Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
No big issues today, just a little fun with construction. This is the new intermodal transportation center on South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre. I took this picture because I thought the towering elevator shafts looked neat.
This is the under-side of the West Lackawanna Avenue bridge in Scranton. The bridge will soon be history. Construction crews have cleared away some of the brush and trees beneath the bridge, and now you can get a good look at the architectural features. Enjoy it while you can, because the bridge is being demolished. The construction company promises the new bridge will also be architecturally pleasing.And finally, a little good news... As Newswatch 16 reported the other evening, the 60 year old Markowitz Brothers newsstand has found a new home. It's just down the street, in the 200 block of Linden Street. The current building, at Wyoming and Linden is being sold, and the newsstand has to move.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I visited the old casino building at Mohegan Sun in Plains Township two weeks ago, and the experience was less than thrilling. I gave the new building a try yesterday morning.
The new slots parlor, restaurant and shopping complex is excessive in every sense of the word. You know what? It's a casino. It's supposed to be. It's worth a visit, even if you're not "in" to slot machines and overpriced food. You really have to see it. They did it right.
My visit was around 7:30 am, and the building was just about empty. I had my choice of machines. I sat down at one of "The Price is Right" slots and stuffed in a $5 bill. After a few tries, I was up 60 cents! Mr. Lucky has a philosophy: quit while you're ahead. I walked out a wee bit richer than when I entered.
Even though the new Mohegan Sun building is spectacular, slot machines bore me. Sorry, I still don't get it.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The newspapers say Boscov's is trying to avoid filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. Remember that Chapter 11 does not signal a "going out of business" sale. It gives the company a chance to re-organize and get its financial house in order.
The newspapers also report the Boscov's chain might close ten underperforming stores. The downtown Wilkes-Barre store has been a notorious money loser. So far, no list of closing candidates from the company.
My most recent trip to Boscov's was Monday morning, as I wandered about the Steamtown Mall in Scranton. Not many shoppers in Boscov's and the rest of the mall, but that's normal on an early weekday morning. The Boscov's shelves and racks looked normal-- no shortage of merchandise.
I stopped in a Public Square newsstand to buy some out-of-town papers yesterday morning. The Boscov troubles was the major topic of conversation. The man behind the counter speculated the Wilkes-Barre store was safe because, he claims, it's the place where the chain dumps all the merchandise that doesn't sell at other stores. Who knows?
I've never really understood how retail in a downtown situated between two college campuses doesn't prosper. There's still a lot of vacant space around the new cineplex and South Main Street.
Is it time to give up the ghost? So-called community leaders and elected types try to preserve and bring in new downtown retail. Why? America has changed. It's a waste of time to try to re-create downtowns of the 1950's. These days, downtowns consist of government buildings, private offices, medical facilities, and some small businesses, like restaurants, that cater to them. There might be a small entertainment strip. Like or not, big retail has fled to the suburbs, and it's not coming back. Modern shoppers don't want to go downtown.
Will clusters of smaller specialty stores work better than a big department store downtown? Maybe. What happens to the Boscov's building?
While I'm on the subject of downtowns, I took a long stroll around downtown Wilkes-Barre yesterday morning. There was a lot of activity around King's College. I asked a young man what was going on. He replied it was some sort of testing program. Several people were scrambling to come up with the change to feed the parking meters. I came to the rescue of a young woman who needed change for a dollar.
My point is this-- why didn't King's make parking arrangements somewhere, and why is the city busting chops at parking meters on a Saturday morning? I know it takes a lot of money to run a city, but I think Wilkes-Barre can do without the handful of quarters that come in on Saturdays. Want to make downtown more attractive to shoppers and businesses? Make it easy for people to people to park.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Yes, I know it's a weekend, and I know I'm on vacation.
I'm in the habit of getting up early. Today was no exception. I wandered around downtown Wilkes-Barre to play with my camera for a while. I took this one shortly after sunrise-- a rather interesting silhouette, if I do say so myself.
