Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mixed Feelings

The old Eighth Street Bridge closed Tuesday afternoon.  It spans the Susquehanna River between Jenkins Township on the east, and Wyoming on the west.   The old bridge is the big metal thing on the right.   the new one is the concrete structure on the left.

The old bridge had to go.   It was too narrow.  Penndot called it "structurally deficient."  However, it was a magnificent old bridge-- all those steel beams going from one side of the river to the other.  Let's face it, new bridges are boring.  They all look alike.

You have to keep your eye on the ball here.  We're not here to make an architectural statement.  We're here to get from one side of the river to the other, without ending up in the water.  On top of that, it's function over form and we have to be careful with the money we spend.

The old steel bridge comes down later this spring.

The trip across the Susquehanna will be easier.  It will be safer.  It won't be the same.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

30 Years Ago

It was one of those "Where were you when?" moments.

President Ronald Reagan was shot thirty years ago today.

My story is not spectacular.  It's not even interesting, but interesting has never been criteria for the blog, so I'll pass along the story here.

I was a sophomore at Marywood College, now Marywood University in Scranton.   There was, and is, a section for radio and TV students in the basement of the library.  The radio station TV station, newsroom and a couple classrooms are in one compact area.  I was arriving for a late afternoon television production class when I heard the news.  No, I don't remember who told me.  The instructor, who didn't last long at Marywood, had to pull me away from a television to get me in the classroom.  What he should have done was let us watch the coverage so we could learn how breaking news is produced.  Unfortunately, it didn't happen.  The class was less than memorable, as they all were.

I hurried home, after class, to watch TV.  It was captivating.  Information was often contradicting and wrong.  News gathering capabilities were archaic by today's standards.  The networks were able to pull it together.  I remember ABC being my network of choice that afternoon and evening.

Once again, I couldn't pull myself away from the TV.  I do recall having a test in something the next day, and I believe it was a social science course.  I didn't study because I kept watching TV, and I do remember doing well in the test nonetheless.

We were talking about the 84 presidential campaign in the newsroom after the death of Geraldine Ferraro over the weekend, and how Walter Mondale got creamed in that year's election.  Ronald Reagan was a likable guy-- even more so when he was shot.  Reagan was still in his honeymoon period, a little more than two months after inauguration day.

A lot of the coverage from 1981 is on YouTube.  TV technology has changed.  Good story telling hasn't.  The ability to convey information in a crisis, on the fly, is a skill a select few possess.  Watch it in action from 3/30/81.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Road Trip

I spent four hours behind the wheel Thursday-- Scranton to Pennsdale, Lycoming County and back again. 

It was my longest stretch behind the wheel in quite a while, and here's what I learned.

Pennsylvania roads are filled with lazy drivers who refuse to clear snow and ice from their vehicle roofs.   That's dangerous and inconsiderate.  It's also against the law.

Pennsylvania roads are filled with lazy drivers who refuse to turn on their headlights when their windshield wipers are on.  That's dangerous and inconsiderate.  It's also against the law.

I noticed an alarming number of trucks that can't pull even modest hills.   To me, that puts out the red flag-- these trucks have mechanical issues, are overweight, or both. 

And, above all, Pennsylvania roads are a mess-- even if you allow for post-winter wear and tear.

It's enough to make you want to stay home.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Geraldine Ferraro

I never met Geraldine Ferraro, but I came close.

By now, you know Ferraro died over the weekend.  She was 75.

Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman ever on a major party presidential ticket.  She made a campaign appearance in downtown Scranton in the fall of '84.  I was on the radio back then, part of WARM 590'S "team coverage."  One of my co-workers, Kitch Loftus, handled the actual speech.  My job was street reaction and the news conference Bishop James Timlin gave later in the day.

Ferraro was pro choice, and that angered the bishop.  He called a news conference to let everyone know about it.  Some of the national media that covered Ferraro stuck around, and made the short trip up Wyoming Avenue to visit the bishop.  It wasn't pretty.  Timlin seemed uncomfortable mixing religion and politics.  Some network reporters, including Phil Jones of CBS, seized on that.  The out of town media were relentless.  I didn't think it was the bishop's finest hour.  Bishop Timlin is a nice, charming and charismatic man, whether or not you agree with him  That news conference just didn't work.  It wasn't the right forum.  The bishop's message was lost.

