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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Rail Cars


A friend tipped me off to an interesting collection of rail cars that recently appeared on a siding in south Scranton.

I wish I knew where they came from, and where they're going.  My friend tells me there's a lot of history involved here.

Like every historic car that comes through the city, I hope they have a better fate than rotting and rusting away on a siding .  It would be nice if there's restoration in their future, but at this point, I really don't know.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Yesterday's News

The morning television wars are interesting once again...

NBC announced yesterday that Ann Curry, is losing her Today co-host job after only one year.  I thought her promotion last year was a mistake.  While she has the hard news credentials, she doesn't have the perky warm fuzzies needed for network morning TV.

Curry will land on her feet.   She reportedly gets a lot of money to walk away from Today.  Plus, she stays at NBC and will contribute to a variety of broadcasts.

There are reportedly chemistry issues between Curry and co-host Matt Lauer.  I feel sorry for Curry.  It must be difficult having to relate to an empty suit for two hours every morning.

Here's where things defy analysis.  Today's ratings have slipped.  Good Morning America's ratings are up.  Both shows are trying to out fluff each other every morning.  I'm tempted to say the ratings decline isn't Curry's fault.  The Today format is a mess.  The first half hour used to be the gold standard for morning news.  It's now a tabloid featurey mess.  GMA has gone in the same direction, and has done well, so you can't say Today news junkies are turning to ABC because GMA is just as fluffy.

After watching Today several times, yes, Curry was likely miscast.  However, I think the problems are deeper than that.  Could viewers be tiring of Al Roker's overexposed smarmy act?

I thought Curry's farewell speech yesterday was a bit much.  On the other hand, I do respect her for dragging herself out there every day for the past couple weeks, knowing the sword was inches from her neck.

Curry was given only one year at the Today anchor desk, and that's wrong.  Chemistry can be instant, or it can develop over time.  There's a lot of money at stake in morning TV.  Those shows make tons of cash for the networks.  Apparently, NBC feels it can't afford to be patient with Lauer and Curry, and now you know how that movie ends.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

You Hypocrite!

In my book, hypocrisy is one of the biggest sins.

Consider New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

This is the same guy who wants to stop New Yorkers from buying any soft drink larger than 16 ounces.

As you can see above, the New York Post caught Bloomberg's staff rigging up a room air conditioner to keep his SUV cool while parked.  The staff says the room AC is more efficient than keeping the SUV's engine on, and it needs to keep the electronics inside cool.

Do we look that stupid?

A man who rails against excess in one area endorses it in another.

Someone constantly has an eye on the SUV.  Roll down the windows. Or, park it in a shady garage.

When you get inside, keep the windows down until the AC kicks in.  You might sweat a little, so you can grab a Big Gulp to help you cool off.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday Scrapple

"Plays of the Week" on MLB Network is one of the best shows on television.  I've always found defense much more interesting and entertaining than someone hitting a home run.

Why does CBSPhiladelphia.com make me click through so many pages before I get to the KYW 1060 live stream?

Okay.  We've had a couple days in the 90's.  I'm ready for fall.

I'm more than half way through the new and massive biography of Walter Cronkite-- a fascinating read.  I will be sad when I'm finished.

CNN has pulled the plug on John King's evening show.  Some of CNN's decisions defy analysis.  Yes, the ratings weren't the greatest, but it was a good show.  CNN is also yanking Ashliegh Banfield from its morning show.  It took CNN a while to realize she brings nothing to the table.

Thank heaven the NBA season is over, so we can begin talking about real sports, like baseball and football.

America needs more ice machines.

Is it just me, or are there more Citgo stations in the area recently?

Once again, the cowardly state legislature has failed to act on the privatization of the state alcohol system.  Regardless of how you feel on the issue, at least they should come up with a plan and have people vote on it.

How can forecasters get Tropical Storm Debby's path so wrong?  Sunday, the storm was headed due west. By Monday morning, it was almost straight north.

I've been hearing so many cell phone pricing plan horror stories lately.  Part of me wants to say cell phone companies are pricing themselves out of the market, but the rest of me believes people will pay huge amounts because they're hooked.  I'm still very happy with my old flip phone.

I'm not a Jimmy Fallon fan, but I do enjoy his Capital One baby commercials.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No Wonder

The American Consumer Satisfaction Index, last week, released its yearly report, ranking fast food restaurants.

McDonalds has improved since its all time low in 2009, but it's still at the bottom of the list.  The company acknowledges it's working to make things better.

McDonalds is a lot like Walmart.  You're not thrilled about going there, but you do anyway.

I don't travel to the golden arches as often as I once did, but I still stop by once in a while.  The big plus is most restaurants are open 24 hours.  The food is okay, although overly salted and not a good value for the money.

