Dave Bohman

Saturday, February 8, 2014

KIDS FOR CASH AND WINTER OLYMPICS, LOOKING BACK AND AHEAD



                              KIDS FOR CASH TURNS 5
 
The fifth anniversary of the indictments of the Kids for Cash scandal took place this week, and I was honored to be part of WNEP’s coverage with Jon Meyer, Scott Shaffer, Sarah Buynovsky (who in the last five years did by far the best stories of any TV reporter in the area), Peggy Lee, and Lara Greenberg.  I had a story on the reforms made in the wake of the scandal, and how juvenile courts in Pennsylvania are very different places.  At heart, I’m a numbers guy, and used numbers to show the incredible difference in how many kids were sent to prison when Mark Ciavarella ran juvenile court, versus now.  You can find the story .Kids for Cash: Are Reforms Working? here.  I especially like the comment from US Attorney Peter Smith who supervised the prosecution of Ciavarella and former President Judge Michael Conahan, both ex-judges are now in federal prison where they belong.  I’m even prouder of the special website for the coverage we did at Newswatch 16.  Click here for the multimedia presentation we did on five years after Kids for Cash.  It is the kind of in-depth work that very few TV stations in the Northeast are capable of.  Kudos to WNEP’s Shawn Dunn for putting this together.


This will be a busy week for Action 16 Investigates.  I have an investigation to air Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday on a part of the Transportation bill that some might find controversial.  The bill essentially raised money to repair crumbling bridges, buckling roads, fixing up airports and bus terminals, and expanding mass transit.  But there’s more, and it’s worth a look, will post next week.  I also have three shoots coming up.


Now for some good memories, let’s talk about the Winter Olympics.  Best Olympics ever: Lake Placid 1980, where I was just starting my career at nearby WPTZ-TV in Plattsburgh.  It was the Olympics of USA Hockey’s ”Miracle on Ice,” and Eric Heiden’s five gold medals in speed skating.  But to me the greatest Winter Olympic moment was Franz Klammer’s gold in the men’s downhill in Austria in 1976.  To this day, I have never had a sporting event, seeing a hometown kid under so much pressure to win, and win he did. 


 One other special memory when I worked at WPTZ was interviewing gold medalist Barbara Cochran, who won the women’s slalom in 1972 in Sapporo, Japan.  I will never forget watching the event live black and white TV in my Cape Cod living room at about midnight, when she seemed to ski through a blizzard and just crushed her second run for the win.  A week later, her picture was in “Life” Magazine shaking President Nixon’s hand.  At the time, she lived with her parents who ran a Mom and Pop ski lift from their back yard.  I asked to see her Olympic gold medal, thinking it would be prominently displayed in her living room, or at the ski slope’s lodge, or maybe encased and displayed at her high school or the University of Vermont.  Nope.  Barbara went to her bedroom, pulled out a shoebox with an old report card, and a few other knick-knacks, and there was America’s only gold medal in skiing from the 1972 Olympics.  I consider an Olympic gold medal far more valuable and noteworthy than a Super Bowl ring, or a Green Jacket from the Masters Golf Tournament.  And I found it refreshing that Barbara’s gold was at the bottom of a shoebox.  I wonder where it is now.  

                                                              BARBARA COCHRAN

So as I watch these Olympics, I am thinking of Franz Klammer and Barbara Cochran and wishing them well, wherever they are.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Musto, Money, and the Many Delays




          Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that the state legislature has done nothing about freezing pensions for those indicted for public corruption crimes.  I bring this up in the wake of the eighth delay in the past three plus years to bring former State Senator Raphael Musto of Luzerne County to trial on Federal corruption charges.  On January 6, US District Court Judge Richard Caputo ruled Musto was physically able to stand trial, but mentally incompetent to do so.  I am not an expert on medical diagnosis, so I don’t have the expertise to question the ruling, or the diagnosis of the expert who testified Musto is confused, dizzy, and unaware of his surroundings and cannot assist in his own defense.  But I can tell you about the numbers, and why the suspicion that the delays sought by Musto’s lawyers is justified.
          Musto makes  $10,586.05 per month, or $127,032.60 per year in his pension money, if you are him, or a member of his family, is that enough to delay?  It’s a lot of money, and shame on anyone who says it is not an appropriate question to ask.  Since his indictment in December 2010, must has made $381,097 in pension payments.  The money will continue rolling in as long as Musto avoids pleading guilty, or being found guilty at trial.  And what better way to keep the pension payments than delaying the trial. 
          Let’s look at how Musto’s delays have put him in better shape that the other Pennsylvania lawmakers who were charged with, and then convicted on corruption charges (again I note Musto has not been convicted, but all others charged were either convicted or pleaded guilty) 

