Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday and Other Things

How about a church picture on an autumn Sunday?  I took this one last week.  It's First Presbyterian Church on State St. in Nicholson.  It was shot shortly after sunrise.

I have to note the retirement of WILK's Phil Cummings here.  I first met Phil when I was a radio pup at WARM, and he was splitting his time between WGBI radio and WDAU-TV.   I know it's an over-used phrase, but Phil really is a nice guy.  Phil, enjoy your retirement.  You are one of broadcasting's class acts.

Also, in case you haven't noticed, we're now doing an hour of live news, at 8 AM Saturdays and Sundays, on WNEP 2.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

It's a train-free weekend!

A State Police helicopter kept an eye on the area during Vice President Biden's visit earlier this month.  This is the helicopter, on the ground, at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Scrapple

After listening to David Arquette on Howard Stern's radio show, I have one question:  Why didn't Courtney Cox dump this loser years ago?

What's up with all those newspaper political polls?  Every one says something different, and they've become more annoying than useful.

I know it's not over yet, but I expected more out of the Texas Rangers.

60's and 70's in late October = great weather.

Conan O'Brien says he's taking his old NBC bits to his new TBS show, even if he has to go to court to do it.  Translation:  Conan can't think of anything new.

Charlie Sheen's sitcom makes a ton of money for CBS.  Therefore, he gets away with bad behavior.  A spokesman said Sheen had an allergic reaction to some medication.  I'll have to remember that one.

The NBC sitcom "Outsourced" has slipped a bit from its first two episodes, but it's still better than most.  UPDATE:  I watched Thursday night's episode on Friday morning.  It was very good.

James MacArthur has passed away, one of television's greatest second bananas.  "Book him, Danno."

James Wall died Wednesday.  He was a stage manager for CBS News and Sports for decades.  You might remember Wall as Captain Kangaroo's neighbor, Mr. Baxter, one of the first, if not THE first African American characters on kids' TV.  Wall was 92.  In case you haven't guessed by now, I was a big Captain Kangaroo fan.

Scott is making toilet paper without the cardboard tube.  Isn't science amazing?

People went nuts when President Obama appeared on "The View."  I didn't hear any complaints about Obama's visit to "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central.

I wish Brett Favre quickly retires, and those NFL games in London (there's one this weekend) are a waste of time.

When did the Travel Channel become the Eating Channel?

I still can't resist walking through a big pile of leaves.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

So Long, St. Rose

St. Rose Academy in Mayfield closes for good tomorrow.

First, a little history.  St. Rose Academy opened five years ago after the Catholic Diocese of Scranton closed Sacred Heart Junior-Senior High School in Carbondale.  A group of parents and people in the community thought they had a better idea, and I admired their pluck.  St. Rose Academy was a Catholic school, but it ran without any help from the diocese.  I was there on the first day of school, and the enthusiasm and optimism were amazing.

St. Rose Academy purchased the old vo-tech school in Mayfield.  The business plan called for rent from other tenants, plus tuition to cover the mortgage payments.  Unfortunately, enrollment never cracked 80.  There were a few financial set backs.  The bad economy dried up contributions.  Bills weren't paid.  Employees went without money.  The school lost control of the building at a sheriff's sale in the summer.

Enrollment dwindled to 30.  Administration pulled the plug last week.

My sources tell me that there are still some hard feelings up there because we were the first to report the school's financial problems.  Other than national security and the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken, there are no secrets.  St. Rose's unsteady financial footing was going to get out eventually, and it would have been unfair to enroll students when you knew the future was in doubt.  Facts are facts.  You can't, and shouldn't hide the truth.  The people in charge could have done a better job of making its case to the public and potential students. 

I will say that any time I encountered a St. Rose student, they were always polite and well spoken.  They did a great job of representing the school.  Everyone involved with the school, past and present, should feel good that they at least tried to offer an alternative when Sacred Heart closed.

I learned a long time ago that you do your best and let the angels take care of the rest.

So long, St. Rose.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World Series 2010

The 2010 World Series starts tonight.  The Texas Rangers are in San Francisco to play the Giants.

It's nice to see some new faces this year.  Translation:  no Yankees, and I don't have to hear the insufferable John Sterling until April.

I'm leaning toward rooting for the Rangers because this is their first World Series.  However, my attitude toward the Giants has softened now that Barry Bonds is out of the picture.

I've read where a Giants/Rangers World Series will be a television ratings disaster.  Neither of the teams has a big national following.  FOX will make money regardless, as long as the series goes more than four games.