The Scranton visit should have been a slam dunk win.  Geraldine Ferraro, an Italian woman in an area filled with Italians, down to earth, Democrat.  The pro lifers were out in force.  Their protest wasn't handled well by the Mondale/Ferraro people.  They were completely overwhelmed.  It turned out to be just another misstep in the Mondale campaign.

What I also remember about '84 was the Mondale vice presidential selection process.  He seemed to interview everyone, including minorities, and some people you knew would never be on the ticket.  It looked and smelled like pandering.  Voters saw right through it.

The Ferraro choice was an interesting one.  Mondale was always behind in the polls.  Picking Ferraro brought some heat and excitement to the ticket.  It also brought some controversy, especially the deep examination of the finances of Ferraro's husband.

In the end, Mondale/Ferraro won only Minnesota and the District of Columbia.  I don't think any other vice presidential candidate could have helped.  America loved Ronald Reagan, and he captured nearly 59 per cent of the popular vote.

After she left the house, Ferraro did some political punditry, and she was very good.  Forceful, able to make a point without being excessively wordy.

As we look back, Geraldine Ferraro's visit was one of the events that cemented northeastern Pennsylvania's reputation as the pro life capitol of the world.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday

I was playing around with my camera on the west side of the Susquehanna River the other morning.  It was an ugly day-- below normal cold, the muddy river was high, the sky was grey.  All of that is reflected in the photograph above.

Even though conditions were far from perfect, the courthouse on the banks of the Susquehanna remains a spectacular building.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday

Another picture of the old Hotel Sterling, one taken Tuesday morning,  doesn't hurt-- especially when you consider the building won't be around much longer.

Demolition plans are underway.

There was a "Save the Sterling" protest here yesterday.  Perhaps, City Hall and the county courthouse would have been better spots for that demonstration.  After all, it was all those people who could have done a much better job with this project.

Friday, March 25, 2011

POL Expo 2011

Thanks to all those who stopped by during my time, yesterday, at the Pennsylvania Outdoor Life Expo at the Lycoming Mall.  An especially big thanks goes out, as always, to those who said I look younger and thinner in person.

Above is Rick Koval, Trish Hartman, and Sharla McBride handling a rat snake at the mall's center court.  Rat and snake are two words I hate seperately.  Put them together, and you have a situation I avoid completely.

The Expo wraps up Sunday evening.  Enjoy the weekend and the show at the mall.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Scrapple

I respect Elizabeth Taylor's talent and popularity.  The multiple marriages bothered me somewhat, but hey, it was her life.

Luck came my way.  Yesterday's snow fell on one of my days off.  I had to shovel it, but I didn't have to drive in it. 

I despise excess, but for some reason, the upcoming royal wedding doesn't bother me.

Do you get the feeling that coalition forces should have taken out Libya's military a few weeks ago?

A new ABC comedy, Happy Endings, actually looks funny.  Premiere:  April 13.

Does the NFL know what it's doing?  First, labor problems.  Now, a rule that will increase touchbacks and decrease exciting kick returns.

The Scranton School district has a problem.  Some of its buildings are very old.  Money is tight.  Some hard decisions will have to be made-- soon.

I did a story in Nesbitt Park Tuesday morning.  Wow!  The Susquehanna River leaves behind a lot of mud when it recedes.  It brought back memories of 1972.

I seem to be encountering a huge number of robins this spring.  It seems there are a lot more than usual out there.

My income tax refund arrived in record time this year.  Maybe, tiny amounts blow through the system quicker.  At least, the check didn't bounce when I deposited it last week.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Snow

While snow in late March isn't unusual, it is unpleasant.  After all, we're in the "spring" mode.  We've had a few warm days, and we long for more.

It's funny when you try to put in perspective.  I shivvered as I worked a story on the streets of west Scranton yesterday.  It was around 40 degrees, which would be considered warm for January.  However, it wasn't January.  It was March, and I was cold.  Plus, it was damp, and that kind of weather goes right through you.  It made my cozy bed feel even better when I finally got home after a long day.

No matter what it was like yesterday, and what we're experiencing today, we're one day closer to those uncomfortably hot and sticky days of summer.  Summer might be delayed, but it will not be denied.