MONTHLY PENSION PAYMENT TOTAL AFTER INDICTMENTS

Former State Sen. Ray Musto              (D)-Luzerne                $381,097

Former State Rep. Stephen Stetler       (D)-York                     $250,338

Former State Sen. Bob Mellow            (D)-Lackawanna         $196,858

Former State Rep. Mike Veon              (D)-Beaver                  $180,386

Former State Rep. John Perzell            (R)-Philadelphia         $142,755

Former State Sen. Vince Fumo             (D)-Philadelphia         $  66,973

          Before he was elected Pennsylvania’s Auditor General, Gene DePasquale was drafting legislation that would call for monthly pension payments to be placed in an escrow account until the case is adjudicated.  But that bill never made it to committee.
          And by May 7th, when a doctor appointed by the court is set to make his evaluation of Ray Musto’s mental competency to stand trial, the former State Senator from Luzerne county will have collected $423,442 in monthly pensions since a grand jury indicted him.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

       HAPPY NEW YEARS !!!

LINDA, ANNA, LEXI, AND ME
                     

My New Years’ resolution is to resurrect this blog and do it bi-monthly.  Some of you have asked me to do it, and it gives me a chance to do without the restrictions of social media.  So I will give you my thoughts of what is going on in the news, sports, and in my world.  2013 was a great year for me.  So let me begin this year end blog with some breaking news and why I think 2014 is a year I am looking forward to.

MOOSIC – WNEP Investigative Reporter Dave Bohman has signed a two year contract and will remain as the Investigative Reporter through January 2016.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

I am truly excited about this.  About nine months ago, I thought I would be leaving for a couple of reasons.  I had a couple of feelers in larger markets, though nothing of substance came through.  Also, WNEP was being sold, and I was concerned that one of the bottom feeding corporations that own several stations would buy us.  Luckily, Tribune bought us instead, and since Trib had already operated our station, it seems like the new boss is the same as the old boss.  I expect changes to come.  TV news is always changing.  I just don’t expect things like drastic cuts, or a different focus on news that might de-emphasize investigative work.  The changes will be dictated by market conditions in our industry, not by a corporation that has a differing philosophy of how to run a station group.
We are the highest rated ABC affiliate in the top 100 markets.  The November ratings book just came in, and we just had a 21 rating (not share, rating) for the 6PM news.  In most major markets, only NFL games involving the home teams, and the grand finale of American Idol get 21 ratings.
Being a member of the Newswatch 16 team is an honor.  I have worked in several markets, and can tell you the talent level for the market size is very good here.  They do things the right way, keeping established anchors, and have a good record of new hires.  And they put me in position to succeed with the support of time and resources to get results.  Most investigative reporters in markets my size usually have just a title, and spend most of their stories at murder scenes, house fires, and court cases that have few if any investigative elements. 
On a personal level, staying is perfect for my daughters who really have established deep friendships here, and love their school.  As for my wife, let’s just say our daughters really like it here, and so do I.

THE HOLIDAY SEASON

Photo Courtesy: Steve Senter
I am headed to Cape Cod to spend next week with my mom and brothers in Chatham, the town I grew up in.  I also had to put the investigative efforts on hold due to holiday staffing levels, and spent time in Dushore on an unusual and sad Christmas Day fire, and in rural Bradford County, on the strange shooting death that may or may not soon be labeled a murder.  When I get back, I have a few investigative priorities to get to, and in the first few months of this year, I promise follow ups on the breach of patient information at a Williamsport dental office and what looks like the beating of a juvenile inmate at the Lackawanna County Juvenile Corrections lockup.  These two stories were the among the best I did this year. 

