Friday, November 28, 2008

Black and Green

Today is a day filled with crowds, noise, panic, greed, excess, traffic and insanity. It is everything I despise. It is Black Friday. Outside of a mini mart for an out-of-town newspaper or two, you won't find me anywhere near a retail establishment today.

Last week was NBC Universal's "Green is Universal" week. All of the company's properties, including The Weather Channel, had "save the planet" related programming. I do my best to be environmentally responsible, but I resent having it shoved down my throat the way NBC Universal did last week. The icing on the cake was NBC Universal cutting the environmental unit at The Weather Channel. The Washington Post says 60 to 80 people lost their jobs. It seems the only green NBC Universal really cares about is money.

If it wasn't so tragic, it would be funny-- axe the environmental unit during the same week you say how much you love the planet.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Holiday Sermon

I usually don't associate Joe Snedeker with philosophy of significance, but he came up with a good one Monday morning.

Joe was congratulating me on this blog's occasional appearance in the weekly ranking of the top 25 visited items at I told Joe that I was glad people read the blog, but it only gets 250 hits a day, and that really isn't a lot.

Joe responded by saying there are clergy members who would be thrilled to have 250 people in church every day, and I get to preach to a full church of 250 on a daily basis.

That's a nice way to look at it, so let's offer a Thanksgiving day reading from the Book of Andrew.

It might not be staring us in the face, but we all have things for which we are thankful. There are days you have to look hard. Trust me. They're there.

Thanks for being here, and Happy Thanksgiving !

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks, Kids !

I have an extra day off this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, so Monday was my last day of work before the observance. I got really lucky, and ended the work week on an up note.

I was sent to Central Columbia Middle School, near Bloomsburg, where students collected more than seven thousand cans and boxes of food for the Columbia County Food Cupboard. The school has been at it for ten years, and in that time, the collection has become the second largest in Columbia County. The letter carriers' annual spring food drive is the largest.

The kids and the teachers were extremely proud of what they've accomplished, as they should be. A volunteer from the food cupboard told us more people are seeking help every week, and the food donation from the students at the school comes at a perfect time.

It always hurts to know there are people in need at this time of year. Knowing there are young people interested in the spirit of giving helps take away the pain. I'm sure the lessons learned here will stay with the kids for the rest of their lives.

Thanks for inviting us to be part of your program.

By the way, the mysterious man in black in the photo is WNEP photographer Cory Lukacs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tie One On

John Roberts anchors "American Morning" on CNN. He appeared without a tie one day last week. I'm a big John Roberts fan. CBS made a mistake letting him get away a few years ago. He should have been given the CBS Evening News anchor job over Katie Couric.

Having said all that, and at the risk of appearing hopelessly old school, I didn't like the tie-less look. "American Morning" is the "newsiest" of the cable and broadcast morning shows. It's a relatively serious broadcast. It's not "Entertainment Tonight." He should have worn a tie. I'm okay with shedding a jacket. I frequently do that myself. Take off the tie if you're doing a feature, or if you're standing in a hurricane or snowstorm. Keep it on the rest of the time.

I may throw caution to the wind one of these mornings and go tie-less myself to see what it feels like. You never know.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has been catching some heat recently for not knowing regular season NFL games can end in a tie. I'm not a McNabb fan. Far from it. He's not a winner. However, there have been only two NFL ties in 13 years. I can understand how and why he didn't know the rule. This isn't a big deal to me, and take it easy on the guy. Let the coaches worry about the rules. Let Donovan throw the ball.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Business III

Everyone is talking about money and the economy ad nauseum these days, and I'm no different.

As you know, I'm a big fan of the morning show on FOX Sports Radio, and I heard an interesting conversation Thursday morning. The host said he's like most people and is cutting back expenses. Part of that-- he's not renewing his subscription to Golf Digest. The host, Steve Czaban, wondered how many people would ultimately be impacted by his decision-- the writers, the editors, the office people, the printers, the mail room staff, etc. Yes, he wants to cut back, but he didn't want to hurt other people in the process.