The snow will melt in a few days.  Have patience.  We'll be okay.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oh Captain! My Captain!

There's been internet speculation lately that Quaker Oats is going to kill Cap'n Crunch.

Say it isn't so!

There are complaints the cereal is too sweet and is lacking in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

I'm not a parent.  Would I want my kid eating Cap'n Crunch every day?  No.  On the other hand, some breakfast is better than none, and I know a lot of kids miss breakfast, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

A big bowl of Cap'n Crunch is tolerable if you pair it with something really healthy, or if you don't depend on it as your sole source of morning nutrition.  I quote the great Julia Child at times like this:  "Everything in moderation."

I bought a box of Cap'n Crunch the other morning.  I can't remember the last time I sat down and had a bowl of cereal.  I don't like milk.  My cereal consumption comes by the handful.  I bought the box because I thought the Captain, first name "Horatio," needed a little support, a salute from my little corner of the world.  Cap'n Crunch, I'm on your side.

Quaker Oats denies Can'n Crunch will be discontinued.  A spokesman for the company gave the standard "We're part of a balanced breakfast" line.  I'm okay with that.

Could Quaker Oats tweak the Crunch formula, make it less sweet, throw in some more stuff that's good for you?  Sure.  We live in the greatest country in the world.  A reformulated Cap'n Crunch is better than none at all, and I don't want to be part of a society that shuns The Captain.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What Might Have Been

The wrecking ball is rolling toward the demolition of the Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre, and it appears nothing can be done to stop it.

A "Save the Sterling" Facebook page has popped up, and I wish those people well.

The powers that be tell us the Sterling is too far gone.  It will cost too much to turn it into condos and apartments.  No developers have stepped forward.  It's time to face facts and get rid of the building.  An empty piece of land will be worth more money, and it will be more attractive to developers.

That's all well and good, and it appears most of it is true.

You can also argue that we didn't do right by the Sterling.  Millions of dollars have been pumped into the project.  It might not have been too little, but it was too late.  Plenty of people "believe" the money wasn't used effectively.  The Sterling project was bungled from the start.  The politicans served every interest, except that of saving a landmark.

It's not a bad looking building from the outside, but far from spectacular.  I'm sure that could be changed.
The real beauty is on the inside-- massive columns, and plenty of marble.  No, that isn't me leaning against one of the columns.

There's a lot of history here-- visits by stars and politicians.  The Sterling was home to WBRE radio and the Citizens Voice.  I covered several election night parties here, victories and defeats.

As I've noted here in the past, it seems the only ones with money to spend these days are colleges and universities, and Walmart.  It's too bad one of the colleges, Kings of Wilkes, didn't have the cash to get involved-- dorms on the upper floors, with events in that spectacular lobby.

It's time to move on, but with the nagging feeling that this project should have had a better outcome.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Explanation Weekend

We do it every year-- except this year.

There are some stories you see on TV news year after year.  Most of them center around holidays.

March 11th was the first Friday of Lent.  Old Forge is pizza crazy year around, but the frenzy gets kicked up a few notches during Lent, especially the first Friday of Lent.

We usually have the bodies available for lighter fare, especially on a Friday night.  It just didn't happen this year.  We had two major stories on Friday the 11th-- the flooding, and Hazleton firefighters working non stop just about all day long.

Old Forge pizza will have to wait for another Friday.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Explanation Weekend

It was something that bothered me all weekend.  There are times when you have to be wrong to be right.

Case in point, the metal bridge that connects Pittston and West Pittston.  Name:  The Firefighters Memorial Bridge.  It used to be the Water Street Bridge.

There is evidence to indicate a woman met an untimely and horrible end beneath this span.  In news stories over the weekend, we called it the Water Street Bridge.  Here's why.  Go to Public Square, and ask 100 people if they know the location of the Firefighters Memorial Bridge.  I suspect very few would be able to give you the correct answer.  Ask those same people about the location of the Water Street Bridge.  I bet you'd get a good number of people who would say "Pittston."  There's no disrepect to firefighters intended.
It's the same thing downstream.  What's the name of the bridge that spans the Susquehanna River near the Luzerne County Courthouse?  It's the Veterans Memorial Bridge.  That's the name the new one was given after the old one wound up in the river during the 1972 Tropical Storm Agnes flood.  People still call it the Pierce Street Bridge or the North Street Bridge, and the flood was nearly 40 years ago.

