Thursday, February 28, 2013
During the Super Bowl, we learned that the wing is the most sought after and most expensive part of the chicken. Amazing, isn't it? The wing used to be tossed in the trash or stuck in the stock pot. Now, it fetches a premium.
Also in the "trash to treasure" category is spring training baseball. Back when I was on the radio, we used to offer advertisers free commercials in spring training games if they'd buy a big package of ads for the regular season.
That was back in the early 80's.
Now, we have more stations and more channels. They're all hungry for programming and spring training baseball is part of the mix.
Back in the day, you'd be lucky if you got a few weekend games late in the spring. Now, as soon as a team is able to put nine on the field, in mid February, games are on TV and radio. I'm not complaining. I like baseball.
Spring training used to be the equivalent of chicken wings-- tossed away. Now, they're sought after programming and a good place in which to insert some commercials-- and make some money.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
For some strange reason, the fast food business holds great interest, even though I visit far less frequently than I once did.
You also know I'm an early riser, even on my days off.
Now that the foundation has been built, let's get to the beef.
Burger King seems to have lost its way in recent years. The chain has dropped to #3, behind Wendy's. It's really shifted gears when it comes to advertising campaign and menu offerings.
I was driving through Dunmore on a recent early morning. A Burger King and a Dunkin Donuts are almost side by side. Burger King doesn't open until 6 AM. DD opens at 4 AM. People were streaming into Dunkin while the King was dark.
Hello! There are a lot of people who are up and moving, long before sunrise. It's one of the reasons Newswatch 16 at 4:30 AM was born.
I read where McDonald's fears DD and 24 hour mini marts like Sheetz and Wawa more than Burger King. It's not difficult to see why.
BK could have chomped off a lot of that customer traffic that was heading next door, and all that money could have helped the chain regain its footing. All they have to do is open an hour earlier. It's so simple.
Business rule # 1: make it easy for customers to enter your store.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
It always amazes me that when someone outrageous, like Seth MacFarlane, is picked for a big job, such as hosting the Academy Awards, people are shocked when he says something outrageous.
I'm really sick of the Oscar Pistorious story, but I understand the media's fascination with it. You have a well known suspect, and a spectacularly beautiful victim. Pistorious' ability to overcome a handicap is nothing short of amazing.
The winter of 2012-13 really hasn't been a severe one. It's just seemed longer than usual.
I caught a couple innings of a spring training baseball game Sunday. It was meaningless, but nice to see nonetheless.
USA Today reported Jared Fogle's association with Subway is now 15 years old. Has there ever been a better and more effective advertising campaign?
ABC News did a very good "sequester" piece over the weekend. The proposed cuts are only a tiny fraction of the federal budget.
We had a homicide in Hazleton Saturday night. Something was missing: the proclamation from officials that we shouldn't be concerned because this wasn't a random act.
Monday, February 25, 2013
87 year old Joe Garagiola announced his retirement last week. He'd been a part time commentator on Arizona Diamondbacks games in recent years.
Garagiola did baseball on NBC for 30 years. He was also host of the syndicated "To Tell the Truth" and a "Today" show contributor.
Was he one of the greats? I'm not sure. Garagiola gets points for longevity, but here's what puts him over the top: people liked Joe Garagiola. He didn't speak perfect english. He wasn't a baseball genius. When NBC had yet another "Today" debacle, in the form of a Bryant Gumbel nasty internal memo that went public, and the Pauley/Norville ham handed switch, they put Garagiola on the New York set to add a friendly, human element to the broadcast. It worked nicely, and "Today" recovered.
And, Soledad O'Brien is leaving CNN to form her own production company. The handwriting is on the wall. There's a lot of speculation that CNN will build a new morning broadcast around Chris Cuomo and Erin Burnett.
I've read great reviews of O'Brien's work, and she really wasn't bad. You can't overlook the fact that no matter where CNN put her, she failed to draw an audience. Linda Ellerbee once said "It's a shame that the quality of your work is judged by the ability to draw a crowd."
There's a huge need for a really newsy early morning news broadcast on cable and the broadcast networks. CBS comes close. MSNBC's morning Joe can be entertaining and informative. I wonder if CNN will get it right this time.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Bad Photography Sunday: More Ice
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Bad Photography Saturday: Ice
This is a Thursday afternoon photo of Mountain Lake in Scranton's East Mountain section.
As you can see, someone drove something onto the ice, and lived to tell about it.
