Friday, September 4, 2015

Holiday Weekend

I can't believe we're talking about Labor Day Weekend already.  It seems like just yesterday, when I was standing in ten degree below temperatures, doing stories on frozen water pipes.  Now, we're on the verge of another fall, and of course, another winter.

I took this photo last month, on Courthouse Square in Scranton, as an arts festival was getting set up.  That was then.  Now, the square belongs to La Festa Italiana.

A few blocks away, RailFest is getting underway at Steamtown.  Former Scranton Mayor Jim McNulty is this year's grand marshal.  I think he's the last man of vision we elected to office around here.  Jim wasn't the best nuts and bolts mayor, but he was smart enough to see that tourism was one of the keys to our future, and a big key at that.  He helped get the Steamtown USA collection here from Bellows Falls, Vermont.  It was a pile of rusting junk, and it took a federal bail out, in the form of a National Park Service intervention to make it viable.  But, the bottom line is the trains are still here.  It attracts tourists and their dollars.  If you see Jim McNulty this weekend, or any time in the future, be sure to say "thank you."

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


The the first teachers strike of the year in our area has been narrowly averted.  This year's honor goes to Scranton.  The Scranton Federation of Teachers put out the warning last week-- no contract, no school.  No one can say they're surprised.

A judge stepped in with an injunction yesterday, while negotiations, fact finding and other technicalities continue.  No strike.  For now.  At least 60 days.

We've been through the dance before.  Strike.  Back to work, even though there's no new contract.  Repeat.  It doesn't seem to solve anything.

I experienced two strikes during my school days, one at the start of seventh grade.  The other was three years later.  We started school a few weeks late, and were stuck there until late June.  I don't remember why we went back-- new contract, court order, mutual agreement...  I do remember feeling my time was wasted.

Unions feel they have to strike and make their point.  They want the right to strike, like everyone else, and I get that.  I'm still not convinced a strike gives school boards the incentive to bargain and settle.

It keeps kids out of the classroom in the fall, and in the classroom in the summer.  It disrupts lives, and it seems like the wrong ones get hurt.

I'm not taking sides here, but there has to be a better way.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Deja Vu

I thought I was the only one.

Let me back up a moment.  I'm a newsie, even on my days off.  I was very tempted to go to Scranton to watch that massive tire warehouse burn, and take a photo or two.  But some  things came up, and I reasoned that police and firefighters already had their hands full.  Another spectator, even one from a distance, wasn't going to help.

Newswatch 16 had a sound bite from someone in the neighborhood.  He said that even though the building was only six stories tall, the scene was reminiscent of New York City on 9/11.  The same thought ran through my mind when I checked the news video, and saw the plume of smoke rising from several miles away.

I did make it down there Sunday morning, after the immediate emergency had passed.  When you look at the building, its construction, and the contents, it's a miracle no one was killed.

While just a big brick box, and not architecturally interesting, there is a lot of history here, and it's sad to see it go.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

About the Cover

I'm old school, pardon the pun, so I consider September to be THE back to school month.  As in years past, I try to make the September header something related to education.

This year, it's my alma mater, Marywood University.  It was Marywood College back in my day.  Marywood is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month.  Congratulations!

Regular blog readers know I've been critical of some aspects of the Marywood operation, but I've been fair.  I've given administration oodles of credit when it does something right.  All in all, I do not regret my time there, and there are many occasions when I truly miss the place.

The view of the Liberal Arts Center and the spectacular dome is from the new Learning Commons.  I'll have much, much more on that building in the days to come.
As we are fond of saying, stay tuned!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Bad Timing

I hated to do it.

I had to make a trip to one of the big box office supply stores, at the worst time possible, back to school week.

It turns out, a relative's SD camera card was full.  She needed another one, and wasn't sure what to get.  Deleting old photos wasn't an option, so I was in the car Wednesday morning to head to the office supply store on the equivalent of the last minute Christmas rush.

I brought the old card with me, and found one that suits our needs.  I showed the old and new to an employee to make sure they matched.

Even though the store was packed and the staff was overwhelmed, I almost enjoyed the visit.  Parents seemed happy to have a one stop shopping destination.  The kids were thrilled and anxious-- happy with their new treasures.

We didn't have big box office supply stores when I was kid, but we had something close.  Sugerman's.  Miracle Mart, later King's was a close second.  Clothes and shoes came from The Globe.  Later, Jean King.  Notebooks, pens, paper, pencils and the other stuff meant a trip on Route 6 to that amazing and bizarre retail oasis.

By the way, I bought a card with a much larger capacity.  There will be no more trips to the office supply big box store at back to school time.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Andy's Angles: TrackSide

This is the view from the back side of the old DL&W station in Scranton.

You have to wonder how many people have seen this view over the last century+, especially when the trains were running.  People off to vacation, off to school, off to work, off to war...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Andy's Angles: Train Station Saturday

You can't do a photo series on train stations without including this place.

It's the old Delaware, Lackawanna and Western station, now a hotel.  Built in 1908.  The bottom floors were for passengers and freight.  Offices above.
The building nearly met the wrecking ball in the early 80's, and that would have been a shame.