The Big Mac and Quarter Pounder are fine sandwiches.  I think Burger King has better hamburgers, and Wendy's has better chicken.

My main beef with McDonalds, pardon the fun, is the speed of the experience.  All fast food restaurants have expended their menus, and that slows down service.  McDonalds, at least with my experiences, is the slowest of the bunch.

Papa John's (do we still have any around here) and Subway ranked the best in the survey.  Subway service crawls during peak hours, but at least you get to see your food made, and customization here is exceptionally easy.

Here's an idea.  If a chain can put the "fast" back in fast food, they'd make a fortune.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sandusky Post Mortem

Today, several thoughts on the recently concluded Sandusky trial in Centre County court...

Sandusky was found guilty on 94 per cent of the counts he faced.  Given the evidence, there was no other conclusion.  The prosecution presented eight accusers, plus the people who backed up their stories.  It was a "just the essentials" presentation, and it helped the jury stay focused.

Defense attorney Joe Amendola did the best with what he had, and it wasn't much.  I can see playing the "accusers are all liars with an agenda" card if there was one, or two, or three, but all eight?  That's quite a stretch.

The police investigation was flawed, and the interviews with the accusers showed that.  However, there is no such thing as a perfect investigation.

Yes, the accusers stand to gain financially, through civil suits, and a conviction in criminal court makes that easier.  Be that as it may, how much is it worth to take the witness stand and describe those horrible acts?

Before the trial, the judge ruled the accusers could not use pseudonyms.  It apparently didn't have an impact here because no one that we know of backed out of testifying.  Will it affect other trials?  We'll never know for sure, but there are some who say they were inspired by the bravery of the accusers.

Here's my criteria for judging a lawyer, and it consists of one question.  If God forbid, I needed a lawyer, would I let this person defend me?  Amendola lost me when he okayed Sandusky's NBC and NY Times interviews.  I know the jury is supposed to decide the case by exclusively what they learn in the courtroom, but it was impossible to totally disregard those interviews, especially when the NBC interview transcript was part of the prosecution.

Some tried to say Penn State wasn't on trial here.  No way.

Newspaper analytical pieces appeared last weekend, questioning how so many missed so much when it came to Sandusky's behavior.  Hello!  No one missed a thing.  It was all covered up.  There is evidence to indicate the cover up went as high as the PSU president's office.

I saw one story that said the day of the Sandusky conviction was the sorriest in Penn State history.  I have news for you.  There are many more sorry days to come when the size of this scandal is eventually revealed.

I was a bit surprised by the size of the crowd outside the courthouse in Bellefonte Friday night.  Bellefontians seemed rather blase about the case during much of the trial.  A reliable source tells me court officials wanted the trial during the summer, before the PSU fall semester.  Could you imagine the size of the crowd if the Centre County population was swelled by PSU students?

In a statement released Friday night, Penn State said it's interested in settling with Sandusky's victims.  Smart move.  PSU will get hammered if they take these cases before juries.  They'd better settle quick, because once it all comes out, the compensation for victims will take a huge leap.

A statement from Joe Paterno's family read:  "Although we understand the task of healing is just beginning, today's verdict is an important milestone. The community owes a measure of gratitude to the jurors for their diligent service. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families."

I wonder where Joe's head was when he reported Sandusky's activities to the athletic director, and then let it drop.

Mike McQueary is in need of some serious image rehab.  Throughout this whole sordid episode, he came off as weak and indecisive, someone lacking a moral compass.

I will never understand how investigators had Sandusky in their cross hairs years ago, and failed to pull the trigger.

CNN used OJ Simpson prosecutor Marcia Clark as an "expert" commentator during the Sandusky trial.  If I had known incompetence leads to a network job, I would have tried it long ago.

Read more here: http://www.centredaily.com/2012/06/22/3239176/paterno-family-issues-statement.html#storylink=cpy

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Susquehanna II

As we remember the 40th anniversary of the Tropical Storm Agnes flood, a reminder of how far we've come.  The levees are higher, which saved our butts back in September, and there's now a beautiful park on the Susquehanna River's edge.

This photo, like yesterday's, was taken last week.  I'm on the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre, looking upstream/north.  That's the Pierce St./Veterans Memorial Bridge in the center of the photo-- the replacement for the one that was washed away in the flood.  Kingston and the west side are off to the left.  The Luzerne County Courthouse is just out of the frame, on the right.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Susquehanna I

I'm sure photos and memories of Tropical Storm Agnes are all over the place this weekend.  I decided to go in the other direction-- a picture of the Susquehanna at Wilkes-Barre on a recent morning.

