Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Correale Stevens of the Hazleton area became a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice yesterday.  He was nominated by the governor, and confirmed by the senate, to fill a vacancy left by a resignation.

We go back a long way.  I wouldn't go so far as to say we're friends, but Stevens and have swapped occasional e-mails over the years.  I first met him when he was a state representative.  He probably could have had the gig for life, but Stevens ran for, and was elected Luzerne County district attorney.  That's when I dealt with him on an almost daily basis.

It felt like there was a major trial, or big crime just about every day.  You have to remember the time-- mid and late 80's.  Kevin Jordan, Mark Davis, and Rich Noonan were the TV reporters on the Luzerne County beat at the time.  There were two strong newspapers, and me-- a radio pup.  Newspapers carried a lot of weight.  There were three TV news operations in town at the time, and it was extremely competitive.  I don't think Luzerne County has ever been covered better.  Stevens treated me as an equal-- on par with the other guys, and I appreciated that.

He took over an office in disarray.  Stevens D.A. predecessor didn't exactly set the world on fire.  Some cases were bungled.  While Correale Stevens didn't spend a lot of time in the courtroom, he succeeded by being a good administrator and getting the office under control.  He was smart enough to hire a wily old assistant, and some aggressive young lawyers to keep the place running.

After leaving the district attorney's office, Correale Stevens was a county judge, then a superior court justice.  Now, it's the highest state court.

Congratulations, and good luck.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Action News

You knew I'd get to the demolition of Wilkes-Barre's Hotel Sterling eventually.

To get you up to speed, after years of government bungling, it was decided the old hotel was too far gone to save.  Demolition started Thursday morning.  As you can see from these Saturday morning photos, the project is moving quickly.

I saw a cloud of dust as I approached the east side of Public Square.  Demolition apparently resumed just after daybreak Saturday, and even at that early hour, it drew a crowd.

As the excavator pulled a hunk from the lower floor, I noticed a few crumbling bricks at the top.  It looked like a major section of the hotel was about to collapse.  I quickly switched my camera to the "continuous shoot" mode.  I didn't have to wait long.  The sequence is below.
There are a few more, but you get the idea.

A cloud of dust was coming my way, so I high tailed it out of there.

The Sterling has a lot of memories for me.  I met Sen. Bob Dole here.  It was home to the Citizens Voice newspaper for a while.  I watched Rep. Jim Nelligan concede an election here.

This didn't have to happen.  It shouldn't have happened, but it did.

We'll have to wait and see if predictions for quality development on the space come true, or if it's just another unfulfilled local dream.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Completely Dysfunctional

I don't live in Scranton, but it is the largest city around here, and it helps set the tone for what happens in the rest of our area.  Outsiders see Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as one area, not a series of cities, boroughs and townships.

I watched Thursday night's Scranton council meeting on TV, and it nearly made me cry.

First of all, no one in Scranton government, for decades, has grasped the concept of not spending more than you take in.  Our friends at the Sunday Times recently did a story on the possibility Scranton residents will have to swallow a 117 per cent tax increase in the very near future.

Thursday night, I watched people and some council members blast the University of Scranton, one of the few entities actually buying, building, and investing in the city, for wanting to tear down a brick box that has outlived its useful life, in favor of something that will bring more students and their money to the area.

Scranton council's solicitor pulled out a map, nearly 40 years old, that showed the U of S has expanded beyond its original and intended footprint.  Typical Scranton-- hold someone to something 40 years old.  Times and needs change.  Change.  That's another concept that seems foreign to a small, but local minority.  They seem content to have Scranton remain a backward, bankrupt coal town, known only for financial mismanagement and a bad TV sitcom.

Have you been up to the hill section recently?  Yes, the University has purchased a lot of property and taken it off the tax rolls.  In exchange, we have new construction, safe housing for students, bright street lights, and off street parking-- leaving room on the streets for residents' cars.  It's a reasonable trade off.  The University of Scranton is one of the economic drivers in the city.  Yet, a group has decided it's their mission to harass progress and throw up roadblocks at every turn.

Yes, the U has unpaid bills and it could kick in a lot more payment in lieu of taxes.  But, tell me something, would you voluntarily give money to a city that's making your life miserable?  Would you give money to a city that will just throw the cash down a black hole?  The U really needs to go on a public relations campaign to show all it gives back to Scranton.