I had an epiphany the other day. I realized I can live without the Oxygen Network, Planet Green, the Reality Channel, and Jewelry TV, so I dumped my digital cable. I have absolutely no sympathy for Big Cable Company. None. It has priced itself out of the market. However, if enough people do cancel (and I'm seeing a lot of satellite dish installation trucks making rounds in the neighborhood), it will have an impact on the installers, the customer service people, the tech staff, and on and on.

Even though the price of gasoline has come down, I'm still driving less. Screw OPEC, big oil, and even the big mini mart chain. I do feel sorry for the person behind the cash register.

I want to save a little money. I don't want to put people out of work. Unfortunately, you can't do one without the other. Sorry.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Business II

The state of Pennsylvania, plus the cities of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton are coming to the aid of Boscov's department store chain. The three are part of a loan package that will help Boscov's emerge from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Boscov's is a Pennsylvania company that employs Pennsylvania people, and if it goes under, at least a few Pennsylvania malls and downtowns would become ghost towns.

The financing plan leaves more questions than answers.

Wilkes-Barre can't afford a pool for its kids. Yet, the city has entered into the department store bail out business. Maybe it has some money left after losing that lawsuit for trampling on the first amendment rights of one of its citizens.

Can the money Scranton is kicking in be put to better use? I'll let you decide.

The Boscov's loan money does not come out of the Scranton or Wilkes-Barre operating budgets. It comes from a federal program. But, how did the money get to the federal government? The answer: your taxes.

Where do you draw the line? If "Fred's Widgets" is in danger of going out of business, will we see a similar charge of the big cash cavalry? I think not.

The cities have watched some good business go bankrupt and close. The state has done the same thing.

I read newspapers from around the state this morning. I didn't see evidence of Reading, Allentown, Bethlehem, Pottsville, Harrisburg or Philadelphia contributing money. Boscov's has stores in or near those cities. Why are Scranton and Wilkes-Barre the only ones involved?

At least, they're not investing in a movie like Lackawanna County did a few years ago.

A dangerous door has been opened here. The success rate of companies that had been in chapter 11 is not very good. Retail industry analyists predict Boscov's survival is a long shot. A lot of YOUR money is at stake. I pray it's been used wisely. There is no room for error.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Business Report

We have a few business items on our plate today...

A new Arby's on Pierce Street in Kingston opens today. It replaces a store next door that was more than thirty years old. The Pierce Street Arby's was one of the first, if not the first, in the area, and it was of the original design. I'm sorry I didn't get there to take a picture while it was still standing. I remember going there with my parents when I was a wee lad, and being annoyed because Arby's didn't sell hamburgers. I grew to love the roast beef sandwiches, and little kids are not normally roast beef fans. The building had an interesting layout. There were chairs and fold down tables around the perimeter of the inside, almost like school desks. I know it's only a building, a fast food joint, but a lot of memories came tumbling down when that restaurant was demolished last week. It wasn't the food. It wasn't the decor. It was happy times with the family, when piling in a car and driving 45 minutes to a different kind of fast food restaurant was a big deal. Apparently, a lot of you cared because it was one of the highest viewed items of the week on

Of course, when I think of Arby's, I think of those trips there with the folks, but I also think of an episode of "The Simpsons." It was their "Lord of the Flies" take-off. The kids were stuck on an island after a school bus crash. One of the Terri/Sherri twins says "I'm so hungry, I could eat at Arby's." Hilarious.

A number of newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, report Steve and Barry's is going out of business. I was at the Steamtown Mall store Saturday, during their "liquidation" sale. It smelled a lot like a going out of business sale. I grabbed a couple ties-- two for $15. I'd purchased ties there before-- cheap and well built, nice and beefy.