All I really want is a competititve and close series.  I don't think there's anything in sports more exciting than the seventh game of a World Series.

By the way, if the series does go seven games, the final contest will be Thursday, November 4, and that's far too late.  Major League Baseball has to find a way to shorten the season.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Radio Watch

I've done a fair amount of complaining, in this space, about what I don't like about radio.  In the interest of fairness, here's a short list of what's good out there.

Scott Shannon:  His True Oldies Channel format is heard in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area on WARM 590.  The music is good.  Here's what makes it exceptional.  Shannon tells a couple stories each hour-- people in the news, unusual events and the like.  He can say everything necessary in less than a minute.  You don't feel short changed on the story or the music.  Every DJ should study Scott Shannon.

Jay Thomas:  He has a show on Sirius/XM.  He talks a little more than Shannon, but he makes every word count, and he's funny.

Rush Limbaugh:  Whether or not you agree with his politics, you can't argue with the fact that he's an extremely skilled broadcaster.

Howard Stern:  Whether or not you can tolerate some of his subject material, Stern is probably the best interviewer on radio.

Tony Kornheiser:  The former Washington Post reporter is on an all-sports station in Washington, DC, but he spends a considerable amount of time on non-sports issues.  Always entertaining.  Catch it 10 AM to noon, plus podcasts at

Casey Kasem:  You can catch his old American Top 40 shows on satellite and terrestrial radio.  Casey can occasionally get a little talky, but he and his staff always produced an engaging show.

Frankie Warren on Magic 93, and Gary Chrisman on Kiss 102.7:  two guys who know how to produce entertaining morning radio, and who are big parts of their communities.

Steve Czaban, Tony Bruno, Ben Maller, and JT the Brick:  They make sports talk fun.

CBS Radio News:  the gold standard of top-of-the-hour news broadcasts.

Jon Miller has been doing the baseball playoffs for ESPN Radio.  He's on the short list of the best in the business.

I really miss Paul Harvey.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Does It Really Work?

Mindi and I got into an off-air discussion of energy drinks, while I was filling in for Tom, one week ago.  Mindi asked for permission to go public, via Facebook, with my little secret:  I use 5 Hour Energy.  I neither Twitter nor Facebook, so here's the rest of the story.

I'm not here to do a commercial for the stuff, but it does live up to the hype.  It gives you a little boost.  No jitters.  No crash afterward.

I will say that different people have different reactions fo 5 Hour Energy.  It works for me.  For many, it's just too much.  I've read where you develop a tolerance to caffeine over time.  The more you ingest, the more it takes to give you a bump.  If you cut me, and many have, I bleed Diet Pepsi.  I've never been a coffee drinker.

I've been on the stuff for quite a while.  I fear the lift is now psychological more than anything else.

I use 5 Hour Energy only when I'm working overnights and early mornings-- and not every time.  Home use is extremely rare.

Price is an issue.  I've found you can get it a little cheaper on-line and in Walmart/Sam's Club.

Flavor is another issue.  I've tried them all, and they're all horrible.  However, it's only two ounces.  The small amount passes your taste buds quickly enough.  It's the same theory as downing a shot of the cheapest whiskey on the shelf.  It's over fast.

Mini marts are filled with 5 Hour Energy and its clones.  The coolers have dozens of cans of Red Bull, Rock Star and Monster.  It troubles me when I'm standing in line at the store in the morning, and I see high school kids buying giant coffees and cold cans of caffeine loaded fizzy water.

When did America become so tired?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday

This morning, it's a head-on shot of an Amtrak GE passenger engine.  I took this early Labor Day morning, during the train's stop at Steamtown's RailFest 2010.                                                                                 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

I was on my way out of Steamtown several weeks ago, when this caught my eye.

One of the saddest times in American rail history came when most railroads did away with the caboose, the office and sleeping quarters on wheels.

Back in the day when getting stuck at a rail crossing was a frequent occurrence, you'd always see the caboose bringing up the rear.  I never had the chance to travel in one.  It always looked like so much fun.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Flu Shot

I don't like crowds, high places, and snakes.

Luckily, needles don't bother me, and I received my favorite shot of the year last week-- my annual flu shot.

I called my doctor about a month ago, inquiring about this year's shot.  They took my number, and said they'd call when the shots would be given out.  I thought they'd forgotten about me, and I was ready to go to one of the drug store chains for the shot.  Last Wednesday afternoon, my call came, and I was in the doctor's office less than an hour later.  Boom! Done!  I was out in less than five minutes.

It doesn't hurt, and even if the shot was painful, it's still better than the flu.

