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Monday, April 30, 2012

Yonder

By now, you might have heard the helicopter that used to be Skycam 16 crashed.

I flew in Skycam several times.  I always felt safe.  It was always fun.  I had the pleasure of riding along two great pilots-- Dave Frey and Randy Freeman.  Both treated Skycam like it was their own.  It showed.

I took the photo you see above in May of 2007.

I had hoped the helicopter would have met a dignified retirement, rather than in pieces, in a wheat field in Lebanon County.

At least, no one was seriously hurt when it went down during a crop dusting mission.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Classic Bad Photography Sunday: The Square

We're digging deep into my photography collection today.  I took the picture you see above in May of 1979. This is the corner of Linden Street and North Washington Avenue in Scranton.  Courthouse Square had a ton of big, beautiful trees-- which hid the ugly old annex.  Notice the width of the old sidewalks.  They are almost as wide as the streets themselves.

Above is the new square-- a soulless sea of granite and concrete.  I took this picture in January of this year.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Classic Bad Photography Saturday: Public Square


I took this shot of Public Square in Wilkes-Barre in April of 1989.  Notice, the trees that ring the square are in bloom, and the canopy is still here.

The thing that really jumped out at me-- the signs above the bank buildings.  United Penn is long gone.  If memory serves, it became Merchants, which became Mellon, which became Citizens.

First Eastern is a little easier to track.  It was swallowed up by PNC.

Check out the building, on the square, below the First Eastern Bank building.  You can see the old facade of what used to be Pomeroy's.  Thankfully, the Chamber of Commerce got rid of that monstrosity when it renovated the building.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dream Job

I started thinking about it again when Dick Clark recently passed away.  I always wanted to host a game show.  If my fairy godmother bopped me on the nose with her magic wand and said "pick one," it would likely be Pyramid.  Clark and Bill Cullen made it look easy and fun.  But then again, they made everything look easy and fun.  John Davidson and Donny Osmond also did passable jobs as Pyramid hosts.  Unfortunately, they weren't at the Clark and Cullen level.  Not even close.

While I love "To Tell the Truth," there really isn't much for a host to do.

Let me digress for a moment and discuss Dick Clark's work on Pyramid.  My favorite part was the end game, where a celebrity and contest would attempt to go up the pyramid for the big money.

Clark would get the studio absolutely quiet.  He'd say "Here is your first subject" in that magnificent voice of his.  Then, another pause.  Finally "Go."  It's classic TV.  You'd hear the clock tick away.  You'd see and hear the boxes flip to the next category and a "ding" for a correct answer.  Dick Clark and the producers knew drama.  Drama sells.

Of course, a win meant flashing lights and music.  Great stuff.

You have to remember, the first Pyramid made its debut in 1973.  The theme was out of this world, and the giant pyramid was visually stunning.  It was unlike anything on TV at the time.  By the way, the first Pyramids were taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, now home to Late Show with David Letterman.  Mike Gargiulo directed.  I worked with his son, Michael, in 1990 and 1991, at the old WYOU.

Part of the reason, I think for the Donny Osmond 2004 Pyramid failure was a lack of drama.  Flat screens mounted on a metal frame, and new age beeps and chirps couldn't match the noise of the flipping boxes on the big pyramid.  You have to pay attention to sound.  Why do so many in TV forget that?  High tech works on Jeopardy.  Not Pyramid.  Sometimes, old school is best.

At one time, I would have killed to do a network morning show.  Those shows have passed me by.  Fluff overload.  I couldn't handle it.

Several years ago, I got together, informally, with some members of our programming department.  We kicked around a magazine show.  There was some interest.  On the other hand, all the good time slots were taken, and staffers were all tied up on other projects.

There are times I think returning to my DJ roots would be fun.  After some contemplation, being stuck in a little room all day, playing "Bette Davis Eyes" and "The Pina Colada Song (Escape)" gets old fast.

I dabbled in talk radio for a bit.  The problem there is you have to tap in to listener anger to generate calls and heat. I'm not sure fielding calls, from disgruntled Americans, for four hours a day is my thing, either.  Maybe, once in a while...

I loved doing radio news, especially field reporting.  At least in this area, radio reporters have become extinct.

So, that brings us to where we are now.  I do enjoy getting to a story, boiling it down to its essence, getting it on the air fast, and making it understandable.  As soon as that's done, I'm off to another assignment.  When I feel the itch to do more, I have my camera and the blog.

Maybe I'm already living the dream.

Good night, sweet dreams, and God bless.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The End

This one is just a teeny, tiny blip on the media radar, but it makes me sad nonetheless.

HLN, a network that used to known as CNN Headline News, and a network that actually did real news at one time, announced it's ending Local Edition.

Local Edition was the five minute segment at :25 and :55 minutes past the hour where some local TV stations or cable operations inserted a mini newscast, or community interest piece.

Comcast still does it.  It's usually some Harrisburg dullard yammering away about something no one cares about, but local is good, even if it misses the mark.

