Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | July 18, 2013

Pressgram: A photo sharing alternative

Interviewing Pressgram developer John Saddington

Published via Pressgram

OK, OK, I realize I have fallen off the blog wagon. But I’m jumping back on — and it’s all because of Pressgram.

I was introduced to Georgia Tech grad, hacker and software engineer John Saddington a few months back. He was fed up with photo sharing sites where you didn’t get to retain ownership of your pictures. So, he decided to develop an iPhone application himself to remedy the issue. Saddington opted for a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter to gain the capital needed.

Pressgram mimics Instagram but differs in philosophy – and allows the user to keep creative control. The best part — it uploads straight to a Word Press blog.

Before, I would blog from time to time at the end of my day. By that point, I would have already written 3 to 4 versions of the story I was working on for the day, tweeted, posted to Facebook and written a web story. It was hard to find the time and energy to then write a clever blog post. Pressgram will allow me to post from my iPhone directly to my blog. Some days I may decide to just post a picture with a caption. Other days I’ll choose to write more. Bottom line: Pressgram will make my work flow more manageable — and will allow me to keep the blog instead of giving up.

Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | December 2, 2011

Quite a Thrill

It’s not actors or sports figures that make me nervous and excited. Great journalists that I admire make my hands sweat. I think we all have a favorite “news person.” At least I know I do.

For as long as I can remember, Tom Brokaw was it. I remember watching the NBC Nightly News at a kid and thinking he was great. At that time, I don’t think I fully appreciated what a fine journalist he was. I just knew that I liked his style. As I got older, I appreciated his story-telling and how I felt connected to what he was saying.

It wasn’t until right before I left for college at the University of San Diego, that I realized I too, wanted to be a story-teller. Brokaw is from South Dakota and his success gave this Midwestern girl from Minnesota the drive to try to be the best story-teller I could be.

A few years ago, I had the chance to meet Brokaw when he was in town talking to the Atlanta Press Club. At the last minute, my schedule was switched and I didn’t get to go. I remember people coming back into the newsroom having just met him. I thought I had missed my only chance.

A second chance came around again in November. I didn’t tell anyone beforehand in case something came up again. Brokaw was again speaking to the Atlanta Press Club, this time about his new book, The Time of Our Lives.

This time the chance didn’t pass me by. It was wonderful to hear him speak and then to meet him afterwards. Tom Brokaw is a one of a kind story-teller.

Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | September 9, 2011

Looking back at 9/11

Where were you 10 years ago? Do you remember the moment you heard a plane hit the World Trade Center? Then when a second plane hit the second tower?

I vividly remember where I was. I was standing in the KWES newsroom in Midland/Odessa, TX. It was my first reporting job out of college. I was one year in, working for the local NBC station. I had just finished The Today Show local news cut-ins. I walked off set and into the newsroom and immediately turned my attention to the TV’s in the newsroom.

Breaking News: a plane hit the World Trade Center. As I watched live, I saw the second plane hit. There was only a few of us in the newsroom. We all froze. We couldn’t believe what we were witnessing. We didn’t know what to do.

Soon the wheels started turning again and we realized we had to mobilize.

My first stop was the airport. This was unforgettable. Our 4pm show producer, DeeDee, was on the last flight landing in Midland. We were there to greet the flight. As DeeDee exited the plane and saw my photographer and I, she burst into tears. They had learned about the attack while in the air. Her world changed in that hour flight from Dallas to Midland.

DeeDee

I spent the rest of day moving from location to location. I remember showing up at a blood bank. The line was snaked around the corner. People were distraught, desperate. Most felt helpless and wanted to feel like somehow, in their small way, they were making a difference. So they stood waiting for their turn.

There were some New Yorkers in line, grown men in tears, telling me about how they can’t get in touch with family members. Some had family in the military. Others said they felt it was their patriotic duty — we were in the President’s hometown after all. President George W. Bush grew up in Midland. His mother-in-law still lived there.

Reporting live on 9/11

I have friends who lost friends and family, and in this business have met and heard the stories of too many that lost people they love.

It’s a day I don’t just remember on the anniversary, but one that is forever etched into memory. We will never forget.

Please feel free to leave a post about where you were, how that day changed your life…

Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | September 9, 2011

Another Hearthache for Hardy Jackson

I first met Hardy Jackson on the streets of Biloxi, MS, just hours after hurricane Katrina roared ashore. I was reporting on the devastation with photographer Arnell Hamiliton when Hardy approached me. He said something I couldn’t understand, so I asked how he was doing.

