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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Arlen Specter and Credit


Arlen Specter is one of the smartest people I've ever met. You could never stump him with a question. He is never at a loss for words. Specter seems to know at least a little bit about everything. You have to see Specter work a room. He is the consummate politician.

As you've heard by now, Specter jumped from the Republican party Tuesday. He's now a Democrat. I spent part of my Tuesday laughing at the boobs on cable television. They couldn't see this for what it is. It's not about political philosophy. It's about getting elected. Arlen Specter is a U.S. senator who wants to remain a U.S. Senator. He stands a better chance of achieving that goal as a Democrat. That's all it is. Plain and simple. Don't read more into this than is necessary. Two words: political survival.

Whether or not Specter can be liked, respected, and re-elected for what he did is up to you.

There was a high level meeting in Washington last week involving the Obama administration and the big banks/credit card companies. Call me cynical, but I can't see anything substantial coming out of this. There have been allegations the credit card operations haven't been consumer friendly, and I agree.

I got letters from a couple credit card companies recently. They were upping my interest rate. I rarely carry a balance, and if I do, it isn't that great. I didn't think that was any way to treat a loyal customer. I cancelled both cards.

One phone call was rather humorous. I finally got through to a human being. The woman thanked me for 22 years carrying the Discover Card. She then asked how she can help me. I said "I'm closing the account." The customer service rep offered me 1.9 per cent interest for six months to stay. I declined. She then said closing an account could have a negative impact on my credit rating. She is likely correct, but I don't plan on any major purchases in the near future, and the credit card I have left in my wallet should be more than enough.

When I cancelled an American Express card last week, I did it without ever speaking to a live person. Everything was accomplished via telephone key pad. At least, pretend you want to keep my business.

Like most people, the credit cards I carried accumulated over the years, but not to excess. I think I peaked at six. It's been pared to one debit card and one credit card. Yes, my credit rating was likely severely wounded. I can live with it. I read where the right thing to do was lock the cards away and never use them. However, I'm a hard headed chap at times. I couldn't let an interest rate hike and an anti consumer attitude go without protest.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

David DeCosmo Day and Blog 2.0

Two topics today: this blog and David DeCosmo Day in Scranton.

First, the really important one. My bosses were kind enough to let me sneak out of work a few minutes early so I could attend David DeCosmo Day at City Hall in Scranton.

Below, David and his family, listening to a lot of people say nice things about him.

The next picture is a plaque presentation by Lackawanna County Commissioners Mike Washo and Corey O'Brien. Washo is the one giving/getting the hug. The guy with the video camera is WBRE photographer Joe Butash.

This is Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty presenting another plaque to David.

And finally, David with some well deserved recognition.


I'm happy to report David will still be seen and heard. He's working on some projects with a Scranton based public access channel, and David will co host the Scranton Armed Forces Day Parade on WYOU next month.

David and family, thanks for allowing me to be part of your day. I'll see you soon.


The 5th anniversary of the blog is coming up in mid November, but today is also an anniversary.

Blog 2.0 hit the internet one year ago today. It was the day we switched formats, allowing more pictures, graphics, etc. As far as my participation, still the same old bad writing and photography.

There have been nearly 320 posts since April 29th of last year. A few have even made sense. It has been, and continues to be, fun.

Thanks for being here. The number of hits dipped when WNEP.com was re-designed a while back. I appreciate you taking the time to find it.

On to the 5th anniversary...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pontiac


I had a Pontiac in the late 80's, a Sunbird. It was the first new car I ever bought. Up to that time, it was strictly used cars. I liked the Sunbird, but not enough to buy another one, even though it was a solid and dependable car.

I usually don't get attached to my cars, except for a Ford Escort I had. We won't go in to the reason here.

As you've heard by now, General Motors is dumping the Pontiac line as the company struggles to stay afloat. I'm sorry for those who will lose their jobs.

This is another one of those business related "chicken and egg" arguments. People didn't like Pontiacs, so they didn't buy them. On the other hand, people didn't like Pontiacs because General Motors failed to show much imagination and innovation with that line.

Get used to it. It appears other automobile brands will follow Pontiac to the scrap heap.

We live in a different world.

Monday, April 27, 2009

He Deserves It


Tomorrow is David DeCosmo Day in the city of Scranton. David spent decades in radio and TV here in our area. He was among the people let go when WYOU cancelled all its news programs earlier this month. It would have been understandable if David blasted the people who killed the news department. He didn't. The man has class and dignity.

