Monday, December 31, 2007

Independence Bowl shines bright

The glow of Independence Stadium in Shreveport filled with bowl game fans was a great sight Sunday night. All gathered to see Alabama and Colorado fight for bragging rights following their 6-6 seasons.
'Bama never gave up their early lead. They won 30-24.
What started out as a 'Bama blowout though turned into a game. Colorado's offense finally showed up in the second half and started a run that kept fans worried and hopeful until 2 minutes remained.
Relive the game and review The Times coverage at the Independence Bowl site (located at

Notes for attending next year:
1. Use the parking shuttles available at area shopping malls. Save yourself the hassle of parking and traffic. The shuttle remained efficient and easy-to-use.
2. If you have bleacher tickets, be prepared to move from assigned seating. People standing and rabble rousers make it hard to watch the game, and shifting to open seats with an open view really isn't a problem after the first quarter.
3. Review the weather carefully. As the temperature dropped Sunday, gloves, jackets and blankets were a godsend watching sweatshirt-clad fans shiver.
4. Consider the crowd. Children will be exposed to cursing and drinking. This is not a major problem until profanity is directed back at the crowd. Some college-aged folks act untamed, and talking reason to them will yield little good. Move again to keep the experience fun.
Multiple photo galleries of fans and action are ready for viewing (sampling of images above right).

No more computer bugs in 2008

As each of us compile our New Year’s resolutions, consider Times reporter Alexandyr Kent’s collection of technology resolutions. Computer guru Thomas Avallone offers compelling testimony to motivate better computer habits, "I've had bugs crawl out of laptops.”

Listed today:
1. De-clutter the desktop
2. Organize your Inbox
3. Audit bookmarks, pictures, music files and buddy lists
4. Smoking is bad for computers, too
5. Keep crumbs and critters at bay
6. Reduce the wire count
7. Secure Wi-Fi home network
8. Update virus software regularly
9. Back up files regularly
10. Consolidate address books

We should note that spraying a can of Raid into a computer to debug is not recommended.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Joy Fund beginning to make a difference

Thanks to the progress made collecting Joy Fund donations (totaling $72,762.30 at the hour of this post), holiday giving projects are starting to receive the support they need.

1. Caddo Council on Aging is preparing meals for 1000 homebound seniors and goody bags for seniors at eleven sites.
2. Joy Home for Boys will buy shoes for 22 boys and provide a Christmas event.
3. Johnny Gray Jones Regional Shelter will purchase Christmas gifts for the youth housed at the shelter who ordinarily would not have a Christmas at all.
4. Bossier Council on Aging is delivering Christmas stockings to 500 homebound clients.
5. Biedenharn Center for Women’s Issues will help make Christmas better for 12 women and 16 children.
6. Community Support Programs will provide toys and gifts for abused and neglected children and teenagers.

Other Joy Fund projects include efforts by the Salvation Army; Providence House; Northwest Louisiana Interfaith Pharmacy; Volunteers of America of North Louisiana; Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal; MLK Health Center and The Philadelphia Center.

As annual givers understand, we give a major portion of the fund to the Salvation Army every year ($52K in 2006), buying clothes, blankets, food and gifts for the homeless and underprivileged they serve. This year they will provide gifts for 2,000 families. The Providence House and Volunteers of America have received as much as $20K in good years, bringing Christmas toys and gifts to families and children in their care programs (The after-school LightHouse program is one example). The Philadelphia Center will provide a special event/toys for children touched by AIDS.

Reaching our goal ($100K) will serve the holiday projects mentioned. Exceeding the goal allows some additional projects to receive help just like last year.

More requests keep coming. I have a folder of not-yet-funded events and toy projects for underprivileged children served by churches and agencies in our coverage area.

Please continue to give.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Times to build $15M press facility; offset European press (WIFAG) expected to roll in 2010

When your company (Gannett) invests in a $15M printing press project against negative prognostications for print newspapers, you say THANK YOU.

The Times has purchased an offset press and will build a facility on our existing property in downtown Shreveport.

What does this mean to local newspaper readers?

· In color and sharpness, think USA Today.

· Crisp, sophisticated graphics.

· Photographs with depth and detail.

· Refined and easier-to-read text.

· A uniquely modern product.

“We believe print is here to stay, even though the Internet is a bigger part of what we do,” Times Publisher Pete Zanmiller says in today’s announcement story. “This press will allow us to give a modern-day paper to the city.”

When The Times puts its 1960s letterpress to rest in 2010, our European press replacement will position your newspaper for the future. Vivid offset color will be available on every page for news and information and for advertisers. The new format will be the more portable and easier-to-handle Berliner format, an 18.5-by-11-inch page size. (The press was developed and manufactured by WIFAG.)

This press will make us the third North American paper to commit to the Berliner format, following the successful 2006 conversion of another Gannett newspaper, Lafayette, Ind., and the expected 2009 conversion of the Reading (Pa) Eagle.

Producing a higher-quality product on a modern press means we’ll be delivering news to doorsteps for years to come. While more and more people go online, the masses still enjoy their morning newspaper. We are in the hands of more than 130K readers every day (200K on Sundays). Many of those same readers are online too, tracking news updates.

Along with online-only readers, visitors (Over 400K per month) are viewing more than 6M pages of news, photos and videos each month. News consumption isn’t wavering; it’s just changing. And we are changing with it.

If you want to be involved in helping mold The Times of the future, send me a line and a little bit about yourself. I’m building a list of dedicated readers who want to help build the next incarnation of The Times. We’ll have a few informal meetings in 2008 as a prelude to the hands-on work we’ll do in 2009.

With all that is happening in our community ( I-49 to Cyber Command to the burgeoning movie industry (movies coming, extras, Denzel Washington), it’s about time for a face-lift. An offset press producing bright color, crisp text and graphics will showcase many of the great moments yet to come.

Times photo: The Times purchased this four-story, 1991 WIFAG Press from a company in Switzerland. The press is a WIFAG OF 790, currently in operation in Ringier, Switzerland.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Emerging from the dark place

In the past few weeks, I've been to places I hope to never revisit.
My month-long bout with mononucleosis started with garden-variety symptoms that turned inexplicable and harsh: 3 days of non-stop hiccups, a "can't swallow" sore throat, 12 days of not being able to keep food down and daily nausea.
A virus beat me into the fetal position.
Emerging from the darkened bedroom, I long for work and a return to my routine. Fantasies of eating fried chicken or a hamburger are doused by a prescription of bland foods for recovery. Water crackers have been a staple. Interestingly, Raisin Bran has eased my upset stomach along with that diet.
I expect to get back to the December grind next week.
This is a particularly challenging month at many newspapers. The Christmas rush coverage coincides with a flurry of vacations. We are closing a few major 2007 projects alongside preparations for 2008. Independence Bowl coverage and LSU's national championship bid loom. We have a few special news projects to fit into the paper before the end of the year.
It is work we love, but it is daunting piled against the tug and pull of the holidays. My desk has mounds of unanswered mail among other things. Take much of that away, and December still seems a bear.
It happens to many of us every year, rushing to get a month's worth of work completed in only a few weeks. Any vacation plans loom like a cloud of pressure against an intense timeline. We try to squeeze a day off here and there for shopping, too.
Before you know it, HOLIDAY STRESS hits hard (nerves frayed, loved ones shortchanged and loss of sleep). That can be a place you don't want to go, yet we somehow end up there too often.
Resolving not to return to the darkness of my ill retreat and resolving not to end up a holiday mess requires the same focus.
We have to pace ourselves.