As some of you may know, I usually spend my weekend mornings sequestered in a television studio. I was struck this morning by the number of people out and about very early-- people on bikes, construction workers, people setting up yard sales, folks just sitting on Public Square benches...
It was nice to see a lot of activity on a really nice summer morning.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Wednesday's rain wasn't all bad. It livened up the waterfall at Aylesworth Park in Jermyn Thursday morning.
I'll be enjoying a rare weekend off. Trish Hartman will anchor the Saturday and Sunday morning broadcasts.
The blog is nearing its fourth anniversary, and I think I've touched on this topic every year. Someone is going to get seriously hurt or killed covering a hurricane.
A television news crew from Austin was cut up on South Padre Island, TX this week covering Dolly. They were covered with glass when a satellite truck window got blown out.
It's just needless grandstanding, and it's going to continue until some poor reporter, photographer, or satellite truck operator winds up in a body bag. You can cover a hurricane without standing in the middle of it, looking like a fool. You're not impressing anyone. Viewers spend more time thinking "why is that idiot out in the storm?" rather than listening to what you're saying. At one time, it was almost interesting. Now, it's a cliche-- and a dangerous one at that. Risks are part of the job. This is just plain silly.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The publisher of the Allentown Morning Call says the paper is eliminating nearly 40 editorial positions, about 25 per cent of its newsroom staff.
The news business is changing. Newspapers used to be "it." You didn't believe it until you saw it in print. Now, newspapers in their current form are on the verge of becoming irrelevant.
The internet killed the newspaper star. The Allentown Morning Call is an excellent newspaper and it has a very good web site. Like everything else, it comes down to money, and it's not just the news. I don't know the numbers from Allentown, but some newspapers used to get half their revenue from classified ads. In some places, it's down to 20 per cent. The old business model doesn't work. The internet is great. Unfortunately, at least right now, it can't generate the money at the level and the way newspapers are used to seeing-- ad revenue, subscriptions, and newsstand sales.
We're all in this together. Something that hurts one method of news delivery hurts us all. It's a new world out there, and we have to figure out how to make it work. A much leaner, trimmer newspaper may be one of the answers, but that doesn't mean I don't have sympathy for those losing their jobs.
By the way, I have an unsolicited advice for some of our newspaper friends and their web sites. I don't think the Morning Call does it. I've seen it in a few other locations here in our area. There will be a short internet blurb on "breaking news." It usually ends with the line "for more, see tomorrow's editions of ----------." No! They just don't get it. The internet has trained people to expect the information NOW. When you ask people to come back later, or wait until tomorrow's newspaper hits the streets, all you're accomplishing is driving your readers to another source of information.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Like it or not, the church is a business. If you don't have the staff (priests), if you don't have the money, if you don't have the parishioners, you have no options.
There were numerous complaints about an alleged serious lack of compassion and humanity when the diocese closed several schools a couple years back. We'll see if any lessons have been learned.
I hate to see people lose their jobs, but it's hard to scrounge up sympathy for Starbucks. The chain is closing hundreds of stores. Who thought it was a good idea to charge a lot of money for a little bit of coffee, and to put a store on every corner? I wasn't a business major, and even I can see how that business model doesn't make sense.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Nothing charges out today as a "must write about" topic, so here are thoughts on a few things...
The FBI has decided against recommending criminal charges against former Scranton tax collector Ken McDowell. The FBI launched an investigation after more than $12 million mysteriously appeared in accounts McDowell oversaw.
The Scranton Times-Tribune did a very good story on the case a couple weeks ago. One line jumped out of the story and bit me on the nose. It is attributed to "veteran office employees." "He (McDowell) also failed to make monthly financial reports to city, county and school district, which also is required by law." My question is this: How many people were asleep at the switch? You have the tax collector failing to make monthly statements to three different agencies. Didn't anyone realize something was wrong? Didn't anyone speak up? Why? Why not?
Scranton's new public access channel really hasn't hit the ground running, has it? There are always issues with a new enterprise, but I expected more than a few meetings and a whole bunch of graphics and public service announcements.
