Matt's Reporter Blog

Ever and again, any port in the storm can be home.

Friday, January 31st, 2014
Matt White

Dear diary, it’s been five weeks since my last confession. A lot has changed – some for the good, some for the not so great – but nonetheless my group of exemplary cohorts (er, co-workers) and I have weathered through a seemingly treacherous storm amidst a raging sea. If I were to assign a song to the experience that was my first “Progress Chenango,” I would steal a line from a budding Neil Young who sang: “Sailing hardships through broken harbors out on the waves in the night; still a searcher must ride the darkness racing alone in his fright. Tell me why.”
Our ship’s fearless captain selflessly maneuvered the beast to the other side, a battle that I could only liken to driving a ’72 El Dorado with balding middle-aged tires and loose steering down a winding Chenango County back road. Sure, it had it’s moments filled with poise and false sense of security, but for the most part our brilliant boffin was wrestling her sense of dignity with her unwavering ethic-steeped determination.
I’m looking forward to getting back into having time to focus on writing opinion pieces, blogs and more in-depth daily news reporting, all of which – admittedly and with regret – were taxed when juggled with the added workload leading up to the publication of the ten extra papers.
During my absence from blogosphere, A woman I considered to be my mother passed away. Now, I’m not one to bear my soul over loss or let my personal life interfere with my work; but a series of events transpired shortly before her death that has changed my life.
Long ago – shortly after my father passed away – I moved out of the area, married and established my life elsewhere. I all but abandoned my family, losing touch with my siblings, aunts/uncles.
The significance of this is that I had come from a very tight-knit, closely related family… we were raised on a farm in White Store (a hamlet just over the hill between route eight and Norwich) where my cousins and I spent every season of our youthful years together. My cousins were effectively my siblings – and I respected my aunts and uncles with same regard as my parents.
After the passing of my grandparents and father in my teens, moving off the farm and the inevitable passage of time we went our separate ways and became disassociated.
In typical fashion- the ebb and flow of life returned me back to the Norwich area a divorced man with six children searching for his roots.
Last fall, as I started work here at The Evening Sun, I received word that Lanie (mom) was suffering from a rare form of oral cancer and that a benefit had been scheduled to assist in defraying the cost of travel expenses to and from chemotherapy treatments.
I felt compelled to attend, if not only to pay my respect the woman who was strong enough to step forward and raise a hellish younger version of myself in the absence of my biological mother who stepped out when I was all of two years of age.
When I arrived at the venue, I quickly became flush with an uncomfortable fear of scrutiny. I felt what I thought was the disapproving eyes of folks I hadn’t spoken a word to in more than a decade fall upon me. I scanned the room, clawing for a familiar face to comfort me – to which the results were nil.
I had trouble remembering the names of my own family whom played a tremendous role in shaping me into the person I am today.
In my confusion, I failed to notice Jeanine – my older cousin whom I had the strongest relationship with as a child – as she approached me and greeted me with the biggest smile and best feeling embrace that I had encountered in quite some time.
In a matter of two minutes we shed nearly twelve years of age and lost time with minimal diction. I was able to find that one person I’d least expected but needed the most. We laughed and talked, poked fun of one another – I commented “Neenee” on how good she looked, and she was more than willing to let me know that I was shaping up quite like my dad – her favorite uncle Dennis.
Lanie wasn’t feeling all that great and had all of her teeth extracted the day prior inpreperatin of a procedure, so by the time I had arrived at the venue my stepsister Andrea had taken her home. As the evening concluded and we all pitched in to clean up the Sherburne American Legion, I made plans with Andrea to get up to see mom as she was living adjacent to her.
Meanwhile, Thanksgiving and then Christmas had come and gone – Jeanine and I had exchanged phone numbers and had begun the process of re-connecting. My girlfriend Rachel and I had made a few trips to Jeanine and her husband Jason’s cabin on Hatch Lake and acquainted the kids to one another.
It felt good answering my niece’s and nephew’s questions of “will you be coming to see us more often” with a re-affirming “yes.”
Shortly after New Years I learned that Laine had died. She became ill and was admitted to the hospital where her unexpected prognosis of weeks to live was trumped only by her unexpected death the next morning.
My heart sank. I never made it up to see her. Once again, life had become the priority and I would never see her again.
I took a good look at the situation and came to what I consider an obligatory catharsis.
Had it not been for the demise of my mom, I most likely would have spent God knows however many more years away from my past; away from the family I wanted to be a part of. In essence, it took the tragedy of loosing one of the most influential people in my life to bring me back to the ones that I love and missed all along.
Without knowing it, Laine planted the seed for the future of my family. I am lucky, humbled and grateful for such a great gift. I am doing my best to nurture this freshly planted seedling along.

