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  • OPINION - A place where there are guns in school

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  In the wake of the Newtown shooting there are some who want to do something – and others who want to do something that will address the problem. If you appreciate the difference, you know that Wayne LaPierre’s proposal to put armed security in our schools is a more productive idea than proposals to ban certain types of weapons. Yet the proposal that might work has already been marginalized. The ideas that will be ultimately used as 2nd Amendment wedge issues will get a great deal of publicity.

    Now consider this: I know of a place where almost all teachers have firearms training and all schools have a weapons arsenal. School attacks are virtually unheard of there.

    It’s Israel.

    Almost everyone is required to serve in the military in Israel, so everyone who is a native-born citizen has weapons-training. Armed security is universal in any public assembly area – schools, hospitals, sporting events, government offices.

    Granted, Israel is a violent, militarized place. But there are no school attacks there. Why? Because the chance of a gunman successfully shooting up a school is low. Granted suicide bombers and missiles are the weapons of choice, and there are many, many other ‘soft targets’ – regional busses are the targets of gunmen and suicide bombers, even though many (but not all) that are guarded by armed security. But these are still lessons we should take to heart in the U.S. Make the schools a more difficult target, and many would-be evil-doers won’t even try.

    I don’t think twice about seeing armed Green Bay police when I go to a Packers game. Nor is there anything out-of-the-ordinary to see armed security at airports, or banks, or several other public places. I don’t think there anything wrong with conditioning our children that there will be trained professionals with firearms in their schools. And we’ll be surprised at how accepting our kids will be when they’re told “it’s for your safety.”

    Chris Conley

  • OPINION - Christmas In Wisconsin 2012

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) All of us at WSAU wish you and your family a very merry Christmas.

    WSAU’s annual Christmas programming begins at 11am on Christmas Eve and continues through 8pm on Christmas Day. As in past years, members of the WSAU staff host hours of our favorite Christmas songs, and we share some of our favorite holiday stories. Whether you’re traveling or gathering at home, our radio station will be good company. It’s heartwarming to hear how many families are listening as they open presents.

    This year Seth Mela and Larry Lee will be adding their voices to our broadcast.

    Here are some of this year’s highlights, staring on Christmas Eve:

    11am – Christmas In Wisconsin begins

    11:30am – A reading of “The Man and the Birds”

    1:00pm – Chris Conley hosts an hour of holiday music

    2:30pm – A reading of “Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus”

    4:00pm – Seth Mela hosts an hour of holiday music

    6:30pm – A reading of “The Littlest Angel”

    8:00pm – The annual Christmas Eve broadcast from Zion Lutheran Church

    9:00pm – Selections from the Wausau Lyric Chior

    10:00pm – A traditional service of Lessons and Carols

    11:00pm – Highlights from The Nutcracker

    12:00m – The Messiah

    5:00am – Holiday selections from The Boston Pops

    7:30am – The WSAU Sales Department reads “Twas The Night Before Christmas”

    8:30am – A rebroadcast of “The Man And The Birds”

    9:00am – Larry Lee hosts an hour of holiday music

    10:00am – The annual Christmas Day broadcast from Zion Lutheran Church

    11:30am – A rebroadcast of “The Littlest Angel”

    12:00n – Tom King hosts an hour of holiday music

    8:00pm – WSAU resumes regular programming

  • OPINION - Who am I?

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Do you know who Carly Patterson is? Or Diann Roffe? Or Alyssa Anderson? Even if you know the names, would you be able to recognize their faces?

    (If you’re playing along at home, they are all American women who’ve won Olympic gold medals. Patterson in gymnastics, Roffe in skiing, Anderson for swimming.) You might know them if you’re an enthusiast of their individual sports. The big money endorsements have passed them by. They’ve reached what’s likely the pinnacle of their lives at a very early age – late teens or early twenties. They’re too old to compete in their chosen sports at a world-class level now. They’ll be celebrities among their peers; anonymous to the rest of us.

