Monday, November 30, 2009

Guest Photography Monday

After a lot of my bad photography, it's time for a couple nice shots.  They come from old friend Phil Yacuboski of WBAL TV in Baltimore.

Phil is a Luzerne County native.  He tells me the photos were taken in late October, in a place called the "Mocanaqua Loop."

The Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, a.k.a the Berwick Nuke, rises above the river fog in the first photo.  It's more river fog in the second.

A nice way to begin a week...  Thanks, Phil.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shifting Gears

Yes, TV stations even do bumper stickers.

I don't know when I acquired the WOLF sticker.  Clearly, it was before the station moved to channel 56.

WYOU had its bumper sticker campaign prior to my 1990 arrival.  I'm guessing the sticker campaign was mid to late 80's, just after a new company called "Diversified Communications" took over the operation.  On the back was a "Play it Safe" pledge.  In other words, you promised not to be an idiot behind the wheel.  There was also a contest entry blank.

There were two ways to win.  If your sticker was spotted, and your plate number read on the air, you had to call the station to claim a daily prize.  There was also a grand prize drawing with the mailed in entry blank.

If memory serves, WYOU bumper stickers were all over the place.  Viewers, on the other hand...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

I'll spare you my usual, annual anti Black Friday rant today.

Instead, a visual update on the Main Avenue, Taylor Walmart construction.

It seems like it took this one an eternity to get up and running.  Now, it appears to be moving along quickly.  The walls are just about complete.  The roof comes next.  We've been told the store could be open in the spring.

The site as a lot of retail history.  For many years, it was the site of a discount store called "Wayne." It was also called "Neway" for a while.  I'm not sure which came first.  Walmart used the building as a temporary home about 12 years ago, after the company grew tired of boulders rolling down a hill in Dickson City, and smashing into the back of the store.

View Larger Map

Dealing with Walmart is like dealing with a utility company.  You're just about forced to do business with them.  For me, the stores are close.  They're open all the time, and when you work odd hours, you find yourself walking through the doors quite a bit.

I've heard local horror stories about how Walmart treats its workers.  On the other hand, I do see a lot of Walmart employees wearing badges proclaiming they've been with the company for decades.  I honestly don't know.  I never worked there.

The company's growth has provided a lot of construction and retail jobs.  These days, any job is a good one.

Stores and roads will be crowded today.  Be patient and be careful.

While I'm not doing the rant, I will enlighten you in the form of a pet peeve.  Today is NOT the busiest shopping day of the year.  If you hear a news reporter or anchor say that, they are uninformed.   While today will be extremely busy, the biggest shopping day of the year is actually the last Saturday before Christmas.

There is one oasis in the sea of Black Friday madness-- the supermarket.  I usually make a stop Friday morning to stock up on things I need for work-- diet soda and pretzels.  The store was empty this morning.  I understand that's a 180 degree switch from Wednesday.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


You can read the economic reports.  It's a lot different when you see it in person.

There was a line of cars, several blocks long, Monday morning on Washington Street in East Stroudsburg.  People were arriving for the annual Salvation Army Thanksgiving food distribution.  Approximately 500 families signed up for help this year.  It's about a 20 per cent increase over last year.

We heard stories of job losses, illnesses, and other unexpected issues that led people to the Salvation Army for help.  Thank you for sharing a part of your life.  Your experiences may be the inspiration for others to seek help, people who don't know assistance is out there.  It might also help spur donations and volunteering.

As you know, the Salvation Army is one of my favorite organizations.  It all started as a kid, when my mom always make sure I had some change to toss into the red kettles before Christmas.  I still do what I can.

I will go back to what a friend and photographer taught me at the Salvation Army in East Stroudsburg nearly 20 years ago.  We walked out of a Christmas Eve dinner for the less fortunate.  I was depressed.  The photographer told me I should be happy that there are people here to help.  I should also be happy for the people in need, who were getting a chance to experience a little Christmas cheer.

The head of the East Stroudsburg effort told me Monday that helping the community is a "privilege."  He added no matter how tough times are, they always wind up with enough donations to make sure no one goes hungry.  That feat was referred to as "miraculous."