Thanks, Mom.

Often, bad news is good news at a masqurade.

Monday, December 16th, 2013
Matt White

Bad news is rampant. It’s everywhere, everyday. From the 24/7 news channels spewing fourth from their prospective social and political soap boxes to the press and mass media, it seems everywhere we look we’re fed nothing but bad news. There’s a reason…It doesn’t keep the lights on.
Due to the fact that the amount of sex in broadcast and print is largely regulated by our ethics, (and by ethics I mean the FCC) horrible news of society’s shortcomings and “poverty porn” are a close second; Those are the stories that pay the bills.
The big box news networks routinely and predictably punctuate the news hour with a “happy” segment, which is just one point of media’s “Keep them Fat, Dumb and Happy” pyramid of success. The upbeat segment is just a little hook to simulate some dopamine and keep you numb.
I’ll agree that it’s tough, often seemingly impossible to find a stitch of legitimate good news. Again, there is a reason. It’s not sexy. It doesn’t sell.
I work in the media, and in doing such I see what lies on both sides of the fence on a weekly basis. Folks will complain about there being no “real” news in the paper, others will laud over the reciprocal negativity printed in cold black Times New Roman.
There’s an interesting balancing act that regularly takes place here in the newsroom. I’m sure plenty of our readers assume that we just print and write whatever the heck we want with no regard to anyone, most likely only where they’re on the short end of the stick.
Likewise, no one seems to have a problem with what we print if it happens to coincide with their beliefs.
The fact of the matter is that we spend a great deal of our time deciding what to write, constantly weighing wither or not a particular subject matter is too liberal, anecdotal or conservative in nature. We argue, yell and disagree; once in a while a door will get slammed shut. The goal is to make the stories that are newsworthy available to the community. Not everyone in the community will ever agree with everything published here.
There is some good news to be found, however. Sometimes a positive story blissfully falls through the cracks. If the story is really good, it will perpetuate and resound through a great many people with the aid of social media. Love it or hate it, the Social media forums of Facebook, Twitter, et al. do sometimes serve a legitimate purpose.
Sometimes, a tragedy occurs, and a community comes together to do whatever they can for a family that is in need or in mourning.
Other times, it’s just a simple status post on Facebook revealing a random act of kindness that were bestowed upon unknowing.
Stories like these are my favorite. They, believe it or not, make me want to do good things and bolster the sentiment of good will.
While we all have our own problems, stresses and anxieties; I still maintain that we can all benefit to a degree by doing something for someone else… even if it’s someone you don’t know. You’ll never see an abundance of these testimonials in the commercialized media, though.
You will likely never hear about the person who payed it forward at the coffee place this morning or read a breaking news article about the teen who ushered an elderly woman across the busy street. You’ll probably never hear about the guy who made shoveling snow a contest amongst his six children in order to motivate them to clear the neighbors walks. And you shouldn’t. This is not news. This is human nature at it’s best.
I’m not so sure I’d want to live in a society where performing random acts of kindness was so significant that we had to print it on the front page of the paper everyday. If doing something that has a beneficial implication for another human were so remarkable that we demand to read it in the headlines, whats the point? Who’s ego are we stroking?
How about we complain less about the lack of good news, and make some good news? Think About it.

If you love me, you’ll send me to rehab…again.