I used to work for a TV station that produced a five minute insert for Headline News.  It was a neat little thing.  We'd record a set of headlines after our morning, noon, evening and late night newscasts.  They'd run at :25 and :55 after the hour.  Remember, this was the time before internet video got big.  It was a nice way to get the headlines around the clock.  The TV station expanded its brand to another channel, and we made a few dollars in the process.  But then, new ownership came in, and in yet another short sighted decision, the local insert was killed.

We even used to do election nights on the second channel, and I had a chance to anchor one-- the 1996 primary.  I was supposed to be at the headquarters of a candidate running for statewide office, and one of our anchors would handle the Headline News Local Edition coverage.  But, the anchor decided she'd rather study one race rather than dozens, so we swapped positions.  I had a great time.  Anchoring election coverage involves a lot of thinking on the fly, and you really have to do your homework.  Every minute was a rush.

HLN said it killed Local Edition because it destroyed the network's flow.  Really?  I thought Nancy Grace and the non stop sewage river of tabloid trash killed the flow.

Local Edition:  It was nice while it lasted.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Vote 2012: The Day After

I love elections, but I was happy to see Primary Day 2012 come to an end.

It wasn't the best day.  Some technical gremlins came to visit.  I had a microphone fall apart in my hands at 6:40 AM, and in decades of radio and TV, that's never happened before.

The weather was awful.

Turnout was hideous.  It doesn't take much, and it doesn't take long to vote.  It breaks my heart to see wasted opportunity.  I'll be the first to admit that many of the choices on yesterday's ballot were considerably less than impressive.  Still, voting is important.

Now that we have that out of the way, some day after impressions...

We'll begin in the 17th Congressional District.  Incumbent Tim Holden faced off against challenger Matt Cartwright for the Democratic nomination.  Just from talking to people on the street, a few experts, and a lot of experience, both sides ran bad campaigns.

Holden did a poor job of introducing himself to people in his expanded and revamped district.  He's a former sheriff.  Why didn't he play up a law and order background?  People love law and order.  Crime is always a hot button issue.  Yes, he bucked his party a few times.  Holden should have said he doesn't blindly vote the party line, and he does what he thinks is best for the people of his district.  All we saw was Holden walking around Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, talking with veterans and senior citizens.  Nice, but people wanted more.  Some of the negative ads were low blows and cheap shots.  For voters in the new northern half of the district, the first image of their potential new congressman was a bad one.

On the other hand, Matt Cartwright didn't do much to excite voters.  He billed himself as a "true Democrat" in a year a lot of candidates will be running away from the Democrat at the top of the ticket, Barack Obama.  Holden's camp revealed Cartwright donated to kids for cash judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella.  Cartwright said the contributions were made before the judges were charged.  That's all well and good.  On the other hand, it had "old boys network" written all over it.  Lawyers helping lawyers, and guess what?  People don't like lawyers.

It was a night of surprises.  Cartwright showed up to vote Tuesday morning without an entourage.  He was rather low key.  I thought Holden would eke out a win.  Instead, Cartwright goes on to the general election, and he wins the primary decisively. 

In the state senate, 29th district, incumbent David Argall tried to fight off Brian Rich for the Republican nomination.  This race was one of the nastier here in our area.  Both candidates carried plenty of baggage.  Argall has been vulnerable for a long time.  His fingerprints are all over a pay raise and increases to the pension system for house and senate members.  There's a fairly large anti incumbent sentiment out there.

Argall comfortably survives.

In the state house, 112th district, Kevin Haggerty made another run at incumbent Ken Smith for the Democratic nomination.  Smith's problems are legendary-- he's deep in debt from a failed restaurant business.  There loans that haven't been payed back.  Smith told our friends at the Times~Tribune that he's a quarter million in the hole.  Newswatch 16 has documented Smith's lack of loan payments.  Haggerty can be a loose cannon.

This one was close, but Smith is gone.  Haggerty wins.  Lesson learned:  pay your bills.

The race in the 113th really heated up over the weekend.  Again, our friends at the Times~Tribune revealed Democratic incumbent Kevin Murphy really doesn't have a degree from the University of Scranton.  Okay, that's bad enough.  Murphy's response?  I was in the yearbook, so I thought I graduated.  Really?  That's the best you can do.  Murphy was opposed by Matt Flynn.

Flynn peaked at the right time, and the diploma issue hurt Murphy's credibility.  I understand a lot of Murphy people jumped ship.  Another close one.  Flynn wins.

And, in the 115th, to replace the retiring Ed Staback, Randy Castellani shot for a political comeback.  The Lackawanna County Commissioner who resigned was opposed by Frank Farina.  A web site documented Farina's brushes with the law.  Castellani tried to get the stink of being a quitter off him.

This one is very close.  As of around 1 AM, Farina leads by about 100 votes.