I first got to know David when I was working at WARM and he was with WDAU. It was clear David never forgot his roots, and he was extremely kind to those of us in the radio biz, especially a very green young reporter trying to find his way around the Luzerne County Courthouse. I wasn't alone. I watched David guide many a young reporter in the right direction, plus he was a valuable source of local history.

Later, David and I were co-workers at WYOU. If David said it, you knew it was right. You could depend on the information. The man did the smoothest live shots in the industry. I have a mental short list of the best people I could trust to get a story fast, get it right, and do it live. David occupies a spot on that list.

It was a wee bit before my time, but David was the radio voice who guided the Wyoming Valley through Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972.

Kevin Jordan nailed it in his blog a couple weeks ago-- David was never bigger than the story he covered. The story came first. It's a pity that is lost on a lot of people working today.

As the blog title indicates, David deserves a day in his honor, but it's also sad. He should still be working.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

WARMest Regards...


WARM 590 is back on the air, albeit with what appears to be a low powered and bad signal.

After today, I'm not going to waste any more time on this.

It's unfortunate that the company that owns WARM refused to tell its listeners, a small group, what was going on. Disdain for the audience is one of the reasons radio is in trouble. A two line note on a web site wasn't getting it done.

We tried calling when WARM was off the air. We tried calling when WARM was on the air. Silence. Apparently WARM is good at the "dead air" thing.

Citadel owns the license. The public owns the airwaves.

Failure doesn't come easy. You have to earn it. There are good reasons WARM finds itself with a microscopic slice of the audience.

You might be saying I'm a hypocrite. After all, some people have left the WNEP camp without explanation. Come out from under the "cone of silence" and let us know what's going on.

It comes down to this. The WNEP changes are personnel decisions, and personal ones at that. The people involved apparently wanted to keep things private, and that is their right.

A couple people at a business is one thing. An entire radio station, one with a rich heritage that was wasted, is something completely different.

By the way, Vince Sweeney is right. This was an ugly logo.

Friday, April 24, 2009

20


That's me on the field of Lackawanna County Stadium the evening of April 26, 1989. Yes, do the math. Sunday is the 20th anniversary of the stadium's opening.

Remember, the Red Barons spent the first few weeks on the road because the stadium wasn't ready. The first game, on the road, was in Rochester. I was there that afternoon, and I remember how stunned I was at the condition of Silver Stadium. It didn't seem one step below the major leagues. It reminded me of Memorial Stadium in Scranton-- one of those places with a lot of exposed steel. You could see the guts of the ballpark. Below is a 1989 picture I found on a web site.

Two things jumped out at me here. Take a look at the press box. The pass I was given didn't say "media" or "press box." It said "roof pass."

The other thing that I really noticed on my first visit to a AAA ballpark was the advertising. It was everywhere. I don't think there was a blank area in the entire stadium. Signs all over the place, including going up some of the light poles.

Fast forward to 20 years and Lackawanna County Stadium. Guess what? Advertising is everywhere. Yes, there are bills to pay, but it cheapens the look.

Silver Stadium was torn down after the 1997 season. It was about sixty years old.

The bad economy has put talk of a new Lackawanna County Stadium on the back burner. The ballpark, other than the ads, looks okay to me, but there's more to be considered-- like the plumbing and the wiring. That stuff can get old, fast.

It seems that with a little TLC and common sense, there are many more years left in Lackawanna County Stadium.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

MBWA


WalMart founder Sam Walton developed a concept he called MBWA, or management by walking around. Walton wanted his managers walking around in the store, seeing what's going on, talking with customers, and seeing what can be done better. Walton hated the thought of his managers parked behind a desk in an office all day.

I do something called PABDA, or political analysis by driving around. Scranton is my favorite location for that. I look at the campaign signs, the number, where they're placed, the quality of the work. If you have your signs in front of private homes, things look good. If the only place you can stick them is abandoned property and vacant lots, start preparing your concession speech.

Signs can tell a lot about your organization, your money, your friends.

PABDA isn't perfect because there is one thing that you can never forget: signs don't vote.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

P-O'd

It was one of those things that causes endless debate in the newsroom.

Newswatch 16's Bob Reynolds did a story Monday about a man in Pottsville who pleaded "no contest" to a pair of homicide charges. In pleading no contest, the defendant said his memory of the killings was clouded by drug and alcohol abuse. As far as sentencing goes, "no contest" is the same as guilty, and a judge sent the man to prison for a pair of life terms.

