Tuesday, August 30, 2016

First Person: Time Passages

As my time in the business accumulates, a thing that gives me increasing joy is watching green kids, newbies, walk through the door, and become fine broadcasters and journalists.

It hurts when they leave for bigger cities, but that's understandable.  It's another story for another time.

A friend of a friend is starting her sophomore year at my alma mater, Marywood.  I was approached about a tour of the station.  No problem.  I was glad to do it.  Those who wear the Marywood green and white stick together.

The sophomore was a very nice young woman.  Smart.  She watched part of our Sunday morning broadcast from the control room, and the rest, with me, in the studio.

Before I walked her through the operation, she got the speech.  I'll give you the short version.  Much of it deals with time.  I told her that she should make sure this is something she really wants to do.  You'll be here on birthdays and holidays, days and nights and overnights.  When your friends get the day off because of snow, you'll be coming to work.  This is not a 9 to 5, forty hour work week job.

I heard I scared her.

Uhhh...  Sorry?!?!

She's not the first, and she won't be the last.  I am continually amazed that no one at colleges and universities point that out.  When you get in to the news business, your sleep schedule is shot.

I'm not complaining.  I often quote those in organized crime:  "This is the life we have chosen."

I should point out that the station has never cheaped out on getting hotel rooms for staffers during snow storms.  We are also well fed when big stories keep us at the office for long hours.

I don't know how many times I've stood, microphone in hand, in front of a live camera thinking "I'm one of the first to know something, and I get to tell thousands of people about it."  Believe me, it's a rush.  It's also a joy to do a lighter story, introduce you to someone, like the Marywood move in story last week.

The news business can break your heart, but it's also fantastic fun and extremely rewarding.

Kids, study hard.  Keep up on current events.  And, get a good alarm clock.

Monday, August 29, 2016

First Person: Mall School

I continue to be fascinated by the concept.

As I've said here before, it seems like the only entities with the money to expand these days are hospitals, dollar stores...  and colleges.

Luzerne County Community College wanted a presence in Lackawanna County for a while.  Management says it looked at 30 sites before settling on the second floor of the Marketplace at Steamtown, formerly the Mall at Steamtown, in downtown Scranton.

The mall has been a big part of my career.  I covered every tedious development in the struggle to build it.  I broadcast, live, the implosion that cleared the way for it.  I did the first live shot from inside the mall, the night before the grand opening.  I was there when store after store after store closed.

Now, LCCC.

The ribbon on LCCC's campus on the mall's second floor was cut Tuesday morning, and I was there for that, too.  LCCC is taking over most of the second floor space vacated when Bon Ton left.

It's clear the mall's future is not retail.  Office space is already here, and LCCC is the newest non traditional tenant.  I can't speak for the finances, but it appears to make sense.  There's room, plenty of parking, restaurants, public transportation...  It helps fill the need for an affordable higher education, even though Lackawanna College is just up the street.

The ribbon cutting was set for 11 AM, not the greatest time  for TV.  Photographer Steve and I got there early to get some video and do some interviews.  We still needed the signature shot of the big scissors, but that came after speeches.  With video stored on the camera card, we got outside to the truck and put something together for the noon broadcast.  We made it with five minutes to spare.

After the noon live shot, Steve went back inside to get more video.  He'd be working with the afternoon crew.  My shift, which began at 2:30 AM was over, so I jumped in my car to head home.

I can't see how LCCC at the Marketplace at Steamtown could fail, but you never know, and we'll be following this one closely in the months to come.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Andy's Angles: The Church

You've seen this building here before.  It's the Smurfit Arts Center at the University of Scranton, built as a church in 1897.

It's tucked in to Scranton's Hill Section, and it's remarkably easy to miss...  but if you get the right angle, the steeple dominates the skyline.

It's one of my favorites.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Andy's Angles: The Tracks

I like this shot, not for what it is, but for what it used to be.

It's the view to the west, near the University of Scranton and behind the Radisson, formerly the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western rail station.

No matter how many times I've been here, and how many times I've taken this picture, I think of all those people rolling in to the station, or leaving Scranton.  Happy and sad reasons for the journeys, probably a lot of tears.

A passenger train passing through once in a while probably wouldn't be a bad thing.