Many years ago, I was on an ice covered lake in Lycoming County, doing a story on someone who had fallen through the ice and who was safely rescued. The place where a photographer and I were standing was okay. The ice was of sufficient thickness. However, it's natural for the ice to crack and fracture a bit when you're standing on it. I stepped and heard an enormous cracking sound. I nearly jumped out of my skin and required a change of undergarments. The people on the lake got a good chuckle out of my fear, but we got our story.
Our area is lucky in that we have a number of first responders, fire departments and ambulance corps trained in ice rescue, but if you fall through the ice on a remote lake, there's no way they can get there in time.
This is the time of year that worries first responders. The weather is a tad warmer, or at least, it's supposed to be. The sun is stronger. The ice is thinner.
Please, be careful.
Friday, February 22, 2013
Office Max and Office Depot are merging. As someone who spends a lot of time geeking around these places, let me offer up a few thoughts.
I'm a fan of the number one office supply store, Staples. The stores are attractive and laid out well. They always seem to have what I need. I was disappointed when Office Max closed its Dickson City store. I also liked Office Max, and it was nice to have a choice just a couple miles apart. I do drop into Office Max Wilkes-Barre store when I'm in the neighborhood.
Office Depot had stores in Wilkes-Barre and Bloomsburg. Both closed when the company went through a downsizing. Staples and Office Max always had Office Depot beat in the price category, but Office Depot had a wider supply of items, and it always seemed to get new things first.
It will be interesting to see the direction of the new, combined Office Max and Office Depot.
Yes, I need a life.
The New York Times announced it's selling the Boston Globe. NYT bought the Globe in 1993 for more than $1 billion. The bottom them promptly fell out of the newspaper and advertising market. NYT has been swimming in red ink ever since.
You will remember that NYT owned WNEP for several years. The New York Times company stood for something, and I enjoyed being a miniscule part of that. Employees also had the chance to buy NYT stock at a discount. I still have my shares, which are worth a fraction of what I paid for them. When NYT sold its broadcast division, it was the only part of the company that was making money.
NYT management says it wants to concentrate on its core business, the Old Grey Lady. Let's hope the strategy works.
Diet Pepsi said its changing its sweetener blend. They want something that holds up better in storage and in summer heat. I cracked open a fresh bottle yesterday morning, and I can taste the difference. It's sweeter, more mellow, and less acidic. It's not bad, and I will remain a customer. However, I miss the tartness.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
No Clowning Around
I remember it like it was yesterday, and, in all seriousness, it was one of the happiest days in my 30+ years in broadcasting.
It was the fall of 1996, and the first section of the Lackawanna Valley Industrial Highway, also known as the Casey Highway was opening.
The initial section to accept traffic was from Meredith Street in Childs to Carbondale. Bob Casey was the governor who made the project happen, and I spoke with him after the ribbon cutting. He called me by my first name. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but it was to me. It was validation. I had been around long enough so that someone big knew my name. At the time, there was no one bigger around here than former Governor Robert P. Casey. It made my day, and I was happier than words can describe. I will never forget the moment.
Flash forward to Tuesday morning. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau was dropping off a big donation at the Ronald McDonald House in Scranton. The Ronald McDonald House is a place where families stay while their children are being treated in hospitals.
I took the photo you see above.
When a Newswatch 16 photographer and I arrived on Wheeler Avenue, Ronald McDonald came over to me and said "Hi, Andy." I nearly fell over.
It wasn't as big a thrill as having the former governor call me by my first name, but it was close. I'll be having a Big Mac and fries to celebrate.
The only thing that came remotely close was several years ago at the Greater Scranton Jaycees Santa Parade. Santa and I were talking about our Saturday morning broadcast. He's a viewer!
Watch the show that Santa watches, and I'll see you this weekend.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Do We Have To?
Case in point: yesterday morning. Hazleton's police chief told us there was some bad cocaine (reduntant, I know) floating around that part of Luzerne County. The cocaine was cut with poison or something toxic. A mother and daughter wound up in the hospital. The chief added the daughter's drug use could be fatal. Plus, there was a deadly heroin overdose in McAdoo, near Hazleton, Monday.
Do people really need to be told illegal drugs are bad? If you're hooked enough to make an illegal purchase, the thought of snorting poison isn't going to bother you. Will an illegal drug user, an addict, flush something very expensive down the toilet?
I don't think people need to be reminded that illegal drugs are bad, and I don't think a toxic warning is enough to shock an addict in to quitting.
However, I do think people need to know what's going on in their community. There's a chance a warning might save someone's life. You never know.
We did the story.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
It seems like there's a new phone or internet scam every day, and they do share some similarities. Someone promises you big money in exchange for a little money.
We did a story on a scam in Bradford County over the weekend. A woman was promised $ 2 million, plus a car if she turned over a $ 2,000 fee. The woman nearly fell for it. She was stopped just in time.