WHAT I WON’T BE DOING

If I have a pet peeve about my job, it’s the public perception that I am a consumer reporter.  Larger markets often have one and for several years, WNEP had someone (with the Action 16 title) who would take calls from people who claimed they were victims of rip-offs from contractors to car dealers.  We don’t have such a person, but I get calls from people asking, sometimes demanding that I do a story about the car dealers, landlords, bosses, etc.   

 Why is there no consumer reporter at Newswatch 16 (and there hasn’t been one for about seven years)?  I don’t know. But when I took the investigative job here in 2010, one of the first warnings from my boss was, “Don’t do consumer!”  As someone who once ran a newsroom and has access to research I can hazard a guess.  Research shows consumer reporting has very little interest among TV viewers.  And it really doesn’t build good will.  If we do a story about a bad landlord, and get that landlord to make things right, we will get hundreds of calls from people in the same boat who will be disappointed and angry I am not taking their cases too.  And a recent research project from the respected TV consulting firm AR&D showed that next to weather, investigative reporting is the most important element of local newscasts.  More important that breaking news, health news, sports, features, and yes, consumer reporting.  In fact the top stations in the US have more people working on their investigative units than their sports departments.  This is a trend that I think will continue.  So please, PLEASE think of me when you have a story about corruption, crime, and social trends that can be a subject of one our investigative reports.  WNEP does not have a consumer reporter, and I doubt it will have one any time soon.

SYRACUSE ORANGEMEN

I had dinner at the Sand Springs Clubhouse the Friday after Christmas and watched the Syracuse Orangemen defeat Minnesota in the most exciting football bowl game of the year.  And this afternoon the #2 ranked Orange basketball team beat Villanova after being down 18.  I never had a doubt, and am looking forward to this year.

RANDOM DAVE BOHMAN PICTURE OF THE WEEK BECAUSE THIS IS MY BLOG!!!

Fellow Orangeman and Phi Delta Theta fraternity brother Matt Siegel visited on his way to upstate New York on a weekend when I anchored the news.  We both have aged pretty well over the last gulp! 36 years since this picture was taken.  For the record Matt is on the left in the first pic, and on the right on the second.  And the picture proves that I decided a long time ago the Pete Rose haircut was not working, and that I now spend more money on ties.
Moosic PA recently

Phi Delta Theta 1976

Monday, March 5, 2012

INVESTIGATING NEPA IS BACK

PRESCRIPTION DRUG DEATHS

This week, Action 16 Investigates looked at the problem of prescription drug overdose deaths, and I was honored to speak with local police, county coroners, and the mother of a man who died of an overdose death four years ago.
This is a problem receiving little attention and that can be a deadly oversight.

Our report revealed that prescription drug overdose deaths in Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Monroe Counties have skyrocketed in the last five years.
Three times as many people die from prescription drugs as the street drug we parents worry about like heroin and cocaine.
But those are the statistics.
The human stories behind the numbers really tell the story.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Carol Coolbaugh of West Pittston, who in her son’s memory, talks to D.A.R.E. program elementary school students to tell a precautionary tale about Erik Coolbaugh.
                                                       ERIK COOLBAUGH

Erik was addicted to both street and prescription drugs, but Carol never worried about the vicodins or the xanax until she saw it contribute to Erik’s downward spiral, and eventually, his death. 
The saddest moment of the interview was when she quoted her own son as calling himself a “garbage head,” because he would take whatever drugs were put in front of him. 
Imagine a child of yours slipping so far away, and calling himself or herself a “garbage head.” 
I hope our investigation brings more awareness to the issue.
Here is a link to the story.
Our investigation on bath salts was groundbreaking and really the clarion call to a problem that gripped this region for a short spell.
Our investigation into “Four Loko” won an Emmy for me and Newswatch 16, and was part of a tidal wave of reports on Four Loko that eventually got its makers to change the alcohol and caffeine mix in the product.
We are going to have to pay more attention to prescription drug abuse, not only to discourage our kids from experimenting, but to reach people between 25-50, who make up the lions share of the overdoses.