Hardy Jackson

He and his wife decided to ride out the storm, like they had done so many times before. He described how they got to the roof and then the roof split in half. Hardy hung on to Tonette (Tonie) until she let go saying, ‘you can’t hold me. Take care of the kids and the grandkids.’

Tonie’s body has still not been recovered.

I kept in touch with Hardy after Katrina. I learned he had a larger family than just the two boys he had with him the first day I met him. He had three kids, Mary, Tonie Jr. and Hardy Jr. Mary was mom to Deion and Chris. Tonie Jr. was mom to Keandre.

Soon after Katrina, musician Frankie Beverly bought the family a home in Palmetto, Ga, so he could be out of harms way, and closer to other family.

A few months later, I moved from Mobile, Al and WKRG-TV to Atlanta, Ga to work for CBS Atlanta News. We kept in touch and I really got to know the family.

Last year, Hardy told me his oldest daughter Mary, was diagnosed with cancer. Just a few months ago, Hardy said Mary had 6 months to a year to live. That time period ended up only being one more month. Mary passed away at age 31, leaving behind two young boys.

Hardy and his family endured another heartache. A kind and generous CBS Atlanta News viewer made a donation to purchase a grave marker for Mary. Hardy also had his wife’s name put on it. He’s says it will be a place his family can now visit both loved ones.

Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | June 23, 2011

The Emmy’s, the Triple Crown & Honoring Ann Bartlett

CBS Atlanta News at the Emmys

Congratulations to CBS Atlanta News for winning 5 Emmys Saturday night. It was a fun night to see everyone dressed up and especially nice to watch some of my colleagues win.

I previously won an Emmy for a story I did at my former station, WKRG, and I attended the ceremony in Miami. This was my first time going to the Emmy’s in Atlanta. I was fortunate to have Sara Wolf-Mixon of Tootsies (Shops Around Lenox) style me. She picked a great Nicole Miller dress for me to wear — thanks Sara!

Thanks to Sara Wolf-Mixon at Tootsies for styling me & picking the perfect dress!

It was a great feeling when CBS Atlanta won the Emmy for Continuing Coverage for the entry titled, Ann Bartlett Investigation. Ann Bartlett called 911 when her home caught fire. DeKalb County firefighters responded but when they couldn’t find an address in the caul-de-sac where they were searching, they never walked around the home to see if there was a fire and if Ann was OK. Hours later, a neighbor called 911. By that time the home was fully engulfed in flames. Ann did not survive.

I kept in touch with Bartlett’s daughters, and on the day they sued DeKalb County, they gave me the exclusive interview. Photographer Jon Goss and I talked to them about their mom, what she went through and the changes they wanted to see made at the DeKalb County Fire Department.

Jon and I were honored with the Georgia Associated Press Broadcasters Association Award, an Edward R. Murrow award and now an Emmy, completing the “triple-crown” for this story.

Completes the Triple Crown

While it’s nice to have our work recognized, the real recognition should go to the Bartlett family. I feel like these awards signify the depth of the impact Ann Bartlett, and what happened to her, had on the community, her family and beyond.

Ann Bartlett

I started my investigation into the types of smoke detectors the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department gave out nearly a year ago. Along the way, more tough questions arose regarding the company that sold them and if the smoke detectors were legitimate. Something kept me digging and on May 12th, 2011 it all paid off.

I uncovered the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department bought and handed out 18,507 counterfeit smoke detectors since 2006.
This is what they look like. The front of the counterfeit smoke detector has three, five slotted vents on the front. The back has a hologram UL label.

The moment I had some confirmation that the smoke detectors could be counterfeit, I contacted Atlanta’s Chief Kelvin Cochran. I thought it was important to let him know even before I had 100% confirmation because it was a life safety issue.

Within a few weeks, we had confirmation that the smoke detectors were indeed counterfeit. A company in Calabasas, CA called Silver Sails sold the Fire Rescue Department the counterfeit smoke detectors. It’s owned and run by Bob and Judie Silver (seen in the picture below).

Before the Silvers did business with AFRD, Bob Silver had gone to prison for defrauding the Department of Defense. He admitted to selling bogus supplies that were to be used by all branches of the military and NASA. While AFRD was doing business with Silver Sails, the Silvers were being investigated for selling counterfeit smoke detectors to the General Services Administration. That’s the federal government. They pleaded guilty. Bob Silver was sentenced to 39 months in prison. Judie Silver spent 6 months behind bars.

As a result of my exclusive investigation, the FBI is investigating. And, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department recalled all 18,507 counterfeit smoke detectors. Last weekend, they started their campaign to replace the counterfeit smoke detectors. Firefighters or volunteers will hand out UL approved smoke detectors every other weekend until they have all been replaced.

