Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Penn State sex-abuse scandal about more than Joe Paterno: Diane Rodio

Plain Dealer guest columnistBy Plain Dealer guest columnist 
on July 28, 2012 at 7:15 AM, updated July 28, 2012 at 7:18 APrint

joe-paterno-statue.jpgView full sizeJoe Paterno's statue stood outside of Beaver Stadium on Thursday, July 12, 2012, in State College, Pa. It has since been removed
No one wants to hear from us, the "Joepostles" or "Joepologists," as some have taken to calling us. We are alumni of The Pennsylvania State University, the ones who have been following the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal as it has torn apart families, including our university family.
Well, too bad, we will be heard. Not because we want to glorifyJoe Paterno, but because we want the insanity of the last several months to stop so healing can begin.
We came to Penn State for various reasons. For some, it was because Penn State was an "in-state" school. Many wanted to attain a degree from a school with a strong academic reputation. Others, like myself, were attracted to the sprawling, bucolic campus, which created a sense of unlimited possibilities for personal and educational fulfillment.
Of course, there was football. I learned at an early age from my father that Penn State was special not just because of the plays on the field, but because of the way the players carried themselves on and off the field.
The person who established the idea of "success with honor" at Penn State was Joe Paterno. For more than four decades, Paterno was more than a football coach; he was a fatherly (and then grandfatherly) figure who became a safety net between the comfort of home and the unknowns of a campus with 40,000-plus students. He was not a god; he was a human being to whom we could relate.
Is it any wonder that so few of us could imagine this fatherly figure leading a cover-up in the Sandusky scandal? Then the Freeh report was released, and less than 20 minutes after the 267-page document showed up on the Internet, the media already had its headlines: "Paterno in Cover-up," "Paterno Put Football Above Sandusky Allegations."
Instead of hanging our heads, we decided to read the entire Freeh report. This is what we learned:
So many people let Sandusky's victims down. Caseworkers simply told Sandusky not to shower with boys anymore following a 1998 shower incident at Penn State. The Second Mile, the youth organization founded by Sandusky, called the 1998 incident a "non-issue" because it happened on campus. A janitor a few years later allegedly saw Sandusky raping a boy in the showers of the football facilities. He didn't tell anyone because he thought he'd get fired. By the time we get to the infamous 2001 incident witnessed by Mike McQueary, we see university administrators fumbling for a way to deal with a man we now recognize as a monster.
Many want to say that Paterno created a secretive culture because he "ran the school." Anyone who has read the entire Freeh report knows that Paterno did not want Sandusky's retirement contract to include his ability to bring Second Mile children to the football facilities.
There is so much that could be learned from these horrific events that could help with the healing process. Instead, the media have fixated on one subject since last November: Joe Paterno. His caricature-like image is the one that sells newspapers and gets online readers to click on links. It is easy to condemn a dead man. It is far more difficult to look into all aspects of the Sandusky sex-abuse scandal to uncover the missteps and ineffective actions. Again, so many people let these children down. Why is no one else being held accountable?
The media would be wise to investigate the Second Mile; Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who was state attorney general when the grand jury investigation took place; and the Penn State Board of Trustees, which clearly has not been equipped to handle the situation over the last several months.
And that is why we speak. This is about much more than Joe Paterno. This is about demanding accountability for all. This is about learning from mistakes to save other children. It's about reigniting the integrity of our school so that past and present students can say with pride, "We are . . . Penn State."
Diane Rodio is a writer and a 1986 graduate of Penn State University. She lives in Cleveland Heights.

(This letter to the editor was published in the Plain Dealer.)

(Reposted from Heights Observer, August 1, 2013)

Goodman finishes marathon and helps bomb victims

by Diane Rodio

UH resident Kevin Goodman beat his previous finish time in the Boston Marathon. 
It was meant to be a 50th birthday celebration and a chance to prove he still had the strength to run long distances. University Heights resident Kevin Goodman entered April's Boston Marathon with the hopes of finishing strong, and he didn't disappoint himself. He crossed the finish line at 3 hours, 3 minutes and 14 seconds. (His finish time when he ran the marathon in his 40s was 3 hours, 11 minutes.)