And as is inevitable any time we do a story on people in need receiving assistance, there is a backlash from those who claim there are people scamming the system.  You know what?  They're right.  There are always people out there looking for something for which they are not entitled.  There's a saying in the legal business:  "It is better to let a thousand guilty men go free than to convict an innocent man."  I'd prefer to let some scammers get away with it, rather than let someone legitimately in need go without.  Have a heart.

I'm a firm believer that no matter how awful things are, you can always find something, tiny as it may be, for which to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

OMG! They Did Something Right!

It's easy to pick on Scranton, Lackawanna County, and PennDOT, plus various designers, engineers, and architects.  Let's face it.  It's fun.

However, I'm a fair individual, and I have to  point out the good, as well as the bad.  Today, the good.

The new West Lackawanna Avenue bridge opens today, a project a year and a half in the making.  I stopped by to take a look and snap a few photos yesterday.  It's beautiful.  The top of the bridge replicates the look of the old.  It's an attractive, wide and bright entrance to the downtown from the west side.

View Larger Map

Above is a view of the old bridge from July 21, 2008.  The old arches were too far gone to be saved.  It's unfortunate, but understandable.

I didn't realize how much I used this bridge until it was closed.  It's good to have it back.

And today, the day before Thanksgiving, is said to be the bigest travel day of the year. Although it's been said many times, many ways, please be careful today-- and the rest of the long holiday weekend.

The above picture is Interstate 80, looking east from near the East Stroudsburg exit.

See you Saturday morning.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ego Trip and a Little Help, Please

Cars used by the Luzerne County Sheriff's Department got a spiffy new look this year.  Green and gold, one of my favorite color combinations.

The following point is moot, but indulge me.  I'm headed in that direction anyway.

The cars feature the name of the sheriff above the back door.  Why?  They're not his cars.  They're yours.  County owned property shouldn't be part of an elected official's ego trip and re-election campaign.

Sheriff Michael Savokinas resigned in September, less than half way through his four year term.  I told you today's blog is a moot point.

I hope someone in charge, whether it be in the commissioners' office, the sheriff's office, or some other county department, has the common sense to keep an eye on what's going on.  The personalized cars should never have been allowed to happen.

But then again, we could go in the other direction.  The county's in debt.  It needs money.  Badly.  We could sell the naming rights to the Sheriff's Department cars, much the way Mohegan Sun bought the naming rights to the arena.

I can hear it now on the nightly news... "Mr. Palumbo was taken to the Luzerne County Jail in the Mohegan Sun Prisoner Transport Vehicle..."

It could work.

On another topic, I came across this paragraph in a newspaper story on the arena naming rights deal.
But Naming Rights Committee Chairman Dave Palermo said one big difference between the old and new agreements is that Mohegan Sun will make annual cash payments to the authority, whereas Wachovia Bank made payments in lieu of fees.
Can someone please tell me what it means?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bad Photography Monday: JT

I've been a "professional" broadcaster since 1981, and in that time, I must have made dozens of visits to Jim Thorpe.

In that time, I've never had the time nor the opportunity to spend a few moments taking a good look at the Jim Thorpe memorial along Route 903.  That ended on a recent fall morning.

The weather was perfect, and the site offers a mini history lesson.  If you're in the neighborhood, you really should stop by.  A visit doesn't take long.

In spite of the beauty of the site, I can't help but wonder if Thorpe would be happier back home in Oklahoma.

His family filed suit to force the move.  Avoid the nasty fight.  Thank the family for having Thorpe here for nearly sixty years, and bid a fond farewell.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Times Change

WEJL is the radio station with the tower atop the Scranton Times building.  For much of its existence, it was a mere 500 watts, but with a monster signal, and it was a daytimer.  WEJL is now 2000 watts via day, but only 32 at night.

WEJL used to be a middle of the road radio station with a nice amount of local news and an ABC News Radio affiliation.  The station morphed into a "standards" format in the mid 80's.  I believe the top rainbow sticker was from the very early 80's.  A friend told me it could have been from the "Sunshine 63" branding era.

I don't remember exactly when, but WEJL went all-sports several years ago.  The ratings dropped.  Management didn't appear to care because advertisers were apparently more willing to buy commercials on a sports station, rather than one that catered to an older demographic.

