Inside the Newsroom @ Chelsea, Dexter

The official blog for The Chelsea Standard and Dexter Leader

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Covering a chocolate-related assignment makes for a sweet day

I took on a tough assignment this weekend: The Fifth Annual Chelsea Chocolate Extravaganza.
Sampling chocolates and taking pictures of happy people is hard work.
Well, not really, but I digress.
We — I brought my husband and two boys along — first stopped in at Heydlauff’s Appliances where Marie Barnsdale made chocolate muffins with Chelsea-made Jiffy Chocolate Muffin Mix in a Wolf oven. I have to admit, as someone who enjoys cooking, I could have spent a good bit of time in there looking at the kitchen appliances. However, with two elementary-age boys in tow, that wasn’t happening. They did give the thumbs up to the muffins, though.
Next up, we wondered into Gigi's Flowers and Gifts, not for anything chocolate, but just because I love flower shops. Between the daddy-daughter dance and Valentine’s Day, they were enjoying a busy Saturday.
After that, we crossed through the downtown to the River Gallery. I wanted to meet owner Patti Schwarz in person since I receive press releases and emails from the gallery on a regular basis. It’s nice to put a face with the email address!
The gallery was gorgeous and my entire family enjoyed milling around, looking at the art.
My sons, Nicholas and Ethan, were captivated by the ceramic dogs created by artist Mark Chatterley. There was a large dog in the gallery’s front window and several smaller ones throughout the space. There were also some really cool ceramic crows that Chatterley made. The gallery had some displayed on the street outside and a cluster of the crows were upstairs.
Next up, was The Garden Mill where the boys made their own chocolate coins with the help of Janet Brown. There were plenty of shoppers in the store, and owner Jennifer Fairfield said the weather was helping drive traffic.
From there, we made our way to Global Marketplace, which was filled with shoppers.
Mindo Chocolate Makers of Dexter were set up inside with samples of their fine artisan chocolates and samples of a syrup made of the fruit that surround cocoa beans. Mindo General Manager Zack Crawford warned that it would not be a chocolate taste and he was right. It had a fermented, fruity taste, which was interesting.
The most delightful moment of our entire day came when a little voice near the counter at Global Marketplace caught our attention as we were buying our Mindo’s chocolate.
The voice belonged to owner Kevin Frahm’s 11-year-old daughter Kira. She wanted to tell us about the finger puppets she was modeling and the stuffed animals for sale at the store. She also offered origami art that she and her dad made. I have the origami swan she gave me on my desk.
Leaving Global Marketplace, we crossed the street and headed to a quick lunch at Seitz's Tavern. This place reminded me of a place my dad might have taken me to as a kid, when he just wanted to get a quick bite on his way from here to there. It was a good memory and made me wish my dad were there with us.
The tavern had a nice atmosphere with Michigan basketball on the TV and the food was good. There were people going in and out, and as were prepared to leave one of the staffers dropped off suckers for the boys.
Then it was off to Glee Cake and Pastry so I could get a mini-cheesecake to go. In case you’re wondering: Yum! Glee had free samples of some of their decadent bars, which were delicious. As with most of the places we went into, there were groups of people inside shopping and enjoying the day.
Our final stop was Zou Zou’s Café so I could grab a coffee to go. Of course the kids heard about their chocolate treats and wanted some: A chocolate-covered strawberry for Nick and a truffle for Ethan. My husband sampled the chocolate-covered pretzels. Everyone was happy!
Chocolate is one of my favorite things in life, so this was not a tough day for me. It was work, but fun work made all the better by beautiful weather and the really wonderful people of Chelsea.

Kathleen Murphy is the editor of The Chelsea Standard and Dexter Leader. Contact her at (734) 429-7380, or on Twitter at @kathleeneditor.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Facing the loss of a child is too dark

