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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

In Reverse

Let's review...

Regular readers know I feel long range weather forecasting is a waste of time and a scam.  Weather patterns change every month.  Anyone who thinks they know what the upcoming winter will be like is taking a guess.

Regular readers know I do an entry every late winter about skunks.  Active skunks show spring is right around the corner.

Well, the skunks are busy beavers once again, fattening up for the winter.  It seems like they're scurrying about a bit earlier than normal.  That would seem to indicate winter will be here soon, it will be colder and snowier than normal, and it will be a long one.

I trust the skunks more than the people trying to convince you that they know what will happen four months from now.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Change

I grew up on Walter Cronkite.  Everything came to a dead halt in the house at 6:30 PM weeknights, and it wasn't news until Uncle Walter said it was.  I can still remember the nightly US troop and Vietcong casualty counts during the Vietnam days.

I do remember switching to ABC when it tried the three anchor format in the late 70's.  Frank Reynolds handled the Washington stories.  Max Robinson had the domestic stories from Chicago, and Peter Jennings handled the international stories from London.  Critics hated the format.  I thought their view was myopic.  ABC News president Roone Arledge changed the story telling and production techniques at the time, and the critics didn't get that part of the equation.

Frank Reynolds got sick and died.  Max Robinson had some issues and he also passed away.  Peter Jennings became sole anchor, and I went back to CBS, where Dan Rather was now in the anchor chair.

My schedule changed, and the network evening news became after my bedtime.

Our focus is on ABC today.  After Peter Jennings died, the anchor chairs were occupied by Elizabeth Vargas, Bob Woodruff, Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer, and as of today, David Muir.

Sawyer and her team took the broadcast in a different direction:  more lifestyle.  It will be interesting to see if ABC continues down that road.  Efforts to reinvent the evening news have failed.  Katie Couric and CBS discovered that.  It's now more of a traditional broadcast, and a very good one at that.  David Muir seems to have the credentials, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the months to come.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Uncle Kevin

Some of us in the old WYOU newsroom called him "Uncle Kevin."  Kevin Jordan.  Don't ask me how and why it started.  I suspect it was there was a lucky few of us Kevin took an interest in, and he always offered us advice on how we can do our jobs better, on how we can be better, on how we can serve the viewer better, better journalism.

We had similar career tracks.  Kevin spent several years in radio before moving to TV.  I did the same thing.

I first met Kevin when I was on WARM.  I don't believe Kevin had made the move to WYOU at the time, so he would have been at WBRE.  Most of the time, we bumped in to each other at the Luzerne County Courthouse.  It can be an intimidating place.  Kevin was kind to the newbie, always pointing me in the right direction.

Later, beginning in 1990, we worked together at WYOU.  I didn't make a conscious effort to copy Kevin's style, but a lot of it crept in to my reporting because it was so good.  It was a clean, crisp style, with an occasional clever turn of phrase.

Kevin offered me advice that I still pass along to kids in the business.  Kevin once told me he became a better reporter when he stopped trying to impress the others in the media, and started trying to impress the viewers.  What they want is the information.  Clean and simple.

I first stepped in front of a microphone when I was 17, and I've been doing this nearly 35 years.  I don't think I've met anyone as efficient as Kevin Jordan.  He knew how to get the story down to its essence and do it quickly.  He knew how to write it so you understood it.  He delivered it live and flawlessly.  Kevin always made sure he was never bigger than the story.

Kevin will always be remembered for holding presidential candidate Ted Kennedy's feet to the fire during a 1980 radio interview, and the way he covered the George Banks case-- from crime to trial and conviction.

Dealing with Kevin had its challenges.  He was an expert needler.  At times, he went a little too far, drawing a little blood.  It hurt and you wanted to put him through a wall.  Eventually, you forgave.  It was just Kevin being Kevin.

The man was more than a news reporter.  He did sidelines at our broadcasts of high school football games on Saturday afternoons, a role I eventually assumed when Kevin cut back.  He knew sports.  His questions went beyond the cliches, and was one of the best ad libbers I ever met.

Then, there was politics.  The old WYOU used Kevin and former Scranton mayor Jim McNulty on election nights.  Kevin knew his stuff, and he was the perfect guy to bring McNulty's vast political knowledge to the surface.  No one could do it better.  It was a solid team, and I was proud to be a very small part of it.  Before heading out on election night assignments, a short session with Jim and Kevin was always in order.  I picked their brains, learning what to watch for.  It never failed to pay off.

