Bike Man

By: Melissa Fears

Cars honk, people stop and wave, others are just plain fascinated by this man. A blue and white striped polo hugs his arms as he fixes his plaid hat that is cocked to the side. Smiling back, he goes back to his business; spinning a basketball, twirling batons and juggling tennis balls all while riding his bike backwards and listening to gospel music. The man behind it all – Lionel Hills.

Growing up, Hills learned along with his friends how to ride a bike just like any other kid, except Hills had a special knack for coordination and balance. It just came easy to him he says. He began riding backwards and never looked back. Bike riding didn’t top the priority list as he grew up however, and it soon became a thing of the past.

It is 2005, the year fate stepped in. Wandering into a small pawn shop looking for a trumpet, Hills and his wife never knew that this little store off of Keystone Avenue on the northeast side of Indianapolis would hold just the key to finding his dream.

 “Then I just saw it…. and thought ‘Wow!’”

A perfectly distressed white and mint green Schwinn bike sat there waiting to be taken home.  “I asked the lady is this really $19.99?” he says. “I asked my wife if I should get it, and I’ve had it ever since.”

“It is crazy,” Stephanie Camp-Hills, his wife, says. “A $20 investment brought all this,” she laughs. 

“I play the keyboard and I know it just has to have a certain feel to it, so that’s why I haven’t tried to buy a new bike for him,” she says.

“I have thought about getting a new bike, but it just wouldn’t be the same,” Hills says. “I can control this one and its light. I can carry it with one arm. It does what I want it to do, not the other way around,” he jokes.

“I know it’s the bike for me.”

His wife says that some of the people he knows just don’t understand how “old-school” he is, and he just loves the old-time bikes.  Fans of his from his dedicated Facebook page, have offered to chip in and buy a new bike. Hills just laughs it off.

The Facebook fan page came out of nowhere to him. One day a friend told his wife about it and he was in awe.

With over 4,300 fans and counting, the page was created by Roncalli High School student Ashlynn Bruner. The page has allowed fans from across the state to comment on their thoughts and give tips to others on when to find him.

“I started the page because I drive down Emerson daily and he always makes my day better, and he deserves to be noticed,” Brunner says. “I am trying to get him in the Guinness World Records for something.”

Once the Facebook fan page started up, and hundreds of people were adding themselves as a fan, Bruner didn’t know what to think.

“I was extremely surprised I got that many fans,” she exclaims. “I didn’t expect even 500 but there were 500 in the first 20 minutes.”

The page has been a hit with nearly everyone involved. It has turned into a page where fans of his can upload and share videos and pictures that they have taken. They can also leave comments on what they think and tip on when to best find Hills riding.

Waiting until all the cars have come and gone is when Hills ventures out to his familiar spot on the corner of the Thompson and Emerson intersection on the Southeast side of Indianapolis. He waits until after his nine-to-five job at WellPoint and when the Beech Grove Pet Hospital closes for the night.

On the weekends he has ridden straight through for nearly five hours. “I just go to church and head out there,” Hills says. “Sometimes I don’t even eat I am so ready to get out there.”

Sitting on his silver slip-covered couch at his southeast-side home, he recalls all the fun he has had over the past few years and cannot stress enough how happy he was that he finally started riding again. 

Flashing his gummy smile, he makes no qualms to mention the fact he has no top teeth. He keeps on smiling. After moving here from Arizona and being raised in Louisiana, Hills has learned to make the best of life.

“My wife decided she wanted a change and wanted to move here, so I said yes dear,” he says. After living on the northwest side of town for awhile, he prefers the quieter atmosphere of the southeast side better now.

Upon leaving the nest, the couple’s four children, three girls and one son, have scattered all across the country living in several different states. Their youngest daughter still lives nearby while attending Ball State University.  Hill’s quirky riding hasn’t seemed to rub off on any of his family just yet. None has gotten the courage or passion to try doing what he does. “I would never,” his wife exclaims. “That is his thing. The kids never wanted to try riding backwards either.”

