Friday, January 30, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX

Radio and TV talk show host Jim Rome had it right last week.  He said the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are two of the most unlikable teams to ever face off in a Super Bowl.

New England cheats.  Proven fact.  Not in dispute.

Seattle has some really nasty players.  Plus, head coach Pete Carroll presided over a corrupt and heavily penalized football program at Southern California.

We're not here to hear confessions.  We're here to pick a winner.  As always, the point spread varies.  I consider the game to be just about even.  Late lines have New England as a three point favorite.

I'd rather see Seattle win.  It's more of a vote against New England, rather than one for Seattle.  However, David Letterman said he had Russell Wilson on his show last year, and he couldn't have been nicer and more professional.

As I have preached in this space in the past, always pick the team with the better defense.  In this case, it's Seattle.

However, Seattle looked so bad in the NFC championship game, and New England looked so good in the AFC championship game, I'm going against my own rule.  New England wins, and makes it look easy.

I'll sleep through the game.  I really miss those 2 PM starts.  Remember my rule:  I don't care about the commercials.  However, I did preview a BMW ad with Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric.  Cute.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

StormWatch '15

Just some random thoughts on this stormy week...

Most forecasters had the storm forming closer to the east coast.  It actually blew up about ninety miles away from the expected location.  New York and Philadelphia were spared major blizzard conditions.  New England got hammered.

I was listening to KYW radio on my way back from a Monday assignment for Newswatch 16.  Philadelphia's mayor was sounding the alert.  I can't blame him.  Based on the forecast, it was the right thing to do.

Speaking of radio, KYW in Philadelphia and WCBS in New York did an outstanding job.  Radio is an outstanding medium in a storm.  Unfortunately, very few operators get that.

A National Weather Service forecaster in the New York metropolitan area apologized for a blown forecast.  Hey, he was only 90 miles off.  That's not bad.  The CBS TV overnight news got reaction from another meteorologist.  He said there was no need to apologize.  The second meteorologist brought up those "cones of probability" we see during hurricane season.  We make allowances for hurricanes to wobble.  Winter storms don't get that.

The National Weather Service is in the process of upgrading its computers, and therefore, its forecasting.  What took them so long?

I'll let in you on my way of thinking, which has served me well over the years.  I'm always wary of those forecasts that depend on a number of factors to come together to form a mega event.  For example,   a low has to come up with the coast, merge with another low, get a shot of cold air, suck in some moisture, have the jet stream steer it to the proper location...  You know where I'm going.  There are a lot of times, the scenarios are on the money.  But then again...

I'm not sure if the real problem was the blown forecast, or the endless media hype?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Snow Monkey

There are things meant for public consumption, and things meant for "inside the office" only.

We crossed a line Monday.

I occasionally, in the newsroom only, refer to myself as the Snow Monkey.  It all started during some fizzled snow storms.  I was out on the road, walking, dancing, and filling time during less than impressive snowfalls.

Joe Snedeker called me Snow Monkey on the air this week.  The secret was out.  I'm not angry.  There was no malicious intent.  It was all in fun.  Still, I cringed a bit anytime I heard it.

We're constantly looking for new and different ways to cover storms.  Ryan Leckey is a social media whiz, and he loves viewer contributions.  I've been strapping a thermometer to trees and light poles with a bungee cord to show you temperature variances.  I've been known to slide a hockey puck and soda bottle across ice glazed parking lots.  My old friend, Raegan Medgie used a hand held anemometer during Tuesday's New York City blizzard.  I have to get one of those.  An on-line search shows they're reasonably priced.

Storms can be dangerous business, and when the weather is severe, we stop monkeying around.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

First Person: Snowy Monday

I crawled in to bed after working the overnight shift Saturday night in to Sunday morning, but I didn't sleep well.  Snow troubles me.  I don't like driving in it.  I worry about family and friends who have to drive in it.  When I know I'll be morning "snow reporter," I fret over having enough to say and show.  This week was especially difficult.  There were predictions of a major, crippling storm.  Should I pack some essentials in case I have to stay at a hotel near the office?
As it turned out, the snowfall total predictions appeared to shrink by the hour.  The first flakes had just hit Lackawanna County when I was pulling in to the WNEP parking lot shortly after 2 AM yesterday.

It was then time for the most entertaining part of the day, and we really should put it on the internet one of these days-- the morning brainstorming session.   Producer Thomas, photographer Jason and I kicked around places that would make interesting "live" locations.  I shot down the first two.  We settled on Tamaqua.  First, it's a pretty little town.  Second, we could set up very close to the busy Route 309/209 intersection.  There would be plenty to see.  The southern part of our coverage area was due to receive the most snow, and schools were already listed as closed for the day.

