Friday, October 31, 2008

VIEWS of ATHENS VOTERS: Supporting McCain

Ann G. Alquist

This is the third in a series of Views of Athens Voters which give a glimpse of what local voters are thinking leading up to November 4.

Michael Totterdale is a religious conservative. When he's not studying for his mechanical engineering degree at Ohio University, he's involved with Students for Life which is motivating him to support the McCain-Palin ticket.

Michael Totterdale, voting for John McCain

VIEWS of ATHENS VOTERS: Supporting Obama

Ann G. Alquist

This is the second in a series of Views of Athens Voters which give a glimpse of what local voters are thinking leading up to November 4.

Joel Atkins is studying alternative energy and fuel cells at Hocking College. He says he's voting for Barack Obama, because of his sustainable energy platform.

Joel Atkins, voting for Barack Obama


Sara Shookman

Voting is a civic duty. It's a privilege. For millions of Americans in our past, the right to vote was life or death.

But voting is also just plain hard.

The candidates, the issues, the ballot items. It's a lot to think about. That's why I was so impressed by the senior government students at Alexander High School.

The Lessons
My first chance to vote in November 2004 was also a presidential election. Nothing makes voting more exciting than the national scale of the presidential race. I tried hard to free myself of any bias to make the right decision for myself. But it really wasn't that easy.

The pressures of television campaign ads were calling out to me, the uninformed voter. "Vote No!" "Vote Yes!" How do you know whom to believe? There were things I read and heard that seemed contradictory. There were issues I thought I understood and loopholes I knew I didn't.

I wish I had had what the AHS students did: a place to listen and learn.

The Leanings
Government teacher Joel Laufman said it's difficult to teach a class without revealing his own partisanship. "I try to play devil's advocate," he said.

But his students have asked him day in and day out what party he'll support on Tuesday. Why? Because even through all the dialogue and debate, they still can't tell.

It's usually not so fair at home. Many families have a political tradition of sorts that can be hard to stand up against. When Senior Lauren Raines said the issues can get heated at her house, I was in awe of her conviction.

After my own exploration of the political process, I was an apple that didn't fall far from the tree. I did the research. I know how I personally feel. But often my feelings are similar to those rampant in my family.

For Raines to know at 17 that she feels differently is democracy at work.

The Local Races
If you missed the opportunity to be an educated voter in the past, you still have time for the 2008 Election. Most people have an idea of whom they will support for president, but statewide issues and local candidates get little widespread attention.

The Athens County League of Women Voters has complied a 2008 Voter Guide to local candidates and ballot items.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Alexander High Schoolers Debate and Discuss the Election

Brianna Savoca

Alexander High School held a mock presidential debate the week before the November 4th election. The mock debate gave students an opportunity to learn about where the candidates stand on the issues.

"Everything was designed around the election," Government teacher Joel Laufman says. "We created the debate so we could specifically address what was going on and the kids could know about the issues."

Students in Laufman's Honors U.S. Government class divided into pairs. Each group researched the Democrat and Republican side of specific issues and had nine minutes to present both sides to the class. Some students even took on the personas of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.

Mr. Laufman discusses his government course.

Laufman says the best part of the debate was seeing his students formulate their own opinions after researching the issues.

"The kids that could vote felt pretty confident," Laufman says. "Some of they kids were frustrated who were learning this and couldn't vote."


After the debate, Athens MidDay had a group discussion with the class. The students discussed the issues that mattered to them: the economy, the war, campaign ads, celebrity endorsements, party alignments, and their parents' viewpoints.

Below are students' personal opinions expressed following the debate.


"Even though I don't have a job and don't pay taxes, I still feel like what's going on now is going to effect me in the future," Stephanie Shapiro says.

"When we did our economics section, learning about national deficit and national debt opened my eyes incredibly," Stephanie says. "What I can do now affects the future."


"I don't think we can just pull out," Drew Payne says. "I think we need to finish what we started."

Drew Payne talks about gun control and the war.

"As for the war, I don't personally agree with it," Stephanie says.

"I want to pull out troops who are just wasting their lives now," Matt Sheets says.


"I think it's unfortunate when people take campaign ads to heart," Liz Cohenour says. "Especially when it's only one-percent truth, and just spun into some big thing."

Greg Croxford says, "I would like to think people are more educated and aren't ignorant enough to just watch a commercial and say, 'okay, I'll vote for that guy.'"

"Politicians usually just say what people want to hear. I think it's important to look at both sides," Liz says.

Rather than promoting their own ideas, they're just pointing fingers at the other side," Greg says. "I don't really feel like I'm swayed by them much at all."


"When it comes to celebrities,you have to decide if you believe in what you believe in, or if you believe in what they do just because they're famous," Matt says.

"If they've got something good to say about it, it's great to have some facts and take it in," Drew says. "But that doesn't mean anything because they're famous. That's their opinion."


"I can't believe some people can just go through a ballot and go completely Democratic or completely Republican," Drew says. "You can't agree with one side the whole way."

"I feel like people who are more Democratic or Republican vote that way because they always have," Liz says.


"Both my parents are generally Republican or conservative," Greg says. "But there are some issues I've looked up that I disagree with them on."

Greg Croxford talks about his parents and voting.

"I was on the Democratic side of the debate, and I had the opportunity to research the other side" Lauren Raines says. "Now I disagree with my family."

Lauren says her family are strong Republicans, and Laufman's class has sparked some interesting family discussions.

"We do have debates at dinner about his," Lauren says. "It gets a little heated sometimes."


Three students in Laufman's class were old enough to vote in the upcoming election.

"We're finally getting to vote and put our name on a ballot," Matt says.

All three first-time voters agreed the debate prepared them to make an informed decision when they are in the ballot box.

"Learning in class, doing projects such as mock debates or doing flyers to inform other students, I think it's educated me [to vote]," Stephanie says.

"We learn about every issue to the best of our ability," Drew says. "I think we have good information, better than most people."


While Laufman says he's not advocating lowering the voting age for everyone, he thinks the seventeen-year-olds in his class would be ready to vote.

"These seventeen-year-olds, they are well informed and able to make decisions like that," Laufman says.

"It just kinda sucks because I feel like we all have opinions on this," Liz says. "I feel like I'm more informed or more educated on the election than a lot of people who are going to vote."

"Although I'm not old enough to vote yet," Greg says, "in the future I'll be looking up each issue and trying to make an unbiased decision."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Political Sign Vandalism

By: Molly Smith

With the election 6 days away things are getting cutthroat between the parties. Everyone expects campaign signs to be a little overwhelming, but vandalism? America is proud of its freedom of speech, but people’s rights are being destroyed, literally. Liberals, conservatives, and independentsall put signs in their front yards, they wear pins, they buy tee shirts, and so on. Unfortunately, vandals are cramping these campaign styles.

