Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Times continues to change

Many of you have noticed presidential election news, talk of a recession and State of the Union headlines blending back into the A-section of The Times. This is a refinement of the local news redesign launched April ’07. When we created room for more local news and elevated its day-to-day prominence, we moved Nation and World news too far back in the paper.
We are going to move the obituary listings in the A-section to the B-section, and bring Nation and World page back into the mix. The straightforward change will address some concerns about global headlines being given a backseat.

This swap builds flexibility in the way we play stories, giving prominence to national news when warranted without diminishing local news. It is a compromise of sorts in our mission to be the single-best source of local news and information serving the third largest metro area in Louisiana.
Overflow of local news will continue to be packaged behind the Conversations and opinion content in the B-section. This "extra" local news will be housed near obituaries.

Journalists in new roles
Bill Beene has been promoted to Deputy News Editor from his role as an assistant local news editor. He will help oversee night operations on the Delivery Desk (our Information Center team dedicated to packaging the news for print and online). Beene will lead the charge on the aforementioned Nation and World page adjustment. He will help organize and plan business news coverage. Beene is a 25-year veteran in The Times Information Center.

Velda Hunter is now the assistant local news editor after working as the Shreveport City Hall reporter. Hunter joined The Times almost a year ago after moving from Clute, Texas, where she worked as city editor for The Facts. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. Hunter has covered city government, crime, education, business and environmental issues. Now, she’ll direct that coverage alongside Alisa Stingley, our local news editor.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Remember Randy Lovely...

Former Times Managing Editor Randy Lovely was promoted to Vice President News and Editor of The Arizona Republic. Lovely worked in Shreveport from 1997 to 2000. Lovely replaces Ward Bushee who left to become editor of The San Francisco Chronicle. Both are longtime Gannett employees. The Hearst Corporation owns The Chronicle.

From the Randy Lovely files (1 & 2): "Randy began his career as a reporter at the Sturgis (Mich.) Journal in 1986 and was named city editor in 1987. He moved to The News-Sentinel at Fort Wayne as a copy editor/page designer in 1988. He joined the Press-Telegram at Long Beach as a page designer in 1990. Randy joined The News-Press at Fort Myers in 1992 as assistant managing editor/photo and graphics. In 1996 he was named assistant managing editor/features and visuals at The News-Press. In 1997, he was named managing editor of The Times at Shreveport. He was named executive editor at Palm Springs in 2000." In 2002, Lovely was named managing editor of The Arizona Republic. He was promoted to executive editor in 2005.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Region’s cyber future virtually set with Innovation Center ceremony

Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker warmed a cold 200-plus crowd at the Cyber Innovation Center groundbreaking on Monday. The comedian inside the mayor introduced supporters on stage as he discarded the agenda. The late start and chilly weather inspired the welcomed editing. Only the headliners, Lt. Gen. Bob Elder, commander of the 8th Air Force and recently sworn-in Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, spoke to the crowd prior to the requisite shovel-and-dirt photos.

The crowd consisted mainly of business leaders, military brass, political dignitaries and media. Most huddled inside Bossier Parish Community College until the events started because many came unprepared for the chill sweeping through our southern climate.

Gov. Jindal underlined his position that helping "stand up" Cyber Command at Barksdale Air Force Base is a “top priority” for his administration. He explained that Cyber Command was among the few things he relayed in his meeting with President George W. Bush shortly after his election last year.

General Elder described an inspiring vision for the future of the Air Force built on the wings of the Cyber Command, now established provisionally at Barksdale Air Force Base. Elder is the architect and leader of the effort to expand our country's military dominance of air and space to cyberspace, fighting wars waged in the electromagnetic spectrum.

The groundbreaking for the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City forges another link between the private and public sector to develop new technology to fight wars in cyberspace. Microsoft and other technology corporations are touted as being interested in setting up offices here.

The next big community moment will come when the permanent site for Cyber Command is named. The hope of future generations are betting that Barksdale Air Force Base is the inevitable choice. Listening to the general and the governor speak, the crescendo of all the hype and build-up is only months away.

