Sunday, November 29, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Tower

The WEJL tower is all lit up for the holiday season, and it's a spectacular sight.  You can see it for miles, and it always gives me a happy feeling when I look down from Interstate 81 on my way to work-- and I'm not a Christmas guy.

This photo was taken around 3 AM Friday.  There are times the tower is shut off for the overnight hours.  I hope the "all night" is here until the new year.  It's quite a sight any time, especially when it's the dead of night, and the surroundings are almost totally dark.

For the last few years, the Scranton Times~Tribune has been throwing a big party on tower lighting night-- the night before Thanksgiving, and I think that's fantastic.  Things like First Night, First Fridays, and the Italian Festival keep the streets active in to the evening, and the city certainly needs more of that.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Waymart

Today, it's another one from the archives.  This is the Gravity Railroad Depot in Waymart.

It always reminded me of a quaint little home, in a residential section of town.  The building was restored about ten years ago.  It's now home to the D&H Gravity Railroad Museum.

This railroad building could have been like so many others-- demolished.  It's fantastic a bit of history is preserved in Waymart.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday

I don't want to disappoint, so here's my yearly anti Black Friday rant...

I get that a lot of people have to go out on Black Friday.  Those sales do stretch a budget.  It all seems tremendously excessive to me, and I really dislike the concept of stores open on Thanksgiving.  I can see mini marts and drug stores, but malls and department stores?  Not for me.

By the way, Black Friday is NOT the biggest shopping day of the year.  It's actually Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas.  If you hear a news reporter or anchor say Black Friday is the biggest shopping day, someone didn't do their research.

My Thanksgiving was nice.  A visit to the gym in the very early morning, followed by some picture taking, a dog walk, some computer time, family dinner, football, and an early trip to bed.

By the way, I detoured through downtown Scranton after leaving the gym.  It was nice to see the WEJL tower still lit at 4:30 AM.  The rest downtown, except for Courthouse Square, was dark and dismal.  Somebody really has to work on that.

My picture taking expedition took me on to Interstate 380.  Jeez O'Pete, what a bumpy road!  If it's this bad now, I shudder to think of its condition when we get to pothole season in the spring.

I hope you had a good holiday.  See you tomorrow morning, and don't forget about Small Business Saturday.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


I usually put a cartoon turkey here, but this year, it's some real ones.  This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, in a grassy area outside the old Harper Collins building, along Marshwood Road in Throop.

Forgive me for lecturing and preaching today.

We eat turkey, but it's not Turkey Day.  It's Thanksgiving.

No matter how miserable things might be, we can all find something, tiny as it may be, for which to be thankful.

I'm counting my blessings.  The year has been far from perfect, but I have a great family, good friends, a job I like, the unconditional love of a beagle, and a newly rescued, formerly stray, kitten named Nathan.

Enjoy the day, and please think of what it's all about.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

First Person: Charity

I saw it coming.  Yesterday, I predicted a holiday charity story in my future.  The prediction came true.

I was assigned to to a Thanksgiving food distribution for families in need.  United Neighborhood Centers and volunteerts provided the heavy lifting.  Much of the donated food came from WNEP's Feed a Friend program.  The distribution point was a church on Madison Avenue in Scranton.

Photographer Dave and I arrived around 10 AM.  We found a line in front of the church, people braving a November wind to get a little holiday help.  We approached a few for interviews.  They declined.  I explained that our photography would be done from behind, and much of it below the waist.  We were not out to wound anyone's dignity.
It was an amazing sight inside the church.  Mounds of turkeys, boxes of foods, and an army of volunteers to make sure everyone had what they needed.  Many of the volunteers were school kids.  They lugged the food out to cars, and never complained.
We eventually found a couple of people willing to share their stories.  Interviews.  Video.  Back out to the truck to write, edit, and microwave the completed package back to the office for playback on Newswatch 16 at Noon.  We then set up the camera and I stepped in front of it, ready for a live intro and close.

There was an issue.  President Obama and the president of France were speaking.  ABC News aired a special report, and it ate up all our news time.  We were told to stay hot until 12:30, in case the special report ended, and we had a little time left for news.  It didn't happen.  It was frustrating.  We had a good story to tell, but world events are also important.  I get it.

The story aired in the afternoon.  Thanks to those who made it happen.

One of the reasons I got into the business was to help people.  I hope we did okay, exposing poverty issues, showing people were there to make life a little easier.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Giving Thanks

I had a few spare moments at the office yesterday, so I checked what's called the planner or daybook.  It's a computer file of upcoming stories.

It's that time of year again.

Many of the potential assignments deal with distribution of food to families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Christmas toys for children in less fortunate families.

I can't speak for others, but let me tell you how I operate.  Photographers are instructed to shoot recipients from the back, or the waist down.  No one is interviewed without their permission.  Getting the story is important.  Preserving dignity is extremely important.

I've never been in one of those lines.  I had to sign up for unemployment compensation once, and it was one of the most difficult things I'd ever done.  I did nothing wrong.  I was entitled to the help.  Still, it was a blow to my pride.  I've never forgotten that, and it's made me extremely sensitive covering stories involving charities and donations.

You may ask, why do we cover these things?  That's easy.  It lets people know where they can get help.  It lets fortunate people know where to make donations, and shows there is a need for charity here in our area.  It seems to grow larger every year.

There is a phenomenon I call "charity fatigue."  So many organizations are looking for help.  It's overwhelming.  You can't help them all.  No one has that much money.  It breaks your heart when you have to decline.

I do have a couple of favorite organizations and they hear from me every year at this time.  2015 will be no different.  As I said, you can't help them all.  Do a little research.  Choose wisely and carefully.  Find someone deserving of a hand, and do your best to help.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Media Notes

It's been a while since a Media Notes entry appeared, so here goes..

