*

*

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Andy's Angles: The Building

One last view of the former WARM Building in Avoca before I move on to other things.  I worked here from 1981 to 1991.

Clearly, the old girl has seen better days.

Back in my day, I remember writing a note to the general manager, asking for better security lighting.  Nothing happened.  Even though WARM moved out a long time ago, it appears the lighting situation is the same.  It's just one lonely and useless street light screwed on to the side of the building.

One of our program directors wanted a better sign out front.  All we had were some barely visible call letters on the canopy.  The sign never happened.  I think there was some push back by the guy who owned the building at the time.  Thousands of cars passed this building every day.  It was a wasted opportunity.

I'm not sure when Lite 94 moved in, and moved out.  The circular sign is for a wrestling club.  It wasn't around during my era.

Not many people know, but this is actually a four story building.  It's built in to the side of a hill, so there are two floors below ground level, and one above.  The Economic Development Council and the Northeast Philharmonic used to call this place home.  Both are long gone.

The canopy used to be shiny metal.  It's tarnished now-- much like the radio station that called this home.

Here's the topper.  While I was snooping around last month, a worker at the construction company leasing the place told me he heard that the building will be turned in to apartments once the construction company moves out.  They are scheduled to leave when the Avoca/airport interchange reconstruction is finished.

Friday, April 29, 2016

One More Thing...

Tomorrow is the last of my pictures and rambling concerning WARM and the Avoca building it called home.  I'm sure I'll revisit the topic some time down the road.

It was a kick Election Day morning.  I was at a polling place in Taylor, and a woman remembered that I was on the radio for a while.  She has a great memory.  I left full time radio in 1991.

You might ask why I spent so much time yammering on about WARM.  First all, I grew up listening to the Mighty 590.  I was lucky enough to hook on there in 1981.  It was my first paying job, and it was the experience of a lifetime.  I learned things there I still use today.

As I've noted here countless times before, it was one bad decision after another and the station was bungled into irrelevance.  There was a brief uptick in the mid 80's, but it went down the slippery slope again.  The station is a CBS Sports Radio affiliate now, and no one listens.

I'm a realist.  WARM was an AM in an FM world.  It's "big audience" days were coming to an end no matter what happened.  However, if managed the right way, the station could have carved out a nice niche for itself and it could have remained the news and information leader in the market.  There's currently a void around here you could drive a truck through.

I vividly remember the line up the day I walked in the door in 1981.  Other than Harry West in the morning, I cannot remember who was on the air when I left ten and a half years later.  It was that forgettable.

I am a broadcaster and a journalist, and I am proud of it.  It's a great profession-- a science and an art.  Let's lean to the artsy side.  I truly believe there's a place for a traditional full service radio station, AM or FM.  Hire a good morning personality, and one for the afternoon.  You can go satellite or voice tracking the rest of the time.  Find a couple of solid news reporters.  Be active in your community.  Aggressively cover news and issues.  Your overhead will probably be a little higher than you'd like, but you would still make a few dollars and have a station of which you can be proud.

It will never happen, but I can dream.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Year Late

As noted here last week, I was down with a really bad cold during my recent vacation.

As luck would have it, my cable company made a bunch of relatively new movies available through its "On Demand" feature.

I haven't been to a theater since the first "Ted" was released in 2012.  There were a few movies I wanted to see, but they didn't provide enough motivation to drag my tired arse to a theater.

As I was going through the On Demand list, I saw "Entourage."  I was a fan of the series, so watching the movie was a no brainer.

 It got horrible reviews, but  my cable company was giving it to me, for free, so I thought, why not?  "Entourage" wasn't a great movie, but I liked it.  Once again, Jeremy Piven's performance saved the day.  Ari Gold is a great character, and Piven nails it every time.

I was saddened when the credits rolled.  "Entourage" was not a big critical or financial success, so it was the end of the line for all those characters.

Perhaps I expected too much out of "Trainwreck."  I didn't like it, and I really didn't care if the characters got together or stayed apart.  Amy Schumer was cute and funny, and she has a big career in film ahead.  Unfortunately, her character was so unlikable, I really didn't care what happened.

I watched the "unrated" version.  It's possible the rated version was edited tighter and was more enjoyable.

Long story short, Schumer plays a trampy, drunk pothead who finally finds love, but it takes her a while to realize it.

The big treat for me was seeing Norman Lloyd, one of the stars of one of the best TV series ever, St. Elsewhere.

As far as "Trainwreck" goes, at least I didn't have to pay to see it.

And a special thanks goes to my cable company-- now offering two fewer channels, but still charging the same price.  YES was voluntarily dropped last year, and al Jazeera recently went out of business.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Day After

Some post election thoughts...

As I said in this space months ago, underestimate Donald Trump at your own peril.  He swept five states last night.  Trump took Pennsylvania, and it wasn't even close.  Rather than finding ways to deny Trump the nomination, it might be time to figure out how to make Trump a stronger candidate in November.

Hillary Clinton took four out of five states last night.  Bernie Sanders vows to stay in the race right up until the convention in Philadelphia this summer.  Sanders has earned a big voice in the party, and some influence in the party platform.  It looks like it's time to step aside.  I admired his power of inspiration, which is rare in politics these days.  It's likely Sanders brought some new people to the polls yesterday.  I sincerely hope they stay involved.