The personal attacks and hearsay Thursday night were unbelievable.  When pressed to back up their allegations, several of the irresponsible ran for cover.  I'm all for free speech.  I'm also for accountability. 

It's sad to lose Leahy Hall, the old YWCA building.  I'm in favor of preserving as much of the past as possible.  On the other hand, the building is not architecturally significant.  It is little more than a brick box.  The U promises to make the history of the old building part of the new one, a history lesson we never had before.  Again, a reasonable trade off. 

Were people actually listening the other night?  There's no room on campus for a big new building.  Saving Leahy Hall would mean the U would have to expand into the hill or, gasp, the downtown.

An increased U of S presence downtown isn't such a bad idea.  Those people have to eat, shop and park somewhere.  It might as well be downtown.  It can use some new blood.

Full disclosure:  I'm a Marywood graduate, but I do own a University of Scranton tee shirt.

Speaking of downtown, parking is more expensive than ever.  You now have to feed the meters until 6 PM.  Nice way to promote a business friendly atmosphere.  Remember that plan to place meters near General Dynamics to soak its workers?  How did that work out for you?  Instead of working out a plan for reasonably priced long term parking for people who work in the city, cars now clog residential neighborhoods.  Brilliant!

One of the problems is a major failure to look well into the future.  Scranton lives in the past, and vendettas control decisions.

Property owners, get your checkbooks ready.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bad Photography Sunday: Time

I was on my way to shoot the demolition of the Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre Saturday morning when this caught my eye.

It's the giant watch in front of the Jewelcor Building at East Market Street and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.  Jewelcor sold a lot of watches over the years, so the timepiece in front of the building makes sense.  I must have passed it a thousand times, and this was the first time I pulled out a camera.

The building, and the giant watch are at one of the entries to downtown, and it makes a nice statement.

It's also a reminder that I'm on vacation and I have a lot of time on my hands.

As for the Sterling, I got some really good pictures, and I'll share those with you Tuesday.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bad Photography Saturday: The Lackawaxen

Wayne Memorial Hospital is one of Honesdale's dominant buildings.  It employs hundreds and provides medical care to thousands from its campus along Route 6.
The Lackawaxen River cuts through one of the parking lots.  You get from one side to the other by crossing a rather cool looking pedestrian bridge.
And, there is the river itself.  You have to wonder how many people stopped to take in the view as a way to relax in a potentially stressful hospital environment.

Friday, July 26, 2013


I love my job, but it's nice to get a little time away.  Tomorrow begins a rare weekend off.  The weekend morning broadcasts are in the extremely capable hands of Bill Wadell.

So, what are my plans?  Sleep is at the top of the list, followed by more sleep.  If I have some time, I'll get some sleep.

I'll try to squeeze in a bike ride or two, a little photography, and a few gym visits.

Other than that, I'll be sleeping.

My first full day off was actually Wednesday, and the vacation gods smiled upon me by providing a quick blast of cool weather.  Fantastic!

See you soon.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Media Thursday

Yes, I thought coverage of the royal baby was beyond excessive.  having said that, I'm a firm believer that the media reflects public tastes, not influences them.  It wouldn't be there if you wouldn't watch it.  It must be cool to be born a billionaire.  For some bizarre reason, I'm cutting Kate and William a lot of slack here.  For royals, they seem rather unpretentious.  I'm still amazed the British keep bathing the royals in wealth.  Hey, it's 2013.  On the other hand, I'm sure the royals bring money in to the country by being a tourist attraction, and I'm sure the networks spent thousands and thousands waiting for the big moment to happen.
Actor Dennis Farina died the other day.  69.  Do yourself a favor.  Watch "Get Shorty."  It's an underrated film.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area is getting another all sports station.  The Mountain 102.3 is flipping to NBC Sports Radio in days.  The general manager says the current rock format had listeners, but no advertisers.  There are a few exceptions, but all sports stations don't get big numbers.  They do appeal to a demographic sought by advertisers.  Plus, I'm sure the station's owner is getting the satellite delivered format cheap.  The Mountain was hampered by a relatively weak signal, and there wasn't a lot of promotion.  Sports radio has morphed in to guy talk, with discussions of movies, tv, beer, food, women, relationships, etc.  More often than not, FOX Sports Radio is my station of choice.  I listen to it on Sirius XM so it's not interrupted by local high school football and RailRiders baseball.  I've grown fond of Pat O'Brien in the afternoon, and JT the Brick overnight.  There are also a couple good weekend shows.
NBC is getting back into the NASCAR businesses.  It picked up 20 races, for the second half of the season, beginning in 2015.  NBC had the NASCAR contract before.  At the time, I was freelancing at a yearly NASCAR event for a TV station in Corning, NY.  I wish I had a dime for every fan who said they wished FOX broadcast the entire season.  I explained FOX took the first half, and started concentrating on the NFL as fall approached.  NBC was known for fiercely protecting its property.  The network made sure reporters and photographers from competing operations kept their distance from the drivers.  Okay.  If you don't want the free publicity, I'll go somewhere else.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Second Half