I did five Scranton St. Patrick's Parades with Kevin.  We were co-street reporters.  It showed he had an added dimension, a side you didn't see a lot.  He could be extremely funny.  The man could shift gears-- hard news to live parade reporting, and still retain credibility.

There are times, when I'm wrapping up a live shot on a "hard news" story, and it's going well, and there's momentum, and I can hear Kevin's delivery creeping in to mine.   That's when I know I've done well.

Kevin left broadcasting for a county job around 1996.  The business was never the same.  That's Kevin and I in the photo above, taken in the old WYOU newsroom in the early 90's.

By now, it's likely you know where this is going.  Kevin had  a series of health problems over the years.  In and out of hospitals.

Kevin died late Sunday afternoon.

I was lucky to work with him.  I was luckier to have him as a friend.

Labor Day

Labor Day has become one of my favorite holidays of the year.

I hated it as a kid because it signaled "back to school."

Now, in addition to being a celebration of the American worker, Labor Day marks cooler weather, less crowded vacation areas, new shows on TV, and comfortable balance of light versus night.

It's a great day.  Enjoy it, and I sincerely hope we're all working at this time next year.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Classic Andy's Angles: National Aquarium

I have a vacation coming up in a few days, and for many years, vacation = Baltimore.  It was a great place.  Far, without being too far.  Affordable.  Plenty to see and do.  I'd always make a side trip in to Harrisburg because government fascinates me.

Then, things changed.  The quiet Baltimore suburb where I grabbed a hotel room became less quiet and less safe.  Baltimore lost a lot of its uniqueness, and it acquired a lot of those touristy things you could find in any city-- chain restaurants, cookie cutter stores and attractions.  However, the National Aquarium at the Inner Harbor remained a treasure.  I took this photo in 1987, from the top of Baltimore's World Trade Center, the tallest building at the Inner Harbor.

It's hard to believe that I haven't been to Baltimore in 12 years.  I'm not going to violate one of my rules:  "unless you were buried under rubble, no one cares where you were on 9/11"...  but that's where I was:  Baltimore, MD.

I went back in 2002.  I didn't feel comfortable for the reasons mentioned above.  Plus, there were too many 9/11 memories from the year before.

I'm sure it's still a wonderful city.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Classic Andy's Angles: Elephant

Once upon a time, Scranton had a zoo.  It was at Nay Aug Park, and it had big cats and monkeys, and an elephant.  Unfortunately, it wasn't a pleasant place for the animals.  They slowly went away.  The elephant was among the last to leave, and she was trucked away in 1989.  This photo was taken shortly before Toni was transferred to a much bigger and better place, a zoo in Washington, DC.  Toni is no longer with us.  The memories of family Sundays at Nay Aug Park will be with me always.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Morning Meeting

We're heading in to a holiday weekend.  The last days of summer are upon us.  Let's take a break from the weighty issues of the day and have a little fun.

I was on Maple Street in Wilkes-Barre last week, near General Hospital, when I happened to look up.  A line of birds was on the parking garage, enjoying the late summer morning sun.
Enjoy the day and the weekend.  I'll see you later.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Year Two

Today marks my second anniversary of being a bicycle owner (and rider).

As I said last year, on the last Thursday of August, my only regret is not doing it sooner.

It's a great way to burn off a few calories and tone the legs.  Snedeker warned me of another benefit.  My rides aren't nearly as long as his, but Joe said I'll enjoy the solitude, and I really do.  When you're out there, it's just you, the bike and the road.  The situation is elevated a bit in my case because I ride before the sun comes up.  Other than the occasional drunk driver and stray cat, I generally have my small town streets to myself, and it's a nice feeling.

If you've been kicking around getting a bike, do it.  You can probably find some end of season deals.  Buy it from a store where the employees know what they're talking about.  You might pay a bit more in the beginning, but it's worth it in the long run.

See you on the streets.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday Scrapple

A credit union is owned by its members.  I wonder how the people involved in a local credit union feel about paying $500,000 for the naming rights to a high school football stadium.  Yes, it's nice to do things for the community, but this one carries a hefty price tag.

Never saw "Breaking Bad," so I don't know if it deserves all the Emmys.  I did see the Robin Williams tribute at Monday night's broadcast, and I thought it was well done.

The Craig's List Killers have pleaded guilty in Northumberland County.  Now, they will go to jail and we'll never have to look at them, ever again.

A national pizza chain is coming out with a pretzel crust pizza.  Intrigued, but I don't think the chain has any stores around here.