I believed there was upset potential in the race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.  Some early polls had Joe Sestak leading Katie McGinty.  McGinty came on strong and topped Sestak easily.  An early crunch of the numbers leads me to believe John Fetterman really hurt Sestak more than McGinty.  Republican incumbent Pat Toomey had no opposition in yesterday's primary.  This is the big race to watch as we head toward November.  Will the Sestak people fold in to the McGinty camp?  Will the presidential candidates help or hurt?  Coattails?  Liberal Democrat against conservative Republican.

Voters in the Riverside school district shot down a referendum on increasing their taxes four per cent.  Is anyone surprised?  92 per cent voted "no."  If that isn't a message for school districts to live within their means, I don't know what is.  The difficult thing is a quality education isn't cheap.  Pennsylvania has a pension problem.  I fear a lot of school districts will feel a severe money crunch in the near future.

Josh Shapiro and John Rafferty won their party's nominations for attorney general last night.  Thanks to four years of the Kane administration, a lot of people will be keeping an eye on this race.

Kevin Haggerty wins the re-match in the 112th.  He captured the Democratic nomination last night, beating incumbent Frank Farina.  Once again, an incumbent proves to be his own worst enemy.  Haggerty was handed the race on a silver platter when it was revealed Farina took free Penn State football tickets for he and his family, and then billed taxpayers for the mileage.  It was not a crime, but a sin in the eyes of those who live paycheck to paycheck.  Farina apologized, and returned the money to the state.  Too late.  the 112th gets a new/old representative next year.

A huge number of state representatives ran without opposition.  Why?

A look at the final percentages will be interesting.  We saw pockets of heavy turnout, and areas of intense indifference.  The influx and change of registrations that were supposed to benefit Kasich and Sanders apparently never really materialized.  I visited several polling places yesterday, and there were very few volunteers handing out cards.  I didn't mind.  It was nice to walk through the door without the bombardment.  I talked with a few friends, and they had similar experiences.  There were very few contested races.  The Clinton people though they had the Scranton area in the bag, and the Sanders people weren't organized enough.

Our friends at the Citizens Voice report this morning that Luzerne County voter turnout was 41 per cent.  County officials consider that high.  Isn't it sad when 41 per cent is considered high?

If you voted, thank you for participating in your democracy.  If you didn't it, please think about it in November.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Primary Day

It's finally here.  It's "Primary Election Day."  For the first time in a long time, you have a say.

I'll never forget the first time I voted.  It was in the 1980 primary.  My dad accompanied me into the booth.  The candidate I really liked had dropped out of the race.  I voted for him anyway.  Principle.  I thought my father was going to clobber me.

This has been a most unusual election year.  Pennsylvania, as always, votes late.  As you know, the presidential contests are not decided.  There's also a hot race for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination and state attorney general.

Gov. Ed Rendell wanted to move up election day.  Could you imagine the influence a big state like Pennsylvania would have if we voted in February?  The plan died, and that's a good thing.  It really wasn't fair to rural Pennsylvanians.  I've long felt the solution is to stop the Iowa and New Hampshire lunacy and have a series of regional primaries in the spring, not the dead of winter.

My plans for today?  Of course, cover the vote.  Vote.  Sleep.  Get up in the evening and watch the numbers come in.  I'm envious of colleague Scott Schaffer.  He gets two hours to talk "vote" on WNEP2, and there are some great races going on.

I have my own ideas as to what will happen.  Watch this space tomorrow.  I'll tell you if I was right.

I'm an independent, so I can't vote for candidates in the primary, but I can vote on ballot questions.  There is one:  amending the state constitution to eliminate Philadelphia traffic court.

I spent my Monday covering the events leading up to the Trump rally at the arena in Wilkes-Barre Township.  It was the most fun I've had in a long time.  In addition to seeing some old friends in the business, there was simply a lot of interesting things going on.  A photo of the inside of the arena set a personal "re-Tweet" record.  Thank you.

Look for blog and Twitter updates throughout the day.  Twitter:  @andypalumbo_

See you on tv.

>>>1:10 PM UPDATE:

Just before 1 PM, I became the first independent to vote in my district.  Take that, Anderson Cooper.  It wasn't easy.  Poll workers couldn't find the "non partisan" ballots.  They kept confusing them with provisional ballots, and I nearly flipped out.  A free, impartial and professionally run election is vital to a functioning democracy.  I go crazy when procedures aren't followed.  Even worse, when procedures are unknown.  I can almost overlook candidates and their surrogates blocking the entry door and getting too close for comfort.  Elections cost a lot of money.  They're important.  We deserve better.

Nap time.  I'll be up tonight to watch the numbers roll in.  Vote.  Please.

>>>11:10 AM UPDATE:  Editing went smoothly.  Time to get back out on the road to see what else is going on, and wrap it all up on Newswatch 16 @ Noon.  After that, voting, lunch, a nap, then up to watch election returns.  By the way, we're hearing reports of heavy turnout in the Back Mountain of Luzerne County.  Also heavy in the Dunmore/Mid Valley area thanks to a hotly contested state representative race.

