A few things I learned this summer

September 8, 2017

It was a different world when I attended and then graduated from the Cleveland Schools in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The new school year ALWAYS began on the Wednesday after Labor Day, and ended sometime in the second week in June. I was in kindergarten when America’s newest hero was named John Glenn, and none of us back then knew about Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, or the other “Hidden Figure” mathematical geniuses who helped make our manned spaceflights possible.

One assignment on that first day back in school was inevitable: In some way, shape, or form, my classmates and I would have to write about or talk about something learned over the summer. (Oxford comma purists have taken note by now.) So with a nod and accolade of thanks to Rita Doherty at James Ford Rhodes High and some of my other teachers, here’s my submission for the 2017 version of the assignment.

What is causing “Fake News” is worse than we realize. Having worked for a while in Washington DC, and as a lifelong observer of how the media covers our leaders, I’ve never witnessed an internecine struggle that is even close to what has been happening between President Trump and much of the news media. When I bought and read former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s most recent book, The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote, what’s happening came into a clearer, more tragic focus. If you are at all concerned about what is transpiring between the news media and the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, read the book.

Fake News was the subject of the keynote address at the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference last month. It’s also the subject of the Poynter Institute Ethics Workshop at Kent State University on September 21 (see link below). An August encounter with Dr. Jeffrey Gottfried, a Senior Researcher at Pew, at the AEJMC Conference confirmed some of my worst suspicions about the negative effects of the President vs. news media struggle. Americans’ attitude about the role of the news media is more divided, among party lines, than ever in modern times. There is a 42 percent difference between Republicans and Democrats in answering a question about the media’s watchdog role. Look at graph, and at the link below for more details:



This important matter led me to develop a “fake news” module which I share with my students. Below is a link to the Power Point presentation, where I identify four types of fake news and give some “be on guards” against it.

Before I leave the subject, let me add a brief personal observation. They won’t admit it, but news directors and editors – and their bosses – have been experiencing a phenomenon I’ll describe as “coverage remorse.” At times in the 2015-2016 presidential election campaign, major media outlets devoted more time and attention to Donald Trump than all other candidates COMBINED. Rightly or not, they imagine themselves somehow “responsible” for President Trump’s election. So, just like an umpire who makes a bad call one way and then does a “make good” for the other side in an athletic contest, some media outlets feel an obligation to cover Trump more critically as president than they covered Trump the candidate. Rather than elaborating on this, I’m simply going to refer you back to the blog I wrote on Labor Day 2015, when I predicted Trump would win the Republican nomination for President. Here’s that link:

“Fake or Fact?” The Poynter Kent State University Ethics workshop information and registration: http://mediaethics.jmc.kent.edu/

Fake News Fall 17

MOVING ON … Revere Schools’ academics are outstanding, and there is no upper limit on how terrific the students there who choose to engage in speech and debate can become. Revere ended up sending three students to compete in the June 2017 National Speech and Debate Association national championships in Alabama. One, (now) 10th grader Claire Jimerson, qualified and competed in Congressional Debate. Two others, (now) 9th grader Sophie Brandewie and 8th grader Drake Du, competed in middle school Public Forum debate. Claire was the No. 1 ranked debater coming out of her Congress chamber in preliminaries, making her the first Revere competitor in 20+ years to advance at Nationals. One day later, Sophie and Drake advanced to elimination rounds in Public Forum debate. They won their first two debate rounds (one in a unanimous decision), before losing a 2-1 decision in National Quarterfinals. They were debating together for the first time in their lives, and they finished 7th in the U.S.

The average age of these three students – 14. They were all first-year competitors. Claire was opposing students with two, three, even four years of experience. Sophie and Drake opposed debaters who had two or three years of prior middle school competition. Yes, Revere’s students were that outstanding in their Nationals competition.

a photo claire sophie drake

Claire Jimerson, Sophie Brandewie, Drake Du represented Revere excellently and shined at NSDA Nationals in June.