There were many times over the weekend when I wanted to sit down to share my thoughts on the Sandy Hook school shootings. I composed entire columns in my head, but could not get them down.
As journalist, writing is what I do, so it should be easy for me, right?
But it isn't.
I tried and failed several times to write about those 20 children and six adults. I couldn't do it.
Each time I tried, my mind kept going back to my two boys, ages 10 and 11, and my mind froze. I cannot — I will not — face the thought of them not being here, of them not being with me. My mind will not go to that place.
Yet, there are 20 families of very young children and families of six adults who don't have that luxury. Their minds have to go there. They have no choice.
How do they do it? How do they go on?
What those parents wouldn't give to be able to yell for the millionth time about why we don't bounce balls off the living room wall or wrestle on the couch.
How they must have wished for a normal Saturday morning, kissing their kids hello, letting the dogs out, making breakfast.
I am lucky my biggest worry is whether or not my boys are going to knock the Christmas tree down as they chase each other through the living room.
Fights over the remote control are no big deal.
Nagging them over homework or picking up their clothes reminds me they are home and safe.
I am so very lucky that on Friday afternoon, I picked them up from school. They were happy and healthy, and oblivious to the awful news from Newtown, Conn.
I kissed them goodnight Friday and tucked them in their beds, safe from the world outside, safe for another night.
As journalists, we are taught to be objective and to keep our opinions to ourselves, but I don't know how you do that in this instance. I watched veteran network news anchors break down on the air when relaying stories about those beautiful children, and the heroic teachers and school administrators at Sandy Hook.
I've thought very little about the gunman. I understand he was mentally ill and that is something as a society we have to deal with, but right now my thoughts are with the victims and their families. My thoughts are with those people who cannot block the loss of their children from their minds because it is not a nightmare, it is a reality. It is their story.

Kathleen Murphy is the editor of The Chelsea Standard and Dexter Leader. Contact her at (734) 429-7380, or on Twitter at @kathleeneditor.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Election 2012: Perception vs. Reality

Perception is reality it is said, but after this past election, that adage may have to be modified.
We all saw the polls and the crowds and the signs and considered who was going to win the presidential race and others. Funny thing is, what we perceived to be true and what was really true was often far apart.
Take Mitt Romney for instance. The polls showed a nearly 50-50 split or Romney holding a slight advantage. The crowds at his appearances spoke of a groundswell of support and pundits across the spectrum were predicting either a Romney landslide or an Electoral College tie that could end up in the House of Representatives, if not the courts.
What we did not see or in some cases, or maybe not wanted to see, was that President Obama had more support than many people realized. The polls that sampled heavily Democratic were on target, much to the chagrin of several radio talk show hosts and websites.
Locally, there were some perception issues as well.
Many people I talked to thought Mark Ouimet was a lock to keep his seat in the state House of Representatives. The voters thought differently. They gave challenger Gretchen Driskell a 3,000-vote margin to win the race. She was part of a Democrat sweep of the four state House seats up for grabs in Washtenaw County.
The perception that Washtenaw County is still a Republican stronghold needs to be wiped away with the reality that this is a blue county. It may be light blue, but blue nonetheless. That’s not to say the GOP is done here, but results are showing the county’s urban centers are going Democrat and have been for several presidential election cycles.
Saline has become a safe zone for the Democratic Party that makes Driskell’s win easier to understand. She has been mayor for 14 years and on the City Council for 20 years. With that kind of support, it wasn’t a stretch to see her win coming.
The same goes for Brian Marl’s win in the mayoral race. An aide to the House Democrats in Lansing, Marl has a strong base of support in the city. He is personable and outgoing. Nothing against Glenn Law, but Marl got an early start and had strong support from many sectors in the community.
The one result that boggles the mind is the voters’ rejection of the slates in the Saline school board race. The election pitted Smita Nagpal and Diane Friese against Paul Hynek and Karen Delhey. The four ran as pairs in hopes of getting a like-minded person elected.
Instead, voters went a la carte and picked Friese and Delhey. What this says about the voters’ intent or name recognition remains to be seen. The feeling before the election from people I talked to was Nagpal and Hynek were the favorites.
How this going to shake out and the ramifications on future elections remains to be seen. In Pittsfield Township, the Democratic slate is effective and popular. So a slate may work well on that level.
So dealing with this reality, we must now come together behind the winners. We need to see how they do when they are sworn in, but we must also hold them accountable. That's a reality that our elected officials have to perceive accurately or they will be on the sidelines soon enough.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Talking with a Dexter Museum supporter

Recently in the Community Media Lab, I had a nice visit with Susan Schotts of the Dexter Heritage Guild, the fundraising arm of the Dexter Area Museum and Historical Society.
We talked about the holiday bazaar at the museum from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 1. Proceeds from the bazaar help fund the operating costs of the museum. Dexter Heritage Guild members work throughout the year, creating crafts for the event.
In addition to sharing great information about the museum and the heritage guild, Susan also had questions for me about contacting the media through email.
One of the main points that I shared with her is something I always tell people: In your email or press release, tell me what you are promoting or what you want from me in the first sentence or two. Also, put the name of your event or community in the email headline. Make it eye-catching so that your email stands out in a flood of what could be 30 press releases. Include .jpg pictures if you have them.
Also, include a contact name and phone number in case there are questions.
Anyone who has questions about submitting information to us, can contact me at

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Allow me to introduce myself …

Hi! I'm Kathleen Murphy, the new editor of The Chelsea Standard and Dexter Leader.