Friday, August 26, 2016

I Saw the Light

A community here in our area was recently hit by some mini mart robberies.  At least one was violent, where the clerk was attacked and beaten.

That led one community official to call on mini mart management to install new and brighter LED fixtures.

That's all well and good, but if light was the ultimate solution, there wouldn't be any crime during the daytime.

That leads me to a story...  A weekend anchor I once worked with wrote a story about a "daring daylight bank robbery."  In addition to being a horrible cliche, I called him on one other fact.  Banks aren't open at night.  All bank robberies happen in the daylight.  OK, I'll concede that banks close in the dark during the short daylight months in November, December, and January.

Getting back to the mini marts, I'm sure lighting will help.  Getting rid of the drug problem, and putting more police on the street will go a lot further than a few new light bulbs.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

First Person: Movin' Out

I have a great job.  I produce a little.  I anchor a little.  I report a little.  I love the variety.

But there are times when it doesn't work out so well.  I really love doing the "college freshmen moving into the dorms" story.  But, most of the time, it happens on weekends, when I'm doing inside work.  I watch others do it.  I get frustrated.

Why do I like the story so much?  It's a great study in human nature and behavior and it's fascinating to watch.  The kids try to put up a brave face, but you know many are terrified.  It's the first time being away from home on an extended basis.  In addition to the terror, there is great anticipation.  It's a big step into adulthood, and let's face it.  There is tremendous potential for great fun, and maybe some of it is on the naughty side.

As for the parents, it's relief another one is out on his or her own, but there's worry there as well.  Mom and dad want to encourage the young ones, but you can see the fear on their faces.

Fate smiled on me Monday.  My alma mater, Marywood, shifted its schedule a bit.  Freshman move in day was on a weekday rather than a weekend.  I grabbed photographer Steve and went up to take a look around.

It was was a delight, everything I expected, and more.

As is my habit, I was looking for a story rather than a bunch of facts.  It wasn't hard to find.  I built most of the piece around a father and son.  The son was looking forward to beginning his higher education and being on his own.  Dad had mixed feelings.  While he was thrilled for his son, dad was sorry his youngest was leaving the nest.  Dad told me it wasn't just a son moving out.  It was also his friend.  We all teared up.

There was an additional element.  Upperclassmen were there to help in the move-- spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  I spied this tiny little girl, throwing around crates, boxes, bed frames and mattresses like a Viking.  It gave me another hook.  She weighed all of 95 pounds, and was doing more work than men and women twice her weight.  On top of that, she was a sweet, spunky kid.

I am a very harsh self critic, but I have to admit that the piece came out pretty good.  Thank you, photographer Steve.

I think another reason the "dorm" story fascinates me is I never had that experience.  I actually lived closer to my college than I did to my high school.  It worked out well.  I hooked on at WARM when I was a sophomore, so I learned on the job as well as learning in school.  There were days when I pulled an all nighter at WARM, took a nap, went to school, pulled an afternoon shift on the college radio station, then headed back to WARM to work an evening schedule.  It's an experience I wouldn't trade for anything.

Class of 2020, welcome to college.  Class of 2021, I'll see you next fall.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


It's one of those things that might makes sense on the highest levels, and makes no sense to the rest of us.

NBC hired Mike Tirico away from ESPN to do Thursday Night Football.  According to the NY Daily News, the NFL is insisting NBC's "A" team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth do the games, and that is exactly what will happen this fall.

Tirico is adequate.  I always thought his voice was rather thin.  I grew up with the deeper richer voices of Ray Scott, Pat Summerall, Jack Buck, Verne Lundquist, Curt Gowdy, Jim Simpson, Charlie Jones, etc.

Here's my point.  It appears Michaels and Collinsworth didn't want the extra workload.  Is calling two football games a week really "work?"

I know there's a lot of preparation and effort involved.  Travel in this post 9/11 world isn't easy.  But, for a few million a year, I'll work an extra day, even if it means going from one end of the country to the other, and I'm sure Michaels and Collinsworth aren't flying tourist class.

The bottom line is that you're sitting in a booth, at a stadium calling a GAME.  You're not up there tarring the roof.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Scrapple

The publisher of the newspaper I complained about on Friday returned my e-mail.  He promised to fix the problems.

Outside of Phelps and Bolt, it seems most Olympics stories the past two weeks were negative-- polluted Rio, lying American swimmers.