As for the newer sticker, WEJL has given up its identity to ESPN, but if you're going to be a sports affiliate, it's best to be aligned with the so-called "worldwide leader."  I say that, even though FOX Sports Radio offers better programs in the morning and at night.

The station is rich in history.  It has roots going back to the early 20's, and some big names got their start here.  WEJL was one of the first with a daily talk show.  It was a mid day program called "Issue Line."

>>>UPDATE:   Former WEJL News Director Rich Mates e-mailed Saturday morning to say the rainbow sticker was part of the "someplace special" imaging of the early 80's.  Its use was discontinued when WEJL adopted the "Music of Your Life" standards format in 1984.  Thanks, Rich!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Changing Square

I was going through more of the photos of a departed advertising agency executive the other day, when the above photo caught my eye-- a snowy day on Wilkes-Barre's Public Square.  I'm not sure of the date, but judging by the other photos in the packet, I have reason to believe it was sometime in 1986.

The photographer is looking east.  The Martz building is at the upper left.  What would become the Alltel building is under construction in the center.  A parking lot is to the immediate right.  There's a parking garage there now.  The building with the peaked roof is City Hall.  East Market Street is that broad avenue nearly in the center of the photo.

Below is a later photo, from the same collection.

The Martz building is the darker colored big box.  The Alltel building is finished here, and it's the lighter colored box in the center, and the parking lot in the first photo has been replaced by a parking garage in the second.  You can make out part of the long disassembled canopy on the sidewalk, in front of the Martz building.

I visit downtown Wilkes-Barre on a fairly regular basis, and it's interesting to see how it's changed over the years.

I can't say I'm a fan of the newer architecture here.  The hotel, Martz, Alltel, Wilkes-Barre Center and the Bicentennial Building are just a bunch of nondescript boxes.  Luckily, there are still some old gems in the neighborhood.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Flawed Reasoning

The city of Scranton wants to double what it costs to park at meters in the city.

There are few things that are more anti-shopper and anti-business.

Part of the "logic" for the move is Scranton, with the higher rates, will be in line with other cities in the state.  What difference does that make?  Shouldn't Scranton be a trend setter, making it cheap, easy, and dare I say, pleasant, for people to come downtown and conduct business?

I do recognize the need to hold down property and business taxes.  The money to run the city has to come from somewhere.

Here's an idea.  Why not install meters along South River Street, Mattes Avenue, and Hickory Street, just below the General Dynamics plant?  A lot of people park there, all day, for free.  If you have more meters, you can charge less at each one.

I like coming downtown, and a few more quarters won't bankrupt me.  However, those suburban shopping centers, with their acres of free parking, look better every day.

An official vote re-count took place yesterday in Lackawanna County.  It's more important to get the numbers right rather than get them fast.  It seems Lackawanna County can do neither.  It's 2009.  There's no reason for this.  There are flaws in the system that aren't caught before the election, and flaws that seem to multiply afterward.  It seems like there are different, and serious issues with each election.  This has to change.

The official vote count yesterday did show some different numbers, but the November 3 winners and losers remained the same.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A City on a Hill

Mohegan Sun went before the Plains Township zoning board Monday night for issues related to the construction of a nine story hotel and conference center.  The township has now removed most of the hurdles standing in the way of the new hotel.

The hotel will have 300 rooms, and will be the largest in Luzerne County.  The conference center will be 25,000 square feet.

I'm sure the project will provide jobs, and jobs are good.

On the other hand, Mohegan Sun has become a city unto itself.  You will be able to eat, sleep, gamble and shop without leaving the property.

Oh, you might want to go to Sheetz across the street for a cheap eggamuffin and a tank of gas.  You might have to go to Walmart down the road to replace the shirt you lost at the casino.

Mohegan Sun is forced to pay a lot in taxes, and I'm okay with that.

The thing I fear is a lack of a major positive impact on the area around the casino.  Why build in the neighborhood when Mohegan Sun has everything a vacationer needs?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Operation Touch of Home

It's the third straight year I've done the story, and in fact, I lobbied heavily for the assignment yesterday.