I can’t say enough about the great support and encouragement Revere Schools gives to these students, to my college student helpers, to our Revere Speech and Debate Boosters organization, and to me. From the School Board, Superintendent Matt Montgomery, Principal Phil King, the faculty, and (now) middle school Principal Bill Conley, everyone at Revere gets behind our Talking Minutemen heart and soul. Our junior and senior competitors (and we now have nearly 20 of them) are also eager to lead and to share what they’ve learned with younger competitors. It’s a harbinger of even better things to come for about 90 students at the high school and middle school who are telling me they are competing in speech and debate this year. HW +  P + R = Victory. Here’s what I mean:  https://talkingminutemen.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/hw-p-r-victory/

FINALLY …. I am blessed beyond measure. My life is far from perfect, there are plenty of messes. But I thoroughly enjoy teaching at Cuyahoga Community College, and cherish the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of young adults there. I was elected to serve on the National Association of Wabash Men board, and I love the chance to help my alma mater, Wabash College, in this capacity. One of my classes this fall is planning be embedded with refugees from a the ministry Building Hope in the City, and then writing stories about the refugees and the program helping their transition from horrors abroad to a life and new home in Cleveland. I continue to be blessed by a wonderful wife Kathy, a great son Tyler and a loving family, and by being in a community of believers in Christ at Cuyahoga Valley Church.

I’m in my ‘60s – the final quarter of my time on earth. Daily I’m reminded of words which the Apostle Paul wrote to a church in Philippi about 2,000 years ago “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call for God in Christ Jesus.”

I press on, as long as I can to do as much good as I can, and to be as helpful as I can for others.

Thanks for reading this blog, which (no trumpets) I have been writing now for 10 years.


Birmingham lessons worth re-teaching, one day after Charlottesville

August 13, 2017

Events Saturday in Charlottesville led me to re-read a booklet I purchased while visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights institute earlier this summer. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail” 55 years ago. His words resonate just as powerfully in 2017 as when they were penned in 1962. Confinement in a narrow jail cell afforded Dr. King the opportunity to “write long letters, think long thoughts, and pray long prayers,” as he described it.


Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, located across from the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram (West) Park.

His thinking is a masterpiece about civil rights, on the duty of those calling themselves Christians, and of the obligations of all people of good will when confronted with evil. The letter, written to ministers in Birmingham, earned Dr. King both the Nobel Peace Prize and undying admiration all over the globe.

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny,” he wrote. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

In describing the immorality of the political leaders of the time, Dr. King commented that “Lamentable, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily…. groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.” He was describing conditions in Birmingham in 1962, but the words also perfectly depict the horrific actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017.

Dr. King had devised a new strategy for civil rights in the U.S., utilizing non-violent direct action in the face of injustice. Critics of this labeled it extremism. Initially he disliked being called an extremist for this strategy, but over time he came to accept the title, even to extol it. “Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’” He wrote.

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Charlottesville, Virginia, counter protest photo. Source: NBC News

Let’s be clear: Groups which adopt Nazi and KKK symbols and tactics are not advocates of Dr. King’s strategy. Those who practice violence in Charlottesville are criminals, just as are those who have practiced violence in Baltimore and other places in the recent past.

A good portion of “Letters from Birmingham Jail” is dedicated to the obligations of Christians and following laws, and how to determine (and not obey) unjust laws.  Dr. King expressed disappointment at his fellow ministers for their lack of support for civil rights. He called white moderates who failed to see the need of establishing racial justice “dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”


It’s self-examination time. What about you? What about me?

The violent protesters in Charlottesville were young. They all have mothers and fathers, school teachers and coaches, influencers and role models. What was their upbringing? Who taught them what’s bad, good from evil?

The book of Deuteronomy calls upon parents to instruct their children on right from wrong.  Beyond that, the elders and wise men and women in our society should be doing whatever we can to squash evil thinking.  The prophet Micah instructed a nation to “Do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Today, more than 55 years after Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail, that lesson needs re-teaching more than ever in our land.

*    *    *

KUDOS to Al Tompkins and Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for their article “How journalists should handle racist words, images and violence in Charlottesville.”  It contains great guidelines including advice on language, politics, and avoiding code words and shorthand writing. Here’s a link:


Finally, I’ve been working on a “What I’ve learned this summer” blog, but put it aside in light of Saturday’s tragic events in Charlottesville. I’ll get that out later this month

Letters from Birmingham jail can be found in many places. Here’s a link to one location, the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University:


Biblical sources: Deuteronomy 6:5-9 (Parts known as the Shema in the Jewish faith)  and Micah 6:8

Birmingham and journalism

July 6, 2017

Recently I had an opportunity to visit Birmingham, and spent some time seeing where some of the most important battles of the Civil Rights era took place. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote his famous “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” that April, challenging white ministers in the city to support equal rights for African Americans. Later that spring, Commissioner of Public Safety “Bull” Connor resorted to using high-pressure water cannon and police dogs to disperse protesters, and even used the same tactics on more than a thousand teens and children.

