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  • OPINION: Gold medals, red balance sheets

    Posted by Chris Conley

    I will blog about the media coverage of the luge death in tomorrow's News Blog.

    Olympic Opening Ceremony

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) The more I hear about the finances of the Olympics, the more turned off I am.

    The host-city loses money on the games. They have to promise to build or upgrade doznes of venues for the various sports. There's no way to recoup the capital investment during an event that lasts two weeks. The city is left with intersturcture improvements and a lot of publicity, and red ink.

    The selection process is unseemly. People on the Olympic selection committee have gifts lavished on them, as thinly disguised bribes, while they decide which nation will host the games.

    Some nations simply can't afford the Olympics. It's no accident that the games regularly land in the US (since 1980: Lake Placid, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Salt Lake City). The other wealthy western European nations and North America are the "go to" places that can afford the games. It's hard to imagine an Olympics in Africa. Rio, which will host the 2016 games, is probably the only South African venue that's affluent-enough to even be considered.

    The broadcast losses on the Olympics will be substantial. NBC television begins its Olympic coverage with a $200-million defacit, and it could get worse if ratings guarantees promised to advertisers don't materialize.

    So I look at the Olympics with a jaded eye. The opening ceremonies seem overblown when you consider the game's finances. It's like a wedding where the bride and groom go deep into debt paying off the banquet that their guests enjoy,

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau
    2.14.10

  • TRAIN BLOG: Upstairs at Coney Island

    Posted by Chris Conley

    This is the latest in the weekend series of 'train blogs'.

    (126k, 986x740)<br><b>Country:</b> United States<br><b>City:</b> New York<br><b>System:</b> New York City Transit<br><b>Location:</b> Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue<br><b>Photo by:</b> Pablo Maneiro<br><b>Date:</b> 11/18/2006<br><b>Viewed (this week/total):</b> 1 / 1138

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) For a young kid in New York City who liked trains, Coney Island was a fascinating place.

    Coney Island was an ocean-resort for the rich and famous in the 1900s. The wealthy would move their families to the seaside resorts for the entire summer to escape the heat of Manhattan. Others would visit the bath houses and beaches for the weekend or the day. It was New York’s beachfront playground. And Coney Island has a colorful railroad history, as resort owners financed railroads to bring customers to their properties. Even now, Coney Island is the end-of-the-line for five subway routes.

    The Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue station had subway trains pulling in and pulling out every few minutes. For a train-watcher, there was always something to see.

    My Grandma Del Conte, who lived five stations up from Coney Island on the F-train line, found a special spot for me at Coney Island. If you rode in the front car of train, there was an outdoor stairway a few steps from where the train doors would open. It was intended for train-crew members to go upstairs to the lounge area where they could rest in between runs. But some passengers used those stairs too to transfer from one train to another; there were other stairs that led down to the platforms of the D, B, N, and QB-lines.

    From the top of those stairs you could see the entire station, and the Coney Island yard and shops beyond those platforms. You could see all the trains approaching and leaving. You could watch the passengers board, the engineers and conductors climb in, and the empty trains pull away and pull in.

    Grandma helped my climb up the stairs, and I’d watch for hours. It couldn’t have been too interesting for her, except for spending an afternoon out with her young grandson. Eventually we’d climb down and walk across the street for a hot dog at Nathans, and then back on the F-train to grandma’s house. But before we’d go, I’d want to climb the stairs one more time. The N-trains were starting to pull in for rush hour. The D-train was coming off the elevated tracks and pulling into the station. Our F-train was about to leave. Surely we could stay for a few more minutes… another one would be coming in a few minutes. Grandma always said ‘yes’.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    2.14.09

  • Center Stage Show Notes - 02/12/10

    Posted by Raymond Neupert

    Rebel For a Cause

    Valentines day doesn't have to be lace and roses and chocolates. Maybe you're in the mood for leather and a few drinks and some bowling... all for a good cause of course. This weekend, it's time to get out your biker gear and head to Dales Weston Lanes for Big Brothers/Big Sisters Bowl for Kids Sake. Executive director Tom Kellenhauser is here with us today. Rebel for a Cause: Bowl for Kids Sake starts tonight at Dale's Weston Lanes. For more information call them at 842-7207 or log on to http://bbbsncw.org

    There's still two days to Valentine's Day, take your special someone out this weekend for a good time at one of these events.

