When Chuck Stone passed away, we lost more than a great writer

Chuck Stone

I know it’s tough to convince anyone younger to listen to what I have to say. I was once young – a long, long time ago. And I’m certain I was as hesitant as they are to listen.

It’s equally tough to realize that maybe I was wrong about someone. Maybe that person I initially thought was more or less a jerk was really a good person.

I learned that lesson as a 19-year-old while working as a copyboy at the Philadelphia Daily News.

Way back when at the Daily News they had people like me to run around doing errands like picking up newspapers, dropping off paychecks, getting company cars gassed up and picking up an occasional lunch for someone.

When I was hired at the DN it was like I was dropped into a movie set. There were all these famous Philly journalists, reporters, editors and photographers. The men and women whose work I read all the time were actually sitting and standing in front of me.

There was Pete Dexter, Larry Fields, Larry McMullen, Ray Didinger, Sam Psoras, Will Everly, Gil Spencer, Zack Stalberg. And then there was Chuck Stone.

Stone was the first black columnist ever hired by the Daily News. And in a city like Philadelphia where in the day minorities had trouble with proper representation, someone like Chuck Stone was the best thing to happen.

At the time, however, I didn’t think so. At least when I first met Chuck.

At first I thought Stone was rude, arrogant and a person just looking to stir the pot. I remember one evening working on an election night when he came downstairs in the Municipal Services Building where a bunch of us from the paper were working, collecting data and phoning it back to the DN editors.

Chuck came flying into the room, bowtie, weird looking glasses, looking around and just gawking. I wondered what the heck he was doing. His answer was that he wanted to make sure that there were minorities represented as elections were sacred and that it was the right thing to do. Yeh, whatever, I thought. Who did this guy think he was?

Over the next year or so I got to know Stone a little more. When he would come into the newsroom I would engage him in small talk. I tried to see what kind of guy he really was. What I found out was that he was smart, really, really smart. He also cared about the people of Philadelphia and not just the minorities of the city. He cared for anyone he felt was getting a raw deal.

There was the time he negotiated the release of hostages taken at Graterford Prison. Soon after people sought by the Philadelphia police would seek Stone out to secure their safe arrest. At that time the Philly police were having an issue with some rogue cops who felt that brutality was an OK thing.

I recall a Sunday night working at the paper. It was around 10 or so at night when the elevator doors opened and three men walked in. Two were in suits, one not. I asked if I could help them and one of the “suits” replied that they were looking for Stone. The less than well-dressed man was there to surrender to Stone. I led them to a couple of chairs just inside the newsroom and not 10 minutes later, Stone emerged from the elevator. That was just the way he was. Never mind that it was late on a Sunday night when other people were at home. Chuck was there to do what he thought was right and that was making sure the guy the cops were looking for made it to the police administration building in one piece.

Stone was 89 when he died Sunday at an assisted-living facility in North Carolina.

People like Chuck Stone don’t seem to be in large numbers these days. In our news world we are all caught up in getting the news out quicker than ever. There are tighter budgets, fewer people, less time to think about the greater work, the greater good.

It’s hard to imagine someone taking the time to make sure some guy they never met gets treated with a little respect, regardless of any crime he committed or alleged wrongdoing he was suspected of.

Chuck Stone was more than just a journalist. He was a splendid human being, someone who combined his writing and journalism skills with that of contributing something of value to the human race.

That’s missing nowadays. And that’s too bad.

– Andy Hachadorian

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DeSean is gone and hopefully so is the habit of tolerating bad players

