Friday, April 20, 2018

Week 1

It's sleeping Homer's first appearance of 2018, and regular blog readers know that signals a vacation.  I'm off for the next few days.  Newswatch 16 Saturday and Sunday Morning will be in the very capable hands of Jim Hamill.

Plans?  No, not really.  Maybe catch with some friends, definitely catch on some sleep, a little shopping, a little photography.  Nothing major.

I had some scattered days off in January, but this is my first full week off since October.  While I enjoy my job, it's nice to get a little time off to recharge the battery.

I'll still be updating the blog.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Unfinished Thursday

In a recent discussion of radio greats, I neglected to mention Jack Buck.  He did St. Louis Cardinals baseball games on radio for decades.  Plus, he was CBS Radio's Monday night football guy for twenty years.  Buck called 17 Super Bowls.

I also mentioned Larry King.  He jumped on to the national stage with an all night radio show on the Mutual network.  It ran from midnight to 5:30.  The first half of the show would feature a guest and call-ins.  The second half was open phones.  The last half hour, which very few stations carried, was just Larry talking with the morning Mutual news person and a meteorologist.  Very informal, and a lot of fun.

For a while, King did both radio and CNN.  Eventually, the radio show was cut to 11 pm to 2 am, and it was repeated at 2 am.  It was awful.  Stale, canned, boring, and tired.

Even so, Larry was the guy who kept the lights on at Mutual for a long time.  If you wanted King's show, the network forced stations to take a lot of its other programming and it wasn't very good.  Mutual went away shortly after King left the stage.

Late March marked the 45th anniversary of the $10,000 Pyramid on CBS.  Very few of those early shows remain.  The Game Show Network runs the $25,000 Pyramid weekday mornings.  It's amazing how well those old shows hold up.  Dick Clark was a great host.  He moved the game along without getting in the way.

Walmart is renovating several of its Pennsylvania stores.  It's something KMart and Sears didn't do.  Who is on the verge of closing, and who dominates American retailing?  Bon Ton is done.  I'll have more on that soon.

Even though this next entry doesn't belong here...  I was very sorry Barbara Bush passed away.  She supported and championed literacy programs for decades.  Bravo!  I read where the Bush family spent millions of its own money helping libraries wrecked by Hurricane Harvey.  
A great person and a great cause.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Buck Rogers

It was odd that I was tweaking my Art Bell blog entry as Ray Bradbury was on an old Johnny Carson, playing on WNEP2.

I like science.  Always have.  As I've noted here before, being a kid in the late 60's and early 70's was great.  We were going to the moon and exploring space.  There was a new technological advance just about every day.

However, I was never interested in science fiction.  Star Trek and Star Wars bore me.  Fans will counter that both series are rich in characters.  The "space" thing is almost secondary.

Do I think there is life on other planets?  Yes.  Look up at night, especially if you can get out of the cities.  All those stars.  All those planets.  Odds are, there is something out there, even if it is microscopic.

Do I believe in UFO's?  No.  I can list one thousand reasons.

What about conspiracy theories?  Being a professional skeptic, I do think there are many areas in which the government has withheld information, on a variety of topics.

Science fiction might only be a matter of dreaming what is someday possible, and I see a great need for that.  Dreams can come true.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

First Person: Pot and Wind

Let me tell you about my Monday.

The day started with a preview of a new medical marijuana dispensary opening in Scranton, the first in the city.
For me, the jury is still out.  Some, but not all, think marijuana works in pain management and seizure control, and pot is better than opioids.

The skeptic in me sees this is the first step toward legalization of marijuana for recreational use.  I'm sure it will be a very nice cash cow for the marijuana industry-- and the state, which is running out of things to tax.

It's like alcohol.  If you can safely use it in the privacy of your own home, fine.  But, the last thing we need is more impaired people behind the wheel.  Some experts view marijuana as a gateway drug.  There is conflicting research in that area.  Check the states with legal marijuana.  They had to hire more police officers to deal with marijuana related crimes.

We were lucky.  It was breezy and misty during our stay at Keyser Oak Plaza.  The big rain was holding off, and I was very relieved when we finished our last report at 6:30.