That wasn't good enough for one of the victim's friends. She said she was "pissed off."

Let's talk a little about the "process." Reporters do stories. Managers approve the scripts. Apparently, one of the managers thought "pissed off" was suitable for air. I wasn't around Monday afternoon to express my opinion, and I probably wouldn't have been asked, anyway.

Tuesday morning rolls around, and I was producing "Newswatch 16 This Morning." In other words, the newscast was in my hands-- a frightening proposition. I saw the "pissed off" story, thought about it for a while, and included it in our Tuesday morning broadcast. I wasn't thrilled with it, but the young lady who uttered the "pissed off" comment had something to say. She was angry, and her comments, even sans "pissed off" were interesting and powerful.

It aired in the 5:30 AM segment of the broadcast. Tom and Mindi objected. We re-edited the piece to bleep out "pissed off" for the other three hours. I deferred to the anchors here. After all, they are the faces of the broadcast, and I never want anchors to feel uncomfortable with a story. Been there. I anchor a couple days a week, myself-- Newswatch 16, 5 to 8 AM Saturdays and Sundays. Let's all be there.

So, that takes us back to square one. Should "pissed off" have been included in the first place? Number of phone calls after the story aired at 5:30 AM? Zero. Internet Talkback 16 postings as of 2:00 PM Tuesday? Zero.

I feel it comes down to this: What may be appropriate (word used loosely) in the evening broadcasts might not be right for the early morning hours. It's just a theory I'm throwing out here. I'm not sure Mom wants little Zeke to hear "pissed off" while she's getting him ready for school.

I don't think I was wrong Tuesday morning. I don't think I was right, either.

Once again, I will quote the great Tony Kornheiser: "We'll try to do better the next time."

Sorry for the lack of a graphic today. I'm sure you understand.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Still the Same


WGAL TV in Lancaster recently celebrated its 60th anniversary on the air. The station produced a special and made it available on DVD. My copy arrived the other day. It's well done, and something jumped out at me while I was watching.

The technology is different. It's a little easier to get video on the air. Computer graphics have improved the weather presentation,but the true heart of the news business is essentially the same. Talk to someone. Get the information and the pictures. Tell the audience what you know. Keep it simple. Done!

That's the essence of news, and that's the way it always be. Unfortunately, what we don't know right now is how that information will be delivered. With some very minor exceptions, radio is shot. TV is struggling. Newspapers are teetering on the edge. No one has really figured out how to make good money off the internet.

The business model appears to be migrating toward spreading the "brand" over several different media and channels. TV stations and newspapers are cooperating like never before in some cities, even moving in to the same building.

The WGAL special was really enjoyable. It brought a back memories of a time when the story was more important than the way you got it on the air, and how you paid for it.

The news business was always attractive to people like me because it was always different. Now, not only is the news different, but the business model is different, and no one really knows where it's going.

A long, strange road, indeed.

And if that isn't enough, our former news director, current friend, and occasional radio talk show host Paul Stueber is offering his take on the end of news at WYOU. It's interesting reading.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Time Passages


I got sidetracked with other issues last week, so today, I have to note a couple changes...

John Madden is retiring as an NFL broadcaster. He had that "everyman" appeal, and he knew how to break down a football game so you could understand it. You can't teach that. Add enthusiasm and a big personality, and you have the most famous color commentator of all time, in any sport. 30 years at the top says a lot. Even if you're not a Madden fan, you have to respect the longevity.

When you heard Madden and Pat Summerall, you knew it was a big game. By the way, you have to note Summerall's accomplishments here. I don't think Madden would have been as good if he didn't have Summerall by his side. Pat knew how to set up Madden, get out of the way, then drag him back to the basics of broadcasting a football game.

CBS paired Madden and Vin Scully at the beginning. It didn't work.

Here's how I knew Madden was really good. When Madden went to ABC and was teamed with Al Michaels, some predicted disaster. Michaels allegedly has a big ego. For sure, we know he likes to talk. He's the anti-Summerall in many ways. However, Madden and Michaels adapted, and they formed a very good team for ABC, then NBC. Madden was taken out of his Summerall comfort zone, and he was still an easy listen.

It's nice to leave under your own terms. Madden is doing that, and it appears to be a good move.


Merle Harmon died Wednesday. Harmon was never in the upper tier of sports broadcasters, but he was darn solid. Merle Harmon did play by play for the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also broadcast college football and the NFL for ABC and NBC. Merle Hermon was 83.