Jill Thompson, and McCain/Palin signs have seen the worst of it according to Lanny Spaulding of the Athens County Republican Party. Apparently Athens residents are having extreme election stress and vandalizing other’s signs in retaliation.

Lanny Spaulding, Athens County Republican Party

Even social gatherings are becoming political battlegrounds. Athens resident Austin Beyke had his campaign paraphernalia put in the toilet after a party at his house. He thinks that McCain supporters see it the worst because of the overwhelming Democratic registration in Athens County--5,500 compared to only 800 Republicans.

Austin Beyke speaks about his signs being damaged

Sign vandalism is a reportable offense and action can be taken by the police so vandals think twice before taking out their agression out on cardboard signs, and others' political views.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: History 101

Ryan Scarpino

History is a very broad concept; it has many definitions. Regardless of which definition you prefer, the three words found in every meaning are, “in the past.” So those events that happened in the past are considered history. For me, I learned a little more about history on October 18 while I covered the historic landmark designation ceremony for a house on West Washington Street, where Booker T. Washington married Olivia Davidson.

Though Washington never lived in Athens, his influence on the African American community is still present today, more than one hundred years after his marriage in Athens. And as I watched the ceremony and listened to the guest speakers, I realized how much actual history was behind the celebration, and I couldn’t be any happier.

So Much To Learn
I would first like to say that I am a history buff. I am taking a concentration of history courses at Ohio University, and for some reason I have always been fascinated with the events that shaped our country. So when I was asked to cover the ceremony, I was thrilled. I remember walking to the West Washington Street site with a smile on my face, even though it was cold October morning, because I knew that I was going to learn a lot about a significant event that took place in Athens.

Let The Ceremony Begin
The ceremony itself consisted of speakers from the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, the Department of African American Studies at OU, Mayor Wiehl, and OU President, Roderick McDavis. All of them prepared excellent speeches that paid tribute to the late Booker T. Washington.

But there came a time during the ceremony when my eyes caught a group of elderly men and women sitting in the front row. Some were the ancestors of Mr. Washington and others were Tuskegee University alumni, who were there to thank the late Mr. Washington for founding the Alabama University.

Tuskegee University Graduate
One of those alumna was Ms. Helen Smith. She graduated from Tuskegee University in 1965. And before she said her thanks to the Booker T. Washington, she did something that brought a tear to everyone’s eyes in the audience. She asked her daughter and grandchildren to stand up, and she thanked them for making the trip to Athens with her.

I spoke with Ms. Smith after the ceremony while she posed for a picture with her family. She was such a nice woman; she was full of happiness and she was so proud to be a part of the celebration. She had something about her. I think it was her presence because when she talked to audience members, they were captivated.

From Generation to Generation
I also spoke with Nettie Washington Douglass, great granddaughter of Booker T. Washington. And if you look at the last name, Douglass, yes, she is a descendent of former slave turned free man, Frederick Douglass. If you want to talk about history, then Nettie Washington Douglass has many stories. My jaw dropped when she told me that she was the descendent of two of the most important African Americans of the 19th century. Ms. Washington Douglass was so kind and generous. She was thrilled to be a part of the ceremony to commemorate her great grandparents’ marriage, a marker that would be at 193 West Washington Street for all time.

A Lifelong Memory

If you get the time, read more about Mr. Washington because he was one of the most influential African Americans in American history. For me, this was my first story where no one declined to comment or declined an interview. This was one of those stories that assured me that I want to do this for life. I was fortunate enough to get a history lesson, learning about Booker T. Washington and his influence on Athens, talking to his ancestors and speaking with those people he influenced. And this is one story that I won’t soon forget.

DETOUR: Road Closing Proves More Difficult Than It Seems

by Amanda Fondriest

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has closed West Union Street between State Route 682 and Elliotsville Road for rockslide prevention. The road will be closed this week, Monday through Friday, from 9am to 3pm. A detour has been set up to help motorists; however, the recommended route may not be the best way around the construction.

Why is It Closed?
Although this is a state project, Director of the Athens Street Department, Andrew Stone talked explained what the closure is all about. Stone said, "The portion just west of State Route 682 on State Route 56, also known at Union Street, was identified as one of the more locally locations that a rockfall would occur."

Director of the Athens Street Department Andrew Stone explains the reason for the construction.

The Detour
Because the construction is a state project, Stone told us the detour provided by ODOT can only direct residents onto state roads. However, the provided detour takes residents out Route 682--a lengthier trip than many are bargaining for. To help residents get around the construction site with a little more ease, the Government Channel has been running the following informational statement.

"Union Street between SR 682 and Elliotsville Rd. will be closed 9:00am - 3:30pm daily October 27 through October 31 in order to conduct removal of potential rock fall locations. Westbound motorists bypass the area traveling via SR682 South, to US50 West, to Radford Rd. north to SR56, or SR682 North, to Vore Ridge Rd. west, Salem Rd. south to SR56. Eastbound motorists can take the reverse of these directions."

What Residents Think
Area resident Matthew Minarcheck came to talk with Athens MidDay while we were taking video of the Road Closed signs. He told us that even though the construction is a safety measure, it has proven to be more of a burden than a relief.

Minarcheck said, "We saw the signs. It just said from 9 to 3:30, and we weren't sure if that was in the morning time. So it was a bit confusing."

Resident Matthew Minarcheck discusses the inconvenience of the West Union Street construction.

Market Manager Kurt Strickmaker at Kerr Distributors told us that the minor inconvenience that the construction causes is justifiable considering the safety precautions it creates.

A First Hand Account
While trying to get to Kerr Distributers, Athens MidDay reporter Ryan Scarpino and I experienced the difficult detour for ourselves. For my commentary on our little adventure, check out my blog.

REPORTER BLOG: Lessons Learned while "Lost"

by Amanda Fondriest

Ten minutes.

For ten minutes, Athens MidDay reporter Ryan Scarpino and I followed the designated detour around the construction that has closed a portion of Route 56 this week, only to find that the only thing we had succeeded in doing was driving ten minutes in the wrong direction.

And it’s not like I am some crazed driver who insists upon finding her own way around a town that she really doesn’t know all that well. I followed the signs. I didn’t get lost—-well, I didn’t turn off the designated route--but in all honesty, only the Lord and ODOT knew where we were. And, to make my father proud, I didn’t stop to ask directions. Yet, I also never succeeded in getting us to our destination via that route.

Now I am no brain surgeon and certainly not a rocket scientist or some other highly intelligent being that fits into the cliché job description of brainiac careers. However, I am smart enough to know that one does not drive north to get west as the designated detour directs.