For the life of me, I can't understand why some people are anti-flu shot.  They're easily available and inexpensive.  Insurance usually picks up the tab.  Even if it didn't, shelling out $20 or $30 is preferable to spending three days in the bathroom.

Do yourself a favor, and do your family a favor.  Get the shot.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Adventures in Retail Returns

Gap recenly announced plans to transition to a new logo.  The new one is on the left.  The old one is on the right.

People complained.  Loudly.  The company caved.  The old logo stays.

I minored in public relations in college, and I took some advertising courses.  I've been in commercial broadcasting for thirty years.  I know the importance of look and image.

Having said all that, what's the big deal?  The new logo isn't that bad.  It's a little cleaner and fresher than the old. 

To those who didn't like the new logo:  Is this the most important thing you have to complain about?

The stores are the same-- still all those overpriced jeans, khakis, polos, sweaters and jackets.

America has spoken.

Moving on...

McDonalds has announced its McRib sandwich is returning, for a limited time only, early next month.  Gristle lovers around the country are rejoicing.  I've read where people will travel hundreds of miles to get one, and I just don't understand it.  I'll eat one, if given the chance, but I won't go out of my way for it.  They're not horrible, but the alleged "meat" is overwhelmed by a ton of barbecue sauce.

There are a couple things you should know about me.  I'm a freak about punctuality.  I fill out those "customer comment cards" in stores and I take the internet surveys that are often listed on cash register receipts.

If the sign on your door says you open at 8 am, you'd better ready to go at 8 am.  A local drug store has this nasty habit of using 8 am as an approximation, a rough guide.  The pharmacy counter opens at 8:05.  Then, they have to count the money in the cash drawer and fire up the computers.  Then, they have to get the manager because something isn't working right and the money in the drawer doesn't add up.  By now, it's 8:15, and I have better things to do with my time than wait around the drug store to pick up a prescription.

I found the customer comment cards and mailed one to the home office.  I lit them up, and it wasn't easy because the people in the store are all very nice.  They just don't realize the value of a customer's time.  Someone from the home office called me Tuesday afternoon, offering an apology and a promise to do better the next time.

Unfortunately, I'm stuck with them.  I can't find a drug store near me that opens before 8.  A new one opened a few weeks ago.  It's a chain that features several 24 hour stores, and I was ready to transfer my business there.  Just my luck.  It's one of their few stores that isn't open early in the morning.  By the way, I complained about that, too.

And, for the record, I say nice things more often than listing complaints.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Viewer Mail

Two pieces of viewer mail caught my eye last week.

The first was from a frequent, and I'm sure well meaning, contributor.  It always goes the same way.  He complains we neglect Wilkes-Barre stories and go excessively heavy on Scranton stories.  I usually let others reply, but because most of the stories in question happened on the weekend, I gave it a try.

I listed all the Wilkes-Barre stories that had been covered during the week, and especially on weekends-- my watch.  The reply from the viewer was "I didn't catch much news this weekend because I was busy."

We all benefit from constructive criticism, and we take our responsibility to cover all counties seriously.  However, if you're going to take a shot, at least do it fairly.  Watch.  Then, criticize if you feel the need.  It's okay.  How can you blast a television broadcast if you haven't seen it?

The other letter came from someone who thought I took a cheap shot, in my blog,  at a local police department-- the one that had an assault rifle stolen from an officer's car.  I pointed out that an incident like that can tag a department with a Keystone Kops reputation, whether or not it's deserved.    I did not, and will not, refer to any police department as the Keystone Kops.  The reader didn't catch the essence of the piece.  Again, that's okay.  Perhaps I should have been more clear.

Thanks for being there.  Keep watching.  Keep reading.  Keep writing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Swear It Was Him

After having leftover Chinese for lunch, and then walking the dog, I still had a little time to kill before my 3:00 PM bed time.  A stroll around the Viewmont Mall seemed like a good way to get out for a while, even though there was nothing I needed.

I was in Penney's, when I dapper gentleman caught my eye.  White hair, navy blazer, grey slacks, pastel tie.  He was up there in years, but still moving around rather well.

I saw him again out in the mall.

I swear it was Orson Bean. 

You have to understand something.  I grew up on 60's and 70's TV game shows.  Orson Bean is a god.   Witty.  Funny without being silly.  Smart.  Clever.

Even though he's a serious actor and an author, most people remember him as being a regular on perhaps the greatest game show ever, To Tell the Truth.  Bean hit most of the Goodson/Todman produced shows, including Match Game, Tattletales, Password and Body Language.  He was also a frequent guest on Pyramid and Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.  The man can tell a story, the perfect guy to have around.