The city has also set up a hotline and email account for residents to use if they think they have a counterfeit smoke detector. The Atlanta Smoke Alarm Recall Hotline is 404-546-2733. Residents can also send an email to smokealarm@atlantaga.gov to schedule an inspection and replacement.

CBS Atlanta News uncovered much more during this investigation and will continue to follow this story in the days and weeks ahead. Stay tuned for the latest developments or friend me on facebook to keep up at Jennifer Mayerle.

Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | April 22, 2011

What Makes A Mother Of 5 Disappear?

Normally, this is where I would write extra information about a story I did. But, this one is serious and bizarre. So instead, I’m posting the story I posted to CBSAtlanta.com. Read for yourself and take a look at the story. See what you think…

Watch Now

Abed & Wazineh Suleiman

Husband Of Formerly Missing Bartow County Woman: ‘I’m Going To Kill You’
Abed Suleiman Talks About Where She Was, Why She Left
By Jennifer Mayerle, CBS Atlanta Reporter

Abed Suleiman is clearing up questions about where his wife was for six days and why she left her five kids and husband. Wazineh Suleiman did not want to talk on camera or with reporters.

“There was a lack of communication there. I was so blind to some of this, I couldn’t see any of this coming,” said Abed Suleiman.

Abed Suleiman admits he is partly to blame for his wife’s disappearance. Wazineh Suleiman went missing after her husband returned from a trip unexpectedly to find the kids home alone. They exchanged heated text messages.

“She’s like, ‘Oh crap, I just lied to him, he’s home.’ She’s like, ‘He’s going to kill me, he’s going to kill me.’ I even told her in a text message, ‘I’m going to kill you,’” he said.

For days people searched for the missing mother of five, wondering what would make her leave her children behind. Suleiman admits he’s pushed Wazineh Suleiman before, but said it was all in the past.

“Give me some space, and maybe you know, but nothing physical where I would punch her or knock her out or hospitalize her or anything like that, no,” said Abed Suleiman.

But that threatening text message apparently scared her enough to sleep in her car in an empty parking lot her first night away. Suleiman said she spent the next few days in a women’s shelter in Cobb County. Suleiman said he’s convinced she left because of what her actions meant in the Muslim culture.

“She didn’t leave here because she feared for her life. She left because it’s a great dishonor and disgrace and to us that’s a lot when you do that to your husband and your family,” said Abed Suleiman.

Suleiman said when his wife came home, she admitted she needed a break.

“Everyone refers to my wife as a supermom, superwoman, superwife. She snapped. She’s like, ‘I can’t handle this anymore,’” he said.

Now the couple wants others to learn from what they went through.

“It’s very important to communicate. Never ever, even resort to the smallest white lie,” said Abed Suleiman.

The two had an arranged marriage when they were teenagers. Abed Suleiman said he will never tell or text his wife that he’ll kill her again. He also said the kids were so happy to have their mom home; they hugged her and wouldn’t let go.

Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | March 31, 2011

Admitted Cop Killer Surrenders On Live TV

Friday night I was a part of something that I had been a part of before. A man wanted for killing a police officer and wounding another, released hostages and surrendered on live TV. Talk about good TV.

It was the culmination of a very tense week that began on Tuesday, March 22. That’s the day Jamie Hood is accused of carjacking and kidnapping a man, then carjacking another woman. Soon after, police spotted his brother driving a car and pulled him over. He complied, but Jamie Hood was in the car and shot Athens Clarke County Senior Officer Tony Howard. After taking off on foot, he encountered Senior Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian. Christian never stood a chance. Police say Hood shot him through his car window execution style. At that moment, the hunt was on for accused cop killer Jamie Hood.

An intensive manhunt was underway. Law enforcement from all over the state descended on Athens, including the GBI and the FBI. You see, police said they knew what type of guy Hood was. He had been to prison for more than a decade and was just released in 2009. On top of that, a police officer killed his brother while he was in jail. According to published reports, his brother was shot after he held a gun to an officer’s head. People in the community told us the Hood boys were notoriously known around Athens. Even Hood’s brother Steven told us his family has “bad blood with police.”

For four days, more than 150 officers were all over Athens; many of them had weapons drawn at all times. In fact, I’ve never seen so many weapons up close. Officers were posted on the side of the road, they were in the woods searching, and they popped out of ditches on the side of the road. You name it, they were there. They were determined to catch Hood before Christian’s funeral on Sunday.

Police believed Hood never left Athens and they turned out to be right. Finally on Friday, police get word Hood wants to surrender. That surrender doesn’t go as planned. Instead Hood takes 9 hostages (we now know it was 10 but one escaped).