Friday, August 28, 2015

It's Not Easy

It's harder than ever to be a sports fan.  Let's examine the evidence.

Football, cycling, and soccer have been hit by cheating scandals.

It seems like there's a daily report of shenanigans in college football, especially when it comes to players committing crimes.  College football doesn't have the monopoly on that.  The NFL has seen its share of arrests.

There are two events that are sticking in my craw lately.  We'll start with baseball.

Charlie Finley, who owned the Oakland Athletics started doing it in the 70's.  It seems to be a yearly thing now.  If you're not in contention by the All Star break, you sell off your best players to a team capable of winning.  In effect, a lot of teams give up after the middle of June.  It's criminal.  It's unfair to the ticket buying fan.  It detracts from the game.

If you remember one of Charlie Finley's fire sales, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn voided the transactions "in the best interests of the game."  It's a shame the sport no longer has a commissioner with backbone.
And then, there is Michael Vick signing with my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

To get you up to speed, Vick is a convicted dog killer who didn't think he was doing anything wrong.  He did his time.  He paid his debt to society.

However, my forgiveness has its limits, especially when you pick on kids, the elderly, and animals.

The Steelers used to stand for something, integrity, tradition, standards, morals.  Those days are over.

Michael Vick is a poor NFL quarterback, and an even poorer human being.  He has a one year contract.  Maybe I'll be a Steelers fan again a year from now.  Maybe.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

First Person: Bust and a Nugget

Line many stories, it started with emails and phone calls.

Assignment editor Lindsey walked over to my desk early Monday morning  and told me we were getting reports of significant police activity on Belmont Street in Carbondale.  She asked photographer Corey and I to drive over there to take a look.

My plate was clean.  No problem.

What we saw is above.  Carbondale Police and the FBI coming in and out of a home.  We kept our distance and stayed out of their way.  However, we were close enough to see marijuana plants and a handcuffed man coming out.

No one was talking, yet.  We report what we see and we saw a lot.  Eventually, some neighbors were interviewed.  Bad place.  Problems.  The city is deteriorating.

As law enforcement was wrapping up, I approached Carbondale's police chief.  He was polite and professional, but he punted to the feds.  I'm not surprised.

I then walked up to the lead FBI agent at the scene.  Again, professional and courteous, but there wasn't much he could say.  But, he did offer this outstanding nugget.  He told me they were in Carbondale for a reason he couldn't discuss, and the marijuana discovery was incidental.  In other words, an unexpected bonus.

I asked the suspect's mother for her input.  She was very upset.  All she would say was she didn't know why police were there.  The marijuana wasn't a clue?

Let's get back to the "nugget."  I'll tell you something.  Anyone can report a general alarm fire.  It's the stories where you have only some video and a "nugget" that present the real challenges.  I discussed the story with Corey in the car on the way back to the newsroom.  It's what I always do.  The story is his as well as mine.  I shared my vision.  He offered what was his best video.  I got behind a keyboard, banged it out, got it approved by a manager, and we were on the air at noon with something no other news organization had.  Thank you, tipsters.  Keep them coming.

Let me go back to the "we can report what we see" line I introduced a couple of paragraphs ago.

Once upon a time, there was a cluster of old warehousey type buildings along Wilkes-Barre Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre.  I was on the radio when they caught fire one afternoon in the mid 80's.  As we say in the business, it was a cooker.  Huge flames.  Massive plumes of smoke.  It was among the bigger fires I've ever covered.

It was an odd sight.  The insides of the buildings were gutted.  The roofs had caved in.  The facades were still standing.  Beyond that, the fire destroyed everything.  It reminded me of those photos of London and Berlin buildings bombed out during World War II, and I said that on the air.

Our visiting operations manager, a mercenary from the home office in York happened to be in town, and he loved it.  I thanked him for the rare compliment, and added I was just describing what I saw.

Broadcasting isn't all that complicated.  Show the best pictures.  If you're in radio, there is no substitute for actually being there, and describing what you see.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I didn't write a blog entry when Trish Hartman left WNEP because, honestly, we weren't all that close.  I always liked her, but we worked different shifts, different schedules, different assignments.  I never got to know her.

I will pass along this story from Trish's final night.  She walked over to where I was seated, all teary eyed and said "I'll never see you again."  To which I replied "This is a good thing."  We both got a laugh out of that, and we went our separate ways.

There was some contact over the last couple of years-- an occasional Tweet or e-mail.  I'm glad we kept in touch and I hope the feeling is mutual.

Trish recently started working at WPVI ABC 6 in Philadelphia, one of America's great television stations.  The station, obviously, has publicity photos.  Trish Instagrammed that hers had arrived.  I responded that I wanted an autographed copy, and it appeared in my mail box the other day.

I'll level with you.  A lot of people have gone through our town who have moved on to bigger things.  Many have baffled me.  I just didn't see it.  Not Trish.  She's major market caliber and WPVI realized that.

I'm glad we were on the same team for a while.

And, an APAL blog wouldn't be complete without some sass and snark.  Trish signed her first and last name.  Did you think I wouldn't recognize you?  And, thanks for the warm message, "To APAL!"  I'm touched and having difficulty holding back the tears.