"I'm sure all of my runs through the Heights and my strengthening at Bikram Yoga Cleveland [in Shaker Heights] prepared me for that day," Goodman said.

He was recovering in his hotel room when something shook the building. "At first I thought it was fireworks," he recalled. "Then I saw black smoke coming up over the library building." Goodman called some loved ones to find out if they knew what was going on, then he went outside of the hotel and toward the finish line.

"I saw them setting up for what looked like a war-zone triage," Goodman said. He was impressed with the world-class care the first responders and volunteers were giving the victims. "I talked with doctors who said they had never seen something like this on such a level, but they rallied and they kept the fatality numbers low."

Goodman, like many marathon runners and bystanders, jumped in to help. "What you couldn't do medically, you did in any way you could. You moved people to different locations. You offered a comforting thought. You said a prayer," he recalled.

Goodman received letters from the mayor of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts thanking him for his volunteer efforts on that day. "I'm just glad I was there to help," he said. "I believe in the resiliency of the human spirit. We'll get through this and be stronger because of it."

Back at home, Goodman, managing director and partner of Cleveland's Bluebridge Networks, continues to run and train for future marathons, including next year's race in Boston .

"I'll be there," he said confidently. "I'll be running with an old trackmate, Rebecca Harris Lee, now of New Jersey. She and I ran at Wiley Junior High School 30-some years ago. She was hit by a car and has recovered and qualified for the 2014 marathon. I told her if she got better, I owed it to her to run with her."

Diane Rodio

Diane Rodio is a writer, editor and public relations expert in Cleveland Heights. BlueBridge Networks is one of her clients.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cuyahoga County Executive Article: Associated Content

If you're following the Cuyahoga County Executive race (and even if you're not), you will want to read this article that I recently wrote for Associated Content:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Curse the Tooth Fairy

"The Tooth Fairy left my tooth."

My six year old stood beside my desk with a zipped snack bag in her tiny hand. Stuck in a corner of the bag was a miniscule, jagged white tooth. My daughter's facial expression revealed that she was confused and a bit angry, but not upset--at least not yet.

I stared at the tooth as though it were a piece of nuclear waste.

"Oh!" I shouted as I jumped from the chair.

Running up the basement stairs, my daughter and the tooth trailing after me, I tried to think up a plausible reason why the Tooth Fairy had done something so idiotic.

"Well, you know, sometimes she gets confused. Like, remember that time when she accidentally put the money for your sister under your pillow?"

"Yeah," she said, her lithe body right on my heels. "That was kinda dumb."

"Yes, well, it happens," I said as I spun around a few times in the kitchen, trying to come up with a way to make this work. "Maybe she thought you were in a different bed. A lot of times you end up in our bed in the middle of the night."

There! My purse was hanging on the closet door knob. If I could snatch it and get upstairs before she saw me, I could deposit a buck on the floor beside her bed and tell her it must have fallen from under her pillow.

But this little kid was right on my tail. She watched me as I lifted the strap of the purse from the knob and bolted like lightning up the stairs.

"Okay," she said in her sophisticated, six-year-old speak, "what I don't get is, why would she be confused about where to put the money if she saw me in my own bed? And why didn't she take the tooth? It's weird, isn't it?"

Why are you asking so many questions? I thought to myself. I've got to think here!

"You check your brother and sister's rooms, just in case. I'll check your room again." I needed to get rid of her so I could pull this together.

She opened the door to one bedroom, only to see her sister lying fast asleep in her own bed. She quickly shut the door. The only thing worse than being gypped by the tooth fairy is incurring the wrath of your older sister after you rouse her from a deep sleep.

"I'll check Dominic's room," she said.