The weather was perfect when I took this shot.  Bright sunshine.  Little humidity.  No wind.  The water was tranquil and still.  Low water level-- quite a contrast from 40 years ago.

I took this photo from the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre, looking downstream.

Agnes will continue to be a fascinating subject, long after the people who were around to experience it depart.

The question I always have, especially for those who covered the flood, is "When did you realize it was going to happen?"

Mike Stevens and I talked about on a recent morning.  He mentioned leaving his radio station, in the evening, to go to one in Scranton, which served as HQ for a patched together flood network.  The river came over the levee late the next morning.  He heard the stories of sandbaggers literally having to run away from the rushing water, once it was clear the river couldn't be stopped.

David DeCosmo has been a friend for a long time, and we worked together for several years in the early and mid 90's.  Yet, I never asked him the question about when he knew the fight to save the Wyoming Valley was over.

Maybe David will read this and shoot me a response someday soon.

Back in the day, Civil Defense (what the Emergency Management Agency used to be called) was in the sub basement of the Luzerne County Courthouse, and David was there when water started coming up through the floor drains.  Civil Defense then temporarily relocated to the Wilkes-Barre Area School District Administration, on the high end of South Main Street.

Think about that for a second.  Civil Defense was in the sub basement of a building located right next to the river!  Back in the day, we were more afraid of nuclear war than we were of mass flooding.

I also worked with Jerry Heller and Kitch Loftus, two Agnes veterans, at WARM, and don't ask me why we never had a big flood talk.

I do remember Kevin Jordan's stories about the mud, and the dust, and the epidemic of auto flat tires caused by glass and nails left over from destroyed homes.

The fact that memories remain so vivid is a reminder of the massive devastation 40 years ago.

Friday, June 22, 2012

New Neighbors


As you might have heard by now, WNEP is opening a Wyoming Valley Newsroom next month.  It'll be on the first floor of the Bicentennial Building, right on the south side of Public Square.

There are a lot of advantages-- especially convenience and time saving.  You'll hear more about the plans as grand opening day approaches.


Those with keen memories will recall WNEP had a tiny newsroom here back in the late 70's and early 80's.  It's nice to be back with something bigger and better.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Questions

So, the Jerry Sandusky trial goes to the jury today in Bellefonte...

The defense rested its case yesterday, without calling Sandusky to the stand.  ABC News reported Sandusky wanted to testify in his own defense, but his lawyer advised against it.

It sounds like the right move.  Sandusky's interviews, with NBC and the New York Times, were disasters.  Taking the witness stand could have made those interviews pale in comparison, especially during cross examination.

I'd have to say it doesn't look good for the former Penn State assistant football coach.  While the prosecution doesn't have a perfect case,  (they never do) it is strong.  They have alleged victims, plus people who backed up their stories.

On the other side, character witnesses, allegations of accusers with an agenda, and a "rush to judgement" style police investigation.

As the trial wraps up, remember one thing:  It's a court of law, not a court of justice.

On a totally different, and unrelated note, the company that owns your Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees announced it's decided to change the name of the team, and it's looking for suggestions.  I wonder what they will pick.

All I ask is please, please, please, no Miners or Coal Crackers.  All those names will do is give new life to every bad Scranton area stereotype.  The mines closed decades ago.  They were awful, and our area has a lot more to offer than bad memories of holes in the ground.

Personal pick:  I still like "Black Bears."

The New York Times reports NBC is ready to move Ann Curry off the Today show.  Who replaces her?  Early betting is on Savannah Guthrie.

Curry has distinguished herself with her reporting skills.  Hosting a morning show might not be her thing.  I thought her promotion was a mistake.  I'm not afraid to admit I was wrong.  She's really not bad.  There are reports of "chemistry" issues with Matt Lauer.  He's proof that the rising tide lifts all boats.

My view:  it's not Curry.  It's the show.  Today, especially the first half hour, used to be the gold standard for morning news.  Now, it's just tabloid trash.  Put some news back in the first hour, and Today will reverse its ratings decline.  Ann Curry isn't the problem.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lights Out

I was born and raised here.

I am of an age when going to downtown Scranton, on one of those old, big, green smelly Scranton Transit buses, with mom, was a big deal.  I looked forward to it.

We had The Globe, Scranton Dry, and Kresge's, Woolworth's, Samter's and a dozen other stores to visit.

It was a big deal.

I can still see the Christmas lights, all the window displays, along with Tibby and Freckles, the Easter bunnies.  I can still taste the big cookies from The Globe's bakery, the smell of the leather in the shoe departments

That's why I find the city's current "edge of bankruptcy" status utterly nauseating.

Council and the mayor can't agree on what to do, and that's just plain sad.  The city deserves better.