People ask him every week he says why he does what he does. “I can’t do what I do riding forwards or the regular way,” he says. “The handlebars would poke me in the side. I can turn how I wanna turn now.”

He is glad when people stop. He relishes in the company and support he gets from making people smile. Hills says some people tell him he makes the long stoplights seem not as long and he loves to make people’s days. People tell them frequently that they almost run into the cars in front of them when they stop and stare. “I’ve almost run into someone looking at him myself,” his wife laughs.

“You ever know what a person is going through, so I love to make someone smile,” Hills says. “I appreciate all the comments people have made. I had no idea, but I’m happy about it.”

People have stopped and asked if her husband was homeless, his wife mentions. “They thought he was homeless person trying to make money,” she says. “It’s so funny to me. Our daughter overheard people talking nearby where he used to ride. Where a lady thought he was homeless and was saying she felt sorry for him, my daughter said that’s my my dad, he makes plenty of money,” she continues.

“There’s a couple of smarty pants that tell him to get a job; He has a job- a good one!” she laughs.

“I am not out there to get tips, but if they enjoy me enough to tip me, I may accept it,” Hills says with a laugh.  “I just do what I do.”

Parades and shows may be in the cards one day, but not just yet. Sadly he says, when he has been asked in the past, he always had to work.

“I really like to show off for the kids,” he says.

Hills recalls with great joy an out-town older couple who brought their grandkids to come see him perform after they had seen Hills once while they were visiting in the past. The couple sat in the back of their van across the street enjoying their freshly bought pizza as the children ate and watched in awe.

Showing off comes naturally to him. He loves to add new things to his repertoire as he says. From juggling tennis balls, twirling batons and spinning basketballs, he aces them every time. He avoids spinning basketballs on busy days in case he does mess up as it can go into traffic.

Dedicated and motivated, he can be seen in his familiar triangular corner even in the chilliest of days. With snow hanging off his black hooded jacket, he is out there riding to his heart’s desire.

“This winter was challenging,” his wife says. “I couldn’t believe he was out there in 21 degree weather all bundled up.”

“I was still out there riding because I enjoy it so much,” Hills says. “When I’m riding it’s like a whole other world, what I see around me. I listen to the beat of my music. I’m happy, it relieves stress or whatever. It just disappears.”

His music of choice is listening to upbeat and contemporary gospel. Kirk Franklin is a favorite of his. Most people question why gospel. He explains that a medium tempo is better while he is riding as it helps him keep a beat and do his tricks. 

Pedaling around with his oversized headphones is a key part in him riding he says. “I can’t ride without them,” he states matter-of-factly. “It’s not the same without music. It’s like a random trick; it’s not the same excitement. The music makes me happy, and I like to dance with the music.”

The headphones and Hills are so in tune sometimes that he forgets about the rest of the world his wife says. “Sometimes I pull into the parking lot across the way by the Kmart and just watch him,” she recalls. “He doesn’t even know I am there. Sometime he is so into what he is doing; he doesn’t see or hear me.”

“I swear he sees everyone but me,” she laughs. “I will be blowing my horn and I just say ‘Oh heck.’”

 “She’ll ask me did you hear me blowing my horn and I’ll say no dear sorry I had my headphones on,” Hills laughs.  “She is great; she always supports my riding. She just lets me ride.”

His riding is something he wants to do as long as he can. Someone told him once that his joy was contagious. Not everyone is a fan however. A car once threw a cup of water at him he remembers. “Stuff happens, some people yell at him to get a job,” his wife says. “He has a job I always say.”

For now, he just wants to keep doing what he loves and make people smile while he is doing it. “I always try to wave so people won’t be disappointed,” he says flashing his signature grin.

After catching more than 4,000 people’s attention, he is on the right track to mediocre stardom, which is just fine with him.

“I would like to be on the local news;” he says. “Something low-key for now until I come up with something more grand.”

“Something is gonna come up from it; I just don’t know what or when,” Hills says.