The second half of the major league baseball season is barely underway, so it seems to be as good a time as any to express a few thoughts...

It's nice to see small market, low budget teams like Pittsburgh and Oakland doing well.

Dodgers fans wanted manager Don Mattingly fired a few months ago.  He now has the team close to first place.

It looks like a big group of players is about to be suspended for using performance enhancing drugs.  I applaud MLB for attempting to get a handle on the problem.  On the other hand, it looks like cheating will forever be a part of the sport.

It happens during every All Star break-- people whine and complain about Pete Rose's ban from baseball and the Hall of Fame.  Too bad.  He stained the game, as a former commissioner said.  Yes, his crimes took place as a manager, not a player.  I'm still against Rose's election to the HoF.  It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Numbers.  Character matters.  On top of that, Rose didn't come clean until he had a book to sell.  No Rose in the HoF.  Never.  Ever.

On the AAA level, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are clearly not a playoff caliber team, but that's okay.  Winning isn't the name of the game.  Player development is.  What's surprising?  Despite a new stadium and home games featuring Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the RailRiders are still in the bottom half of the league when it comes to attendance.  Guys, you need more than a porcupine mascot.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What It's Like

I do track blog hits once in a while, and it seems the most popular entries are the ones that give an insider's view of the news business.  Here comes another.  Let me tell you about my Monday.

It actually started late Sunday night.  A water heater malfunction at home left me dry, so I took my pre work morning shower at the gym.  I powered up my laptop before I left and learned of a major fire in Dunmore.  The old high school was burning down.  In fact, I could smell the smoke from where I live.  That was the incentive to get going even earlier than normal.

After a quick shower, a phone call to the office to consult with morning producer Thomas, and a stop at a mini mart for a giant soda and two cups of vanilla yogurt, I walked in to the newsroom at 1:45 AM.  I love it when a plan comes together.  Photographer Joe and reporter Stacy got some great pictures and interviews at the fire scene.  My job was to review the material, then put together some reports for the morning news, beginning at 4:30 AM.

Photographer Dave was called in to work with me.  We bolted for the door as soon as I hit "save" on my script editor.  Here's why.  The section of Dunmore was the fire was located is home to narrow streets, one way thoroughfares, and overhead wires all over the place.  Wires are concern because the mast of a microwave truck needs plenty of clearance.

We circled the neighborhood, looking for a safe spot to park the truck-- a place where you could see the fire behind me.  It took a while, but we found a good location in a funeral home parking lot.  Management there could not have been nicer and more accommodating.  Thank you.  I'm glad we left the station early.

We did live reports for our morning news, plus the Good Morning America update slots.  Things were changing-- traffic, power outages, the status of the fire, and the collapsing building.  There was more than enough to keep us busy.
We gathered additional video and interviews, and headed back to the office.  That's where we prepared an updated report for the noon broadcast.  It was then back in the truck to Dunmore.  By then, demolition of the unstable parts of the building had begun.  After noon, the story went back to Stacy Lange, who filed additional updates for the late afternoon/early evening broadcasts.  Several people had a hand in the story-- two producers, two reporters, three photographer/editors, two web site editors, an executive producer, and two anchors.  I'm not a cheerleader, but it all worked perfectly.  Everyone knows their duties and responsibilities.  It's routine.  It looks good on the air, and I'm happy to be part of it.  And when the day is over, we'll do it all over again tomorrow.
I have to make note of the building before I sign off.  I love old buildings, and I especially love when old buildings are reused, like the former Dunmore High School.  I've seen many old schools torn down.  Some, like the ones I attended, deserved it.  This one, apparently, didn't.  It was a great looking old structure, and it was so sad to see it go up in flames.  So many worked to keep the fire from being even worse.  My heart goes out to those who lost their businesses Sunday night/Monday morning.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Take 2

One of the great things about this country is we are a people of second chances.  Sometimes, three, four, and five chances.