    So what happens when the crowning achievement of your life comes too soon, and you still have 50, 60, or 70 years left to live? We like to think of our lives as building up to something. Young Olympians may be looking at a very long downhill slope with nothing that matches the lofty heights they’d reached when they were kids. For some, that would be depressing.

    How someone deals with that kind of depression is an entirely different issue. Obviously it led to very self-destructive behavior for Suzy Favor Hamilton. She isn’t making excuses for her behavior; I won’t either. And there are certainly mental-health issues here that go beyond what-to-do-when-the-cheering-stops. But I can understand the emptiness of looking forward to years of your life and seeing… nothing.

    This is a salacious story. The Smoking Gun’s reporting her activities nails it – right down to screen shots of escort service web sites, price lists and services offered, and “client” reviews of her skills. If she were a bigger celebrity, it would be hard to imaging someone ever recovering their public image from this. But our memories of Olympians are short. Suzy Favor Hamilton is a local hero. She’s tarnished, but she wasn't a household name to everyone. She'll have an opportunity to put this behind her. She also has a lot of life in front of her, which, hopefully will be marked with better choices. I hope that she gets the help she needs. I hope the rest of us show more understanding and less judgment.

    Chris Conley

  • OPINION - Propose a change to the 2nd amendment

    Posted by Chris Conley

    I’m back from a short vacation.

    U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during Veterans Day remarks at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, November 11, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I listened to President Obama’s address during the Newtown memorial service on Sunday night. I expected him to propose gun control restrictions during the speech. Instead he made the calculation that some groundwork must be laid before the specific proposal come. And come they will. “We need to change” was the operative phrase.

    There are many things the President can do by executive order in this area. (And the President believes in muscular, assertive executive power; see the work-permit and non-deportation orders involving illegal immigrants from earlier this year.)

    Let’s put all of these upcoming proposals through the following filter: “would this idea have prevented the Newtown school shooting?” I predict for many of the ideas that will come, the answer will be ‘no’.

    I can think of some ideas that would have made a difference, but I doubt the President will propose them. Suppose we make a law that says attempting to buy a firearm after knowing that you’re on the non-approved list is a criminal act. Adam Lanza tried to purchase guns five times, and did not pass the instant background check on his first try because of mental-health issues. I propose that his second attempt should have been a knowingly unlawful attempt to buy a firearm, and should have been a felony. Then he’d have been behind bars instead of breaking into a school.

    Suppose one of the conditions for getting a firearm license that there are no ineligible-for-guns people living at your address? That would be a change to the law that makes sense. If you have a felon or a mentally unstable person under your roof, you can’t have firearms in your home. That would have kept the gunman’s mother from keeping the murder-weapon in her house.

    If you come to the conclusion that these laws are difficult to enforce, I agree. And this shooting is, in part, the result of another law that’s difficult to enforce. Lanza’s mother had a legal obligation to keep her firearms locked and secure in her home. She didn’t. And she paid for it with her life. But how to you assure that firearms are kept in a locked gun closet or safe in a private residence? You can’t.

    I’m sure the proposals from Joe Biden’s gun task force focus on the kinds of weapons that people can and can’t own. That’s on the Obama Administration’s wish list. But it’s not where the solution lies. It falls under the heading of not letting a crisis go to waste.

    Here’s a challenge for the President and other gun control supporters: propose a re-writing of the second amendment. Put forth language that you think represents the role firearms should play, if any, in modern American culture. If you truly believe the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings were transformative in the gun-control debate, you’ll never have as-good a chance to advance the idea. The political calculations say it would go nowhere. At last that would be an act of political courage.

    Chris Conley

  • OPINION - Just barely

    Posted by Chris Conley

    On Air Sign

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) If you listened to our sister-station FOX SPORTS RADIO, you heard a high school hockey double-header last night. You have no idea how close the second game was to not being on-air. Chalk it up – almost – to ‘technology problems’.

    There are many radio old timers who have stories about broadcasts that got on-air just barely. Tuesday night was one of those nights. If you listened you wouldn’t really know, unless you read today’s blog.

