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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

About the Cover


It doesn't happen often, but there is occasionally some down time during morning news live shots.  After one, and before the start of another, I looked up while on Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton.  It was a huge full moon over North Washington Avenue, slightly obscured by hazy clouds and a little humidity.

Quiet street.  Just a few street lights.  No activity.  It all added up to an interesting shot.

I should add that one can wander around Courthouse Square very early the morning and feel fairly safe.  It's rare in a city.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Memorial Day

I spent it in Peckville, where there was a parade and observance beginning at 8:30 AM.

The photo above was taken on Keystone Avenue.  It stopped at the SGT Jan Argonish memorial.  He was killed in Afghanistan in 2007.

It's what the day is all about-- remembering those who didn't make it home.  Over the years, the day has morphed into a second Veterans Day.  It bothers some.  Not me.  Any chance to say "thank you" to those who serve is a good one.

Peckville was not alone.  A lot of small towns and large cities here in our area marked Memorial Day.  It's part of what makes our area special, and I was happy to bring part of it into your homes yesterday.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

First and foremost, please don't forget what the day is all about.  It's important.  There so many people and groups making sure sacrifices are honored and never forgotten.  It is a noble task.

Memorial Day is the kick off of the summer season.  When you're a kid, it means the end of the school year is in sight.  Warm days.  Wiffle ball.  Riding bikes,  Assorted other fun.

Barbecues.  Family.  Friends.

I'll be working today, and that's not a problem.  When you get in the news business, working holidays is part of the package.  It's the life we've chosen.  I'll take a day off next week to compensate.

As I've said here many times in the past, Memorial Day is a tough one.  Every community has a service or ceremony.  There are several parades.  We try to cover as many as we can.  Unfortunately, we can't get to them all.  That often leaves some bruised feelings, and I apologize.  We have a big staff, but there are limits.  A lot of observances happen at the same time.  You have to make choices.  If we don't make it to your town, I'm sorry.  It doesn't mean you're less important to us.

It's also the kick off of the summer driving season.  Sorry for the cliche, but be careful out there.

We hope to see you tomorrow.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Andy's Angles: Grey Morning

I was playing around with the camera in my phone, between live shots, on a recent morning.

This was taken just after sunrise on Courthouse Square in Scranton.  It wasn't the greatest looking morning.

I will admit the place is looking a little better.  The inappropriate for the site wall and monuments are still here, but the trees are growing nicely.  It's softening that horrid "sea of concrete and granite" look we've been stuck with the last several years.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Andy's Angles: Lighting Up

It takes a lot to impress me, and it happened a couple of weeks ago.

A new gym, called Crunch, opened inside the Mall at Steamtown in downtown Scranton.  For years, when the bridge over Lackawanna Avenue was retail space, there was mirrored glass here.  It was to maximize the selling space inside.

Now, the glass is clear (actually slightly frosted) so exercisers could look out onto the avenue and passers-by could look in.

The gym opens at 5 in the morning and stays open until 11 at night, so the bright lights, shining onto the street below, is striking.
It really lights up the street, and it adds life to a dark downtown.  You really have to see it.  I'm sure it will get even better once the new movie theater moves in across the street.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Progress

I had a few moments to kill before a little shopping yesterday.  I arrived at the Mall at Steamtown at 9:45 AM.  The store I wanted to visit wasn't open yet, so I ventured out onto the bridge leading from the mall to the Steamtown National Historic Site.

This was the scene as I turned around and looked back at the mall.  You're looking at the west end, second floor.  This was originally Montgomery Ward, then Bon Ton.  Part of the second floor Bon Ton space will soon be occupied by the Scranton branch of Luzerne County Community College.

Hacking a hole in the outer wall and dumping debris into dumpsters below is easier and faster than dragging it through the mall.

The LCCC effect on downtown Scranton should be interesting.  Colleges bring young people, knowledge, life, activity, spending, etc...

Scranton has become quite the college town.  The University of Scranton is becoming a big force downtown and in the hill.  Lackawanna College is expanding.  Marywood is getting a new president who will try to navigate the listing shop through rocky waters.  You can't forget about Keystone College in the suburbs.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Follow Up Thursday

Monday night, the Wilkes-Barre Area school board voted to trim some programs and cut dozens of jobs.  As noted here and elsewhere, some good stuff is going, and it will hurt.

Students staged a protest outside Coughlin High School Wednesday morning.  It looked peaceful.  Kudos to the kids for not taking this sitting down, although many will be in trouble for an unexcused absence.

Face reality here:  Wilkes-Barre Area is up the crick as we used to say in the old neighborhood.  There isn't any money, and taxpayers are maxed out.  Students learned a valuable lesson.  By the time something like this appears on a meeting agenda, it's usually a done deal.  The auditorium where the meeting was held was packed Monday night.

