May 22, 2007

Washington, D.C., one out of 10 fire hydrants do not work.

would you find locally? Journalists in many cities have looked and found big

CBS 2 in
Chicago found
much of the same kind of thing there. Some hydrants have not
worked in months.

Baltimore, ABC2 News
also investigated broken hydrants:

ABC2 News investigators got a copy of the county fire department’s
list of broken hydrants. Fourteen pages, with 545 supposedly “broken”
hydrants. Some have been on the list for more than five years. We found at
least five schools made the list, including three out of the four hydrants
surrounding Carver Arts and Technology in Towson. 

In 2005, WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio, found hundreds
of broken hydrants in that town. In 2006, CBS 3 in
also found hundreds out of order, and many had been that way
for months.

Back in 2000, The
Detroit News
found thousands of broken hydrants.

You have to wonder when the feds would step in and
say, hey, fix the fire hydrants or we will cut off your federal money. This seems like some kind of Homeland Security issue to me.

Here Come the Bugs

the next week or so
, swarms of noisy, “red-eyed, shrimp-sized, flying
insects” called cicadas will invade the Midwest.
and Indiana
will get the worst of it. (See
pictures here.)

For those of you who have never enjoyed the sound of the
cicadas’ love song, here are some audio clips of what you are missing:

Cicadas are deafeningly loud — think as loud as a lawn mower for
30 days. They drown out concerts and graduations, and generally drive people
insane. They are attracted to
lawnmowers and other loud, small engines, so lawn-service workers find them
especially annoying.

These things live underground between 13 and 17 years and then come
out for their glorious concert. They live in 15 states; it is just the Midwest’s
turn to enjoy them.

They really are harmless; in fact, my kids used to collect
their shells on strings. My big, yellow Lab ate the bugs, which I figured were
loaded with protein.

Usually somebody starts using them as a prediction of the
end of the earth. Unless frogs and boils follow them, I would not worry much.

on this page (scroll down about four screens)
to get a list of when you can
expect the next big cicada hatch in other states. Next year, 13 states, many in
the South, will have the pleasure.

The University
of Michigan Museum of Zoology is on top of things with a page filled with more
than any human would want to know about the bugs.

Farmers Markets May Benefit From Food Scares

Rockford (Ill.) Register Star


string of high-profile food-borne illnesses nationwide may spur more interest
in locally grown produce, especially food sold at farmers markets.

reason: Consumer confidence in supermarket food is at its lowest point since
1989, according to a study by the Food Marketing

number of consumers “completely” or “somewhat confident” in the safety of
supermarket food has decreased from 82 percent last year to 66 percent this
year. The online poll surveyed 2,307 shoppers.

The same
survey shows:

Among those who stopped buying
products, the items most often mentioned were spinach (71 percent), lettuce (16
percent), bagged salad (9 percent) and beef (8 percent). The survey was
conducted in January 2007, when the outbreak linked to spinach was still in the
news and illnesses associated with other foods were starting to make headlines.

High fuel and home-heating costs are driving other changes in
shopping for 41 percent of consumers. In fact, the impact extends beyond
shopping to cooking and dining. For example, consumers:

    • Cook more and eat out less, cited by 69 percent of those
    • Eat more leftovers or use leftovers to make other meals, 62
    • Purchase more grocery store brand items as opposed to national
      brand items, 56 percent.
    • Purchase fewer food items overall, 40 percent.
    • Buy more canned, frozen or boxed food as opposed to fresh food,
      30 percent.
    • Purchase more prepared meals from the grocery store rather than
      going out, 21 percent.

High-priced gasoline may have contributed to how often consumers
shop. In a first for [FMI Consumer] Trends, consumers now shop for food fewer than two times a
week. The average number of trips is now 1.9, down from 2.1 in 2006. Cost and
health concerns are behind the increase in people cooking more meals. Nearly
eight in 10 shoppers (78 percent) eat home-cooked meals three or more times a
week. More than nine in 10 (92 percent) say the food they eat at home is
healthier than the meals eaten away from home. This figure includes 41 percent
who believe food prepared at home is “much healthier.”

Why Soybean Prices Are So High

The demand for soyoil is partly driven by its use in biodiesel fuel. Soyoil
prices are at a 23-year high.
See a Dow Jones Newswires

Al’s Morning Multimedia: Google Timeline and Mapping

Here is a new experiment for Google’s
search engine
. Type in a word or phrase and generate a timeline or map of
the results. Cool.

In Honor of Chris Clark

Allow me a few lines to honor WTVF-TV (Nashville)
anchor Chris Clark
, who retires today after 41 years on the air. Chris is an
old friend. But when I was a news director in Nashville,
I wouldn’t have minded if he would’ve taken an earlier retirement. He was our No. 1 competitor.

Long before I thought of him as “the competition,” he was my
college teacher. Chris traveled more than 100 miles round trip every week from Nashville
to Western Kentucky
to teach a classroom
full of eager young reporters how to do TV journalism. He often would spend an hour or more after
class just talking with us. How many anchors do that these days?

Many co-anchors benefited from Chris’ influence. Maybe you
have heard of some of them — Oprah Winfrey (He hired her in 1974.), Brenda Blackmon (WWOR-TV
New York), Ruth Ann Leech

There is something else you should know about this guy. It
is largely because of him that judges allowed cameras into Tennessee
courtrooms. Chris met with judges and lawyers as early as 1979 trying to
convince them that open courtrooms are important to public understanding.

It was his credibility and tireless work that persuaded
judges, including the state Supreme Court, to give it a try. Nearly 20 years
later, we were fortunate to have a Supreme Court chief judge make the
experiment a state-court rule.

It is easy for columnists to mock TV anchors as
hairsprayed and hollow. But Chris is the
real deal. He loved news and he loves Nashville,
and the people loved him back. I wish
more anchors were like him.

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story
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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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