The ride was no picnic.  A 45 minute trip took 75.  We made it in one piece.

The equipment in the truck located the right satellite quickly.  Jason strung out the cable.  We fired up the camera, and we were on the air, ten times, for Newswatch 16 This Morning.

After the morning broadcast, photographer Corey relieved photographer Jason, and we traveled around the area, looking for interesting things to include in our noon report.  No problem.  We were shot, written, approved, edited, and video transmitted back to home base in plenty of time.

We were live at noon in Sugarloaf Township.  You got a live look at the roads, plus a feel for what the morning was like in lower Luzerne and Schuylkill Counties.

I made it home in time to sweep the sidewalk, warm up some left over Chinese food, and hit the bed, to do it all over again the next day.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Unfinished Monday

#Ballghazi:  Any other NFL team gets the benefit of the doubt, but not the New England Patriots.  They've cheated before and there's significant evidence to indicate they've done it again.  The nightmare NFL season continues.  The league has fumbled cases of domestic violence and child abuse.  Add Ballghazi to the list.  The Patriots are adamantly denying doing anything shady.  The jury is still out.

Kathleen Kane:  She might not have done something criminal, but it's clear she made some mistakes-- mistakes large enough to prompt major investigations and possibly criminal charges.  And the answer is to weaken the state's shield law for reporters?  What a mess! The shield law deserves a blog entry of its own one of these days.

Turn the Page:  By far, the most controversial phrase of President Obama's State of the Union address.  If you saw the speech, if you read the speech, you knew where he was going.  If you examine the line on its own, it looks like a problem.  Regardless of whether or not you feel we've turned the page, it was a questionable choice of words.  The president's speech writer could have come up with something better.  Advisers and/or the president should have red flagged it.

Snow:  The drought is over.  Let the panic begin.  I've always thought the "keep calm" stuff is over used, but it's applicable here.  The approaching storms look to be rather severe, especially if you live in eastern Pennsylvania.  Stay home if you can.  Be extra careful if you can't.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Andy's Angles: One More Harrisburg View

I know I've done some "classic" Harrisburg photos in the past, but I believe this is the first time in the blog's 10 year, two month history that I've had new Harrisburg shots.

Yesterday, it was the view from the east side.  Today, it's the south west.  I've always felt the addition on the east detracts from the view.  The true capitol shot comes from the west.  Governor Casey was not a fan of the addition, and he was the last to have his inauguration on the western steps.  Governor Ridge was the first to be inaugurated on the east side, and that's where inaugurations have been held ever since.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Andy's Angles: Capitol View

I'm not sure I could take a steady diet of Harrisburg news, but I do enjoy every visit there, personally and professionally.

It's a spectacular building, and the capitol complex is gorgeous.

After a Tuesday morning live shot, I looked back at the dome behind me and said to Newswatch 16 photographer Jason Wolf "there are some mornings this is a really cool job."

Friday, January 23, 2015


It is one of my major pet peeves-- lazy drivers who don't remove snow and ice from their cars.  The problem became even worse with the SUV revolution several years ago.  Note to SUV owners:  stores sell long handled snow brushes so you can reach every part of your SUV roof.  I know.  I have one.

The Pennsylvania Senate is currently debating a bill to force tractor trailer drivers to remove the snow from their rigs.  Below is a copy, cut and paste from the actual bill.

I see some problems here.

First, "reasonable efforts" is open to varied interpretation.

Second, the fines aren't high enough to encourage compliance.

Third, enforcement seems like a nightmare

Will truckers have to shovel off the roofs of their trailers?  Looks that way.  As someone who has behind many, it doesn't seem like a bad idea.  It's dangerous stuff, and there was a fatality a few years ago here in our area.  If memory serves, the irresponsible truck driver was never found.

It's something to think about as we head into a snowy stretch of winter.