Over the weekend, correct took a back seat to clarity.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Morning Glory

If you're a regular blog reader, you know my movie reviews are usually about six months late.  I've been too tired to drag my rump to a theater, and nothing really motivates me to get there these days.  Movie viewing has been relegated to On Demand or DVD.

I watched "Morning Glory" late last week.  Rachel McAdams plays the executive producer of a fourth place network morning broadcast.  Morale is shot.  The equipment and facilities are awful.  Anchor Diane Keaton has seen better days.  Anchor Harrison Ford doesn't want to be there.  Their broadcast is on the brink of cancellation.

McAdams' character is in over her head, but she eventually pulls it together and manages to establish a relationship in the process.

"Morning Glory" isn't a great movie, but it is entertaining.  Sixty per cent of the TV related stuff is believeable, which is a high number for movies about television.

Special note should be made of Jeff Goldblum, who plays Jerry Barnes, the head of the network news division, and John Pankow, in the role of a producer.  Both are very good and help hold the movie together.

Rachel McAdams does a really good job with the script.  I could buy her as an executive producer.  I've seen that type many times.  Their life is a crossroads.   The TV job can beat them down, or they can rise above their surroundings to make it work.

The fictional morning TV show is called "Daybreak."  It gave me a huge laugh because I once worked on a train wreck of a broadcast called "Daybreak."  We were fiesty with a good, hard working staff, and we had a few victories along the way.  There were meny mornings that I thought our broadcast was just as good, if not better, than the other guys.  Unfortunately, we had a tough time getting people to flip the dial.

"Morning Glory" wasn't a huge hit at the box office, but I have a feeling it will do great on video.  It's that kind of a movie-- light, breezy, a good movie to watch with a friend and a pizza.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Basketball Jones

In six and a half years of doing this blog, I don't think I've ever totally dedicated an entry to basketball.  That changes today.

I'm not a fan.  The NBA needs to get a handle on the last five minutes of a game, which take 45 minutes to play.  There are too many fouls and time outs.  It's maddening.  The college game is in the same boat, but not quite as bad.

There were a couple play-in games this week, but the NCAA tournament really gets rolling today.  For many years, I worked at the CBS station here in town.  I used to venture out to the lobby to watch our poor receptionist on the first day of the tournament, when CBS would run afternoon games.  That sweet, but unfortunate woman would have to field call after call after call from loyal "daytime drama" viewers, upset the sopas were off the air.  I could hear her response in my head, to this day.  "It's a CBS decision, not a local one.  The soaps will pick up on Monday, where they left off yesterday.  You won't miss a thing.  We can't re-broadcast the soaps because they're not being broadcast in the first place."  There is a place in heaven for that woman, based on just that one NCAA week per year.

The tournament is a little different this year because the Turner networks have some of the early round games.  That's good, because you'll see every game in its entirety.  That's bad, beacuse I used to enjoy when the network switched from bad games to good ones, including some buzzer beaters.  The "excitement" factor has dropped considerably.

Turner is using its NBA teams to do the college games, and that has former coach and broadcaster Billy Packer upset.  He doesn't think the NBA guys can call college games because they haven't done a college game all season.  Billy, did you ever hear of studying?  You're a former educator.  You should know that.  Back in the day, I was sideline reporter for high school football games.   I reported from college basketball games, and even worked a couple minor league basketball games.  Reporting from Red Barons games fell on to my plate while I was on the radio.  Sports is not my specialty, so I read everything I could get my hands on.  I was part of a chat with the coaches before the game.  If you do your homework and prepare, you can do anything.

I love the way ESPN is saying bad things about the tournament selections.  ESPN lost the bidding for the tournament last year.  Do you think that has something to do with it?  Would ESPN still be as critical if the tournament was on their networks?

There's no doubt CBS/Turner will do a great job.  ESPN, on the other hand, knows how do to publicity and promotion across all its platforms-- TV, radio, internet, magazine, mobile.  The NCAA followed the money, and I can understand that.  ESPN, in the long run, might have been the better choice.