Photographer Erich and I were on our way to another story when my phone rang.  Assignment editor Mary was sending us to Lutherwood apartments, off Lake Scranton Road in Scranton.  There was a problem with the roof.  We were about ten minutes away.  The building looked okay from the road.
The view from the parking lot was a different story.  The wind peeled the rubber membrane off the roof.  The parking lot was littered with particle board and insulation.  Amazing.  Erich maneuvered through the minefield and found a place to put the truck.  He shot video.  I sent photos back to the station and did a little social media.

Crisis management tip:  An assistant Scranton fire chief got to us right away, and made sure we knew no one was hurt.  I can imagine the panic of friends and relatives of residents here.  In a story like this, seconds count.  It was smart to get to the media fast.

Our luck rain out.  Heavy rain arrived.  A cold rain.  The wind was sending it sideways, so an umbrella would have been useless.  We got soaked, but our discomfort was nothing compared to what the building's residents were experiencing.  It took about two hours, but we got everything we needed for a noon story.  Assignment editor Mary granted us permission to do our editing at the station rather than in the truck.  We needed the chance to dry ourselves and our equipment.  Thank you, Mary.

I'm going to tell you something strange.  I've been writing news since college in 1979.  I started receiving a paycheck as a professional broadcaster in 1981.  When there is a big story, and this was big, I still have a twinge of self doubt.  I wonder if I have the skill to do the story justice.  After looking at the video and picking out the best parts of the interviews, I sat down at a computer and started banging away on the keyboard.  It didn't take long.  The video was outstanding.  Several of the building's residents gladly told us about their experiences.  The story came together nicely.  As always, I worry far too much.

News director Carl and I discussed the script.  I recorded the audio and handed it back to photographer Erich.  He matched audio and video.  Great job, and it was back in the truck to go back to the scene.  There were peeks and breaks of sunshine over Scranton.  It didn't last long.  the rain returned.  The wind kicked up, the rain returned, and our noon live report was quite a challenge.

By the way, Carl, thank you for the new and dry cap.

It was then back to the office to tie up some loose ends before leaving for the day, and handing the story off to the daytime Scranton crew.  I hit the office door at 2:30 am.  It was out at 12:30 pm.  No complaints.  I was heading out to a warm home, not an evacuation shelter like the Lutherwood residents.

So much could have gone wrong.  I am thankful we got the job done.

One other note by hitting the "publish" button for the day.  Harry Anderson died yesterday.  65.  Judge Harry Stone on "Night Court."  Great character.  I'm really not in to magic, but he made it interesting with some really cool "Tonight" show appearances during the Carson days.  This makes me very sad.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Art of Radio

It is with mixed feelings that I discuss the death of Art Bell.  The radio talk show host died Friday at the age of 72.

Bell trolled the overnight hours, and for a while he was big.  500+ radio stations, 15 million listeners per week.  There wasn't a UFO or conspiracy theory he didn't like and embrace.

I tried listening several times, to see what the buzz was about.  I just didn't get it.  To be brutally honest with you, he seemed nuts.  Every theory got on the air, most unquestioned by the host.  You could say anything, assert anything, and get away with it.

I love the First Amendment.  There is no bigger defender.  Bell had the absolute right to do his thing. Radio stations had the right to point their satellite dishes to the signal coming from to Art Bell's Nevada trailer.

On the other hand, there is a big part of me that thought it was irresponsible for so many radio stations to give so much time to someone I really viewed as unstable.

The overnight hours are currently filled with radio shows of a similar genre.  They are popular.  I get that.  Radio is still a "mass" medium.  You program what believes gets the most listeners and makes the most money.  Me?  I'm listening to news, classic rock or sports talk.

Even though Art Bell wasn't my thing, my sympathy goes out to his family, friends, and fans.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Andy's Angles: The Avenue

Looks can be deceiving.

I intended for this to be a blog entry on the darkness of Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton, but my camera phone really overcompensated.  The street looks much brighter than it actually is.

Downtowns can't survive unless people feel safe, and people are apparently okay with the way things are.  It's not uncommon to see people walking to early buses, taking an early morning jog on downtown streets...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Andty's Angles: Samters

I always enjoy seeing old buildings being adapted for new use.  Samters in downtown Scranton is getting its third lease on life.  It first was a clothing store.  Then offices, mostly occupied by the state.
Now, the building is being turned into apartments.  I had a chance to peer through the first floor windows Tuesday morning.  It seems the building is fairly gutted.  Not pictured here are the blueprints of the available units, displayed in the windows.