Always Follow Sound Advice.
At our first interview on the construction project story, Director of Athens City Street Department, Andrew Stone, informed us not to follow the detour—that it would get us lost. (We should note that this detour was designed by the state transportation department, and therefore could only use state routes.) Then, a local resident we talked to told us that the detour made no sense and to just cut through the construction zone. Both sound arguments. Both arguments that we so ignorantly chose to ignore. Awesome decision on our part, I might add.

Admittance Is The First Step.
So, basically, after driving five miles in an attempt to reach a business only half a mile from the start of the construction zone, the banter in the car went a little something like this.

Me—“Ryan, I refuse to keep following this detour. It’s getting us nowhere. We're lost.”

Ryan—“Stop it. We're not lost: we're just misguided. Just keep following it.”

Me—“Not happening. Call them.”

Ryan—“And say what? The detour is wrong? Not happening.”

Me (angrily pulling the car into some driveway in the middle of nowhere)—“Well, I am not driving past this point. Call.”

Ryan (dialing the phone)—“Amanda, I swear, if I die here…”

Apparently under the belief that some crazy man with an eighteenth century musket was going to come running out of the quaint suburban home, Ryan called, finding out that-—here’s the shocker-—the detour is not wrong, but it is the MOST roundabout way of getting to this business.

Sometime's Getting There Is All The Fun.
After getting back to the beginning of our journey—the intersection of Union Street and Route 682—we got to Richland, hung two easy rights and a left, ending five minutes later at Kerr Distributors. Did we get the interview that this whole scenic drive caused? Nope. But did we have fun? Yes.

The Moral Of The Story...
Somewhere along the way I became so wrapped up in the stress of potentially missing the 11am airing of Gilmore Girls that I forgot to acknowledge the truly humorous story that had developed. When I look back on this day from some far-off place in the future, I won't remember not getting the interview, I'll remember the crazy songs from the 80s we sang; the bag of salt and vinegar chips we devoured for nourishment, even though, according to Ryan, we were never lost; and the laughter.

Update: Fixing the Form or Pressing Charges

Sara Shookman

At Monday's Athens City Council Community Issues Committee meeting, a long agenda was halted by discussion of the landlord tenant agreement. It took more than an hour for Council, the city Law Director and Athens residents to voice their varied opinions.

And the outcome: more waiting in a game that could end with dozens of landlords facing criminal charges.

The History of the Form

Council member Nancy Bain broached the topic in Community Issues committee meeting, starting with the history of the form. Bain said the form was the brainchild of Ohio University and the city to prevent problems like a house fire during Halloween weekend 2004.

Bain said the form was intended to educate tenants.

Despite problems with enforcement, Bain said the process for completing the form is simple.

"It's not tough! It is what you do if you care about your property for goodness sakes," said Bain, who also owns several rental properties.

Bain's explanation brought up three questions for the Council to answer.

Should We Keep the Form?
Law Director Pat Lang introduced the controversial idea of changing the form or the process at the last regular Council meeting.

"To watch for two years as the city lifted not one single finger ever to attempt to support this law," Lang said, "I know that your frustrations are entirely valid."

Lang said if the goal of the form was to educate tenants, Council must agree there are some problems with the law.

Lang asked Council to agree there are problems with the law.

Lang said if the city agrees to go forward with prosecution, his office is prepared. He presented a stack of 291 criminal complaints already drafted by his office.

"City Council decides they want to go ahead, we're ready. We've got them right here," Lang said. "We need to enforce this law. But are we doing it in a way that is responsible and in a way that limits our potential problems down the road with this?"

Should We Change It?
Council member Kent Butler said he's heard concerns from city residents and landlords about the education idea behind the form.

"I don't think we need to spoon feed grownups that happen to be first time tenants," Butler said.

Landlord Jennifer Romero said she feels uncomfortable explaining and answering questions about laws she didn't pass.

Athens resident Joan Kraynanski, who is also a member of the West Side Neighborhood Association, said if the city doesn't do a better job educating student renters, it becomes the responsibility of their city resident neighbors.

Athens residents share their thoughts on the landlord tenant agreement.

What Should be the Penalty?
The current law makes failure to turn in signed forms a criminal offense, which Lang thinks is wrong.

Lang suggested the city could use other means to punish delinquent landlords, such as tying the agreement to city rental permits. Landlords would not be able to renew annual rental permits without complying with the landlord tenant agreements. He said being denied a permit would be worse for landlords than the fine they might pay if charged with a minor misdemeanor.

Mayor Paul Wiehl said this could create a problem because rental permits are renewed in January, while many leases begin in June. Wiehl said the city simply needs to start filing charges. "Hammer 'em," Wiehl said.

Local attorney Bill Soprani said, "This is no time to back off, it's time to move forward."

If the city did file the 291 complaints, landlords would have the following options:

-Fight the charges in court
-Plead guilty and pay the fine

The maximum fine for a minor misdemeanor offense in Ohio is $150.

Council agreed to hold a work session in the next few weeks to decide on changing the law or starting to file charges.

To read Athens MidDay's earlier report on this subject, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Party Animals finding Homes

by Alex Moorhead

The Athens County Humane Society hosts an adoption event for dogs and cats once every two months at the University Mall, but this adoption weekend was special. The animals participated in a costume contest with other families' pets. There were around 20 contestants competing to win titles such as funniest, most original, scariest.

A Place to Stay Forever
Although the event was in a cheerful environment, there were still dogs and cats that needed a place to live. "Our goal is to place animals in the homes they'll stay forever," says vice president of the Athens Humane Society Shelley Lieberman. Halfway through the day there were around four cats and a couple dogs adopted, which is good says Lieberman.

Friends of Pets
There were many origanizations there to help raise money for the Humane Society. The business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi was at its table getting out the word about spaying and neutering pets to help lower the overpopulation of pets in Athens County-- the core of the problem. Volunteers from the organization Friends of the Shelter Dogs provided the dogs for adoption. The organization also talked with people about legislation that targets specific breeds of dogs, such as pitt bulls, and why it believes this type of legislation is wrong.

Pet Overpopulation in a College Town
Some students come to college and miss their pets, so they rush to the pound or pet store and get a pet without thinking about the responsibility that comes with it. Lieberman says students should think about veterinarian costs, and ask themselves if they a present and post-graduation living situation that's pet friendly.

Shelley Lieberman with tips on deciding to adopt a pet

How to Adopt an Animal
It's an application process to adopt a pet from the Humane Society. First, you fill out the application, then the Humane Society schedules an interview and a possible home visit. Lieberman says Society volunteers try to guide people in the right direction for the pet they want. For example; if a couple wants an outdoor cat that's what the Humane Society will try to give them to minimize problems.

There is no physical building where the Humane Scoiety is located and the cat shelter they used to have was closed down three years ago. "It (the shelter) pretty much became a dumping ground for cats and they were putting around 300 cats a month down," says Lieberman.