Keith Olbermann has signed on to do a late night talk show on ESPN2.  You might remember, Olbermann left the network under miserable circumstances several years ago.  The same goes for FOX, MSNBC, and Current.  Sense a pattern here?

The man has tons of talent, but he's what's called a high maintenance employee.  I'm not sure he's worth it, and if Keith Olbermann is so smart, he should be able to see why every thing he touches turns in to a train wreck.

Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer is running for New York City comptroller, the city's chief financial officer.  Spitzer got caught up in a prostitution scandal in 2008 and resigned as governor.

Polls show Spitzer leading his opponent.

He's also authored a new book.

Spitzer's acts speak for themselves, but the fact he did it while pretending to be Mr. Law and Order.  It is the hypocrisy that is the most disturbing.

And, like the Tsarnaev Rolling Stone cover, Spitzer seems happy to have people talk about him again.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bad Photography Sunday: Bee

I must have looked like a goof-- sitting on a University of Scranton sidewalk on a summer morning, waiting for a bee to buzz by.

I finally captured one of the critters as it gathered some pollen on a yellow flower.

It's not a honey of a shot, but it's close.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bad Photography Saturday: Flowers

Every once in a while, I get bitten by the artsy bug.

Here's what I attempted to do:  the focus is on the red rose.  The pink roses are a bit over exposed.  The greens on the wall are deliberately out of focus.  I also shot it deliberately off center.

Yes, "artsy" isn't my thing, but I'm trying.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rolling Stone

Why are we constantly forced into these discussions?

The new Rolling Stone has Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover.

Rolling Stone is in one business:  to sell magazines.  It has the right to create any cover it likes.  You have the right to not read it.  Isn't that the freedom that terrorists hate?

As I'm writing this, the actual cover story has yet be released.  Those who have seen it say it is no puff piece.  It's an examination of the disconnect that led to a brutal and horrible crime.  Don't condemn something you haven't seen, and you never know, you might learn something from the article.

Just because you don't like something doesn't mean that others HAVE to dislike it as well.

By the way, I should add that controversy equals publicity.  While I was at the gym this morning, the Rolling Stone cover was discussed on the CBS overnight news, and the replay of the fourth hour of the unwatchable Today on NBC.  I'm sure the Rolling Stone publishers appreciate the free advertising.

We live in a great country.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Are You Kidding Me?

Sunday, NBC's Al Roker gave a speech at a meeting of the School Nutrition Association.  As the name implies, it's an organization pushing for healthy food in schools.

The very next day, Roker rode a Twinkie truck through Manhattan, tossing the sugary, fatty treats to children and adults along the way.

What's wrong with this picture?

First, the ratings are still sagging on "Today" and NBC will do anything to draw a crowd.

Second, Roker has no shame.

Look, I have nothing wrong with Twinkies.  I subscribe to the Julia Child theory of "everything in moderation."  Child discovered butter and cream long before Paula Deen.  Fortunately, Julia, unlike Deen, didn't make butter one of the basic food groups.  One Twinkie isn't going to do a lot of damage.  I've had a craving since Twinkies were reintroduced this week, and I might buy a box one of these days.

However, it's the hypocrisy of Roker's silly, tired, overpaid act that raises my ire.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


An old college friend was in town this week.  We got together for only the second time in thirty years.  Like our first lunch a couple months ago, this one was an absolute joy.  We talked, shared memories, saw places we frequented back in the day, and looked at what's changed over the past three decades.

The reason for the visit-- her daughter was attending orientation at the University of Scranton.  The daughter begins classes there next month.

I don't have children, so parts of the orientation experience were new to me.  There were meetings and testing for the students, they get to spend the night in a dorm, and they experience a first taste of college life.  Mom got the pleasure of attending financial planning meetings.

Times have certainly changed.

I remember my first day at Marywood back in 1979.  There was a Sunday address by the president and a mass.  We got a bag with a couple pamphlets, a schedule, and a bar of soap.  I kid you not.  A bar of soap!  It was Coast, the eye opener.  I love that stuff, and I can't smell a bar without thinking of Marywood.  However, being given a toiletry on orientation day felt like receiving a prisoner of war care package, or something you'd get as you were checked into a federal prison.

