Friday, April 25, 2008

Rating The Web Sites for Cleveland’s TV News Channels

Just what you've been waiting for - my review of the web sites for your favorite local news channels. One of them gave me a migraine. Each channel's home page can be accessed by clicking on the channel name/station.

WOIO Channel 19
This web site screams cheesy and sleazy. When I looked at the home page early this afternoon, on the upper right side, there was a video that touts “ Hookers, Johns, Busted During Prostitution Sting”. A photo for the video shows a woman with her flimsy T-shirt pulled over her head, exposing flabby, saggy belly fat. Sorry, but I really don’t need to see that. The web site is also heavy with ads, which seem to be scattered all over the page, taking up what seems to be 75% of the space. There are so many things on the page that it’s hard to find any meaningful information quickly. One can get the weather and headlines if you look around for it, and there are drop down menus to access other sections. Clicking on the “news” drop down menu gives one too many choices – I counted 32. Contact information for station employees can be found at the “contact” tab, with bios and email information for on-air reporters and anchors. I spent some time looking at the weather page and I swear I started to get a migraine from all the boxes and color and business of the page. This layout and color scheme doesn’t make one feel like lingering.

If you come to the site for news, you’re better off going somewhere else.

Grade: F (and don't forget your Imitrex)

WKYC Channel 3
The home page is very easily navigable, with news headlines, weather, traffic, and school closings immediately visible in the top half of the page. Ads are minimal. Scrolling down brings sections for other news, local news, Akron-Canton news, etc. and it’s easy to identify the headlines within each section. Besides being able to navigate the site via tabs near the top of the page, there is a side bar to the left for other key topics or for user tools.

The Sports section looks a little too generic. In fact, all the pages beside the home pages look like they were put together years ago when stations first had web sites. The weather pages are only marginally better, with very little imagination used in layout and color. This was the biggest drawback with WKYC’s web site. They need a major update of their site to something that looks like it was actually designed in this century.

I looked for bios for the on air people but couldn’t find them easily. I finally located them on the “contact us” page, by clicking on the link “Want to send an e-mail to a reporter? Get their addresses here.” By the way, it was easier to find the sex offender link, which is on the same “contact us” page.

Always a sore spot with me is when, during a newscast, you’re told to go to the station’s web site for more information. For some channels, that’s like falling into one of Dante’s circles of hell. But, WKYC actually has a heading on the left side for links mentioned on the news.

Grade: B (Update May 23, 2008: WKYC has since changed their web site - it's much better.)

WEWS Channel 5
The home page is well organized, with top stories clearly evident and accessible. Ads are on the page but are not overpowering and seem off to the side of the main content. There are many areas to access headlines for news, entertainment, videos, and weather at a glance, and it proves easy to find what you want and to navigate. There are also tabs near the top of the page to help reach the web pages for more detail on things like weather, video, and Akron-Canton information. These tabs are sandwiched between a row above and below of other buttons which seem to link to glorified advertising pages (example, the Travel tab). I couldn’t find a tab for traffic information, and I even looked on the weather page. I could be there somewhere staring me right in the face but I couldn’t find it. There is also a link to contact information for people at the station at the top of the home page, but I couldn’t find links to bios for the on-air people, only finding their email addresses.

For a station that touts “The Power of Five “ and seems to love cutting into programming for weather news, I found their weather pages disappointing. It just seemed so…so… average.

Sports has very detailed coverage, with top line local sports news at a glance, and tabs for national news by sporting category.

Quite a few times my browser had trouble loading pages for this site. It was the only site of all the local channels where I had repeated problems, and this isn’t the first time this has happened to me here.

Grade: B+

WJW Channel 8
Fox has the advantage with a web site that is standard across all Fox stations, so no matter what Fox channel you’re on in the U.S., you should see pretty much the same format. It's crisp, clean, and well organized, with colors that are very easy on the eyes.

Advertising is present, but is not intrusive. At the top of the home page, you can actually close or open the banner ad space. But, there aren’t many headlines on the main page, so one has to click on one of the tabs at the top to get the news headlines. One can also use the horizontal scroll for the headline box on the left of the page, but sometimes I found the scrolling speed to be too fast. Maybe it’s my heavy-handed mouse clicking? It seems too cumbersome, though, as I don’t like to do too much work to see the main headlines.

The one nice thing about the Fox site is it has blogs for viewers, allowing them to have their own content and photos on Fox’s site, and also to be able to comment on blogs written by on-air personalities. It’s a great way to get viewers to interact. I couldn’t find this feature on any of the other web sites, so if I missed them I am sure someone will let me know.

Weather and traffic are both easy to find. The weather page provides probably the most information of any other local web site, and I like the 8-day forecast in pictures. It just makes a boring topic look more interesting.