I liked Steve and Barry's. The clothing was inexpensive. You get what you pay for. The stuff wasn't going to last a lifetime, but it filled a need. Losing the chain means a big blow to a few shopping centers here in our area. Steve and Barry's was a Steamtown Mall anchor. It occupied the bridge that the Globe Store had when the mall opened in 1992. Steve and Barry's is also a big tenant at the Schuylkill Mall and one of the last stores in Wilkes-Barre's East End Center. Friends, this one hurts. I can't think of any other major chains that will come in and take that space, especially during a bad economy.

If that isn't enough to frighten you, consider this. The Chicago Tribune reports that if Sears doesn't have a good Christmas shopping season, it may not make it through 2009. There are few things more "American" than Sears, and if it goes, it really shows how much the nation's economy and buying habits have changed.

PennDOT put out a news release yesterday. It advises driving carefully during snow squalls. Thanks for the information.

And finally, I BELIEVE the people who inhabit the offices of Wilkes-Barre City Hall received a big reminder this week that what happens here IS the people's business. A federal jury awarded a city resident $67,000 because the mayor violated the resident's first amendment rights. That resident was fighting the closing of a fire station. The mayor apparently tried to put the screws to the resident by sticking her with the city's legal fees. The fees were rung up as the city opposed a "keep the fire station" petition. Testimony at the trial was shocking and saddening at the same time. It was clear the city was trying to make it too expensive for the resident to continue the fight. Guess again! I hope the people involved learned a lesson, but as always, the taxpayers will get stuck with the bill.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pay to Play

At one time, I really would have been bent out of shape over this. Now? I just don't care.

ESPN outbid FOX for the rights to the college Bowl Championship Series games beginning in 2011. ESPN offered $125 million for each year of a four year contract. FOX maxed out at $100 million.

It marks the first time a major sport's championship games will NOT be on broadcast television.

If you haven't realized it by now, you will have to pay for anything worth watching in the years to come, especially sports. The World Series will switch eventually. One of these days, it'll be the Super Bowl.

I don't think it will stop at sports. There have been rumors for years that the broadcast networks want out of the news business. I firmly believe local news has a future on free broadcast television. After all, you own the airwaves, and broadcasters are supposed to operate with the public's interest, necessity, and convenience in mind.

The networks are nearly out of the news business now. ABC and CBS do overnight broadcasts, plus the morning shows and the evening news. NBC is a bit further ahead because it has MSNBC and CNBC. Rumors surface from time to time that CBS and CNN will combine. I'm not a big fan of mergers like that, but it makes sense here. CBS spends a lot of money for very little air time.

The internet adds an entire different dimension to the process, and as we all know, the information superhighway is a toll road.

The bottom line is save your money. You'll need it to be entertained and informed in the future.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Strike !

It is THE issue that gets people fired up enough to contact Talkback 16 and its internet cousin: TEACHER STRIKES.

We have another one here in our area. Teachers at Northwest Area walked off the job yesterday, three and a half years after their old contract expired. This is a picture of an empty Garrison Elementary in Shickshinny I took Monday morning.

Most states have banned teacher strikes. Some will say teachers should be able to strike because their rights are the same as the factory worker down the street.

On the other hand, teacher strikes do have a huge impact on the community. But then again, the law mandates that kids get their 180 days of education. A strike might be disruptive, but the minimum classroom time will be fulfilled. Teachers will eventually be back in the classroom, whether or not they have a new agreement. A strike makes a statement. It doesn't solve the problem.

Good teachers should get good money. Our kids should have the best. Paying the bill is another matter. You can no longer tax your way out of economic difficulties. There are limits. If we're not there, we're dangerously close.

Bad teachers should be shown the door. I've encountered a lot of bad teachers in my day. The system seems to protect them.

The state legislature has sought solutions for years. You know their track record for effectiveness. They can do pay raises. They can manipulate the system to piggishly sniff out money for themselves, even on Sundays. Finding a better way for taxpayers and our kids is not the general assembly's strong point.