Butler stories for my multi-media project last month.. more coming…

Ronald Nored:

Making it to the NCAA men’s Final Four is no easy feat, but Butler managed to do it.

“I was thinking this is right where we should be,” number one, Ronald Nored, says. “No matter what others thought or imagined about how the tournament would play out, we knew that we could get there. So just being there was like being in the right place.”

Showing up to a stadium filled with fans, students and national media was nothing like they had seen before in such a large perspective.

“The fans made this experience what it was for sure,” says Nored. “It would not have been as fun if no one showed up; thank goodness the complete opposite happened.”

Nored was blown away. “I was subject to chills we ran out because it was a dream come true,” he says.

“That goes back to how much support the state and city showed us for what we had accomplish not just in those tournament games previous to the final four but for what we had been doing all season long,” Nored says of seeing all the fans show up to support the team for the rally.

As for looking back on the season, he thinks there is nothing he would change. “I’m not sure I would change anything,” he says.

“I think everything happens for a reason and losses and things happen throughout the season so that you can learn, improve, and build on them. I would have loved to win the national championship, but sometimes you realize it’s not always ALL about basketball.”

Brad Stevens:

Always the voice of reason, the coach is meant to be a figure the players look up to. Brad Stevens, coach of the Butler Bulldogs, does just that.

At just 33 years old, he has accomplished what many coaches wish they could have in their whole careers, make it to the NCAA men’s finals, even better, in their school’s hometown. Walking into Lucas Oil Stadium for the final game against Duke was surreal he recalls.

“It was amazing,” Stevens says. “As a coach you don’t pay attention to crowd noise, because you’re focused on the game.  But it was an unbelievable environment from the moment you walked in the arena, one that none of us will ever forget.”

Even though the night ended in a loss, it was a fairytale story. The Indianapolis hometown heroes coming one shot away from a national title.

Focusing on next season, Stevens says they will focus on whatever is needed to put their personnel in the right position to be successful.  “We’re not looking to make big changes, but we want to utilize to the strengths of each player,” he says.

As the fan base increased for the team all season, next season will be no different. They were thrust into the national spotlight and plan to show off even more talent next season.

Everyone wants a piece of the team it seems. “We’re always trying to get out in the community and be active,” Stevens says. “Certainly, we have to manage those requests, because we’re getting more and more.  First and foremost, I think the thing our guys can do is continue to play hard, be great students and continue to act right off the court, and if we do those things, I think the community will continue to embrace us.”

Shelvin Mack:

A once in a lifetime opportunity came knocking at the door.  Shelvin Mack, a sophomore at Butler University, has done nothing but win all season. Starting all 32 games as a freshman, Mack helped the Butler Bulldogs win 26 games. He started all 37 games this season.

He knew he wanted to go to a school that should showcase his talent he says.

“There’s not a lot I would do different,” he says. “We certainly would have like to have won some of those early season games that we lost, but we were playing great teams.  It was a special season from start to finish.”

Special it was, as the young underdog team beat Syracuse University in the Elite 8 in the NCAA men’s tournament to make it to the Final Four, held in Indianapolis.

On the plane ride home from Salt Lake City, Mack says, “At first I couldn’t believe it.”

“That was something you always dream about, but knowing that we were really going to the Final Four just seemed surreal,” he continues. “The flight back from Salt Lake City was just the greatest time, celebrating with teammates, fellow students and fans.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many smiles in one place.”

Having hometown advantage made the whole experience better he says. “While we had never played in Lucas Oil Stadium before, we still were in familiar surroundings and we were able to keep to a somewhat normal routine,” Mack says. “And the fan support was tremendous everywhere we went.  It really made us want to play that much harder knowing all those people were pulling for us.

Over 40,000 people showed up to the rally on Saturday to support Butler in their game against Michigan State in the Final Four, the team was blown away at the support the city, state and the fans had for them.

“It really started to put into perspective the magnitude of what we had done,” he says.