Then, there is Msgr. Joseph Quinn, who is leaving his church in Carbondale for Fordham University in the Bronx. For many years, Quinn was assigned to St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton. There was always a sigh of relief when you knew you'd be interviewing Msgr. Quinn. He was good on TV-- comfortable, well spoken, very likeable. We talked after the passing of Bishop McCormick and Cardinal O'Connor. Quinn knew just the right words. He was quite an asset to the Diocese of Scranton.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Five Towers of Power


One more bit of WARM history/trivia before we move on to other things...

WARM has five towers, each sending the signal out in a different direction. There's one pattern for daytime, and the other for after the sun goes down. The reason for the pattern is to reduce interference with other stations on the 590 frequency in the eastern U.S.

This is a picture of three of the five, in Falls, Thursday afternoon.

While working the weekend early morning shift, it was my job to switch from nighttime to daytime pattern at sunrise. One morning, I wasn't watching my plate voltage reading. It drifted too high, and the transmitter kicked off when I attempted to switch patterns. Panic set in. I called every engineer we had, and no one was able to talk me down. Finally, one came in as part of his usual Sunday morning studio equipment maintenance ritual. He diagnosed the problem right away. We were back on the air. I always kept an eye on my plate voltage after that. WARM was off the air for less than an hour. For this newbie, it seemed like an eternity.

I was around when others, not me, forgot to switch the pattern at sundown. It meant WARM's signal was interfering with many others, and it could have meant deep trouble with the Federal Communications Commission. I think the statute of limitations has run out on fudging the transmitter logs. Even back then, there was a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bad, Bad Photography Weekend


Before WARM fades into the history books, a little behind the scenes stuff...

This is a picture of the transmitter building, located off a dirt road in Falls. WARM was a strange station in that it is licensed to Scranton in Lackawanna County. The studio was in Avoca, then Plains in Luzerne County, and the transmitter is in Wyoming County.

The malfunctioning transmitter, the one they won't fix, is inside.

In a strange way, this building led to my job at WARM. Engineers used to be on duty here in Falls 24/7. Part of their duties included playing the Sunday morning public affairs and religion shows, from the transmitter site. I'm not sure exactly why, but there was a change, and they decided to play the religion and public affairs tapes from the Avoca studio. The two guys who had the job before me bailed. I came along, and stayed for nearly 11 years.

One of my favorite jokes is that 19 years after I started at WARM, I'm still working the weekend overnight shift.

Friday, April 17, 2009

WARM


I'd like to forget April ever existed. My first television news operation, and my first commercial radio station went belly up in the same month.

A few additional words on WYOU are on the way, but let's start with WARM, the once "Mighty 590."

Apparently, the transmitter is shot and the company that owns the station doesn't want to spend the money to fix it. There is a strong possibility WARM is gone forever. How do you neglect your transmitter? Without a transmitter, there is no radio station. It's like neglecting the engine in your car.

I worked there from 1981 to 1991, and I'm not going to get all weepy over this. Due to years of management bungling, going back to my era, the place where I worked no longer exists. The WARM we grew up with died a long time ago. No one is losing their jobs. The 2009 WARM is a computer in a closet that gets a satellite delivered oldies format on the air. Nothing live. Nothing local. All tragic.

By the time I came on the scene, WARM had lost some of its luster, but it was still better than every other radio station out there. We had seven full time news people, and that's unheard of in a town this size. For much of my employment, I had the greatest job in broadcasting. I took home a company car and a tape recorder. My job was to chase every court case, fire, crash, arrest and big storm in the area. It kept me moving, and I loved it. During a nasty round of flooding in the mid 80's, I just drove around, reporting what I saw. A television news crew later told me they knew where the problems were by listening to me. I had a chance to attend the first ever Red Barons game (in Rochester), Governor Casey's first inauguration, and a long list of other big events. I might not have been the greatest talent out there, but I was certainly the luckiest.

I left because I smelled trouble ahead, and I thought I had gone as far as I could go.

There's a blurb on the back jacket of Bob Barker's book. New "The Price is Right" host Drew Carey says "I'll try not to wreck the car." Lyndon Johnson kept escalating the war in southeast Asia because he didn't want to be known as the first American president to lose a war.

I thought pride and history would be enough to keep WYOU and WARM afloat. I didn't think any broadcast executive or company would want to be remembered as the one who killed a relatively solid news department, or the one who allowed a legendary radio station to die. One suit called the demise of WYOU News a "win-win situation." Tell that to the newly unemployed guy who has to pay his mortgage this month, and who has to feed his kids.

