Channel 25 signing off

Folks, I apologize for the long period between posts. You may have heard that Gazette Communications laid 13 people off last week. I unfortunately was one of them. But before I continue on with this post, I want to take this opportunity to thank my former employer for the opportunity to serve them as Interactive Features Reporter. In particular, I thank Steve Buttry, who is now the Information Content Conductor for the new Gazette. Without his support, I never would have had the position at all. Steve and I exchanged messages on Facebook a few days after the bomb was dropped, and he told me “I know you will bounce back from this week’s disappointment.”

Anyway, on to the big news: I am retiring Channel 25, as all of its content belongs to Gazette Communications. You will still be able to read Channel 25 material through this URL. I really appreciate your supporting Channel 25, and I hope you will continue your support with my future endeavors.



Hawkeye Football Off-The-Field News That’s Positive

Good morning from 500 Third! I have a lot that I need to do here at the office in the next couple of days, so I’m going to make this quick, but I did want to share with you some news sent over by my alma mater, The University of Iowa.

It goes without saying that the Hawkeye football team is huge deal in the Corridor, and rightfully so, with no NFL team to speak of here. As such, they’re bound to make headlines, usually for their play on the field, but sometimes, it transcends off the field. Coverage of the latter usually isn’t as positive, because it deals with a player who’s in some sort of legal trouble. So today, I’d like to share this little tidbit with you.

Players and coaches from the team will be donating blood Friday morning at the football complex in Iowa City to help their neighbors across the street from Kinnick Stadium, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. This is far from the first time they’ve helped the community out. You might recall seeing a Gazette photo around the time of the June floods, when players helped with sandbagging in Coralville. Others went to Parkersburg to help after that town was struck by a tornado. There has to be many more things the team has done, but I simply don’t have the time today to research it.

While donating blood may not seem like a big deal, it’s something that should be noted, especially the next time a player makes the news for the wrong reasons.


Sky Surfing

When I went to Great Britain back in the fall, I took Northwest Airlines. It was an eight-hour ride between London Heathrow and the airports where I made my connection: Detroit on the way there and Minneapolis/St. Paul on the way back.

Northwest Airlines Airbus A330-300

Northwest Airlines Airbus A330-300

The aircraft, an Airbus A330, was equipped with an entertainment system in each seat that let you choose what you wanted to see. I played a game of Sudoku, watched “Batman Begins” and “Joe Somebody,” and tracked the flight’s position. Even though my iPhone had to be set to airplane mode, I was still able to listen to music and watch programs I downloaded. I didn’t do too much of that though.

I would have enjoyed using the Internet while in the air. And I may eventually get to do that. Delta, which is merging with Northwest, is installing WiFi on its aircraft. The Atlanta-based airline is partnering with Aircell’s Gogo to keep travelers wired in the sky, with the help of cellular towers down below.

Gogo is also being used by American Airlines on flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and also by Virgin America. United and Air Canada are said to be following suit soon. And Southwest is testing WiFi with a company called Row 44.

Delta, meanwhile, hopes to have its entire fleet connected by year’s end, and they’re looking to hook up the livery it has acquired from Northwest as well. Whether that applies to any Delta/Northwest flights in and out of The Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, your guess is as good as mine.

It should be pointed out that it will cost you to browse from 35,000 feet. You’ll have to pay $9.95 for unlimited access if you use it on a Delta flight that’s less than a three-hour tour and $12.95 for access on a flight more than three hours. Similarly, it’s $12.95 to use the Internet on an American flight. In addition, Delta will block certain content that might not be suitable for all ages. Hopefully Channel 25 doesn’t make it onto that list. 🙂

I may be headed to the East Coast later this summer–I’d like to visit both New York and Washington, and will probably fly into Philadelphia to achieve that. I like the idea of WiFi on airplanes, but I don’t know that I need to shell out $10 to get to the Web from above the ground. I mean, I can live a few hours without being online, can’t I?