    First, some background. We’re using a new piece of equipment this year for our high school sports broadcasts. The Comrex 10000 is marvelous. It’s a high-speed digital modem. It takes the announcers voice from the sports arena, codes it into a digital data stream, and then a second unit decodes the data and turns it back into audio at our studios. It does that with a delay of about three seconds. The result is a studio-quality broadcast instead of doing a football or basketball game that sounds like a phone call. Remarkable.

    But, the Comrex 10000 needs an internet connection or G3 cellphone access to work. Sometimes at high school hockey areas, which are often steel-framed barns, that’s a problem.

    We’d anticipated that problem at the Mosinee Recreation Center, where D.C. Everest’s hockey team played Mosinee last night. The Comrex 10000 was not able to make a Wi-Fi hotspot connection on Tuesday night. The G3 cellphone card – our normal backup – got only a spotty signal. Back at our studios during the sound check the signal was choppy and dropping out.

    Anticipating there might be a problem, a regular tape recorder and laptop computer were part of our broadcast kit in Mosinee. As a last resort, the game would be recorded into the tape recorder and then sent as an email sound file through the laptop computer back to our studios.

    That didn’t work either. There was no internet connection at the ice barn. Not through Wi-Fi. Not through mp3. Not even though the mobile hot zone that our radio station’s smartphone can usually generate. We had a tape recorded game, but no way to get it back to the radio station.

    So, thank you McDonalds. At the end of the hockey game we sped down the street to the Mosinee McDonalds where their Wi-Fi connection was loud and clear, and, one by one the game’s audio files were sent back to the studios.

    Tom King’s live broadcast on the Wausau-East vs. Wausau-West hockey game went a little longer than planned. That was a good thing. Five minutes later we began our taped coverage of the DC Everest-Mosinee game, as scheduled. But not without a lot of behind-the-scenes nail-biting.

    Chris Conley

  • THEATER REVIEW - A Christmas Carol 2012

    Posted by Chris Conley

    "He had been Tim's blood horse all the way from church."


    THEATER REVIEW (WSAU) There’s something wonderful happening with Wausau Community Theater’s “A Christmas Carol”. Now in its sixth year, it is indeed becoming a holiday tradition. More people are auditioning, so the cast gets stronger from one year to the next – especially in the supporting roles. The box office seems to be strong; the Saturday night performance I attended drew a large crowd. I believe people are now anticipating this show. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks.

    The quality of this year’s production is very good. Dan Drenk is understated but effective – a welcome change from seeing Scrooge played as an almost cartoonish grouch. Old Ebenezer’s transformation is even more effective if he’s portrayed as real flesh-and-bones. He was surrounded by an excellent Bob Cratchit in Brian Zell. Jeff McDonald as the ghost of Jacob Marley almost eats the scenery as he visits his old partner.

    This is an open-casting production – there’s a role for everyone who wants to be a villager or caroler. WCT reports that the number of people auditioning was up sharply. That’s reflected in the quality that was seen in many of the smaller parts. Maurice Schaus was delightful as Scrooge’s nephew Fred. Hannah Holbach did well as Belle, Scrooge’s fiancée from years ago, and as our closing narrator. Kelly Taylor Schaus and Zachary Hagenbucher were in good spirit, past and present respectively. The caroling was well-sung, both in the lobby and on-stage. There have even been small enhancements to the set compared to past years.

    When I was younger my Christmas in New York included an annual trip to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes. Years later, the Philharmonic’s performance of ‘The Messiah’ became tradition. In Connecticut the town-square tree lighting and evening caroling was on the must-do list. In Wausau, ‘A Christmas Carol’ is every-bit-as-good of a holiday season-starter.

    My 7-year-old twins were my theater-companions this night. Rachael declared it “a magical night” as we were leaving the theater. Her dad agrees.

    Chris Conley


    There’s one performance of A Christmas Carol remaining this season. It’s at 2pm Sunday at the Grand Theater in Wausau.