A former chief executive, who shall remain nameless, while in office, once told me he should have declared bankruptcy, but he didn't want to be known as the mayor who led Scranton into bankruptcy.

The current powers that be-- the mayor and five council members, might as well go ahead and do it.  The city's reputation and image are already shot to hell.  It can't get much worse.  It's clear fighting and name calling have overshadowed rational thought, consideration of solutions, and true leadership.

If you've been keeping up with this in the news, you already known an official wants to go to Marywood and the University of Scranton ask them to update their payments in lieu of taxes.  The carrot and stick?  Give us money, and you won't be faced with the problem of trying to attract students to a school in a bankrupt city.

Are you kidding me?  Is that the best you can do?

I will agree that some (not all) non profits can afford to kick in a few extra dollars.  It's not the cash cow people believe it to be, and, how would you like to be the one to tell a kid he or she can't get financial aid or a scholarship because the city put the squeeze on them?

The U has more of the Hill section than it ever had, and some properties are no longer taxable.  Would you rather have the slum lords return?  If the kids are in a college owned building, the U at least has some control over them and they behave.  The Hill hasn't been this quiet in a long, long time.  We don't need the police and fire departments up there as often as we once did, and that saves the city money.  On top of that, the living conditions are much safer.

You also have to come to the realization that cuts alone will not do the job.  Your taxes are going up.

Bankruptcy could be the beginning of a way out, rather than the end of a once proud city.

If not bankruptcy, let's find a good idea.

Somebody, please do something.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Impatient

For the most part, time seems to go a little faster as you get older, and this year is zipping by.  It's almost half over.

As a kid, summers zoomed.  The school year dragged.

There does come a time, as a mature adult, when time slows to a crawl.

I have a week off at the end of July.  While I like my job, I'm looking forward to a short break, and it seems vacation time will never get here.

There are no fabulous vacation plans, and it's extremely likely I won't stray far from home.  Still, a week without an alarm clock is desirable.  I haven't had a weekend off since October.

Time might slow down, but you can't stop it.  Maybe if I stop looking at calendars and clocks, the days and weeks will speed up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Agnes + 40

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Tropical Storm Agnes-- the one that left huge parts of Pennsylvania under several feet of water.  Above, a photo of Wilkes-Barre's Public Square.  If you're unfamiliar with the area, south is to the left.  The Susquehanna River is just out of the frame, at the top of the photo.

Others will do a better job of noting the actual history and timeline, so I'll do a few paragraphs here on the experiences of a 10 year old who lived several miles from the flood plain.

I remember days of relentless rain, and when you're a kid, just out of school for the summer,  the rainy week seemed like an eternity.  The late afternoon before the Susquehanna River actually topped the levee sticks out in my mind.  I recall my mother and I listening to the radio.  I really didn't understand what was going on, so she explained it to me in terms a kid would understand-- it looked bad.  The Susquehanna was likely to flood the next day.  During a lull in the rain that evening, I hung with my friend Markie, who lived just down the street.  I told him what I learned, and it all seemed rather spooky.  It's that awful feeling that something horrible is going to happen, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.

The other thing that really sticks in my mind is a ride through the Wyoming Valley, with my father, weeks after the water went down.  Houses were knocked off foundations and smashed.  Gas station tanks popped out of the ground.  Entire sections of street were missing.  You could see the high water mark on the second floor of some buildings, especially on the west side.  Dust was everywhere, and the smell was awful.  I've never forgotten it.

We talk a lot about the water, but we can't forget that big sections of Wilkes-Barre burned during the flood.

I was lucky.  I got to observe from a distance.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Demolition

It's fascinating stuff.  I do check out the construction webcam at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees web site.  Let me tell you something.  The web cam doesn't do it justice.  You have to see it in person.

What you see above was shot Thursday morning.  The right field stands used to be here.  The left field job will be more complicated because the home clubhouse has to be preserved.  The only thing on the right field side was the stadium club restaurant, and no one went to that, anyway.

The lower bowl remains.  The goal here is to make sure seats are closer to the field.  I was less than thrilled with the new design.  It looks like a single-A ballpark, but I'm willing to keep an open mind.  I might wind up liking it.

Notice, the field is in great shape.  The head groundskeeper told me he still takes acre of as if the team is still in town.  The field remains the same as the new stadium goes up around it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: The Stadium

I thought it was just me.

I don't watch as many live major league baseball games on TV these days, but I usually do catch some highlights on MLB Network.  I've been noticing a lot of empty seats this season, and one of the places that shouldn't happen, is in Miami.  The Marlins have a new stadium this year.

Tony Kornheiser was interviewing a Miami Herald sportswriter on his radio show this week.  The writer said attendance in the new park is good, but everyone expected more, and other teams are experiencing the same thing.  Fans are staying home, and it's noticeable.