And, that's the way the ball bounces.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Was It Something I Said?

About a month ago, I blogged about a new company that's taken over several gas stations/mini marts here in the Scranton area.  They took the name Va Va.  Cute.  Creative.

At the time I questioned how the Wawa people felt about that.  The names are awfully similar, but there was no way you could confuse a Wawa with a Va Va.  On top of that, there are no Wawa stores in the Scranton area. 

Take a look at what I found the other day.  The store remains.  The name is gone.  This is the Va Va on Pittston Avenue in South Scranton.  The store on the Scranton/Carbondale Highway in Dickson City has also lost its name.

What's up with that?  Did the Va Va people get a call and/or cease and desist letter from the Wawa legal team?  I don't know.  I'm just speculating.  Big companies do like to protect their names, and I can't blame them.  They put a lot of time, effort, and especially money into building the brand.

The name isn't the only thing that's changed.  Gas is up 47 cents in one month.  A gas station by any other name is still expensive.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Media Notes

ABC says "Good Morning America" had its best February in quite a while and it's severely narrowed the gap with NBC's "Today."  There are two reasons, at least as I see it. ABC has finally achieved some consistency with its morning broadcast, and "Today" is off the track.  NBC's first half hour used to be the hard news broadcast of record in the morning. It was THE place to turn to learn what happened overnight.  Now, it's fluff and filler.

ABC's "Nightline" also had a good month.  It was a solid broadcast during the Ted Koppel days, but it needed a shot of life, which Nightline now has.  Yes, the tone has lightened a bit, but "Nightline" does tackle hard news when the situation warrants.  As someone who broadcasts news in a non-traditional time slot, it is nice to know people will seek out a news broadcast long after the sun goes down (or the sun comes up.)

The wound from the Steelers' Super Bowl loss is beginning to heal, so I've gone back to listening to a little sports talk radio.  The NCAA basketball tournament provides more than its share of interesting moments, but listening to people fill out their brackets is mind numbingly dull.  The FOX Sports Radio overnight guy had the right idea:  just give me your final four.  I've never filled out a bracket, and I don't intend to start now.  I'll start paying attention to the tournament when a Cinderella team emerges, and it happens every year.  Go Bucknell!

The likely means nothing to you, but I'll note it, anyway.  Cumulus is buying Citadel.  Both are big radio companies.  Citadel owns several Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stations, including the place where I got my start 30 years ago, WARM.  I hope Cumulus gives WARM the TLC Citadel didn't, but I'm not kidding  myself.  WARM is an AM station in an FM/satellite/internet world.  I can't see a new company pumping money in to it, to bring it back, even a little.  Yes, I know it never could be what it once was.  Still, WARM deserves better than what it gets now.  Citadel also owns the ABC Radio Network.  It, too, could use a little attention.  The industry book on Cumulus is that it's a tightly controlled organization.  You know what I'm tap dancing around here.  To all Citadel/Cumulus employees and listeners, good luck!

A follow up to last week's anti PBS pledge drive rant:  The New York Times reported yesterday that PBS stations are devoting nine per cent more time to pledge drives than they did last year.  I'm not sure if that includes digital sub channels.  I noted last week that I spend more time watching the sub channels rather than the big stick.  Hey, I know you need the money, but there has to be a less annoying way to do it.  I'm reminded of something that happened during my radio days.  It was during the recession of the early 80's.  We had a bunch of bad commercials on the air.  You know the ones-- no production values, just an announcer screaming at you for 60 seconds.  They were produced at another AM station, by a man who has since met his reward.  I hear he was just a wonderful individual.  Unfortunately, the commercials he produced were hideous.  When the on-air people complained to the general manager that these commercials were killing the station, his reply was simple, and I can still see him deliver the line:  "Hard times, hard sell."  The awful commercial producer had a long list of clients, and those awful commercials brought money to his station and ours.  They likely drove listeners away in the process.  It's clear PBS is in the "hard times, hard sell" mode.  I wonder if the viewers will still be there when it's over.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Do They Believe?

Something happened last week that frightened me.

The Erie Times News said it will outsource its printing in the third quarter of this year.  40 full and part timers will lose their jobs.