    Here is an archive of earlier theater reviews:




    CAMELOT (Oct 26, 2012)


    ANNIE (Sept 4, 2012)




    A CHORUS LINE (Jun 21, 2012)


    DR DOLITTLE (Mar 17, 2012)


    A CHHRISTMAS CAROL – 2011 (Dec 18, 2011)


    MAN OF LAMANCHA (Nov 6, 2011)




    OKLAHOMA(Sept 8, 2011)


    EVITA (Aug 8, 2011)




    SMOKEY JOES CAFE (Jun 23, 2011)


    KISS ME, KATE (Apr 17, 2011)


    HELLO DOLLY! (Mar 11, 2011)


    PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Feb 18, 2011)


    A CHRISTMAS CAROL - 2010 (Dec 17, 2010) 


    THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (Nov 4, 2010)


    PIRATES OF PENZANCE (Sept 17, 2010)


    MISS SAIGON (Aug 8, 2010)


    RENT (June 18, 2010)


    FIDDLER ON THE ROOF  (Mar 5, 2012)


  • OPINION - Newtown thoughts

    Posted by Chris Conley

    State police personnel lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in this handout picture from the Newtown Bee, in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012. All public schools in Newtown, Connecticut, were placed in lockdown on Friday following a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Credit: Reuters/Newtown Bee/Shannon Hicks/Handout

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Many listeners know that my family lives in Connecticut. Newtown is about an hour away from where my parents live. I know Newtown – an inland town that looks more like the New England you’d see in Vermont that the suburbia of the coastal part of the state. It’s a bedroom community near Danbury. It’s one of those places people think of as quiet and safe. I had a friend who lived in Newtown, but has since grown up and moved away. We’d visit them a few times a year in their while colonial home with a large wooded area near their backyard.

    Gun ownership is less common in Connecticut than it is here. There really isn’t much of a hunting culture. Unlike Wisconsin, many homes don’t have firearms in them. Although concealed carry is allowed in Connecticut, very few people exercise that right.

    There are already stories of heroes – staff members who protected students while putting themselves at risk. There is also the ‘fog’ of breaking news – the number of dead is likely to be revised as the story develops. This appears to be a child custody / paternity dispute that turned deadly. The gunman is from New Jersey, but he grew up in the area. The gunman is believed to have killed his mother and father before coming to the school.

    You can expect the tired old debate about gun control to fire up again. The much more obvious issue – the mental health of the shooter – will be given short shrift. It takes a sick mind to slaughter a classroom of kindergarteners. He’d have used a knife, a sword, or sticks and rocks if his determination to kill was strong enough.

    I still can’t imagine what I’d say to my kids – my youngest are 7 years old – if this happened at their school. How to you explain to a child that age that someone’s blind rage snuffed out their friends’ lives? The children in Newtown were told to close their eyes as they were led from the school, for fear they might see the carnage. For the rest of their lives, will they ever be able to look away?

    Chris Conley

  • OPINION - A Wonderful Radio Life

    Posted by Chris Conley

    I’m on vacation Mon-Wed next week. Tom King will cover my newscasts on the WSAU Wisconsin Morning News.

    It's a Wonderful Life

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Television changed everything. The post-TV generation thinks and processes information fundamentally differently than pre-TV’ers. Soon this point will be completely lost, as the pre-TV generation dies off completely.

    If you need proof, make a young person listen to a radio drama – a play where you hear only the words, not the pictures. A person who uses video stimuli for entertainment will have trouble following the story in a ‘The Lone Ranger’ or ‘The Avengers’ radio drama.
    You can conduct your own demonstration in person as Central Wisconsin Area Community Theater of Stevens Point enacts the radio drama of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. Take your kids. They’ll be using their mind in a way they usually don’t, since you have to imagine everything. Adults know the story almost line-by-line. But it will be new for most kids, and the drama will unfold in their mind’s eye and not right in front of them.

    Seeing a radio drama produced in-person is fascinating. A small cast of actors usually play multiple parts. They sometimes were basic props – a hat, a coat – as a reminder to other cast members about while role they’re playing at various times. Live-acted sound effects are usually very funny to watch in person. A good radio drama also includes live commercials and audience participation for applause and a life laugh track.