RIP “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”

The first time I can recall watching “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” on NBC was in the summer of 1996, while we were staying with our aunt and uncle and their kids just east of Ames. That night, there was a sketch where closed captioning was supposed to show what Conan and his then-sidekick Andy Richter were saying, but instead, the closed captioner got bored with their conversation and just started writing what he or she wanted. One of the captions read “This Just In: Michael Jackson is a Freak.” Another one recalled a New York Mets baseball game and got the audience to start performing the seventh inning stretch. I thought it was funny and that the show must have been better than what the critics said it was.

Since then, I’ve become a huge fan of Conan’s show. I usually only watch the monologue and the opening sketch then turn the TV off, because I really don’t care to listen to celebrities yammer about whatever it is they happen to be peddling. Conan has had so many great sketches, it would take me forever to name them all off. And so it is I have mixed emotions tonight. I am thrilled to see Conan taking over the Tonight Show in June, but am sad that he is leaving New York and the 12:35/11:35 Central slot.

While I can’t help but wonder if being on an hour earlier will lead to some changes in Conan’s routine, I wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor. If you can go from the threat of being cancelled to host of the prestigious Tonight Show, you can do anything.

I would write more, but I don’t quite know what to say, and it’s four minutes to Conan’s last “Late Night.” I have to go to Williamsburg in the morning, so I’ll probably turn it off after the monologue and sketch as usual. But I am recording it, so I’ll catch his final goodbye some other time.


From Q to Z: CR Hit Radio in the late ’90s

I was going to post something new last night, but a)I had nothing new to talk about, b)I was too tired by the end of the night, and c)my previous post was doing so well. It’s time now to switch gears though.

First of all, I reached a milestone this morning: three of them, actually. Like many Gazette staffers, I have a Twitter feed . I follow 100 people and 13 hours ago, 100 people were following me. I have since come to learn that two are no longer following me, and so I am sad that I only have 98 followers now. I also wrote my 100th tweet, commemorating the triple milestone.

I was going to blog about this today, but then I was driving home along Second Avenue, listening to Cool 105.7, “Iowa’s Classic Hits.” The Waterloo-based station usually plays songs from the 1970s and ’80s, but every now and then, they’ll throw in a ’90s tune. I about freaked out when I heard No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” come on.
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I couldn’t believe they were playing this song, which helped launch the career of Gwen Stefani, not because I don’t think it’s a good song, but rather because this song was big around 1996-97, my freshman year of high school. So now I feel old because the classic hits station played No Doubt today.

The song’s success came at right about the time when Contemporary Hit Radio took a hiatus from Cedar Rapids airwaves. From the early to mid-90s, Q103 was the station kids my age were listening to. Then for whatever reason, the station decided to switch to a country music format, even though the city already had one in KHAK. I think there’s a story from when the switch took place in the Gazette archives, I should try to find it. The funny thing is, not long before this change, Q103 played an April Fools’ joke on its listeners when it said it was going country, but then went back to the hottest hits of the day.

After this switch, kids had to tune in to KOKZ to hear the new sound. Then KOKZ dropped the new sound in favor of becoming Cool 105.7 and playing hits from the 1960s and ’70s. So Cedar Rapids was without a pop station for a brief period, until the people at the old Q103 decided to return to the format that made it such a popular station. However, instead of bringing the old name back along with the format, they came up with a new name: Z102.9. And they haven’t looked back since.

A lot of this came from what I remember about Cedar Rapids radio in the ’90s. If you know anything else about this era, share it with me. Let’s reminisce together. Meanwhile, I’ll check through our archives to see what I can find.


TV Talk

We all like to watch some sort of television, and I’m in the mood to talk about it tonight, so it’s time to tune in!

I just got done watching the latest episode of “Law and Order: SVU.” It was about a transgendered 13-year-old whose father is beaten outside of a strip joint. I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it yet, but let’s just say you’ll be surprised by who did it and why they did it. Bizzare episode, to say the least.

During one of the commercial breaks, I saw an ad for Boost Mobile. According to CNN Money, the prepaid wireless arm of Sprint introduced new spots this week called “Unwronged.” The commercial I saw had a guy a seated behind a woman with really hairy armpits on a bicycle built for two.