The race for attorney general also generated a lot of heat and interest.  Former Lackawanna County assistant district attorney Kathleen Kane battled former Philadelphia representative Patrick Murphy for the Democratic nomination.  People from Lackawanna County have won state wide races before-- just ask the Caseys, Ernie Preate, Correale Stevens, to name just a few.  Kane started off well.  The "elect a prosecutor, not a politician" ads were effective.  But, there were some missteps-- allegations fixed parking tickets, and more lawyers donating to the campaigns of other lawyers stuff.  See the above Cartwright paragraph for more on that.  Kane wasn't part of the old boys network, but she was clearly part of the lawyers network.  Once again, people don't like lawyers.  I do realize, you have to be one to be attorney general.  Kane was backed by former president Bill Clinton.  Former governor Ed Rendell is in Murphy's corner.  It's tough to beat a Democrat in Philadelphia in a primary.  You have to make up a lot of votes in the rest of the state.

Kane managed to do it-- defeating Murphy by six percentage points.  Philly.com called it an "expensive mudslinging primary."  We'll see what we get in November.

The Times Leader reported a 22 per cent voter turnout in Luzerne County yesterday.  Awful.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Election Day

It is one of my favorite days of the year.  It's election day.

There are several big races we're following today-- including PA attorney general, US senate, state house and state senate.  You have a good feeling how most of these races will go, but there is always a surprise or two.  Even where the outcome is expected, there's always room for analysis.  Of course, it all ends with a look toward the general election in November.

As always, we'll use a multi platform approach to bring you the latest.  Look for Twitter and WNEP.com updates throughout the day and evening.  We'll be on the air, wall to wall, beginning at 8 PM on WNEP2.  Of course, there are our regularly scheduled newscasts at 10 and 11 PM, and a complete wrap up the next day on Newswatch 16 This Morning.

My plans?  As always, they're subject to change, but I'll preview some big races in our morning broadcast and a turnout story for noon.   We'll also look at the dry run of the new voter ID law.  I'm then off the clock, but I'll be watching tonight.  I'll do as many Twitter updates as I can during the day.  Do yourself a favor and follow the other WNEP reporters who Tweet.  You'll get a good sense of the way the day is going.

I do have to note one of my favorite commercial issues.  I won't mention the candidate, but the ads feature this person in a courtroom, complete with phony judge on the bench, and fake jurors in the box.  Of course, cameras aren't allowed in Pennsylvania courtrooms.  It's all Hollywood, and it's all sad.  Instead of staging theatrical productions, address real reform here in Pennsylvania.

Please, get out and vote today, and watch the numbers roll in here tonight.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Red Glare

It is one of the really neat things about working in a television news room.  We see things you don't.

Last Tuesday morning, I was simultaneously working on a tax deadline day story and doing some pre-election homework.  Off to my left was a screen we use to monitor news feeds from CNN and ABC.  Insider alert:  a news feed is material a network gives to its affiliates for use in local broadcasts.

Last Tuesday, we had the feed from NASA punched in.  NASA was getting the Discovery ready for its final flight-- a trip to a museum in the Washington, DC area.

By the way, I know its Atlantis in today's blog photo.  I thought it was too cool to pass up.

As I watched Discovery loaded on to the back of a 747, I thought back to the first manned shuttle flight, way back in April of 1981.  I remembered it being so different from the Apollo launches of my youth.  Those Saturn V rockets that took us to the moon were tall and slender.  The shuttles were shorter, but with those big solid rocket boosters, and that huge tank in the middle.

And, then there were the early landings at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  The shuttle was essentially a huge and heavy glider at landing time.  There was plenty of room for error, and plenty of room in general, in the California desert.  I still can see Frank Reynolds anchoring the landing coverage on ABC, doing his best with wind blowing sand and dust all over the place.  By the time the shuttle program got off the ground, Cronkite had retired and watching CBS wasn't the same.

As I watched the feed last Tuesday morning, I commented to a co-worker, who is around my age, that the late 60's and early 70's was a great time to grow up because the space program was so much fun.  Moon launches were events.  Every network covered the launches, lunar landings, and splash downs here at home.  Astronauts were heroes, and we marveled at the technology of the time.

It was inspiring.

The shuttle flew off into the morning sky on Tuesday, and I was left to wonder what inspires people now.  The new iPad?  Please.  Half calorie cola?  I don't think so.

Space in infinite, but money is finite.  We don't have the resources to go back to the moon.  Manned exploration of the planets is beyond our grasp.

We should be very happy with what we've accomplished.  It was an awesome ride.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: The River Commons

Renovations are underway at the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, and I snapped this photo, shortly after sunrise, on a late March morning.

The photo was taken from the Millennium Circle area, looking back toward the south side of the courthouse.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: And Finally...

And, then there is the best known feature of the Scranton Lace complex-- the clock tower that dominates the sky over this part of green ridge.

It's so sad to watch this piece of history rot away.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Moot

It is something I would do at the beginning of every Red Barons/Yankees baseball season.  I'd look at the schedule to see how many Friday and Saturday games were listed, and what times they would start.