It's called Operation Touch of Home, and I took the above photo yesterday morning as a truck was being unloaded at the Brodheadsville Post Office.

Volunteers in Monroe County collect personal care items and other objects of comfort for U.S. soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They have to ship early to make sure the packages arrive by Christmas.  Much of the collection was done over the weekend, as we showed you on Newswatch 16.  The packing was done Sunday night and early Monday morning.

While the locals receive the packages, we hear they share the items with others in the units, so what happens here touches hundreds, maybe thousands.  There are the "thank you" letters from overseas to prove it.

I don't remember where I saw it, but someone recently said what we see as necessities here are viewed as a luxuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It's tough to be away from home during the holidays.  It's even tougher when you're fighting a war.  I spoke with people who were there.  They really appreciate the "touch of home."

Operation Touch of Home is more than toothpaste, lip balm, baby wipes and cookies.  It shows there are people, a lot of them, who care.  The items being sent out don't cost much, but the value is priceless.  Apologies for sounding like a credit card commercial.

I was happy I could bring you their story.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Another year has passed, and today is the 5th anniversary of the blog here at

As is tradition, I'm going to torture you with the same story I drag out every year-- the genesis of the blog.  It's like Johnny Carson showing the Ed Ames tomahawk clip on every "Tonight" anniversary show, except this isn't as funny or interesting.

Our news director in 2004,  Dennis Fisher, was looking for ideas on adding more original content to the web site.  I saw some anchor written columns on tv station web sites in other cities, so I suggested a weekly column.  Dennis asked for a sample.  Before I had a chance to supply one, then-webmaster Mark Sowers noticed the blog thing taking off around the country.  One thing led to another, and here we are.

As I've said in the past, I think I get more out of this than you do.  It's a pleasant diversion-- an opportunity to do a little analysis, play with some bad photography and horrible graphics, and let you know what I'm all about (within reason).  I also have to get over my current fascination with the "anklepants" font.

Don't ask me why, but I've been thinking a lot about the craft of writing recently.  I can't believe my high school teachers and college professors would approve what they see here.  The sentences are choppy, short, and pedestrian.  Sentence fragments pop up on a regular basis, and I know that.  Too much first person.  Tenses switch.  I'm not stupid.  I should add that I was lucky to be taught by Stanley Evans at Mid Valley and Diane Lubniewski at Marywood.

The legendary David DeCosmo gave me some great advice a long, long time ago, when I was a young pup:  Keep it simple.  The best question is the direct one.  The best sentence is the shortest.  Make every word count.

The seeds were already there.  A high school history teacher once told me I was the only student who could express two thoughts in one short sentence.

The also legendary Kevin Jordan once told me he became a better reporter when he stopped trying to impress the other news directors and reporters in town.  The only ones who needed to be impressed were the viewers and listeners.

My blog is not a job audition.

Have I dropped enough names today?

I've been writing news, in one form or another, since my college days, in 1979.  This isn't Shakespeare.  I envy those who have a flowing and lyrical style, but that's not me.

I've seen college professors terrorize students into not making mistakes.  The kids were so afraid of errors in style and grammar that the writing was timid, bland, and boring.  Remember, this was in the typewriter days.  You'd do a couple drafts on your Smith Corona before handing in a project.  It's a lot easier now.  Computer word processing programs make revisions a snap.  I can accept something a little less than perfect as long as its entertaining.  Yes, there are some basics we all should follow, but let's not lose sight that we're here to inform and enlighten.  Write what you feel.  Then, go back and make sure all the rules are followed.

A lot of blogs have come and gone over the past five years.  Thanks for sticking with this one.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


This was one of my favorite radio stations, WSGD, Solid Gold 94.3.  The music was good.  The talent kept it moving along.  I even did a little fill in work on the news desk here in the early 90's.

94.3 is licensed to Carbondale, and the tower is on a mountain above that city.  It has a good signal in the valley.

The sticker shows something that's now rather common.  Hook up with an advertiser.  Get them to pay for part of the sticker cost.  On the back-- coupons and a contest entry blank.