So the big news today is that the Eagles released wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Thanks to a report by NJ.com sports writer and former Daily Local News staff Eliot Shorr-Parks, the Eagles decided to part ways with Jackson.
According to the story by Eliot, Jackson was under the microscope for weeks after it had been revealed that “a number of Jackson’s associates were either linked to or charged with two gang-related murders from 2010-2012. The investigation also revealed that Jackson was arrested in 2009 for possession of marijuana, but the charges were dropped. “
Here’s what the Eagles said:
“After careful consideration during this off-season, the Philadelphia Eagles have decided to part ways with DeSean Jackson. The team informed him of his release today.
Jackson, 27, was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He recorded 356 catches for 6,117 yards in his six seasons with the team.”
Here’s Jackson’s statement:
“First I would like to thank the Eagles organization, the Eagles fans and the city of Philadelphia for my time in Philly. I would also like to thank coach Andy Reed (sic) for bringing me in. Secondly, I would like to address the misleading and unfounded reports that my release has anything to do with any affiliation that has been speculated surrounding the company I keep off of the field. I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang. I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible. I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values. I am proud of the accomplishments that I have made both on and off the field. I have worked tirelessly to give back to my community and have a positive impact on those in need. It is unfortunate that I now have to defend myself and my intentions. These reports are irresponsible and just not true. I look forward to working hard for my new team. God Bless.”
So there are a lot of questions as well as a lot of emotion that goes with this decision. There are factions of society that say the Eagles did this because of money – that by cutting Jackson they are saving millions. Then there are those who say the team released him because of his alleged ties to gangs. Jackson recently reported losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry from his residence. People wondered what the hell he was doing with that kind of cash and jewelry in his residence in the first place.
There are also those people who want to make this a racial argument. It doesn’t help the Eagles organization that wide receiver Riley Cooper screamed the “N word” at an African-American security guard at a concert and then allowed him to remain on the team. Cooper was sent for some “counseling,” was forgiven by members of the team and then went on to have a career year, signing a new multi-million-dollar deal.
Then again the Eagles also signed quarterback Michael Vick whose problems were well documented.
So where does this all leave us as fans – and where does it leave the Eagles? Well, as fans we are ignorant of all of the information that the Eagles have. We can only go on what is reported by people like Eliot Shorr-Parks. On the surface it doesn’t look good for Jackson. There was Twitter talk about Jackson getting arrested himself at some point although there is no evidence of that anywhere. Off the field I didn’t care for his antics; I care about what happens on the field.
I didn’t like Riley Cooper’s behavior and really thought the Eagles should have cut him. And I never welcomed Michael Vick. His baggage was way too much for me. However, in the end both Cooper and Vick have seemed to learn their lessons and have become better citizens.
Jackson on the other hand doesn’t seem to get it. And honestly, despite all the ink, the bling, the so-so associates and the bogus record label I really doubt Jackson is much of anything except a gangster wannabe.
So in the end we let go a superb wide receiving talent and got nothing in return. Perhaps the Eagles will be vindicated in the end or perhaps Jackson will sign on with another team and win a Super Bowl. But I give Chip Kelly kudos for refusing to tolerate any more nonsense. Perhaps he never would have signed Vick and now that his contract was up he never had any plans to re-sign him. (Again, I’m not sure why Cooper was allowed to stay.)
What I don’t want to see now are more antics from any of these players. I want the Eagles to treat every player in the same manner. So if Nick Foles starts sporting gang ink and tons of bling and is hanging out in LA with gangsters, he has gotta be gone. No excuses. Consistency across the board. Put a team together with solid people as well as solid athletes. Let the other teams make headlines with the criminals they support with millions of dollars. I want my team to have some standards.
Can we please now just move on?

– Andy Hachadorian

 

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Watching Coatesville work like watching Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day’