The reason?  Night games would usually end as my shift at the TV station was starting.  I'd have to leave home a few minutes early to compensate for traffic at the poorly designed Montage Mountain Road/Davis Street/Interstate 81 interchange.  Getting stuck for a few lights was the norm.

But something changed about six years ago.  Attendance at games started to dip, and in some years, it plunged.  Traffic was no longer an issue.  This year, the point is totally moot.  The team is now known as the Empire State Yankees.  As they say in the old neighborhood, they don't play here no more.

We do know stadium construction teams have "mobilized" according to the Lackawanna County Commissioners.  It sounds like we're invading a foreign land.  The mobilization was meant to precede an agreement to sell the team to the NY Yankees and Mandalay, but keep it here.  That magnificent mobilization announcement was made a couple weeks ago.  We're still waiting for the real deal to arrive.

So, if and when the stadium is renovated, the capacity will be lowered.  The people running this think and hope the fans will come back.  I'm sure the "new" stadium will provide an attendance bump.  How much, and how long it lasts is anyone's guess.  It'll take more than a pretty park to put butts in the seats.

I wonder if the day will ever come when I'll go back to checking the schedule.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dick Clark 1929-2012

What can you say about the life of Dick Clark?

"American Bandstand" ran for decades.  It was THE destination for pop music, long before MTV.

The "$10,000 Pyramid" came on the scene, on CBS in 1973.  He was just the host.  It wasn't a Dick Clark production.  Clark had the good sense to stay out of the way of the game.  He kept it moving, and he seemed genuinely thrilled when contestants walked away with a lot of money.

And, you can't forget how Dick Clark made it fun to stay home on New Year's Eve.

The New York Times, in its obituary, called Clark a TV emperor, and it ended the piece with this line: “My greatest asset in life,” he said, “was I never lost touch with hot dogs, hamburgers, going to the fair and hanging out at the mall.”


Dick Clark had a sense of what people wanted.  He knew it was "fluff," as he called it, and he wasn't ashamed of it.


Casey Kasem nailed it in an old interview ABC rebroadcast this morning.  Kasem said Clark was a giant, not because he took the spotlight, but rather because he backed out of the spotlight and highlighted the musical talent on his broadcasts.


He had his hands in radio.  Dick Clark was one of the people behind the United Stations radio networks.  There was a countdown show that competed with Casey Kasem for a while.  He also hosted "Dick Clark's Rock, Roll, and Remember."  WARM ran it while I was there in the 80's.  It was music and interviews-- not the same stuff over and over again.  It appeared Clark parachuted in, cut the voice track and went on to something else.  However, it had his name on it, and it was well done.


Dick Clark suffered a stroke in 2004, and after taking a year off, he returned to TV.  His speech was strained.  It was clear he was struggling.  Yet, he had the courage to go before millions.   When you look at Dick Clark's accomplishments, that has to be at the top of the list.


Dick Clark was 82.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unhappy Ending

After being in the news business more than thirty years, there isn't much I haven't seen before.  Monday was a new one.

Police say a man from Pocono Summit, upset over the break up of a marriage and losing his home, decided to make some drastic changes.  First, he destroyed his home by soaking it in some sort of accelerant and setting it on fire.  There was an explosion.  The home was a ball of flames.  Windows and doors were blown out onto the front lawn, and the home was knocked off its foundation.  At least the guy did it at 3 AM.  I shudder to think what could have happened if it blew up during the day, with people walking through the neighborhood.

The man then got in his mini van, drove a few miles away, set it on fire, and took his own life.

It seems like a Hollywood movie involving some anti hero.  He didn't want a bank to get his house.  Now, it gets a pile of burned out and charred rubble.

As far as taking his own life, a Pocono Mountain Regional Police detective got it right.  All the man succeeded in doing is making the people who cared about him feel terrible.  The detective told me he's seen it happen too many times before.

It was a fascinating story.  Neighbors told me they never saw it coming.  They knew he was alone and had some problems.  They didn't know he'd take it this far.

You can see it a little bit in the photo I "borrowed" from WNEP photographer Dave Scarnato's Twitter page.  The home next door has melted siding and it nearly caught fire.  Strangely enough, the people who lived next door often invited their neighbor to social events because they knew he was single-- and he nearly destroyed their home.

I wish there was a moral to the story, a way to wrap up today's blog entry nicely and neatly.  There isn't.  It's just a sad, sad story, and we'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Taste Test

With apologies to Newswatch 16's Trish Hartman, I recently conducted my own taste test of Pepsi Next.

In case you haven't heard of it, Pepsi Next is half diet.  It has about half the calories of regular Pepsi.

I didn't like it.  It could be years of drinking diet sodas have killed my taste buds.  I found Pepsi Next to have a tart, chemical, acidic quality to it.  Yet, at the same time, it was too sweet.  After consuming all that diet soda, drinking something with even a little bit of sugar (or high fructose corn syrup) in it seems like chomping on a mouthful of cotton candy.