Management said its press is getting old, and it's not in the company's best interest to invest in a new one.  Translation:  they're not sure the print version of the newspaper will be around long enough to pay for a new press.

The Times News isn't the first to do this.  More than two dozen newspapers, around the country, have closed their printing plants.

This isn't a rinky dink operation.  The Erie Times News is a good sized paper, and it sells more than 55 thousand copies every day.

A new printing company hasn't been chosen.  Rumor has it that the Erie paper will be printed in a plant that's about a 90 minute drive from Erie.  While publishing technology has made advances, you can't overlook the long drive.  It means the paper will have to "go to bed" earlier, and that means the news on the doorsteps of subscribers and at news stands will be even less fresh.  It's another nail in the newspaper coffin. 

And I thought broadcasting was a tough business.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday

I was playing with my camera, between live shots, on a recent morning.  This downtown Scranton building has always been one of my favorites.

It's on Lackawanna and Spruce, across from the Radisson.  It doesn't scream out to get your attention.  You have to give it a close look to appreciate it-- the stone, the marble, the details...

For many years, Pennsylvania Gas and Water had offices here.  It now belongs to Lackawanna County.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop and admire it for a while.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday

There's a short list of "signature" buildings in Scranton-- the federal building, the courthouse, Oppenheim's, city hall, the Scranton Electric building...

If I had to pick one, I'd say this is it-- the train station at the end of the Central Scranton Expressway, the gateway to the city.

The building was constructed in 1908, and it's now a Radisson hotel.
It is spectacular at night and during the day.  You can imagine what it was like when rail service was at its peak-- a bustling passenger station on the first floor, with offices above.  This building came very close to meeting the wrecking ball back in the 80's, and that would have been a tragedy.

Above is the stained glass ceiling over the lobby and restaurant.  I should have protographed the marble and tile on the walls, but I was actually working at the time, and I was in a hurry.

I'm sure the history of the building and more photos are available elsewhere on the internet.  It's worth looking up.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Parade Day

Scranton's annual St. Patrick's Parade is tomorrow.

I recently overheard a conversation between a couple parents, debating the dangers of taking children to the parade.

Think about that for a moment.  There are parents who are worried about taking their children to a parade!

It's sad.

I'll give you my usual line about having no problem with the responsible use of alcohol.

You know the Scranton story.  The drinking starts shortly after sunrise.  It goes on for hours and hours.

The public officials make their usual proclamations about getting tough on the rowdies.  There is a big police presence.  They try their best.  The problems persist.

Like everything else, follow the money.  Big crowds and big drinkers equal big profits.

It's unfortunate that what used to be a family friendly event has been drowned in the process.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Public broadcasting has been in the news a lot lately.  Let's dissect some of the issues, and we'll begin with radio.

I have absolutely nothing to say about the local public radio station.  Some co-workers love it.  I tried to listen.  It doesn't work for me.  That doesn't make it bad.  It's just not my thing.

NPR came under fire a few months ago when commentator Juan Williams was let go for saying something stupid.  Williams is conservative.    There's a perception that NPR is liberal, and controversy erupted.

Controversy flared anew when an NPR executive said the Tea Party is racist.  The comment was made in a hidden camera video.  I'm not going to debate the merits of "hidden camera" because I don't know all the facts.  The "racist" comment was inappropriate.  That's an awful tag to hang on a group, unless you have concrete evidence.

That brings us to congressional funding of public TV and radio.  Yes, they do provide a public service.  Are there other priorities?  Yes to that as well.

Our local public TV station has two digital sub channels that I watch more than the main channel.  Lately, the programming I like has disappeared in favor of an endless stream of self help broadcasts and pledge drives.  WVIA, you've lost a viewer.

Tough times mean creative measures.  It is possible to have some semblance of regular programming and pledge drives at the same time.   You can do it.  It might even get me to open my wallet.

WVIA management has been getting roasted on a local broadcast internet message board.  The topic-- allegedly excessive salary and perks.  I don't know enough to comment on the topic intelligently, so I won't.

I have a few friends who work in public broadcasting.  They're good people who do a fine job.  No, they're not in management.

WVIA is like any other charity.  If you give money, you have to have faith it's going to the right places.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Starting the Tumble

I read the highlights of Governor Corbett's proposed budget, and it's some interesting stuff.  Big cuts, especially to education.