>>>10:20 AM UPDATE:  A strange morning.  Places I expected to find light turnout were heavy, and vice versa.  Some feel rain had an impact, keeping people at home.  I did some interviews, wandered about, asked questions, etc.  It was then back to the office to bang out a script and hand it off to a video editor.  We'll head back out for a live report at noon.

>>>7:15 AM UPDATE:  An initial flurrie at West Scranton Intermediate School on Fellows Avenue, and now a lull.  There is no one here passing out cards, and that's a bit surprising, considering the hotly contested senate and attorney general campaigns.  This is Hillary Country.  Have the Sanders people thrown in the towel?  Now, it's on to see what's happening in other parts of the county.

>>>4:15 AM UPDATE:  We picked West Scranton Intermediate School for our live shot location.  There is plenty of parking for our van.  The big plus is an overhang outside the front doors.  It'll keep us dry if and when it rains.  Viewed the preview pieces before we headed out.  Good stuff, even if I do say so myself.  I love election day.

>>>3:15 AM UPDATE:  The tradition continues.  I had my usual Election morning breakfast of a spicy chicken sandwich and fries.  There is only one 24 hour restaurant that sells it, and I considered hitting another chain.  Service and attitude at this particular restaurant are horrible.  I decided to give it one more try.  There was a new worker behind the counter.  She was great.  Unfortunately, they got my order wrong.  The sandwich was pleasantly exchanged.  I still might go elsewhere in the fall.

Once I got to the office, plans were discussed.  Scripts were tweaked.  Holy Cow!  So much material from which to choose.  Pennsylvania really matters this time around, and that's great.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Party Hop

To say the least, this is not your average primary season.

Voter services offices in counties all across our area were busy right up until the registration deadline.

Here's what we were hearing:  New registrants on the Democratic side were signing up because of Bernie Sanders.

On the Republican side, people were joining to vote for Donald Trump.  People were switching their registration to vote for John Kasich.

Of course, all this information is anecdotal.  Voting booths and stations have partitions and curtains.  I value your privacy.

The networks do exit polling, and they will share those numbers with you tomorrow night.  I can't wait to see the way  the vote broke among the new registrants and the party hoppers.  It should be fascinating.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Nathan

I haven't given you a Nathan update in a while...

The little tyke, rescued from the streets of Wilkes-Barre is going great.  He gets in to everything, and that's part of his charm.  You can't get angry at him.

I took this picture last week, while Nathan was resting in one of his favorite places.  It's a box, made of big sections of corrugated cardboard.  Cats scratch the sides and bottom, then take a nap in it.  As you can see from the sides, Nathan is also a chewer.

I got this particular box on-line, but most pet stores and even WalMart carry some version of them.  They're not inexpensive, but Nathan likes it, and I'd rather have him chew and claw a box than other things.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Andy's Angles: Another Door

A slightly different perspective of the outer lobby of the former WARM Building in Avoca, my home away from home from 1981 to 1991.

The entrance to the studios is beneath the stairs, and to the right.

The window to the main air studio is on the first floor.

Toward the end of my run, we ran out of room.  The station leased some office space on the second floor.  There was a production room behind the window at the top.  It was blacked out.  I don't know what's in there now.

The doors to the outside, and freedom, are at the lower left.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Vacation Review

So, my first vacation week of the year has been burned off.  What did I do?

Absolutely nothing!

A nasty cold kicked in just as the weekend was starting, and the cold hung around for a while.  As colds go, this one was worse than most.  I'll spare you the details, but I will say that I should have bought stock in Kimberly Clark, the makers of Kleenex.  I should add that nothing worked.  Nothing.  I'm a fan of Alka Seltzer Plus, the kind you take at night to help you sleep.  Even it proved to be ineffective.  I just had to wait it out.

The cold started to subside just as the vacation was ending, so I was able to get out for short bursts.  I didn't accomplish much.

While the cold isn't totally gone yet, my vacation week is over, and it's back to work tonight.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Clearing Up

It's not over yet, but our friends to the north really helped bring the political picture in to focus.

Clinton and Trump won, and won big.

Ted Cruz can't mathematically get enough delegates for the Republican nomination.  He ran behind John Kasich in New York, and Cruz is running third in polls here in Pennsylvania.  It's not looking good for the Texas senator.  He could still get the nomination in a contested convention this summer, but you cannot excape the fact that Cruz's popularity is waning.

Bernie Sanders knows how to draw a crowd, and his appeal is nothing less than staggering.  However, he got hammered in New York-- a place where he should have done much better.  Young people love the guy.  Clinton's connection with young people, so far, has been lacking.  I'm sure Sanders' hopes for free public college education plays a big role in that.

NBC's Chuck Todd was on Tony Kornheiser's Washington DC radio show the other morning.  Todd was asked if Clinton has a lock on the nomination.  The answer was yes, barring an outside event.  We know that outside event is a Justice Department investigation of Clinton's State Department emails, which could result in an indictment.  If a Washington insider like Chuck Todd isn't ruling it out, you have to wonder if something could happen.  My gut says a Democratic presidential nominee won't be charged by a Justice Department in a Democratic administration.  I can see a scathing report and a good wrist slapping.  Will it make a difference?  Again, my gut says no.  Clinton supporters have been with her since Whitewater, and they will not be swayed.