Are you kidding me? I don't mean to heap insult upon injury, but how could anyone possibly believe it was true? It defies analysis, and more importantly, it defies common sense and logic.
Although it's been said many times, many ways... If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Save yourself the time, trouble, and aggravation. Hang up, or delete the e-mail. It's not difficult.
Upon further review, the scams continue because people keep falling for them. P.T. Barnum was right. there's a sucker born every minute.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Last week, I met with my accountant. Yes, it was income tax day.
The money is secondary. President Obama owes me a few dollars. I owe Governor Corbett some money. It's not a lot, maybe enough to fill a couple potholes along Interstate 81.
If it's not the money, what is it? It's the peace of mind.
I used to pride myself on doing my own taxes, but things have grown complicated over the years. I lucked on to a really good accountant several years ago, and I've been very happy. He subscribes to my one and only rule tax rule, one I stole from Tony Kornheiser: "Keep me out of jail."
We talk. He asks questions and punches numbers into a computer. He goes over all my paperwork. I ask questions. An hour later, we're done and I have another year of freedom.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Bad Photography Sunday: Pittston
This is the bridge that spans the Susquehanna River between Pittston and West Pittston. This photo was taken on the west side.
The river was on the way up when I took the shot last week-- a combination of heavy rain and melting snow. You can see the occasional chunk of ice floating by.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Bad Photography Saturday: More Susquehanna
This is a shot of the Susquehanna River, on the West Pittston, looking upstream. That's the city of Pittston you see, behind the tree on the left of the photo.
Friday, February 15, 2013
A "WOW! Moment
Let me take you back for a moment... A photographer and I were along Route 115 in Bear Creek Monday morning, looking at icy roads. Tom and Mindi ad libbed the breaking news that Benedict was stepping down for health reasons.
No one saw this coming. Even people who cover the Vatican were stunned. Newswatch 16 was in a commercial break, so I started twisting the truck's radio. You know what the local news scene is like. I finally found a station on the ball, WCBS 880 in New York City. Yes. It was happening. The pope quit!
My next move was to call the desk to say "Get me off the icy road story!" Many Roman Catholic churches here in our area have morning services. If I waited, the masses would have been over, and the window to parishioner reaction would have been closed until noon. I had to get moving fast. The assignment desk and the noon producer agreed. We dropped the live truck's ice covered mast, which wasn't easy, and headed to Wilkes-Barre.
Our destination was St. Nicholas' Church on South Washington Street, one of the most spectacular churches in the city. We spoke with a few of the faithful and the assistant pastor before the 8 AM mass. St. Nicholas was founded by German immigrants 150 years ago. Benedict is German. We have our hook, and it was a good piece.
If you haven't guessed by now, I'm fascinated by this story. There's the setting-- the beauty of Vatican City, the secrecy and the mystery of inner church workings, the history. This hasn't happened in six hundred years. I'll be glued to the TV and the internet as the papal abdication/selection process progresses.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
As I sat down to a bowl of chicken with broccoli at lunch, I did some channel surfing and settled on the $ 25,000 Pyramid.
I've written about my pyramid love in the past. It's the perfect game show. You can play at home. Dick Clark was awesome, and even after all these years, I still yell at the television when the celebrities give lousy clues.
The set, the lights, the music, the sounds, the host... it all worked together.
There have been a few revivals over the years. Some were good. None came close to the original.
I finally got a chance to see and hear the Dodge Super Bowl "God made a farmer" commercial, featuring the voice of Paul Harvey. I heard good things about it, and it blew me away.
Paul Harvey was the greatest. He produced compelling, engaging radio, even if you didn't agree with his viewpoints. Paul Harvey was the last of the great radio commentators. If you read his scripts, they were really nothing special. Couple the crisp, clean writing with a marvelous delivery and you have a master behind the microphone.
I can't think of anyone currently working who has that kind of presence.
The work of Dick Clark and Paul Harvey, while vastly different, both stand the test of time.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
This year's snow coverage has been horrible. Front and center is The Weather Channel's naming of winter storms. The weekend blizzard was called "Nemo."
The Weather Channel said it started the naming thing to increase public awareness of potentially dangerous storms. Do you really think we're that stupid?
Naming winter storms is a marketing gimmick, hype, and downright silly. We can all see that. Stop it. Stop it now.
There's an opening and a need for a good cable weather channel you can drive a truck through-- informative without being alarmist, reliable and entertaining. But, wait a second. The Weather Channel is owned by Comcast, one of nation's largest cable companies. Do you really think it would open the system to competition?