READ ACROSS AMERICA

Last week saw “Read Across America” day, and I spent Thursday morning at Ross Elementary School in Sweet Valley, reading “Oh, the Places You Will Go,” to an auditorium full of kindergartners, first and second graders.  Then I read, “The Lorax,” to the third through six graders who followed.


Two thoughts: 
1-You have to read Dr. Seuss slowly because his tongue twisters can really throw you off your cadence.  I would have left TV a long time ago, if Dr. Seuss were a producers.
2-The Lorax is a real deep precautionary tale meant for older children.  It is the best work by Dr. Seuss, and almost brought me to tears.  Wouldn’t that have been embarrassing at an Elementary School Assembly?
I hope my reading and words of encouragement will develop the kind of passion for reading in these kids that my grandmother Glad helped instill in me in the early 1960’s.  I miss you Glad, and carry your love for reading to this day.


LINSANITY !
As a die hard sports fan, I am loving the Jeremy Lin story.  I never rooted for Harvard, or the New York Knicks, but his story is as American as any, and I wish him success.  

Breaking stereotypes, being a decent guy, and getting to where he is thanks to hard work, and split second smarts makes him my new favorite NBA player. 
And even though I didn’t root for them against the Celtics today, I am kind of pulling for the Knicks to do well and go deep into the playoffs.  I know, its New York, land of the dreaded Yankees, but the truth is, I can never hate a sports team.  Except the Dallas Cowboys.

Chat with you next week.
Dave

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pay Walls

Pay Walls for the Papers

My free rides are ending. The Scranton Times-Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and now the New York Times are no longer offering free, unlimited reading of their articles. I wonder how this will all work out.


I get the reasoning. Journalists at all three papers need to be paid, and the better writers can command more money. Circulation for all three papers has steadily declined. And the sad truth is, news organizations have yet to figure out a way to make internet advertising as profitable as print or broadcast advertising. Some news organizations will tell you that making money from the internet is a matter of long term survival.


I’d be disingenuous to oppose the so-called paywalls. These are my brothers and sisters who hopefully are able to stay employed and make a reasonable living if their employers can make the extra revenue streams work. I just wonder if they will.


One problem: Most people are used to getting all content free on the internet with two exceptions, pornography and gambling. The New York Times past experience shows that pay per read can cause as many problems as it solves, as their recently abandoned Times Select experiment proved. With paywall coming, top columnists and reporters worry their readership, and therefore influence will dwindle.  Most musicians looking for commercial success would rather play a packed auditorium than a half-empty coffeehouse.  I know I prefer working for a number one rated station.  Good print journalists want everyone to read their articles and columns.


Another problem: The New York Times and the Scranton Times-Tribune will allow you a few free reads per month, then you will have to pay. Is this a good business model? It seems like the only ones paying are their best and most loyal readers.  And consider human nature.  Those who do not want to pay will read as many free articles as possible, then stop until the beginning of the next month, when the reads are reset. Why not simply charge for online subscriptions?


And I really have a problem with charging print subscribers. It seems to me that if you are paying good money for a subscription, you should be able to get online content for free.  The news organization already has it's money. So if your paper delivery is late, or you left your paper at home and you want to catch up during your lunch break, or you are on vacation and you want to see what is going on at home, these news organizations should not charge.


I suspect this paywall system is still in a state of trial and error, and will undergo many changes as the news organizations get a better feel for consumer behavior. I wish them luck. We are all poorer, when your daily paper has to cut costs to survive.

Bath Salts



I am very proud of our recent reporting on the problem with the designer drug legally sold as bath salts. Kudos to the “Smokes ‘r Us” chain with seven stores in NEPA, who pulled bath salts off their shelves, which cost them customers. Next month, I strongly believe these dangerous substances will be illegal in Pennsylania, as will synthetic marijuana. I will check back in more frequently. 
Take a look at our recent Action 16 Investigates on bath salts.