20170621_114407Dr. King and other leaders staged sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. Some were arrested for arranging marches to register to vote. They held protest marches and faced unimaginable violence. Four teen girls died when racists planted and detonated a bomb at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that September, less than three weeks after Dr. King delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington.

It was also fascinating to learn a bit about the African-American press of that era. The Birmingham Record didn’t assail the city government and public safety for its overtly racist policies at first. African-American papers in other cities were far more critical in their coverage than the hometown paper. Why? Long-time paper editor Emory Jackson had reservations initially about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s choice of Birmingham as a ‘target city’ to fight racial inequality.

But other African American newspapers DID report extensively, mainly those in the North, about the violence. Their editors, reporters, and publishers were geographically shielded from the Ku Klux Klan, the bombings, the arrests, and other overt vestiges of racism. The national media reported extensively on the violence as well. Jackson and the Birmingham Record joined in later as well. There were no African American police officers in Birmingham in 1963, despite the fact that blacks comprised 40 percent of the city’s population.

20170621_112833.jpgJackson put an editorial on the front page of the Birmingham Daily Record after the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing. “They were victims of cruel madness, the vile bigotry and the deadly hate of unknown persons,” he wrote. He urged people to “pour into the churches on Sunday, stream to the voter registration offices, make their dollars talk freedom, and build up a better leadership.”

There is a powerful lesson there, one which time and distance should never diminish. A free press is essential to accurate reporting, and fair and accurate reporting is more necessary than ever in democratic nations. Governments (be they Democrat or Republican) will lie, withhold information, and try to slant a story in their favor. The Birmingham News, the “white owned” daily newspaper, actually praised the tactics of Connor and the police in 1963.

That’s probably another important difference between 54 years ago and today. The “mainstream” media is much more attuned to injustice and wrong-doing. One of the reasons why the national coverage of Ferguson was so extensive a few years ago is the strong sense in the journalism community that justice in the United States is STILL not equal, 50-plus years after passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Dr. King: We’ve made a lot of progress since your “I Have a Dream” speech in August 1963. But there’s still a long way to go until all God’s children are truly “free at last.”

*             *             *             *             *             *          

“How has journalism become so messed up?”

Hundreds have asked me that question in the past few years. The explanation is complicated, because journalism now has so many players involved to a much greater extent than ever before. By “players” I’m referring to a lengthy list: PACs and Super PACs; “non profits” that are exerting huge influence on media coverage through spending millions of dollars; corporations, who use their power to sway both the media and government to get their way with regulations and laws; public relations agencies with greater reach than ever before; lawyers; think-tank organizations that wield substantial power in the Beltway encompassing Washington; savvy social media organizations that create “grassroots” support of or opposition against candidates and/or causes; and political operatives far more concerned about “their side” wining than that truth; and – let’s admit it – smear merchants, operating and interacting with friends in the media for decades now, whose professional goal has become to demonize and destroy the personal lives of anyone (journalists, private citizens, candidates) who oppose their client’s agenda.

Sharyl Attkisson has done our democracy a tremendous service with her latest work, titled “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake New CONTROL What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote.” If you want to understand journalism today, it’s a must-read book. But be warned – this isn’t a “take it to the beach” page-turner. Your blood pressure is bound to go up as you walk through Attkisson’s chapters, regardless of your political affiliation.

smearI’m not through reading the entire book yet, but after about 100 pages I can unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone who has wondered what’s happened to the practice of professional journalism in the last quarter century. Attkisson, who was with CBS News for about 20 years, provides an authoritative explanation, and she also has the benefit of “insider” knowledge of the gatekeeper and editorial decision-making processes.

Here’s a quote from Attkisson’s introduction:

“We in the news media have allowed ourselves to become co-opted by political, corporate, and other special interests. We permit them to dictate this story du jour. We let them dominate the opinions we consult and quote….We’ve become a willing receptacle for, and distributor of, daily political propaganda. And because we invite both sides to feed us, we call it fair. In many ways, some media outlets have become little more than thinly veiled political operations.” (Page 5)

Attkisson doesn’t pull punches. She writes the way she reported when with CBS, fearlessly. You won’t feel good about what you discover, but at least you’ll get a better sense of how we arrived at where we are in 2017.