I've always felt the problem isn't what we spend on education.  It's what we get for our money.  Good teachers should get good pay.  Bad teachers should get bounced.  Unfortunately, it's difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.  There are things going on in schools that shouldn't be happening, too many just going through the motions to collect a pay check.  It would help if the kids were motivated.  Most of that begins at home.  If you run in to an unmotivated student, chances are an unmotivated parent isn't far away.

Governor Rendell hammered away at waste and inefficiency a couple years ago.  He thought the state has too many school districts.  The system is broken.  Rendell had a point.  His plan was DOA.

There's another issue.  It looks like there will be budget cutbacks at the federal level.  The states will have to pick up the slack.  The cupboard on the state level is bare, so many costs will be bounced down to the local level.  The bottom line is you're going to pay.  The only differences are the pockets the money comes from, and what level of government gets it.

We could steer clear of troubled financial waters if there was some accountability, if government officials actually had to answer for mismanagement.

Is expecting to get something for your tax dollars too much to ask?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I didn't need an alarm clock Monday morning.  The sleet, pinging off my bedroom window, along with the howling wind, was enough to get me up.  It wasn't the raven rapping at my chamber door, but it was close.

After a quick e-mail and Twitter check, it was into the shower, and into the car.

Most of my trip to work is on Interstate 81 South.  There's a stretch of road where I can look down on 81 before I approach the entrance ramp.  As I looked down at 2 AM yesterday, something didn't look right.  The road was pure white, and not a plow truck in sight.

At times like this, I remember something one of my radio co-workers, Kitch Loftus, taught me years ago.  Avoid interstate highways in snow storms.  Yes, they do get plowed and salted first, but there are more places to seek help if you travel through cities and towns.

Interstates are limited access.  There are set places where you can get on and off.  Cities and towns offer limitless possibilities.   It's like playing Pac Man.  You can work your way around obstacles.

Dunmore, Scranton, and Moosic streets were nothing short of awful early Monday morning.  Heavy snow and sleet were falling.  The wind was blowing it all around, and visibility was poor.  It was impossible for road crews to keep ahead of the storm.  On the bright side, I was able to set my own driving pace, without worrying about an 18 wheeler blowing me off the highway.  No traffic.

I made it to the office in one piece.  After a deep stress relief breath, it was out of the car and into the building.

As I Tweeted yesterday, it was in the top ten of worst drives to work-- ever.

Monday, March 7, 2011

39 Years

Tropical Storm Agnes struck the Wyoming Valley 39 years ago.  Many of the people who lived through it have passed on.  Just about every physical scar has been erased.  Yet, for many people, what happened in 1972 is as fresh as yesterday.

It never fails.  We get a lot of rain, like we had over the weekend.  The phone in the newsroom rings-- a lot.  Web site hits spike.  People are concerned about river levels.  When is the crest?  How high?  What hapens next?  What should I do?

You pass along what you know.  The Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross have it down to a science.  As a co-worker said Sunday morning, this isn't their first rodeo. 

Dealing with the facts is one thing.  The fear is something else.  As we always remind you, when the Susquehanna River at Wilkes-Barre hits flood stage at 22 feet, only low lying uninhabited areas take on water.  It takes around 30 feet to cause real problems.  The levee system protects most of the populated areas until the Susquehanna Rises to 41 feet.

There is still potential danger from flash flooding along small creeks and streams.  Sone people insist on driving through flooded roads, no matter how many times they're warned.  I've seen people drive around barricades on River Road in Plains Township, and I shake my head in disbelief.

No matter how many years pass, Agnes will always have an impact in The Valley.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday

A statue of Dr. Isaiah Everhart is located in front of the museum in Scranton.  He and his feathered friend didn't seem to mind the snow.  You can learn more about him and the museum by visiting the museum's web site.  There's a link on yesterday's blog.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday

This is Scranton's Everhart Museum, on a snowy winter afternoon.  If you'd like to learn more about it, here's a link to the Everhart's web site.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Alf and Ralph

Those who know me, and who work with me know I love obscure 60's and 70's references.  It could be the lyrics from a song, a scene from a movie, or characters from a television show.

