Failing the sniff test

August 15, 2014

Lessons learned – so far – in Ferguson
Could Euclid, Maple Heights, Garfield Heights be next?

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When the Freedom Riders attempted to desegregate Montgomery, Ala. in May 1961, Police Commissioner L.B. Montgomery let the assembled segregationist mob first beat up and then chase away the dozen reporters present at the bus depot.  Once the media was absent, the mob then attacked and viciously beat the Freedom Riders.

Older Americans, and those of us with a sense of history and justice, can’t help but recall this when reading accounts that the police in Ferguson, Mo., attacked members of the media  and destroyed their video cameras earlier this week.

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City officials and the assembled police forces — from Ferguson, St. Louis and elsewhere – have failed the sniff test. From the moment a white Ferguson Police Department officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, an African American in a predominantly African American community, nearly a week ago, police and city officials have acted with dogged determination to cover up the incident and close ranks under the guise of public safety.  This cascade of ever-greater “public safety” steps, militarizing an already-tense situation, are all too reminiscent of the tactics segregationists employed in the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.   

From the onset, police explanations of Brown’s slaying don’t seem to be accurate. Multiple eyewitness accounts state that Brown was in the middle of the street, holding up his hands and saying “don’t shoot,” as he was gunned down. The Ferguson Police Department’s report, which claims that the officer shot Brown after the teen had disobeyed an order and initiated a scuffle, apparently has no corroboration whatsoever.

Additionally, Ferguson has failed to properly communicate in this crisis. At the bottom of this piece is a link to a blog from a retired safety chief, and his experienced observations are titled “Deafening Silence in Ferguson.”

Let’s look at a few facts:

  • Michael Brown was unarmed
  • Brown was shot multiple times
  • Police barred any community access to the first public event, a Sunday news conference, following Brown’s shooting
  • Nearly a week after the incident, police and other officials are refusing to offer additional basic details of the incident, such as the name of the officer involved. (NOTE – Name was to be revealed on Friday, August 15, but that has not happened as of the publication of this post. We did hear a new story — that Michael Brown was a suspect in a convenience store robbery — on Friday, however.)

The acronym DWB, driving while black, aptly applies to Ferguson. A 2013 Missouri Attorney General report shows that blacks are nearly seven times as likely to be stopped by police in Ferguson than whites. They are twice as likely to be arrested in traffic stops.

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Ferguson could be Euclid, Ohio. Or Maple Heights, or any ‘first-tier’ suburban community in America where the population has changed from a white majority to an African-American majority, but yet the vast majority of the power structure is still in the hands of whites.

In such cities, elected officials and their safety forces bear a huge burden. They should be taking extra steps in community engagement, community communications, and in preparedness for crisis situations.  

They should also be working assiduously to become more just communities.  Back in 2007, the City of Euclid was found guilty of violating the U.S. Voting Rights Act. It took more Justice Dept. legal action, but eventually both the City of Euclid and Euclid School Board developed just ways of publicly electing leaders. African Americans now serve on both the school board and City Council there.  This could help ensure that a similar tragic situation doesn’t ensue. As we learned (or thought we’d learned) from 50-plus years ago, the U.S. Justice Dept. SHOULD intervene and take action when civil rights are being violated.

Finally, of course one cannot condone looting and violence that stemmed from this tragedy. However, if the Ferguson Police Dept. and City of Ferguson had been doing their duty of community engagement in the years and months before August 8-9, perhaps little or none of this violence would have resulted.

Instead, our nation is watching 1961 replay, sadly, in 2014.

* * * * *

 As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’ve asked myself “what should I do” in such a situation.  This blog is one response.

Asking for action is a better one.  I’ve sent an email to the Attorney General of the State of Missouri and the U.S. Department of Justice, asking them for a full and fair investigation into this shooting.  Links to the web sites are at the bottom of this email, if you wish to do the same thing.

 Here’s the third thing – President Obama, the appointment of a presidential commission to examine and improve race relations in the U.S. is LONG OVERDUE. High-minded people of all races and creeds, studying and working together, can certainly come up with some great solutions to the racial issues which are still causing serious damage to our nation. Mr. President, having your daughters Sasha and Malia living in a far less prejudiced and more just country would be a terrific legacy.

Additionally, Scripture from Romans 13 and Philippians 4 comes to mind. Read the chapters if you wish.

SOURCES (pictures in this blog are from two of the sites below)




LBJ — Returning to Cleveland/Akron/NE Ohio??