Let me tell you something else.  Orson Bean was the host when they shot the pilot for a Concentration revival in 1985.  The video is on You Tube.  While Orson Bean was a great game player, he wasn't a very good host.  NBC picked up Concentration in 1987, and the host job went to Alex Trebek-- a guy who's great on Jeopardy, but who was a bit of a stiff during his four years as host of Concentration.

So, what have we learned here?  Being a panelist on a game show is different than hosting, and each can be difficult and challenging in its own way.  Also, how many times do you see someone who you think is Orson Bean walking through a shopping mall in Dickson City.  I should have approached him and asked, and I'm kicking myself for not doing it.

If it wasn't Orson Bean, there's someone walking around in the area who can be his twin.  To Tell the Truth.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Not the Same

There's a nifty, relatively new terminal at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport, and that's fantastic.  It's a good looking and extremely functional building, although I don't see it as the answer to all the region's problems, like the Chamber of Commerce types claim it is.

I walked through the new building, again, last week, and something's missing.
Above is the old airport building, and any time I see it, all I can think of is a lot of Sunday afternoons with my mom and dad when I was young-- watching the planes from the observation deck, all the take offs and landings, airlines with names lile Altair and Allegheny and Eastern.  Then, a burger or a piece of pie down in the restaurant-- another place with a great view of the runway, and all those planes.  The old building had its charm, and, for a kid, it was a great place to spend time.  There was a sense of adventure.  People going places.  I loved the airport, and it's a little surprising I didn't go in to aviation in some form.

The new terminal has a restaurant, but awful views of the runway and no observation deck.

It's not the same, and I miss it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday

This is the Fort Jenkins Bridge over the Susquehanna.  I'm standing on the Pittston side, looking west toward West Pittston.

The weather was strange when I took this photograph.  As you can see, it's cloudy to the west, but clear at my back-- the east.  It's why the bridge is in bright sunshine while the sky above is overcast.

Unlike the Water Street bridge, I couldn't find a lot of information on this bridge.  The paragraph below comes from a west site dedicated to the history of West Pittston.

Jenkins Fort, one of a series of forts built to protect the settlers of the valley, sat at the top of the river bank near the present day Fort Jenkins Bridge. It was primarily occupied by Judge John Jenkins, Captain Stephen Harding and their families. The tragic story of brothers Benjamin and Stuckley Harding who were savagely killed by Indians just days before the Battle of Wyoming holds a special interest to West Pittston residents. The Hardings left Jenkins Fort traveling up-river to tend to their farming chores, were ambushed by their attackers and overpowered. The bodies of Hardings were later brought back to Jenkins Fort and buried in Jenkins graveyard near the fort. The graveyard still exists today as the Jenkins Harding Cemetery located on Wyoming Avenue at Linden Street. Jenkins Fort was eventually captured by Colonel John Butler's invading forces on July 1, 1778 and later burned to the ground ending the brief history of Jenkins Fort.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

Pittston is blessed with a couple very interesting, and very different bridges crossing the Susquehanna River.

Most people call this one, built in 1914, as the Water Street Bridge.  The official name is the Firefighters' Memorial Bridge.  It was named to honor a couple volunteers who died fighting a fire in downtown Pittston in the early 90's.

The bridge is more than 1,000 feet long, and this is the view, east to west.

A look at the other bridge tomorrow.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Prepare for the Worst

As you saw in yesterday's blog, I spent part of my Wednesday afternoon in Monroe County.

The trip home turned out to be quite the adventure, and needlessly so.

Interstate 80 Westbound, near Stroudsburg, is being re-paved.  Traffic crawled Wednesday afternoon.  Because of that, and my desire to make a couple retail stops on the way home, I took Route 611 north.  Big mistake.  Traffic on 611 moved slower than the cars and trucks on 80.

I traveled 611 from Stroudsburg to Tannersville, before I became frustrated enough to make a right and hit the back roads to Mount Pocono.  Here's what made the trip even worse.  In all that time on 611, easily more than one hour, I never saw one State Police officer, one local police officer, or anyone from PennDOT attempting to keep traffic moving.  There was a major back up in Bartonsville, where 611, 80, and 33 meet.  Cars and trucks were all over the place, with many drivers disregarding traffic lights.  PennDOT had to know what was going on.  There are cameras all over that intersection.  We're lucky no one was killed.  The paving on 80 is no surprise.  Wouldn't it have made sense for someone to keep an eye on 611 because of the increased traffic load, possibly re-timing the lights, possibly keeping a check on traffic-- in person?  611 is tough to navigate on a normal day.  Add all the cars and trucks trying to avoid 80, and you have major issues.