It's fairly clear that retail is not the answer to a downtown's problems.  Apartments are and it's nice to see more people will eventually call downtown Scranton "home."

Friday, April 13, 2018

Education Week

I do apologize for the lack of variety on topics this week.  I'm like a dog with a bone.  Once I get a hold of something...

It's another entry on education to close the week.  There are a few other education ideas I'm mulling over, but they can wait.

As I was prattling on the other day about how junior high can be just as influential, possibly even more so than high school, I left something out.

I had a 9th grade Civics course taught by Hyman Markowitz.  Loved it, and Mr. Markowitz was such a kind and patient man.  He left us several years ago.  I know his relatives check in here on occasion.  Mr. Markowitz was a great guy who taught me a lot.  It was a great foundation for a jobh in the news business.

Again, the other day, I lamented how I run in to so many young people who have problems forming complete and coherent sentences.  I also encounter so many young people, and adults, who know very little about how their government works.  Let's fix that.

Most afternoons, I manage to catch John Hancock's show on WBT in Charlotte.  John spent a couple of years at WARM in the mid 80's and working for him was a great time.  Anyway, John kicked off a discussion on influential teachers recently.  

It's tough to explain, but there were so many times I felt a teacher's influence long after I left school.  I'll remember words spoken, lessons learned, years ago.  Education doesn't end the day you receive the diploma.  The good teachers leave something with you that lasts a lifetime.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thursday Scrapple

I know airlines ship hundreds of animals every day, without a problem.  I still wouldn't put a pet on a plane.

It's 2018.  You have to wonder how problems like Syria can still exist.

KMart in the Pittston Plaza closed for good Sunday.  You have to wonder how much time the entire Sears/KMart company has left.  And, you have to wonder what chain is next.

I know the reasons behind the increase in gasoline prices, but something about the whole system makes no sense to me.

There is no defense of his alleged behavior, but watching the fall of Bill Cosby is such a tragic story.

Chuck McCann passed away the other day.  83.  Funny man.

I loved seeing so many people participate in Sunday's Scranton Half Marathon.

The Wilkes-Barre Police report shows one or two people really can make a difference in a big organization-- positively or negatively.

I have a dental check up next week, and I'm really looking forward to it.

The NFL is ditching "color rush" uniforms on Thursday Night Football.  Most people seemed to hate them.  I really didn't mind.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

And Another Thing...

My internet friend, Joseph Peter Klapatch, wrote a book a couple of years ago.  It's called "The Old School," and it deals with the history of Olyphant Schools and the start of the Mid Valley School District.

Regular blog readers know I hated just about every second I spent in two schools in Olyphant.  The building you see on the book's cover was condemned in 1976.  It should have happened a lot sooner.  You don't see the building just across the street, with all the warmth and charm of a state prison.  While a few faculty members were outstanding, there were so many who were lazy, angry, and burned out.  I questioned why they chose teaching as a profession.

I learned something by reading the book shortly after its publication.  Back in the day, towns put the big money into junior high schools-- not the high schools.  The reason was that a big percentage of the boys quit after junior high because they had to help support their families.  Junior high was their last schooling.

Don't ask me how, but I did manage to graduate.

As I was prattling on about education yesterday, I gave some additional thought to Joe's book.  While I had a few great teachers at the senior high level, some really influential ones were at the junior high.  That's good and bad.  Two out of my three math teachers were simply awful.  It's not the only reason, but it's a factor why I'm not a fan of math.

On the other hand, I had three great English teachers at the junior high, then located in Dickson City.  Guess who writes for a living?  I have no idea where to find one teacher.  Another passed away.  I tried contacting the third late last year.  It didn't work.  I'll try again.  A "thank you" is long overdue.

To review, I'm a single and childless individual.  I don't know what's going on in junior highs and middle schools.  I do see so much "career oriented" activities in high schools, and that's great.  I wonder what's happening in the earlier grades, and I hope it's starting the nudge toward jobs, careers, and dreams.