I Googled "Mister Donut."  It's now an overseas operation.  There are no longer any stores here in the USA  The chain wasn't memorable.  Average donuts, at best.  There was a time when donut shops were changing names and brands left and right.  No one has been able to knock off Dunkin' Donuts as the king of the chains, although there are a few supermarkets and many "mom and pop" bakeries that produce a superior product.

WSGD, sadly, is no longer with us.  It was sold a few times.  It's now "Lite 94.3" and I don't know how long that will continue.  The station was recently sold-- again.  The new owner has yet to go public with a format.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Memory 2

One of the great joys of my professional career was being associated with WYOU's High School Game of the Week in the early and mid 90's.

CBS didn't have college football at the time.  We needed Saturday afternoon programming, and management wanted to show the station was on the right track.  WYOU did a Saturday afternoon high school game for, I'm guessing, about four years.  I had the pleasure of being sideline reporter for a lot of that time.

Of course, being a sideline reporter involved halftime and post-game player and coach interviews.  A big part of the job involved what we call "color."  In other words, have a little fun.

The above photo (Sorry for the bad screen cap print out.  I didn't do it.) was taken on October 14th of 1995.  It was at the Dunmore/Scranton Prep game.  I was prowling the sideline, looking for things that were interesting, when I spied a cheerleader on the bench.  There was an ice pack on her propped up ankle.  She hurt herself during a routine.    The people in the WYOU production truck, along with play-by-play announcer John Nugent, thought it was cute.  Cheerleaders can get hurt, too.  I went back to her a couple times during the game for injury updates.  She was a good kid and went along with the whole thing, even though I could tell she was a wee bit embarrassed.  Sorry.  I don't recall her name.  It was a long, long time ago.

I'm very happy with the direction time has taken me, and as I watch the WNEP staff do the Super 16 Sports Final every Friday night, I think of my stint on the sidelines.  I also wonder what happened to the cheerleader.  She has to be married with children by now, and I hope her ankle is holding up.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Memory 1

If everything goes as expected, I plan to bore you with two days of memories this week and a couple more in the weeks ahead.

The first is a major hoot, and it requires a bit of a set up.

One of our fine staffers, Stacey, is working on a project I can't tell you a lot about at this time.  She had the opportunity to go through the photo collection of a late advertising agency executive.

I was doing what I do best Saturday morning after our broadcast-- annoying other people.  I asked Stacey if I could see the photographs.  She replied that I could help by identifying some of the individuals.

I nearly fell off the chair when I opened one of the envelopes and glanced at one of the first photos.  The guy in the beige coat is me.  October 1992.  More hair.  Dark hair.  I was with WYOU at the time, and being a nice guy, I was holding a WBRE microphone, in addition to my own.  WBRE didn't have a photographer on duty at the time.  Little did I know that I'd start working for WBRE in 1996.

The WYOU photographer in the blue jacket is the legendary John Shema, who's been with me at WNEP for the past ten years.

Barbara Barr is holding the WNEP microphone.

We're talking with Bill Fieseler of Fieseler Signs.

Another one of my current co-workers, Lindsay, didn't make me feel any better when she said she was five years old when these photos were taken.

It was early on a Sunday morning.  Many downtown Wilkes-Barre streets were closed because a helicopter was lowering the new Mellon Bank sign into place, atop the building at South Franklin and West Market Streets.

Mellon had purchased United Penn Bank, and with the purchase came the sign change.

You never know what you're going to find when you open a box of old photographs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Arena and Justice

The arena in Wilkes-Barre Township received a new name today.

Wachovia Bank, soon to be Wells Fargo, decided not to extend the contract.  The name of the successful bidder becomes public.

Let's hope it's an organization that has the money-- one that won't pay for the naming rights on the backs of its workers.  I trust the new company hasn't cut employee benefits, forced them to take unpaid leave, hasn't trimmed its payroll.

On the other hand, advertising, in the form of naming rights, might be a good thing for any company.  It can increase the customer base, although I have yet to meet anyone who's opened a checking account because of a name on a building.

They celebrated the arena's tenth anniversary the other day.  I've covered a few job fairs here.  I've been outside as people waited in line for tickets.  I've been outside to watch circus animals in their tiny enclosures.  In that ten years, I've seen exactly one hockey game and one arena football game.  Most of the arena events are on weekends.  I work weekends.  I also don't like crowds.