Mangun, Kimberly, “Emory O Jackson, the Birmingham World, and the fight for civil rights in Alabama”



Media Memo IV, to the White House

May 12, 2017

TO:   Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and others advising President Trump

FROM:   John Kerezy, an associate professor at a community college who’s also practiced public relations for 30+ years

RE:   Timing of negative news in the digital/mobile news cycle

DATE:   Friday, May 12, 2017 at 4 in the afternoon

This is the precise day of the week and the moment of the day in which you should have announced the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

  1. Major news media outlets go into “weekend” mode by late Friday. The bad news released on a Friday afternoon doesn’t travel as long, or have as much legs, as something bad dropped on a Tuesday afternoon.
  2. It’s too late for the news networks to make major changes in the Sunday morning news analysis programs, so the bad news gets minimized on those programs.
  3. You know that negative coverage is inevitable in many instances. But you can mitigate it by better managing of when it happens. The late Larry Speakes, deputy press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, said, ”You don’t tell us how to stage the news and we don’t tell you how to cover it.”
  4. You lose opportunities to focus on tax cuts or other aspects of the Trump Administration’s policies when you have to keep dealing with negative news.
  5. You might have reduced President Trump’s need to Tweet explanations of the firing by at least 50 percent, thus keeping a national focus on much more important matters which our nation faces.

That’s it. Good luck in convincing the boss of this in the future.






IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.inspirationde.com/image/57612/


Advantages of becoming a Marine

April 18, 2017

Earlier this month, 55 other educators and I had a unique opportunity to spend three days at the US Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. About 50 percent of all male Marine recruits and 100 percent of all female recruits receive their Basic Training there. We visited the recruit depot as part of an annual series of Educators Workshops which the Marine Corps offers. We had an amazing amount of access to all facets of the process, including an up-close-and-personal orientation experience showing us a bit of what it’s like at the Yellow Footprints for recruits at the beginning of their training.

It was my third (and probably last) opportunity to visit Parris Island. First a disclaimer: I am NOT objective about this place. IMHO the Marines develop an elite military branch through an intentional, strategic and thorough process. Its recruit training is longer than the other service branches, and it covers physical conditioning and marksmanship more extensively than the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

At the conclusion of the Educators Workshop, I asked my fellow educators for their observations and “lessons learned” with me. Here are a few of their observations:


A Marine recruit records marksmanship scores on a shooting range at MCRD Parris Island.

“The physical demand to become a Marine is real,” says Cory Brady, a teacher in the North Royalton Schools. “Train your body; get on a healthy diet before arriving.” “Get in shape physically,” adds Carol Pluess, LPC, Coordinator of Career and Assessment Services at the University of Akron’s Wayne Campus. “This includes learning how to swim if you don’t know how to do so.”

Another key point – Take advantage of the many educational opportunities which are provided. We learned that Marine recruits can earn up to nine hours of college credit by completing their Basic Training. Additionally, Marines can attend college online or “live” depending upon their duty posts, and study for additional credit toward a degree while on active duty. For some young men and women (and their families) the Marines then offer a very swift pathway to a college degree or a certification (Police, Fire, EMT, etc.) after military service without debt.

There is a third dimension which several of us discussed during the Workshops. College right after high school is NOT for everybody. There are dozens of varying motivations for high school students. Some may want to get into the most selective of colleges or universities and plow head with studying for first a bachelor’s, then an advanced degree.

Others are wired differently. They may not be academically ready yet for college. They may prefer to not pursue college and instead seek technical or professional careers. We met and heard from jet aircraft maintenance personnel who are thrilled about their MOS (jobs) in the Marines and know that their skills can lead to good careers once they leave military service.

aaaa silver door

“Silver doors” which receive Marine recruits at MCRD Parris Island. Only recruits are allowed to enter through these doors to begin their training.

Speaking of jobs, the Marines offer far more options for recruits than many of us realized. We saw plenty of the Parris Island Marine Band during our time in the Educators Workshop. Musicians can enlist in the USMC and continue playing their instruments in a variety of bands. There are also career opportunities for graphic designers, photographers, and other specialty areas.

One final important component which we learned is this: Marine recruits have a drive, an unquenchable determination, admirable distinctions in today’s society. High standards force recruits to achieve more, and they learn to de-emphasize self and focus on teams and team-building, collaboration, and discipline. These are highly desirable attributes on a battlefield , ones which can save many lives. They are also excellent characteristics in the “real” world of companies and organizations where careers begin.

The Few … the Proud … the Marines is much more than just a slogan. It’s real, and it exemplifies what we saw, heard and felt in the recruit process at Parris Island. From the Commanding General on down to the newest recruits – and we spoke with hundreds of Marines and recruits during the workshop – the elan of the Marines is genuine. For young adults who might not have been “tops” in their high school classes with their GPAs or awards, the US Marine Corps is a place where they can be a part of the very best.

Instructors teaching recruits — impressive!