The races aren't over yet, but the end game is in sight.

Don't forget to vote Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My Vote

Once in a while, something comes along that stuns you with its arrogance.

CNN's Anderson Cooper said on Howard Stern's radio show this week that reporters shouldn't vote because reporters shouldn't take a stand.

Well, I agree with some of that.  We shouldn't take a stand WHILE WORKING and our work should be free of bias.  I am a professional.   I know how to separate the personal and the professional.

Once the day is over, it's a different story.

By the way, I should point out that Howard Stern thought Anderson Cooper's position is "insane."

I value my right to vote, and I'm proud to say that I've never missed an election in which I've been eligible.

I'm an independent, so I cannot vote for candidates in the primary, but I can vote on ballot questions, and I intend to do that Tuesday.

Cooper is not the first to go that route.  ABC's Charlie Gibson didn't vote until after he retired.  I loved Charlie, but I thought he was dead wrong.

Yes, we are supposed to be unbiased journalists, but we are also supposed to be responsible citizens, and responsible equals voting.  Plus, it would be hypocritical to go on TV, encourage you to vote, then skip out on my trip to the polls.

I will admit that voting became much tougher when I got in to the business.  I've met a lot of the people running at the local level.  Some have no business being in public office.

I study the issues.  I know where candidates stand.  But, there are times I simply go with my gut because you can't factor out honesty and character.

I'm going to vote, and you should, too.  It's important.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

One Week

New York votes today.

Next week, it's our turn.

I'm almost giddy over that.

The Republican and Democratic presidential nominations haven't been locked up, and Pennsylvanians will actually have a voice.

Please, don't forget about the statewide races, and all those contests for state representative.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people running without opposition in the primary.  That's just wrong.

Do your homework.  It's not difficult.  Read up on the people who are on the ballot.  Make informed choices.

New York should be interesting today and tonight.  We should hold our own in seven days.  It should be an interesting week.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sears

By now, you know Sears in the Viewmont Mall is closing in the summer.  It's not a new story.  Sears has been downsizing in recent years.

Sears was the first Viewmont store to open, way back in 1968, and I remember what a big deal it was-- clothes, candy, hardware, appliances, sporting goods, tools, and even a little restaurant tucked off to the side.

The Sears issues are a combination of a company that lost its way, and changing times.  Sears isn't anything special any more.  Places like Dick's took away the sporting goods business.  Lowe's and Home Depot ate away the tools, hardware, and appliances.  Best Buy and HH Gregg chewed away at electronics.

That left clothes and shoes, and you can get clothes and shoes at a lot of places.

I walked around the Viewmont Sears last week, and it was sad.  There are big, empty spaces.  The Land's End section, which I always thought was a nice feature, didn't have much.

There wasn't much of a reason to be in Sears, and that's the problem.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Andy's Angles: Springtime

Even though I do complain about some decisions at my alma mater, Marywood...  it is a beautiful campus.

This is a recent of view of the recently redone plaza in front of the Liberal Arts Building.

The new library is off to the left.  Adams Avenue is off to the right.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Andy's Angles: The Doors

For background, please refer back to my April 5 blog entry.

The gold framed doors at the right were the doors that led to the WARM studios in Avoca.  They were the ones with a big WARM logo on top, and all the other stations in the chain painted beneath.  Remember, it was a lot easier back then.  When I started, the legal limit was seven AM stations and seven FM stations.  There are companies now that own hundreds of stations.

The big window looked in to the WARM control room/air studio.  There are two thick panes of glass with an air space in between.  When I was there, we put some plastic flowers in the middle of the sandwich to cover up all the dirt and bugs that somehow got in there.

I looked inside.  It's an office now, with a big desk and a computer.  A construction company has leased the space.

While WARM moved out long ago, note that the circular speaker above is still there.  Could you imagine the voices that came out of that thing over the years?

Friday, April 15, 2016

The First

Sleeping Homer means only one thing here.  It's vacation time, and this is my first of the year.

As always, there are no plans.  I'll likely do my usual vacation things-- sleep, ride my bike if it's warm enough, go to the gym, play with my camera and visit KMart.

Come to think of it, that's what I do during a normal week.

I had planned to exit the last week of the month, but I would have missed covering the election (or at least my little piece of it), so I moved it up a week.

Stacy Lange has the big chair this weekend.  The broadcast is in good hands.

I'll still be here to relate whatever pops in to my head.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Brushing Up

Were you ever asked a question that made sense, and was absurd at the same time?

It happened to me yesterday morning.  My dog and I were at the veterinarian's office.  The vet and I were discussing a lot of things, including dental health (the dog's, not mine).

I was picking up a fresh tube of doggie tooth paste on the way out.  The vet's assistant asked me if I wanted melon-mint, or poultry flavor.

The choices were new ones on me.  It was blazing hot in there.  I was a little tired.  I wanted out, and I resisted the temptation to snap back with with a wise arse remark.