Sports 



The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is my favorite non-Olympic sporting event of the year. I root for, in order, Syracuse University, the teams I picked in my brackets for office pools and on-line contests, and the underdogs. Hate the outlaw coaches (Pitino, Calipari, Calhoun, Huggins), and in doing so, I usually root against their schools, especially Connecticut. Loved watching Richmond win today, liked watching Moorehead State win (didn’t predict that one), and dug the near upset by Penn State. Tomorrow I am rooting for Syracuse, who has an excellent chance to go deep into this tournament. Kansas beats Duke in the final game, and keep an eye out for Florida. The Gators have the best coach in today’s game, and while many trash their number two seed, I have them in the final four. Someday, a #16 will beat a #1 seed, and I hope I live long enough to see that day.

 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Warning NEPA Seniors

IN THE NEWS


At WNEP-TV, our story on a company offering to get seniors property tax and rent rebates, was one of the more important warnings I’ve been a part of in three decades of television.  There are too many scams out there to mention, and we have to trust most viewers are smart enough to know they didn’t win a lottery they never entered, nor will they get help from a Nigerian Prince willing to share millions if they help him smuggle money out of the country.
But the mailer from a group called the “Seniors Advisory Council” needed to be told, even though this business is legal. 
Here’s how the sales pitch works.  Seniors are asked to pay $39 to the “council” for the group to fill out the form that gets them a rebate on their property tax or rent under a Pennsylvania tax break for those over 62.  Problem is, any social service agency, or state lawmaker’s office in the Keystone State can arrange for these people to get the form done FOR FREE !!!!
The group never responded to our requests for a comment.  Their 800-number apparently was off the hook.
The “council” might want you to believe they are like H&R Block who helps with income tax forms, and gets many taxpayers for a rebate, for a fee.
But here’s why people needed to be warned about the “Council.”

·        The name – “Senior Advisory Council” is a for profit business, yet it is designed to sound like a charity or a government agency.
·        The service – As I just mentioned, its free for anyone that goes to a social service agency.  Why pay $39?  In fact, the state has paid to train social workers to help seniors get these rebates that they are entitled to.
·        The letter – The “Counsel” claims it can get seniors a rebate of up to $975.  But the maximum refund in Pennsylvania is $650.  The “Council” has some explaining to do.
·        The address – I traced the address from the Seniors Advisory Council’s solicitation to a strip mall in a Harrisburg suburb.  It’s a mailbox drop between Liberty Income Tax and Wayne’s World Tanning Salon.  The real Seniors Advisory Council is in El Cajon, California.  But they are trying to make you believe they are your neighbors in the state capital, perhaps a state agency.

So why would you do business with these people?  Exactly.  If you live in Pennsylvania, and are a senior or you know one, please make sure your loved ones do not respond to this professional looking letter.   Sometimes warning the public about a legal product, is better than warning people about a scam.  This week, Action 16 Investigates hopefully saved Northeastern Pennsylvania seniors thousands…$39 at a time.
Here is the link to our story.

SPORTS

I will keep it brief, but I always love upsets in College Football, and the best this year was the defeat of Kansas by North Dakota State.  I generally like Kansas, but I love upsets more, and really dug the headline in the Kansas City Star newspaper, “The Night the Wheat Stood Still .”
SORT OF SPORTS