    Maybe your daughter would like a chance to have an authentic Victorian Tea Party with the members of the Historical Society. It's their annual Valentine's Day Tea Party with tea, treats, etiquette and time to create a vintage-style valentine. It starts at 1:30 at the Yawkey House. Tickets are just 5 dollars, and you'll have to register by calling 842-5750. Find out more at http://www.marathoncountyhistory.org

    If you're looking for something under the stars, Rib Mountain State Park is hosting their annual Candlelight Snowshoe Hike tomorrow night. Enjoy an evening candlelit hike along the trails at Rib Mountain State Park. There is no participation fee but a state park sticker is required. Snowshoe rental is available on a first come, first serve basis with free will donations accepted for the rental. It runs form 6 to 8 PM.

    If you've got a hankering to go cut some holes in the ice and cuddle up with your someone while your kids dip a fishing line or two, the Wausau Noon Optimists are hosting their annual Youth Fishing Jamboree. This event is an ice fishing contest for children 17 and under with their families. Kids have a shot at prizes and door prizes all day, and there's reduced priced refreshments. Awards are given for the "Fish of the Day.” The event runs from noon to 3 at Gulliver's Landing, just across the McCleary Bridge in Rib Mountain. For more information, call 675-3655.

    Next week, we'll get out and get cold for the Wausau Ice Classic for the Neighbor's Place.

    Ray Neupert

    WSAU Production

  • OPINION: If there was a music performance tax...

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) 1983. Long before my radio news career, I was a teenage disc jockey at WJBX in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I worked the graveyard shift on Friday night into Saturday morning while I was in high school.

    Wednesday was music day. Some of the air-staff would be invited into Program Director Mike Dowling’s office. Music Director Ross Holt would be there. Sometimes afternoon disc jockey Chuck McCoy joined in, or nighttime jock Cathleen Curry. Part-timers were welcome to attend. Sometimes even the sales manager would join in. Everyone could share their opinion about new songs the radio station might play, but if Dowling and Holt didn’t like a song, it wouldn’t air.

    The meeting would start with a discussion of songs we were already playing. Which ones were our listeners growing tired of? Those songs would be played less frequently over the next week. Some would be dropped altogether.

    Which were the hottest, most popular songs? They were played most-frequently. WJBX had six “red” songs – the hottest on our playlist – they’d be heard every two hours. We’d review data from local record stores and from the national music charts. Getting the “reds” right was critical.

    We’d pick six more orange songs”(an orange sticker would go on the tape cartridge). These were up-and-coming hits. They’d become reds if they continued to climb the charts.

    But the most interesting part of the meeting was picking the “pinks”. These were new songs that had just arrived at the radio station. Holt would bring in a stack of promotional copy 45s, and we’d drop the needle on the record-player in Dowling’s office. We’d never heard of some of the artists. Others were established stars that were picking singles from their new albums. We said “no” to far more songs than “yes”. And I’m amazed at how much we relied on our ears and our gut feeling in those meetings. (Music playlists are far more researched today – with focus groups recruited on the internet and the telephone to give opinions about songs.)

    I remember a spring 1983 music meeting when we auditioned a song called “Burning Up” on Sire Records. It was a female dance tune. Very catchy. with a bounce to it. No one had every heard of the singer, although someone thought they’d heard the song playing on a New York City station earlier in the week. Yes, “Burning Up” would be added to our playlist.

    It was the first single from Madonna.

    Suppose for a moment there were a performance tax, where radio stations had to make payments to the record labels for the music we play. Absolutely that would be part of the discussion in our music meetings. Pay to play an unknown artist, with a new sounding type of music? Wouldn’t it be safer to pick something from a more-established artist? We had no way of knowing that Madonna was visually-stylish, would go on to star in movies and be a concert headliner. Without that, we’d make a safe choice… maybe Stevie Wonder, or Paul McCartney.