Clearly, Pepsi's test marketing shows a half died cola can make some money for them.  I don't see it.  Artificial sweeteners have evolved to the point where they're actually pretty good.  Drink regular, or drink diet.  Half diet?  Are you really saving that many calories?

This isn't Pepsi's first stab at a half diet product.  Back in the 70's, there was something called Pepsi Light.  It had half the calories of regular Pepsi, and it had a hint of lemon flavor.  I thought it was outstanding, and I'm disappointed Pepsi dropped the line.

If you're going to give us a half diet cola, you have to do something more than mixing corn syrup and artificial sweetener. 

Fail.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Scrapple Monday

Implosion Week shifted a lot of items to the back burner...  Let's catch up.

The Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners opened the regular season in Japan back on March 28th.  The game wasn't on national TV-- no ESPN, no MLB Network.  First, I don't get MLB and NFL's fascination with playing games in other countries.  Second, no TV shows no one cared, and league officials are incompetent.  Opening Day should be an event.

I thought this year's NCAA basketball tournament was a big yawn.  The only thing I enjoyed was watching Syracuse lose.  It's a tainted organization.

It's now official.  Hollywood is out of ideas.  They're making a sequel to "Anchorman."

It sounds silly, but I really miss those big newsroom sets ABC used to use in New York and Washington during the Frank Reynolds/Peter Jennings days.  It made the news seem so much more substantial.  Now, it appears the news is coming to you from a closet.

There have been few weeks more sad than the one we recently endured-- a 14 year old shot and killed in Wilkes-Barre, and a four month old girl killed in a fire near Moscow.

Why is it, when a school district is in financial trouble, the arts are cut before sports?

Best Buy is downsizing.  I have to admit I do enjoy my visits.  It's the equivalent of walking through the Globe toy department when I was a kid.  I rarely walk out of there with anything.  You can usually find the same stuff, cheaper, somewhere else.

Deadline Hollywood reports NBC is considering drastic changes if "The Office" is renewed for the fall.  Maybe that drastic change means actually making the show funny.

Magic Johnson is part of the group that bought the LA Dodgers for $2 billion.  One of the first things Magic did is place a telephone call to long time Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully.  I'm not a huge fan of either, but it was a classy thing to do.

There is nothing like the simple pleasure of nailing a Final Jeopardy question.

What was Ozzie Guillen thinking when he priased Fidel Castro?

The Pennsylvania Primary is April 24th.  Do your homework, and make informed choices.  Please.

I'm a big fan of Trish Hartman's new blog.

My blog hits have remained steady.  Thanks for taking the time to find me on the new WNEP.com

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Lace 2

At its peak, more than 1,400 people worked at Scranton Lace.  Many of them used these doors.  It's likely we'll never see so many people work in manufacturing, in one place, in our area, ever again.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Lace

Last month's header featured the Scranton Lace factory in Scranton, and this weekend, here are two more.

There are almost as many broken windows as there are unbroken ones, and that always leads to trouble.  Scranton Lace is a huge part of the area's history.  It deserves better.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Film Friday

I haven't been to a movie theater in years, and that's odd.  There was a long span where I saw a couple films a month.  I don't know if I changed, or Hollywood did.  I suspect it's a combination of both.

A new "Three Stooges" movie comes out today.  I shouldn't condemn something I haven't seen, but my gut feeling here is there are some things that should never be re-made.

Film critic Roger Ebert gives "The Three Stooges" two and a half stars, which isn't bad, but he too questions the need for the movie in the first place.

USA Today gives "The Three Stooges" three out of four stars.

I saw the first three "American Pie" movies.  The first one was cute.  The other two were dreadful.  In spite of bad reviews, I do have a bit of a curiosity about the new "American Reunion."

James Cameron's "Titanic" has returned in 3D.  People who saw it, loved it.  I've caught bits and pieces of the non 3D version on TV.  It's really not my thing.  I think I know how it ends.  Anyway, Cameron has been spending a lot of time on Titanc expeditions.  Like the Kennedy assassination, the Titanic will always carry loads of fascination.  We should learn how and why it happened.  However, 1,500 people died there, and endlessly poking around the wreckage is like marauding through a cemetery.  I don't like it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Rest of the Story...

It was a "crime" that really got to a lot of people.

14 year old Tyler Winstead was shot to death Thursday evening, near his home, on Hill Street in Wilkes-Barre.  At first, it had all the appearances of a drive by shooting, with police looking for a man in a red car.

Right from the beginning, things didn't add up.  We were told, and no one disputed, that Tyler was a good kid.  A very good kid.  How did this happen?

The district attorney told Newswatch 16 people on Hill Street shouldn't be worried about a killer striking again.  We could see there wasn't much of a sense of urgency in the search for the man in the red car.  Signs continued to point in another direction.

By the way, I always hate when those in law enforcement try to calm the public by saying deadly shootings were not random acts.  Clearly, you have a person out there capable of killing, and if you can do it once, you can easily do it again.