Friday, December 6th, 2013
Matt White

So many topics to blog about this week, so little time. Okay, that last bit was a lie. I have all the time in the world.
Christmas? Doesn’t everyone write about that? Thought so. Forget it.
Drug addicts? Sounds good to me. Here goes.
As a quick disclaimer, I’ll probably part the seas with this one. Inevitably, there’s the possibility that people are going to feel very strongly one way or another about my opinion, which is fine. That’s as it should be as far as I’m concerned. Feel free to fire back with how horrible and insensitive you may think I am based on my opinion. Likewise, feel more than obliged to send me a gold star if the feeling should strike you. I like stickers just as much as the next eight year old.
I guess what peeves me the most about the “addict” label in our society is the way that our government wields the definition around like some sort of justification for criminals. It seems that nowadays, if you just so happen to be under the influence of your drug of choice, the courts pity’s your debilitating circumstance and offers you a road to recovery.
I understand that life is a struggle for some. I’ve been through my fare share of woes, and I know that times are often hard, but hear this: People kick the habit everyday. True Addict’s that want to succeed and have a better life often times do, with no support.
Recently, a well written article went into our paper about shock treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration in New York State. A local Judge said that he was persuaded, in effect, after touring one of the facilities and now will send more convicted “drug offenders” to shock rehabilitation vs. incarceration.
I’m not so convinced. Let’s look at the numbers of repeat offenders. After 36 months post release from Shock, 50% of those who successfully graduated are re-incarcerated whereas 55% of candidates rejected from admission to shock (those who just end up in jail) re-offend and are incarcerated . So is Shock really all that successful at rehabilitating the individual? You go ahead and draw your own conclusions, but I’ll maintain that they do not.
You can find these figures in the Department of Justices’ National Institute of Justice Program focus handbook here: www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/shockny.pdf, I promise I’m not making this stuff up.
I guess my point is: the system cannot force an individual into rehabilitation, so why do they even try? Criminals have the system down to a science. Addicts are often very intelligent, albeit manipulative, attention-seeking individuals. Sit in on and open-forum Al-Anon meeting and you’ll be sure to find victims who are past enablers of addicts. They can tell you first hand how addicts identify people like themselves, whom they can control and use them to their advantage and personal gain. Sit in on a sentencing or two in county court, read the headlines… “addicts” (hard drug users) are regularly granted second and third chances while people under the influence of alcohol or marijuana are not granted the same “understanding” or variance.
Calling a criminal and addict and forcing them into a rehabilitation program is a thin veil and is in my opinion overused. We are becoming a society of enablers, and it disgusts me.

What IS a “good” parent?

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
Matt White

I read a shared article from the Huffinggton Post recently that made me reflect a bit on the organized madness that has become my life with children.
The gist of the piece touched on that fact that most parents, like myself often feel unworthy of “great parenting” status and oftentimes – through the false guidance of other “perfect” parents – battle the self-criticizing war on being a well balanced parent; with hopes of raising a well balanced child(ren).
The writer, Steve Wiens, explains his biggest pet peeves in simplest form, which I can appreciate: The “Perfects” will say things like “You should enjoy every moment now! They grow up so fast!” False. Sometimes, that just isn’t the case.
What exactly would be the point of “savoring the moment” your prepubescent daughter immobilizes herself in a tantrum because she dislikes the flavor of her toothpaste, all of which you know is just a ploy to extend the pre-bedtime routine? I dare you to explain to me how this moment will be worth thinking back on and reminiscing over in twenty years. Not every single moment of our child’s life was meant to be relished in the first place. Just trust me.
Now, I’m sure many of you will conclude that I am some sort of horrid excuse of a guardian based on that though, and many more will claim to romanticize every waking nanosecond you child spends breathing; but let’s be realistic. You’re not fooling anyone.
Much like Weins, I’d like to take these folks (The “Perfects”, NOT the children) and hold them under water… just for a minute; just until they start to panic a little bit. Maybe then the “Perfects”will understand the gravity of having 7 arguing children under one roof at once. Maybe then they’ll understand why the first 3 minutes of dinner – when they’re all stuffing their little faces – is my favorite part of the day; maybe then, they’ll know or remember what it feels like to not be able to “take it anymore.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining, friends. It’s a very rare occasion when we’re all actually at the table at once. The majority of the time the size of the table seems exaggerated. I have two ex-spouses and we share our children, which is still a relatively new concept for me. Usually about five minutes after my children return to the care of their mother; the silence sets in and I can tell you with all certainty that I’d rather have them there arguing with me about how much they “don’t like corn” or talking back like a Disney diva than not at all.
Everyone’s heard the adage “with age comes wisdom,” or the like. I am slowly learning how to let things that I used to be so adamant about slide for the sake of my children’s autonomy, and for the sake of peace. I’ve come to understand that each of them need to be dealt individually and not as an army brigade. The dialogue in our house is ever changing and I swear I’m doing my best. I DO cherish most of the precious little time I spend with my kids out of default, so please don’t try and drive the point home by cramming it down my throat. Not every second of parenthood was meant to be framed on a wall.