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
The Paterno family response isn't changing minds. If you supported Paterno before, you still do. If you saw Paterno's fingerprints all over the Sandusky case, you still do.
The Paterno response questions Freeh's methodology, and I won't argue with that. As has been noted in this space time and again, there is no such thing as a perfect investigation. Was there a rush to judgement? Likely. However, you cannot escape the conclusion.
The grand jury testimony, independent of the Freeh Report, clearly shows Joe Paterno knew Jerry Sandusky engaged in sexual activity with a child in PSU's showers. There is a change in the administration's behavior toward Sandusky after a discussion with Paterno, the king of University Park. Sandusky's crimes were never reported to the proper authorities.
Joe Paterno had the opportunity to tell his side of the story, to authorities, several times. He had to get dragged before a grand jury to do it.
How can you explain Jerry Sandusky's sudden "retirement" in 1999? One of the highest regarded defense coaches in American college football was suddenly off the map. Paterno had to know the reasons. Nothing happened at PSU without his knowledge and/or blessing. Remember, this was the same guy who refused to be fired and who threw PSU's president out of his house. Team above self? I don't think so.
When you're reading the Paterno family response, remember one thing: keep your eye on the ball.
Monday, February 11, 2013
This year is a much different story. January had a couple brutally cold weeks, and February got off to a cold start.
I never know if I'll be in or out of the building, so I'm always prepared. If I'm not wearing long underwear, I have a pair in my bag, ready to go.
During a shopping trip recently, I sprung for two new pair. I had enough at home, but I couldn't resist a sale.
It was your standard, synthetic long underwear, but something was different. It was no longer called "long underwear" on the package. The garments are now a "base layer."
I suspect it's the work of the geniuses in marketing. "Long underwear" sounds old fashioned. "Base layer" appeals to the younger crowd. Underwear by any name would be just as warm.
It's also a case where older is better. Synthetics are more comfortable and fit better under clothing, but the traditional waffle weave is much warmer.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Classic Bad Photography Sunday: Above Baltimore
Both of today's photographs were taken from the 27th floor of the World Trade Center at the Inner Harbor in May of 1987.
Above is the National Aquarium-- one of the buildings that started the whole Inner Harbor redevelopment. You can't visit Baltimore without stopping by. It's great fun, highly entertaining, and you'll learn a lot.
As I noted yesterday, I'd make a few trips to Baltimore every year in the 80's and 90's. I loved it, so why did I stop?
It's tough to explain. It got too "touristy." Baltimore lost things that made it unique, and it developed a lot of attractions you can find in every city, like the Hard Rock Cafe. The Inner Harbor exploded and overdeveloped. Parking became a bear. The suburban town where I used to stay became very urban, and I didn't like the changes.
Here's the capper. I was in Baltimore on 9/11. I went back the next year, as I always take some vacation time in September. It just didn't feel right, and I never returned.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Classic Bad Photography Saturday: Baltimore
I was a frequent visitor in the 80's and 90's. It's a great place, an easy drive from northeastern Pennsylvania, affordable, plenty to do, and I'd visit friends in Harrisburg and York on the way down and back.
These photos are from May of 1987. Donald Trump's yacht, The Princess, was visiting the Inner Harbor.
Above is the ground level view, and below, you can see the size.
The old ship below it is the USS Constellation, built in 1854.
Friday, February 8, 2013
On Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service announced Saturday deliveries will end in late summer. USPS is swimming in red ink. Costs are up. Mail volume is down. Options are limited.
I really like letter carriers. They do their job in horrible weather, and sending a piece of mail from one end of the country to the other for 50 cents is an incredible baragain.
I told the story here several years ago. It was about the letter carrier who trudged down a snowy street to make sure he delivered my mother's social security check. That's service. I told the letter carrier that it wasn't urgent. Mom was OK and could have waited another day. The letter carrier said no, he wanted her to have the check on time.
Saturdays will be different. I'm not that old, but I'm of an age where I look forward to the afternoon mail, even if all I get is a catalog.
The Saturday visits will be missed, but I understand why they're disappearing.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Scrimalli is in big trouble. BIG TROUBLE!
Mid Valley, where a basketball game was in progress, was evacuated and searched. Holy Cross was searched. It caused a lot of anxiety and expense.
As he surrendered to authorities, Scrimalli said “I learned a good lesson, like, nothing on the internet’s safe, it’s there for good.”
Are you kidding me? Scrimalli is 18. He's never known a world without the internet. If it took the young man this long to learn that once you hit "enter," you can't call it back, something is seriously wrong. That should be the first lesson when you take the computer out of the box at home, and when you step in to the computer lab at school. A computer isn't a pencil. It has no eraser.