July 10, 2014

NOTHING NEW here. But in light of the LeBron James talk thought I’d offer you an opportunity to read something which I wrote for TACTICS, the monthly publication of the Public Relations Society of America, back in September 2010:

If LeBron James re-signs with the Cleveland Cavaliers, I will post on this blog about it.


Hobby Lobby ruling – who’s your God?

July 1, 2014

Imagine a company that has raised the wages it pays to its employee every year for the past few years, and where full-time employees receive a minimum of $14 per hour, or 93 percent HIGHER than the national minimum wage.

Perhaps the media and the Obama Administration would praise this company for its employee-friendly salaries and policies.  Add in this: the web site gave the company 4 stars out of 5 in employee satisfaction; additionally, the company MANDATES one day off a week for all its workers.  The mainstream media should be rushing to hold up this company as a model.

The company?

Hobby Lobby.

THAT Hobby Lobby.

hobby lobbyInstead, many news reports and social media memes are castigating Hobby Lobby, which began when founder David Green borrowed $600 and began making miniature picture frames in his garage in 1970.  Media reaction over Monday’s 5-4 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby U.S. Supreme Court ruling isn’t at all surprising.

Truth is the first casualty of war, and there are political agenda-setters in this country who are trying to convince us that there is a “war on” – a war against women, or a war against health care coverage, or both.

Today’s “target” in this war:  Hobby Lobby, and to a lesser extent, the Supreme Court itself.

A quick look at a few of the many facts in this case is insightful:

  • FACT:  Women employees at Hobby Lobby have had, and will continue to have, more than a dozen of INSURANCE-COVERED options for birth control if the employee so chooses. So, anyone claiming that the Supreme Court’s ruling will “jeopardize the health of women” is twisting the facts a bit.
  • FACT:  Congress did NOT vote to include every type of birth control option in Obamacare.  JUST THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE.  Only after President Obama guaranteed that abortion coverage would NOT be in Obamacare (through an Executive Order in fact), did Rep. Bart Stupak lead a few Democratic Congressman to provide the key votes necessary to even obtain passage of the legislation.
  • FACT: After Obamacare was signed into law — despite those prior assurances to the contrary — the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) then MANDATED that all forms of contraception, including abortion, be in health care plans. HHS refused to offer religious accommodations to business and organizations (such as the Catholic Church), which sought them due to deeply-held religious beliefs.

So, what’s really at stake here?

Religious freedom was and remains the issue, as a majority at the Supreme Court ruled.   Freedom of religion is one of five precious freedoms which we, as Americans, enjoy due to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  (Another of the First Amendment freedoms – freedom of the press – enables the media to criticize Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court, even the Obama Administration, openly.)

So, what reigns supreme … in your life?

Is the GOVERNMENT your God? Is God the leaders we elect who deliberate in Washington, D.C? Do you expect government to solve all of life’s problems?

Is RELIGION your God?  Are you a “dyed in the wool” Roman Catholic, Muslim, Southern Baptist, or some other religion, and do you completely obey all the canons of that religion?

Or is it a RELATIONSHIP with God. the caring and loving creator of the universe, the one whose commandment “Thou Shall Not Kill” and nine others have been enshrined into laws for thousands of years? The one who sacrificed His own son, Jesus, to atone for the world’s sins? For your sins?

Look inside your own heart and soul. An answer to that question – if you’re being honest – will probably have more to do with your reaction to the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision than anything else.

While looking, you might recall the words from Bob Dylan’s last hit single, “Serve Somebody,” in 1979:

“But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”


Look at your favorite local media outlet. Read their story on yesterday’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision. Now go to June 2012, and read their story on NFIB v. Sebelius, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling which upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare.

Both were 5-to-4 decisions from the High Court.

Compare the stories. See if you can detect words and phrases such as “bitterly divided” and “narrow ruling” in one story, but not the other. That would indicate bias on this media outlet’s behalf in favor of one ideology or political party.

PS           Where are the news stories quoting unhappy Hobby Lobby employees, upset about this ruling?  The fact that there are none tells us something.


Revere Debate and Speech — Will to prepare to win…

June 21, 2014

Thursday morning I did a run on the Cuyahoga Valley Towpath Trail.  Coming back, I saw about 30 members of the Nordonia High School cross country team also out on the Trail.

Weather conditions weren’t very favorable. It was rainy and wet. The Trail was sloppy. We had mud on our shoes and shins.

