Tuesday, October 27, 2009

27 OCT 09 (FINAL): Stray Cat?

You never know what you'll see when you go for a morning jog. I definitely saw a first Monday morning - when I ran past someone who appeared to be an escaped state prison inmate on the Riverwalk. I mean, I doubt they give away "STATE PRISONER" jackets to people leaving for good behavior.

I jogged by this man shortly after 9:00 a.m. between South Commons and Port Columbus. A wooden bridge connects the two areas on the Riverwalk. When I entered the west end of the bridge, I saw the man at the east end - and the jacket lettering was obvious that far away. So I apparently don't need my glasses checked for the next year....

Would you have been scared by the sight of the words "State Prisoner" across the bridge? Actually, I wasn't. Prison work crews like to get an early start, cutting grass and clearing weeds along the Riverwalk. As long as I didn't have to breathe in too much grass pollen and gasoline fumes, I could keep jogging.

The mystery man walked east ahead of me, so I jogged on. If he had turned around and approached me, things might have been different. And if he had pointed a Weed-Whacker toward me like he wanted to hold a sword fight, it REALLY would have been different.

A steep grass embankment is on the left, when you reach the east end of the wooden bridge. As I jogged there, I noticed the man walking up that embankment - then turning around and coming back down, only a couple of feet from the top. If this was a state prisoner attempting a getaway, he hadn't spent enough time in the weight room.

Moments later, my jogging caught me up with the walking man. At that point I noticed the bald five-foot-nine man had nothing in his hands -- and no prison work crew anywhere around him. Somehow I don't think Rutledge State Prison is training land surveyor scouts these days....

"How're you doing?" the man wearing a standard-issue white jacket asked quietly as I passed him on the left. Wow - a State Prisoner who's actually rather polite, and on a Monday morning at that.

"I'm getting my workout," I replied without breaking my stride. "And when I'm through, I'll be calling." The man laughed a little at those words, so I repeated: "I'll be calling." Maybe he laughed because I'm too old-fashioned to own a cell phone, and carry it with me when I run.

With that said, I ran on without looking back. The man said nothing more, and did NOT try to chase me. If he had tried, I'm not sure what might have happened. I'd built up a one-mile head of steam at that point....

Two-tenths of a mile down the Riverwalk, I came across a man carrying fishing gear near the riverbank. Now it was time to break stride, and run in place for a moment. "Do you have a cell phone? There's a possible prison escapee back there, about a tenth of a mile."

"I left it in my truck," the man said. Silly me - he could have been taking a day off from his wife.

The fisherman promised to go to his truck and call 911, so I jogged on to a turnaround point and headed back toward home. It wound up being a two-mile non-stop (well, not slowing to a walk) run - and there was no sign of the mystery man as I walked and jogged home. Maybe he finally found the strength to climb that mountain.

As the jog home reached the Golden Park area, I came upon three female walkers. "Be careful, ladies," I said to them. "We may have a prison escapee out here."

"We saw him!" one of the women said. She told me she was carrying a cell phone -- but apparently did not think it might be an escapee. She must have thought a prison guard was hiding behind a bush.

I hurried home from the morning run, then did what I promised. First came a call to 911, then an extra-early post here about what I had seen. But the 12:00 noon news never mentioned any escaped prisoners. And as the afternoon went on, I started to wonder. Maybe I should call Rutledge State Prison, I said -- in case the man had gone to District Attorney Julia Slater to seek asylum.

That's when things really became puzzling. Rutledge State Prison reported NO recent escapees or walkaways. An employee there directed me to the Muscogee County Jail, where I was transferred as high as the assistant warden. He said work detail inmates don't wear white jackets, but blue jackets with white letters. They can blend in with Columbus High School students that way.

The jail had no reports of escaped inmates, either. So who did I pass on the Riverwalk? A Russell County prisoner, who swam across the Chattahoochee? Someone who bought one of those controversial look-alike inmate outfits years ago at Goody's? Or was that guy a surprise guest at the Bulldog Bait & Tackle Halloween party?