April 7, 2017

Events in Syria this week provided a stark reminder of how dangerous our world is. Perhaps Syrian’s brutal Bashar al-Assad thought he could continue to get away murdering his own innocent women, men and children with chemical weapons. North Korea’s threat continues to grow. Against that global backdrop, our Educators Workshop had its third day of activities at the USMC Recruit Depot at Parris Island on Thursday.



Instructors aided us excellently at every activity during our time at USMC Parris Island, including here during our try at marksmanship at the Khe Sanh rifle range.

It was another jam-packed day for the educators from the Recruit Station Cleveland and the Recruit Station Frederick districts. We saw Marine recruits undergoing physical training at 6:30 a.m, and also a “Moto” (for motivation) Run of three miles for the members of the 1st Battalion, Alpha Company, who are graduating tomorrow.


We also:

  • Visited the Marine Corp Museum
  • Watched as nine foreign-born Marine recruits became U.S. citizens in a touching ceremony just before all the graduating recruits received six hours of well-deserved liberty.
  • Tried our hand on the obstacle course and the rappel tower.
  • Strived to maximize our teamwork and collaborative skills by repeating some of the puzzles and challenges which Marine recruits face in the Crucible near the end of their training.
  • Shared dinner with a representative group of Marines on base … and also made a brief stop at the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX).


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A “blackshirt” instructor assisting one of my fellow educators, Darla Wagner, at the rifle range.

Many of us were impressed with the high quality of the teaching we have witnessed at Parris Island. If the “blackshirts” instructors who guided us are any indication, there are some terrific sensei helping young men and women seeking to become Marines master all seven of the requirements needed to get to graduation day.


“It’s evident that, no matter where we were on Parris Island, the knowledge conveyed to the recruits produces a very impressive quality of young men and women who are ready to fight, to think, and also someday lead,” says Kevin Fourman, associate principal at Bucyrus High School.

Today is our last day in the Educators Workshop. There will be more on this blog about the entire experience on Saturday.

NOTE: I was able to upload some video which I took during the Motivation Run on Thursday. It was uplifting for the recruits to see so many family members and loved ones lining the Boulevard de France, cheering for their sons, boyfriends, and husbands. Here’s a link:


Yellow footprints & seeing it from top to bottom at Parris Island

April 6, 2017

A great amount of knowledge was compressed into about 11 hours as the U.S. Marine Corps poured information about the recruit training process into 60 educators from Ohio and the Washington, DC area at the USMC Recruit Depot at Parris Island today.

We began the day on the Yellow Footprints, where every recruit begins his transformation to a Marine. Drill instructors gave us a good glimpse of how the process begins. We were “treated” to a first-hand taste of how the Marines eliminate individual and attitudes and replace them with a mental discipline, physical discipline and physical discipline aimed at core values of honor, courage and commitment and the emergence of a team-before-self ethos.



Educators undergo some IT in a sand box at USMC Recruit Depot, Parris Island.

The Marines could not have been more open and transparent in their explanation of their goals with recruits and recruit training. We received a comprehensive overview from commanding general Brig. Gen. Austin “Sparky” Renforth, who began his military career when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1982 right out of high school. He gave us a terrific explanation of the challenges of recruiting today, and the tremendous opportunities which are available for those who make the grade and become Marines.


At the other end of the spectrum, I was privileged to have lunch with Marine Recruit Michael Diaz. Recruit Diaz was thrilled that he had completed his swimming qualifications earlier this week. He misses his parents and family in Woodbridge, Virginia. He’s a member of the 1st Marine Recruit Battalion  2nd Platoon, and has eight weeks remaining in his training.



Three of my colleagues and some USMC marksman instructors on the Khe Sanh firing range.

We also learned about opportunities with the Marine Corps bands and a variety of higher education options (Marines can receive more than $100,000 in benefits to pay for college). After lunch, we visited the marksmanship training simulator and then finished the afternoon at the Khe Sahn firing range, where we got to fire the M16-A4 rifle. (For the record, Cleveland outscored Frederick, Md., at hitting targets.)


Next we moved to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, where we heard from a roundtable of non-commissioned officers and an F-18 Super Hornet pilot about careers in the Air Wing of the Marines. We concluded with dinner in the Officer’s Club at the MCAS.

One fact stayed with me throughout the day. The “target age” for recruits for Marines is ages 17-21. More than 70 percent of all young adults in this target to not meet USMC entrance requirements and cannot become a Marine.

Tomorrow I hope to write more about this, and to cover the crucible and other “Phase III” parts of basic training where recruits complete their indoctrination and become Marines.