The time to attack these things is well before it gets on agenda.  Attend the allegedly mundane meetings.  Face the problem when it is at its infancy.  It seems no one cares about these things until it's too late.

My co-worker, Jim Hamill, has been working on a story on Child Line for weeks.  It's a place where child abuse and neglect is reported.  A large and disturbing percentage of calls go unanswered.  It's criminal.  Jim kept me up to date on what he was doing, until the story ran Monday night.  The Auditor General held a news conference Tuesday to document the Child Line understaffing.

I've written about the dysfunctional nature of state government here many times.  The governor's big announcement yesterday?  He's pushing to allow more gas stations and mini marts to sell six packs of beer.

I will steal Linda Ellerbee's famous closing line:  "And so it goes."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Old School

I watched Monday night's Wilkes-Barre Area school board meeting with a great deal of interest.  The board voted to make $ 4 million in cuts and get rid of 30 staffers.  Programs like library services, family and consumer science, technology and art are gone.

Okay, let's look more closely at this.

First of all, taxpayers are maxed out.  There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck, and that's in a good month.  Wilkes-Barre and surrounding townships are not rich.  School boards have to hold the line and live within their means.

On the other hand, it looks like some important things are being cut.  I'm not a parent, but I am around schools a lot because of work.  Wilkes-Barre Area cut library services.  Students need to learn how to use a library, look up information, learn the value of books, etc.  Family and consumer science also eliminated.  One of the most valuable courses I had in high school was an elective entitled "consumer economics."  Technology education got chopped as well.  Really?  You can't live and function without technology.  Art?  Gone.  I do know what the Wilkes-Barre Area art program entails, but I came from an arts poor high school, and I had to play a lot of catch up when I entered a liberal arts college.  A friend in the education field says Wilkes-Barre area cut programs that encourage imagination and creative thinking, and it's a mistake.

Teachers and their unions have resisted larger class sizes, and I get that.  Smaller classes work better, but if it's a matter of a larger class or none at all, the choice is clear.

Sports seems to have escaped unscathed.  I do realize sports provides the ticket to a free education for a lot of kids.  Sports is more than a game.  It's band and cheerleaders, community bonding, etc.

This is an analysis piece, not an opinion piece.  I do see both sides of this, and a appreciate the pickle the board and taxpayers are in.  It seems like there could be a negotiated mid ground-- keeping programs but scaling back and keeping an eye on the finances.

I just wonder if an entire new industry will pop up-- private entities providing the education and programs public schools have dropped.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Scent of Summer

I admit this isn't the greatest photo.  It was taken through the window of a Rite Aid in downtown Scranton just before opening time.

The store was recently remodeled.  Through the window, it looked rather nice.  Very contemporary.  Like most stores, the really expensive stuff, like razor blades, has anti theft safeguards.

It was the aisle marker under the "seasonal" circular banner that caught my eye.  Look carefully.  Since when is deodorant a seasonal item?  I know we sweat, or perspire if you prefer, more when it's hot, but is it really a seasonal item?

I don't know about you, but I enjoy a little protection year-round.

May you have a happy and sweet smelling summer.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Unfinished Monday


Regular readers know I keep a close eye on the radio industry.  Something in a broadcasting newsletter caught my eye.  There is a cluster of six stations in Binghamton, NY that has just ten full time employees, and only one is "on air."

I often repeat something a former news director taught me a long time ago.  The stations that survive and prosper are the ones that do the best job of reflecting their community.  How much of that can you do when you have ten people running six stations, and only one local air personality?

I know there are economic realities, but I'm disappointed the industry, for the most part, has given up on live and local.

I finally got around to watching the Morley Safer retirement show on "60 Minutes."  I was blown away.  Safer had the career everyone in this business wants to have.  It was the perfect mix of skills, and a place where they could best be put to use-- a TV news magazine.  And, you can't forget his reporting from Vietnam.

We in TV get so caught up in the pictures.  Yes, it's important.  But elegant writing brings the whole story together.  Elegant doesn't mean wordy and flowery.  Elegant can be simple, clean and basic-- but with a little flair.  Morley Safer had the gift, and he will be missed.

CBS This Morning pulled out some old clips of Charlie Rose, on PBS, interviewing Safer.  Morley said he has no regrets, and he loved what he did.  It was refreshing, to say the least.  I'm so tired of people in the business externally complaining about the hours and the work.  Yeah, there are some grumbles from time to time.  It's natural.  The bottom line is this can be a cool way to make a living.

It's no secret that I write many of these blog entries in advance, and I was just finishing this one when the news broke across Twitter early Thursday afternoon that Morley Safer had died.  84.  Pneumonia.  There were few pictures of the guy without a cigarette in his hand.  Please, don't smoke.