There were some attempts at forced socialization on that orientation Sunday, like a volleyball tournament and a picnic.  I interpreted those as "dormie" events and I blew them off.  In retrospect, I should have taken the free burgers and dogs.  It would have added value to my college experience.

Instead, I grabbed my high school friend, Jerry, who was also a Marywood freshman.  We went to Burger King in Dunmore.  Whopper.  No mayonnaise.  Large fries.  Large diet cola.  I believe BK was a Pepsi outlet at the time.  Coke came along later.

I went home.  Classes started the next day.  I was disoriented and somewhat terrified, but at least I had a bar of soap for comfort.  I was the best smelling frightened freshman you ever met.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Newsroom

I wasn't going to invest any time in the second season of HBO's "The Newsroom."  I found the first season a little too talky and preachy.  While there were many realistic moments, far too others strained credibility.

A couple things changed my mind. 

The first was the addition of Constance Zimmer to the cast.  She plays a Romney campaign worker.  Zimmer was one of the break out characters in a dreadful 2002 NBC sitcom called "Good Morning Miami."  Then, "Boston Legal" and "Entourage."  I've always found her to be extremely watchable.  Zimmer didn't make it in to the first episode.

Then, I took another look at the first episode of "The Newsroom" and I found I liked it more the second time around.

Episode one of the second season aired Sunday night. I watched.  I liked.  It was a nice balance between what happens in the news business and the personal relationships.  There was a lot of that control room, news business excitement that drew a lot of us to the business.  Plus, I enjoyed the discussions, the give and take, the arguments.  Believe me, that stuff is real.

It looks like I'll be around for the second season.

Monday, July 15, 2013


I will say what I always say after every controversial court verdict:  It's a court of law, not a court of justice.

You can spend days dissecting Saturday night's verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

Yes, the prosecution could have put on a better case.  Yes, the defense succeeded in showing reasonable doubt.

You just wonder what could have happened if Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin minded their own business on that night in February of 2012.  Martin was no angel.  Neither was Zimmerman.  There is more than enough blame to go around, and like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I have to admit I'm a bit surprised at the verdict.  From what I saw and read, it looked a lot like manslaughter.  That was the outcome I expected.  Zimmerman goes free.  I saw it as a possibility, but I really didn't expect it.

It would be nice to strip race out of this, but it doesn't work that way.  I watched a lot of analysis Saturday night and Sunday morning.  It's clear we are still a divided nation.

If there's one thing that makes me happy through all of this is that most of the protests were peaceful and civilized.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bad Photography Sunday: The Statue

It's a very strong statue for the middle of a college campus.  This is what you'll find in the commons of the University of Scranton.  Below is a paragraph I lifted from the U's web site.

 TheMetanoia (Transformation) sculpture is located at the center of the campus where the Royal Way and the University Commons intersect. This large sculpture, surrounded by the Centennial Fountain, depicts Ignatius surrendering his soldier’s sword at Montserrat. This significant event marked the beginning of his new life as a “soldier for Christ.” The base of the sculpture, like all the cornerstones of those buildings erected under the Jesuits, contains the Latin motto of St. Ignatius and the Society of Jesus, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – “All for the greater glory of God.”

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bad Photography Saturday: Science!

It's always a challenge-- build something new and modern on an old college campus, and have it blend in with what's already there.

Above is the University of Scranton's new science building.  The side facing the campus has a lot of stone.  What you see driving in to the city is a lot of glass and steel.  It all seems to work very nicely.

Below is another angle-- where the new building ties in with an existing structure.

I chose this view because it includes something that was always in short supply at the University of Scranton-- green space.

Somehow, they've managed to make a crowded urban campus less urban.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Law & Order

The George Zimmerman murder trial is coming to an end in Florida.  Zimmerman is the crime watch volunteer charged with the February 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman's lawyers say he acted in self defense while the prosecution contends Martin is the victim of racial profiling, and Zimmerman zealously and recklessly took the law in to his own hands.

While the trial raises fascinating issues, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out, there are times I feel like I have to take a shower after talking about it.  It's far too tabloidy for my tastes.  Anything that "reporters" Nancy Grace and Ashleigh Banfield immerse themselves in instantly raises the red flag.

The story is getting extensive air time because it's just a juicy crime story with racial overtones.  It makes me uncomfortable.