I absentmindedly went into my room instead of hers. There, I tore open the flap of my purse and rummaged through receipts and library cards. My fingers were like big, clumsy blocks of cement as I tried to work as quickly as possible. A ten dollar bill drifted in the air, and five pennies clanked onto the floor. I think a four-letter word spilled out of my mouth about the same time.

"No, it's not under his pillow," my daughter called. She flung his pillows and bed covers to the foot of his bed.

I was running out of time. I scooped up the money that had fallen on the floor and fumbled for a dollar in my purse. I grabbed it, threw my purse in my closet and ran to the nearest pillow: mine. I stuffed the dollar under the floral pillow case.

"Why don't you look in our room," I called, acting very nonchalant. "You never know."

My daughter seemed to be as annoyed with me as she was with the Tooth Fairy. "Why would she leave it in here? You and Daddy aren't losing anymore teeth!"

"Just check," I insisted. "Maybe she thought you were in here last night."


"Just check!" I was losing my cool.


She slid her little hand under the pillow and pulled out a dollar. For several seconds, her eyes were fixed on that beautiful green bill. "Wow!" she exclaimed. "A dollar!"

"Yes, well, see, the Tooth Fairy may get confused sometimes, but she always ends up making people happy."

I literally was sweating. If it hadn't been 8 in the morning, I might have had to pour myself a glass of wine to calm down.

As excited as she was about the dollar, she still couldn't figure out what had possessed the Tooth Fairy to act like such a bumbling boob. If this is your job, and the only one you apparently have, how could you botch it up so badly?

"How does the Tooth Fairy know I lost a tooth anyway?" she asked as we headed down the stairs.

"Um, she's in with Santa. And he keeps her updated on who loses teeth."

"So how come Santa couldn't tell her where to put the tooth?"

Is it time for that wine yet?

"Even Santa gets confused sometimes. Plus, you guys are always hopping out of your own beds and into ours, and so maybe he told her to check in our room first and she saw a body and even though it was your brother's and there wasn't a tooth under the pillow she figured she'd leave the money there."

Wow, how'd you come up with that brilliant deduction, Sherlock?

My daughter decided she'd expended enough energy trying to solve this conundrum. "Boy, that Tooth Fairy," she said as she rolled up her new dollar and headed to the TV room.

"Yes, that Tooth Fairy," I said, shaking my head.

Later that evening, I explained everything to my husband.

"I mean, I wasn't even thinking last night about the Tooth Fairy coming," I said.

"Apology accepted," he sarcastically replied.

"What!" I almost popped him on the head. Since when did the Tooth Fairy become only the mom's responsibility? "I'd accept your apology, too," I called from behind the door I'd just slammed, "if you'd offer one."

The truth is, we've both gotten a little lax about the Tooth Fairy. After three kids and umpteen teeth, the novelty wears off, at least for the parents. So one assumes the other is still keen about the job and will shoulder the responsibility, but the other one's thoughts are focused on loading the dishwasher or paying the bills or watching some grownup TV.

The result: a negligent Tooth Fairy, two guilt-ridden parents and one annoyed child holding a tooth he or she had planned on trading in for some cash.

Luckily, these rituals don't last forever. My nine-year-old has already begun to see the light. "I don't think the Tooth Fairy's real," she whispered to me while I was tucking her in one night not that long ago.

"Why not?"

"Because, someone at school said she saw her mom put money under her pillow."

It would be perfectly fine for me to tell a nine-year-old that, yes, her friend is right. The Tooth Fairy is really a mom or dad.

But knowing my oldest child, she would hold onto this shocking truth until she needed ammunition during a dramatic battle with her younger sister. Then, just at the moment that the little one had managed to get her goat, fix her wagon and bust her chops, she would pull out her weapon for the ultimate blow. "Oh yeah?" I could just hear her saying in her sassy voice, with her sassy hands on her sassy hips. "Well, there's no Tooth Fairy! So what do you think about that?"

I simply don't have the emotional strength to deal with that right now.

