First Punch's exclusive Q&A (minus the A) with former Free Times editor David Eden:
First Punch: We appreciate this opportunity to finally speak with you. As editor of the Free Times, you enjoyed taking potshots at Scene, yet refused to return calls from Scene reporters. Might this interview mark a new spirit of openness?
David Eden: (David Eden did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.)
FP: Much has been made in the Free Times about the success of the Free Times. What would you say was your greatest journalistic achievement? Okay, that's not fair. Can you name one journalistic achievement?
DE: (David Eden, who condemned the mayor for not returning phone calls, did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.)
FP: You're leaving the Free Times to become managing editor at Channel 19, the sleaziest TV station in Cleveland. Was this a natural progression for you?
DE: (David Eden, who has confessed to being "a coward" and "a pussy" in his column, did not return phone calls for this story.)
FP: In the Free Times, you've fawned over everything Channel 19 has done and trashed its competitors. Now you've got a job there. Is this a quid pro quo?
DE: (David Eden, who probably lectures his John Carroll University students on conflict of interest, did not return phone calls for this story.)
FP: Channel 19 is working on a story "revealing" that some of the escorts who advertise in the back pages of Scene may be prostitutes. Was this your brainstorm? Or did the hookers who advertise in the Free Times provide the tip?
DE: (David Eden, whose new employer recycled a Scene report last week, did not return phone calls.)
FP: You have been desperately pursuing 19 anchorwoman Denise Dufala through your column, The Nose. Now that you're her boss, will she return your calls? Allow you to lick her shoes?
DE: (David Eden, who has also said Dufala's co-anchor, David Wittman, would "look hot in an evening gown," did not return calls.)
FP: It's amazing that anyone would hire you as a journalism professor. You're a complete disgrace to the craft. You're an insult to any person who's ever had a real job . . . I'm sorry. I thought there was a question in there . . .
DE: (David Eden, who previously worked as a PR hack and counseled clients that "when you say 'No comment' . . . you lose!", did not return calls.)
FP: Will the Free Times's tradition of lazy reporting and mangled prose continue, or will the new regime actually have its shit together?
DE: (David Eden, last seen hiding under his desk, clutching Denise Dufala's stolen underwear, did not return phone calls.)
Fueling the fire
In Scene's recent cover story on racial strife within the Cleveland Fire Department ["Burning Down the House," May 5], firefighter Frank Szabo made the point that whites also experience racism.
Soon after the story ran, Szabo received an anonymous message through the department's interoffice mail. It was Szabo's photo from Scene, doctored so that he appeared to be wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit.
Szabo heads a white firefighters group called the Concerned American Fire Fighters Association and has argued against affirmative action in hiring and promotions. He was quoted in the article as saying, "For whatever prejudice that Caucasian firefighters may have, you see the same amount right back."
Szabo alerted Internal Affairs, but declined to comment. "I'm giving my department the opportunity to investigate and handle it internally," he says.
Out with the New
The New Cleveland Press kicked off with lots of bluster. A lengthy above-the-fold editor's letter promised ball-busting coverage. Challenging The Plain Dealer for dominance was Publisher and Editor Randy Nyerges's goal.
After just two issues, the piss and vinegar are in short supply. "You wanna buy the paper?" asked a woman who answered the phone last week.
Nyerges has put the paper on hiatus. "Expectations were high," he explained in a statement, "and advertisers were expecting a larger, more comprehensive and complete newspaper akin to the major metropolitan publication that the old Cleveland Press was."
Instead, they got something more akin to a college rag, overflowing with armchair sports coverage, bland features (What not to buy for Mother's Day!), and self-important blather from an ad salesman. The extra-large font just made it easier for older readers, the target audience, to notice the paper's shortcomings.
Nyerges is looking for outside investors "able to put the key highly trained professionals into place on the corporate level -- people whose business expertise is far superior to mine."
We do chickens wrong
Richard Pryor has an ad in the Crusader Urban News, urging folks to join him in a boycott of all things hot and crispy until KFC stops mistreating birds destined for the original recipe. Activists claim that Tyson Foods, which operates the slaughterhouses serving the fast-food chain, tacitly condones chicken abuse.
Pryor and fellow comedian Dick Gregory penned a letter of protest to KFC after watching graphic PETA videotape and hearing a Tyson employee say that he witnessed birds being anally invaded, boiled alive, and stomped. KFC has promised to look into the allegations.
The bill is in the mail
RITA -- the Regional Income Tax Agency -- collects taxes for more than 100 Ohio communities. It's a nonprofit that thrives on volume: The greater the number of member cities, the more savings are passed on to each one.
But some cities have begun to question their outsourcing of tax collections. It seems that RITA's attempt to revamp its operating system is costing certain members in a big way. Lakewood, one of RITA's biggest customers, has seen its bill jump each of the past three years, from $317,000 in 2001 to $550,000 by 2003.
"I could just sit back and say, 'Oh well, that's how it is,'" says Finance Director Vic Nogalo. "But as the finance director, I have to look at how it is."
The financial burden of upgrading RITA's system is determined by an intricate formula, which RITA presumably keeps in a safe behind a portrait of dogs playing poker. During the same period in which Lakewood has seen monster increases, Elyria -- a city of comparable size and tax income -- has remained relatively steady.
"Could we have done it better?" asks Jeff Christman, RITA's director of development. "That I don't know. In my opinion, even though this may cost the cities a little bit, in the long run the amount they're going to pay in the future is going to be less."
But Nogalo's been given no indication when fees will return to earth. Could be 5 years, might be 20 -- RITA isn't saying.
By the time an answer comes, Lakewood may already have bailed. "The RITA folks are good," he says. "It's just the people that I deal with at the top that make you say, 'Who's running this?'"
The science of drinking
The only thing worse than watching the Indians lose yet another game is watching them lose while tossing back warm beer. Though Adam Hunnell can't cure the first problem, he believes he has an answer to the second.
Hunnell, a graduate student at Case Western Reserve's Physics Entrepreneurship Program, is the inventor of the Keg Wrap, a thermonuclear portable strap designed to keep brewskies cold. He was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance to develop the product.
The idea originated at a party he held as a sophomore at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where he faced that most perilous dilemma: the warm keg. Instead of opting for the obvious solution -- drink faster, you lightweights -- he headed out for more ice. Which got him thinking: "Why should anyone have to go get ice? Why can't beer just be cold naturally?"
Okay, so we're not sure anything that includes the word "thermonuclear" could technically be considered natural. But if it advances the cause of beer consumption, be assured that Mother Nature and all her children are behind Hunnell.
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