Photos By Douglas Collier/The Times: 1) Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker directs a group of dignitaries gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Cyber Innovation Center held at the BPCC campus in Bossier City. 2) Senator Mary Landrieu, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and Gov. Bobby Jindal join other dignitaries on stage.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Traffic ticket databases reveal disturbing racial trend

From microwave ovens to iPods, technology is a wonderful thing for quality of life. It’s also been great for holding taxpayer-funded agencies accountable. Armed with a PC and some basic software, government records, previously too painstaking to collect let alone analyze, are now within the grasp of average citizens and, especially their media watchdogs.
In the spirit of greater government accountability, The Times spent the fall collecting databases of Shreveport-Bossier City traffic citations.
The issues we uncovered are troubling.
The databases show a disparity in the way citations were handed out to motorists. Black drivers were cited twice as often as white drivers. The common term for that is racial profiling.
Can the numbers be explained away by simple demographics, you reasonably might ask. But it isn’t the population but the number of licensed drivers that counts.
Bossier City Police Chief Mike Halphen contends being a tourist destination skews analyses. Evidently, he thinks more than twice the number of tourists are black, or at least the ones he sees breaking the law.
At worst, the database shows a disparity that demands more sophisticated departmental analyses and bears watching officer conduct, re-examining their training and policies.
Shreveport Police seem to have the tools it needs to ferret out departmental issues using statistics. Bossier City’s data system is more antiquated.
When we began seeking this information, Shreveport was able to produce it in a timely manner for a minimal fee. They get a "B" in timeliness and readiness to fill our public records request. They omitted race in the first query for the stats.
Bossier City police receive a "D," taking four months and a huge bill for extracting the information from their mainframe database, although the final bill was less than the six-figure number they first cited.
Access to documents related to crime fighting and prevention is growing throughout the nation. These tools (see Portland's crime map with crime selector at the bottom) help police manage trends and police themselves. And they help citizens get information about these trends in real time, potentially helping police.
Without transparency in publicly funded agencies, all levels of government can wield power and make decisions unchecked. Officers hold a great deal of power as they enforce the law on the streets.
This can be intimidating if you don’t feel you can trust them. Transparency helps foster trust.
Think about crime-fighting issues. Police are sometimes dumbfounded when citizens won’t come forward with information when neighbors are victimized.
Well, if you believe you are being targeted unfairly by the police for any reason, are you going to trust them enough to tell them anything?
As former President Ronald Reagan said, "Trust, but verify."
In this age of openness and transparency declared by our new governor, reluctance to either produce data or discuss findings is unsettling. Both police chiefs would not be interviewed without having questions in advance. See the interviews online to give them your own grade in this area.
Once we had the information, we knew it needed to be accessible to citizens. The numbers are what they are, and the facts are better than any anecdotes.
There will be a few citizens ruffled by their names being in the database. Maybe they didn’t tell their spouse or parent about the ticket. Those issues are not issues for The Times.
In the face of statistics raising the kinds of issues we found, everyone can learn a lesson here.
Judge the statistics for yourself and through your own analysis. And when you find the same disparities we highlighted, be concerned and vocal about solutions you see. Share them with us, allowing us to amplify your voice.
Our mission is to free information from the hands of those who withhold what is rightfully yours, providing a tool for citizens to redress government and to live free, unencumbered by racial bias.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Stop and acknowledge the pain

A scrapbook of a child’s life that hopefully will end with the capture of a killer is a brutal reminder of the violence children face in some Shreveport neighborhoods.
Treveon Hunter’s killer roams while Katrina Clark, his mother, mourns. The pain she shares in today’s story (part of a series about unsolved homicides) should stop us all: "Every time I go to his grave, I show my child this book to let him know that I haven't forgotten about him.”
As police try to link evidence and solicit information that might lead to arrests in unsolved cases (see map), our community waits for the larger question to be answered: What will it take to stem the cyclical tide of crime and violence confronting some of the same neighborhoods month after month in Shreveport?

Photo by Shane Bevel/The Times: Katrina Clark says she is having problems sleeping knowing the person who killed her son Treveon Hunter is still on the loose.

Related articles:
Charge upgraded against man accused of killing Shreveport teenOrganization aids homicide victim's familyWoman heard gunshots that killed her teen daughter15-year-old girl dies in drive-by shootingOne man dead, one wounded in shootingWalkers hope police will catch 9-year-old's killerBlotter: Victim of shooting Tuesday diesShooting victim was honor roll student

To help: Call Shreveport police at (318) 673-6955 or Crime Stoppers at (318) 673-7373.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

DNA frees man to test system, again

Leesville's Rickey Johnson is a free man, wrongly convicted of rape in 1983. Some conflicting evidence at the time might have raised issues, but it took DNA and more than 25 years for Johnson to find true freedom after a miscarriage of justice.

In a January 15 Times story, Johnson said, "I can never get back what I lost and I'm not going to try. I'm just going to focus on the future." Concerned about whether he could get a driver's license, he did that first.