While suiting up to officiate a late Friday night men’s ice hockey game I got an e-mail from Coatesville reporter Kristina Scala after a call from newsroom staffer Jim Callahan. I wondered what could possibly be happening at 10 p.m. on a Friday night?
The news was that the Coatesville Area School District had made a surprise announcement naming Cathy Taschner as the new superintendent. Apparently the decision to hire Taschner was made late Thursday night.
That, of course, follows an invitation-only meeting Wednesday where Taschner and William Harner, former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education and acting superintendent for Quakertown Community School District, were introduced to the school board and constituents of the school district.
In my opinion neither candidate seemed to knock it out of the park.
Harner, former acting Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, acting superintendent at Quakertown Community School District and former Cumberland Valley School District superintendent, allegedly sent inappropriate texts to a male administrative staff member from Cumberland Valley.
The actions of Taschner, meanwhile, were questioned when, as assistant superintendent at Susquehanna Township School District, her investigation into allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct between a student and administrator there ended in a grand jury investigation.
And I have quite a few questions as it relates to this whole scene. First, and one which I will address later, is why the introduction of these two candidates was so secretive and held behind locked doors. Second, what sort of search was conducted for candidates for this position? Was it a nationwide search? If so, and this is nothing personal, were these two the best we could find? Third, who makes a decision at 11 p.m. on a Thursday night and finally, announcing it late on a Friday night?
OK, so let’s begin with the whole closed door thing. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association apparently saw nothing wrong with the process of the secret introduction.
PSBA’s involvement in the superintendent search had attracted more than two dozen applicants and from no more than four states. The search followed the abrupt departure of former Superintendent Richard Como and former high school Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato due to a now-infamous texting scandal.
But those who ran this search were apparently comfortable with last week’s activities.
“If the board is looking on moving forward and getting more input from the community this is how we recommend doing it,” said Wayne LeClair, senior consultant for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).
And members of the school board agreed.
According to LeClair, the recommendation to hold an invitation only meeting was determined to be one of the best practices for CASD to get community input. He said past experience receiving input from those that are invited “has proven this to be the best way to do that.”
School board member Deborah Thompson — Region I representative of Coatesville and Valley — agreed with the meeting format. She said she selected eight individuals “of integrity that I know have a heart in the community.”
“It’s an opportunity to hear another view and read each and every (question) to make a decision around fair process,” she said. “It won’t be overwhelming.”
She said she wanted to make sure her selection would reflect the best interest of the community members without overwhelming the two candidates with questions from a community that is going through a healing process.
Stu Deets, school board member representing Region II, said he was also in favor of hosting the community meeting in this fashion.
He said his selection of community members followed Thomspon’s method. He said he selected constituents that he felt were avidly involved in the community.
“I think it’s a good format,” he said. “Two finalists coming in and they are going to be meeting with administrators, teachers, students and the community. Then they will have dinner with different board members. I thought this was a pretty good way to wind down the selection process and get some feedback from people besides the board members.”
Can you spell transparency? It’s not a popular word in the Coatesville Area School District. But they sure were happy with their decision.
“We congratulate Dr. Taschner and welcome her to our Coatesville Area School District family,” school board members said in a prepared statement Friday night. “We are certain that she will have our community’s full support as we strive towards restoring our Coatesville Pride.”
So what exactly is “Coatesville Pride”? Is it being gleeful in not including everyone in a process that affects a lot of people – including all of the children in the Coatesville Area School District? Why would you exclude members of the media? In light of all of the negative press the district has received was the thinking that excluding the press would be OK? Since anyone with children in the district would have had a vested interest in hearing the two candidates, would it have made better sense to allow the press inside? Heck, we could have livestreamed the interviews giving more school district residents access. That would have been the better decision.
It also doesn’t seem that the district got a boatload of applicants. Twenty-four applicants for a position like this hardly seems like a giant pool of people for a position that pays nearly $225,000 per year. I would imagine that if the position was advertised across the country that names by the dozen would have come across someone’s desk.
And finally, when the decision was made, what would lead the board to make it at 11 p.m. on a weeknight announcing it late on a Friday night? Did they think the NCAA March Madness would bury the news?
We have said this over and over again but watching Coatesville – whether it’s the city or the school district – is like watching Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. They all seem to wake up every day and make the same silly, ill-informed decisions time after time.
I just wonder when it all will ever end.

– Andy Hachadorian

 

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I heart Boobies. There — I said it…

Breast Cancer Bracelets

This is an historic day.

I am here to say that I am taking on my pal and fellow editor – Phil Heron of the Delaware County Daily Times.

Now Phil and I are a lot alike in some ways, yet very different in others. For example, he went to Catholic school; I didn’t.