We could talk about this for days. There is no black and white. There is no right or wrong. There is a strong counter argument for every good argument.

Who wins? Who loses? That part is easy to figure out. Everyone loses.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Yesterday was the blog's fourth anniversary, and that means it's time for the annual telling of the story of how we got to this point.

Dennis Fisher was our news director when the blog was born. Dennis was trolling for ideas on how to get more original content on to I suggested a weekly column. Dennis asked for a sample. In the meantime, Webmaster Mark Sowers noticed the blog thing was beginning to take off around the country. The column idea morphed into the blog, and here we are.

I don't have an exact number, but I suspect we're around the 1,000 post mark. That amazes me in and of itself. The other astounding fact is I've never had a blog called back or censored by management. There was one warning. Miss New Jersey got into a little bit of trouble a couple years ago, and I blogged about it, complete with picture. She's a busty lass, and Dennis suggested less racy fare in the future.

The new powers that be made some changes earlier this year. The current blog system allows for more pictures, more graphics, more of an individual feel, and I really like that.

I added a "sitemeter" counter back in June. My blog averages about 225 hits a day, and while that's a small number, it's a lot higher than other blogs-- where the self inflated writers consider themselves experts in their field. No pomposity here. This is just a fun little diversion for you and I.

The sitemeter shows where you are. Of course, the vast majority of hits come from northeastern and central Pennsylvania. A scattering come from the rest of the state, and some far flung areas of the USA. I've noticed a few daily hits from the "" domain. I suspect some Harrisburg blog readers will be accessing the site from home in the days to come, because they'll have a lot more time on their hands in the new year.

Your likes and dislikes show up through the sitemeter. The "inside TV" stuff gets the most hits. A post about the MSNBC bias issues set the record for hits since I added the counter back in June.

What will year 5 bring? Who knows? Technology is evolving, and there could be even more changes I still don't know about.

Thanks for a good 4 years, and I appreciate you stopping by.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll passed away Wednesday evening. She was 78, and had been battling cancer.

I'm not going to say I knew her, but we did meet several times over the years. The first was in a wooded area of Hanover Township, back in the early 90's, when she was state treasurer. CBK was presiding over the groundbreaking of a new townhouse complex. The neat thing about it was your rent would eventually go toward ownership of the unit. It was a new program, and from what I understand, it worked quite well. Someone I later worked with someone who took advantage of the program. He lived there for many years, and he was quite happy.

A lot of kids will be able to afford college because Catherine Baker Knoll set up a program to help their parents save.

Catherine Baker Knoll wasn't Ed Rendell's choice for a running mate. Under the state system, we vote for governors and lieutenant governors separately in the primary, and that's how the two teamed up.

CBK seemed to be a nice woman, but I get the feeling she stuck around on the stage a bit longer than necessary. There were some famous gaffes while serving as the state's second in command. There was a revolving door in her office, meaning frequent staff changes and turmoil.

When the final history is written, I suspect the positives will far outweigh the negatives, and Pennsylvania is a better state because Catherine Baker Knoll was one of its public servants.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa:

I was at the Viewmont Mall the other day, and I saw that they're ready for your arrival this week. How can you pull off setting up shop here in our area so early? I'm impressed. Mrs. Claus, the elves, the reindeer, and your management team at the North Pole must be a crack bunch if they can run the pre-Christmas toy operation in your absence. It's about 40 days 'til Christmas, and that's a long time to be away from home.

Keep an eye out for me. I'll be there one of these days. My list is nearly ready for your approval. Here's what I want so far:

I'd like the stock market to turn around so I can make back what I lost over the last few months.

I'd like gasoline prices to stay on their downward slide.

I want to see someone develop a highway bridge that doesn't fall apart and need emergency repairs every other day.

The ability to develop a tolerance for all those digital television announcements.

I'd like some people to learn the definition of the word "imminent."

More "Entourage" and "Scrubs."

Less "The Office."

Less snow.