They wrecked the car and lost the war.

Even though it was an occasionally rocky road, I wouldn't trade my WYOU and WARM years for anything.

There's a chance someone will buy WARM and get it up and running again. Unfortunately, AM radio stations with crippled transmission facilities are not a good investment.

It was fun while it lasted.

Happier times... the below photo is Paul Ciliberto and I in the WARM Avoca studio around New Year's Eve, 1989. Notice the sign on the wall over Paul's shoulder. It says "The only difference between this place and the Titanic is the Titanic had a band."
Below is the mid 80's afternoon news team. Guy Randall is on the left. The legendary Terry McNulty is on the right. I'm in the middle. Both Guy and Terry have passed on.

And this is me on the night of April 26, 1989-- almost 20 years ago. It was taken in the broadcast booth of Lackawanna County Stadium-- opening night. We kicked butt that night, leaving the other alleged news station in town, and the station with the Red Barons' broadcast rights, both in the dust.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Unfinished Business


Today, an update on a few topics I brought up on earlier blogs...

I finished Bob Barker's book the other day. If you're looking for a nice, light read, this is is it. It's about more than "The Price is Right." You won't be sorry.

By the way, Bob Barker will be a special guest on today's "The Price is Right." It's easy to find. It comes on right before the noon infomercial.

A TV station in Boston threatened to replace Jay Leno's 10 PM show with a new newscast this fall. NBC wanted to pull the plug on the station's affiliation. The Boston station backed off. Leno at 10 PM in September.

I've received a few e-mails from friends, attempting to sell me on the joys of Twitter and FaceBook. Sorry. It's not working. I'm sure the applications are fine and dandy for some people.

As I write this, WARM 590 has been off the air for more than two weeks. Expensive to repair transmitter problems, a reliable source tells me. A couple radio industry internet message boards report rumors WARM is off the air for good. I hope that's not true. WARM is a legendary station, and it's where I got my start. The station isn't what it used to be. Far, far from it. But, it deserves better than the neglect it's suffered for the past 15 or so years.

Yes, I still like writing sentence fragments.

I liked most of the Harry Kalas tributes I've read and seen. Kalas died Monday in the broadcast booth of the Washington Nationals' stadium. However, I dislike references to "Harry died doing what he loved, in the booth." You know, there is something about collapsing alone, in a cold stadium, that doesn't sound so romantic to me.

It seems like I'm getting an e-mail every day from someone who disconnected their land line telephone. I'm close to jumping on the bandwagon.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day


Once upon a time, there were no home computers. People filled out their tax returns by hand, using pen and ink. A good many of them cut it close and dropped their returns into the mail on the last possible day.

These people made life wonderful for television news reporters. All we had to do was hang out at the post office. The story came to you.

The Buggles sang "Video Killed the Radio Star." Home computers killed a darn decent television news story. There is no longer a last day rush at the post office. Electronic filing took care of that.

It's over.

However, there are still some good tax related stories out there. Yesterday, we discovered the Internal Revenue Service expects more people to say "I don't have the money to pay my taxes" this year. You may have heard the economy is in tough shape. You still have to file a return today, or ask for an extension. You also have to give the IRS something. A lot of people didn't know they could pay in installments, and we passed along that information yesterday. A tax preparer said the IRS will work with you, but there is interest and penalties.

Moot point all around, for me, today... My taxes were done months ago, and I have the day off today.

As the legendary Paul Harvey would have said, this next section is "partly personal." A WNEP photographer was at the Bentley's grand opening Sunday. A couple ladies, who said they know me, asked the photographer to pass along their regards. She did. I'm still not sure who you are. Drop me an e-mail or voice mail at the office. Thanks.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Harry Kalas


Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas died yesterday at the age of 73. He collapsed in the broadcast booth of the baseball stadium in Washington, a few hours before game time. Some may say he died doing what he loved. On the other hand, there are better ways to go than passing in a stadium.

Kalas will be remembered as one of the best. Great voice, lively delivery, enthusiasm-- even in the years when the Phillies were awful. He coaxed the best out of fellow broadcaster Richie Asburn, who could be extremely dry at times. 39 years with the Phillies.

Harry Kalas also did voice over work for NFL Films, and he handled a Sunday NFL game of the week on radio.

He livened up many a summer night. Harry Kalas was baseball.