But he should get some compensation, a nest egg, thanks to legislation passed in 2005. When the euphoria of the moment passes, this is money he will need and should pursue.

When Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover was a legislator, he stood before a large group gathered
at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Group at the now-closed Pete Harris Cafe touting cases of other wrongly convicted people. His inspiring message alongside the testimony of people like Calvin Willis, wrongly convicted of rape and freed on DNA evidence after 21 years in jail, helped gain support for a bill that offers some compensation for the state's error.

Willis still hasn't received any money for his unjust incarceration. Will Johnson get the $150K he is due given his now-clean slate? Will the system fail again?

Photo by Vickie Welborn/The Times:
Rickey Johnson wipes tears from his eyes while holding onto a sister after reading a judge's order that formally declares him free of the aggravated rape charge of which he was wrongly convicted in January 1983. Johnson, 52, of Leesville, was freed Monday after more than 25 years of wrongful incarceration.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Bayou Bliss; LSU triumphs, again

“From fake field goals to close calls to triple-overtime losses to coaching rumors to BCS shakeups, there’s never been a college football season like this one. From start to finish, each weekend felt like a no-one-could-have-scripted-it-this-way event. And at the forefront were our LSU Tigers. Sure, they started the season ranked at the top of the polls, but no one could predict how they would finish there. “

James Carville, an LSU alum and political consultant, shares his passion for LSU football writing the Foreword for The Times’ new book, “Bayou Bliss”.

The 176-page labor of love is available thanks to some of Louisiana’s greatest sports journalists. Five newspapers came together to create this one-of-a-kind coffee-table book of photos, stories and stats for each game. It is a document of an amazing football season for LSU. The 34-page championship chapter is complete.

“… And it sure feels good to win!”

Carville is an author, actor, producer, speaker, and restaurateur. Currently, Carville is hosting XM Satellite Radio's "60/20 Sports". He became America's best-known political consultant after he helped William Jefferson Clinton win the Presidency in 1992.

LSU photos posted are by Greg Pearson/The Times. These and more can be viewed in photo galleries posted at and

Monday, January 7, 2008

Off "The Island" ... New Orleans still hurts

"This city remains in shambles," says Times columnist.
Roy Lang III, assistant sports editor on assignment to the BCS National Championship in New Orleans, is struck by the contrast between the normalcy of life in the French Quarter and what lies a short drive away: "Many will assume New Orleans has recovered from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall 28 months ago. New Orleanians wouldn't want it any other way — the people of this city need folks to believe such a recovery has been made."
Journalists descending on New Orleans report inside and outside the Superdome. Lang's headline: " 'The Island' will shine tonight while rest of New Orleans cries for help"

Photos by Mike Silva/The Times: 1. After all this time a teddy bear still remains in a home that was flooded when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. 2. A group of pink tents sit in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. They are part of the Make it Right Project started by actor Brad Pitt in hopes of repopulating the ravaged area.
See the gallery of Katrina Damage.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Troop deployment photos iconic

Times photographer Douglas Collier captured memorable and classic images from the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 165th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion deployment. Many of the moments shared in his photo gallery speak volumes about the sacrifice and commitment of our neighbors and friends beginning their mission in Iraq.

Photo by Douglas Collier/The Times: Major James Allen of Bossier City, La. kisses his son goodbye while he and his fellow members of the Louisiana Army National Guard's 165th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion were deployed January 6, 2007 from the Combat Support Sustainment Battalion HQ in Bossier City to Mississippi for training.

This image is iconic like many we've seen in Life, Time or other news magazines' wartime coverage.

See the photo gallery of Saturday's farewell event in Bossier City.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Joy Fund exceeds expectations

Smiles galore, food for families and much warmth was provided through The Times Joy Fund. This is due to Times readers who shared their good fortune with those less fortunate. The lists of donations published daily in the newspaper and online are inspiring. The honorariums and memorials are touching.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you
for contributing.

The Times Joy Fund donations totaled $108,310.30, exceeding the $100K goal for 2007. A few additional donations are still trickling in to start next year’s fund. Of the 26 nonprofit projects proposed, 18 were funded. The Salvation Army received $40K for their ongoing campaign to assure homeless and needy children are cared for during the toughest time of the year.