I did say something like "The dog never expressed a preference."  I asked what seems to be most popular in the canine community.  The assistant explained that many owners go for the melon-mint if the dog is a big kisser and licker.  My dog, the best rescue dog ever, has never been a kisser.  We went  for the poultry flavor, and we'll try it out this weekend.

Personally, I go for the same flavor of Listerine every time (arctic mint), but I do get bored with toothpastes and switch flavors frequently.  I do like the Colgate Max Fresh with Breath Strips, but I'm working on a tube of Crest cinnamon right now.

Curious as I may be, the dog's poultry flavor tooth paste is safe.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Vacation Blues

It hasn't happened every time, but it's occurred more often than not.   I'm taking a little time off from work.  It's a good thing.  I'm tired.

But, there are usually stories left hanging as I walk out the door, and I want a piece of the action.

This time around, it's politics.  The Pennsylvania primary is a week and a half away.  You know candidates and their surrogates will be bopping around northeastern and central Pennsylvania.  I'll be watching from the sidelines.

It's really okay.  There will be other elections and other stories.

I already moved my vacation so I wouldn't miss the election.  I couldn't delay it until May for reasons that make sense only to television people.

I still have Twitter and the blog, so I can yammer on to my heart's content.

And, I'm sure there will be plenty to do when I return to the office the night of April 22nd.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tuesday Scrapple

The Major League Baseball season began last week, and on American soil for a change.  There were none of those silly games in Japan and  Australia.  I hope the new commissioner keeps it up.

I also hope the NFL gives up on games on London, but that's not going to happen any time soon.  Why not do something different.  Have a game in a college town.  Wouldn't it be fun to see the Steelers or Eagles at Beaver Stadium?  Or, the Bengals or Browns at the Horseshoe in Columbus?  There are some enormous venues out there, and I'm sure the NFL can fill them.

My number of Linked In contacts has exploded lately.  I'm still not sold on the usefulness of the site.   Unlike SnapChat and InstaGram, I'll keep this one for a while longer.

A longer blog entry is coming, but watching Sears bungled into irrelevance is simply sad.

One of the newspapers in the area is having serious circulation problems.  It can't get its papers out in a timely manner.  Rule # 1:  Get the product in the readers' hands!

I watched the first part of CNN's series on the 80's.  It was the television episode.  Jeez O'Pete, it was a decade filled with garbage.

I don't care that American Idol's run is over.  Yes, it launched some stars.  But, as I saw it, it was just a vehicle to insult people.

Public service announcements for the ASPCA have to be among the biggest heart tuggers out there.  They're better than the Toys for Tots and Salvation Army spots at Christmas, and those are very good.

The NBA and NHL playoffs take two months to complete.  There's something wrong with that.

The Zika virus is hardly a surprise.  Yet, our government seems to be having problems getting a handle on it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Right


Congratulations to my alma mater, Marywood University.  It was Marywood College back in my day.  It did something right.

Sister Mary Persico was named president Friday.

She replaces Sister Anne Munley.

It takes effect in July.

Sister Mary and I go back a long way.  She attempted to teach me to speak French during the fall and spring semesters of my freshman year.  I reminded her of that during a meet and greet/q and a session at Marywood Tuesday afternoon.

I walked up to her when it was over, and spoke a few of the French sentences that I actually remember.  Her eyes lit up.  She responded with even more French, and I was actually able to craft another sentence of my own.

We had a nice talk, in English.  I hope we'll talk again in the near future.  Sister Mary expressed her willingness.

Here's how I know she will be a good president.  First, she is patient.  I learned that 37 years ago.

The q and a session was impressive.  Sister Mary grasps what needs to be done.  She will take input, then make decisions.  She does realize that in the end, she makes the calls. She is the one to lead.

I told her there is a tough job ahead.  A lot of us want the quiet, dignified Marywood of the past, but the school also has to be nudged in to the future.  There was an affirmative nod after that comment.

Marywood's financial problems have been documented elsewhere.  Students are unhappy.  Faculty is unhappy.  Staff is unhappy.  There's a study underway to determine what programs should stay, and what ones Marywood can do without.

Here's what sealed the deal for me.  Someone asked if potential cuts will be painful.  Sister Mary's response:  "Absolutely."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Andy's Angles: The View

I recently posted a picture of the treehouse at Nay Aug Park in Scranton.  This is the view you get, looking down toward Roaring Brook and the gorge.  Interstate 81 is visible at the top of the photo.

My one complaint, and it's minor:  There are some dead trees down there.  The view would be a lot better if those dead trees were cleared out.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Andy's Angles: The WARM Window

The statute of limitations has run out, so now, the story can be told.

This is a window on the side of the former WARM Building in Avoca.

Back in my day, it was a drafty old thing.  It had three louvered panels, and they opened with a crank.  It was just a horrible, inefficient thing.  It looks like it's been replaced, and that's a good thing.

It is that ability to open that is the subject of today's entry.

There were a few, not many, slow afternoons in the news department.  I would sneak away to get ice cream or frozen yogurt for myself and a couple of my co workers.  They used to open the window, and I'd pass it through the window from the parking lot so our afternoon frozen treat break would go undetected by management.

I've been out of there for 25 years.  What are they going to do, fire me?

Friday, April 8, 2016

About the Cover

I have mixed feelings about the recent changes on the Marywood University campus.  Let's review.