Home Sweet Home


Provided by ESPN

By Kyle Walke

Back home again in Indiana, and it seems that I can see, the gleaming candlelight, still burning bright, as the Butler Bulldogs make their first final four appearance in school history.  Maybe those aren’t the right lyrics, but I’m sure Jim Nabors won’t mind and I guarantee neither does coach Brad Stevens.  

Butler has earned the right to play in their own backyard with the ultimate home court advantage when they face Michigan State on Saturday.  Butler campus is precisely 5.7 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium where the next round of March madness (and this year has been madness) will take place.

“It’s just very special,” Butler forward Gordon Hayward said. “It would be special anywhere we went, but the fact we get to play in front of our home crowd kind of makes it a little more special.”

As a five seed many people have dubbed Butler as a true Cinderella Hoosiers story, a description hard to dismiss considering the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed at Hinkle Fieldhouse. 

However, these bulldogs have more bite than bark.  Led by an even keeled Stevens, Butler has now managed to control top tier teams such as Syracuse and Kansas State.  When facing one seed Syracuse, Butler led virtually the entire game until 5:23 left when Syracuse took a 54-50 lead.  At that point the Bulldogs rallied behind Junior forward Matt Howard to retake the lead and never look back defeating the Orangemen 63-59.

Against Kansas State the story was the same.  Butler jumped out to an early lead and held strong until 3:09 remaining when Kansas State tied the score.  Although Hayward’s 22 points 9 rebounds would prove too much as Butler went on to win in convincing fashion 63-56.

It’s hard to imagine a team that’s won 24 straight games, been ranked all year long, and beaten two top seeds could possibly be an underdog.

“I don’t care about being called a Cinderella or a mid-major Stevens said.  “We don’t have resources that other teams have, and that’s just a fact. But resources don’t win games. We have a lot of guys with big hearts. Why wouldn’t you want to be called that? Why wouldn’t you want to be an overachiever?”

It’s better to describe this as a team with big hearts more than overachievers.  Most of the players are from Indiana, including stars Hayward (Brownsburg) and Howard (Connersville).  Stevens himself is an Indiana native who played basketball for Zionsville and then coached at Carmel before joining the Butler squad in 2000.  The Bulldogs may be outsized, but rarely have been outhustled. 

You can say its “Hoosiers,” you can call it karma, but these boys are primed for a chance to win an NCAA National Championship right down the street in the city they call home, Indianapolis.

Quotes from ESPN’S “Bulldogs set to be hometown heroes.”

Not a Challenge, Just What Needs to be Done

His spacious office lined with sports memorabilia and college degrees hanging delicately on the painted drywall, Dr. Tim Smith, Assistant Director at R.I.S.E. Learning Center, eagerly speaks of all the upcoming changes.

R.I.S.E Learning Center, part of Perry Township, will become its own entity starting in the school year of 2011-2012. Budget cuts are looming and the economy seems to not be getting back on its feet quite soon enough. Tension mounts as most of the final questions will not be answered until May.

Smith, knowing the state’s financial education problems, believes that the cuts will not be as harsh as some believe and stresses that he wants to hold onto as many current staff as possible and does not see what he couldn’t. “We just might be replacing some of the staff that is leaving due to other reasons,” he says.

            Armed with multiple degrees and plenty of experience, he knows better than anyone how important it is to have uniformity in his staff. There is no one key player he says.

He believes that with his teaching experience as well as with his administrative duties at three special needs schools, he has helped motivate his employees and has improved the school over the past year. He joined R.I.S.E. a year and a month ago. “Boost of encouragement,” he says. “I enhance what they are already capable of doing and help bring the whole staff together.”

It is all part of his ongoing professional development he believes and is ecstatic after receiving his doctorate in educational leadership from Indiana State University this past July. He promised his mentor, Dr. William Duke, who was a principal of Carmel High School where Smith worked, that he would finish the degree after nearly five years of pursuing it. Duke received the letter sadly on his death bed from throat cancer alongside his dedicated wife Smith says.