Shorter baseball, basketball, hockey, and NASCAR seasons.

Can we quit arguing over a college football playoff system?

A highway bypass for every congested area in the eastern half of the state.

I'd like Tony Kornheiser to forget about Monday Night Football get a new radio show.

A Super Bowl win for the Steelers.

Don Pablo's should reconsider its move to pull out of northeastern Pennsylvania.

I wish Verizon would stop sending me daily mail about its DSL service.

Can we inaugurate a new president before we start taking abut the 2012 campaign?

More State Police speed enforcement on Interstate 81 in the Scranton area.

I wish my cable and internet bill stop going up.

I want kids to learn what cell phones are really for.

Fast food restaurant service should actually be fast.

How about a Christmas season that begins after Thanksgiving?

Everyone home for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flags and Blogs

We always see flags on utility poles on cities and towns here in our area. We rarely see how they get there. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity Tuesday morning, Veterans Day.

Volunteers from the Mayfield Lions club were up early Tuesday, placing flags on 120 poles throughout the borough. They were back Tuesday evening to take them down.

One simple project means so much. It unites the people of the town and gets some good publicity for the Lions Club. Veterans get a much needed pat on the back. Having a visible Lions Club encourages more people to join and volunteer. It's a source of pride, and it just plain looks nice. Thanks to the Mayfield Lions for inviting Newswatch 16 to be part of their Veterans Day.

We had some major blog discussions at the office yesterday. I'll get to the good news right off the top. Someone new will be joining us in the blogosphere in the near future. Keep checking the blog section of

The powers that be keep a close eye on what generates hits at I've been tickled to know that this blog has been placing in the top 25 lately. Thanks. Keen observers will note that there's another way to reach the blog. You can get to it directly by typing in Bookmark the direct address, and you can use it to check out the blog if you're in a hurry. About five per cent of the blog visitors currently do that, but don't forget to visit for all the other stuff.

I spent part of my Tuesday morning helping Ryan Leckey put a "sitemeter" on his blog. The kid really didn't need my help. I was there for moral support. Ryan is inching up on video blogging, and I'm anxious to see it. I doubt I'll be following in his footsteps, but then again, I never expected to be a blogger, either.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Operation Touch of Home

It's rare to see a military truck backed up to the loading dock of a post office, but that's what we encountered yesterday morning in Brodheadsville, Monroe County. It was called "Operation Touch of Home."

It's a simple concept-- collect comfort items, ship them off to US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and do it in time for Christmas.

We heard it over and over again-- a pack of beef jerky, a container of baby wipes, a tube of lip balm, a deck of cards, a box of crackers... things we take for granted here mean so much to soldiers in a war zone, especially because they're away from home at the holidays.

We did the story last year, and we went back this year, wondering if things would be different. The economy is struggling. People suffer from something called "charity fatigue." There are so many organizations looking for help. It can get to you after a while.

Yes, things were different this year. There were actually more donations than last year. It shows what our area is all about. Even when times are tough, people are willing to help. Many of the volunteers offered to share their stories. Some of the people associated with Operation Touch of Home had or have loved ones in the middle east. That can't be easy.

As I left the post office, I told the volunteers "I hope I don't see you next year." They instantly knew what I meant. It would be nice to see things settled, and everyone home for the Christmas of '09.

Before I go, a word about Veterans Day. It's one of the toughest observances for those of us in the news business. Every city and town has a memorial program today, and that's great. It's part of being an American. We try to get to as many as we can. It's impossible to get to them all, and that leaves some hard feelings. Whether or not you get on TV, you're all equally important, and I'm sure the veterans appreciate your efforts. I know I do.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

I haven't done a movie review in a while, for a simple reason. It's been ages since I was in a theater. I think my last movie was "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" several months ago.

I ventured out Thursday afternoon to see "Zack and Miri Make a Porno." The title has offended some. Ads were changed to just "Zack and Miri." The woman at the box office was checking ID's to make sure no minors got in. Newsflash: I had no problem passing the age test.