Why does our area seem to have so many heartless and cruel homicides.  I know. They all are.  A starvation death in Schuylkill County, where the two suspects were arrested last week, is particularly nauseating.

A big smile erupted when I saw overnight lows in 50's on the 7 day forecast board.  I love fall.  Unfortunately, it doesn't last long enough, and it's followed by winter.

It's great to see the college students coming back.  Colleges and universities add a lot of life to our area.

I gave up my Pittsburgh Steelers fan status last year when the team signed Michael Vick.  I'm in no hurry to return to the flock, especially when you look at some of the shady characters on the squad this year.

Jack Riley passed away last week.  He was in dozens of television programs, most notably as Mr. Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show.  Very dry, and extremely funny.

76 days until the presidential election.  Most polls have Trump trailing Clinton.  Is there enough time to turn it around?

I was watching a Ronald Reagan documentary on PBS the other morning.  Regardless of what you thought about his politics, the man knew how to deliver a line.  He really was The Great Communicator.

While I'm really looking forward to Bad Santa 2, it really seems like Hollywood is making the same movies over and over and over again.

Monday, August 22, 2016

One Photo

One of the reasons I've always been attracted to photography is the power of the medium.  A photo can stick with you for the rest of your life.

I learn a lot about television, from watching people watch television.  Case in point:  last week at the gym.  My gym is one of those places that features an array of screens.  You just wear ear buds and punch in the desired number.

When the photo below came on one of the screens, it's like the entire place stopped to watch.

It's a little boy, dazed and bloodied after a bomb attack in Syria.  This is the photo that broke millions of hearts around the world.

The photo triggered a lot of memories.  I remember doing stories with a man from Dickson City who used to host kids from Northern Ireland every summer.  The kids had a great time.  No car bombs.  No beatings, shootings or other violence.  it was just a couple of weeks in the summer when kids could be kids.

A friend reminded me of another local who used to bring children from the Soviet Union over for a little while.  They were fascinated most by the supermarket.  No lines for bread.  You could get anything you wanted.

I haven't seen it in the news for a while, but there was a program that brought inner city kids to our area for part of the summer.  I hope it still happens.

At the top of this entry, I noted the power of a photo.  What you see here is at the top of the list.  However, I really doubt it will change much in Syria.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Andy's Angles: Signature Piece

This is the signature piece of the Steamtown collection.

While it doesn't operate, it's still amazing, and you wonder what it was like when these locomotovies made their way across the country.

Below is the story from the Steamtown web site.

The Big Boys were built for power. They did the work of three smaller engines, pulling 120-car, 3800 ton freight trains at forty miles per hour in the mountains of Utah and Wyoming.
With power, though, comes weight - larger cylinders, pistons, drive rods, boiler and firebox. Steam locomotive manufacturers added more wheels with idlers and powered drive wheels.
The extra wheels added length. Long engines had difficulty squeezing through the sharp track curves, especially in the mountains. A Swiss designer, Anatole Mallet (1837-1919) added a "hinge" to the middle of a locomotive to allow it to "flex" slightly. Two pairs of cylinders supplied power to the two sets of drive wheels.
The Big Boys were built in Schenectady, New York by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) to the Union Pacific's design. ALCO delivered the first batch of 20 - including #4012 in the Steamtown NHS collection - in 1941 and the remaining 5 in 1944.
Big Boys had over one mile of tubes and flues inside the boiler. Their firebox grate measured 150 square feet. The Big Boys had sixteen drive wheels, each measuring 68 inches. From coupler to coupler they measured 132 feet 9 inches. The tender held 24,000 gallons of water and 28 tons of coal and the engine and tender weighed 1,189,500 pounds in working order. The engines well deserved the name 'Big Boy' which was written on one of the drive rods by an unknown worker at ALCO.
The 25 Big Boys were built to pull long, fast freight trains over the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and Sherman Hill in Wyoming. They served there until 1959 when the new diesel-electric locomotives took over. The Big Boys were not the most powerful engines, though they were the heaviest. But no engine ever came close to matching Big Boy's combination of speed, power and agility. Today, the Union Pacific "Big Boy" #4012 is preserved and on display at Steamtown. Though it does not operate, it remains a most impressive machine.