There’s no doubt that Nordonia will have a very strong cross country team this year. Why? They were showing the will to prepare to win by being out there, in the pouring rain, on Thursday.

john half croppedIt’s our turn, Revere debaters and speakers.  Our “prepare to win” needs to happen this summer.  It can be just a few hours.  It can be at a camp for an entire week.  But if you prepare NOW, you’ll be better when practices begin at the onset of school and again when it is TOURNAMENT TIME come fall/winter Saturdays.

Please take a minute to re-familiarize yourself with debate and speech events.

Then please email me, and let me know which TWO events have the most interest for you.

Also, complete a brief “Survey Monkey” poll so I can quickly figure out which day of the week and time of the day – this summer – I can meet with you to learn more about you, prepare you for a specific event, and help you prepare/practice some this summer.  Here’s a link:


INTERPERS – If you plan to do DUO interp., or HUMOR interp., or DRAMA interp., let’s work THIS SUMMER to select a script for you.  Why?  You can memorize that NOW, and then work on improving your delivery over the course of the season.

ATTEND — I’d like to see as many speaker/debates as possible attend summer camp.  I’ll be at the North Coast Summer Camp July 28-August 1 at Hathaway Brown (HB) School, and will provide rides to any/all speakers and debaters tho can attend.  (Soccer players .. we know you cannot be there on Fri. Aug. 1…but you can attend for four days!) Obtain information from our web site, and LET ME KNOW if you’re going.  I’ll be at Revere High at 8 a.m. each day to provide transportation to Shaker Heights (where HB is located).

My contact info

216.987.5040 land phone (at Cuyahoga Community College)

440.364.1133 (cell)

PARTY — Our next party will begin on Friday, July 11 at 3 p.m. at the Kerezys.  Details coming soon!


Best Father’s Day … ever!

June 17, 2014

He’s a hero. He’s a corporal of Marines.”

The man speaking was a young dad, holding a daughter about age two in his arms. He was describing my son to his toddler.

It was Father’s Day, early afternoon at Bob Evans in Ashtabula, waiting for a dinner table.  It could have been any restaurant at any town in America.


Grant Johnson with his grandson, Corporal Tyler J Kerezy

Our son Tyler, wearing his Marine Corps uniform, had come to Ashtabula to spend Father’s Day with his grandfather. He was in uniform for church service and dinner, and on a few occasions I almost lost it, emotionally, as I witnessed the torrent of support for him. More than 20 people shook his hand, thanked him for his service, and expressed a lot of admiration and gratitude for his dedication.  The restaurant also comped his dinner.

Tyler is the last person who’d call himself a hero. He’s just returned to the Cleveland area from an eight-month overseas deployment. He’d be the first to tell you the real heroes are the ones who’ve died since 9-11, the nearly 5,300 American servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For me, it was a powerful reminder of how far America has come.  I was 15 when the Vietnam War ended, and service men who returned home from that war weren’t held in high acclaim. It’s gratifying to know that we have a very appreciative nation today.


The writer, Corporal Tyler J Kerezy, and Grant Johnson (L to R)

I am well pleased with my son. He made a great decision to join the Marines, and he’s become a fine young man during his time in the Corps. Sunday was the first Father’s Day we’ve had with Tyler since 2010. Over the past year, with his training and the deployment, we missed our son terribly.

Every father is thrilled with how he is treated on Father’s Day.  Mine was stellar, even before getting to Bob Evans. The reaction of the people at Ashtabula First United Methodist Church and Bob Evans to my son made me proud to be a father, an American, and the dad of a Marine.

*                *                *               *

This is shaping up to be a super summer for six present and former students.  One of my newswriting students from Kent State, Marine Corps veteran DEVON MCCARTY, has an ongoing freelance writing position, working for The Independent in Massillon.  Another, HANNAH ARMENTA has a full-time assignment as a digital editor for and The Beacon Journal.  A third, PAMELA MAROTTA, is interning in the news room at WKYC Channel 3.

Cuyahoga Community College student CAITLIN BORON is an intern at Clear Channel Radio in Cleveland, primarily with WTAM radio.  Another Tri-C student, ROBBY FENBERS, has an internship with Building Hope in the City.

Finally, I have a “part time” gig as coach of Revere High School’s debate and speech team. My senior speech captain, ALEXIS ESPINAL, landed an internship with Summa Health System in Akron this summer. Good luck to all of these interns this summer.