“Everything is a challenge, but that’s a part of what we do, so nothing worries me when I come home,” Smith says. “It’s all part of the fun. My personality is laid back, I don’t have a lot of stress, and I love kids, so that’s why I chose education. Sometimes we all have to chip in for the dirty grunt work, not necessarily challenging. It’s just what we do.”

The biggest challenge he faces he says is trying to satisfy all the parents who believe they have certain rights or needs that sometimes the school can or is willing to provide.

“When a kid becomes violent or aggressive, it is an opportunity to be prepared through training, workshops, so we know how to handle the situation correctly,” Smith says. “That’s what we are here for is to help the kids and ourselves.”

Tina Johnson, a moderate to severe disabilities primary teacher at R.I.S.E., says that it is vitally important to be collaborative in working with everyone, especially the people directly involved with her students, such as therapists and assistants.

“In every school it’s like a combined effort; I have a mentor teacher,” she says. “I try to go to her to get new ideas. Our speech teacher is also really helpful. A lot of issues can come out because they can’t talk so we all have to work together.”

Doing research online is one tool Johnson has learned fast. “I have found that visuals are best for kids with autism,” she says. “Since most of my class is nonverbal, I set up object schedules, which are boards with objects on them and they map out the student’s day. Once an activity is done, they place the object in a basket. It helps them know when the day is close to being done.”

She also stresses how important it is to have her staff on the same page as her. Strict guidelines and daily schedules are neatly organized in a clear bin marked on the colorful wall by the front classroom door. Time is everything.

Bubbly, alert and focused, Johnson scurries out into the hallway to pick up her last student, who was finishing her speech therapy. The students are leaving early due to a winter storm and gears up to make sure everything was done for the day.

“Attention. The Beech Grove bus is here. Any students left in the building need to be sent to the front office at this time,” the intercom overhead calls out. Grabbing the little girl’s little hand into hers, she helps her put on her pink fluffy jacket and walks her to the front.

Johnson always knew she wanted this world, even in her undergraduate pursuit. Transferring to Indiana University Bloomington after just a semester at Ball State, she began her classes for a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. It resulted in her going on to get her master’s degree at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

“I don’t think that school can help you become a good teacher; it’s mostly experience,” Johnson says. “Student teaching really opened up my eyes.”

Knowing how vital it is for her and her staff to be here for her students, who are the most severe cases out of four townships, she knows she has to be extremely patient and compassionate. “You really really just have to love your kids,” she says. “One minute they may vomit on you and you just have to get over it, because you have to get back to helping them two minutes later.”

“They may do the most disgusting or gross things, but… I like working with them and really getting to know them.” To some it is more than just a teacher-student relationship; it is a bond. The students sometimes have the same teacher for multiple years and they spend every day learning and growing with the teacher and their assistants.

“There’s a lot of trust that goes into the staff with these kids,” Johnson says. “Parents send their kids off and they want to know what they are doing. They trust us.” Goals, accomplishments and paperwork are sent home in plastic three-ring binders in colorful miniature cartoon backpacks on the bus or in the minivan everyday for the guardians and parents to review.

“Patience can wear thin for sure; things can get boring like hearing the same song every morning or doing the same activities, but it’s good for the kids,” she says. There are plenty of physical challenges that pop up. Diapers, potty-training, eating restrictions and walking devices are just a few of all the challenges. “At least 50 percent of my day is spent in the bathroom with the kids it seems,” Johnson says. “Potty training is number one on the parent’s list and we try. There is still a chance at this age, once they get to high school, it is almost too late.”

Both students and parents tend to rely on the staff for support and help in gearing their special needs child into as much normalcy as possible. Speech therapists, occupational therapists and social workers can all help. Hearing that you may have saved someone’s life may be all the inspiration that is needed to stay at work.