As for the film itself, yes, it was raunchy, but it wasn't much worse than some of those teen "comedies." It was predictable and, at best, mildly amusing.

I'm a tough guy to please, so I take some of my cues from the people in the theater. They weren't laughing much, either.

The supporting cast got the majority of the yuks. Seth Rogen, taking a page out of Will Ferrell's book, seems to play the same character in every movie. He was adequate. Elizabeth Banks really shines. She's not just a pretty woman. She can act, and do comedy.

The movie was set in Monroeville, PA. Much of it was shot in and around Pittsburgh. I even spotted the Monroeville Mall, and a hotel I stayed in a few years ago. Yes, it doesn't take much to thrill me.

Roger Ebert gave "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" three stars. I usually trust Ebert's reviews, but I just didn't see it here. A star and a half for me. It seemed like a few little stories tacked together and some things just didn't make sense.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

President Elect

There are times when the smallest things drive me absolutely insane, and this is one of them.

Barack Obama is not president-elect !!!

According to the law, the designation can be made only after the electoral college meets to vote. That happens on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This year, it's December 15th.

The term "president elect" has been bastardized over the years to the point where the winner of the November general election is automatically referred to as the president-elect, even though such references are technically wrong.

The other part of presidential trivia I love occurs on inauguration day. The constitution calls for the term of the current president to expire at noon, January 20th. Inauguration ceremonies always run late, and the new president is usually sworn in a few minutes after noon. It means there is a short time when the nation has no president.

Okay, all of that is off my chest, but I still don't feel better.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Are You Kidding Me?

I spent the first 11 years of my career in radio, and the medium is still very important to me. I love radio, even though it really isn't what is used to be, and I saw something yesterday that made my blood boil.

"Radio & Records" magazine is considered one of the bibles of the industry. R&R is giving Larry King a career excellence award. Larry King-- the man who hasn't done a dedicated radio show since 1994. You can still hear King on the radio, but it's just a rebroadcast of his CNN program.

I wonder if Larry will show up for the ceremony. After all, he's been mailing in his performance for years. This is a guy who's proud that he never uses the internet and never does research. Let me tell you something. Any "journalist" who doesn't use all the tools available to him is a fool.

Is that the best R&R can do?

Maybe it is. Radio's biggest "star" was Howard Stern, but he bolted for satellite nearly three years ago. Paul Harvey was off the air for months due to health problems, and he's curtailed his duties. Syndicated shows by John Tesh and Ryan Seacrest are picking up new cities every day. It's not because these guys are enormous talents. It's just because radio station owners are trying to save a buck by eliminating local people.

Radio is losing, or has lost its giants. It's not developing new talent. If you have to honor man who hasn't done a radio show in 14 years, you're in major trouble.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday Scrapple

I thought I'd be suffering from post election withdrawal and depression. It really hasn't been that bad. My incoming e-mails have been reduced by about 75 per cent now that the election is history, and that's a good thing. I almost wore out the "delete" key on my computer keyboard.

Lousy weather yesterday, so I considered taking in a movie. I noticed the downtown Scranton/Steamtown Mall theaters are down to two shows on weekdays-- one in the late afternoon, the other in the early evening. That can't be a good sign. I didn't do the movie. Maybe today.

While driving around the other morning, I passed by a "Waffle House" and realized I'd never eaten in one. Am I missing something? I've never been in a Starbucks, either.

ABC News had the most election night viewers. It was ABC's first election night win since 1996. CNN was second, beating all the other cable networks, plus NBC and CBS.

Note to all the networks: whiz bang graphics aren't that important. Just give me the numbers in an easily readable form, and tell me what they mean. I thought a lot of the graphics Tuesday night were way too small.

Katie Couric suggested the "CBS Evening News" should be expanded to an hour every night. That's not a bad idea-- for all the networks. It'll never happen. Local stations don't want to give up that half hour of air time.