Phil has written about the case of an Easton School District which is in a battle with students over the right to wear “I heart Boobies” bracelets. We all know what those bracelets are; they are rubber, colorful bands used to promote various causes and are sold to generate money for donations for those causes.

Apparently on Monday there was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which said that they would not hear an appeal from the Easton School District on a lower court ruling that ordered them to allow students to wear the bracelets.

Phil wrote:

I am not making this up. The highest court in the land was being asked to rule on the free speech merits of the rights of students to proclaim their love of “boobies.”

And also:

Let me preface this by saying I am a committed believer in the First Amendment. After all, it’s allowed me to make a living and pay the bills for more than three decades. Newspapering is the only job I’ve ever had as an adult.

However, I have to admit I am sometimes perplexed at the lengths people will go to argue their fights to free speech.

Now Phil does admit he understands the fight over the bracelets.

He wrote:

I understand what was behind this fracas. The bracelets and T-shirts were part of a breast-cancer awareness and fundraising drive. It is an admirable mission.

That does not mean I think they should be adorned for school.

Look, I love boobies as much as the next guy. And I have made a pretty good living for years by using just such double entendres in headlines.

But I still don’t think having kids proclaiming this kind of sentiment in schools is a good idea.

Phil, Phil, Phil. You are misguided.

What’s most ridiculous is that a school district wasted taxpayer (probably) money, the time and effort to put up such a stink. These kids weren’t wearing the bracelets to be vulgar, profane or to toss out sexual meanings. They wore (and likely sold) the bracelets to raise money to fight breast cancer.

If you had asked me I would have suggested giving these kids awards for the effort. We spend so much time criticizing our young people today and we have become so overly sensitive to some things that we look past the good stuff.

Unless I am missing something, this effort with the bracelets was one that I feel we should endorse at the very least. C’mon, are we really that skittish about the words: I heart Boobies? Really?

Let’s tell that to the kids in the Easton School District whose moms have died from breast cancer or who are trying to beat breast cancer. Are those kids selling the bracelets for kicks and giggles? I think not.

Our society needs to get over itself. Support our kids when they do good things. Lord knows we’re all over them when they’re not.

– Andy Hachadorian

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Font story not the type we enjoy

I received a letter today from a young lady named Hanna Donohue who lives in West Chester. I know that’s her name and how it’s spelled because of a label on the envelope she sent me.

Hanna also signed her name at the end of the letter. Her signature is less legible. Had it been typed I would have not had any problem at all reading it. And if she had typed it she would have had to make a choice of fonts.

Which, after all, was the point of her letter because a week or so ago we printed a story about West Chester Borough and its obsession with the fonts used on their meeting agendas and other borough documents.

Daily Local News reporter Jeremy Gerrard wrote in his article that the borough was keenly aware of what he described as a “font faux pas.”

Here’s a part of Jeremy’s article:

As of February’s monthly meeting, all borough agenda and website documents will utilize the standard Georgia font opposed to the long-used Comic Sans.

“(Comic Sans) has never gone away, I don’t know what it is about the aesthetic, it’s kind of a stupid looking thing,” said JoAnne Mottola, a graphic designer with West Chester University who has studied typeface.

Discussion to change the font used on borough documents popped up on the agenda of the borough’s Kaizen, Technology and Communications Committee in February.

Borough Councilman Stephen Shinn added it to the agenda after considering the fonts used by other municipalities which appeared more formal than the font on borough documents.

In her letter, Hanna, a high school sophomore, wondered why we chose to put this story on the front page of the newspaper.

“Don’t get me wrong, the story was important and relevant to Chester County,” she wrote. “There are conflicts all over the world…I would ask that next time, you would be more sensitive to global issues rather than esteeming local issues over these global problems.”

Hanna, the problem here is that while the story was well written and researched by Jeremy, the point was that we felt borough council was wasting a lot of time and energy on such a trivial matter. So to disagree with you, no, this story ISN’T important and it’s NOT relevant. It’s a change that someone should have yelled from one borough desk to another borough desk. There. Done. End of story.

But no. Councilman Shimm actually addressed this as it was something truly important.