Tyler was a student at GAR Jr/Sr High School in Wilkes-Barre.  The school brought in counselors Tuesday morning, the first day of classes after Winstead's death.  I talked with a few students, trying to learn what Tyler was like, and in an effort to add some perspective to the story, I talked with the school's assistant principal.

A GAR student nearly got his hand hacked off in a machete attack in February.  There was talk of intense tension between blacks and Dominicans.  Now, a student "apparently" murdered in the street.  I noted that both acts were off school property, and after school hours.  The assistant GAR principal agreed to go on camera with me.  I asked if GAR has an image problem.  He said that violence isn't just a GAR problem.  It's a Wilkes-Barre problem, and at GAR, they are doing their part to help fix it.  The solutions?  Education and security.  Kids have to feel safe at school.  Parents need to be reassured that their kids are going to come home alive.

The openness at the school was a bit surprising.  The Wilkes-Barre Area School District isn't really known for its television cooperation.  I was shooed off the sidewalk in front of Coughlin HS while I was attempting to do a story on a Hillary Clinton visit in 2008, and the district doesn't like TV cameras in their buildings.  The assistant principal had to go on camera Tuesday morning.  There was no other option.  Students and parents needed to be reassured.  Crisis management can make you, or break you.

There will come a day when we will really know what happened to Tyler Winstead.  All that can be said right now is things are often not as they first appear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mr. Nice Guy

I've discussed Rush Limbaugh's problems here in the past.  To make a long story short, Limbaugh lost advertisers and stations when he referred to a woman with an opposing viewpoint on government provided birth control as a "slut."

Rush apologized.  Still, the damage was done.

He's an exceptionally talented broadcaster, but Limbaugh lost me when his show turned mean and nasty.

Rosie O'Donnell's talk show was canceled last month by the Oprah Winfrey Network.  I think part of the reason people didn't tune in because O'Donnell turned mean.  Her old daytime show was well done, and she appeared to be a person you wanted to spend time with.  Then, the nastiness came out, and proof of that was her year on "The View."

Rachel Maddow is one of the few ratings bright spots for MSNBC.  Why isn't she a bigger star?  Just watch the show.  Mean.  Snarky.  Unpleasant.

Add Keith Olbermann to the list.  He got canned from Current TV a few weeks ago.  I'd kill to have Olbermann's talent, but not his attitude.  He has been nothing but trouble at every stop-- ESPN, FOX, MSNBC, and now Current.

Don Imus?  Just plain nasty.  He provided a little bump to FOX Business.  Imus' best radio days are behind him.  He usually appears on radio stations that don't have the money to do a real morning show.  Imus doesn't have many affiliates, and he is not a ratings winner.

Bill O'Reilly can be a bully at times, but he does conduct his business with some degree of respect.  It helps him get away with a lot, and he is the king of cable TV.

Opinions are OK.  That's why we tune in those shows.  Mean is not.

Yes, there comes a time when you have to draw a line in the sand and stand up for yourself.  You have to say "I will not be treated that way."  You just have to make sure you stand your ground the right way.

When you're respectful, people will forgive an occasional misstep.  A lot of people learned that lesson the hard way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chemical Imbalance

It was a day I dreaded for a week.


I knew Tom Williams would be off yesterday.  I didn't know Mindi would also be off and Raegan Medgie would be filling in.  That bit of news arrived about a week ago at this time.


I do the weekend morning broadcasts with Noreen Clark, and it's a comfort level 14 years in the making.  I've been filling in for Tom, with Mindi, for the past few years.  Mindi is a dream to work with, and she always helps me through occasional bouts of co-anchor rustiness.


Monday would be my first time seated next to "The Medge," as we call her, and I worried about it for days.  We get along great off camera.  I fretted over on-screen chemistry.


I should point out that all my worrying was rather silly.  We are not heavy equipment operators, air traffic controllers, or surgeons.  No one dies if we step on each other's lines, if there's an awkward pause, or if the banter with Joe isn't sharp and clever.


As it turned out, my anxiety was for nothing.  It wasn't a perfect show.  Some of the cross talk was a little forced.  A couple pieces of video got lost in the computer system.  Still, for the first time around, it was more than decent.


Things worked so well, we joked, off camera, about doing a pilot for a "Regis & Kelly" rip off.  Cranky, old man.  Sparkly, young woman.  It could work.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mike Wallace

The late Mike Wallace is being described as a broadcasting giant and a true pioneer.  Those words are perfect.

I first remember Mike Wallace as anchor of the CBS Morning News in the mid 60's.  He described his stay on the morning broadcast "the two longest years of his life."  Those of us who work in morning TV know what he's talking about.

Perhaps my favorite all time game show is "To Tell the Truth."  A little known fact is Mike Wallace hosted the pilot.  Back then, it was called "Nothing but the Truth."

Who can forget about the 60's TV series "Biography?"  WPIX ran those episodes all the time, and it was a great way for a kid to learn history.

Richard Nixon wanted Mike Wallace to be his press secretary.