Not Your Typical Pet

Sunday, October 26, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: Covering Politics Without Being Political

Carlyn Lynch

I think one of the hardest things about reporting is keeping your opinions out of your stories. If you're covering gas prices it's easy, but when you get lucky and get to cover a story that you're interested in, it's almost impossible not to feel some sort of personal attachment to the story or people involved. Every story you do is like a mini project. You build it from the ground up and have to take ownership of it. I always view my stories as a reflection of me, which sometimes makes it difficult to keep personal feeling out of the process. A perfect example of this would be when I got to cover Joe Biden's appearance in Athens. I have taken a real interest in this election and was so excited hear one of the major party candidates speak.

It was an amazing opportunity. This election is one of the most important in American history and I wanted to take full advantage of the situation. I checked my microphone levels about a million times and shot two tapes worth of video by the time I was finished.

It was really hard not to get caught up in the spirit of the event. It was a beautiful day, music was playing, people were excited, the speakers were excited. The speeches were really well done, Biden's especially. He connected with the audience by being pretty soft-spoken most of the time, just letting them know what he thinks needs to change in America. At different key points in the speech, however, he would get fired up so the audience could tell that he was passionate about those issues. There were at least a couple times where I had to stifle the urge to applaud, it's just a natural reaction to get caught up in the excitement. I was there strictly to report but it's difficult to attend an event like that without becoming a part of it.

If there's one thing that gets people going, it's politics. I've seen many political conversations between friends turn ugly. This campaign season has seen so much more voter involvement than there has been in the recent past. People are very invested in this election's outcome and I am no exception. Whether I was covering a democratic or a republican gathering, it would have been difficult for me to decide how to tell the story the OBJECTIVE way and not MY way.

There are just so many ways to present something. Different people can watch the exact same event unfold and interpret it a million different ways. I'm still learning every day how to make sure I'm informing people of what they need to know and checking my opinions at the door. I think the key is separation, completely turning off the emotional side of your brain while you're in reporting mode. Easier said than done? Definitely.

When I went home and reviewed my tapes, I started thinking about possible ways to present unbiased information on a politically one-sided event. My decision was to make the story about the issues. I would not put anything that was said about the other party in my package. I also decided to focus on the people. My job is to inform my audience of what they want to know about so I spoke to many people at the rally to get a feel for what issues matter to Athens voters.

I set up my story in a Q and A format. My interview segments, called sound bites, alternated between citizens' concerns and Biden's responses to those concerns. It was the best way I could think to make a complete, relevant story. Almost the entire thing was sound bites from the people I interviewed. My way of separating myself was to let other people, not me, tell most of the story. I think it worked and I really hope viewers would agree.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another Rate Hike for Athens Residents

By Ryan Scarpino

Tough times for residents of Athens just got a little tougher. Mayor Paul Wiehl told the media Wednesday that beginning January 1, 2009, there will be a 3% increase in city water rates. And though that may sound like a small amount, it will have an impact on those living in the city.

The Water Hike
A 3% increase adds up to a few cents or at the most a few dollars on monthly water bills. The mayor said the city hoped a gradual increase would help those citizens with fixed incomes.

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl

Mayor Wiehl said, “The idea is to look at it this next year and start looking at your budget in terms of a rate increase for water. Technically, I've been talking to other mayors in other cities and the philosophy is you really want to do this consistently all the time because you have to build in a certain amount of maintenance as well as increases from everything from salaries to energy and things like that.”

Nick Carr, director of water and sewage, said, “I think the gradual increase is a lot better, especially for people on fixed incomes. You know if they just get a one or two or three percent increase versus a ten or twelve percent increase it's a lot less burden on them.”

Director of Water and Sewage Nick Carr

That Sounds Reasonable, BUT
Only few weeks ago, AEP Ohio told its customers that there will be a 45% increase in their electric bills by 2011. That electricity rate hike is also one of the reasons the city needs to increase water rates--the water plant's electricity costs will go up too.

The increase in electricity costs is only one reason for the water rate hike. Nick Carr explained, “Well, two of the main reasons for the increase is an increase in chemicals. Number one, you've probably done a story on road salt. Road salt is expected to go up about three times about what it was this past year.” Also, due to the price of salt increasing, citizens of Athens may have to deal with a taxe hike too.

And all with those things, the rise in price for electricity, a possible tax increase for the price of salt and then throw in a water rate increase, residents are concerned that they will not be able to afford their bills.

Meet Bob, the Concerned Resident
Bob Meholif lives on East State Street. He is a full time student and resident of Athens. He pays all utilities: electric, gas and heat, garbage, telephone, cable and internet, sewage and of course water. And though he does not have a monthly budget per se, he only spends $50 a week, $35 of that going towards food. So what happens to Bob when his bills come if he only spends $50 a week?

Athens Resident Bob Meholif is a little worried

He said, “The money that I could be spending somewhere else now is going to be spent on bills. And I'm probably going to have to pick up another job if it hikes too much. I may have to live at a different location. I may have to size down and I won't be able to drive any places. I'll have to watch what I eat, and I won't be able to go out as much. It's going to affect me greatly.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: Realizing the Resemblance during Election Time

by Alex Moorhead

With all the election hype going on, the newsroom has covered many political stories, national and local. I’ve heard countless people outside the newsroom say that they can’t wait for it to end. I did a profile story on the two men who are fighting to become the new Athens County Sheriff. When I spoke to them of course both pitched their campaign, what they want to do and there was some bad-mouthing the opponent involved.

Not for Me
On the way home from both the interviews I kept thinking to myself I would hate for my career to be completely throwing myself out there; depending on the public to elect me; constantly trying to please them and at some times disappointing them. I am so grateful we have people who choose to be politicians, but I was just thinking how that’s not for me. I was trying to understand how they felt during campaigning, of all the stress and how people perceive them.

We’re more Alike than I Thought…
Then other jobs came to mind where people have to depend on public perception too. Comparing my job, for example, to a politician’s—I have to depend on people to agree to be interviewed because I need to get the story. Some people are willing to talk, but there are always people who will shoot you down when you really need to talk to them to inform the public and get the facts.

The Pleasing
When it comes to the people-pleasing aspect of politics and how it relates to reporting, sometimes I have to sit through an interview and listen to someone I totally disagree with. I have to remind myself that my opinion is not important and what is important is the story I need to tell the audience. I have to nod my head and make people feel comfortable when it comes to interviewing so I can get the whole story from them. As a hypothetical situation, I may have to interview a serial killer some day and make him/her them feel as comfortable as possible so I can relay that information.

The Rep
Media as a career, I think, has a bad connotation. Reporters are sometimes accused of twisting stories around or being biased. They are portrayed as scavengers or desensitized humans when something tragic happens and they’re trying to get the scoop. In such a tabloid world, many people confise paparazzi with journalists. Just like some people think politicians have bad reputations and are viewed as liars, twisting their campaigns.