Some of you may have noticed I've been playing with the blog page header. It's still not where I want it, and I'll be experimenting a little more in the days to come. Yes, I need a hobby-- badly.
Good luck on your bike ride, Joe.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The new slots parlor/restaurant/shopping center at Mohegan Sun in Plains Township opens tomorrow. I took this picture of the $200+ million dollar building last week, during the final phase of construction. It's spectacular from the outside, and I'm sure it's just as nice on the inside. If it delivers even half of what it promises, people will walk away pleased and impressed.
Having said that, here it comes. I had a few minutes to kill on a recent morning. I'd never gambled, so I decided to give the existing slots parlor at Mohegan Sun a try. I gave myself a $25 limit. I left after spending $10. The reason? I was bored out of my mind, and the experience didn't work for me. I just didn't enjoy sitting in darkened, windowless room. Playing the slots takes no skill. I tried several different machines. They all seemed the same. Press a button. Stare at the screen. Wait. Tedious.
I know people who love Mohegan Sun. I've met several people with the company. They've always been great to me. Mohegan Sun seems like an extremely well run enterprise. The new building is on my list of places to visit.
I guess I'm just not a gambler.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Former White House press secretary Tony Snow died Saturday morning. Regardless of how you feel about his politics, you couldn't help but like the guy. Snow was a conservative Republican. FOX took some heat when it hired Snow to host "FOX News Sunday" in 1996. He proved the critics wrong. Snow played it straight. You couldn't tell what way he leaned.
Tony Snow had a radio talk show for a couple of years. No one around here carried it, but I was a frequent listener via XM. All too often, hard core political talk shows, both Republican and Democrat, are shrill and mean spirited. Unlistenable. Snow's show was different. He said what he believed, and he was a gentleman in doing it.
Vice President Dick Cheney said Snow would have been a great candidate for any public office. I agree. The man had charm and charisma. You can't teach that.
A friend said it best-- when Bobby Murcer died Saturday, he lost part of his childhood. I'll never forget what a shock it was when the Yankees traded Murcer to the San Francisco Giants before the 1975 season. Murcer seemed crushed. His fans felt the same way.
Who could forget Murcer's 5 RBI performance in the first game after Thurman Munson's funeral in August of 1979? The YES Network re-runs the game occasionally. Do yourself a favor. Watch it next time around.
We ran a "sound bite" with Yankees' manager Joe Girardi on Newswatch 16 Saturday night and Sunday morning. Girardi was nearly in tears. It was moving stuff.
Murcer went in to broadcasting after retiring from baseball. Television has a way of exposing the phonies, letting people know who you really are. I think everyone agrees that Bobby Murcer was a very nice man. You can't fake "nice."
Friday, July 11, 2008
I've railed against the people in Harrisburg many times before. You know how the speech goes. They care more about the special interests rather than the people they're elected to represent. They hire the connected rather than the best and the brightest. They have no problems wasting your money. Meaningful reforms? Forget it. Many are sanctimonious and arrogant. At least one is a proven liar. They make it easy for the public to hold them in low regard, and they really don't seem to care.
A dozen people, including a current state representative and a former one, were indicted yesterday. The charges include giving out state bonuses (your money) to people who worked on political campaigns. On top of that, the accused allegedly tried to get rid of the evidence.
It's disgusting and we deserve better.
I bet there's more to the story, and I hope the investigation doesn't end here.
The accused are innocent until proven guilty, but one fact is not in dispute-- thousands of dollars in "bonus" money was tossed around. While the bonus program itself is not illegal, it's criminal to spend that money when our schools need help, when our roads and bridges are falling apart, when our taxes are so high.
They stole our trust, and that's more valuable than the money.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The site meter gives me more than a number. It also lists the locations (but not the identities, so don't worry) of visitors. About 90 per cent of the hits come from northeastern and central Pennsylvania. There are small clusters in the Harrisburg area and New Jersey. Northbrook, IL is on the list daily. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are there as well. A foreign country pops up from time to time. Reading the list never fails to be interesting.