Burger King and Tim Horton's are merging.  I've never been in a Tim Horton's.  I read where it's like a Canadian based Dunkin' Donuts.  The combination sounds interesting.  Maybe it can get BK off the under-performing list.

Labor Day is coming, and that usually signals the start of the fall campaign season.  Candidates take it up a notch.  In the Pennsylvania governor's race, it never really slowed down after the primary.

I've been looking at new cell phones again, and I'm far, far from pulling the trigger.  Why do cell phone companies make the process so complicated?

There's been sports talk radio chatter that this year's Little League World Series will help youngsters think baseball is cool again.  I'm not sure, but I hope so.

I regret not picking up a tennis racket when I had the chance to, in college, many years ago.  It seems to be one of those sports that's a thousand times more fun to play than it is to watch.

CNN is getting rid of hundreds of employees.  One of the bosses said the will do "less with less."  It's so sad.  CNN used to be THE place to turn to get the news and a serious newscast.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back

My Monday morning assignment was a "back to school" story.  It's one everyone in the business has done several times, and it's always fun.  Kids are anxious and nervous.  The same goes for the parents, teachers and administrators.

Thanks to Pittston Area for access to the middle school.  It's nice to be known and trusted.  When I said we were doing a feature, they knew they weren't being tricked just to get a camera in the building.

After giving it some thought, photographer Dave and I came up with an unusual hook-- a teacher who is retiring in June, making this her "last first day."  We had a nice talk.  My story went two minutes and five seconds, an eternity in TV time, but it flowed nicely.

Watching those kids enter school yesterday triggered my "first day" thoughts.

I hated going back in elementary and junior high.  As I grew older, I couldn't wait to get the school year started.  I liken it to a prison inmate anticipating his release date.

We always, always went back after Labor Day, and I'm sorry most school districts have gotten away from that.  I understand the reasoning.  School districts seem more willing to pull the trigger on snow days in this modern area, so this keeps the school year from stretching in to mid and late June.

Our time was spent at Pittston Area Middle School, and it really is true.  Girls develop faster.  Boys have to wait a bit longer for their growth spurt.

What's up with the enormous backpacks?  I never had that much stuff to carry, and some of the backpacks appeared larger than the children.

Some things haven't changed.  Most of the kids were struggling with their locker combinations.  I was never good at combination locks, either.

Even though the school had its share of high tech stuff, learning is still learning

I told the staff at the school that I'll be back in June.  Here's to a happy, safe, and fast moving school year.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Last Monday in August

Today is the 35th anniversary of my first day as a college freshman.

I guess, it was technically yesterday, but I don't count orientation.  I blew off most of that stuff, especially the forced socialization.  It was a waste of time.  Just point me toward the big classroom building and tell me where to park.  Oh, and where's the men's room and the soda machine?

I was exceptionally grateful my parents gave me the opportunity for a higher education, but looking back, the overwhelming emotion of the day was terror.  Intense, intense terror.

Back then, the college handed you your schedule for that first semester.  I was blessed with 18 credits.  I didn't know you could make adjustments.  I just swallowed hard and tried my best with that difficult schedule.

Now, you have to remember, I came from a public school, and a horrible one at that.  This was my first exposure to foreign language courses in three years.  Plus, there was the new territory of religion, hard core psychology, philosophy, and literature.  Literature?  The only poetry I read was on the bathroom walls of my old high school., and it was some fairly creative stuff.  I doubt the people at my college were interested in having me share it.

I was itching to get involved in my major, but you know how freshman years are.  It's all theory.  No "hands on."  I was bored to tears, but I did realize to get to the good stuff, you have to sit through the tedium of theory classes.

Luck was on my side during those early days.  There was a high school friend at the same college who provided a familiar face and plenty of laughs.  We were in the same boat.  We always asked each other "How did we land here?"    I did become friends with several of those in the communications department.  They were a good bunch, and I'm still in touch with a few, even after all these years.  And, no, these aren't shallow, cheap, and easy Facebook friendships.

The freshman year was the toughest.  You learn the routine.  You learn how it works, and the last three years fly by.  I was glad I had those 18 credits.  It meant a much lighter schedule in later years.  I think I stayed at 18 credits through my sophomore year, and I took classes every summer to get ahead of the game.  By the time my senior year rolled around, I was barely on campus.

I can still remember that first day, vividly.

I felt out of place, but I suspect just about everyone else there was going through the same thing.  That's what being a freshman is all about.