I Understand Now Because We’re All Alike!
The truth is that we’re both simply trying to do our jobs. We do what we need to do, and although we both have negative reputations at times there will always be people aspiring to be the best politicians, or journalists. The world would be totally lost without them just like every other job in America. The whole point of a job is to serve people and different jobs do it in different ways. If this election has taught me anything, it is that politicians don’t only do it for their own pleasure, but also to serve the public. Just like me as a reporter.

The Landlord Tenant Agreement: Signed and Forgotten?

Sara Shookman

For many Ohio University students, signing a lease is a first chance at freedom - a first look at the world outside the dorm.

Junior Jarred Goldner said it was an attractive deal, until the actual signing began.

"They give you all these papers and they say, 'Sign them!'" he said. "They put such a quick date on returning them nobody really reads anything. It makes it a little unfair."

One of those papers Goldner said he signed was the Landlord/Occupant Declaration of Compliance and Disclosure, more commonly referred to as a landlord tenant agreement.

The form is designed to educate tenants about several specific city rules regarding trash collection and party-related violations.

The form is similar to others used around the state.

To read a copy of the landlord tenant agreement, click on the images below.

What the City Says
At Monday's Athens City Council meeting, Law Director Pat Lang asked the council members to consider a review of the agreement. He said landlords were supposed to turn in signed forms to the city by Sept. 30.

But nearly half of city landlords did not comply.

Lang said the code enforcement office has not received agreements from 334 landlords of 965 properties in Athens.

"When there is a law that isn't being followed by literally half the people, I think it is appropriate to question is this a problem with the people or is this a problem with the law," he said.

What a Landlord Says

Thomason says the city hoped the agreement would mean compliance with city laws.

Caroline Thomason is the general manager of student housing provider Best of Athens Rentals. Although Thomason said she is in compliance, she said she dislikes the agreement not only because it is a pain in terms of paperwork, but also because it is prejudiced against student renters.

"It is biased. It's not for the entire city of Athens. It's not for permanent residents," Thomason said. "It's only for houses with rental permits. So it definitely segregates only the students."

Thomason says the agreement is partial to permanent residents.

What the Students Say
Although Goldner signed the agreement like many renters, he said the form isn't fulfilling its purpose.

"You don't know what the city codes are until you've broken them," Goldner said.

Some students we talked to had never heard of the agreement and had no idea whether or not they had signed it. Many of those who were familiar with the form supported Lang's idea.

Student renters discuss the landlord tenant agreements.

Ohio University's Student Legal Services Web site discusses the form, as well as many other issues related to rental properties.

The Next Step
City Council agreed Monday to review the agreement next week and decide whether to prosecute delinquent landlords.

Law Director Pat Lang said his office will not prefer charges against any landlords until that discussion.

Landlord Caroline Thomason said this problem will not be an easy one to fix, but necessary.

"Without Ohio University, the City of Athens would not be what it is. And of course we can't have Ohio University without the students. So you must find this cohesiveness for the city and the residents to live next to, not necessarily amongst, but next to students," she said.

"We can't have one without the other."

VIEWS of ATHENS VOTERS: Angst of an Undecided Voter

Ann G. Alquist

This is the first in a series of Views of Athens Voters which give a glimpse of what local voters are thinking leading up to November 4.

Mary Catherine Kennedy voted for John Kerry in 2004, but this year she's undecided. She's a graduate student at Ohio University, but has to make up her mind soon to vote absentee in South Carolina.

Mary Catherine Kennedy, undecided voter

Three Man Race For State Senate

by Carlyn Lynch

Normally, when you think of a political face-off, you think of Democrats vs. Republicans, but the race for the 20th District State Senate is no normal race. Perhaps it makes sense that as our nation wakes up to the impact we're having on the environment and the importance of going green, a Green party candidate is able to join the debate in Athens County. This candidate, Tim Kettler, was seated between Democrat Rick Shriver and Republican Jimmy Stewart Tuesday night at the Athens Public Library. The event was hosted by the League of Women Voters to inform voters of all their options and make the political process as open as possible. The green perspective definitely added to the debate and forced all candidates to discuss environmental issues not always raised during traditional two party conversations.

Green Party candidate Tim Kettler says when you talk jobs, you need to talk healthcare.

One term that is being thrown around a lot during this election is "clean coal". In the post-"An Inconvenient Truth" era, preventing global warming has become a worldwide priority. Clean coal is one proposed solution to help the environment, however, many environmentalists like Tim Kettler cringe at the idea. They believe that there is no such thing as clean coal. Although purification of coal does eliminate some harmful emissions, Kettler says that it does nothing to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Kettler believes the damage done by greenhouse gases is too severe to ignore and we need to turn to alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, right away by taking advantage of the "green goldrush" coming to Ohio. Democrat Rick Shriver agrees that we need to move away from dependence on coal, but says that clean coal is a good short term solution to the environmental crisis. The Southeast Ohio economy cannot afford to lose the revenue and jobs from the coal industry completely. Republican Jimmy Stewart says he supports Senate Bill 221 for renewable energy but Kettler thinks the bill is not enough to make the changes the environment needs.

[D] Rick Shriver's main priority is the economy

Shriver's main focus during the debate was the economy. One of the biggest issues in this region of Ohio is poverty. Many people are desperate for jobs, healthcare, and reasonable housing. Shriver says that we need to make it easier to do business in Ohio by evaluating tax requirements on businesses and improving employer incentives in order to attract companies to Southeast Ohio.

Shriver and Stewart both emphasize the importance of improving infrastructure, which Stewart says is something he's been behind during his six years in the state house. He believes that the investments made in our schools and highways are beginning to pay off and will continue to do so. Kettler also supports job creation but wants to focus more on creating a localized economy with jobs that can't be outsourced.

[R] Jimmy Stewart on Southeast Ohio opportunites

Shriver and Stewart think that their experience makes them qualified to serve in the Senate. Stewart made sure to stress his five years in local government and six years in the legislature. He is a local politician, and the "Jimmy Stewart" t-shirts in the audience were evidence of the support he can count on from Athens.

Stewart also wanted voters to know that he has a history of seeking out bipartisan support for all of the bills he has passed. Shriver says he never wanted to be involved in politics but is interested in improving the lives of his neighbors. He has served as county commissioner and been president of the Chamber of Commerce. He let voters know that he has concrete plans for improving the economy in Southeast Ohio.

Kettler is a small business owner and laborer and believes that this puts him in touch with citizen concerns. He says he is running for the Senate seat out of civic responsibility. He thinks the present system is corrupt and his belief in non-violent, non-cooperation that got him arrested for refusing to fight in the Vietnam war is the same belief that drew him to represent the Green Party in this race.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: My 15 Seconds of Fame as Rufus the Bobcat

Carlyn Lynch

Normally when I'm shooting a story I need to make sure I'm wearing something pretty nice. You know; a blazer, skirt, impractical shoes, the works. For my story on our school's mascot try-outs however, I was in an oversized fur jumpsuit and strap-on paws, which are almost as impractical as high heels when you're dancing to the fight song. It was probably the most fun I've ever had on any story.