Are you listening, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees?  A new stadium does not guarantee turnstile gold.  You have to put a good product on the field, hold promotions and giveaways, and make sure the fan experience is positive-- from the second the first car enters the parking lot until the last one leaves.

We've heard the promises.  You have ten months to figure out how to do it.

I took the photo you see above Thursday morning.  More on the demolition tomorrow.

Friday, June 15, 2012

14


Wow!

Sunday is my 14th anniversary at WNEP.

It would take a month to list all the changes I've seen in those 14 years-- the furniture, the carpet, the paint, the people, the technology...

And, it's just beginning.

I don't think there has ever been a period in broadcast news where so much has changed, so fast.

And, it's not just television in and of itself.  There are so many additional mouths to feed-- WNEP.com, Twitter, WNEP 2, and I'm sure there will be more.

While the business has changed, the basics have not:  get the facts, get the pictures, get it right, get it out to the public.

You know what?  It's still fun.

Sunday is also the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break in.  At the time, it didn't seem like much, but as you know, one thing led to another, and another, and another.  I can still remember the Richard Nixon resignation speech two years later.  However, what I remember most about that time was the day after Nixon's speech-- when he boarded Marine One for the last time on the White House lawn.  There was so much anger over what Nixon did to this country, but I recall feeling very sad watching Nixon leave.  He was a broken man in a broken country.  I don't think we've ever recovered.  The seeds of government mistrust were planted back then.  The tree is big and strong today.

In a strange way, the experience might have helped.  We learned blind trust, especially blind trust of government, is a bad thing.  Questions are good, and our government is capable of surviving even the most extreme crisis.

Happy anniversary, America.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Trial

I've waited a few days before weighing in on the Sandusky trial in Bellefonte, so here it is.

I realize that while the prosecution is presenting its case, things look grim for the defendant.  However, I couldn't see one positive for the defense all week-- not in the opening statement, not in the cross examination of witnesses.  It was devastating.

It might be possible to discredit an alleged victim or two.  He'll never be able to knock down all eight-- plus the people who corroborate their stories.

Jurors were seen crying on Tuesday.  To many, it's a sign they bought the alleged victim's story.

I've been thinking, why did Sandusky and defense attorney Joe Amendola take this to trial?  What do they know?  What do they see that the rest of us don't?  There has to be a crack somewhere in the prosecution case.   ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams might have nailed it during Tuesday's World News broadcast.  Maybe there was no plea deal.  The prosecution said to Sandusky, you have a choice-- plead to everything or go on trial.

I used the words of an ESPN legal analyst in a Tuesday morning report on Newswatch 16.  He thought the jury could be confused by the huge number of criminal counts-- 52, and that could be good for the defense.  For Sandusky & Co., it was the only bright spot in a bad week.

Not only is it a bad week for Jerry Sandusky.  It's a bad week for an already battered Pennsylvania State University.  I'm sure the Sandusky trial will shed some light on what happened there, and what happened there.  We'll learn more about what Curley, Schultz, and Paterno knew.  Now, there's talk of former PSU President Graham Spanier involved in the cover up.  This is bound to get worse-- a lot worse, before it gets better.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rather Outspoken

I just finished reading Dan Rather's new book, and before I launch into the meat of today's blog, I should back up a moment.

I grew up in a CBS household.  It was always Walter Cronkite at 6:30 PM, followed by John Perry at 7.  I'm sure a lot of that was because WDAU's signal came in the best back in the pre cable days.  Plus, CBS was the gold standard in network TV news.  The evening news was number one in the ratings.  No one did the space program and election nights better.  It wasn't just Cronkite.  CBS had an awesome stable of correspondents.

I always loved Dan Rather.  He covered Vietnam and the Nixon administration fearlessly.  I stayed with CBS when Rather took over the anchor chair from Walter Cronkite in 1981.

To say I was severely disappointed when Rather and CBS botched the George W. Bush National Guard story in 2004 was an understatement.  To bring you up to speed, Rather and CBS alleged, in a "60 Minutes Wednesday" report that George W. Bush was AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard in the late 60's and early 70's.  CBS had a lot of evidence to back it up, but not enough.  Rather apologized and was pushed out of the anchor chair.  Producers were fired.  Heads rolled.  An investigation followed.  While the investigation in and of itself was flawed, it showed CBS rushed the story on the air without making sure its sources were 100 per cent accurate.

In the book, Rather throws everyone under the bus, especially the brass at CBS and the people who conducted the investigation.  By the way, I should remind you that former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh headed the investigation, a man with close ties to the Bush family.  Yes, Rather himself takes some of the blame.

