Thursday, October 27, 2016

Sports Scrapple

I don't think I have ever cared less about a World Series.  I don't like the teams, and I haven't bought in to that "Wouldn't it be great if the Cubs finally win a World Series?" mania.

NFL ratings are still down, and the experts are still scratching their heads.  I don't think it's any one factor.  Culprits include injured and out of action stars, bad games, over saturation, distraction by politics, national anthem protests...

NBC's Al Michaels has done it again.  In an HBO interview, he peed all over Thursday Night Football.  Michaels will call the second half of the package this season.  His candor was refreshing, but on the other hand, calling football games is a sweet gig.  It's made him a millionaire, many times over.  Perhaps being a millionaire has given Michaels the cushion to speak his mind.  Just call the games, cash the check, and shut up.

Dan Patrick interviewed the retired and 88 year old Keith Jackson on the radio the other day.  The man was the voice of autumn Saturday afternoons for decades, and it was good to hear him again.

I still cringe when I see Pete Rose on the FOX Sports baseball pre and post game shows.

The Giants played the Rams in London Sunday morning.  Why?

I haven't seen much of the FOX, ESPN, and CBS NFL pre game shows this season, and I don't feel as if I've missed anything.

The MLB Network and NFL Network late night wrap up shows are really very good, MLB Network especially.

ESPN has extended the contracts of Pardon the Interruption hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.  PTI is the most entertaining studio show on the network.

DON Imus is on a lot of all sports stations.  His contract has been extended by his syndicator.   I looked at the Imus network station line up.  It's mostly struggling low powered AM stations.  WABC is a technical powerhouse, but it has no ratings.  I've often said, picking up Imus is proof a program director is out of ideas.  This has nothing to do with age.  Imus is 76.  Unfortunately, he hasn't been funny or interesting in years.

Bob Raissman in the New York Daily News had a great idea Sunday.  The Baseball Hall of Fame should honor directors as well as announcers.  Directors can make or break a broadcast, and it's time they get some recognition.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Kathleen Kane + Bias Update

Let's try to look at the Kathleen Kane saga piece by piece.

Pennsylvania voters elected a low profile Lackawanna County assistant district attorney four years ago.  Most of her job was to be in court and take pleas.  Kane and her staff ran a solid and well financed campaign, but you cannot overlook the fact that an inexperienced person was sent to be the top law enforcement officer in the state.

I don't know who said it first, but it's a great line:  "If experience means so much, who would we have sent to the moon?"

Intelligence and maturity can overcome inexperience.  You may draw your own conclusions.

Kane was found guilty of leaking secret grand jury information to damage an opponent.  She then lied to cover it up.

Justice is supposed to be blind.  Everyone gets treated the same.  It's the foundation of the justice system.  Still, I believe there are people out there who should be held to a higher standard.  Kathleen Kane should have known better.

I feel sorry for her children, but there is always collateral damage in a sentencing.  Perhaps, if the consequences were understood sooner, this never would have happened.

A Montgomery County judge sentenced Kane to 10 to 23 months in jail.  The judge called Kane's actions "the ultimate assault on the judiciary."  Ten months seems a bit low for an "ultimate assault," but that's the way things often go.  Anything less than jail time would have affirmed the belief that there are two justice systems-- one for the rich and powerful, and another for the rest of us.

So, we have a life in ruins, a family devastated, a career destroyed, plus all the damage from the people Kathleen Kane hurt along the way.  As I always ask in cases like this:  "Was it worth it?"

Last week, in this space, I yammered on about how the broadcast networks seem to be bias-free in this year's presidential election campaign.  I wrote too soon.

I am really tempted to name the network and the reporter...  but she scowled as she talked about Donald Trump's plans for the day, but smiled broadly when she listed the Clinton itinerary.  Gee, I wonder who she's voting for next month?

You see, bias doesn't have to be verbal.  Whether or not the big grin was deliberate is irrelevant.   The reporter let her feelings show, and it was totally inappropriate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


When there is no real election news on any given day, the networks usually trot out a poll to make a little news of their own, generate a little heat.

For a blog entry last week, I pondered the presidential elections I've covered, albeit from a distance.

I decided to expand that to presidential elections during my lifetime for this blog entry.

Most have been like Super Bowls:  noncompetitive.

Let's examine the evidence.

1960:  Kennedy vs Nixon.  This one was a nail biter.

1964:  Johnson over Goldwater in a walk.

1968:  Nixon barely defeats Humphrey.

1972:  Nixon glides over McGovern.

1976:  Carter defeats Ford in a squeaker.