America lives and dies on its transportation system.  I shudder to think at what would happen if there was a real emergency in this area, one that involved moving a lot of people in a short amount of time.  Accept the fact now.  It's not going to happen.  If police and PennDOT can't and won't compensate for planned traffic problems, we'll never be able to handle the unexpected.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy Ending

It's another chapter in the seemingly never ending saga of East Stroudsburg's Dansbury Depot.  It looks like we're finally heading for a happy ending.

The Civil War era train station was heavily damaged in an October 2009 fire.  The owner wanted to tear it down.  People objected.

Part of the station was demolished to make way for a new building.  The remaining section will be saved and moved to a near by site.
Steel beams now support the structure, enabling the move.  Tomorrow should be the day.  The new site is below-- near the signal tower.

It looks like everybody wins.  The developer gets to construct a new building, and East Stroudsburg saves part of its history.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I'd been on an unfortunate streak during the last few election cycles.  Most, but not all, of the big name visits occurred either after my shift or on my days off.  Monday was one of the good days.
Vice President Joe Biden popped into Scranton to campaign for the reelection of Congressman Chris Carney, locked in a fight with Republican Tom Marino.  Above is Air Force Two at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport, an impressive and inspiring sight.

As always, security was tight.  The jet was parked in the cargo area, far away from the public, and far away from the media.
We were kept back.  Way back.  Air Force Two was parked so the doors faced away from the road.  Again, security.  I know it's a must, but it really is a shame that the public can't get a look at the people chosen to lead their government.  Campaigns used to be a lot more fun when you had access.

From the airport, it was off to downtown Scranton, and a fund raising breakfast, invitation only, no public, at a hotel.  That assignment wasn't on my list.

Instead, a photographer and I headed to North Washington Avenue in Green Ridge.  We learned there would be a good chance the VP would head to his boyhood home, near Marywood University.  We were right.  Thanks goes to a savvy and veteran WNEP photographer, who was smart enough to put two and two together.  As a result, we were the only TV station on North Washington Avenue.

Biden arrived on North Washington Avenue a little after 11 AM.  He went inside his old house for a while, then came outside to say hello to the neighbors and people who were lucky enough to be passing by at the time.  The VP wandered about for a few minutes, talking with the crowd and posing for pictures.  He lingered long enough for me to ask a few questions.  I wish I had time for more, but an aide cut off the interview, and sent Biden back to his limousine.

From Scranton, it was on to Dickson City, and a meeting with Carney reelection workers.  This part of the trip was a logistical challenge for us.  We had two microwave trucks set up in Dickson City.  One had a camera wired to the inside of the building.  The other had a camera outside the building, and that would be the one I'd use for my live report at noon.  All I had to do was get to Dickson City.  It sounds easy.  It wasn't.

If you've ever been around a high level visit, you'd know that streets and highways around the VIP are shut down.  If you're not part of the entourage, you don't move.  Above is Biden's limousine parked in Dickson City.

I know my way around the mid valley.  I had a good feeling Biden would drive in from the Scranton side of Main Avenue.  I had the photographer drive from North Washington Avenue, to Fairfield Street, to Olyphant Avenue, to Pancoast Street, to Boulevard Avenue, to Bowman Street,  then to Main Street in Dickson City.  Simply put, we came in from the other side, avoided traffic, secured a great parking spot, and I got to our live location with about 20 minutes to spare.  We fed back some video and part of our interview.  I got wired up and made the live hit at noon.   Thankfully, I had a lot of help-- in the field and back at the office.  A little luck didn't hurt.

It's just under three weeks to the general election, and I have a feeling there might be another big shot or two coming to the area.  If not, 2012 is right around the corner.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Election Night 2010

Here is what ABC News has planned for election night, November 2.  WNEP and WNEP2 are planning some interesting things on the local level, and they will be announced in the very near future.

It should be an fascinating night.

Election day is three weeks from today!

By the way, I took a ton of photos at yesterday's VP Joe Biden appearances, I hope to post a few, possibly as soon as tomorrow, along with a little "behind the scenes" stuff.


Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos to Anchor Midterm Election Night Coverage

ABC News' Election Night Coverage Available to Viewers Where They Are --

Coverage to Be Live-Streamed on Facebook®, and ABC News' iPad App

ABC News announced plans for its "Vote 2010" coverage of the midterm elections. ABC's team of anchors and correspondents will provide voters with an all-access pass to the key House, Senate and Gubernatorial races with reporting across multiple broadcasts and platforms.

