Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year In Review: The Road ahead, the path behind

For the past couple of months I have looked forward to one thing; this year ending.  It has been a hard year filled with turmoil and hardship both personally and professionally.  I am glad to see this year end, it couldn't come soon enough for me.

The professional challenges this year have been great.  With the tough economic times and uncertainty I have been placed in a different role turning reporter and writer often times.  It has been a challenge to do some things but we still manage to put a paper out and keep the public updated about breaking news and current events through our website.
Personally it has been a hard year, a family crisis dominated a vast majority of my waking hours and the anxiety and fear followed me to work on assignment.  It is hard to worry about family all the time and step into the role of a journalist.  I could care less about someone else and their problems or their story when I carried the weight of my problems around.  Sometimes my heart just wasn't in the assignment but still you are expected to work.

The assignments are the same, the violence seems to go on and on, I wonder if anyone really cares as I stand behind another line of crime scene tape in the darkness.  It doesn't seem to make any sense.

But as bad as things may be, as heavy as the burden feels I can still see a chance for a better future for us here down the road.  I think we have to leave the tragedies and sorrows, the mistakes and angst of the past year behind us.  The path that got us to this new year may have been a hard one fraught with difficulty and despair but we are here and we should be proud of our accomplishments it and celebrate the fact that we made it this far.
Farewell to 2010, I look forward to the new adventures heading into 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year In Review: Closure

Of all the things that happened this year in Tracy one of the brights spots as this year ends is we had closure on some of our darkest times.

In 2009 we saw the horrific and  heart wrenching as news stories of pain and suffering played out in newspaper pages.  Some could not imagine that events like the Sandra Cantu murder, the Cynthia Ramos murder or the shooting at Amore's Italian Restaurant could happen in our town.  There were arrests but the slow steps of the justice system were like an open wound.  It hurt just to think about it.
This year we found closure as saw of the high profile cases ended.  Melissa Huckaby's plea, the two killers of Cynthia Ramos accepting pleas and the conviction of the shooter in the Amore';s shooting finally gave us an opportunity to put those horrible moments behind us.  A time to heal and move on.
There are still some court cases in progress and the new cycle of violence brings uncertainty but we can look back at the those dark days when everything seemed to be despair and disarray.  Those days have passed, the stories concluded and passed into the archives.  Time to move on.

Cycle of violence

Shivering in the middle of the Holly Drive and Eaton Avenue intersection I watched as Tracy Police officers followed a trail of blood along the sidewalk charting the curse of a victim of a stabbing as he tried to flee the attack.  Another senseless act of violence and  gang related.

Last night's stabbing may have been retaliation for last week's drive-by shooting on north Holly Drive where a teen was shot in the back.  That shooting may have been in response to an earlier shooting.  The hate and violence keeps going on and on.  It is a only a matter of time before an innocent bystander is caught up in this violence.
Driving to work the other day I saw a group of men dressed in red flannel standing in the rain watching traffic go by.  I know this sounds like profiling but my first thought was they were gang members watching for their next victim.  I know that sounds harsh but in light of the week's events it seems true.
I remember riding with the Tracy Police during their gang suppression efforts.  It quited the violence that had begun with random shootings and ended in the murder of a man on his 21st birthday.  Maybe a return to those patrols would help quell this outburst of gang violence.
Someone told me the problem is that the gang members have no moral compass.  I agree they have concept of right or wrong or the consequences of their actions from pulling the trigger to thrusting the knife blade.  I am not sure what it will take but we need to break the cycle of gang violence soon before it spills more blood.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Year In Review: A loss remembered

The saddest day of the year had to be standing on an irrigation bank in late September as friends and family remembered four teens who died in a car accident.
The car lost control and plunged into an irrigation canal off a stretch of Schulte Road killing the four occupants.  A memorial service was held the next day at the site of the crash as community members gathered around the family to offer support.
As I watched the sunlight fade and the glow of the candles held by mourners light their tears I remembered why often times I do not like my job at all.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A friendly reminder

Those who visit this blog should keep one thing in mind.  This is my blog.  Not the Tracy press blog.  I have my own rules for posting and for guests who want to leave comments.  Now the Tracy press website allows people to comment on stories and give their opinions and rants and versions and what not and they allow it to be done anonymously.  I can't stand it.  The fake names, the racist comments and crap that is the Tracy Press website's problem.  If you want to get on your soapbox and preach to me or call me out on my blog you better you leave your name.  Your real name.  I give people one chance.  If I have to shame you in to giving your name then you don't deserve to be on my blog.  It is my blog, I get to say who or what appears on it.  if you don't like that too bad.