“We use something that look a little more kind of casual so I guess my suggestion would be that we move in a more sharp, professional looking way,” Shinn said at the meeting.

Borough Manager Ernie McNeely said there has never been and formal discussion on what font to use before recent meetings, and the use of the Comic Sans font evolved over time, according to Jeremy’s story.

To see how silly all of this is, here’s more from Jeremy’s article:

The Kaizen Committee is a new committee added to the borough as of January.

According to the definition, Kaizen literally translates from Japanese to “continuous improvement”. Kaizen is a philosophy dedicated to improving productivity by maintaining slow positive change.

Among the committee’s first discussed items was a comprehensive update of the borough’s website.

Decision on the font was tabled to council’s work session a week after the committee meeting so members could compare prepared samples.

After a brief discussion the decision to move forward with Georgia as the borough’s standard typeface was put on the consent agenda for the regular council meeting.

Agendas for the council meeting jumped the gun, anticipating a font change by printing in Georgia before an official vote could be taken.

So yes Hanna, we agree that there are all sorts of important world events happening and we agree that those stories should and do belong on the pages of the Daily Local News. And there are all sorts of very important local stories.

In this case, the choice of fonts for borough printed and website materials wasn’t one of them. Which is precisely why we chose to write about it?

Confused? I would understand if you were. We were just as confused when we heard about the great lengths the borough was going to to resolve such a major issue. It makes no sense to us and is a huge waste of time.

– Andy Hachadorian

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Youth sports a bad act these days

 

So it was the perfect storm of youth sports this weekend.

From a three-day youth ice hockey tournament to me finally getting around to watching “Friday Night Tykes” I again find the whole youth sports environment sickening. And to be honest, while the kids are definitely acting out it’s only because the adults not only don’t correct it, they actually condone it.

Let’s start with the “Tykes.”

This is from the official “Tykes” website: In America, football is king… and nowhere is football bigger than in Texas. With exclusive access to the 8 to 9 year-old Rookies division of the Texas Youth Football Association, this 10-part docuseries follows five teams on and off the field during the 2013 season. Throughout, coaches and parents offer insight into why they believe they’re teaching valuable lessons about discipline and dedication, but also grapple with serious questions about parenting, safety and at what price we’re pushing our kids to win.

I understand a little of the thought process of these people. I agree that what people call the “soccer mentality” (no offense to soccer people) and oppose the theory that every kid should get a trophy and always positive talk from their parents. In my opinion it definitely sets them up with an unrealistic world – especially in the sports world. Frankly, not every kid deserves a trophy. It doesn’t make them bad kids but the kids who are more gifted in athletics should be recognized to a higher degree than those kids who may be better off sticking with academics or intermural sports. The kid who is more gifted, works harder and achieves more should be rewarded. There’s nothing wrong with that.

We all know that when get out of college and seek employment those who hiring managers see as more qualified, smarter or whatever, may get the job we want. It’s the way the world works. Competition is competition. Not everyone can be first. Heaven knows over the years I have applied for jobs and didn’t get them. That’s the way it goes.

In the “Tykes” show, there are coaches who are clueless and heartless. There are some men – and women – who truly believe that toughening up 9 or 10-year-old is the right thing to do. There is video of lots of head-to-head violent collisions. There are some kids who end up hurt and crying and the reaction of the coaches to these kids is that they shouldn’t be crying. Toughen up, they’re told.

There is one mom on the show who says she got her son involved in the Texas football program because she was tired of the “soccer mentality” that everyone gets a trophy and that she wanted her son to become involved in a program that rewards hard work. She said she realized that there was some risk of injury but was shown telling her son to “get them before they get you.” Hmm. Not exactly  mom of the year material if you ask me.

There is a definite difference between good, healthy competition and coaches and parents who are just plain nuts.

As the parent of a hockey player currently on the shelf due to a concussion I cannot believe that these people have no concern for the sort of head injuries that these young kids endure.

This is one issue. The issue of bad behavior is a separate one.