At one point, around 9 p.m., Hood released 4 hostages. I did a breaking news cut-in. GBI Director Vernon Keenan told the media Hood had many demands. First Keenan went on live TV around 10 p.m. During his quick remarks he told Hood he knows he released hostages in good faith and if he surrendered, he would not be harmed. Keep in mind, we’ve been talking with family members of the hostages. We didn’t put them on camera because we were told Hood was watching TV and was getting more upset the more he heard. Hood was very concerned with his own safety. Another demand is that he surrenders on live TV to ensure he would not be harmed.

Around 11 p.m. all of the four TV stations in Atlanta went live, showing the door of the apartment where Jamie Hood was expected to come out and release his hostages. It took a few minutes, but then came the hostages and Hood, walking out of the apartment on live TV. He even admitted he killed the officer and that he didn’t deserve it. Hollywood couldn’t have written a script like this. It was great TV. In my 10 years as a reporter, I have never been a part of something unfolding this way. It was great TV. The best part is Hood surrendered peacefully and none of the hostages were harmed.

So what was the downside? We were on late that night because of the NCAA tournament. We put up a double box, still showing the game, but also showing the surrender (with the audio of the surrender up, the basketball game down). The station received many calls and emails from people angry that we were interrupting the game. I even received texts from friends watching the game who were upset. To me, it’s an easy choice. Either you interrupt basketball so that an accused cop killer will release hostages and turn himself in or you continue with the game and take the risk the same accused cop killer will hurt hostages or someone else. We received so many calls and emails, my boss, Steve Schwaid wrote a blog about it. Here’s the link:

http://www.cbsatlanta.com/news/27344751/detail.html

Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | March 15, 2011

Help A Hero


Last week I met an incredibly strong family, the Landreau’s.

Chris Landreau is a firefighter with Coweta County. He’s been with the department for seven years. He always wanted to be a firefighter and has a passion for helping people. Now he needs help himself.

The married father of two was diagnosed with stage 4 non-hodgkin’s lymphoma in early February. He went to the doctor, with some minor things, but was not prepared for what he learned.

Since his diagnosis, the community has rallied around Chris and his family. Chris is unable to work at the fire department or his second job during treatment, and his wife, Amanda, has stopped working to care for Chris and their two daughters. Several fundraisers have been planned to help the family.

To learn more about Chris and how you can help, go to http://www.helpafireman.com/Chris_Landreau.html

Also, former American Idol contestant Corbett Jackson wrote and recorded a song as a tribute to Chris. It’s called, “Heart of a Champion.” You can download it on Itunes. All of the proceeds go to Chris and his family.

Chris is currently going through his second round of chemo. He has at least four more to go.

To see the story we did on Chris, go to:

http://www.cbsatlanta.com/local-video/index.html?grabnetworks_video_id=4575737

Chris Landreau

Posted by: Jennifer Mayerle | February 21, 2011

Do You Know Where Ivan Gonzales Is?


Gwinnett County Police want to find Ivan Gonzales. He is the man in the picture. He has a tattoo of Jesus on his leg and his nose may be charred from fire.

He’s wanted on murder charges involving the deaths of three young children, Stacy Brito, 1, Ivan Guevara, 3, and Isaac Guevara, 4. Police believe they died because of a fire started in their home from a meth lab ignited by Ivan Gonzales.

When I went to cover the fire in Lilburn Thursday afternoon, it started as if I covering any other fire. Then we learned children were involved and may be hurt. Often in breaking news situations, information changes and we get updates and new information coming all the time.

We learned there was an incredible act of bravery by two 19-year-olds. Josh Caste and Conor Walsh were driving down Five Forks Trickum Road in Lilburn when they saw smoke coming from a home. They heard a mother yelling that her children were trapped inside. Without regard for their personal safety, they climbed on top of the second story home. Josh gave Conor his shirt to cover his face, and Conor went inside. He pulled out each child, one by one. Visably upset later in the evening, their one concern was how the kids were and if they were going to make it. Over the next 24 hours, despite their heroic actions, we would learn none of the children survived.

And then the story took another twist. The fire could have been prevented.

Gwinnett County Police told reporters the fire started because of a meth lab inside the home and they were looking for Ivan Gonzales. They believe he may have fled the state and may be headed to Mexico. Police asked for a nation-wide alert to find Gonzales. He is still on the run.

Police have also arrested the children’s mother, Neibi Brito on charges of trafficking in meth. Her first court appearance was Saturday morning.

Three lives were lost in a senseless fire and police need the public to help find the man who they believe caused their deaths. If you know where Ivan Gonzales is, contact police.

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