A web site called The Politico provided excellent coverage of the campaign, and it's extremely reliable.

I was okay with candidates going on Letterman and Leno. However, I thought appearing on "Saturday Night Live" and the shows on Comedy Central was inappropriate.

One local newspaper is suing another over allegedly stolen obituaries. As a close friend once said, obituaries and coupons are the only things keeping newspapers in business.

Christmas is coming. My mail box is filled with catalogs, and WNEP's annual snow thrower contest is underway.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post Election Analysis

We'll start at the top.

John McCain's concession speech shows he is a class act. Unfortunately, the Republicans nominated a good man, but a bad candidate, who ran a bad campaign. It was too negative. It was clear the American people wanted the country moved in a different direction. Barack Obama communicated that to the American people. John McCain didn't. In his heart of hearts, McCain has to regret choosing Sarah Palin as a running mate. While she energized the Republican base, she didn't expand it. The majority of voters surveyed believed Palin wasn't ready to lead the country, and you're in major trouble when that happens.

If Obama's administration is as good as his Wednesday morning speech, I think we'll be okay. Time will tell. It's clear the voters want change. It's now up to the new president to deliver.

The plurality in the popular vote isn't that great. On the other hand, Obama's electoral vote total is impressive. Here in Pennsylvania, Obama wins by 11 points. So much for the race tightening in recent days.

Chris Carney made things look easy in the 10th congressional district. His win is not a surprise. The very large margin is. The ad showing a "running man" and talking about Hackett's nine tax liens is the commercial of the campaign. Devastating.

It's abundantly clear Tim Holden is a US Congressman for as long as he wants to be.

As for Paul Kanjorski in the 11th, I hope he's learned the people of the district are more important than his nephews. Serving the people of the 11th is more important than forming alliances with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Sometimes, a major scare can make someone a better public servant, and I trust that's happened here. Lou Barletta had some hard hitting ads, and a few positive ones. The balance seemed off to me. I know a lot of people who said "tell me why I should vote for you." At times, it was tough getting an answer from the Barletta ads. Barletta also likely suffered from the Democratic tide that gave Obama big numbers in Pennsylvania.

Attorney General Tom Corbett cruises to another term. I suspect he's looking ahead to the race for governor in two years.

Jack Wagner had an easy time in his race for auditor general. He could be another in the running to replace Ed Rendell.

Jim Rhoades won his race for state senate, even though he passed away a couple weeks ago, after a car crash. There will be a special election to choose the new state senator. The Republicans have held that seat for a long time. I wonder if the parties will settle on candidates, or if there will be a free-for-all.

Frank Shimkus went down to defeat in the 113th legislative district last night. Even if he didn't do something "technically" illegal, what he did had a cloud over it. Requesting, and receiving, all those per diem expenses smelled bad to the voters, and now, Mr. Shimkus is out of a job. We are a forgiving people. We will accept a good explanation. You saw what he did when approached by a Newswatch 16 reporter and photographer, and that came after several requests for his side of the story. Shimkus eventually came up with the "memory problem due to concussions story." Too little, too late, and a lot of people had problems buying it. I should add Shimkus was booted off the primary ballot because a state judge ruled Shimkus deliberately tried to deceive the electorate when it came to where he lived. We will accept mistakes. You can see what happens when it goes beyond that.

As you can see, the people who run polling places in Chicago had no problem with photographing Barack Obama voting yesterday. As noted in Tuesday afternoon's blog, some county officials here in our area denied you that right. You paid for this election, and the voting machines, and many of the buildings tha housed polling places. Demand better. You deserve it.

The election is over. It's time to congratulate the winners, console the losers, and work toward making this a better state and a better country.

On second thought, there are no losers. Anyone who enters the arena should be congratulated for their their moxie. Politics can be a brutal business.