    This is a unique theater experience, and should be a lot of fun.

    You’ll also reflect on this: the same changes on how we intake and process information is happening again with the internet, which also changed everything. We expect a more on-demand, more interactive, faster experience. There will be a day when we’ll watch just TV with our grandkids. And they’ll think “how old fashioned.”

    Chris Conley


    Performance: Dec 21 7p at Ben Franklin Jr High School in Stevens Point

  • OPINION - Alone with our thoughts

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) My family had an unusual experience when we moved from Brooklyn to Connecticut. It was too quiet. We especially noticed it at night, when it was time for bed. From the bedrooms of our old third-floor apartment you could hear the sounds of the city. Traffic. Street noise. We were close enough to the El that sounds from passing trains were inescapable. You lived with it.

    When we moved to Connecticut, it was difficult to sleep because it was so quiet. You’d turn out the lights and get into bed, and then… nothing. It was as if being alone with your own thoughts – in otherwise complete silence – was unnerving.

    It’s worse today. We’re always being stimulated… sights, sounds, electronics, social media (even radio) are part of the din of everyday life. We’re so engulfed by external stimuli that we literally don’t know how to unplug.

    Consider this article from the Washington Post, where a religious order has built a secluded retreat for complete silence. People willingly pay $70-a-night rent to go there to just be alone with their thoughts.

    Laity Lodge, sponsors of ‘The High Calling of Our Daily Bread’ commercials heard on WSAU, also have a quiet house at their retreat center in the wilderness near Leaky, Texas.

    The concept of quiet reflection – processing what’s happened during the day, the week, or a significant period of our lives, is missing. We don’t know how to do it. We’re bombarded with information. We’re given no time to think about it before the next stimuli come along. The thought of being alone with our thoughts – no music, no books, no gadgets – disturbs us. We’d be bored. We wonder if we can ‘do silence right’. We’d feel unconnected.

    I’m an information person. I like having access to data, facts, knowledge, entertainment, media. But I also see a value in stepping away for a short time, maybe for a day a few times a year. Space to think, reflect, and process.

    Before the 1950s when commercial air travel was rare, businessmen would travel between New York and Chicago on the great luxury trains of the day. It was a 16 hour trip. They’d be unavailable from 5pm on the afternoon they departed until the following morning when they arrived. Trips to the West Coast could keep someone ‘in transit’ for three days. That’s unheard of today – powerful, important people being out-of-communication for extended periods of time. We knew how to disconnect then. No wonder why those trips were so enjoyable.

    Chris Conley

  • OPINION - The landlord license

    Posted by Chris Conley

    For Rent Sign, 9" x 12"

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Here’s a point I’ve made before: once you require a license for something, that act becomes a privilege and not a right.

    Keep that in mind as Wausau debates whether to require landlords to get a license. We’ve traditionally thought that one of things you can do when you own property is to rent it to someone else.

    A license is the wrong tool to solve a legitimate problem: run down and blighted properties in some neighborhoods. A better way is through code enforcement. Wausau already has extensive rules to deal with unkempt yards and dilapidated homes. There are also extensive heating, plumbing, wiring, and general health and safety codes. And the city council has unlimited power to add or change those rules as they wish.

    Further complicating the issue is not bad landlords, but bad tenants. Landlords have no interest in seeing their properties deteriorate. When a place is trashed, look no further than the renter to find the source of the problem. And landlords don’t have a lot of good options dealing with unruly tenants. Enforcing the fine points of a lease involves the slow moving and costly legal system. Eviction – the ultimate recourse for landlords – is very expensive. Many renters suddenly stop paying their rent once the eviction notice arrives… and they might live rent free for 6-9 months while the process plays out in court.

    Wausau has been lax in code enforcement for years, but those efforts have been stepped up in 2012. That’s where the solution to run-down rental properties lies. Landlord licensing is a huge infringement on property rights, and is the wrong choice.