Mike Wallace made no secret of his demons.  There were bouts of depression and a suicide attempt.  He was deeply hurt by the loss of a son, due to a fall while hiking in Greece.

Mike Wallace re-invented himself over the years.  He did radio shows, confrontational interviews, Broadway, game shows, and even commercials.  CBS News frowned on the commercials, but Wallace managed to convince them he could be a serious journalist.  CBS made the right call.

As one of the original "60 Minutes" correspondents, Mike Wallace could get so much out of a subject by his simple direct questions, like "why" and "really?"  And when something struck him as preposterous, he would simple say, "Oh come on."  It frequently got his subjects to reveal something new, and often, unintended.

Mike Wallace was fearless and had the guts of a burglar.  65 years in the business-- an amazing run, and one we'll be reading about for decades to come.

The story came first.  Every young reporter wants to be Mike Wallace.  There is no higher compliment.

CBS News colleague Morley Safer called Mike Wallace "the toughest man on television."  He was right.

Mike Wallace was 93.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday

Another little country church-- a nice shot for an Easter Sunday.  This is East Rush United Methodist Church, just outside of Montrose.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Weekend

It's already been established that I love little, old country churches, and I spied this one while traveling through Susquehanna County last month.  This is Fairdale United Methodist Church, near Montrose.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Best Laid Plans...

Okay, its the end of Implosion Week.

To bring you up to speed, I was working down the street 20 years ago, and I was part of the broadcast team for what we called "The Great Implosion."

It was early on a Sunday morning.  The station set up an anchor position in an office on the 8th floor of the First Eastern Bank Building at Lackawanna and North Washington Avenues in downtown Scranton.  That's me in the corner of the top photo.

My job was to open the broadcast, close the broadcast, and introduce a couple taped stories I had prepared.  Simple.  Cool.  I can do that.  An anchor and another reporter would do the heavy lifting.  I was tickled I had a great location to watch the implosion, and I as part of the team.

Then, the wheels came off.  I was at one of three live locations.  The other two developed massive audio problems, and we couldn't go to them.  On top of that, the implosion was delayed for twenty minutes because people, and there was a huge crowd, got too close to the scene.  There would be no implosion until they were moved back.  It meant I had to fill 20 minutes-- by myself.  My taped pieces had already aired.  Our producer, the great Harry McClintock didn't want to run them again or go to a commercial break because he feared, and rightfully so, that the implosion would take place while we were away.  Could you imagine the embarrassment?  Harry was trying to guide me by talking in to those earpieces that anchors wear in their ear.  Unfortunately, Harry repeatedly hit the wrong button and I never heard a word he said.

As I noted earlier, I've always considered myself luckier than I deserved to be.  I had done several implosion stories in the weeks leading up to the blast, so I had all that knowledge in my head.  Thank heaven, I was able to pull it out and fill the time.

Plus, I was blessed by having JR Azaravitch and Jim Keenan at my broadcast location.  You met Jimmy earlier this week.  JR was one of our directors.  He's in the striped sweater in the first photo.  JR was operating a portable switcher, and Jimmy had a camera pointed out the window.  Any time those two sensed I was running out of things to talk about, which was often, they got a picture of something else outside the window.  When the picture changed, I had something new to talk about.  There's a place in heaven for those two!  They saved me.

Eventually, everything was in order.  The warning siren blew, and the buildings were imploded.  I talked through a few replays, wrapped it up, and signed it off.  The morning was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.

Our general manager back in the day was Bill Christian.  He was the one who lit a fire under the station and got us to change our way of thinking.  While Bill was running the shop, we made leaps and bounds in local programming-- parades, football games, basketball games, special events, and even "The Great Implosion."  We worked hard, and he always made sure we were taken care of-- with food, and a lot of overtime pay.

I almost forgot about the Kamikaze Cam.  Someone at the station had the fantastic idea to take one of our broken down, old cameras (of which there were many) and put it on the roof of one of the to be imploded buildings.  Remember the title of today's blog-- "the best laid plans..."  The camera worked fine, delivering some nice video until it was buried in the rubble.  Unfortunately, the tripod wasn't secure enough, and the camera blew over during the night before the implosion.  All the video was from the camera, on its side, on the roof.  Hey, at last it worked-- which is more than I can for other aspects of the operation.

If you do a search, you can find some clips from 4/5/92 on YouTube.

My TV station sold video cassettes of our broadcast that day.  Profits were turned over to the St. Francis of Assisi Soup Kitchen in Scranton, and I was very proud of that.  I still have a few copies, and yes, the station made me buy them.  However, I was assigned to present the check from video sales at a dinner, and I was grateful for that opportunity.

I've used the words "I" and "me" a lot this week and I don't want to overstate my role that morning.  A lot of people worked together to get it on the air.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Implosion + 20

It happened 20 years ago today-- "The Great Implosion" on Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton.