A blog about blogging… and so-on.

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013
Matt White

One of my duties as a staff writer at a small hometown daily, is to contribute – at least weekly – to an online blog. I know The Evening Sun’s newest addition, Britt Grove, took no time in publishing her first blog, which is to be commended. I often forget about it, until someone in the newsroom mentions it… and then I usually spend a good 30 minutes or so trying to remember if I actually wrote or not this week. Moral of the story, for the three of you who read this blog (which is clearly an exaggeration): I’ll get there.
In the grand scheme of things, the Blog is situated lowest on my flagpole of priorities. In addition to writing daily for the Evening Sun, we as reporters have a host of other duties that vie for our attention; and all have a deadline that must be kept. For instance, I also write for our sister publication – The New Berlin Gazette – which thankfully is a weekly publication and other various editorial responsibilities that randomly make it to my desk with a simple “Por Favor” scratched on.
I’m sure it’s been uttered more than once; but a debt of thanks should granted to ES Senior writer Shawn Magrath and the Hometown Daily’s new Managing Editor, Ashley Biviano. The pair, along with good ol’ Pat Newell, the Norwich sports staple – who, regardless of his awareness IS an exceptional writer – managed to keep the outward appearance of this old girl moving gracefully into the future without haste. The stresses of daily deadline and expectations of the circulation were undetectable to the masses. They’ve carried the torch half-staffed, and Britt and are now here to share the weight of burden. Challenge accepted.
Inevitably, if I have not already erred, I promise now that I will. I also promise that I will try my hardest not to.
So, for now… that is all. I have other things to accomplish before day’s end.
You stay classy.

Just pay your fine now, we’ll tell you what you did wrong later.

Friday, October 25th, 2013
Matt White

Slapping the hand of too-big-to-fail financial giant JPMorgan is, for lack of a better term, Bogus. That’s right. Bogus. In an attempt to “teach them boys a lesson” JP Morgan has announced that it is ready to pay off it’s fine; to the tune of $13 billion to the U.S. government–potentially one of the largest such settlements ever enforced.
Seems pretty harsh to you and I, right? So why am I complaining? In the fourth quarter of 2012 alone, JPMorgan earned $5.7 billion in profits. The also reported that they took in $99.9 billion in revenue and $21.3 billion in net income in 2012. JPMorgan managed to notch its third straight year of record profits despite enduring the most embarrassing loss in its history.
But that’s not the reason why. In fact, money has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Instead, anyone willing to read between the lines will see that this is just another example of smoke and mirrors orchestrated by the Department of Justice soap-boxing how tough it has gotten on banks, giving Main Street the warm feeling that Wall Street has finally paid it’s debt to society.
The financial marketplace is not a safer one Problem is, no new rules or guidelines have been implemented to make risky business and unsavory dealings illegal. One of the biggest travesties of the matter is the fact that no one knows exactly what the huge settlement is for, because the details haven’t been released.
JPMorgan was begged by the government in 2008 to buy up the troubled Bears and Stearn and WaMu firms, who were the REAL perpetrators responsible for catastrophic risky lending, in order to stabilize the financial crisis. I’m fully abreast to the notion that “you get what you pay for”; and JPMorgan knew that going into the transaction, which is why CEO Jamie Dimon set aside something like 24 Billion dollars in a rainy day fund to pay for these ill ventures when the tax man would inevitably come to collect.
That day has come…but with what resolve?
That is a very good question.