The Sports section included the top headlines has sub sections for specific sports. All we need is the video of Tony Rizzo slipping on the ice and it would be perfect.

Grade: A-

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Return of the Cuyahoga: PBS Documentary Airs April 22

PBS will be airing the documentary “The Return of the Cuyahoga” on Tuesday, April 22 at 9:00 PM. A preview is below. Please note that the airdate listed in the video is not correct for the Cleveland PBS station, WVIZ, so if you’re reading this blog from outside the Cleveland area, please check your local listings for dates and times. (UPDATE April 18: My DVR program guide now indicates this will air on the WVIX HD channel on 4/18 at 10PM...but the on-line TV Guide does not. My suggestion is to verify your local listings for availability today on WVIZ HD or the regular WVIZ channel.)

I can clearly remember when the river burned in 1969, and also remember feeling ashamed of how Cleveland's industry had abused this great waterway. I also recall, even at my young age, of being concerned about the health of the river, the people who lived and worked near it, and the wildlife that depended on the river. It is good to know that when the river burned in 1969, it fueled outrage across the country and fueled the fire, so to speak, for making the river well again.

The Cuyahoga River has been key to the area's settlement and industry in Cleveland. Our continued efforts toward preservation is vital to the survival of the region's people and wildlife. This is a show that Clevelanders – past and present – should not miss.

Here are a few excerpts from the PBS web site about the documentary:

The Return of the Cuyahoga

"THE RETURN OF THE CUYAHOGA is a fascinating look at the life, death and rebirth of one of America’s most polluted rivers. Perhaps best known as “the river that burned,” the Cuyahoga is, in fact, an emblematic waterway. Its history is the history of the American frontier, the rise of industry, and the scourge of pollution. In 1969, when the river caught on fire, the blaze ignited a political movement that not only saved the Cuyahoga and its communities, but continues today with the current environmental movement.

The Cuyahoga caught fire as far back as 1883. In 1914, a river fire threatened downtown Cleveland, until a providential shift in the wind turned it away. In 1918, a river fire spread to a shipyard and killed seven men. The Cuyahoga burned again in 1936, 1948, 1949 and 1952. Then on June 22, 1969, the polluted Cuyahoga, slick with oil and full of debris, caught on fire. The river didn’t just burn in Cleveland — it burned in the nation’s imagination. Along with the rise of other social movements in the late sixties, the country was also beginning to take note of our damaged environment. The fire started a chain of legislation and events that continue today, including the creation of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, Earth Day, and the Environmental Protection Agencies at the federal and state levels. The Cuyahoga is America’s best example yet of a watery success story. The dead river came clean — and back to life again.

“This is a truly national story,” says filmmaker Larry Hott. “Rivers in industrial cities across the country were catching fire due to the build up of oil, waste and debris. The Rouge River in Michigan, the Schuylkill in Philadelphia, and the Chicago River all burned as often and as drastically as the Cuyahoga.”

About the Cuyahoga River

When the United States was a new nation, the Cuyahoga marked the western frontier: beyond it, all was unclaimed land — Indian Territory. But by 1870, the river was on a frontier of a different kind: the industrial frontier. On the river’s banks arose the country’s pride and joy — a burgeoning multitude of smoking factories in a booming display of what was called progress. But, as it flowed through Akron and Cleveland, the river became a foul-smelling channel of sludge, with an oily surface that ignited with such regularity that river fires were treated as commonplace events by the locals.

After many fires, the river burned again in 1969 just as a third kind of frontier swept across the nation: an environmental frontier. And the Cuyahoga River became a landmark on this frontier too, a poster child for those trying to undo the destruction wrought by the rampant industrialization of America.

“This is a good news story, something we don’t often hear about the environment nowadays,” says Hott. “The river was a mess forty years ago but it’s getting better now due to the efforts of a coalition of organizations and businesses. For the Cuyahoga, and perhaps other rivers in America, there’s reason to hope.”

Cuyahoga River flowing through the Cuyahoga Valley National ParkThe Cuyahoga’s story is a particularly apt example for future environmental efforts, because the river can’t just be “set aside” as a pristine wilderness park — it runs right through Cleveland, after all. And, like most American rivers, the Cuyahoga has to serve widely varying needs — aesthetic and economic, practical and natural, human and animal. The challenge sounds impossible: how to maintain industrial uses of the river, encourage recreation and entertainment, and still preserve the nature in and around the river…a seemingly impossible challenge and yet one that much of our nation is facing today. “

Preview:The Return of the Cuyahoga

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cleveland’s Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument

Stained Glass Inside the Monument

Beginning in June, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which sits on Cleveland’s Public Square, will be undergoing a renovation. According to Neil K. Evans, president of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument Commission, restoration will take place on the glass, brass and marble inside the historic structure. The cost of this project is estimated at $2 million. Personally, I’m glad that this prominent monument will be getting a much-needed cleanup.