1) A driver of a motor vehicle with a registered gross
13weight exceeding 48,000 pounds that is a truck tractor or
14combination being operated on a street or highway of this
15Commonwealth has an affirmative duty to make all reasonable
16efforts to remove all accumulated ice or snow from the motor
17vehicle, including the roof of the truck trailer or a vehicle
18in the combination.
19(2) A driver of a motor vehicle who violates this
1subsection may be stopped on a street or highway by a law
2enforcement officer if the law enforcement officer believes
3the accumulated ice or snow may pose a threat to persons or
5(3) A person who violates this subsection shall be
6subject to a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $75 for
7each offense regardless of whether any snow or ice is
8dislodged from the vehicle.
9(b) Dislodged or fallen snow or ice.--When snow or ice is
10dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another
11vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury,
12the operator of the vehicle from which the snow or ice is
13dislodged or falls shall be subject to a fine of not less than
14$200 nor more than [$1,000] $1,500 for each offense.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Person: Inauguration Day

It all started with a New Year's morning e-mail to the boss.  I put together a rough idea of what it would require to take Newswatch 16 This Morning to the January 20 inauguration of Governor Tom Wolf.

The goal:  maximum content, minimum disruption to the rest of the staff.  It really wasn't all that difficult.  There was an added bonus to hitting Harrisburg early:  getting one of our satellite trucks in good position for coverage the rest of the day and evening.

I wrote of a couple of preview pieces last week, but I didn't record them at first, in case changes were necessary.

I hit the office just before 11 Monday night, tweaked my pieces a bit, adding here, trimming there, and recorded the audio.  Photographer/editor Jason Wolf (no relation) put them together.  By then, ti was 1 AM and time to head south.  I took a news car.  Jason took one of the satellite trucks.  We made it to Harrisburg around 3.

I wish I had time to take more photos, but I always enter Harrisburg the same way:  Interstate 81 to the first on Interstate 83, right after the split.  I don't know if you've ever had the chance to witness it, but the view of the capitol from State Street is nothing short of spectacular.

The Inauguration Committee had maps of where we were supposed to go.  Jason got the truck in place.  I stopped to chat with a couple members of Capitol Police.  It just wanted to make sure we were in the right place, and it never hurts to make new friends.
Logistics is always a concern, especially at big events.  Assigned media parking was on Commonwealth Avenue, near the swearing in, on the east side of the building.  The satellite we needed to hit is in the western sky, and there was a massive building between truck and satellite. Not a good situation.  Jason found a gap in the building and trees that allowed us to send a signal into space.

We happened to get a parking space next to our sister station, WPMT 43, in Harrisburg.  There was help if we needed it, and vice versa.  Other than exchanging pleasantries, there wasn't much contact.  They smoothly did their thing.  We did ours.

One problem solved.  On to issue two.

I'm a fanatic about this.  If you're going to do a story in Harrisburg.  You must have the capitol dome behind you.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  It is THE defining shot.
Unfortunately, the assigned media parking area didn't offer the best views of the dome.  By plan, we got to Harrisburg extra early.  It gave us time to walk the block and do a site survey.  Jason noticed a driveway leading from The Forum.  We were close enough to the truck, but far enough away from the dome to have a pretty shot behind me.  There are times when "at a distance" is better than "up close."

From then on, it was a piece of cake.  We were live during each half hour of Newswatch 16 This Morning.  We left the truck in place for Scott Schaffer and photographer Lou Romeo.  Jason and I came back in the car I brought in.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday Scrapple

When did it become okay to make fun of someone else's religion?

Maybe I'd be more interested in the Academy Awards if I went to a movie once in a while.  I haven't been in a theater in more than two years.  Sorry, I just have no interest in what's coming out of Hollywood these days.

McDonald's is bringing back, for a limited time only, the triple cheeseburger.  Not for me these days.  I did have one many years ago and absolutely loved it.

I miss Craig Ferguson.  Love Letterman.  Hate the rebroadcasts.

I think I've finally gotten the hang of navigating the USA Today web site.

Flu season always frightens me.  This year, more than most.  It's because this year's vaccine is only about 25 per cent effective.  Yes, I got my flu shot back in August.

"Pardon the Interruption" and "Olbermann" are among the best television has to offer.  "The Big Bang Theory" is often more misses than hits these days.

Google has stopped selling Google Glass.  Remember the hype when it came on the market?    Fast fizzle.  I have to admit, I was intrigued.

It's almost a delight gassing up the car these days.  A former Shell executive told USA Today that $5 per gallon gas and fuel shortages are in our future.

I can't believe we've gone this far in to January without a major snow storm.  I'm not complaining.   Sunday's freezing rain storm was absolutely terrifying, and the pictures were amazing.

Can you think of a truly memorable State of the Union address?  Maybe Lyndon Johnson's first.  Maybe FDR's Four Freedoms.  Maybe Bush in 2002.

How many times do the New England Patriots have to be caught cheating before the NFL really drops the hammer?