*                 *                 *                *

Speaking of Robby, he is one of three present/former students who earned awards from the Press Club of Cleveland earlier this month.  Below is a link to a web site with details.  Congratulations to Robby and to BRONSON PESHLAKAI, Tri-C’s stellar Voice editor, who lead a team that won no less than FIVE Press Club honors.

A former student of mine, JASON BRILL, is now an associate editor with Great Lakes Publishing’s Inside Business magazine.  He won two Press Club awards for his writing. It’s gratifying to have so many present and former students succeeding in college, in internships, and careers.  They are tomorrow’s exemplary journalists.

The Zimmerman trial — three takes

July 15, 2013

More than 90 years ago, the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) adopted a code of ethics for the practice of journalism. Many journalism organizations adopted the entire code, or pieces/parts of it, to govern their practices.

Below are the four major tenets of the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, SPJ. They are taught in journalism courses in college, and reviewed in seminars at newsrooms all over the country. Graduate-level students write research papers on these four tenets. They are:

Seek the Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

How did your favorite news media outlets score on this when it came to the George Zimmerman trial?

Minimize Harm

Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

How did your favorite news media outlets score on this when it came to the George Zimmerman trial? Was everyone involved treated with respect?

Act Independently
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Did the journalist and media outlet act independently, or did it show any conflicts of interest?

Be Accountable
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

How would you rate your favorite journalist and media outlets during the Zimmerman trial on this part of the code of ethics?

If you are unhappy with a news organization’s coverage of Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman, don’t simply place a negative post on Facebook.  Write a letter. Or find out the name of the editor or producer of the media outlet, and email them a note asking them to follow these tenets in their reporting.

Fine … but an opportunity missed

President Obama issued a statement on Sunday about the verdict in the Zimmerman trial.  It was good, but it did not cover any new ground.

There is now a tremendous opportunity for President Obama. He can call for and create a National Commission on Race Relations, and leverage what’s happened with Martin – Zimmerman to help bring about positive change in racial attitudes and relations in this nation.

Something positive, something unifying, needs to come out of this 17-month ordeal.  A Commission that makes numerous recommendations on ways to improve race relations in our land would be an excellent start in a positive direction. Consider doing more, Mr. President, before some of the demonstrations and protests turn violent.

Finally … most sense of all

Rev. Marlon Johnson, a 31-year-old African American pastor in Cleveland, perhaps deserves the “last word” about the Zimmerman trial. In a blog posting, Rev. Johnson points out that’s really happening in America today is a spiritual and moral issue. “…Human leadership must first surrender to the authority of Christ,” he writes.  See the link below for more.

Why I’m reducing my social media profile.

June 16, 2013

In World War II, one of the byword phrases on the home front was “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” It meant that both military and civilians should not talk about construction details, fleet sailing dates, or any other specifics that could inadvertently give useful information to the enemy.

In the 21st Century and the Global War on Terror, the new phrase is “Loose Tweets Sink Fleets.”  This reflects a reality – terrorists and their U.S.-based allies are keeping tabs on the social media postings of our military contractors, our service members and their spouses and loved ones.

loose tweets

Case in point: Soldiers based in Iraq took photos of some Apache AH 64 Apache helicopters that arrived at a base there in 2007.  The geotags (geographic locators embedded in smart phone photography, keyed to GPS satellites) from the pictures, posted in social media, contained the precise coordinates for the helicopters.  Iraqi insurgents attacked and destroyed four of the helos. Here is the story.

My son joined the U.S. Marines a while ago. As I’ve learned about what the military calls OPSEC – Operational Security – I quickly realized that lives, those of thousands of our military members, could be jeopardized via an accidental Facebook post, Tweet, or other social media miscue.

There is still a war on, and one need only to look back to this April’s Boston Marathon bombings to remember that evil forces are obsessed on destroying our nation and the freedoms we cherish.  These forces have no regard for human life or the rules of civilization. Their sick minds would employ any scrap of information for ill.

In this environment, my choice is clear. I would much rather refrain from saying or posting anything about my son and his unit’s whereabouts than run a risk of disclosure, even an accidental one. So, I’ll be lowering my social media profile.

Additionally, my thanks to you, if you know my son or other Armed Service members, if you also follow the military’s OPSEC rules.  Please continue to pray for our military personnel and those from allied nations who are still in harm’s way, fighting on the front lines of the Global War on Terror. May God protect them, and bring them home safely. May they do what’s just and right to protect our world.

“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.”  — Ephesians 6:10-12



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