The tenth anniversary of the arena brought back a lot of memories, mostly concerning the referendum on public funding for the project.  Arena Yes! lost, barely.  The whole thing was poorly handled.  You were made to feel anti-progress and un-American if you opposed public funding.  A lot of people were for the arena, but against taxpayers footing the bill.  There's nothing wrong with that.  If it was such a good investment, private concerns would line up for a piece of the pie.

If you want to beat the competition, understand the competition.  I never got the feeling the Arena Yes! people understood the mind set of those who opposed public funding, and it showed.  It was a tough sell.  They couldn't get their point across, and they squealed like stuck pigs if you dared to explore both sides of the issue.

That was then.  This is now.  After ten years, the arena is a success.  There's a long road ahead.  One tenant, the Pioneers, is gone.  Hockey still draws a crowd, but not as large as the early years.  The building will eventually need updating.  Perhaps, the biggest challenges are yet to come.

>>>UPDATE:  It's Mohegan Sun.  I'm okay with that.  The company has the money, and no one forces you to go to the slots parlor.

I cannot let the day pass without a few words on the two day Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice hearing in Plains Township.  The commission is looking into the "kids for cash" scandal in Luzerne County Court.

I was there for some of it.  I read about all of it.  The hearings were fascinating.

I am not alone when I say that I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Judges Conahan and Ciavarella were running a massive criminal enterprise, and NO ONE KNEW!  Thousands of kids were railroaded by Ciavarella.  Yes, many were bad kids and deserved to be sent away, but ALL deserved legal representation.  Ciavarella denied them that right.  EVEN THE ACCUSED HAVE RIGHTS IN THIS COUNTRY. 

A current judge and former district attorney said no one complained to him, and he saw nothing wrong, despite the fact that THOUSANDS of cases were tainted.  The FBI had to arrive to clue him in.

The current district attorney and former assistant district attorney during the crime spree said pretty much the same thing, and added "You tell me how to stop a judge from being a criminal."  Hey, you're the chief law enforcement officer in the county.  FIND A WAY!  If you can't, ask the feds for help.

The chief public defender said he should have known what was going on in Ciavarella's courtroom.  Gee?  Ya think?

It was two days of excuses, on top of excuses, on top of excuses.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

It seems a lot of people committed a crime almost as bad as those of Ciavarella and Conahan.  That crime?  They just didn't care.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ham and Egg on a Hard Roll

When I was employed down the street, I generally worked the day shift.  It would be a little different on election days.  I'd arrive very early to do live shots for the morning news, do a taped story for the noon news, go home, sleep a while, come back to work in the evening, and cover an election related story for the late news.

One of my favorite places to go live for the early morning news was the polling place at the Dupont Borough Hall in Luzerne County.  Why?  There was a little diner across the street.

This is the way the building looked on election day last week.  The diner's long gone.

The diner's claim to fame was proclaimed on a large sign out front:  "Ham and Egg on a Hard Roll, 99 cents."

I don't like hard rolls, but the sandwiches for take-out were wrapped in waxed paper by the cook.  The heat and moisture from the hot ham and egg would steam the hard roll to soft perfection.  You couldn't beat the price.  You couldn't beat the flavor.  They were filling.  Two of those sandwiches, and you were good to go for several hours.

I still enjoy elections as much as I ever did, but I really miss the diner and those sandwiches.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fan is Short for Fanatic

I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I can't hold a candle to the owner of this mini van.

It was spotted Tuesday morning in the parking lot of a shopping center in Pittston.  The license place has been erased to protect the identity of the owner.

It's an amazing van-- spotless, six Super Bowl trophies and logos on the outside, Terrible Towels on the back, and what you can't see in the photo-- Steelers seat covers.  I've never seen anything like it.

Pittsburgh plays the Broncos tonight in Denver.

Go Steelers!


Sunday, November 8, 2009


It began, on this night, thirty years ago, as "America Held Hostage:  The Iran Crisis."

Roone Arledge was running ABC News at the time.  Part of his plan to get ABC out of third place was to "own" major stories by doing special reports at 11:30 PM.