Marywood needed a new library.  I'm not a fan of the design or location.

I really like what they did with the plaza in front of the library, and across the street from the Liberal Arts Building.

Unfortunately, the sculptures detract from the whole thing.  Inappropriate.  They're not all that bad.  They just don't fit on the site.

I'm told the orange one, the one they call "the clothespin" on campus is meant to represent the World Trade Center towers in New York, and the hole is the strike from the jets.

The one chosen for this month's blog header reminds me of a prop from a Nickelodeon kids' show.  It's OK in and of itself.  I just quibble with the placement.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

You Count

You really do!

For the first time, in a long time, Pennsylvanians will have a say in the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees.

Hillary Clinton is having serious problems locking up the nomination against a 74 year old Socialist from a tiny state.  There is no doubt Clinton will eventually prevail.  The math is heavily on her side.

As for the Republicans, Donald Trump is a neighbor, and he remains very popular.  John Kasich is a neighbor on the other side.  Kasich should do okay in the western part of the state.  The center and northern tiers are very conservative, and that tells me Ted Cruz has potential to star there.

I can't wait for April 26.

We haven't had many high level visits in recent years.  We did see the surrogates.  That means we got the friends and relatives, while the candidates spent their time in the big cities.  I expect that to change this year.  The race to the primary isn't beginning that way.  Bill Clinton is in Scranton today.  Surrogates don't get any bigger than that.

Last week, President Obama chided the media for not questioning more, probing more, investigating more.  You know what?  He's right.  While we have seen a record number of debates, real, meaningful candidate access, especially beneath the network level, is extremely rare.  The handlers and consultants package candidates like a supermarket product, and it's a wall that's nearly impossible to break.  An informaed electorate is vital to a functioning democracy.  The biggest impediments appear to be the candidates themselves.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Coach

By now, you know former Berwick and Wyoming Valley West head football coach George Curry died Friday.  Lou Gehrig's Disease.  71.

Back at the old shop, I covered high school football for all or part of five seasons.  We did a game of the week, plus several playoff and championship games.  I served as sideline reporter.  It was great fun, and I treasure the experience.

Berwick was having a tremendous run back then, so I prowled the sidelines of Crispin Field and all the playoff venues on a regular basis.

I can't say Coach Curry and I were friends.  I brought the newsman's edge to sports, and I don't think he really liked that.  Curry was used to adulation.  I was used to asking tough and occasionally difficult questions.

As I've said in this space before, I found Curry to be easily irritated and thin skinned.  He watched the tapes.  If I said something he didn't like, I'd hear about it the next week.  It didn't bother me.  It came along with the territory, and I wasn't there for the approval of those I covered.  I believed I was fair back then.  Still do.

The evidence is anecdotal, but George Curry had to be the most investigated coach of his era.  The "recruiting" rumors always dogged him.  Controversy was a constant companion.

The old shop used Curry as a color commentator a few times.  He was entertaining and knew how to dissect a game.   Funny when he needed to be, serious the rest of the time.   Curry traveled with an entourage, and never failed to stop to sign autographs.  My current shop used him for a WNEP2 show.  He was as sharp and entertaining as ever.  The people here loved working with him.

You can't overlook the fact that George Curry got a lot of his players in to college, and reliable sources say their graduation rate was very high.  I admire that.

George Curry also made sure his players had manners.  Interviewing the Berwick kids was always a positive experience.  They were disciplined and unfailingly polite.  That was the Curry influence.  The kids were great ambassadors of the game and their school.  I was on the field for a big Berwick loss at a state championship game in Altoona, and I genuinely felt bad for the kids.

Faith, family, and football were his priorities.

George Curry built more than teams at Berwick.  He built a program, and that foundation will be recognized for years to come.

He had a passion for the game, and a great knowledge of it.  It's a shame that it was taken away.  George Curry had a lot more to give.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

In the Beginning...

It was an unforgettable moment.  March 31, 1981.  It was the first time I walked in to the WARM building in Avoca.
former WARM Building, March 2016
I was there for a job interview.  The station was looking for someone to work 1 AM to 9 AM on Sunday mornings.  Remember, there were no computers back then.  WARM needed someone to play the religion and public affairs tapes.  I wanted it.

I can still see those big glass doors with the shiny gold metal trim.  The big WARM logo painted on.  The list of other stations owned by the same company beneath.  The receptionist asked me to take a seat on the uncomfortable, worn couch in the lobby.  What a lobby it was.  There were awards and plaques on just about every spare inch of space.  A window looked into the control room.  Jim Gannon was on the air.  It was the week before he was moved to evenings.

Eventually, program director Ron Allen summoned me.  We chatted briefly.  He told me what the job entailed.  There was another guy who applied.  There was no tour.  Ron didn't give me the warm fuzzies, but that was Ron.  The interview was rather cold and matter of fact.  I have to admit a great intimidation factor.  Ron and WARM were legends.

I got a call the next day, April 1.  Ron couldn't decide between the two applicants, so he decided to hire us both.  We would work alternating weeks.  As it turned out, the other guy stayed for less than a month, so the job was eventually all mine.