On Election Night, November 2, ABC's "Vote 2010" will be anchored by "World News" Anchor Diane Sawyer and Chief Political Correspondent and "Good Morning America" Co-anchor George Stephanopoulos from ABC News headquarters in New York. The network will carry special reports at the top and bottom of each hour from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., followed by live 90-minute specials at 9:30 p.m., ET / 9:30 p.m., PT.

ABC News kicks off its Election Night reporting with a special pre-game program that will be live-steamed on, Facebook(r), and on the ABC News iPad application from 8:00-9:30 p.m., ET. Coverage will anchored from ABC News headquarters in New York and will include reporting from Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto. Beginning at 9:30 p.m., Facebook and will live-stream the network's election coverage anchored by Sawyer and Stephanopoulos.

In addition to live-streaming ABC's Election Night coverage, ABC News and Facebook are joining forces on a number of initiatives throughout the election season. Facebook will reach out to users in key congressional districts to explore the issues that are driving campaigns, giving ABC News a unique perspective into these races. People on Facebook will have an opportunity to interact with ABC News broadcasts, offering questions, comments and opinions. In addition, they will be able to contribute questions to a series of local debates. ABC News and Facebook first partnered to cover the 2008 Presidential election and most recently for a special "This Week" town hall meeting on Islam.

ABC News' team of anchors and correspondents are providing comprehensive coverage of the key races and issues leading up to Election Night for all broadcasts and platforms:

* Christiane Amanpour and "This Week" will feature exclusive interviews and air special roundtables, analyzing the latest political news, with updates on all the key races.

* Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl will report on the pivotal House and Senate races in the battle for control of Congress.

* Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper will cover the White House's involvement in Democratic campaigns across the country.

* Sharyn Alfonsi, John Berman and Ron Claiborne will cover the local issues that matter most to voters this election cycle.

* Providing analysis and historical context will be ABC News contributors George Will, Cokie Roberts, Donna Brazile and Matthew Dowd. They will be joined by Ron Brownstein, Editorial Director for the National Journal Group, and conservative commentator Dana Loesch.

"Good Morning America" co-anchors George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts will provide the latest reporting each morning on the key races during election season. Stephanopoulos and Matthew Dowd continue to report on America's 'Frustration Index' leading up to the election, a measure of public political and economic discontent in this country. Jonathan Karl continues analysis on "GMA's" Smartscreen, an innovative touch-screen technology used to demonstrate where the competitive races stand.

Beginning Monday, October 25, a daily 15-minute live webcast will stream on the homepage and "GMA" page, from 6:45 to 7:00 a.m., counting down to the beginning of "Good Morning America." This special web programming will offer a jump start on the top political stories of the day, as well as a quick tease of what is to come on the broadcast during the lead-up to Election Day. has complete coverage from the ABC News Political Unit. ABC's interactive election map provides detailed information about all races for Senate, Congress and Governor. Users can click on each state to drill down into the candidates and issues. ABC News' race ratings highlight the most competitive campaigns, providing the best odds at where things will stand after the elections.

"The Note," the popular political tip-sheet started in 2000, was re-launched on Monday, September 20th with ABC's new Deputy Political Director and political reporter Michael Falcone as its author. "The Note" is a one-stop shop for Washington insiders, reporters and political junkies, beginning with the morning tip-sheet and continuing throughout the day with the latest political news and analysis on "The Note" blog on ABC

This election season, ABC News and Yahoo! News are partnering to present a series of ABC News/Yahoo! News polls -- the results of which will be posted on and Yahoo! News' online midterm elections hub, Ask America. The first poll, released in September, focused on the economy. ABC News will also be conducting substantive pre-election polling on election issues and preferences with The Washington Post. ABC News polling is produced and analyzed for ABC News by Gary Langer and Langer Research Associates.

ABC News/Washington Post "Top Line," hosted by National Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl, Political Director Amy Walter and World News Senior Political Editor Rick Klein, is the place for a daily dose of news-making interviews with the key candidates as well as insightful analysis about the decisive races in the fight for control of Congress. "Top Line" is streamed live everyday at 12:00 noon on and ABC News NOW. It is also available on all ABC News iPhone and iPad applications.

ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper sets the table for the week ahead in politics with an honest and witty discussion on the stories making news in Washington on his weekly webcast, "Political Punch," also the name of his popular blog. The webcast, which launched today, features newsmaker interviews and recurring segments such as DC Ticker -- a buy or sell market-style segment analyzing who is up and who is down in Washington.

ABC News Radio will be covering the key races leading up to the midterms with reporting from ABC News Radio correspondents Aaron Katersky, Vic Ratner, Steven Portnoy, Alex Stone and Matt Gutman. ABC News Radio White House Correspondent Ann Compton will also report on the races.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bad Photography Columbus Day

On past Columbus Days, I've shown you statues and memorials in Scranton and Pittston.  This year, it's Carbondale's turn.  Above is a tight shot of the memorial in the park across from city hall.  Below, a wider view, showing part of the park and St. Rose of Lima Church on a fall afternoon.  Hope your three day weekend was a good one.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday

The rain finally stopped Thursday, and the photography bug was biting.  This is St. Rose of Lima Church in downtown Carbondale.  A sign out front says the church dates back to 1832.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

There will likely come a day when this building will get a photo essay of its own, and probably even a monthly blog header.  It's Carbondale's City Hall.  There are wires all over the place.  It's too bad a recent downtown improvement project didn't involve burying utilities.  Yes, I realize that's awfully expensive.  Because of all those utility lines, I concentrated on the clock tower.  Take a good look at the brick work.  It's really well done.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Scrapple

Fatigue got the better of me, and I slept through Roy Halladay's NLDS no hitter.  I can't say I'm a Phillies fan, but it was nice to see nonetheless.

I was listening to a radio DJ the other day, soliciting phone calls on phobias.  Translation:  he had nothing to say.  Solution:  play a song and stop wasting my time with needless chatter.  It was a moot point.  My finger hit the "scan" button anyway.

There's a radio talk show host who turns up from time to time who always asks for calls on pet peeves.  Once again, the red flag goes up that this person has nothing to talk about.  There was another radio talk show host, several years ago, who started picking on teachers any time he had problems generating phone calls.

I'm really enjoying my new old cell phone.

Vice President Joe Biden is coming to town Monday.  I'd like to ask him about those reports that he and Hillary Clinton will switch jobs in 2012.

The Steelers have the weekend off.  I'm pleasantly surprised to see the Roethlisberger suspension end with the Steelers having a 3-1 record.  I would have bet 0-4 or 1-3.

I love to sleep, so I enjoy rainy days more than anyone I know.  Still, all the rain the last two weeks was too much for even me to take.

Former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez has apologized for his "inartful" comments last week.  Inartful?  What the heck is that?  How is that taking responsibility?  The apology is almost as bad as the original utterance.

What is it with the retail industry?  They all have opening and closing times listed on the door.  I've found the opening time is only a rough guide in most places.  There are a couple drug stores in the Scranton area where opening on time is a severe challenge.  How hard is it to tell your employees to show up on time?

It's Columbus Day weekend-- a three day weekend for a lot of people.  The leaves are at or near their peak.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dumbing Down

I had a "smart phone" for a little more than a year, and I hated it.  The keys were too small.  It was too hard to use.  The screen was big enough to be cumbersome, but too small to be really useful.  It always needed to be recharged.  You always had to remember to "lock" your keyboard to prevent accidental dialing.  It was extremely annoying.  It was too bulky.  I never Twitter and texts are extremely rare.  It was much more phone than I needed.  I finally had enough.

I found my old phone, went to the store, and asked if cancelling my data contract constituted cancelling the general contract, and if I would be assessed a fee for downgrading.  I was shocked when the answer was "no."  The guy at the store tried to sell me on other smart phones with touch screens and the like.  Sorry.  Not for me.  Keep your 'Berry and your Droid.

My old phone ras re-activated.  I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to have a slim, compact phone that easily slips into your pocket, one with keys you can actually see.  I'm now happier than a pig in mud, and I'm saving a few dollars.

By the way, the guy at the store wasn't all that interested in helping me reactivate my old phone.  He suggested I do that at home, either on a land line or on-line.  He lost interest when he realized he wasn't going to make any money off me.  I should add the customer service representative I reached on the phone was nothing short of fantastic.

Sometimes, being smart isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

As Others See Us

Philadelphia Spanish language newspaper car in Scranton

The final chapters have yet to be written, but I can't help but get the feeling that our area's reputation has taken a bit of a hit this week.

Two young men from Shenandoah are on trial in federal court at Scranton.  They're accused of violating the civil rights of a Mexican immigrant who was beaten to death in 2008.  The federal prosecution sprang up after a jury on the county level found the young men of only simple assault.