So I tell the nine-year-old, "If you want to believe in the Tooth Fairy, you keep believing, and let your friend have her own ideas." She seemed satisfied and drifted off to sleep. And so the fantasy continues in our house.

One of the greatest things about kids is their ability to forgive. They also like to offer the chance to try something over in the hopes that the other person--or in this case, the fairy--will get it right.

After my little one had finished ranting about the Tooth Fairy's bumbling mistake, she took the plastic bag with the tooth upstairs and stuck it back under her pillow. "I'm putting that back," she said, "to see if she takes it tonight... and leaves me a little more money."

The Tooth Fairy got the message: Finish the project, and leave some change to cover the cost of emotional duress.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Green Acres... in Youngstown

We were heading to my parents' house on the edge of Youngstown early Thanksgiving morning, when we accidentally got on Interstate 680 instead of staying on I-80 toward Hubbard. I cringed, knowing this would take us around downtown Youngstown and spit us out on Oak Street, a road I had traversed many times as a child but now avoided if at all possible.

Oak Street was never what you would have called a picturesque street. It was dotted with simple two-story houses, food marts, an auto body shop here and there and a of course a couple of beer gardens. (The Royal Oaks, a bar that has been around since Lord knows when, is still there and looks exactly the same as it always has.) Oak Street was urban and working class, a little gritty but still approachable--the words you'd use to describe Youngstown in the 1960s and '70s.

But it got uglier and unfriendlier as the steel mills closed and Youngstown struggled to find a new identity. Houses deteriorated; stores shut their doors. Oak Street became a road you simply traveled down--quickly--to get somewhere else.

Imagine the happy surprise that awaited my family and me as we turned off Rte. 422 and onto Oak Street. With the sun peaking just slightly over the horizon, a misty glow cast down on, of all things, green space. Dilapidated houses had been torn down, and in their stead was nothing more than grass and trees.

Gone were the run-down buildings, the ugly chain-link fences and the litter. The houses that were still standing looked neat. Oak Street looked like a city thoroughfare with pride.

I've been reading about Youngstown's efforts to become a great small town, in part by tearing down unsightly buildings and replacing them with green space. My brief time on Oak Street showed me that this initiative is underway. The street still looks and feels urban and working class, but, hey, that's what Youngstown always was, and that's nothing to be ashamed of.

Kudos to Youngstown for this effort. Keep up the good work.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Getting Nostalgic Over Paper

The pile of old newspapers and magazines sat weathered and dusty on my office floor. It was hard not to notice them when you entered the room, yet I managed to block them from my peripheral vision for more than two months. Once our two new kittens began to use the pile of reading material as a bed, however, I knew it was time to do something. There aren't many things worse than the smell of newspapers on which almost-totally-trained cats have lounged.

The reason I'd been putting off going through those old publications was simple and understandable, if you're a long-time writer, as I am. That seemingly annoying stack of slush represented ten years of my career.

The pile consisted mostly of Sunday Magazines from The Plain Dealer (back when The Plain Dealer had a Sunday Magazine instead of Parade), Crain's Cleveland Business and several national publications where I'd been fortunate to have my queries accepted and turned into actual articles. They dated between 1995 and 2005, and most of the articles I'd written for them had not been placed on the Internet. They existed only in ink.

So my mission, should I choose to accept it, was to wade through about 300 articles, select the ones that seemed to best represent my writing skills and scan them into my computer. The papers and magazines would then be bundled and set out with Tuesday's garbage.

I didn't want to tackle this task because a.) I am inherently lazy, especially when it comes to daunting tasks that I know will take me hours to complete and b.) I didn't want to throw away the memories.

"Create new memories--on your computer!" you may say. But as I leafed slowly and gingerly through the papers, it confirmed what I already knew: The memories I have of writing these stories is strongest when I hold the articles in my hands. Gazing at them on a computer screen doesn't have the same effect.

Why is that? I can still see the words and the accompanying photos. I can easily recall the challenges of writing some articles and the fun of writing others. But with a click of the mouse, these stories disappear. When I hold a magazine or newspaper in my hands, the stories linger. So do the memories.