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E-MAIL UPDATE: We told the former host of "Talkline" about the new FM simulcast of WRCG-AM. Lo and behold, Doug Kellett wanted to talk about it....

Thanks for the mention in your blog about WRCG...Personally, I think management is in a tough situation that all radio finds itself in at this point. Do you invest money into programming BEFORE revenues increase or do you hope that revenue increases and then improve programming as it goes along. While all stations hate to hear this but the truth is you must invest first. Hopefully, the environment will improve for WRCG and all stations in Columbus. At lot of the PDs that I work with around the country tell me that radio revenues are improving and they expect next year to be a good one. Joseph Brannan and Jim Martin are working hard to bring WRCG back to a standard that you documented. The move to an FM frequency is certainly important. I wish that Scott Miller and I had pushed even harder than we did when the McClure's purchased Boomer 95.3 to put WRCG programming on it. The question at the time was "what would we do with the AM frequency?" At that time, sports radio wasn't as popular as it is now so management didn't consider that a good option. I believe that WRCG would

1) Never had lost Rush had that happened because the rights owner could only move Rush from WRCG to another station IF it had a better signal. 95.3 FM would have easily been stronger than WDAK.

2) Would have solidified WRCG as the sole News/Talk station in the market and there would be no WDAK as N/T.

3) Provided great coverage for Braves baseball and Georgia football.

Had this happened, the revenues would have been tremendous in my opinion. News/Talk continues to be the top revenue producer in the nation because you can sell results more than ratings and talk personalities provided the best people to pitch the product.

Eventually all N/T will be on FM or something similar and the first guy into the market usually wins.

Thanks for staying in touch!


To clear up a little radio slang: a "PD" is a radio station Program Director. But I'm sure Doug Kellett also is willing to work with Police Departments, as long as they don't pull him over for speeding.

Sports radio may be popular in some cities, but we've asked here before if Columbus can handle two sports stations. Davis Broadcasting won the race to FM in that category, by changing WIOL-FM 95.7 this month -- and maybe one of these days, they'll get around to mentioning it on the WEAM-AM web site.

But I disagree with Doug Kellett on what might have happened in recent years to WDAK. I remember when that station was the alleged "Sports Monster," with hardly any listeners. Clear Channel probably would have changed it to news-talk, anyway - airing almost all the hosts WRCG does now, only with more AM listeners able to hear them.

Now for some items which actually made the talk of the news Monday:

+ Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants had a free grilled chicken giveaway. Of course I took advantage of this - but was stunned to find the Stadium Drive location in Phenix City does NOT serve grilled chicken. Is it too close to a football stadium or something?

+ A judge in Columbus allowed Rob Doll to make his auto dealership payroll, while working on a plan to get out of bankruptcy. We haven't heard much about Doll's wife in awhile, which proves bankruptcy filings aren't for Cissies.

+ Police in the Atlanta suburb of East Point reported burglars broke into a storage building, and stole seven tiny cars driven by Shriners in parades. I didn't know hybrid car sales had picked up again.

(There's no word of any arrests in this case -- but if some adult tries to talk your children into a winner-take-all soap box derby, call 911.)

+ Pam Fair with the Columbus Health Department told WRBL fewer than 200 people have shown up to receive H-1-N-1 flu vaccine. Once people find out we have hundreds of doses to spare, there could be a reverse junket of drug buses from Canada and Mexico.

+ Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and his wife announced a $250,000 donation to a children's hospital in Birmingham. This money should be used to help patients eat well - and the children who eat the most will be recruited to be offensive linemen.

+ Alabama kick-blocker Terrence Cody was named Southeastern Conference defensive lineman of the week. Now Tennessee fans are sure Saturday's game was fixed -- because Cody removed his helmet in the final seconds, yet won a league award anyway.

+ Troy head football coach Larry Blakeney visited the Columbus Quarterback Club. He told WTVM plans are in the works for a series of games against Navy. Huh?! Put Army on the schedule, play the "home game" in Columbus and.... well, hold it. It might not feel like a Troy home game anymore.

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