My participation in WNEP's "Vote '08" coverage ended early Tuesday afternoon. I watched a lot of the coverage Tuesday night. Cheerleading is not my strong point, but I was thrilled with the performances of my co-workers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Good, Bad, and Ugly

Voter turnout is high today, and that's good. It's better than good. It's great. It's always heartening when you see people going out of their way to participate in our democracy.

Many of those voters were greeted by long lines at the polling places. Some of that is due to the high voter turnout, but much of it is due to machine problems, a lack of trained staff, and downright incompetence. That's bad. We've received several complaints about polling place malfunctions, and workers not knowing how to remedy the situation. The end result is people not sure their votes have been counted. Once people lose confidence in the vote, the ball game is over. It also opens the door to post-election litigation. I have a very strong feeling that some races will not be decided tonight or tomorrow. The sad part is this all could have been avoided.

Now, the ugly. A growing number of counties in our area are banning cameras from polling places. There should be one set of rules, for the entire state. Those rules should be clearly posted well in advance of the election. Today, we encountered people making rules on the fly, and when questioned, the response is "Because I said so." That's no way to run an election, and you know what can happen when things are done out of the public view. You deserve better.

It's Here!


You've made it through all the rallys, the speeches, the commercials, the rhetoric, the name calling, the accusations, the denials, and yes, even the lies.

It's election day.



It's important.

I've seen WNEP and ABC's plan for election night. I think we'll do a good job. Tune in if you get the chance. If you can't, get a wrap up on Newswatch 16 beginning at 5 AM Wednesday.

Shifting gears, I had a good time at work yesterday, and it wasn't just because some staffers brought in left over Halloween candy.

I went to Freeland Elementary/Middle School, where the students collected personal care items and snacks for US troops serving in the middle east. The items will be shipped off this week, arriving in time for Christmas. The kids were proud of what they did, and they should be. It was an impressive array of stuff.

Have a good election day, and I'll see you at the polls. If I get the chance, I'll do an update on the blog this afternoon, with a little day after analysis tomorrow.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Eve

The general election is only one day away, and I have to admit, I'm excited. Election Day is like the Super Bowl in the TV news business. I'm really looking forward to it, even though my election day duties end at 12:30 PM tomorrow. Management has mercy on those who report to work at 3:00 AM. I'll get the night off while my co-workers are busy tallying votes and trailing candidates.

I'll miss the speculation, the discussions, the back and forth, the analysis, etc. Election season is more than casting a ballot. There's a lot that leads up to it.

I won't miss my home mail box being filled with junk. I won't miss my e-mail "in" box filled with even more junk. I think I've worn out the "delete" key. Some of the television commercials have been downright embarrassing. Wait! What's that aroma? It smells like desperation. There's been huge voter turnout in states that allow early voting, and that makes me feel good. All the negativity isn't keeping people away from the polls. Maybe it encouraged voting by getting people angry.

And through it all, there was one spectacularly refreshing moment of honesty over the weekend. We ran the story on Newswatch 16 Sunday Morning. Actress Scarlett Johansson was campaigning for the Democrats at a university in Cleveland. Some of the students, especially the males, said they didn't care about politics. They just wanted to see Scarlett.

You made my day.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan died Thursday. He taught a few public relations/advertising courses during my time at Marywood.

You may find this hard to believe, but I was once a wise-arse, know-it-all kid. Way back then, I thought Bill Donovan's ideas and methods were a bit archaic. I was wrong.

He was a huge proponent in direct mail advertising. Huge. Have you checked your mail box lately? A lot of businesses still believe in direct mail. Candidates for president and congress have kept the post office in business in recent months.

I occasionally recall some things I learned in Bill Donovan's classes, even after more than 25 years. That's the sign of a good teacher. He was a smart man, a wise man, and more importantly, a very nice man-- one who put up with know-it-all kids in his classes.

I minored in public relations and advertising, hoping learning how the other side worked would make me a better journalist. I think it helped, and Bill Donovan is one of the people responsible.

My sympathy to Bill Donovan's family, friends, and all those students he aided along the way.