The blog averages about 200 hits a day. I think we topped out at 265 a few weeks ago. I can't figure it out. Some mediocre efforts do well. Blogs I really liked occasionally fail to strike a chord with readers. My blog doesn't offer a comment section. It's to avoid competition with "Talkback 16." It appears the "inside tv" blogs and bad photographs get the most attention.
Thanks again. I'd be thrilled with five hits a day.
In an attempt to appease the people who like the "inside tv" stuff, we got a couple new trucks recently. Here's one of them.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
While I was waiting for someone who knew something to give me an answer on the closing time of the West Lackawanna Avenue Bridge Monday morning, I had some time to wait.
I'm always drawn to trains, and there was a cluster of freight trains and an old caboose near Steamtown and the state office building parking lot. Note to the state people: get rid of the weeds and trash in your parking lot. It's disgraceful, and not what we want visitors to Steamtown to see.
Big diesel freight engines might not have the same charm as steam locomotives, but I still find them fun and interesting.
Enjoy the mid week show.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
By the way, I've had far more great experiences in this business than bad ones, and I'll share those stories one of these days.
One other note: BrainyHistory.com says Channel 22 signed on 55 years ago June 7. Congratulations!
Monday, July 7, 2008
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre radio station is in the middle of a format change. WQFM 92.1/100.1 used to be the "80's, 90's and today." That format disappeared the other day, replaced by The Beatles 24/7.
In the business, we call that a "stunt." It's designed as a transition, and something to get people talking. It worked. I actually heard a couple discussing it at the post office Tuesday morning. The Beatles thing is supposed to sound like a traditional format until a change is made. A radio message board predicts the new format will be unveiled today.
WQFM wasn't a bad station, but it never really took off. Did I listen? Yes and no. I'd stick around for a while if something good was on when I hit "scan" on my car's radio. On the other hand, it wasn't a station I actively sought out.
I like The Beatles, and as a stunt format, it's working surprisingly well. After you listen for a while, you're reminded of the range The Beatles had-- so many different styles, so many different sounds, such variety, even though the band really wasn't together that long. Alas, even though I like The Beatles, I got sick of them after a couple hours.
What comes next? Your guess is as good as mine. This is a tough radio station town. Pick a format, and there are already at least two other stations doing it.
I became a satellite radio fan about six years ago because of the consistency. When I punch in the 70's channel, I get 70's music, and it's going to stay that way. The sports talk stations always have sports talk. There's no interruption for play-by-play of teams that don't interest me. The loss of local news and weather really isn't a factor because over-the-air radio stations around here have cut way back on that. It's like their management is saying "we don't care if you go someplace for your entertainment and information." The internet takes care of the information part. I choose satellite for my entertainment while others have turned to things like I-Pods and MP3 players.
Traditional radio still commands a big market share, but it's slipping, and it's not hard to see the reasons.
>>>UPDATE<<< The station flipped to oldies this afternoon, a format it abandoned a couple years ago. Everything old is new again.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
This blog will be four years old in November, and if you've been along for the ride, you probably realize by now that I'm not what you would call a warm and fuzzy "people person." I talk for a living. I'm talked to, for a living. When I'm off duty, I don't want to talk.
The last several weeks haven't been fun. I couple people I know passed away. A couple others are battling some severe health issues. Some people in my life continue to disappoint. Thankfully, it's a small number. I've been a little more tired than usual, and the Tampa Bay Rays are in first place in the American League East. On top of all that, I worry about everything. It's a pre-existing condition.
I violated my "no talk" policy in mid-May, when I called a former college classmate on the 25th anniversary of our graduation. She blew off the reunion. So did I. Thanks to conflicting schedules and her malfunctioning answering machine, we never connected. I was about to give up when I decided to give it one more try. That was last week. The answering machine has been repaired. I left a message. The return call came Monday afternoon. It was 31 minutes and 34 seconds of heaven.
I really needed to hear a friendly voice. She sounded exactly the same, and her memory of events 25 years ago was astounding. It was worth suspending my "no talk" policy for an afternoon.