I was broadcasting live from the 8th floor of what was then the First Eastern Bank Building at the corner of Lackawanna and North Washington Avenues that morning.  The great Harry McClintock was producing the broadcast, and he said that when I heard the warning siren, noting that the implosion was imminent, I was to stop talking.  Great advice.  People tuned in to watch the buildings come down, not hear me yammer.  It also gave me the opportunity to grab my camera and snap off a few pictures.

The first photo is in mid collapse.  The second is after the dust had cleared.

I remember hearing the bangs of the dynamite, and my heart stopped.  For  second, it appeared the blasts didn't work.  Then, the buildings jiggled and hung there for a while.  After that, the collapse in a huge cloud of dust.  There was so much to see.  For a while, it was like my mind couldn't process everything my eyes were witnessing.

The dust cloud rolled up Lackawanna Avenue, eventually enveloping the First Eastern Bank Building.  When the dust cleared and we had a chance to look around, we saw that everything went exactly as planned-- except for our broadcast.  More on that tomorrow, as we wrap up implosion week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Implosion Week: The Crew

To mark tomorrow's 20th anniversary of "The Great Implosion" on Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton, I've been digging out some old photographs from April of 1992.

I've always believed I'm luckier than I really deserved to be, and here are some of the reasons.

The top photo was taken in the TV station's lobby at 415 Lackawanna Avenue around the time of the implosion.  It's hard to believe, but that's me in the middle.  Photographer Dave Jones is on the left.  I've known Davey since 1979.  We went to college together, we worked in Scranton together, and now, we work at WNEP together.  I just can't get rid of the guy!

On the right is chief photographer Jim Keenan.  Jimmy retired several years ago.

Both Davey and Jimmy taught me tons about TV and news, and I will be forever grateful.  In fact, Jim shot an audition piece for me back in the 80's.  A producer at the TV station liked and wanted to air it.  The people I was working for at the time wouldn't have appreciated it, so it never happened.  Jim took a lot of time, and put so much effort into the audition piece.  He didn't have to do that, but he's a great person, so he did.

The lower photo was taken in the old newsroom the day after the implosion.  I'm on the left.  The guy on the right is the legendary Kevin Jordan.  He will get angry I said it, but Kevin was a huge influence.  I listened to him on WILK and WARM.  I watched him on WBRE and WYOU.  I loved his style-- spartan writing, hard hitting when he had to be, a touch of humor when necessary.  Kevin left TV news several years ago, and news hasn't been as good.

If you notice, I try to get to a sound bite very early in to my stories.  I picked that up from Kevin and there are many days WWKD guides my thinking:  "What Would Kevin Do?"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Implosion Week

Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of "The Great Implosion."  A series of buildings on Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton were imploded on a Sunday morning to make way for the Mall at Steamtown.

While WNEP did a nice job covering the events of that morning, I was working down the street, so I'll be writing about my friends and co-workers "back in the day."

I took this picture in our control room, in 415 Lackawanna Avenue that morning, and these are just some of the people who made the broadcast happen.  While they all did a great job, two need to be singled out.

Randy Williams is at the far left.  He was our production manager-- the guy who assembled the crew and equipment for the broadcast.  He paid great attention to detail and he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty.

The gentleman in the green shirt, seated in the middle of the photo is director Jack Kearney-- the one who selected the shots, pushed the right buttons, and got everything on the air.  I always say panic is contagious.  If someone is freaking out because of problems (and we had more than a few that day), it affects the rest of the crew.  Jack never panicked.  He had your back, and knowing he was in front of the switcher put everyone at ease.

Both Jack and Randy have left the TV business, and I was fortunate to have worked with them.

By the way, several people wore blue hard hats with the station's logo on implosion day.  I still have mine.  I wish I could tell you who came up with the idea, but I honestly do not remember.

Monday, April 2, 2012

About the Cover

I love the Susquehanna County Courthouse in Montrose.  It always reminded me of a place where you'd see Ben Matlock hanging out.

The book "County Courthouses of Pennsylvania" says it was built in 1854, and the tower is a replica of the original, that was destroyed by fire.

I've photographed the courthouse before.  This is the first time it's been a header.

One of my strangest moments as a broadcaster occurred here.  I don't even remember what I was covering, but at the close of the hearing, a judge's secretary approached me and said "The judge would like to see you."  I was thinking "Mother of the Church, I wonder what I did wrong."  I tried to mentally prepare a list of people who would bail me out, an extremely short list.  I respectfully walked up to the bench after the courtroom cleared.  All the judge wanted to say was he enjoyed our weekend morning broadcasts.

Whew!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Classic Bad Photography Sunday: The Stadium

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees and Lackawanna County Stadium have been in the news a lot lately, so I thought it would be a good time to look back to a day filled with optimism.  I took this picture April 26, 1989-- opening night for the new Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons.  The Barons were out on the artificial surface, taking batting practice, as the photo was taken a couple hours before the first pitch.

Notice, a truck on the warning track, putting the finishing touches on the scoreboard.  Also note the minimal advertising beyond the outfield fence.  The ballpark had a classy look that night, and we were all amazed that we had something this nice here in our area.