Does this foster the image that the federal government had to step in because the locals turned a blind eye to the killing of an illegal immigrant?  I've heard people express that point of view.  I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not it's true.  There are those who believe just the opposite-- that the young men from Shenandoah are being tried twice for the same crime, and that's wrong.  A jury of their peers has already spoken.

Then, there's the case that came to light yesterday-- a heavy duty rifle stolen from a police officer's car.  Is that particular force the 2010 version of the Keystone Kops?  How could something like this happen?  One less than stellar event can severely damage a reputation, whether or not it's deserved.

I'm not sure what it shows, but I do know it proves that anyone can be a crime victim, even someone who has a gun and a badge.

And, I'm very happy to say the stolen rifle has been recovered and two people face charges.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Post Mortem

The Major League Baseball regular season came to an end Sunday.   My days as a rabid fan are long gone.  However, I do catch a few innings now and again.  Today, a few thoughts.

I know you can't win every year, but it continually saddnes me to see what's become of Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore.  These franchises were once the cream of the MLB crop.  This year, all three finished in last place-- again.  The Pirates haven't had a winning season in nearly 20 years.

The Oakland Athletics came close to finishing at .500, and that's a major feat in and of itself.  Management spends very little on players.  Attendance is awful.  I'm never in favor of people losing their jobs, but contraction here wouldn't be such a bad thing.  Less is more.  It's time to dissolve the franchise.

It's nice to see the Cincinnati Reds back in the playoffs.

It's great to see the Atlanta Braves make the playoffs in the last season for retiring manager Bobby Cox.

In only its second year, the MLB Network really does a solid job in covering the sport.

FOX and MLB announced the Saturday evening World Series game will start BEFORE 7 pm.  It's a good thing.  I know TV wants games in prime time.  Unfortunately, that often pushes the end well past midnight, and that's not a good thing.

It looks like there will be come good post season match-ups.

Monday, October 4, 2010

When Will They Learn?

If you are a broadcaster or a journalist, not a commentator, discussing race is the easiest thing in the world.  There is one simple rule:  DON'T DO IT!

Dr. Laura learned the hard way, and CNN's Rick Sanchez joined the club Friday.  Sanchez called Comedy Central's Jon Stewart a "bigot" and added his bosses at CNN are of a similar vein.  Pure genius!  Sanchez was shown the door.

It might be 2010, but race relations are still a touchy subject, and it's going to be that way for a very long time.  There is plenty of room for tolerance, debate and intelligent discussion.  We need more of that.  Name calling, flame throwing, and bomb dropping gets you the Sanchez treatment-- you lose your job.  What was Rick Sanchez thinking? 

There are simply some subjects, as an allegedly professional broadcaster,  you have to avoid, and when it comes to race relations, listening is far better than talking.  It doesn't mean putting your head in the sand.  It doesn't mean turning a deaf ear to the plight of others.  It doesn't mean neglecting injustice.  You have to choose your words carefully, and there are times you have to choose to say nothing at all.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday

This is St. John the Evangailst Church in Pittston, as spectacular a building as our area has to offer.

The picture illustrates a couple things-- another of my ill fated attempts to be artsy, and another ill fated attempt to avoid all the utility lines surrounding the building.

I looked and looked.  Then, looked some more.  I couldn't find an angle that captured the beauty of the church, without having wires all over the place.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

Sorry for being "all train, all the time" this summer and into the fall.  Steamtown and the rail yards are those places where you always take a ton of photographs.  Watching the current working trains in the freght area is more fun, at least for me, than seeing the Steamtown collection.

Friday, October 1, 2010

About the Cover

One of the glories of northeastern and central Pennsylvania is you never run out of interesting buildings to photograph.

Sorry if you're tired of reading about it and seeing the photographs, but this is another in the series of steeples, spires and clock towers that I've been shooting.

It's the Smurfit Arts Center, at Madison and Vine, owned by the University of Scranton.  A Google search reveals it was built in 1897 as the home of the John Raymond Memorial Universalist Church.  The U bought the building 23 years ago for $125,000 after the church's congregation dropped to less than a dozen members.  The building is used for the University's Art and Music History program.  It was the offices for the University of Scranton Press before that function was closed by the U.

The building towers above Madison Avenue, just a block off Mulberry Street, and it has to be one of the most interesting in the city.

I've got to level with you.  I was in a hurry when I shot this a few weeks ago.  I tried my best to maneuver around the utility lines.  There was probably a better angle and at a better distance, but I didn't have the time to find it.  I'll be back.