1980:  Reagan romps over Carter.  The networks called this one at 8:15 PM.

1984:  Another Reagan romp.  The victim this time is Walter Mondale.

1988:  Bush gets 426 electoral votes to Dukakis' 111.

1992:  Bill Clinton won 100 more electoral votes than needed.  George Bush fails to win reelection.

1996:  Clinton over Bob Dole.  It wasn't close.

2000:  One of the few exceptions.  Bush wins just five more electoral votes than Al Gore.

2004:  Bush won the vast majority of States, but John Kerry had the big ones.  This was another close one.

2008:  Barack Obama had a fairly easy time defeating John McCain.

2012:  Obama and Mitt Romney had roughly the same number of states, but once again, the Democrat had the big ones.  Obama wins again.

2016:  According to most polls, this one is breaking Hillary Clinton's way, but this has been an exceptionally unusual year.  You never know.  Two weeks until election day.

Monday, October 24, 2016

66 Years

It was a fixture along George Street in Throop since before I was born.

Butash Pharmacy.

To those who never grew with a place like this within walking distance of home, I am very sorry.  You knew them.  They knew you.  It was a small store, but it everything you wanted or needed, including a tiny post office branch.

I do not associate Butash Pharmacy with being sick, but rather, being well.  Let me explain.  Of course, it was the place to get all your prescriptions and over the counter medicines.  There was another part of the store.  The original location featured a freezer to the left of the front door as soon as you walked in.  Popsicles.  They always had my favorite, vanilla.  Root beer was a close second.  Most summer days featured a short bike ride up the street to grab something cold.

Fire destroyed the original location in 1988.  I was working at WARM at the time.  One of the hardest things I ever had to do was watch the building burn, and report it on the radio.  I was thrilled when the pharmacy reopened and moved across the street, and I put that on the radio, too.

The owners decided the time has come.  The store closed Saturday.  Price Chopper has the prescription business.

66 years of service.

I have to admit, it's been a while since I was here.  When you're mobile and work odd hours, it's tough to bypass the big chains.  I do know a few people in the old neighborhood who are heartbroken about this.  I understand.  A store closes, and it's like losing a friend.

I stopped by Saturday, just before the doors were locked for the last time.  We talked about the way things used to be.  Throop had dress factories, and the workers always stopped by for what they needed.  Throop used to have several doctors.  Patients would just walk down the block or up the street to get prescriptions filled.  Most of the doctors are gone, and now, so is Butash Pharmacy.

I should point out the Butash family helped in community events, sponsored a softball team, etc.  They knew loyalty is a two way street, just like George Street, which now has a big hole right in the middle.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Andy's Agnles: Gone

There used to be a Sears here, at the Viewmont Mall.  Sears was in Scranton.  The rest of the mall is in Dickson City.  This is the view from the front.  The remaining mall is off to the left.  It was leveled this week.

Sears closed this store a few months ago.  A couple of sporting goods/outdoors stores are going up in its place.  There will be a third store, yet to be announced.

I was sad, a little.  Sears was the first of the Viewmont stores to open, and back in the day, the mall was cool.
Above is the view from the back.  I vividly remember this is where I was the night LBJ died in 1973.  My mom and I were in the car, waiting for my father to return with a Sears purchase.  When he got back in the car, he said he just saw on a TV in the appliance department that Johnson had passed away.

There are still other Sears stores out there, but for how long?  Most of the experts feel Seers has bungled itself into retail irrelevancy. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Andy's Angles: Memorial

Weathered and impressive...  this monument to soldiers and sailors can be found along Main Street in Plymouth.

Friday, October 21, 2016


It's sleeping Homer's final appearance of 2016, and you know what that means:  I'm using up my last vacation week of the year.

You've heard it before-- no major plans, other than a little photography, bike riding, gym visits, KMart, a vacation beard and a lot of sleep.

There's always some sadness associated with using my last vacation week of the year.  It means winter is coming.  On the bright side, a new year is only two and a half months away.  That brings with it a fresh bank of vacation weeks.

I still have a few scattered single days off before the end of 2016.

The weekend morning broadcasts are in the very capable hands of Stacy Lange.

I'll see you soon.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Yes and No

The issue crops up every four years, but it's been kicked up a notch this year.  Media bias.

Is the media biased?  No doubt.

ABC, CBS, and NBC seem to play it down the middle.  MSNBC and CNN lean left.  FOX News Channel goes right.  I should point out that most of the daytime reporting is solid.  The directions change during the prime time interview and opinion shows.  That's OK.  You know where Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews fall.  The same goes for Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

Now that we've established that, let's talk about personal experience.  This is my tenth presidential election.  No one at any radio or tv station where I have ever worked has suggested I slant my reporting.

