Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Voice

I finally got around to watching the "60 Minutes" 50th anniversary special.  Wow!  My only complaint is just one hour didn't do it justice.  You really need two, or three to tell the story.

I've always been amazed that the most successful news broadcast in American television history has the simple mission statement of "Tell me a story."

My favorite part of the anniversary broadcast was hearing Mike Wallace again.  Most people associate Wallace with his ambush interviews and his take no prisoners style.  I'll always remember "the voice."  The man could write a line.  He could also deliver it.  I dare to say it was one of the best broadcast voices in the history of the medium.

From what I understand, Wallace's battles with "60 Minutes" creator and executive producer Don Hewitt were legendary.  They argued over everything.  Regardless of who won, they always produced compelling television.

This is my blog and, as always, it's all about me.

There were frequent debates with a now former manager here.  There were several times he wouldn't like a line I wrote.  I'd counter that it didn't look good on paper (or on the computer screen), but it would all make sense when I delivered it.  My voice and inflection would sell the line.  More often than not, I got my way.  I really respected his opinion, and I especially respected that he listened to reason.  If you could justify it, you got away with it.

I'm not in the Mike Wallace league, but good narration can improve an average script.  I'm lucky that, most of the time, I write for myself.  I hear my voice in my head as I tap out a script on the keyboard.  Good producers and writers know their anchors.  You have to have their voice in mind when you write.  If you write a line they're not comfortable with, it won't be delivered properly.

Mike Wallace died in 2012.  There are still some great writers, reporters and producers out there-- some great voices, too.  Mike Wallace, who helped get "60 Minutes" off the ground, was in a class of his own.

Monday, December 11, 2017

It Gets My Goat

Or in this case, deer...

I haven't written one of these things in a while.  Something is bugging me, and I have to write about it.

Several days ago, I was driving the stretch of Olyphant Avenue in Scranton that runs from Green Ridge to the Throop line.  There was a cluster of five deer standing along the road.  Beautiful animals.  I slowed to take a look, and to be sure they don't run out in front of my car.  They didn't.

A couple of days later, just before 2:00 AM, I was getting in my car to go to the gym, and I heard three shots ring out.  I got sick to my stomach.  I detoured down that way to see if any cars were parked in the area, to see if anyone was dragging carcasses around, spotlights.  Nothing.

If you're not familiar with the spot, it is within city limits, with several houses and an interstate highway in the area.  Penn State and Marywood University are close by.  Firing a gun there, especially at 2:00 AM can't be safe.

I will note two things.  First, the vast majority of hunters are responsible people.  Second, I understand the need for deer population management.  I should add that perhaps we should stop building in their habitat.  Smart growth should be a part of population management.

I've driven through the area several times since I heard those shots.  No deer.  To the "sportsman" who bagged them, I hope you're happy.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Andy's Angles: University Tree Weekend

Today, it's the University of Scranton's turn.

This big tree lights up the center of campus.  I will give the U immense credit for transitioning into a pedestrian friendly campus with a nice dose of green space.  It was something the U was always lacking.
It wasn't easy, and it took several years to accomplish.  The U's urban campus is now a rather pleasant place.
And Christmas at a Jesuit institution isn't complete unless there's a nativity scene.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Andy's Angles: University Tree Weekend

First up, my alma mater, Marywood University.  It was a college back in my day.

The indoor tree tradition started in 1982, which was my senior year.  I wasn't there for the first one.  I started going several years ago, for a nice injection of Christmas spirit.  I've missed only two since I made it part of my holiday routine.

It's a great tree in a spectacular building.  As I've noted here before, Christmas at Marywood really doesn't get rolling until after Thanksgiving, as it should be.  There is one drawback.  Students get to enjoy the tree for a little more than a week.  Finals are coming up, and then, the place clears out for the Christmas break.

There's more-- a nativity scene under the arch that faces Adams Avenue.  It looks like they've increased the wattage in the halo bulbs, and they overwhelmed my camera phone.  It's worth a look if you're in the area.
Before 1982, Marywood decorated one of the outdoor trees in the center of campus.  I spied this one, just to the left of the arch.  It's decorated in school colors of green and white.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Bridge

Today's opening of the Harrison Avenue bridge in Scranton started me thinking about another Scranton bridge-- the one that connects Mulberry Street to the North Scranton Expressway.

An old steel truss bridge was replaced in the 80's with the standard PennDOT design.  Plain.  Nothing fancy.  It gets the job done.

Just before the new bridge opened, someone (I don't know who) suggested a series of colored light tubes over the traffic lanes to welcome passengers and their vehicles into the city.  I remember thinking it was one of the dumbest ideas I ever heard, and a colossal waste of money.  I know there were artists' renderings of the light tubes.  I'm sorry.  A Google search failed to turn up anything.

As I looked at the Mulberry Street bridge on a recent morning, I thought it needs something.  After all, the new Harrison Avenue bridge has some new architectural elements that were copied from the old.

When it comes to road projects and spending money, I'll take patching pot holes over colored light tubes any day of the week, and I still feel that way.

Maybe, some day, someone will figure out a way to dress up the bridge without sticking taxpayers with the bill.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

New, Old Times

The call went out a couple of months ago.  Doc Medek's Froggy 101's co-host, Jessie was going out on maternity leave, and he was looking for TV people to rotate in until her return.