Dan Rather refuses to back off his contention that George Bush the younger received preferential treatment.  That might be true.  I wouldn't be surprised.  He is the son of a rich and powerful man.  Unfortunately, Rather was never able to conclusively nail it down.  He says the Bush administration never denied it.  Yes, Dan, they never had to deny it because you never proved it!

You know how the media thing works.  If there's blood in the water, the feeding frenzy begins.  It's what doomed Nixon, and it's what nearly toppled Bill Clinton after he, literally, got caught with his pants down.  If there was substance here, someone would have dug up something more.  It never happened.

Rather claims Republicans have been out to get him for years, and they finally did it.  All that does is reinforce the public perception that the media has a liberal bias.

Rather sued CBS, claiming it reneged on an agreement to make him a "60 Minutes" correspondent after he left the "CBS Evening News."  The suit was tossed because a panel of judges ruled CBS paid Rather the money he was owed, and therefore the contract was fulfilled, whether or not he appeared on air.

I bought the book, hoping reading Rather's side of the story would result in a renewed admiration.  It didn't happen.  In fact, the opposite is true.  It appears Rather had it in for Republicans in general, and the Bush family in particular, for a very long time.

The book isn't all Bush, all the time.  Chapters on growing up in Texas, his early days at CBS, civil rights, Vietnam, Watergate, 9/11, and Afghanistan were all supremely interesting and enjoyable.  If you liked Rather's other books, and I did, you should like this one.

I still admire most of what Dan Rather's accomplished.  The chapter about being forced out of an organization, CBS, he loved, was touching and painful.  Unfortunately, I can't get past that one horrible chapter in Rather's great career.

Dan, you should have known better.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The B Word

I listen to a lot of radio and television newscasts, and there is a small group of broadcast words that sets me off faster than any others.

At or near the top of the list is "blaze."

I hate that word, and I got fired up over it when I heard it on the radio on a recent morning.

When you're writing news, there are some basic guidelines, and it really isn't all that hard.  As I've said here before, keep it simple.  You're writing for the ear.  We're not the newspaper.  You can't read it again if you don't understand it the first time.

You also have to write the way people talk.  For example, have you ever walked into the corner store and heard someone say "Hey, did you see the blaze down the street last night."  The only people who use the word "blaze" are cliche ridden people in the news business and that's plain silly.  Some of us have a problem using the word "fire" more than once in a story.  It is what it is, and what it is, is a fire-- not a blaze.

Above all else, my first news director, Jerry Heller at WARM 590, taught me to save "blaze" for the big ones.

I'm still waiting for that big one.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Welcome to Buffalo

About ten years ago, perhaps a couple more, I visited a friend in Buffalo, NY.  I bet you've never encountered anyone who vacationed in Buffalo, but here I am.

It was in the middle of summer, and every highway, and every major road in and around the city was under construction.

I asked my friend about that, and he replied that Buffalo is an old city with an old infrastructure.  Winters are long, so construction crews have to pack as much work as they can into every summer.

By the way, I should note that summers in Buffalo are actually very nice, and western NY isn't a bad place to spend some time.

I had a Buffalo flashback while driving on Interstate 81 in Dickson City construction zone the other morning.  It was two lanes, but it was tight.  The exit ramp deceleration lane has been temporarily removed.  It's a white knuckle ride.

NEPA has become Buffalo.  Our winters, especially the last one, are a bit more mild, but we have the same infrastructure issues.  Too much is falling apart, too fast.

There are no easy answers, and there are no inexpensive answers.

Get used to being the Buffalo of Pennsylvania.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Bellefonte

I would have loved to have seen Bellefonte at its peak.

This is a shot of the Exchange Building in the downtown section.  Retail on the first floor.  Apartments above.  It's a beautiful old building.  Bellefonte is like a lot of small towns-- plenty of empty storefronts.  It's sad.  The charm is still there.   The businesses, unfortunately, are not.

I spoke with one of the people who coordinated the media arrangements with the town and the county.  He was impressed with the look of the place and the friendliness of the people.  I could not agree more.

I have to pass along one other note.  Technically, Bellefonte is part of the Johnstown/Altoona market.  However, WNEP is still available over the air and on some cable systems.  A woman walked up to our truck Tuesday morning and told me she watches Newswatch 16 every Saturday and Sunday morning.  It knocked my socks off.  She was so kind, and complimentary, and it made my day.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Relief

My addiction to massive quantities of diet soda has been well documented here over the seven and a half years of this blog.

I was working on a 44 ounce cup of Pepsi Max during my ride to Bellefonte Tuesday morning.  Before we left the station at 1:45 AM, I encountered one of our photographers, who had just returned from Bellefonte. I asked him, "Billy, where's the closest bathroom to the courthouse?"  He replied it's in the Dairy Queen, right across the street from the building.