$4.00 an hour.  Minimum wage in 1981 was $ 3.35.  I thought it was a fortune.

The job came during my sophomore year at Marywood College.  I remember telling an upperclassman, Jim Loftus, what I would be doing.  Jim put his hand on my shoulder and said the magic words:  "You are now a paid professional."  I've uttered the same line to countless college kids and interns over the years.  By the way, Jim has enjoyed a stellar career in major market broadcast sales and management.

My first shift was 35 years ago today.  I didn't fly solo.  The guy I was replacing, Joe Klapatch, showed me the ropes.  I stayed the full eight hours.  The other guy didn't.  Joe remains a friend to this day.  I was so timid and shy that I didn't put in to be paid for training day.  Susquehanna Broadcasting, you owe me $ 32.00.  I'm kidding.  I can use the money, but Susquehanna Broadcasting no longer exists.  It sold off its stations long ago.

When I did get that first check, it was quite a shock.  Yikes!  The federal, state, and local governments all took a bite.  As we say in the business, I was left with "hoagie money."  I was happy to have it.  Yes, I was the tiniest of cogs in the big WARM machine.  Thrilled is an understatement.

Once I became immersed in the operation, some things really jumped out.  It was 1981.  The studios looked straight out of the 60's.  Old equipment.  No new technology.  Big, clunky reel to reel tape machines.  Ancient cartridge machines.  Tired wall coverings.  Worn carpet.  Peeling laminates on the counters.  Tiny bathroom.  Yellowed ceiling tiles.  Drafty windows.  Manual typewriters in the newsroom.  Beat up office chairs that were new when the station moved in during the mid 60's.  It was clean.  Orderly.  Organized.  And very, very old.

And, we were cramped.  We literally worked back to back in the newsroom.  The news director had a desk in a back room, near an air handler.  There was no place for the DJ's to prep their shows.  Harry had a desk of his own.  The rest of the guys had to share the lone second desk.  The lunch area had a rickety kitchen table and chairs.  Some of the sales offices were the size of closets.  WARM eventually took over the entire first floor and part of the second.  We simply ran out of room.

All that really counts is what comes out of the speaker, and for years, what came out of that shabby old station set records.  Eventually, in the mid/late 80's, the place did get a much needed facelift.

We didn't have electronic locks, key pads, badges, and chips back in those days.  I remember how thrilled I was when I got my key to the WARM Building.  Confession:  I still have the key.  I would assume (and hope) the locks have been changed.

The line up when I started:  Harry West in the morning, followed by Vince Sweeney.  Steve St. John had noon to 3.  Tim Karlson was 3 to 7 PM.  Jim Gannon handled evenings.  RJ Harkins came on at midnight.  Jerry Heller, Ray Magwyre, Kitch Loftus, Terry McNulty, Susan Jellig and Brian Roche were the news department-- an unheard of number in a market this size.  Except for my Sunday morning religion and public affairs hours, WARM was live, all the time.  That's unheard of today.  Most stations give up on live voices after 5 PM.

As for me, good times and bad at the Mighty 590.  I could have, and should have been a better employee and co-worker.  Youthful inexperience.  I tried hard.

My philosophy is to take what little they give you, and do it the best you can.  Things will eventually take care of themselves and you'll move up.  My tapes were stored in a production room cabinet.  I made sure that cabinet was always clean and organized.  My logs were perfect.   I back timed my shows and public service announcements to hit the tone on top of the hour.  I showed up well before my scheduled start.  My transmitter readings were always on time.

Speaking of the transmitter, I will never forget my one moment of major terror.  We had to take transmitter readings every three hours back in the day.  We eventually put in an automated reader and printer.  My plate voltage was drifting high, and I didn't realize it, until I had to switch from night time coverage pattern to day time.  The system sensed a problem and shut down.  We were off the air.  The area's number one radio station was silent, and it was my fault!  I called everyone.  No one could talk me down.  We did have an engineer who showed up around daybreak Sunday mornings to do studio maintenance, clean the tape heads, etc.  He got us back on and explained where I went wrong.  I never made that mistake again.

Fast forward several years.  Nick Seneca was doing afternoon drive.  He knocked the station off the air while going from day time to night time patterns.  I was in the newsroom at the time and ran across the hall to get us back on the air.  Nick had my problem, except in reverse.  Luckily, I remembered how the engineer fixed my mistake-- shut everything off, knock down the plate voltage, and reset.  Boom!  Done!  A smug, self congratulatory smile was on my face for the rest of the day.

Management could have been a little better.  I had to flirt with another station to get additional part time hours.  I had to flirt with another station in order to get full time status.  At least, I received counter-offers.  Others were not as lucky.

The station used to sign off from midnight to 5 AM Monday mornings.  Transmitter maintenance was the excuse.  It didn't have to be done every week, so I convinced management to stay on the air, and it gave us more time for public affairs.  It also gave me a slightly larger paycheck.

I can't believe the energy I had back then.  There were days I'd work at WARM until 5 AM, take a nap, go to college in the morning, take a college radio station shift in the afternoon, and be back at WARM to do some evening news.

I'll give WARM management credit for getting vacation time, as a part timer.  It's the first and last time I saw a company do that.