Staying with baseball for a moment... my eyes were falling out of my head Wednesday from too much reading and computing. I had to get some air, so I walked around Lackawanna County Stadium. Yes, I know it has another name, but if the bank wants me to mention it here, they can send me a check.

Anyway, I don't love baseball as much as once as I once did, but it was a fun atmosphere Wednesday afternoon. They were getting ready for opening night. The soda and beer people were doing their thing. The clean up was underway. The grounds crew was taking care of the field. The Yankees were practicing in the outfield. I snapped off a camera phone picture, and it's above.

I can't get to the opener because it's on a Friday night, and I'm working. It's been a couple years since I've been to the stadium. Maybe I'll be back in '09.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Twittering My Life Away


I have a news flash for those of you with Twitter accounts: no one cares what you're doing every minute of every day.

In case you have a fascination with what I'm doing, let's getting all the tweets out of the way at once:

*I got my oil changed last week, and there was a great dress shirt sale at Penney's on Friday.

*I wish for warm weather.

*Easter is one of my favorite times of year.

*Baseball no longer interests me.

*If Rush Limbaugh or Keith Olbermann or anyone of their ilk annoys you, just ignore them.

*WYOU News stopped being WYOU News 11 years ago.

*ELO was a great band.

*Pirates!!!

*I'm strongly considering dropping my land line.

*Why can't I find a brand of tooth paste I really like?

*Kevin Jordan and Vince Sweeney have really good blogs. They should write more.

*Is it May yet?

*Gas is still around $2 a gallon. Unbelieveable!

*I'm tired of reading how every newspaper in the country is in trouble.

*Bob Barker's memoirs, "Priceless Memories," is a fun read.

*I can't wait until the Twitter fad has passed.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cherry Blossom Time


The final photo in the latest installment of Celebrity Guest Photography Weekend, the Easter Edition. It's cherry blossom time in Washington, DC.

Thanks to Phil Yacuboski of WBAL-TV for his work.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Washington, D.C.


Another photo from Phil...

The Jefferson Memorial is my favorite in Washington. I love the shape-- round in a city of squares and angles. The setting on the tidal basin only adds to the experience.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Celebrity Guest Photography Easter Weekend

As noted earlier, old friend Phil Yacuboski has been working in Baltimore for quite a while now. He visited Washington, DC last weekend to take in the cherry blossoms, and he shipped me a few photos. It's a nice way to start the holiday weekend.

Click to enlarge. More tomorrow and Sunday!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Celebrity Offspring

I don't get star struck. The reason? Most celebrities I've met have been idiots. The worst-- Don Imus and Terry Bradshaw. Debbie Reynolds was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. She couldn't have been nicer. Peter Criss, formerly of Kiss, was kind to me, as were members of the band Foghat. I researched Criss before my interview. I was never a Kiss fan. Sorry. He seemed impressed that I had done my home work and was able to ask relevant questions. Hey, only doing my job. I rode in an elevator, in Morgantown, WV with Brent Musberger. He seemed like a delightful chap. Hal Linden, of "Barney Miller," came to Wilkes-Barre once to campaign for senate candidate Bob Edgar. "Barney Miller" is one of my all time favorite shows. I was working radio at the time, and it was a forgettable interview. All politics. All boring. In fact, most of my brushes with celebrity have been in the "forgettable" category.

I will cop to getting a little star struck at the oddest times. The latest was Monday morning in Hanover Township. Sallie Mae announced it was bringing 600 jobs to Luzerne County. Douglas Kiker, Jr. was part of the public relations team.

Douglas Kiker, Sr. is the gentleman standing, in the middle, in the photo above. He was an author, newspaper reporter, and NBC News correspondent for a long time. He passed away in 1991 at the age of 61. The name rang a bell immediately, and I asked Junior if he was related to the NBC News correspondent. He replied "That was my father," and a slight smile crossed his face. He seemed pleased someone remembered. I'm not faulting my colleagues, because many of them are considerably younger than I, but I was the only one who recognized the name. Yes, the son does resemble the father, and it was a kick meeting him.

The other case of "Starstruck: The Offspring Edition" took place many years ago in Towanda. I was covering a murder trial. The stations from Elmira were there. One of the reporters from Elmira was Cousin Brucie's daughter. That's her, at two years old, with her dad and the rest of the family. The photo is from Cousin Brucie's book, called "My Life in Rock n Roll Radio."