Here is how the outpouring of generosity made a difference:
1. Caddo Council on Aging prepared meals for 1,000 homebound seniors and goody bags for seniors at 11 sites, $2,800.
2. Joy Home for Boys provided shoes for 22 boys and provided a Christmas event, $2,000.
Johnny Gray Jones Regional Shelter purchased Christmas gifts for the youth housed at the shelter who ordinarily would not have a Christmas at all, $1,500.
4. Bossier Council on Aging delivered Christmas stockings to 500 homebound clients, $2,500.
5. Biedenharn Center for Women’s Issues made Christmas better for 12 women and 16 children, $2,000.
6. Community Support Programs provided toys and gifts for abused and neglected children and teenagers, $2,000.
7. Interfaith Pharmacy provided free diabetic supplies – $150 offers a one month’s supply, $3,000.
Community Renewal International assisted 10 coordinators with events at their Friendship Houses in at-risk and low income neighborhoods, $5,000.
9. Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana distributed food to 2,000 senior citizens living in poverty and over 500 children, $5,000.
Volunteers of America provided gifts and basic assistance to 1,200 children and parents, senior citizens and people with disabilities, $16,000
Providence House provided assistance to 65 homeless families and children, $16,000.
12. Martin Luther King Health Center provided laboratory testing for a patient base of 400, $1,500.
Hilman House purchased age-specific gifts for children with cystic fibrosis and will purchase food for families in need, $1,700.
14. Unity in Prayer Outreach Ministries provided help for at-risk children and needy families, $1,480.
Hope Youth Ranch Inc. provided residential services for 69 boys ages 8-17, $1,530.
16. The
Salvation Army provided angel tree gifts for children and helped the homeless and senior citizens with clothing and food, $40,000.30.
Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission provided emergency food, clothing and shelter to homeless men in need, $1,800.
Philadelphia Center served food and bought gifts for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, $2,500.

Next year, our goal will be $120K, an amount reached in 2006. The additional monies in the 2008 goal may allow more families in area neighborhoods to receive food and toys. We hope to give more to the VOA and Providence House for their large holiday projects too. For those proposals unfunded this year, we are maintaining a file of the requests as we review the agencies closer and work to receive more funding next year.

It is a joy to live in a community filled with so many caring and giving members. Thank you again for blessing those in need.

Photos (top to bottom):
1. Twins Emma and Gracie Ryan, 2, play at the Highland Center Child Development Center. Their mother, Amy Ryan, is a student who works as a teacher's aide and doesn't have money left for Christmas after paying the bills. (Mike Silva/The Times)
2. Curala Dyer, The Salvation Army's local Angel Tree coordinator, shows off one of the "ornaments" from the tree in Pierre Bossier Mall in Bossier City. (Jim Hudelson/The Times)

Monday, December 31, 2007

Independence Bowl shines bright

The glow of Independence Stadium in Shreveport filled with bowl game fans was a great sight Sunday night. All gathered to see Alabama and Colorado fight for bragging rights following their 6-6 seasons.
'Bama never gave up their early lead. They won 30-24.
What started out as a 'Bama blowout though turned into a game. Colorado's offense finally showed up in the second half and started a run that kept fans worried and hopeful until 2 minutes remained.
Relive the game and review The Times coverage at the Independence Bowl site (located at

Notes for attending next year:
1. Use the parking shuttles available at area shopping malls. Save yourself the hassle of parking and traffic. The shuttle remained efficient and easy-to-use.
2. If you have bleacher tickets, be prepared to move from assigned seating. People standing and rabble rousers make it hard to watch the game, and shifting to open seats with an open view really isn't a problem after the first quarter.
3. Review the weather carefully. As the temperature dropped Sunday, gloves, jackets and blankets were a godsend watching sweatshirt-clad fans shiver.
4. Consider the crowd. Children will be exposed to cursing and drinking. This is not a major problem until profanity is directed back at the crowd. Some college-aged folks act untamed, and talking reason to them will yield little good. Move again to keep the experience fun.
Multiple photo galleries of fans and action are ready for viewing (sampling of images above right).

No more computer bugs in 2008

As each of us compile our New Year’s resolutions, consider Times reporter Alexandyr Kent’s collection of technology resolutions. Computer guru Thomas Avallone offers compelling testimony to motivate better computer habits, "I've had bugs crawl out of laptops.”

Listed today:
1. De-clutter the desktop
2. Organize your Inbox
3. Audit bookmarks, pictures, music files and buddy lists
4. Smoking is bad for computers, too
5. Keep crumbs and critters at bay
6. Reduce the wire count
7. Secure Wi-Fi home network
8. Update virus software regularly
9. Back up files regularly
10. Consolidate address books

We should note that spraying a can of Raid into a computer to debug is not recommended.

Monday, December 24, 2007