As I read through articles from several years ago, I recalled vivid details, not so much of the actual writing process, but of meeting the people and visiting the places described in the articles. There was the dad who painted a mural of the Wizard of Oz across all four walls of his daughter's bedroom, the florist whose dog liked to wear cool sunglasses while riding in the car and the homeowner who happily gave my two-month-old daughter a bottle while I jotted down notes about her living room. I remembered lugging an infant to interviews when I couldn't find a sitter, and the extremely considerate interviewees who never complained about the extra bundle at the interview. I recalled the quote from a longtime Browns fan who was selling off his extensive memorabilia: "When I got married, I told my wife the Browns come first on Sundays. As you get older, you realize it's not that important." I can see myself sitting in the home of two prominent lawyers, who welcomed me in as though they had all the time in the world to talk with me.

The articles reminded me of the people I'd met and the kindnesses they'd offered me. I thought about the joys and sorrows they shared with me, the way they confided in me as though I was a good friend and how thrilled they were to read about themselves, their business or their home in a publication.

Anytime I wanted to relive one of those memories, I just had to find a paper or magazine and flip to my article. I guess it should seem easier now. All I have to do at this point is click the mouse a few times and find the same articles. It's better for my office and for the environment. Plus, once I get them online it will be possible for many, many people to view them. But it still makes me a little sad to let go.

So I've decided to hold onto about 20 articles in print. These represent some of the most memorable articles I've written. They also give me hope that maybe print isn't totally dead. Maybe there are a few others out there like myself who like the feeling of holding a magazine or newspaper in their hands and lingering over an article or two. Maybe they find print to be a better way to capture words and photographs. Or maybe I'm just deluding myself.

Either way, I've still got those print articles. Just in case anybody wants to look at them.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Betting on a Downtown Resurgence

At least two plans have been proposed for a casino hotel adjacent to the upcoming Medical Mart. We've got Jeff Jacobs and Dan Gilbert tossing their names and influence into the ring. The way the story is being played out, we've only got one thing to do: Choose which of the two casino hotel plans we like better.

There is another option, of course: Decide that you don't want a casino hotel downtown at all.

If you select the latter option, you may be confronted with puzzled looks, as some might question, "Don't you want downtown to thrive?" Well naturally we all do, and it's high time that something new and exciting headed downtown. When the Medical Mart is built, there will be a great need for more hotels, restaurants and attractions.

But do we really need a casino to boost our popularity and viability? Will Cleveland actually make money with a casino? It's not necessarily a safe bet.

According to an August, 17, 2009 post on, Las Vegas and Atlantic City have seen their revenues drop during the last few months. Detroit's Greektown Casino-Hotel is bankrupt. A Wall Street Journal article recently reported that 2008 revenues were down for two-thirds of the states that have legalized gambling.

Here's another potential problem with building a casino hotel next to the Medical Mart: It may discourage visitors from discovering the wonders of the city.

We all know that not enough attention is given nationally to the historic and cultural treasures around Cleveland. And if visitors are too busy stuffing quarters into a slot machine or betting on a game of poker, they're not going to find out about them. Think of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Hall, The Rock Hall, The Great Lakes Science Center. What about Little Italy, Tremont, Ohio City? How about that lake that doesn't get enough use? Don't we want to flaunt what we've already got?

Perhaps this is naive. Not everyone who comes to Cleveland--and possibly no one who comes in the dead of January--is going to want to traverse the city looking for things to do. There certainly could be a chunk of people who would rather spend a few hours in a casino than getting blown up East Ninth Street trying to get to The Rock Hall. But isn't it possible to build something besides a casino next to the Medical Mart to will attract visitors and get them to send positive reports back to their home towns/countries?

A casino hotel may very well be on its way to Downtown Cleveland. In that case, the Medical Mart may want to consider a special wing for products and services that help gamblers break their habit.