I arrived at the Convocation Center expecting a pretty big turnout for the mascot tryouts. It seems like a job a lot of students would like to have. Being the symbol of Ohio University sports is nothing to sneeze at. I was the first to arrive for the big show. It was just me and the cheerleading squad. At first I thought they were all there to try their hand at bringing the bobcat to life but actually they didn't know anything about the try-out, which is a shame since Rufus is the most recognizable member of their squad. Soon after I arrived, some men from O.U.'s sports marketing team came with a boom box, only two contestants showed up with some school spirit, and then it was ON.

The first Rufus hopeful suited up and hit the Convocation Center lobby running. He came out with intensity and enthusiasm, which is difficult when everyone else is just sort of watching and waiting to see what you're going to do. The fight song started up and then it was a blur of fur. He was all over the place; sliding, chest bumping, milking it for the camera, the works. It was quite an impressive performance and proved to be a tough act to follow. The next guy wasn't quite as chipper. He seemed slightly uncomfortable in his animal form and gave a mediocre performance. In my opinion, the first contestant has Rufus's #1 jersey in the bag. I won't reveal his identity for fear of ruining the mystery behind the Bobcat tradition.

Throughout my time at the tryout I was talking and joking around with the judges. They were great guys and were nice enough to let me try on the Rufus costume after the try-out ended. I think partly because they were up for a good laugh at my expense. So, I suited up in the following:

-A vest with shoulder pads to make me appear more buff
-Brown fur jumpsuit
-Strap-on paws, similar to skis, that go over your tennis shoes
-The coveted #1 Jersey
-Ohio Universiy gym shorts
-last, but not least, the giant (slightly smelly) Rufus head complete with chin strap

Once I had the whole thing on, I slipped right into character. The guys fired up the fight song and I whipped out all my best moves. This included a few dance leaps and pirouettes from my pre-teen dance class days. About halfway through the song I ran out of steam.....and moves.

Being the bobcat is fun, but not easy. It's actually exhausting. The whole costume probably adds an extra ten pounds to your frame and the paw-skis are difficult to maneuver, especially if you're trying to c-walk. All of the marketing guys have had experience being the bobcat and say it's kind of a rite of passage in their department. All the interns and new guys have to suit up at some point for different public appearances. It's really important to stay hydrated and you constantly have to be on your game when you're in front of the fans.

I also did a little digging into the history of the Bobcat. It wasn't given the name Rufus until 2006, beating out other names such as Attack, Bob, and Slash. If you want to know any other bobcat trivia go to this Ohio site to know it all.

City Council: Saving Salt and Saving Money

by: Shana O'Malley

Athens City Council on Monday, discussed new ways to tighten the city budget. Councilwoman Nancy Bain says with winter right around the corner, saving money is going to be difficult. The city already has had to deal with unexpected fuel price hikes and now it faces sky rocketing road salt prices.

Bain says the city is also going to need a new way to store the salt. She says although the current salt bin is sufficient, the bin should prevent stored salt from soaking into the ground and running into the water systems.

"Salt is a contaminate in water, we don't want it in water," Bain said.

City council approved an ordinance for the beginning stages of that project which will allow an engineer to develop a new design for a salt bin. For now, Bain says the street department will probably use a tarp or other catching device to keep salt off the ground.

Councilwoman Bain talking about road salt

Cutting City Positions
Another way city council plans on saving money is by cutting city positions that have been vacant for a while. The cut positions include two fire fighters.

Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht says the city is permanently cutting five vacant positions. But she says that could all change if the budget comes up really short.

"If we were to cut drastically, had to make big cuts, ... it would involve reduction of force," Hecht said.

As of right now, the city has no plans to cut any positions that are currently filled.

City Auditor Kathy Hecht talking about removing positions

How Krogering Helps Your Community

Whitney Hare

It's one of those inevitable things, every week, or possibly every two or three weeks, you load up into the car and go shopping for groceries. You very rarely hear about it being anyone’s favorite job, but a necessary job no less. So if you could help your local community by going shopping, would you choose that store over another? Would you shop more often if your necessity, helped others?

The Kroger Company has been around for 125 years. They have 320,000 employees and it’s those very employees who have come up with countless ways to give back to their communities. At Ohio University’s first ever Kroger Day, Marnette Perry, Kroger Senior Vice President spoke to students about not only the importance of running a good business, but the importance of remembering others and providing to them.

Second Harvest
One of Kroger’s biggest charities is Second Harvest. Second Harvest was established in 1979, today is distributes two billion pounds of food each year. Kroger is active in sending food to Second Harvest each and every week. Kroger has been named “Retailer of the Year” by Second Harvest five times in the past seven years because of their generous donations. Ms. Perry says the act of giving back to the community is one of the most important values of the Kroger Company. With the help of companies like Kroger, Second Harvest is able to feed 25 million people every year.

Marnette Perry discusses Second Harvest and Kroger partnership

United Way
Another group Kroger is active with is the United Way. Kroger, with the help of its customers has donated around $5.5 million to the United Way. The United Way is focused on goals of improving education, income and health. Kroger works with the United Way to improve the lives for the people in their communities. Many Kroger employees give personally to the United Way, along with the help of customers. According to Marnette Perry, with efforts like change boxes at the checkouts, customers have given around $ 2.5 million. “I can remember when I gave my first donation and it was to United Way, when I was just a cashier.”

Kroger has a history of giving to United Way

Ms. Perry also mentioned the fact that the Kroger Company is not only focused on donations, but helping the environment as well. With new renovations and new buildings, the Kroger Company is focused on sustainability. The new Kroger in Athens received a million dollars in renovations. When it came time to make those updates, eco-friendly products were a requirement. With the effort to become more energy efficient, the Kroger Company is not only looking out for the communities' current well being, but the well being of the future as well.

Local Products
Besides helping national groups, Kroger reaches out to the people of their local communities as well. Here in Athens, store manager Dave Schull, says selling the products of local producers helps everyone. “We've got a large 24 foot section of local products that employ local people to make it that are local people producing the foods, and they're just trying to see if these products work in our store or other stores in the community.”

Kroger carries local Athens products

The Kroger Company Foundation was started to oversee Kroger's charitable giving. Since it’s creation in 1987, it has grants, support, and donations, to the communities that sustain the company. To learn how you can get involved in Kroger’s efforts to help other, visit their website.