Someone tried to comment anonymously on my blog about the "real" facts of the car crash involving the bicyclist.  I put his comment then added my own.  Another fake name commentor tried to comment again.  Comments on that posting are over.  Get over it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Year In Review: Ghost hunters

Walking through the darkened halls of the Banta Inn bathed in the green glow of lasers I knew I was in for the most unique assignment of the year.  A group of ghost hunters had descended on the tavern in Banta to search for spirits thought to haunt the rooms in the dark of night.

It wins the award for creepy assignment of the year as I followed the paranormal investigators from room to room calling out in the darkness for the spirits of the dead to make contact.

I never saw anything nor did I record any ghostly apparitions but it was still quite a night and one of the better times out in the field this year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Night terrors

Just when you think all the craziness is over you get that call asking if you have the police scanner tuned on.  Another shooting in north Tracy, a drive by injuring one man who was shot in the back.
 I headed over to the landing zone to get a shot of the victim getting airlifted out by air ambulance.  Then I headed over to the crime scene to get pics of the area where he was shot.
Not a very good way to head into Christmas.  Hopefully the new year around the corner will bring us better luck and more quiet.


The shutter on my Canon Eos 1D MkII died at the rip old age of 781,880 exposures.  Rest easy old friend I will miss you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Year In Review; "Olé!"

Wow what can you say about people who tackle a bull just for fun?
Portuguese Bloodless bullfighting has returned to Tracy as part of the annual festa celebration at the bullring on 6th Street.
Every summer the ring is turned into a little slice of Portugal as bullfighters and forcados take turns testing their bravery in the bullring.  It is something everything should see at least once.  It's OK if you don't speak the language just go for the sights.
Oh and I always root for the bull.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Year In Review: Sign of the times

The fun thing about this assignment was when one of the ladies from McKinley School in this photo realized they had been photographed holding a sign hoping for a program at another school to be cut instead of theirs they realized there might be some bad feelings.  They called and asked we not run the picture or use their name.  We said no to both requests.
Freedom of speech is a great thing but it does have some costs.  Anonymity is one of them.  Holding a sign and trying to draw attention to your plight is a sure fire way to waive any right to privacy you might enjoy.  Picketers, protesters and marchers all carry that same burden.  Free speech is not free.  I never heard if they sign carrying teachers received any heat from the other school as the Poet Christian program was eventually scrapped and it certainly was one of the more dramatic school budget meeting pictures.

The Year In Review: The most hated photo of the year

When I shot this photo I knew I had put my self in a bad spot.  A man had been struck and critically injured by a car as he was riding his bike down 11th Street.  It was the second time in less than a week that there had been a serious car accident in that general area of Tracy roadway.  I knew the photo of the victim, bloodied nearly naked on the ambulance gurney would not be popular but I was surprised how hated it became.
In case you don't know the general rule of spot news photography is you don't edit in the field.  I don't stop and ponder "is this photo inappropriate, is it too graphic?"  Editing such as that is better left for the newsroom.  Just because I shoot a picture does not mean it will run in the paper or appear online.  This photo did appear and drew the ire of many readers and family members of the victim.
It is not often I am vilified at work but this was one of those occasions.  The bright spot is no one showed up at the paper with pitchforks and torches.  Would I take a photo like this again in the future?  probably I would.  It was a horrific accident and demonstrated the dangers of drivers on 11th Street who use the road as their own personal drag strip with no regard for other drivers or vehicles.  On a sad note the last we heard about the victim of the crash is he was still in the hospital in a coma from his head injuries sustained in the crash.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Year In Review: Creepy, very creepy

So of the whole year's worth of assignments these three assignments still give me the willies.

Clown show
Need I say more?

The chicken
I don't know but it just isn't natural.

The dancer
"And one and two and cabbage patch"... be afraid, very afraid.

The Year In Review: Bombs away

It was a fun time this year chasing scanner calls of shootings, fires and murders.  But I had two calls that I don't see a lot.  Twice I found myself photographing the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Bomb squad as they had a report of an explosive device in Tracy.
the First call was odd, a report of a suspicious package left at the post office.  Bomb Squad officer blew up the device only to find out it was some kind of barbell exercise equipment.  I figured some Ebay buyer was going to be very upset with his winning bid.
The second was a little more serious as a man caught trying to pass a bogus check at a bank was found to have some kind of device in the trunk of his car.  The item looked like a tube with a fuse and the result was a an evacuation of the shopping the bank was in as officer tried to figure out what it was.
After a few x-rays of the object it was thought to be a smoke bomb and the device was removed and taken to the police firing range to be detonated.  No one was injured but it was quite the scene with television crews, reporters and onlookers gathered behind the crime scene tape.
Two bomb scares none of them real and and at least I got to hear one pretty cool explosion.