I was saddened to learn on Friday that Jim Perry had passed away.  Cancer.  82.

There were two major game show claims to fame here in the United States-- the first Card Sharks on NBC and $ale of the Century.  Perry was good at both-- seeming genuinely happy when contestants won, sad when they lost.  He moved the games along quickly, and he never became bigger than the show.  Jim Perry realized the game was the star, and he made them fun to watch-- moving them along at just the right pace.

Jim Perry did other games shows in Canada, plus the Miss Canada pageant.  For years, I thought he was Canadian, but Jim Perry was born in New Jersey.

If you want a chuckle, go to YouTube.com and look up the pilot for a game show called "Twisters."  It was interesting.  There was potential.  However, the pilot never came together and the show was never picked up by a network or a syndicator.

Christopher Kimball left the America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country magazine and television show group.  Management says they couldn't agree on a new contract.

Maybe Kimball was asking for too much, but at first blush, I see this as a big mistake.  Kimball was the heart and soul of those TV shows.

I'll level with you.  the first time I saw ATK, I hated it.  Kimball seemed like a miserable old sob.  For some bizarre reason, I watched a little more, and realized the crankiness was part of the program.  He was an effective conduit.  Kimball knew how to ask the right questions, and get the best information out of his chefs and contributors.  He was also smart enough to know the food was the star.

It's too bad they never got that concept at another public TV show, This Old House.  It became hideously unwatchable the day Bob Vila was asked to leave.  First, no one can afford those projects.  Second, the producers made the contributors bigger than the projects.  Mistake.  Big one.  It could work if the hosts are likable and interesting.  The last two hosts were duds.  The landscaping guy acts like he's the only one who knows how to plant a bush.  The plumber thinks he's the first one who ever fluxed a fitting.

There can be exceptions.  Big host.  Successful show.  Robert Irvine on Restaurant Impossible immediately comes to mind.  He makes that show work.

Shifting gears, this FCC AM radio revitalization thing is getting a lot of interest.  It's quite the topic in the trades, and I received a few e-mails when I wrote about  it here a couple of weeks ago.

A big key is the FCC giving AM operators a crack at FM translators.  All that does is spread bad programming over an additional frequency, and the concept fails in big cities, where there are few, if any, available FM frequencies left.

Plus, most AM operators also have full powered FM's in the same market.  Why don't they put the AM programming on one of the big sticks?

The key is programming.  Do something good, and listeners will flock to you.

Perfect example of the AM malaise, and I'd really like to mention names...  One of the big radio groups had its vehicles in Scranton's Santa Parade Saturday morning.  Its FM stations were represented by big, bright, shiny, colorful vans and SUV's.  The AM station, and a well known one at that, wasn't represented.  Nothing.  Zero.  Also, zero is about its share of the local listening audience.

If you don't promote and invest in your product, don't complain that people aren't listening.  You shouldn't be running to the government for the gift of an additional frequency.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Lackawanna

The leaves had peaked when I took this photo earlier this month.  I'm standing on the Olyphant side of the Lackawanna River.  Blakely is off to the left.

I grew up near the river, and it was an open sewer not too long ago.  I'm amazed and pleased as to how well it's recovered.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Train Station Saturday: Tamaqua

I pulled this one out of the archives from five years ago.

I was doing a story in Tamaqua, when I had a few moments to stroll through the downtown.  Tamaqua was smart enough to preserve its train station, and make it the centerpiece of an improved business district.

The train station is home to a restaurant, plus travelers information station.  Just off to the left, out of the photo is a fountain.  You can see the gazebo, the flowers, and trains come rolling through now and then.

I'm happy the people of Tamaqua realized how lucky they are to have a passenger train station right in the middle of the borough.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Stop the Presses

Marywood University has decided to stop printing its student newspaper, the Wood Word.  It's a move that distresses me greatly, and let me tell you why.

Print is struggling.  Greatly.  It's not dead.  A Wood Word editorial called print the past.

There are thousands of journalists around the world busting their humps to make print relevant.  To them, it's not the past, but it is changing.

As far as I'm concerned, if something needs help, you fix it.  You don't pull the plug.  Keep breaking news on the web site.  Use print for long form.  Photography.  Essays.  Things best served away from daily deadlines.

Believe it or not, print is a different writing style from web.  What I write here is different from what I put on WNEP.com and the stories I write for our newscasts.  I'm sorry you have decided to take a "one size fits all" approach.

There are some good things going on at Marywood. In my day, print and broadcast never mingled.  I'm glad someone there has figured out we're in the same business.  The Wood Word has aggressively covered social issues on campus and Marywood's apparent financial problems.  Kudos, again.

It's too late now, but you should have kept the print.  You're not saving that much money.  You're missing a lot of the medium's potential.

This is not a jab at Marywood in particular, but I take you back to what might have been the greatest four minutes in the history of television.  It was character Will McAvoy's rant in the first minutes, of the first broadcast of HBO's "The Newsroom."  McAvoy said America was great in the past because we "were informed by great men, men who were revered."

I grew up on Cronkite and his stable of outstanding CBS correspondents, Chancellor, Brinkley, Smith...  I marveled at how Woodward and Bernstein brought down a president, and the Washington Post (that's a newspaper) had the onions to back them.  What do you have in the internet age?  Matt Drudge?  I consider myself to be very lucky.

One more print item before I hit the "publish" button.  Stan Lukowski passed away this week.  He was Throop mayor for many years.  Before that, he was spokesman for Tobyhanna Army Depot.  Lukowski also wrote a Scrantonian column, focusing on Throop, Dickson City, and Olyphant.  I received a few mentions over the years.  It was always a kick, and a source of pride for the family.  Stan will be fondly remembered.  My sympathy to his family, friends, and fans.