Great.  Dairy Queen doesn't open until 11.  The courthouse itself doesn't open until 9.

I made sure we stopped at the last Interstate 80 rest area before the Bellefonte exit because I didn't know when I'd see a bathroom again.

Once we got to Bellefonte, I spotted something Billy didn't see.  There were five portable lavatories, tucked in to an alley adjacent to the courthouse.  It was like Christmas morning and a gift from above, all rolled in to one!  I could drink as much diet soda as I wanted.

The Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters acted as the liaison between the borough of Bellefonte, Centre County, and the news media.  PAB helped with parking and all the other niggling, necessary details surrounding a huge event like the Sandusky trial.  I'm assuming PAB was also responsible for the portable bathrooms.

My bladder and I offer our utmost thanks.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hi, I'm John Meyer

As I said earlier this week, it's been a long time since I last visited Bellfonte.  The Sandusky trial brought me there Tuesday morning.  I noted that big stories are like broadcasters' conventions-- where you see old friends and make new ones.

As is my habit, I like to explore the area while the crew is setting up.  It keeps me out of their way.  I usually find information for my stories by wandering about, and it gives me a chance to collect my thoughts.

I was walking through the park outside the Centre County Courthouse early Tuesday morning.  We were one of the first crews there.  A young man walked up to me and said "Hi, I'm John Meyer."  As you know, we have a Jon Meyer at WNEP.  I was stunned for a moment.  The new John Meyer is a reporter for WTAE TV 4, the ABC station in Pittsburgh.  We had a nice chat about the Sandusky case, our stations, and where our careers have taken us over the years.

WTAE's John Meyer is as nice as WNEP's Jon Meyer-- and that's not easy.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Media City


I hate media mob scenes.  I'd much rather be off somewhere by myself, telling an interesting story.  When you are covering the Sandusky trial in Bellfonte, the media mob is a fact of life.  Get used to it.  It has to be done.

The only Pennsylvania media market NOT represented here is Erie.  CNN, CBS Radio and NBC all have a presence.  There was talk FOX invades Bellefonte when opening statements begin.

On stories like this, it is inevitable.  Someone inadvertently gets in your way, or vice versa.  Strangely enough, Monday morning was surprisingly calm and well organized.  The biggest nuisances were a chilly drizzle, a little satellite signal interference,  and an angry man walking around, looking for Nancy Grace.


I try to look on the bright side.  It's almost like a broadcasters' convention.  You check out the gear other stations work with.  You talk about your own.  The business is changing so rapidly, and you always find something you haven't seen before-- something you want your own station to buy.  CNN was really interested in a new thing we're using, and I'll blog about that one of these days.  I'm a geek, and I enjoy looking at the trucks, inside and out.


I wasn't the only one taking pictures here.  It seems like every member of the media, print and broadcast, on and off camera, were snapping off a few.  Some wound up on Tweets and blogs.  I assume the rest go in personal files somewhere.  My face wound up in more than a few photos.  No problem.  You don't see stuff like this every day.

I should explain the reason we had a banner over the windshield of one of our satellite trucks, pictured above.  Simple.  Sun shade.

Then, there are the people.  You reconnect with old friends, and make new ones.

I had a short chat with Kevin Flanagan from WTAJ, the CBS station in Altoona.  It is common for affiliates of the same network to pool resources and work together on big stories.  I spent a couple election nights with Kevin, in Philadelphia, back when I was with WYOU in the early 90's.  Nice guy back then.  Nice guy now.  It's good to see some things haven't changed.

There are a few people who work just down the street, who I haven't seen in a long time.  It was nice to reconnect, but it was brief.  There was a live hit every few minutes.  There was barely time to walk to the portable bathrooms and go over notes.

Tomorrow-- a new, yet familiar, friend.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Day One

The Sandusky trial began yesterday, with jury selection, in Centre County court.  It had been a long time since I was in Bellefonte, and I forgot what an absolutely pretty town it is.

WNEP management was kind.  We were given the option of driving down Monday afternoon, about a two hour and 15 minute journey, and grabbing hotel rooms so we could hit the air bright and early Tuesday morning.  I talked it over with photographer Mark Monahan.  We both preferred an early start and a Tuesday morning drive.  I'm usually in the office and at my desk by 2:45 AM Mondays and Tuesdays, so it wasn't a major inconvenience for me.  Plus, I prefer my home bed, my own food, and my home bathroom.

