchell and denied that he was the father of her baby.

The lawyer, Susan Weigand, also said Tiffany, 15, had been sexually active and that she told boys at school that they had fathered her child.

Tiffany's grandmother, Shirley Boston, gasped in the courtroom as Weigand spoke.

"She's dead...She's a victim that has no voice," Boston said of her granddaughter after the hearing.

She was angry that the defense lawyer "beat up" on Tiffany. "That's outrageous," she said.

Tiffany's adoptive mother died in January and a Mecklenburg court clerk appointed Mitchell her temporary guardian - even though he had spent time in federal prison. He also was once indicted in a killing but acquitted.

But Tiffany was later placed in a foster home.

During Friday's hearing, prosecutor Kelly Miller said Tiffany told her foster mother that Mitchell had had sex with her. The foster mother then called the Department of Social Services.

Tiffany initially refused to talk about the allegations, then denied them, Miller said. But she later told a detective that Mitchell had sex with her twice and was the father of her baby, the prosecutor said.

"We would ask for a high bond - whatever your honor thinks is appropriate," Miller told Mecklenburg District Judge Hugh Lewis.

Mitchell was arrested in 1999 in New York as part of a drug trafficking operation and was later sent to federal prison. He was released in 2007 and placed on four years' supervision.

The sex charges involving Tiffany constitute probation violations, said federal authorities, who last week were preparing a warrant that would keep him in jail. Mitchell will be turned over to U.S. marshals if he's able to post bond on the sex charges.

Tiffany was shot in the head Sept. 14. Her baby, Aaliyah, was delivered and lived for a week in critical condition but died Sunday.

No one has been charged in Tiffany's killing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Youngest daughter doing well

My youngest daughter, Elizabeth, 23, is working for "World Relief," an organization in Nashville, Tenn., that's helping refugees adapt and get settled in the U.S.

She's especially involved lately in helping pregnant refugees, by giving them a baby shower.

Click on the boldface headline link above to see the Fox News TV clip of Elizabeth and her co-workers at World Relief.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Generation NeXt


Here's a column I wrote that The (Rock Hill, S.C.) Herald published today (Sept. 19, 2009):

The challenges of working with NeXters

By Larry Timbs - Special to The Herald

If you have a Generation NeXter on your work force, managing that person can be quite challenging, even at times vexing.

Why do I say that?

It's because Generation NeXters — people born no earlier than 1983 — sometimes can seem like they're from another planet.

Take my word for it. I come into contact with Generation NeXters every day in the university classes I teach in print and Web journalism. My challenges: Engage NeXters in learning; keep them focused and in the knowledge acquisition loop; get the windmills in their minds churning so that they can grasp new or meaningful ideas; run with those ideas and concepts, and make our community or world a better place.

What I try to do in all my classes at Winthrop University is to connect with Generation NeXters, or at least meet them (figuratively speaking) in their minds and hearts, and prepare them for professional work in the real world.

Not an easy task.

Generation NeXters, according to Dr. Mark Taylor, a nationally recognized educator and expert on this group of young people, definitely bring to the table a set of personal characteristics that would tax even the most skilled professor, let alone one from the baby boomer generation who can seem galaxies apart from his students' world.

Taylor, who has worked as a college professor, medical administrator and clinical psychotherapist, writes in “Generation NeXt Goes to Work: Issues in Workplace Readiness and Performance,” (www.taylorprograms.org/drtaylorarticles.html) that NeXters:

• Have minimal respect for authority and or for social rules of conduct, instead asserting their own personal privileges;

• React defensively to constructive criticism;

• Don't know the difference between civil exchange and reasoned ideas and shouting personal beliefs;

• Have a na├»ve sense of the future;

• Feel a sense of entitlement;

• Expect immediate gratification;

• Have high self-importance. (They've been told by their parents that they're precious, and they believe this!);

• Are often devastated by expectations of the workplace;

• Ask not what they can do for the organization but what the organization can do for them; and

• Expect high salaries, quick promotions, and moderate hours in a friendly, supportive work environment that makes the most of their talents.

That's the downside or bleak side of Generation NeXters.

Dr. Taylor also notes (in “Generation NeXt Goes to Work…”) the upside or strengths of this generation — again composed of persons 26 years old or younger.

He observes that NeXters:

• Tend to be positive and feel good about themselves;

• Exhibit resourcefulness in problem solving and needs meeting;

• Are accustomed to multitasking in high-stimulation environments; and

• Are technology oriented and tech talented, making them rapid digital learners.

So what might this mean if you're an employer or manager determined to get the most out of your new-hire NeXters? Well, for one thing, recognize that NeXters are definitely a different breed. Know that there's likely going to be a gap between what you believe in and how you act, as a manager, business owner or employer, and what the NeXters value, believe in and how they behave.

Recognize and accept that gap, but don't let it become a total disconnect.

And let's be fair, folks. Not all NeXters expect immediate gratification, and not all of them are slackers or feel a sense of entitlement or expect high salaries. (Dr. Taylor himself acknowledges as much in his excellent paper, pointing out that the characteristics of NeXters he writes about, while useful descriptors, don't necessarily apply to all members of Generation NeXt.)

Work with the NeXters. Be patient, and try to at least meet them halfway in their world. You don't have to stay there indefinitely, but meet them there, and see what they have to offer.

And yes, you can even learn from them.

In my classes at Winthrop, for example, NeXters have taught me a ton about technology. Each semester, I get a bit more Web and computer software savvy, thanks to them.

They've also inspired me to become more community service oriented. NeXters at our university donate a good chunk of their time and energy to nonprofit causes (Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army, Homeless Shelter…). Yes, the university sometimes rewards their community service with course credit, but many NeXters stay on the job at the nonprofit long after a course has ended.

What I'm saying is this: NeXters have their talents, and many of them have a streak of humanity. (And did I mention that some are exceptionally bright? The top journalism graduate from our program in May 2009, employed as a reporter at the newspaper you are now reading, is a NeXter; I would put her up against any journalism graduate from any program in the U.S. She brought excellence to our newspaper at Winthrop when she was editor-in-chief last year. She can do the same for The Herald.)

Got a NeXter on your work force? Don't give up. See the gap (between you and the NeXter) for what it is, keep your mind open, try to get into their world — at least for a while — and keep the faith.

NeXters might just surprise you at what they have to offer — in a good way.

Larry Timbs is an associate professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, where Generation NeXters fill his journalism classes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Adventures at Wal-Mart















Dorothy, my oldest daughter, sent me these photos, which capture folks doing their thing at Wal-Mart.

Nuf said.

The pictures tell a sort of visual story.

Some of you might say: "Been there; done that."