Remember, I started in radio. Cousin Brucie worked at WABC and WNBC in New York. He now does a show on Sirius/XM satellite radio. Cousin Brucie is part of radio royalty, and I was talking with the prince's daughter! She was impressed that I read her dad's book, and she reminded me that her picture was in the middle-- the one you see above.

Meri Morrow has to be around 40 now. I understand she left for the west coast many years ago. A Google search failed to turn up any recent information. I do remember one tid bit from that day in Towanda. Meri Morrow's photographer told me Cousin Brucie got his daughter a set of implants for her birthday.

As I said earlier, I will admit to getting star struck at the oddest times.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mixed Blessing



I've probably covered dozens of "charity" stories over the years. The latest was yesterday morning in Scranton. People in need were receiving what the "Friends of the Poor" called Easter/Passover/Spring baskets of food. It was a creative way of naming the give-a-way. It showed they wanted to help, no matter what you do or don't celebrate. This is a photo of the food blessing I snapped with my camera phone.

The same thing happens every time I'm at one of these stories. The number of people looking for help is overwhelming and depressing. It's even worse this year due to the bad economy. Then, there is the other side of the coin-- the people who donate and who are willing to help.

The Holy Family church basement was filled with donated food, or food purchased at a discount. The Lackawana College football team was there to help deliver it and stack it up. Some Dunmore High School students dropped in to help with the distribution. Individuals came in to do what they could.

It breaks my heart to see all those people who need a little help, but it warms my heart to see them getting a break, and all those volunteers giving up their time.

A little early, but Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Kid Again


Believe it or not, there aren't many times I wish I was a kid again.

One of the exceptions occurs at this time of year-- the start of baseball season. You looked forward to your team having a shot at the World Series, new players, optimism, springtime.

There was the joy of that first NBC Game of the Week on Saturday afternoon, a time when we were lucky to get two games a week on television. The other was a Sunday afternoon Yankees game on WDAU.

And then, there were the backyard wiffle ball games with the neighborhood kids-- usually with a new bat and ball as part of the package. Me? Good field. No hit. It was great fun nonetheless.

I envy kids these days. They have so much technology, information, and convenience at their fingertips. But, there are times I feel sorry for them. Baseball today is an exercise in greed, performance enhancing drugs, and players who don't give a rat's behind about the fans.

The innocence of springtime baseball is gone.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Other Points of View


The WYOU situation has been eating at me since I first heard the news Friday night. Some friends lost their jobs when the station killed its news operation. I come at this from two perspectives-- a former employee and someone currently in the business.

I'd really like to give you the insider's view and some things that really need to be said. However, this blog is under the semi umbrella of WNEP, and we're trying our best to stay out of other people's business. One day, when a diplomatic way of putting things occurs to me, I'll unload.

Here's what I can do in the meantime. There are two very good blogs on the subject floating around in cyberspace. One comes from Kevin Jordan. The other is from Vince Sweeney. Both are good reads. Click on the names to get to the blogs.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Everything Old is New Again


As noted here and elsewhere, "The Guiding Light" disappears from the CBS schedule in September.

"TV Week" reports "The $25,000 Pyramid" is one of the candidates to replace it. Words cannot express my glee.

"Pyramid" is a darn fine game. A 2002 revival, with Donny Osmond wasn't bad-- but, it was too high tech, too dark, too rushed, too gimmicky. Osmond turned out to be a pretty good game show host.

The only network game show out there right now is "The Price is Right." I don't get a chance to see it often. When I do turn in, I've noticed that Drew Carey has proven to be a nice replacement for Bob Barker.

The syndicated games run from awful to decent. "Trivial Pursuit" and "Family Feud" often border on unwatchable. I do enjoy "Millionaire" and "Deal or No Deal" from time to time, and not just because they're on WNEP. "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" continue to have a large following. "Wheel" bores me. "Jeopardy" is an all time classic.

As for the Game Show Network's first run shows, the only one really worth watching is "Lingo."

It comes down to this-- it's time for a "Pyramid" revival, and I hope the producers stay true to the show's roots.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

WYOU R.I.P.


In case you haven't heard by now, WYOU eliminated its news operation. The lights went out after the Friday night 11:00 pm broadcast.

I spent about 7 years at WYOU. It was my first television station, and it will always have a special place in my heart. It was home, and even though I moved on to other things, seeing the station wither and die is painful.

Some would think I'm happy a competitor has fallen by the wayside. I'm not. Competition makes everyone stronger. Some very good people lost their jobs.