While officiating a bunch of games this weekend I noticed that some of the kids playing were totally out of hand, disrespectful of their coaches, other players and certainly the spirit of the game. What came out of the mouths of kids ages 8 to 10 was just beyond belief. And the shenanigans that went on on the ice was pretty scary – considering their age and the prospect that some of these same kids will be playing higher levels.

To be honest, I never had a kid call me a fat ass, and the frequency of players that age dropping the “F bomb” was beyond belief. I actually asked one kid if he talked to his mom or grandmom that way. His answer? “It doesn’t matter, the game’s pretty much over anyway.” Wow. And his coach while promising he’d talk to the kid about it didn’t seem too anxious to confront the kid – probably because the kid was one of the better players and probably has a “Tykes” kind of parent.

It’s pretty sad. The lack of respect and bad behavior in youth sports just seems to get worse each year. But don’t worry. We’ll just keep on handing out trophies, telling these little kids what they’re doing is just fine. Sort of makes you wonder what the kids will be like in another five years…

– Andy Hachadorian

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More snow? No way. I just won’t accept it…

These are the quotes I have lived with in my house for the past few weeks…

“I just can’t take this anymore…”

“Why is it snowing so much?”

“We haven’t had a full week of school in two months.”

“Do I have to go to work?”

“I really don’t know how much more of this I can take…”

“Would you mind cleaning the snow off of my car?”

“Do you think classes will be cancelled?”

“How much trouble will I get into if I call out?”

And that was just yesterday.  Ba dum tss…

There is absolutely no doubt that this winter has been b-r-u-t-a-l. It seems like every 72 hours we’re hearing about a winter storm watch.

And while I hate this – and I mean I REALLY hate this – it’s not worse than the winter I believe was in 1996. That was the year we had a storm of more than two feet as I recall. It was also the winter I ended up in the hospital with the flu.

I remember the storm warnings. It was mainly via the television as I wasn’t really an avid web person at the time. I didn’t have a home computer so it was radio and TV.

The snow started and just kept on coming and coming. And I got sicker and sicker. It got to the point that my wife finally called 9-1-1. I remember being on the kitchen floor when the ambulance got there. They hoisted me onto the stretcher and carted me off to the hospital. The hospital was about five miles away but it seemed like it took hours to get there.

I don’t remember much about those first few hours in the hospital. They did some tests and I was there for a couple of days. When I got home I just remember a ton of snow on the ground. And my boys were too young to shovel. So I got out there and shoveled. And shoveled. And shoveled.

I also remember driving to work on the Blue Route, icy patches and all in my little compact. It was quite a ride. After additional snow and ice I believe we weren’t even supposed to be on the roads but in the newspaper business, you do what you have to do – at least back then…

So here we are now. We’re looking at probably a foot of snow – and a little bit of ice. This will all start Wednesday night and will ruin Thursday and Friday. Time to stock up on the staples for a couple of days.

Our most recent storms while annoying to get moving around in cars wasn’t horrible for me. I never lost power which is amazing and probably guarantees I will lose power this time. The worst part was getting the darned dogs out to take care of business.

I think we have another month or so of this bad weather. My gut tells me the pattern isn’t gonna change much so we are looking at some snow probably once a week. I hope I am wrong. As if the temperatures in single digits isn’t bad enough, all this snow is just out of control. There’s nowhere to put it…

So hunker down, make sure you have some food. Get the fireplace going. Relax and stop fighting the weather. I have decided not to stress out any longer. And I am going to ignore the family and their endless questions.

So,

“I just can’t take this anymore…” Too bad…

“Why is it snowing so much?” Don’t know…

“We haven’t had a full week of school in two months.” And you’re complaining?

“Do I have to go to work?” Uh, yes

“I really don’t know how much more of this I can take…” Or you will what exactly?

“Would you mind cleaning the snow off of my car?” Oh, of course not.

“Do you think classes will be cancelled?” Do I look like I am in charge of your school?

“How much trouble will I get into if I call out?” Big time…

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. What the hell, can’t stop it anyway.

– Andy Hachadorian

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