I ran in my eighth “Race for the Cure” 5k Saturday, my first in Scranton.   The race raises money and awareness of breast cancer and research, and always attracts thousands of runners and walkers. Had a great chat with US Senator Bob Casey (D) Pennsylvania about the dangers of bungee cords when moving furniture.  The Senator recently had stitches on his forehead from a bungee cord snapping from the top of his car when he brought his daughter to college.  Then the race.  Sometimes, you focus on getting a good time (mine was 30:02, pretty good considering the first half mile was a walk.)  This is not one of those 5k runs where you race.  I let my mind wander, and when I passed people with t-shirts in remembrance of those who died, or in praise of those who survived breast cancer, I thought of Dakota Doud and her father Mike. 
I met the two in 2007, when then-12-year-old Dakota became the youngest woman to compete in an LPGA tournament.  Dakota’s mother Kelly Jo had stage four breast cancer and did not have long to live.  LPGA legend Annika Sorenstam arranged to get a sponsor’s exemption for Dakota at the Ginn Open in Orlando so Kelly Jo could live long enough to play in a pro tournament.  12-year-old Dakota birdied the first hole, an unforgettable moment that that still brings tears to my eyes.  Kelly Jo died just a few months later. 
Kelly Jo and Dakota Doud
Today, I thought of Kelly Jo, with the hope that Dakota and Mike are hanging in there and moving forward.  I wondered who the Kelly Jos, Mikes, and Dakotas were in the minds of my fellow runners, and I felt a special bond with these runners that I never felt in other 5k’s.  I think my wandering mind was a plus because I ran the last mile in a shade over 7 minutes.  And I hope Mike and Dakota in Palm Harbor know that a lot of people are thinking about them, including this TV news reporter who was honored to meet them and tell their story years a few years ago.

Dave Bohman

Saturday, June 5, 2010

When asking questions gets action.

     Sometimes we do stories, and problems are solved, people do the right thing.  Sometimes, we just simply ask questions, and fixes get made.  This week, Action 16 Investigates responded to a tip that more than 100 people living in a subsidized housing high-rise in Tamaqua were doing without air conditioning.  We had the story of 67-year-old Leo McGrath, who on his limited income bought two fans, and kept his window shades shut to keep out the afternoon sun. And it was still a sweltering 83-degrees inside.  Why no AC?  Because the unit broke down in November, it was supposed to be fixed by May, now it looks like a new unit will come on line in mid-July.  The current unit may be a lemon as it lasted just nine years and had a 20-year warrantee.  As we put together the story Friday, Johnson Controls, the company that bought the company that made the AC unit, and therefore had to honor the warrantee called to tell us a temporary fix was made.  Would this action be taking place Friday if Newswatch 16's Investigative Unit did not show up, making a major presence in a small town, while running promos during the news throughout the day?  I don't know.  And I credit the ABC housing and Johnson Controls to getting something done.  But I wonder if these people would get relief here in early June if we weren't there.
Here's the story:

Politics
    The Rasmussen poll shows that in the Pennsylvania Senate Race, Republican Pat Toomey has a 45% to 38%  lead over Democrat Joe Sestak.  Just days after the May primary, Sestak had a four point lead, and was crowing over his win over Senator Arlen Specter (fueled by an effective, but very misleading ad in the final days.)  I don't think Sestak's people are too worried about these latest poll numbers, in fact with the flap over whether he was offered a job in the Obama administration hanging over him, I'm mildly surprised he's that close.  And remember, this is June, lots can happen.  I was also surprised Toomey and Sestak both ran a lot of ads in the days following the May 18th primary.  But the ads have stopped as the candidates stock up for the fall.  I know this, because we're seeing more ads for restaurants (is the economy coming back) and those ads promoting Investigative Reporter Dave Bohman are running with more frequently.  I expect the Bohman ads to taper off in the fall as the races for the US Senate, Governor, and two potentially hard-fought Congressional races will claim the lions share of paid air time, about week three of the NFL.

Sports
   Count me among those who agrees with Commissioner Bud Selig in not changing a call that would have overturned a blown call on the second to last play of the game so Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga would get credit for the perfect game he just completed.  Human error has always been a part of the game.  Kudos to Jim Joyce, who has always been regarded as a great umpire for owning up to the blown call at the worst time, and props to Gallaraga for moving on.  Other than Don Larsen's perfect game in the World Series in the 1950's, Gallaraga's game will be remembered more than the other two thrown this year, more than any other thrown in major league history.
    I'd also love to see the old-school franchise Chicago Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup, and of course go for the Celtics against the Lakers.  The Lakers are on a par with the New York Yankees as perennial easy to hate bad guys.  The difference?  The Yankees leader is Derek Jeter, classy guy.  The Lakers leader is Kobe Bryant, who is, well, Kobe Bryant.
    It's odd to see the Belmont Stakes with no Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner in the field.  My money's on Dave in Dixie.