I'm not going to get into the reasons behind this. That discussion is for others, those with access to the ratings and the revenue.

My heart goes out to the people who tried to make it work, in spite of roadblocks put in their way. You tried your best, but sometimes, even your best isn't good enough.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Media Notes


Chicago has two major daily newspapers. Both are in bankruptcy.

CBS has canceled "The Guiding Light" after 72 years on radio and TV. Bad ratings. No replacement named yet. The last episode airs in September.

The last "ER" aired last night on NBC. The series had been on for 15 years. I tried watching it a few times, and it never clicked for me. I thought showing a lot of blood and hearing some questionable language was aimed at covering up poor story lines. Clearly, I was in the minority because the show lasted a very long time.

I once worked for a general manager who couldn't figure out how "ER" got huge numbers, and his 11 pm newscast that immediately followed didn't. I wanted to tell him, but I clammed up. I should have said something. I got fired anyway. He got canned a few years after I was shown the door.

I've been reading some newspaper columns complaining about the ABC News "20/20" "coal region" line one week ago. They don't get it. We'd learn more about ourselves and our area if we looked at how outsiders view us.

Good news and bad news: I've found something good on the radio. Unfortunately, you have to go to the internet or satellite to get it because no one around here carries it. Philadelphia native Tony Bruno does a show called "Into the Night." It's a blessing for those of us who are up late at night and early in the morning. "Into the Night" begins at 10 pm. XM picks it up at 11 pm, and carries a rebroadcast until 4 am. Sports and more.

WARM seems to be off the air more than it is on the air these days. The decline of this radio station is nothing short of tragic.

"The Washington Post" is exploring the elimination of its Saturday print edition, and charging for access to its internet site. Those moves come after yet another downsizing.

If you want to get more readers, viewers, and listeners, improve the product. Create something fresh, exciting, compelling, interesting, relevant-- a product advertisers and readers/viewers/listeners want. Unfortunately, that costs money, and money is hard to come by these days. It's a bad situation.

A major drama is playing out in Boston. NBC is giving Jay Leno a 10 pm, Monday through Friday show in September. The NBC affiliate in Boston says it won't run it. There will be a new 10 pm newscast instead. NBC is threatening to move its affiliation to another station in the city. This one will be interesting.

Television line of the week: David Letterman to Bill O'Reilly: "You're too smart to believe what you say."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Intermodal Transportation Center



Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and Hazleton are getting them-- intermodal transportation centers.

This is the view from South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre. I dropped by Tuesday morning to watch the street close so a giant crane could be dismantled.

The intermodal transportation center features space for buses and taxis on the ground floor, with more than 700 parking spaces above. Wilkes-Barre officials say it'll get the buses off Public Square, which will mean more metered parking spots for cars. It seems to make sense. There have been complaints the bus stop will be too far away from the square. It seems like a reasonable walk to me. We'll see how it works when it's finished later this year.

By the way, there's something about a construction project that brings out the kid in all of us. I wanted to stay longer, but couldn't. A few people had gathered on the sidewalk to watch the crane be taken apart. The process was quite entertaining.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sexting


This space has been used to raise some issues regarding Luzerne County district attorney Jackie Musto Carroll in the past, but I'm a fair person. She gets it on at least one major issue.

I attended a Women's History Month program at Coughlin High School in Wilkes-Barre yesterday. The "sexting" issue came up. Ms. Carroll uttered the key phrase yesterday: "The law has to catch up with technology."

You hate to see a kid in major trouble, with a lifetime criminal record, for a youthful indiscretion, but that's what the law calls for at this time. Clearly, it was written well before the cell phone age. The district attorney in Wyoming County has been caught in the trap. The American Civil Liberties Union has dragged him in to federal court.

Luzerne County's district attorney says she's reluctant to prosecute sexting violators, and her life would be easier if kids would just stop doing it. It doesn't look like that's going to happen. Judging by the titters from the kids in the Coughlin auditorium, it's been happening a lot. All the publicity lately has probably increased the sexting incidents, rather than reducing them. I'm not picking on the Wilkes-Barre kids. The issue is more widespread than that.

Many sexting photos fit the legal definition of child pornography, but you have to look at the intent. For the most part, it appears to be kids doing foolish things rather than perverted porn freaks running amok with a cell phone.

It's going to take a multi layered approach to fix the problem. It starts in the home and in the schools, but the ultimate answer has to be found in Harrisburg and Washington. Jackie Musto Carroll is right. The law has to catch up with technology.