"America Held Hostage" morphed into coverage of other topics several months later.  The name of the broadcast was switched to "Nightline" and the rest is history.  "Nightline" wins its time period some nights.  It's a very respectible second the rest of the time.

According to his book, Ted Koppel hated the title "Nightline," but he couldn't come up with anything better, so "Nightline" it was-- and is.

Ted Koppel left "Nightline" a few years ago, and it was time.  The broadcast was on tape most nights, and I never cared for that.  It's since returned to its "live" roots, and much for the better.  It's a fresher broadcast, and it still manages to be relevant, even after thirty years.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Political Radio

It seems a fitting topic for the first weekend after the general election...

WILK had bumper stickers promoting its noon to 3 pm Rush Limbaugh Show.

I don't have the time frame for the above sticker, but we can get some clues from the WILK schedule printed on the back.  WILK had "The Big News" in the early morning, and Fred Williams in the late mornings.  G. Gordon Liddy followed Limbaugh, and Tom Leykis had the evening slot.

Also note, this was probably one of the first promotions featuring WILK's second frequency, WGBI AM 910, now WBZU, in Scranton.

Even if you don't agree with Limbaugh's politics, you have to respect his talent and his ability to draw a crowd.  WARD AM 1540 (and later AM 1550) was the first Limbaugh station in town.  I always thought my old station,  WARM,  should have jumped on the show while it was white hot, in the early 80's.  For some reason, it never happened, and I bet those managers regretted the decision for years.

Several stations around the country have dropped Limbaugh in recent years.  It wasn't due to ratings.  It was because of money.  Rush is expensive, and if you can't make all the money back via advertising, you have to move in another direction.  Those Rush-less stations might have lower ratings now, but their expenses have also dropped.

Limbaugh went national in 1988.  He broadcasts on 600 stations.  Limbaugh likely will go down in history as the most successful radio talk show host of all time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Grass and Santa

Lackawanna County Stadium looks like a baseball stadium again.

The new and improved turf, on top of a new and improved drainage system, started going down Monday.  I dropped by for a look Monday afternoon.  The infield was just about complete.

Rolls of sod are dumped in the outfield.  A tractor brings them to the appropriate location, and unrolls them.

The process is a lot like wall to wall carpeting.

Workers do the fine tuning, dragging the sod into the perfect location, and making sure the seams are tight.

And finally, the sod gets watered in.

This is you get for $ 1 million.

Opening day is April 8, 2010, when the Buffalo Bison come to town.  Maybe we'll get all 72 home games this year.

And finally, I couldn't let this pass without note.  Santa arrives today at the Capital City Mall in Harrisburg.  Today!  November 6!  That's insane.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I've had a rash of bad luck with my recent school stories.  The students I encountered couldn't form complete sentences, on or off camera.  Some were downright rude.

My luck changed Monday morning at the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County.  The kids seemed genuinely happy to be back after a teachers strike.  They like their school, and they want to learn.  I really enjoyed speaking with them.

As for the CTC itself, it's a major disappointment, and I'll tell you why.  The web site leaves a lot to be desired.  There is no information on continuing education.  I was interested in taking a photography and/or PhotoShop course.   I started checking the web site months ago.  You would think a Technology Center would have a really good, up to date, web site.  I found a brochure in the building Monday morning, but the courses I was interested in concluded weeks ago.  I hope the web site gets up to speed by the spring.

Our tax dollars help support the CTC.  We could and should do better.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I thought Luzerne County judge Peter Paul Olszewski would squeak by in his retention bid. He didn't. Voters bounced Olszewski. He told me Tuesday morning that he wasn't worried. It was a poor choice or words. Olszewski should have said something like "concerned." It would have sent a message to the voters that he knew they were unhappy, and their fears would be addressed. Olszewski spent time at disgraced judge Michael Conahan's Florida condominium, and that sent up the red flag with voters. When you have a criminal enterprise as large as the one allegedly run by Conahan and the other rogue judge, Mark Ciavarella, how could fellow judges not know what was going on? Olszewski paid the price.

Can someone explain to me how indicted bribe taker Jerry Bonner can get more than 18,000 votes in his unopposed bid to be re-elected as jury commissioner?