    Radio is where most people hear new music for the first time. A performance tax on radio stations would mean much less music. And artists with new, unique sounds would be the unproved commodities that radio stations would be least likely to pay for.

    The Beatles had a unique sound… Steely Dan…. The Eagles… Billy Joel…. Sly & The Family Stone… Elvis…. They all had sounds that were not like the music that came before them. If radio stations were taxed to play music, we’d all be poorer.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    2.11.10

    I’ve blogged about the Music Performance Tax before. If you’re unfamiliar with the issue, radio stations already pay for the music we play. We play the songwriters who create the music. The recording artists and their record labels get billions of dollars in free airplay from radio, allowing them to sell records and sell concert tickets.

    A double-tax, where radio stations would also have to pay the record labels, would be devastating to local broadcasters.

    Please find out more at the National Broadcasters Association web site: www.NoPerformanceTax.org

     

  • OPINION: The payday loan big brother

    Posted by Chris Conley

    payday loans 180

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) The people who use a payday loan store can’t borrow money any other way. You’d get a bank loan, or use your credit card, or even borrow from friends or family before you’d pay the high interest rates and fees that your neighborhood payday loan store charges.

    And now the state is unveiling a new package of payday loan regulations. The bill is still subject to amendments, so some ideas may be dropped or added. Some of the proposals include a cap on interest rates (36%), limits on what percentage of a paycheck can be borrowed, how many times a payday loan can be rolled over, and a ban on loans where a car-title is used as collateral.

    The heart of this issue is the role of government, as a big brother or a referee.

    Most people would agree that presenting someone with two pages of fine-type legalese that the borrower can’t understand is an unfair business practice. If the government takes up the referee role, the bill should focus more on rules of disclosure. Simple language. Normal-sized letters that say very simply: if you don’t pay this money back, you’ll lose your car. Here’s how much you’ll pay each week. Here are our fees, and the interest rate we’re charging you.

    But the state is opting for big-brother-like regulations. And it’s likely that some of them will pass. The end result is some customers will lose access to payday loan borrowing. Other stores will shut down and decide not to do business in Wisconsin.

    One thing is certain. People who patronize payday loan stores are desperate for money. They will get their cash somehow. Some will resort to illegal activities, either theft or drugs. Others will borrow from loan sharks. It’s a strange kind of consumer protection law that blocks someone from borrowing from someone who might take their car, leaving them to do business with someone who might break their legs.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau
    2.10.10

  • OPINION: How much will we spend before we fail?

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) We’re getting a fascinating lesson on how government works, or doesn’t work, over the last 48 hours in Washington.

    The Asian Carp is already in the Mississippi River. These fish are non-native species and cause damage to the aquatic eco-system. They are tremendous eaters, and crowd out native fish like walleye. Sport and recreational fishing is at risk.

    Debate has centered on Chicago’s shipping and sanitary canals. If a canal lock in Chicag is closed, the Carp might be kept out of the Great Lakes. It's not a perfect solution. The locks were not intended to be fish-barriers. Chicago wants to keep them open for shipping and economic concerns. The other Great Lakes states want the canals closed.

    The White House held a ‘Carp Summit’ yesterday. There are congressional hearings today.

    Governor Doyle held a teleconference with reporters yesterday. By all accounts, our Governor will not get what he wants. But he told reporters yesterday how happy he was with the outcome of the meeting. The federal government unveiled a 48-page invasive species control study, backed by some $70-million dollars worth of funding. The issue has been raised with President Obama and his top science advisors. But the locks on the Chicago canal will stay open. The city already has a court order backing its position.

    This is what constitutes a success in Washington. A study. Spending money. Making an issue “higher profile” with the powers that be. But none of those things will solve the problem. As long as the locks are open, the lakes are at risk. Is there anyone who doubts that we’ll study the problem, spend the money, and the Great Lakes will still be infested?