Kid-friendly and visually eye-popping, the bright candy corn orange plastic chair in the shape of a hand, greets students as they enter in this safe haven. Working diligently at his desk in a small room filled with games, social work books and candy, R.I.S.E. LLC social worker Kyle Walke, LSW, prepares for the next task of the day, behavior mapping.

Behavior mapping is a valuable resource and tool for social workers in discovering and understanding where the child is coming from, their mindset. Walke explains that it is a board of four or five aspects of the child’s life that need addressed and then try to figure out what behaviors need modified or corrected. People involved in student’s life, such as the social worker, teacher, guardian and family are all present to give input. It helps give a background to help everyone involved better understand what is or isn’t stable in the child’s life and how to better address issues.

“Everything I do I have to collaborate with the teachers,” Walke says. “They are my best resource I have.”

“Students with disabilities are different. It’s not like scoring 100 percent on a math test. For one student we may have them practice not running into people in the hallway so they won’t do it at the grocery store and have someone get angry at them. We help them with social skills and issues,” he says.

It is important to know that patience is a virtue and is a must for any career in education, especially one in special needs. “It’s important to be patient, calm and empathetic,” Walke says. “Emotionally disabled kids are here because they have been kicked out of their schools because of bad behavior. You can’t let it get to you or you will get really burned out in a week or a day or an hour.”

Learning patience is one thing, how to deal with everyday situations is tougher. “We have different skill sets than counselors,” he says. “We advocate in a lot of different ways. We are trained early on how to handle and adjust to deal with wide variety of circumstances we will encounter.”

Knowing when to ask for help and when to work together seems to work for R.I.S.E. Learning Center and it will continue to thrive in the upcoming years as changes will be made. Collaborative efforts are the name of the game.

Manning will be highest-paid player in NFL Wire Reports

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said Tuesday that he hopes to sign quarterback Peyton Manning to a contract extension when the season ends, a move that should make the four-time NFL MVP the league’s highest-paid player.

“We know Peyton’s going to be the highest-paid player in the league,” Irsay said at Super Bowl Media Day in Miami, according to the Boston Herald. “It’s something that’ll get done. We’ll be talking in the offseason.”

Manning’s contract is set to expire after the 2010 season, but Irsay doesn’t want to wait to work out a new deal.

“With one year to go, even having the franchise tag and all that sort of thing, we’d like to get something done, sooner than later,” Irsay said, according to The Associated Press. “So once the season ends, we’re going to be talking about that and hopefully getting something done before next season begins. It’s something that’s going to get done, so honestly, those aren’t the ones you worry about.”

The first order of business for Manning and the Colts: Trying to beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday for their second Super Bowl title in the last four years.

A new deal could keep Manning in Indianapolis for the rest of his career, something Irsay would like to do.

Manning, 34, has won a record number of league MVP awards and also has one Super Bowl MVP honor. He’s one of four quarterbacks to throw for more than 50,000 yards, and he’s third all-time in career touchdown passes with 366, trailing just Brett Favre (497) and Dan Marino (420).

Manning has started 209 consecutive games, including the playoffs.

Manning signed a seven-year, $99.2 million deal with the Colts in 2004. His brother, Eli, has since signed a six-year, $97 million contract with the New York Giants, giving him a higher per-year average than his brother.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers signed a seven-year, $98.25 million contract last year.

Irsay said it’s likely Manning will regain the status that he once held as the league’s highest-paid quarterback.

“I really don’t see that having a bearing on that. I really don’t,” Irsay said. “Ideally, you know, if it’s possible, I’d like to get something done.”

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s contract also is up in 2010, and he could receive a deal similar to Manning’s.

“Those two guys are kinda tied at the hip as outstanding players,” Irsay said, according to The Herald. “Brady’s up at the same time and there’s no question that those guys are comparable in terms of what they’ll be getting paid.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Picture from

Wyclef Jean calls for evacuating Haiti capital

By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press Writer Mon Jan 18, 6:29 pm ET

NEW YORK – Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean defended his charity on Monday in the wake of questions about its practices while calling on the international community to enable the evacuation of his homeland’s earthquake-ravaged capital.