Voters sent a message to Scranton mayor Chris Doherty. He got 60 per cent of the vote, and wins a third term. The other 40 per cent went to write-in candidates. A write-in garnering 40 per cent is not to be taken lightly. It seems the voters want Doherty to pay more attention to the city rather than his potential gubernatorial campaign.

Richard Hughes would have made a good Luzerne County judge. The same goes for Frank Castellano in Lackawanna County, but Republicans in Democratic territory have quite a challenge. Amesbury, Gartley, and Moyle appear to be fine additions to the bench.

Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick paid the price for some unpopular decisions. He had to threaten high schoolers with felonies in a texting scandal. He had no choice. The law didn't call for anything else, a case where the law hasn't kept up with technology. Skumanick is out after 20 years. I've dealt with Skumanick both as a reporter and as a victim. I've always found him to be extremely professional.

Judicial elections, locally and across the state, used to be genteel affairs. Those days are long gone. They are now as nasty as any other race, complete with misleading ads.

The Pike County library tax referendum went down in flames. First, this is a tough time to ask for any new tax. Secondly, this whole thing was poorly handled. The library board couldn't effectively make their case, and some people on that board are very unpopular. Voters let them know. A strong community needs a strong library. Somebody has to figure out how to pay for it.

Voter turn out in a lot of places was light yesterday, and that's always disappointing.

New Jersey and Virginia are getting new Republican governors. The so-called experts are trying to paint that as troublesome for President Obama. While Obama did campaign for the Democrats, remember what Tip O'Neill said: "All politics is local." There's a lot you can say here. Obama's charisma isn't enough to get unpopular candidates over the hump. The Obama people have to be concerned, but NJ and VA are experiencing some unique problems that can't be translated to a national stage. On the other hand, NJ and VA are like the rest of us. Taxes are too high. Unemployment is too high, and the economy still isn't recovering fast enough. This was a little test. The big one comes one year from now, when mid-term elections traditionally go against the party in power.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day

This is one of my favorite days of the year-- election day.

It's like the Super Bowl of the TV news business.  Weeks of planning and research will be used tonight as the numbers come in.  There is always a surprise or two, an upset, something that you really didn't see coming.   You never know what will happen when it's in the hands of the voters, and that's the big thing that makes election night so much fun.

I'll be watching from a distance.  Management has mercy on those of us who pull the early morning shift.  We get the night off.  I should be catching up on my sleep, but I'll be in front of the television and the computer, constantly checking the numbers.

>>>SERMON ALERT<<<  There are predictions of a low voter turnout today.  Prove the experts wrong.  Get out and vote.  It might be an "off year" but every election is important.

THIS WEEK:  There are weeks it's a struggle to come up with material, and then, there are weeks like this one.  I hope to talk a little about the election results tomorrow, and get in some words on the new stadium grass and the Career Technology Center later in the week.  Another weekly bumper sticker is set to go on Saturday.  We'll be showcasing a little politics.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bad Photography Monday: The View

Before we get weighed down with the serious stuff of tomorrow's election, a little diversion in the form of Bad Photography Monday.

I had a little extra time off last week, so I grabbed the camera for a little leaf peeping, even though the peak was long past.

This shot was taken from Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe.  That's Beltzville Lake in the distance.  It was beginning to haze up a bit, and the sun angle wasn't the best, but I hope you get a half decent idea of what it's like up there.  The view is spectacular.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Told You So

Some people hate to say "I told you so."  I'm not one of those people.

A few couple weeks ago, I wrote that Halloween is for kids, and adults only muck up the process.

Here's an abridged summary of the Halloween night and early morning activities:  multiple suspicious fires in Lycoming County, a quadruple shooting after a party in Monroe County, a shooting during a burglary, a robbery outside one of the slots parlors, several drunk driving arrests, bar fights and various other assaults, plus a handful of under age drinking parties and vandalism.  It's like New Year's Eve, only without Dick Clark...or, a Friday night with Lindsay and Britney.

I see nothing wrong with having a good time.  Go nuts!  But, Halloween has really become an observance of excess.

What started as a fun night with just a wee bit of mischief has turned into a crime filled adventure.