    This is an insignificant issue for the overall federal government… barely a blip on the radar screen compared to health care, jobs, the budget, the deficit. But it’s a microcosm of what’s wrong. We are far better at spending money than solving problems. I know what the outcome will be. The only question is how much we’ll spend before we fail.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau
    2.9.10

  • OPINION: Open meetings

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) There are some circumstances where elected officials can meet in private. These reasons are few, and they make sense.

    When public employees come up for job evaluations, those sessions are private. No one would want to work for an employer where there job review was done in front of an audience.

    Pending lawsuits are discussed in closed session. The party that’s suing shouldn't simply be able to send their lawyer to listen in to a board meeting and learn their opponent's legal strategy.

    Contracts are negotiated in closed-session. One side or the other would have an unfair advantage if they were held in open meetings.

    Tonight the Wausau Board of Education meets to discuss a contract proposal with its teachers union. Tonight’s meeting will be in closed session, and rightly so. The teachers union will also meet privately to review the proposal put forth by a mediator who’s been working with both sides.

    But there was an earlier meeting that should have been open to the public, but wasn’t. A month ago the school board and its teachers union met to discuss grievances the teachers have with Superintendent Steven Murley. The public has a right to know about the specific reasons with teachers can’t get along with their boss. If they are legitimate reasons, public opinion might shift in favor of a change in leadership. If the grievenaces are just the frustrations of a tight budget cycle, the public should know that too.

    When this meeting took place, it was officially a contract negotiating session. Surely, it wasn’t. And cutting the public out of the process only makes it more difficult to win public support for whatever contract settlement is eventually reached.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    2.8.10

  • TRAIN BLOG: How it began

    Posted by Chris Conley

    To my surprise, there are people who like my train-themed blogs. I like writing them too. I'll post some of them on the weekends, when I'm usually not blogging about news or radio-related things.

    (242k, 1024x696)<br><b>Country:</b> United States<br><b>City:</b> New York<br><b>System:</b> New York City Transit<br><b>Line:</b> BMT Brighton Line<br><b>Location:</b> Kings Highway <br><b>Route:</b> D<br><b>Car:</b> R32 (Budd, 1964)  3668 <br><b>Photo by:</b> Steve Zabel<br><b>Collection of:</b> Joe Testagrose<br><b>Date:</b> 3/26/1982<br><b>Viewed (this week/total):</b> 1 / 3325

    NEWSBLOG (WSAU) You wonder how these things begin.

    My love of trains begin from inside my crib when I was just a baby.

    Our old apartment on Avenue S in Brooklyn wasn't much. We lived on the third floor. Two bedrooms. A large room that was both living room and dining room. An unusually narrow kitchen that ran the entire length of the apartment and had two entryways, an "in" and and "out", like at a restaurant.

    My bedroom had been my father's den. It was the den because it was the noisy room, with a window that looked out on the Brighton Beach subway line across the street. The other bedroom, quieter because it butted up against the apartment's hallway, was where my parents slept.

    And I was fascinated by the things I saw out my window. The Brighton Line was one of Brooklyn's busiest subways, and during rush hour trains would rattle past my window every few minutes. The D train was the express. They clamored by on the middle two tracks, 10 cars at a time, as they picked up speed from the Kings Highway station two blocks from our house. The M was the local. Usually four or six cars, older, covered with grime and graffiti. They passed by my window with a slower clicky-clack, never able to gather much pace in between their frequent stops. The QB-train run during rush hours only, mornings towards Manhattan, afternoons towards Brooklyn, filled with people coming and going from work.

    I'd wake up from my afternoon nap to the subway, thundering by every few minutes. At night, when the trains came only every 20 minutes or so, I'd keep one eye open to see them go by and then drift off to sleep before the next one came. In the morning, I'd wonder which train Daddy was on as he went off to work. And when I went somewhere with mommy, I'd jump and run and get worked up if it involved a subway ride. During the summer, when the windows were open, you knew instinctively to stop talking when the train went by -- you couldn't be heard over it. During the winter, the express kicked up a fascinating swirl of snowflakes when it went speeding by against the afternoon's setting sun.

    The subway as a part of the very rhythm of this young boy's life. To this day there's an excitement inside of me when I'm standing on the platform and the train rolls in.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    2.6.10

  • OPINION: We must hear the 911 calls

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I’m sympathetic to Jordan Gonnering and his family.