WNEP's chief engineer and I were chatting after Newswatch 16 Saturday Morning last week.  The topic was some carpentry work going on at the station.  I asked if the job was being performed by Alf and Ralph, the Monroe Brothers.

It elicited a hearty laugh from the chief engineer.  An obscure reference only works if the person you're speaking with "gets it."  He did.

In case you didn't, the Monroe Brothers were characters in "Green Acres."  Ralph, played by Mary Grace Canfield, was a woman, and there's the joke.  There were a few episodes about getting Ralph to become more feminine.  She loved County Agent Hank Kimball.  Ralph had some issues, and they were always good for a chuckle.

As I was researching today's blog, I was pleased to learn Alf and Ralph are still around.  Alf, also known as Sid Melton, is 90.  His brother/sister Ralph is 86.  Both attended Eddie Albert's funeral in 2005.

Alf and Ralph were famous for starting projects, and never completing them.  Let's hope the work at the station turns out better.  I'm sure it will, but it won't be nearly as funny.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

All Night

I was walking the beagle the other morning, my iPod along for entertainment.  Sugarloaf's "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" came around in the shuffle.  A couple lines really caught my ear.

I got your name from a friend of a friend,
who said he used to work with you.

Remember the All Night Creature from Stereo 92.

That got me thinking.  Are there any "all night" DJ's left? 

I did two special assignment reports on radio a couple years ago.  One jock told me that there's not a "live" person in their building after 9 PM.  The other topped it, saying the last "live" person leaves the building at 5 PM.

To save money, most stations "voice track" during late nights and overnights.  You're not listening to a live person.  The jock's voice is on a computer file, and there are many times that jock is in a different city than the radio station.

Some of my early radio days were spent as a late night and overnight DJ.  It's a different world.  The audience is smaller, but there's a bond between listener and talent, more so than other shifts.  Most of the audience didn't want to be up all night, but there was work to do, children that needed to be cared for, insomnia to be battled, and a thousand other reasons.  I think people appreciated knowing there was a live body out there, experiencing some of the same things.

For many, listening wasn't enough.  They'd give you a call once in a while.  There is one woman, during my WARM years, in the early 80's, who I remember vividly.  It was a long time ago, and she was up in years.  It's very likely that she's in a better place now.  She was just a lonely woman on Butler Street in Wilkes-Barre, up in years.   She wasn't a good night sleeper, and the noise from the nudie bar next door made things worse.  She called every night.  There were some nights I didn't feel like talking, but I always gave her a little time.  She needed a friend.  I was glad to be one-- for a few minutes on the phone, and several hours on the radio.

Weekends and overnights used to be the places where radio stations developed their talent, sort of the minor league farm system for announcers.  Those days are gone, and you can tell.  The sound today is considerably less polished than it used to be.  There is no place to learn the craft.

There are still some live all night talk shows.  I've mentioned one before, "Red Eye."  It's news-based.  The guys who spend all night talking about UFOs and conspiracy theories don't work for me.

All Night Creature, where have you gone?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Confession

I've told a few co-workers about this, and it's time I come clean with the rest of you.

I like some disco.

Try to catch your breath, and I'll explain.

I graduated from high school in 1979, just about at the peak of disco popularity.  No, I didn't go to discos, and I don't dance, but I have to admit that some of the music of the era really wasn't bad.  In fact, it was very good.

Donna Summer was the queen of disco, and some of her songs are on my "all time favorites" list.

Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You" seems to pop up on the XM 70's channel a couple times a week.  It's on my i-Pod, and the volume always gets cranked when it appears.

It was fashionable to hate disco, and my enjoyment of it has been in the closet for far too long.

I like SOME disco, and I admit that freely.

Whew!  I'm glad I have that off my chest.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

About the Cover

This month's blog header features the cupola atop the old Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School on Crown Avenue in South Scranton.

According to a Facebook page for alumni, this was a school from 1900 to 1978.  It was vacant for a while, and it's now an apartment building for low and moderate income families.

I'm always thrilled when good looking old buildings are adapted for new uses.  Of course, you can't do that with every old school.  Many were fire traps that deserved to be torn down.  The cost of rehabilitation is extreme.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Connecticut, in 1811.  She wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in 1850.  It's regarded as one of the works that brought attention to the evils of slavery.