“Port-au-Prince is a morgue,” Jean said at a Manhattan press conference, recounting how he collected the corpses of small children and adults from the festering streets on his recent trip. Tears streamed down his face as he looked into the camera, speaking to his countrymen.

Residents should be evacuated to tent cities outside Port-au-Prince to allow for aid to reach them and so cleanup can begin in earnest, Jean said, asking for help from around the world in building encampments.

“We need to migrate at least 2 million people,” Jean said, promising to draw on his status as one of Haiti’s favorite sons to aid in such an effort. “I give you my word, if I tell them to go, they will go. But they need somewhere to go to,” Jean said.

The musician made the plea for an evacuation at the behest of Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and President Rene Preval, said Hugh Locke, the president of The Wyclef Jean Foundation Inc.

The organization, also known as the Yele Haiti Foundation, has drawn fire in recent days as groups that vet charities raised doubts about its accounting practices and ability to function in a nation devastated by last week’s earthquake.

Jean gave an impassioned defense of the organization, which has received more than $2 million in donations in just a few days.

“My dad always told me, if you’re a man with a clear conscience, speak with a clear conscience and the world will know,” he said. “Have we made mistakes before? Yes. Did I ever use Yele money for personal benefit? Absolutely not.”

An Associated Press review of tax returns and independent audits provided by Jean’s foundation showed that it was closely intertwined with Jean’s businesses.

Among the mistakes by the young organization, Locke said, was the decision to buy $250,000 of airtime from Telemax S.A., a for-profit TV station in Haiti that is majority-owned by Jean and another foundation board member.

Locke said that Yele believed it was getting a good price for airtime in a nation where many are illiterate and rely on the TV for information. The decision would be handled differently now, he said.

The foundation plans to send donated supplies to Haiti on a plane provided by FedEx on Saturday. It is still deciding how donated funds will be spent, considering such options as mobile schools for refugee camps and security forces to escort supplies, Locke said.

Conan Scandal

By: Melissa Fears

The funny man has spoken and according to him he is “going to leave television altogether and work in a classier business with better people, like hard-core porn.” That statement has come after weeks of bickering and fighting between the network and two of its prized money-makers, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien.

The drama began after the “Jay Leno Show” began to lose its luster, if there ever was one. According to network sources, the network’s pilot development last year was derailed with the disappearance of its 10 p.m. dramas to make room for “The Jay Leno Show,” which was canceled early last week. The network also spent millions on new sets and the launch of both “Tonight” and “Jay Leno” and then had to face ratings down spiraling both at 10 p.m. and 11:35 p.m., which led to revenue loss.

The comedians have had a field day creating jokes on the mini-crisis. Leno pokes fun at the situation saying, “”I left prime time the way I found it … a complete disaster.” Jimmy Kimmel joins the fun by saying, “Listen Jay, Conan and I have children,” he continued on, “all you have to take care of is cars. I mean, we have lives to lead here. You’ve got $800 million. For God’s sakes, leave our shows alone.”

Not too worry for the Conan fans, the flame-colored funny man will get the last laugh with an estimated $40 million payout and will be expected to be free to join another network, possibly right away and by early fall at the latest. The pact also includes sizable severance packages for O’Brien’s longtime executive producer Jeff Ross and the rest of the “Tonight” staff, some of it possibly coming out of O’Brien’s settlement paycheck. O’Brien is expected to tape his final “Tonight Show” on Friday. Jay Leno will return to the “Tonight” desk March 1 after the Winter Olympics.

Fans have been lining the Chicago streets this week to show their support for O’Brien. Similar rallies in L.A. and NYC are scheduled for later this week. The rally of mostly teens and young adults, some wearing orange or sporting red wigs and spray-painted hair, were organized through the Facebook social networking site.

The NBC network and the “Tonight Show” brands have arguably been ruined. The network, in particular, has been framed as clumsy at best and just plain vindictive at worst in its handling of the issue.