Monday, October 20, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: No Reacting, Just Reporting

Whitney Hare

During this crazy election period, it seems as though I've heard the words liberal media more than ever. It seems the media can never make anyone happy in the political world. The journalist is either too biased, or too mean, or doesn't ask the right questions. It seems near impossible to make everyone happy when covering anything political. So when I got the opportunity to cover something political I tired my hardest to keep my opinions to myself, and cover the event in a way, I hope, that makes everyone happy, or at least equally unhappy.

Last week, I had the chance to cover the Senator Joe Biden rally in Athens as an online journalist. Knowing this was probably the biggest name that would be coming to Athens this election season, I jumped at the chance to report on the event. I think some people don't realize how rare it is to have such an important person in Athens. While it is wonderful to get the experience we get in MidDay, it's a bit difficult to fully prepare us for the real world.

Once I was assigned to cover the Biden rally, I gathered my camera and my notebook and headed off to the fairgrounds. We met our first obstacle entering the event. We didn't have "media credentials." Explain as we might that we were a student run news CLASS, and didn't know who was covering events until the day of, we were allowed entrance with a sigh and advice to "try and make sure you have those next time." I just wanted to laugh at the mention of "next time." As important as the battle ground state of Ohio is, I'll be surprised if we have any more big names in Athens before election day.

Once we were all set up, it was not a challenge to see who the majority of attendees were supporting. With t-shirts, buttons, hats and signs, the Obama/Biden supporters weren't difficult to find. McCain/Palin supporters on the other had, were no where to be seen. Now, when I am expected to do a "fair and balanced" story, how am I to do this, without both sides in attendance? I realize I could go out and hunt them down, but I was covering the rally, and the people in attendance. So I decided to focus my story on the speech, not how I felt about the speech or what I thought about the speech. I realized I had to focus on the facts and figures of the speech.

Now I realize, as a reporter, I need to learn not to let my personal feelings interfere with the story I am covering. With events like political rallies, that could be extremely difficult. I used this rally as the perfect opportunity to not just work on reporting, but to hide my political beliefs as well. I made a conscious effort to not react whatsoever to the statements I heard. I kept my mouth shut, and my hands still. In a business that is so quickly labeled "liberal" or "biased" I want to do everything I can to fight that stereotype. I also had the chance to see professional journalists at work and took my cue from them. They did not react, they simply reported.

So, I am asking a favor of you, the reader. Please, read my story on the Biden rally. Tell me if I was as unbiased as I thought I was. Let me know if you can read between my lines and find my political beliefs. Or let me know if I did my job, and reported, rather than reacted.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough... Use Coupons?

Danielle Sills

With the economy in trouble, many people across Athens are strapped for money. Long car rides, utility bills, and trips to the grocery store all take their toll on average residents. An article on reports that people are cutting more coupons to cut down on costs. We wanted to know if people in Athens were following this national trend, so we stopped by a few grocery stores in the area.

Food World Discounts Help Residents Get By
Athens Food World publishes its in-store specials every other week in the Athens Messenger. In every aisle, large signs mark the discounts for most of the items in the store. Manager Mike Yeater says the store offers discounted prices and savings for its customers. But even with well-priced items, he says "people are only buying what they absolutely need."

Time is Money
While Yeater said the store offers the incentive of good deals, Food World customers don't just come to the store for the bargains. Athens resident Terry Whitlach said he tends to buy the items on sale for that week, but the real reason he comes to the store is because it's close to home.

"To me my time is valuable, and if I can hit a place for convenience, I don't mind paying that extra ten cents," Whitlach explained. He doesn't like to take the time to cut coupons either.

Athens resident Forrest Ervin says he rarely uses coupons either. Even though the economy has been hit hard, he won't go out of his way to find coupons. Ervin only takes advantage of the deals in the store.

Kroger Coupons Give Buyers Incentives
Kroger also provides opportunities for its customers to save money. The store advertises in-store promotions, like one where shoppers can buy ten items for ten dollars. Kroger also promotes coupon usage. Shoppers can print coupons from Kroger's website before leaving home or get discounts on store-brand items with a Kroger card.

Every Cent Counts
In contrast to the Food World customers, those unloading their grocery bags outside of Kroger said coupons were an important part of their shopping routine. OU Senior Lauren Behe says in addition to using a Kroger card, her mom sends her coupons in the mail.

OU Senior Lauren Behe explains why she uses coupons

"Every little bit counts," Behe said. She says her family is feeling the strain of the economy, and coupons are one way to cope.

OU Senior Cari Steiner doesn't necessarily use paper coupons, but she buys Kroger brand food to save money. Steiner uses the "ten for ten dollars" deal when buying yogurt.

Coupons: To Use or Not to Use
While some residents we talked to didn't want to waste their time cutting coupons, others said coupons were an integral part of their shopping experience. Each person and family has different strategies when it comes to balancing a budget. So even though the country's economic situation is affecting many in the Athens community, not all of them think that coupons are the solution. However, everyone agrees that it is important to find good deals on everything from groceries to gas.

Making the Most of Coupons
If you do choose to use coupons, sites like Mommy Savers, GoogoBits, and eHow recommend the following tips:

Be sure coupons are actually saving money.
---Sometimes the generic brand costs less than the national brand, even with the coupon.
Combine in-store coupons with two-for-one deals.
---Check to see if you can use two coupons at once.
With coupons, buy the smallest size.
---Buying in bulk is only smart when you don't have coupons.
Find coupons everywhere.
---Look online, trade with friends, check the Sunday newspaper, and ask at your grocery store's customer service.
Organize your coupons.
---Use a container that sorts coupons by type so they are easy to find.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: A Winning Attitude

Brianna Savoca

Splashes of green and blue filled the bleachers. Parents on the stands next to me cheered for their daughters. Fans yelled, "Let's go Bulldogs!"

The excitement in the gym was contagious as the Athens Varsity Volleyball team stepped on the court.

It was the sectional game of the state high school volleyball tournament- Athens versus Chillicothe.

The Athens Bulldogs entered the tournament with a 11-11 record. However, the Bulldogs were a young team with only two seniors.

Since the state tournament is single-game elimination, the sectional game could potentially be the two seniors' last high school volleyball game ever.

"A New League, A New Legacy"
This year, the Athens Bulldogs switched to the Tri-Valley Conference, or TVC.

Optimistic about the change, "A New League, A New Legacy" was written on the back of the volleyball team's shirts.

"Well your school only changes leagues once every 85 years," Senior volleyball player Emily Fox said. "We knew this was something really special. And we wanted to use that as an incentive to push us through the season."

The Outcome
The Athens Bulldogs lost to Chillicothe after only three periods, putting an end to their 2008 season.

"I was crying in the locker room," Victoria Reagan, the second senior volleyball player, said. "It's really sad. It's bittersweet, but I know they're going to do awesome next year. I just wish I could be a part of it."