    On May 1st, 2008 he came home to the apartment he shared with his fiance, and found her beaten body. He called 9-1-1 to summon the police, and so began the Brittany Zimmerman murder investigation in Madison.

    The tape of the 9-1-1 has been part of the news media’s coverage of the story. Gonnering and his family say they relive that day every time they hear the tape. And they’ve heard it a lot on tv and radio newscasts and newspaper web sites.

    The Gonnering and Zimmerman families are proposing a state law that would block police from releasing 9-1-1 tapes to the news media. We’d have access to transcripts, but not the audio recordings. The idea has been put into legislative form, sponsored by Amy Sue Vruwink (D-Miladore).

    Why does the public have the right to hear distressed, panicked calls from people calling 9-1-1? The same Brittany Zimmerman murder provides the answer.

    There was an earlier 9-1-1 call that very same day. Zimmerman made it from her cellphone as she was being attacked. That call was mishandled by the Dane County dispatch center. It was incorrectly treated as a hang-up. The call was never traced. The call’s very existence was never forwarded to Madison police for investigation.

    This call has never been made public, as courts have ruled that it’s part of an open criminal investigation – and releasing it could compromise the case. But, someday it will be released. And the public has the right to hear it and draw their own conclusions. Were the police dispatchers incompetent? Is it possible they didn’t hear the sounds of the struggle in the noisy dispatch center? Was Dane County right to settle its lawsuit with the Zimmerman family over this tape? Should the dispatcher be fired over it? The dispatcher’s supervisor? If the tape was forwarded to Madison police, would the have had any actionable information about the case? Should procedures be changed over how supposed hang-up calls are handled? All of these are legitimate public policy questions. The public could not draw its own conclusions from a transcript.

    And there was an attempt to cover-up what was on this tape. Law enforcement sources initially said there was nothing on it. Others said the call was not mishandled. Others said the Zimmermans had no case if they wanted to sue. All of that turns out to be false.

    This is an unusual and tragic homicide case. What isn’t unusual is what happens when some public records are off-limits. Abuse of power surely follows. That’s why limiting access to 9-1-1 calls is a bad idea.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau
    2.5.10

  • Center Stage Show Notes: 02/05/10

    Posted by Raymond Neupert

    Woodson Art Museum

    It was a moving weekend at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, as a new exhibition took the floor. Las Artes de Mexico took the floor last week, and this week Chris spoke with Marcia Thiel from the Woodson. She's the marketing director. For more information log on to http://www.lywam.org, or call 845-7010.

    There's plenty to do, this weekend! Here's your Center Stage calendar of events for the weekend of February 5th.

    I hope you've got some warm clothing ready because all the best events for the Badger State Winter Games are this weekend. Bowling, Curling, Skating, skiing, ski jumping, quadrathalon, snowboarding, it's all happening this weekend around the Wausau area. And tonight on the 400 block, come out for the opening ceremonies. They'll be lighting the torch, and putting on a laser light show. You can find a complete calendar of events at www.badgerstategames.org.

    If you've got a need to get your D-I-Y on, or are looking to build an entire new home, this is your weekend. It's the 34th annual Wausau Area Builders Association Home Show at the Patriot Center. Stop down and find everything you need in one location including the latest in construction and building information. It runs today through Sunday. Find out more at http://www.wausauareabuilders.com

    If you've got a hankering for fish, in both the eating and catching variation, head on out to the Schofield Lions Club Fishery & Raffle at the Schofield dam tomorrow morning. Food and refreshments will be availible out on the ice. It's a $50 prize for first place and $10 for second in a series of categories. For more information call 715-359-3807.

    Next week we'll take a walk on the Wild Side with Bowl For Kids Sake's Rebel With A Cause.

    Raymond Neupert

    WSAU Production

  • OPINION: Lunch in Wausau brings back memories of pizza and horses from Brooklyn

    Posted by Chris Conley

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  I’ve discovered Palito’s Pizza. I’m also late to the party. They’ve been open in downtown Wausau for two months now. They serve authentic Italian, New York style pizza, and they sell it by the slice. It reminds me of my childhood in New York, and my first exposure to horse racing. Pizza and thoroughbreds have been enjoyable habits ever since.