There are some stories I should pass along.

I got my start at WARM.  During my stay, it was owned by a very conservative family based in York, PA.  Before the 1988 election, upper management had placed a memo on the bulletin board (this was long before email), telling its employees how important it was that the country remain in Republican hands.  There were no threats.  Management simply told us why it felt we should vote for George H.W. Bush.  They didn't poke their nose in to the news department.  After the Bush victory, we each received a commemorative plate.  The people who owned the radio station also controlled Pfaltzgraff.  It was a really nice plate, and I'm sure I still have it somewhere.

When I moved in to television, our general manager, just before every election, told us what candidates spent the most money.  It was a playful suggestion that those candidates should be rewarded with our votes.  After all, political dollars kept the lights on.  It was a joke more than anything else.  I voted with my heart and head, and who spent the most money with the station really didn't matter much to me.  Again, there was never a suggestion or threat that the big spenders receive more and favorable coverage.

During my stay at WNEP, we've been under three owners, and I've worked for three general managers.  Five news directors.  One interim news director.  Four executive producers.  Countless producers.  All have bent over backwards to make sure our reporting is fair and accurate.

My advice to you is to stick to WNEP for local news, but read several newspapers, watch a bunch of different networks, and visit varied web sites.  Expose yourself to all points of view, whether or not you agree.  Recognize bias when you see it.  Think.  Form your own opinions.

Above all, VOTE!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First Person: Sherman Hills

I once worked for a very wise news director who advocated getting an early jump on stories.  He reasoned that if you start late, it's tough to make up that time as you move through your work day.  I think of that often.  Most mornings, I'm up before the alarm clock goes off.  It gives me time to check WNEP.com, emails and scattered other news sites.

I was up extra early Sunday night, punched up WNEP.com, and saw there was a homicide at Sherman Hills housing complex in Wilkes-Barre.  I instantly knew where I would spend my day.

We set up in the police station parking lot for Newswatch 16 This Morning.  It was nuts and bolts stuff.  Police weren't saying much.  There is often an adversarial relationship between police and the media, but we really could have helped here.  Description of suspects, getaway vehicle, etc.  Police didn't supply it.  We did pass along their request for witnesses to come forward.  Let's talk about that for a moment.

If and when the killer is caught, the affidavit of probable cause should be interesting.  Police say there were others in the area at the time of the shooting.  Even though their identities will be protected, I'm skeptical when it comes to the concept of homicide witnesses volunteering information.  Fear is a big motivator.  It can propel you to do something.  In a case like this, it can steer you toward NOT doing something, and that something is helping police.

After the morning broadcast, we packed up the truck and went to the Sherman Hills neighborhood to see if people still feel safe.  After a wave of violence a couple of years ago, a task was formed to tackle the problem.  I suspect it was a lot of public relations and not much action.  Residents I spoke with say it has improved, but complacency is setting in.  Sherman Hills is slipping back to the way it used to be.

One resident blamed New York and New Jersey people for the problems here.  That may be true, but I'm sure some locals are to blame as well.  I should point out that the coroner's office said the homicide victim is from Far Rockaway, New York.

As we were parked on Coal Street, a few people driving by yelled "shut it down."  Yes, any time there is a problem here, they are calls for closing Sherman Hills.  Would that solve the problem, or just move it somewhere else?  What about all the Sherman Hills people who follow the rules and abide by the law?

I'm reminded of O'Karma Terrace.  That's the Wilkes-Barre housing project that had its share of Sherman Hills type problems several years ago.  The name was changed to Boulevard Townhomes.  It was cleaned up, and it's now generally trouble free.

It can be done.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Three Weeks

It's hard to believe that the process that started two years ago is three weeks away from completion.

Yes, I know many states have early voting, but three weeks from today, Americans go to the polls to choose their next president.

Historians will study this one for hundreds of years to come.

Two very different choices.  Two flawed candidates.  Two campaigns that repeatedly stumbled.

Polls show Clinton in the lead.  Some states that were toss ups are now leaning Democrat.  Trump still has a path to victory, and I noticed it this morning.  I'm seeing Trump signs in places where I've never seen anything promoting a Republican candidate.  There is still time left for Trump to recover from recent problems, but not much time.

We can't forget about two other races here in Pennsylvania-- attorney general and US Senate.

If you haven't made up your mind, there is still plenty of time to study and make an informed choice.

The last three weeks could be the most interesting of the campaign.