"We hit some bumps. We had a lot of good times. A lot of laughs, a lot of cries," Coach Kelli Dyer said. "But you know we're family, we're gonna stick together, and next year people better look out.

Becoming a Bulldog
After sitting in the stand with volleyball players' moms, dads, and other family members, I felt like I was becoming a Bulldog. I saw the look of disappointment on everyone's faces first-hand. I interviewed the players, the coaches, and the parents.

It was obvious everyone cared a lot about the game. Family and friends showed up to cheer on the team. The players and coaches supported each other and despite the loss, stayed positive throughout the game.

It's hard not to feel bad for the Athens High School volleyball team's season ending.

"They were excited and ready to win," Cindy Carlson, one mother said. "They really wanted to keep going."

Words of Wisdom
Winning isn't everything, and I can see the Athens Bulldogs care about more than having a perfect record. After having just lost a game and ending the season, everyone at the game still had a positive attitude about next year's season.

"Since it was our last game, that was hard to deal with," Emily Fox said. "But I know that they’ll do really well next year."

"I think they’ll be great," Cindy Carlson said. "They’ll be awesome next year."

"Pretty soon we’re gonna be a top team that people want to beat," Coach Dyer said.

After reflecting on her experience with the volleyball team, senior Victoria Reagan said she did not want team members to be discouraged by the loss against Chillicothe.

I asked her if there was any advice she'd give to her younger teammates, and she shared this piece of advice with me.

"Just believe in yourselves because honestly that’s really what it comes down to, Reagan said. "It’s just knowing that you can do it. And that you will do it."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: Swimming Around the World

Danielle Sills

Oh the Places We'll Go
I have a Spanish minor, I spent three months in Pamplona, Spain, and I love the Spanish language and culture. With all the time and energy I have put into my Spanish studies, I have really developed an appreciation for unfamiliar people, places, and ideas.

So, I'll jump at any chance to report on a story about people from different cultures and countries. Ok, not any chance. But my interest in people with diverse backgrounds and histories comes naturally, and rarely would I pass up an opportunity to learn more about them.

A Fear of Sports
On the other hand, reporting on sports is not really my specialty. It's not that I don't enjoy watching a game every now and then. I'm a big Cleveland sports fan, and I have always loved supporting the teams at my high school and at Ohio University. Yet I still don't understand all the rules of every game, and I cannot come close to keeping track of records and other sports stats. I just don't feel completely qualified to tell people what's going on in the world of sports.

So when I had the opportunity to report on international students on the Women's Swimming and Diving Team, I was elated. I had a chance to focus on something I was truly passionate about, and I could avoid working on a story that focused on a game that I was uncomfortably unfamiliar with.

Making Ohio Home
My story focused on why women from Canada, England, and Brazil would come to Athens, Ohio to compete on OU's swim team. After studying abroad, I know what a big step it is to move to another country – especially a country that has different traditions and a different way of life. I was impressed by these women, before talking to them, just for the fact that they had the courage to live so far away from home for four years.

When I interviewed a few of them, their answers were truly interesting. These women are so driven. They came to Ohio purely for the love of their sport. Their determination to excel and improve their swimming or diving skills is HUGE.

Petra Chomicz came all the way from England. She says she had a good relationship with OU Swim Couch Greg Werner, and so she got on a plane for the international student orientation. When she got to OU, she fell in love with the campus. (Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine who wouldn’t.) She really wanted to find a school that would challenge her, and now that the swim season is underway, she feels like she is working hard and improving.

Laura Stasiuk came from Ontario, and she is another swimmer that gained my respect. She drives back and forth between her hometown and OU, spending two 12-hour days in the car. But she said universities in the United States provide more scholarship money and more opportunity. A big draw for her to come here was the fact that people in the states are “a lot more into sports” than they are in Canada.

It's More Than Just An Interview or Two
My admiration for these women doesn’t stop at their courage to live in a different country and adjust to a different place. They practice for hours every day, immersing themselves in their sport. Their true passion for swimming or diving is obvious when talking to them.

I am so glad I had a chance to talk to them. Every time I can learn more about what makes people tick, it clarifies things that seem foreign. And by foreign, I don’t just mean different countries and cultures. I don’t just mean the number of laps in a 100m butterfly or the number of dives in a meet. I mean being able to understand why people do what they do, and why they are the way they are. I just hope that as a journalist, as I’m learning more about the world and its people, I am helping other people do the same.

VP Candidate rallies in Athens

Whitney Hare

With all eyes on Ohio for its swing state status, the candidates are hitting southeast Ohio hard and often. Senator Joe Biden came to Athens to address the issues of the area and inspire voters. He covered everything from the flaws of his opponents, to the economy and education.

U.S. Concerns
Biden told the audience about the differences he has seen across the country in different regions. But in his recent tour of the country, there is one thing he's never seen before. "Whether up in Montana, down in Florida, or here in Southeastern Ohio, it doesn't matter the concerns are the exact same."

Biden says those concerns ask the questions "Will I have a job next month," "Can I afford the doctor?" "Can I fill the gas tank?" And the questions didn't stop there. He went on to add worry about mortgage payments, college tuition and retirement. But Biden says the real question is "Who's going to change things?" He made it very clear who was NOT going to change things.

Biden speaks about US Concerns

Why Not McCain?
Biden focused on the middle class and the lack of connection he says his Republican counterparts have to the average Americans. He referred to the previous debates as proof. "They (McCain and Palin) never had the words middle class part their lips" Biden is quick to point out that while McCain truly is a war hero, it's not enough. "We need more than a war hero, we need a great leader." Biden says the focus of the McCain advertising campaign is nearly 100% negative. He thinks this tactic hurts the American people because it distracts from the issues.

Biden discusses concerns about McCain

Biden addresses McCain's negative campaign

Economic Crisis
One of those biggest issues is the economy and how the problem is going to be solved. Biden argues McCain's proposed policy, at it's core, is no different than the policy Bush has applied for the past 8 years. And Biden says the current crisis is a direct result of those policies. "This crisis is the final verdict of 8 years of failed economic policies under the Bush administration." Attendants of the rally agree that the economy is one of their biggest concerns in this election.

Ewan Scovie, international student discusses biggest concerns

Pastor Leon Forte talks about the economy

Education and Innovation
Biden spoke to the people about the plan and policies in store for America if he and Obama are elected. He addressed tax breaks for the middle class, removing tax breaks for companies who ship jobs overseas, creating jobs, health care, and our dependence on oil. Biden referred to the goals of John F. Kennedy to get a man on the moon. "He didn't know how we were gonna get to the moon. He knew one thing. He knew if he challenged the American people, if he set a goal there wasn't a single solitary thing they couldn't do." Biden says we should be setting the same goals for energy independence. One way they plan to carry this plan out is to broaden education to more. "We will see to it, that anyone capable, can go to college."

Biden talks about policies