    In New York City, very few pizza parlors sell just pizza. The rents are too high. Most have some other illegal business taking place in the back room. Some deal drugs. Some run numbers. Some have card or crap games. Others are into gambling.

    My Uncle Kenny from Queens was a part-time horse player and part-time pizza maker. The owner of the pizza shop he worked for was also a bookmaker, and took bets on sporting events and the horse races.

    One day during summer vacation when I was 6-years-old, I was going to spend a day with Uncle Kenny learning how to make pizza. He was showing me how to toss the dough and how to spread the cheese, when the phone rang. A customer of the “other” business was placing a large bet. $1,000 on that day’s 8th race at Belmont Park.

    The owner/bookmaker was angry. Some large bets are immediately considered suspicious. Four figures on a horse race is automatically in that category. A customer who wins too many of those bets will get kicked out by his bookie. Or will have the bookie’s mob ties deliver a warning about betting with inside information.

    Reluctantly, the bet was accepted. The bookie spent next hour or so trying to spread the risk among other bookmakers. No takers, as this is another sign of a suspicious bet. As a last resort, the bookie decided to lay-off some of the money. He’d go to Belmont Park and bet most of the money on the same horse. If the horse won, his racetrack winnings would cover most of paying off his customer. If the horse lost, the bookie would lose his profits.

    It was Uncle Kenny’s job to drive to Belmont and make the bet. “What about the kid?” he asked. “Take him with you,” the owner said. So off I went, with Uncle Kenny and a big wad of cash, to the horse races for the first time in my life.

    I fell in love with the horses, the sights, the smells of the place, and later in life the thrills of picking winners and cashing tickets. A sunny afternoon at the racetrack is a joy of mine to this day.

    I was very late getting home that afternoon, and my father was very upset when he heard where I’d been. I still couldn’t understand why Uncle Kenny was so happy that the horse he’d bet on lost.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    2.4.10

    Two footnotes to the story:

    Many years later, Uncle Kenny suffered a heart attack at the racetrack while waiting for the results of a photo finish to be posted. He won his bet, but the ambulance ride took most of his winnings.

    Out of curiosity, I tried looking into the back room at Palito’s. The only thing coming out of there is very good pizza.

  • OPINION: There's no escaping Tommy

    Posted by Chris Conley

    Outgoing HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson Caught With Briefcase Full Of <br>Flu Vaccine

    NEWS BLOG (WSAU) -- Republicans should be both happy and concerned about a new Rasmussen poll.

    In a head-to-head race, former Governor Tommy Thompson would beat Senator Russ Feingold, 47-43.

    I interpret the poll a little differently. The memory of Tommy Thompson (he was Governor 9 years ago) is thought of more fondly than Russ Feingold and the Democratic congress of today.

    Since leaving Madison, Thompson was known as a big-business Republican as George W. Bush’s Health and Human Services Secretary. He was a friend of big pharma, and proposed controversial changes to Medicare that would benefit large healthcare providers. Since leaving public life, he’s worked for Logistics Health Inc, a company that’s involved in electronic medical records including microchips that could be implanted under your skin for identification.

    Does any of this make Thompson unelectable? No. But it makes him a weaker candidate than 1991.

    And, of course, the very fact that Thompson’s name keeps coming up for statewide office shows that Republicans have not cultivated the next generation of viable candidates. Thompson’s omnipresence, and his habitual coyness about what he might run for, may even crowd out other candidates from coming forward.

    I agree with Dick Morris’ assessment of the political landscape. As long as an unpopular healthcare bill is lingering on Capital Hill, all Democrat seats are in-play. But only if Republicans have strong, viable candidates. Scott Brown won in Massachusetts not only because of general voter anger, but also because of a weak opponent and because he was an exceptional campaigner.

    A Thompson-Feingold race would be interesting, but the circumstances would be different than Massachusetts.

    Chris Conley
    Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau
    2.3.10