And then, there is the timing. Society is hyper sensitive to violence after the Newtown shootings. I'm sure Scrimalli wasn't going to blow up the schools. This was just a bad, bad, bad joke. It was never a good time to pull such a prank, especially now.
Law enforcement will try to make an example out of Torre Scrimalli, to discourage others from trying similar stunts. This is one case where being a pioneer is not a good thing.
Torre Scrimalli faces 14 years in prison. I'd be very surprised if he sees a day in jail. A sharp lawyer will plea bargain this down to something both sides can live with.
The point has been made, and the damage has been done.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Some Goodson/Todman game shows of the 70's and 80's were guilty of this. There was too much movement, rules too complicated. Even though Mark Goodson was a genius, he did have some flops. If you remember "Password All Stars" and "Now You See It," you know what I mean.
I thought about "over producing" when I watched ABC's "This Week" Sunday morning. Former Hazleton mayor and current Congressman Lou Barletta was part of the "powerhouse roundtable." Barletta is an interesting guy, whether or not you agree with his stand on the issues, and I was really interested in what he had to say. Unfortunately, the producers, as they often do, had too many people at the table. There was too much competition for air time. The viewer learned very little.
People with varying viewpoints, mixing it up, can be compelling television. There's a fine line between a free wheeling discussion and an out of tune symphony of noise.
Please, ABC, drop one person from the roundtable every week, and you'll have a much better broadcast.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Some of those new faces, who started appearing in the gym after new year's day, have begun to disappear.
I'm so tired of Beyonce. The big question at her pre Super Bowl news conference was "Will you actually sing at the half time show?" How embarrassing. I've read positive reviews of her Super Bowl performance. I saw neither the game nor the show, but I will offer kudos nonetheless.
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch died Friday at the age of 88. He told you what was happening, not what you wanted to hear. Sometimes, it worked. Other times, not so much. Koch was very liberal, and he wasn't afraid to show it. He led the city through some difficult times, and there were far more positives than negatives.
I truly miss the days when I cared about Super Bowls.
The recent freeze-thaw cycle has really caused a pothole explosion. It's going to be a long late winter and early spring.
Monday, February 4, 2013
The Steelers were beyond disappointing this year. We'll see how the draft goes, and if they can get things back on track this year. It's a coaching issue. The offense was all over the place, and the players have no faith in management.
The NFL is becoming a lot like the NBA-- more players you root against than root for. The commissioner is trying to keep the league clean. With drug scandals, homicides, drunk driving, bounties, etc, it appears the commissioner is fighting a losing battle.
Please, if you see me coming today, end the discussion of Super Bowl commercials. Nothing bores me more. The same goes for the half time show.
The new controversy deals with head injuries, and President Obama's recent comments that he would have reservations about a son, if he had one, playing football. I always felt that way. I saw more kids with ripped up knees and shoulders in high school. Now, it's concussions-- where the problems don't manifest themselves for years to come.
It's almost like auto racing. When you get behind the wheel and go 200 MPH, you know there's a chance you're not going to finish the race, if you know what I mean. If you play football, you have to know you're going to get whacked in the head. The equipment and the game can be made safer, but there will always be risks. Is it worth it? That's up for parents and their children to decide.
Once again, I slept through the Super Bowl and saw the score when I got up at midnight. Disappointed? A little. The Ravens are an easy team to dislike, and the 49'ers aren't much better.
And, for the first time in a long time, my Super Bowl prediction was correct! I'm no expert. It was just dumb luck.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Bad Photography Sunday: Railroad Bridge
As you can see, there's an ice build up on shore, but the main channel flows freely. Like yesterday's photo, it was taken late Thursday morning.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Bad Photography Saturday: Susquehanna
I wanted to get a photo or two of the rain/snow melt Susquehanna River, complete with a lot of ice. Wednesday appeared to be the peak day for the ice. Unfortunately, I couldn't get there until late Thursday morning.
I usually shoot the Susquehanna from the Market Street Bridge area. This shot was slightly upstream-- behind that office complex across from Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. This is the view, looking upstream at the North Cross Valley Bridge.
Friday, February 1, 2013
About the Cover
The photo is mine. The idea is not.
Friend and Carbondale booster/historian Nancy Free recently had a photo of Carbondale's Hotel American on one of her web pages. Included was a close up shot of a stone carving, and I knew from the instant I saw it that it was blog header material. I took my photos a few weeks ago. The carving in question is beneath the bay window on the left side of the building. Here, it's obscured by the building's covered entrance.
I don't know much about the Hotel American, other than it stopped being a hotel long ago. It's now an apartment building.
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