I got to the station at about 12:30 AM Tuesday, and I banged out a few preview stories.  They centered on the input and analysis from former Luzerne County District Attorney and judge Peter Paul Olszewski.  Yes, Olszewski believes you can pick a fair jury and he was concerned about the judge's ruling barring alleged victims from using pseudonyms.  I'd been writing Sandusky stories for seven months, and I have a fat file of backgrounders.  The ins and the outs, and the major players are well known.  We were in the car and on the highway by 1:45 AM.
We arrived in to town at about 4:00 AM.  Above is a shot of Mark, on the right, and intern Joe, on the left, pulling gear out of our truck We enlisted Joe for the trip because it never hurts to have an extra set of hands.  It worked out well.  Joe got some good experience.  He helped with keeping things dry and running cables from the satellite truck to our designated spot on the courthouse lawn.  It turns out Joe is a whiz with communications, and I was happy to have the help.

More of the Bellefonte experience, especially the media crush,  tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Big Gulp

There's a move afoot in New York City to ban the sale of soft drinks over 16 ounces.

Are you kidding me?  Is this the most important thing the people in NYC have to worry about?

Admittedly, all that sugar isn't good for you.  I drink diet, and it's filled with chemicals.  They can't be good, either.

Have we stopped people from buying cigarettes by the carton?  Have we stopped people from buying beer by the case?  It can be argued tobacco and alcohol have done more damage to the health of Americans than a visit to the corner mini mart for a cold soda.

If you've ever grabbed a big soda from a fast food restaurant, it's mostly ice, anyway.

There's no other way you can spin this.  It's just plain silly, and the whole idea was concocted by people with far too much time on their hands.

Have a cold drink, relax, and mind your own business.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Richard Dawson

It is among the highest compliments you can pay an entertainer:   "He was funny."

Richard Dawson was funny.

There were guest shots on several sitcoms in the 60's, including Dick Van Dyke, leading to the role as Cpl. Peter Newkirk on Hogan's heroes.

After that, Laugh In, and that seat in the center of the bottom row on Match Game.  I read where Dawson wanted to learn to be a game show host, and he thought the best way to do that was to be a regular somewhere.  He struck gold on Match Game.  Dawson was the one you picked if you really wanted  to win the big money.  The man had the gift of common sense.  He could get a laugh in the small amount of time you get when you're part of a large, by television standards, ensemble.

Family Feud hit the air in 1976, and let's face it.  It's not the most exciting show in the world, but Richard Dawson's personality made the show a hit.  In a piece of useless trivia, Dawson wasn't Mark Goodson's first choice.  Who was it?  Geoff Edwards.

Several people hosted Family Feud over the years.  No one did it with the charm of Richard Dawson.

I've read where Dawson was awful to work with.  He was moody and a producer's nightmare.  He's get involved in jokes and stories during the taping of Family Feud, forcing time consuming and costly editing prior to air.  TV Guide wanted to do a cover featuring all the game show hosts of the time.  Dawson refused to participate, saying he deserved a cover all by himself.

Back in the day, Johnny Carson used guest hosts during he frequent absences from the Tonight show.  Richard Dawson did a couple days back in the 70's, and I thought he was fantastic-- glib, funny, articulate, a good listener and a good interviewer.  Dawson would have made a perfect Tonight show host.  As it turned out, Carson hung around, thankfully, for quite a while.  Unthankfully, along came Joan Rivers and Jay Leno.  You know how that story ends.

Richard Dawson died Saturday.  He was 79

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: Carbondale Renaissance

After yesterday's blog, a little love for Carbondale.  This is Main Street's Pioneer Plaza-- a hotel going up right in the center of town.

It's amazing when you think about it-- a large investment, in a small city, during tough economic times.  Things like this, my friends, are rare.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: White Elephant

I'm not picking on Carbondale.  Every town has them.  I call them the white elephants.  They are the big old schools, closed churches, abandoned factories that will likely never be redeveloped.  They're just too expensive to fix.

In Carbondale's case, It's the old Sacred Heart School, right in the center of the city.  It's been empty for years.  It seems like there are more smashed windows every day






















There are good things happening in Carbondale, but it's an uphill battle when you have to look at this every day.

Friday, June 1, 2012

About the Cover: Audubon School



I'd planned on using a tight shot of the spires above Audubon Elementary in Scranton for this month's blog header.  It was an okay photo when I transferred it from my camera to my computer.

To get you up to speed, Audubon was built in 1910.  It's leaky and moldy.  The Scranton school board decided it would be better to close the school for good, and split the 225 students among three other elementary schools.

It's a beautiful building, at least from the outside, and I hate to see another neighborhood school close. However, there are economic realities.

Anyway, I was playing around with a tight shot of the stone carvings above the doors on the Mulberry Street side( top photo) , and I decided the little man reading the book would make a more interesting header, so here it is.

It is one of the things I love about photography.  You go to a location expecting one thing, and you wind up leaving with something totally different.

Have a great June.