I understand the Christmas parties were nice.  I never attended one.  There used to be a summer outing.  I passed on those, too.

As time went on, I moved up in the ranks.  I eventually got on the air.  My job was "swing man."  I was a DJ when they needed one.  I did news when we were short handed.  There was a shift to full time news, and that made me very happy.

For the most part, I look back on my 10.5 years very fondly.  We took news to a new level-- aggressive coverage of trials, fires, flooding, snow storms, elections, etc....  The news department was really cooking for a while.  If it was happening, you heard it on WARM, and we left everyone else in town in the dust.  Plenty of awards.

We had some great people on the staff during my time.  Sadly, some have left us.  Others have moved away.  I'm still in touch with John Hancock and Vince Sweeney.  In fact, Vince was the first guy I really got to know at WARM.  He followed me on Sunday mornings.  I wish I was in touch with a few more.

All good things must come to an end.  Upper management hired a series of bunglers to run the place.   They made some of the worst programming mistakes known to man, and it was criminal.  If you remember the Mutual Broadcasting System days, you know what I'm talking about.   Listeners drifted away, and never came back.  The staff was cut.  Less news.  More canned talk.  Yakking for the sake of yakking, even if there was nothing to say.  I got moved to mornings.  Being one of Harry West's news people was a great honor, and working "morning drive" is radio's prime time.  However, I was never really comfortable with it.  AM radio was struggling.  The handwriting was on the wall.  The end wasn't near, but I could see it approaching.  WARM picked up and FM station and it was moved in to our building.  We weren't a priority.  We were an afterthought.  We really needed some attention and TLC.  We got squat.  Oh, we did receive some hand me down vehicles and equipment from other stations in the chain.  What we really needed was freshness.  Ideas.  Promotion.  Advertisement.  Talent.  Direction.

I took a part time TV job in March of 1990.  A full time positioned opened up that fall.  I passed.  Another full time position became available in September of 1991, and I jumped at it.  I think my last WARM newscast was 9 AM, September 6, 1981.  I walked out the door, anxious for a new challenge.

Even though it was far from great when I was there, I was fortunate to have been a small part of WARM history.  I'll share a few more photos and stories in the days to come.

Monday, April 4, 2016

25

There was no doubt in my mind that Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz was going to be president one day.

He was good looking, rich, articulate, smart, and his name was in every refrigerator in the country.  The guy had charm, plus the smarts and gravitas to back it up.

I met him a few times, and always came off impressed.  There was one memorable encounter in Throop.  Sen. Heinz was there to get a look at a lead contamination problem from an old battery reclamation plant.  Some guy started yammering on about how the state failed Throop, and how the (then) Department of Environmental Protection was a mess.  Heinz politely cut the guy off, saying he is a representative of the federal government.  He had no control over what the state did.  It was not time to look back, but rather look forward and get the mess cleaned up.  Bravo!

Sen. John Heinz was made for media.  He knew how to talk in "sound bites" for radio and TV-- and still come across as knowledgeable.

The only thing that possibly could have hurt-- Heinz was a moderate Republican.  He might not have received love from all wings of the party, and that would have been a mistake.

John Heinz died 25 years ago today, when a helicopter collided with his plane, not far from Philadelphia.

I was doing morning drive time news on the radio at the time.  The crash happened after my shift.  I was part time at a TV station, and I dropped in a for a few minutes that afternoon to see what was up. There was a crew at the crash site in Lower Merion Township.

Two and a half decades have passed, and it still bothers me.  John Heinz could have been one of the great ones.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Andy's Angles: Tree House

It's become one of the best parts of Nay Aug Park in Scranton:  The Wenzel Treehouse.

It's fun to go down the ramp.  It's a nice view.  A shot of that is in the queue.

However, there's some graffiti that needs to be cleaned up.  Some hand rails are weathered and splintered.  A little maintenance goes a long way.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Andy's Angles: Zoo

I have so many mixed feelings when I visit Nay Aug Park in Scranton.

There were a lot of happy family Sunday afternoons here when I was a kid-- the scenery, the rides, and the zoo.

It is that zoo that makes me cringe today.

I can't believe we stuck an elephant in that tiny pen and big cats in those little cages.

Unfortunately, that's the way we did things back then.  Thankfully, we know better now.

The zoo is now home to a low cost spay and neuter clinic.

You cannot erase the mistakes of the past, but you can make the future better.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Silly Season

It happens every two years.

Politicians, who have been invisible for months, do everything they can to get in front of a television camera or in the newspaper.

What's precipitating this?  Hmmmm...  Oh, I know.  There's an election this month!

The preferred method to garner free air time is a public service type of event.  A panel is convened to look at some issue.  The podium comes out.  Experts speak, happy to have a forum.  The politicians arrive to show their concern.  It's a made for TV event.

Do they get covered?  Indeed they do.  Very much so.

However, we do try to slog past the political overtones, the faux outrage, the dramatic furrowed brows...  and get to the heart of the issue.  I ask myself the questions:  What's really important here?  Why do people care?

The media event is not a new phenomenon.   Some politicians are really good about it.  Others are transparently bad.

In the general scheme of things, it's no big deal.  It's been happening since Marconi invented radio and Farnsworth invented television.