    Chris Conley

  • OPINION - My union experience

    Posted by Chris Conley

    The traditional mechanical punch-type time clock has been largely replaced with software-based clocks.

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) If I have an anti-union bias, it's because my experience was so negative in the one union shop I'd worked in. It was in New York. I was a much younger News Director then. But I was management. The radio station employees had just voted to unionize. We were in that hazy area where the union had been voted in, but a contract hadn’t yet been negotiated.

    There were interim rules. No one could be fired. No one’s work hours or job duties could be changed. We were in a holding pattern until a collective bargaining agreement was in place.

    One of my employees – a midday newsperson – began showing up late to work. He was supposed to be in the newsroom at 9am, preparing for his first newscast at 10. 9:30 came… he wasn’t there. 9:45… still not at work. I began preparing the 10am news, prepared to go on in his place. He arrived at 9:50, made a bee-line for the news tele-type and began collecting the pre-printed news stories from the Associated Press. He was preparing to do a ‘cold-read’ newscast – reading stories he’d never seen before live on-air.

    I did the newscast instead, and spoke to my late employee afterward. “Sorry. Car trouble.”

    He was late the next day too. And the day after that.

    I wrote him up, and reported him to my boss. The case of the late newsman became an official union complaint. It would take a few weeks for a formal hearing. During that time, my employee was never, not once, on time for work.

    The date of the hearing came. A union representative, who I’d never seen before, came into the office. Our company’s lawyer sat in the meeting. The union filed a complaint against me. The occasions when I took over the 10am newscasts was a classified as management (me) replacing a union worker (the late worker). The union announced they would trade my “violation” in exchange for management dropping all of the late-to-work complaints against their member.

    Although it sounded outrageous, that’s exactly what happened. Our lawyer advised that small side issues would only complicate the upcoming contract negotiations, and that the matter should be dropped.

    The roles were entrenched. It was always “us” against “them”. The union would protect workers, no matter what; management was always considered overbearing and unreasonable.

    Not every union situation is intolerable. Not every union member is bad. I’ve worked in a union environment only once, and it was not good.

    Chris Conley

  • OPINION - Packers game times

    Posted by Chris Conley

    Green Bay Packers fans fill up the seats in Lambeau field before the start of their NFL NFC Divisional playoff football game against the New York Giants.

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Today’s topic is arcane, but enough people have asked about it that it’s worth addressing.

    Sports scheduling.

    Several times in past years, Green Bay Packers games have been “flex scheduled” – that is moved to a different start time to accommodate TV ratings. That probably won’t happen this season, even though the Packers have several big games remaining against the Bears and Vikings.

    The reason is a quirk in the NFL schedule.

    First, some background on the rules: the NFL will always give 12 days notice when game start-times are changed, except for the final week of the season when times can be changed on 6-days notice. Only start times can be ‘flexed’, not dates. (For instance, a Monday Night Football game won’t be changed to Sunday. Thursday night games are also hard-scheduled.) We will also get 12-days notice if a 12-noon game is being moved to 3pm. No advance notice is required when a game’s kickoff is moved from 3pm to 3:25pm to accommodate a national TV audience.

    So, why hasn’t next week’s Packers-Bears game been ‘flexed’? Fox TV controls the rights to the game. Next weekend CBS Sports, not Fox, has the national doubleheader. Fox won't have a national late-afternoon game, only regional games that are shown to a team's local markets in the West Coast.

    The following week, Fox, not CBS, has the national doubleheader. CBS, which has the rtights to that week's Packers game, won’t have the option of flexing the Packers-Titans game to a 3:25pm kickoff.

    The only possible time change for the Packers is the season-ending game in Minneapolis against the Vikings which might become an NBC Sunday Night game. But it’s not likely. The Packers will have already clinched a playoff birth by then, and the Vikings may have already been eliminated. It’s far more likely that the Seahawks-Rams or Cowboys-Redskins game will have playoff implications, and will be moved to prime time.

    Expect that all three remaining Packers games will stay as 12-noon kickoffs.

    Chris Conley