The monument is Cleveland’s Civil War memorial, and was designed by Levi T. Scofield. It was dedicated on July 4, 1894. Here’s more detail on the monument, from The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

“The initial drive to build a local monument began on 30 Oct. 1879, when a group of Civil War veterans met at Case Hall in Cleveland to advocate such a project. Actual planning and funding of the monument were handled by a 3-man commission appointed under an act of the state legislature, passed on 16 Apr. 1888. The monument consists of an elevated base containing a tablet room. The base is surmounted by a column capped with a 15' high Statue of Liberty, bringing the total height of the structure to 125'. Surrounding the exterior of the base are 4 groupings of bronze sculpture (cast approx. one-third larger than life) depicting various battle scenes. These groupings represent the 4 main armed services: Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, and Navy. The tablet room contains lists of Cuyahoga County residents who served in the Civil War, as well as 4 bronze reliefs representing the "Emancipation of the Slave," "Beginning of the War in Ohio," members of the various soldiers' relief organizations, and "The End of the War--The Peacemakers at City Point." The total cost of the monument was $280,000, all but $10,000 of which was raised through public taxes. Scofield donated all of his architectural services to the project. “

Please visit the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument website for more information about this monument.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cleveland’s Whaling Wall

Image from The Wyland Foundation

Daily, many Clevelanders pass the painting of whales on the Cleveland Public Power Plant, but probably don’t know much about it.

The mural is one of many “Whaling Walls” painted by artist Robert Wyland. It is Whaling Wall #75, called “Song of the Whales”, and was completed in 1997. It is 300 feet long, and 108 feet high.

Robert Wyland is a multi-talented artist and advocate for marine resource conservation. His non-profit Wyland Foundation supports many conservation programs, and this includes his Whaling Wall mural project. The Whaling Wall series includes over 90 Whaling Walls, and you can find them listed on the Wyland Foundation web site, here.

While there are no whales in Lake Erie (only the Lake Erie monster, so I hear), the location of the Cleveland mural is appropriate. It will hopefully remind us to preserve and protect the lake so all life – aquatic or otherwise – can benefit.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cleveland's Ameritrust (Breuer) Tower: Déjà Vu All Over Again

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that another bid has been received for the Ameritrust Tower (also known as the Breuer Tower, after its architect). Well, maybe we should say it’s the same bidder as before, just a differently structured bid. The bidder (again) is Willoughby, Ohio’s K&D Group, a local residential developer. The new bid is for the minimum asking price of $35 million, but this time does not involve K&D needing a loan from the county.

The April 3 print edition of The Plain Dealer says that this new plan, however, puts the taxpayers “on the hook” for about $4 million if the deal goes through, which is the cost of finishing the asbestos removal from the tower.

I’m glad to see that the complex will be in the hands of a company that has a sense of vision for the area and the city. It seems obvious to me that the County Commissioners have been a clueless, ineffective bunch in handling this whole deal and the building itself.

K&D bids again for downtown Ameritrust site

Posted by Joe Guillen April 02, 2008 11:58AM

For the second time this year, Cuyahoga County appears to have a buyer for the downtown Ameritrust site, where officials once envisioned a new county headquarters.

The bid, submitted by the K&D Group, of Willoughby, is similar to a previous bid made by the company. K&D proposes a $200 million mixed-used development of condominiums, hotel and office space at East Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue.

The county rejected K&D's previous offer, made Jan. 15, because the county prosecutor's office determined the bid fell short of the $35-million minimum the county sought. K&D offered $35 million for the property today.

The asking price is the equivalent of the county's net investment in the property when it was put up for sale in November. After K&D's first bid was rejected, commissioners agreed to spend another $4 million to finish removing asbestos from the 29-story Ameritrust Tower.

Commissioners put the property up for sale after private developers showed interest in buying the site. All three commissioners say a new, mixed-use development there would benefit the community more than a new county headquarters.

County Administrator Dennis Madden said he believes the latest K&D bid meets the county's requirements.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

See Cleveland Via Google Maps Street View

Street View from the West Shoreway

The Plain Dealer reported today that Cleveland is now included in the list of cities where a “street view” is available using Google Maps. The street view shows you actual images of what you would see on the street if you were standing or driving there yourself. (Don't worry, it's not live!) Just go to this link to Google Maps, type in “Cleveland, Oh” in the search box, and select a location or zoom in to see the “pointer” you can use to carry yourself along the street. Make sure you select the street view box to see the actual street photos.

For many months now, I’ve been traveling the streets of a lot of the major US cities using Google Maps street view – plus seeing many cities and natural wonders of the world using a separate program called Google Earth. It’s interesting and entertaining. So take a few minutes to cruise around the city without the need for a car, without ever leaving your chair.

Here’s the link to the article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer if you’d like more information.

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