I vacillated.  I left full time radio in 1991.  I did a little morning news fill in work on the now defunct Solid Gold 94 in the months that followed.  It had been a long time since I had done radio.  While I was getting a tour of the new Wilkes University radio and TV building, my new friend, Kristen Rock, suggested I give it a shot, so I threw my name in the hat.

Jessie had her baby, so it was time for Doc's plan.  I volunteered, and yesterday was my day.  I did not promote the appearance in case I bombed.  I could quietly sneak away and never speak of the incident again.

I didn't think I was great.  I wasn't awful either.  It's tough to work with a new partner and Doc made it easy.  We had met, only very briefly a couple of times before, but we know the same people and had the same experiences.  We're about the same age.  I may look older, but Doc has a couple of years on me.

He was warned going in that I know nothing about country music.  We kicked around a couple of topics before we started, so we were in my comfort zone.  The two hours passed like two minutes and I had a wonderful time.

As you can see from the photo, I shaved on a day off-- which is unusual for me.  I should have combed my hair.

TV treats me great and I am very happy there, and if you are a regular reader, you know that radio is my first love.  It was great fun to re-live some of  the old days.  Jessie still has a lot of maternity leave left, and I volunteered to come back, if needed and wanted.

Even if Doc doesn't take me up on the offer, it was enormously entertaining to be back..

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The First

The first election in which I was allowed to participate was the 1980 primary, but this is an entry about that year's general election.

Here were the choices-- Democrat and incumbent Jimmy Carter, a good man who was a Horrible (yes, the capitalization of the H is deliberate) president, Republican Ronald Reagan, who seemed to be a bit extreme-- especially to a youngster such as myself, and independent John Anderson.

I've been covering elections since 1982, and I don't ask people who they voted for.  It's none of my business.  I don't tell people who I voted for.  It's none of your business.

For this blog entry, I will make an exception.  I voted for John Anderson.  Some of his ideas, especially on energy, were out there.  For the most part, he seemed reasonable.  Anderson ran as an independent because he though the Republican party had moved too far to the right.  For me, he seemed like a good and sane choice, as centrist as we were going to get that year.

270 electoral votes wins the presidency.  Reagan won 489.  Carter took just six states, and he conceded shortly after polls closed here in the east.

John Anderson captured seven per cent of the vote, and even though I knew he stood zero chance of winning, I walked out of the voting booth a satisfied young man.

John Anderson died Sunday night.  He was 95.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


It started early this year, and I remember right where I was when I heard it.  I was in my bedroom just after midnight Friday morning.  I was getting dressed for a trip to the gym when I heard the overnight anchor on WCBS AM say it.

Rage suppressed my memory of what the story was about, but I know what triggered it.  It's a phenomenon I've written about before.  Anyone who does anything bad at this time of year is referred to as a "grinch."  The subject of the radio story had stolen something, or vandalized some display when the grinch reference was made.

One day, I will pen a book about news writing-- especially the trite and the cliched that infuriate me.  Grinch is at, or near the top of the list.

Can't we be more creative than that?  We can do better.  Why don't we try this?   Just tell the story.  Silly embellishments aren't necessary.

And, speaking of silly, has the ugly Christmas sweater thing run its course yet?  It was cute and interesting for the first year or two.  Now, it's simply tiresome.

There is a new one on the list this year.  The upside down Christmas tree.  It was cute once, and only once.

Stop it.  Stop it now.

Bah!  Humbug!

Monday, December 4, 2017

When the Dust Settles...

You knew there would be a Matt Lauer blog entry eventually, and here it is...

I was checking my Twitter feed while in a medical waiting room Wednesday morning when the tweets started rolling in.  I thought it was a joke.  NBC fired Matt Lauer.

First and foremost, please don't lose sight of the plight of the victims.

In addition to Lauer's behavior, here's what bugs me the most.  It's apparent from the Variety, New York Post,  and New York Times stories that some in management knew what Matt Lauer was up to.

As noted here before, the most galling thing about Luzerne County's Kids for Ca$h scandal is the number of people who knew kids were going before a judge without legal representation and they did nothing.  It's clear many at NBC knew Matt Lauer was a predator.
Governor Bob Casey often said "What did you do when you had the power?"  At NBC, those with the power looked the other way-- and they allowed Lauer to run amok.  If the victims can prove management protected Lauer, those victims are in for a major pay day.  They deserve every penny-- and more.  However, you can't put a price on dignity.  I sincerely hope they all heal quickly.

It's clear Mr. Lauer needs help, and he realizes that.  There is plenty out there, and I hope he finds what he needs.  Back on TV some day?  Maybe.  Long shot.

I can't say I was ever a Matt Lauer fan.  I always thought he was an average talent who happened to hook on at an established and powerful franchise (sound familiar?)  "Today" will take a hit, but it will survive.  There are some good broadcasters out there and the show will carry on.  It's survived several other blunders in its history.  Yes, this is a big one-- but "Today" has history and tradition, and some strong remaining performers.

The professional demise of Matt Lauer signals the end of the big money, powerful anchor era.  Networks have been burned.  Economics have changed.  We live in a different world.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Andy's Angles: The Square

This is an early morning shot of Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton.

White lights cover the trees on the North Washington Avenue side.  The official county tree, just out of the frame, was lit the other night, and you will eventually see that in this space in the days to come.

Downtown Scranton can be a very dark place.  It's nice to have a little light.