“You think this is wrong?” the woman said. “It’s a little gift from Mother Nature.”

When I first saw this ad, I was rather repulsed. I understand the need to get attention to sell your product, but that’s not the way to do it. Yuck! >:o

I caught both the SVU episode and twisted Boost Mobile ad on NBC. Earlier in the day, local Peacock affiliate KWWL pulled the plug on its analog broadcast and is now transmitting only in digital. The switch happened as soon as the station concluded its midday newscast at 1 p.m. A lot of Gazette staffers gathered around one of the newsroom TVs at around this time. We waited for the screen to go dark and stay that way for a long time, but it didn’t happen (the newsroom sets are hooked up to cable). After about one second of black, “Deal or No Deal” started without a hitch. We were all disappointed.

Towards the end of the noon show, “Iowa’s News Channel” rolled out a clock counting down to the big transition. They also aired a retrospective of broadcasting in analog. My immediate supervisor marveled at the clips of Ron Steele from when his hair was much darker than it is now. As a sucker for nostalgia myself, I got a kick out of the old clips.

One of KWWL’s competitors has decided to run a piece on whether or not newspapers like the one I work for are really necessary anymore. They even “interviewed” our editor Steve Buttry during his live chat this afternoon. And they put up a Web poll asking people if they read or even need the local paper anymore. 87 percent responded yes.

I’m not sure where KGAN is going with this, or even why. They put on their Web site that “TV is stealing the spotlight lately with the government spending billions to get everyone on the same wavelength.” But should newscasters really be celebrating? Let’s forget the ratings at one station or another for just a second. How many people are tuning into any of the local newscasts? NBC, CBS and ABC are no longer just competing with each other. They’re competing with every channel that is available on a cable system today. And just as the case is for newspapers, people are watching shows and video on the Internet. In fact, I even wrote about this topic last week.

Here’s something I’ve always wondered, and I brought it up to Steve once a while back, but haven’t really gone any further with it. Now is a good time to ask this question. Say it’s 10 p.m. (or 11 for those of you in the Eastern Time Zone), you’re at home, getting ready to wind down for the night. Which are you more likely to do: watch the news on one of the Big Three, watch Jon Stewart deliver fake news on “The Daily Show,” watch LeBron James highlights over and over on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” play around on your computer, or none of the above? Let’s make this a poll. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Don’t You Know Who My Father Is?

I’m quite certain I used this line when I was young and much more immature than I am now. My father’s a good man, he’s helped the community out in a lot of ways, but you might not know who he is. I mean, it’s not like he was a coach for the national champion Florida Gators football team or anything. Even if he was, I doubt I’d try to use that as an excuse for misbehaving, like the daughter of a current Gators coach reportedly did in Iowa City over the weekend.

Not only is it alleged that 21-year-old Jillian McCarney swore at and hit an Iowa City police officer, but reports say she more or less used that old “don’t you know who my father is?” line. For those of you who don’t know, her father is Dan McCarney, who was the head football coach at Iowa State from 1995 to 2006. He also played for and was an assistant at Iowa, and originally hails from Iowa City. He is now the assistant head coach in charge of defense in Gainesville. Police say that Jillian told them her charges (assaulting a police officer and keeping a disorderly house) would be dropped because her family has “a lot of money.”

Now the thing to keep in mind here is that since we weren’t there, we don’t really know what happened and are left with an official report from the authorities to tell us their account. Even so, this is a good lesson to people that they shouldn’t use their name to justify acting irresponsibly. It’s certainly something I don’t think Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz would tolerate. Need proof? Ask his son James, who was suspended from the team by his old man last season after being cited for Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age (the locals simply know it as “Paula”).

If anything, I find trying to get out of trouble with your name to be disrespectful to your family. If you can’t respect yourself, that’s one thing, but why drag other people through the mud? I’ve heard it said before from colleagues that Coach Mac is really a good guy. And it’s not my place to judge his daughter based on one alleged incident. But if she did what the police say she did, she really should leave Dad out of this and take responsibility for her own actions.