I am a proud graduate of Central Michigan University — fire up Chips! My degree is in broadcast journalism and political science, but life took a turn and I've spent my career working in the print media as a reporter and editor in communities in Lapeer, Macomb and Sanilac counties. I've covered everything from local government and schools, to the police beat and community events. My most recent assignment was on the copydesk at The Oakland Press in Pontiac, one of our sister publications.

I have always enjoyed small towns, perhaps because I grew up in the tiny town of Ubly in Michigan's Thumb. Ubly is best known as the home of the Ubly Dragway. Invariably, someone always mentions that to me and I sheepishly have to admit never having been there! As a child, playing outside in the summer, I remember hearing the noise at the track across town (which really wasn't that far), but we never went there. My dad preferred the Tigers and puttering in his garden.

Outside of work, my life revolves around my family. My husband Dave and I have two boys, Nicholas and Ethan. Nicholas is in the sixth grade and loves anything to do with football, especially Michigan (my Chips haven't won him over yet). He also plays in a youth football league, and takes part in organized wrestling, lacrosse and baseball. Ethan is a fourth grader and is our extreme sports enthusiast. His passion is skateboarding. When the weather is bad, he takes his board and heads to the basement — always with a helmet and pads! Ethan also loves snowboarding and cycling.

As a family, we are passionate about our dogs. Our Sophie, is a sweet 9-year-old black Labrador retriever we adopted from the Lapeer County Animal Shelter when she was about 9 months old. We also have a 3-year-old miniature dachshund, Bo, that we adopted from a neighbor. His full name is Bo Blue, courtesy of all my boys. At some point, I think we may have a dog named Brady!

I am excited to get to know the people of Chelsea and Dexter, and spend time in the communities.
Please feel free to email me at or call (734) 429-7380. You can also follow me on Twitter at @kathleeneditor or on Facebook. I would love to chat with you, answer any questions you may have and get your story ideas.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Civil War Days journalists

Erica McClain, Fred Priebe as Abraham Lincoln and Sean
Dalton at Gordon Hall.

Reporter Sean Dalton and I got the rare and fun chance to get involved with Dexter's Civil War Days this past weekend. By involved I don't mean "cover" the event but rather we got to re-enact with President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd.
State Rep. Mark Ouimet and Reporter Sean Dalton chat
at Gordon Hall.

Fred and Bonnie Priebe, who are professional Lincoln re-enactors and attended last year's event, were phenomenal. There were points when it was unclear whether the two were re-enacting or simply talking. They were simply amazing.

A huge thanks to Donna Fisher and her daughter, Abby, for inviting us and letting us borrow period-correct clothing.

Monday, June 11, 2012

La Jolla issues refund to Branch family

In an effort to write a follow-up story to NBC and ABC's coverage of Maurice "Maury" Branch's ordeal with La Jolla Fine Jewelry in Chelsea, it was revealed that the Chelsea-based jewelery store owned by Curtis Gough has issued a refund to the Branch family.

As the story goes, Maury wandered into La Jolla last month to purchase a watch battery when a bracelet that he believed was adorned with rhinestones and a $20 price tag caught his eye. Unfortunately for the retired economics teacher, the item's actual value was $25,000, which the Branch family discovered recently when a bewildered Maury showed his most recent credit card statement to his daughter, Carol.

"I saw this $25,000 charge and I said 'Dad, do you know this La Jolla Jewelry?'" Carol told ABC News last week. "He said, 'I bought your mom a real pretty rhinestone necklace there for $20."

After sticking to his guns, Gough recently decided to take a step back from defending his shop's "no returns" policy and issued the Branch family a refund, according to a woman who is house-sitting at Carol's Milan home while the Branch's are up north for a bit of summer repose.

Up to that point Carol and Gough attempted to cooperate on a consignment deal, but could not come to an agreement on the terms, according to the ABC News report.

The fallout for Gough and his business has been significant online, where angry members of the public are making their displeasure known on sites such as, where the shop's customer rating has dropped to one star because of the negative backlash in reaction to standing by the no-returns policy, despite the Branch family pleading with the business-owner to have a change of heart due to the 90-year-old's advanced age and his condition, which the family describes as "cognitive impairment."

Messages with Gough have been left at La Jolla Fine Jewelry and his residence in Chelsea, but were not returned as of publishing this blog entry. Heritage Media contact information for reporter Sean Dalton was left with the Branch's house-sitter, who agreed to pass it along to Carol.

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