And then, there is Wilkes-Barre.  The city is going through a crime spurt.  Some will say it's not a spurt.  Wilkes-Barre has had a crime problem for a while, and it's getting worse.  Strangely enough, all of this is happening after the mayor said crime is actually down and he has the statistics to back it up.

I can tell the administration is trying to get a handle on the public relations aspect of this.  There's a news release from a spokesman, touting every arrest.  Great.  It's as it should be.

Where Wilkes-Barre falls short, very short, is the actual reporting of the crimes.  News releases at city hall are often late.  It's tough to get a handle on the situation via phone, and officers at the scene rarely say much. I can understand a lot of that.  Officers and detectives have to investigate crimes in order to find the suspect. Time talking to the media can detract from that.

However, it only takes a few minutes to walk over the the assembled reporters to say something like "we have one dead, one wounded, and a gunman on the loose.  He was last seen in a while car.  We think this is drug related.  If people know anything , they can call...  How long did that take?  Two minutes?  If an officer can't do it, the city should appoint a public information officer-- someone who can talk to you face to face, to type out a release, answer a call.  Thanks to Twitter, text, and Facebook, the news can get out in seconds, and you know what?  It can actually help.

The "cone of silence" method currently employed worked for Max and the chief of Control. It bombed elsewhere.

I speak for myself, but I know others in journalism feel the way.  Confirm the facts on a timely basis.  That's all you really need to do.  It won't take you away from your jobs for but a moment.  If there are no firm facts, speculation and rumor take over.  Thanks to the internet and social media, it spreads like wildfire, and you know how difficult it is to control.  So, not only are you looking for a perp, you're looking for your eroding image and popularity.

Look, the vast majority of men and woman in uniform are decent and honorable people who really want to help their communities.  It falls apart when they don't get the manpower, guidance, and tools to do their jobs.  One of the tools is common sense.  Let the community know what's going on.  How hard is that?  This "if we don't talk about it, it didn't happen" mentality is failing.  The "we don't want to scare the people" argument already falls on its face.  Information reassures.  Ignorance breeds fear.

Someone once said that life is 10 per cent what happens to you and 90 per cent how you react to it.

I think everyone agrees, the reaction is failing-- badly.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Media Thursday

I neglected to mention yesterday that I caught a couple strong radio news efforts during Monday's trip to central Pennsylvania.  WHLM and WKOK.  Plus, WGRC has been making a strong effort for quite a while now.  I learned a long time ago that the stations that succeed are the ones that do a good job of reflecting their communities.  Yay!

Meredith Vieira will try a daytime TV talk show beginning in September of next year.  I'm sure she'll discover what the others already know.  It's not as easy as it looks.  People seem to like Vieira, and the show stands a better than average shot at success.  At least we won't have to listen to her whine about getting up at 4 AM for $6 million a year.

"The View" and FOX News Channel are altering their talent line ups.  Neither are my thing, so I'll pass on comment.

Former CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien is going to work for al Jazeera.  Now, she can add more shows no one will watch to her resume.

ESPN says its ratings are down by almost one-third this year.  The only reason I can think of is product overload.

The Washington Post is looking at publishing smaller editions.  Isn't the key to getting readers interested is give them more, not less?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Everyone Knows It's Windy

It was one of those rare days in the TV news business where you set off without a firm plan of action.

It was Monday morning, 6:30 AM.  Photographer Corey and I were contemplating how to spend our day.  There were a few good potential stories, all close to home base in Moosic, but all taking place later in the morning.

Central Pennsylvania got hit with high winds Sunday evening, and there was some damage.  The problem is,  it was a long way away, especially if you are responsible for filling a lot in the rapidly approaching noon news.  We had a general area for the damage, and only a few specifics.  A search showed it was a drive of at least one hour and 45 minutes.

Corey knows I can write fast, and I know he's a quick and efficient editor.  We had options if we got hung up out there late.  We could have used one of our satellite trucks or worked out of WNEP's Central Pennsylvania Newsroom.

Under the heading of "you miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take," and with the blessing of the assignment editor and noon producer, Corey and I headed west.  It was one of those exceptionally rare "let's just go and see what we can find" type of expeditions.  Half of was very concerned.  What if we strike out?  It could have been a long drive for nothing.

Shortly upon arrival, we found what we were looking for-- trees uprooted and broken, buildings damaged.  Corey photographed.  I did interviews.  We looked around, found more problems, documented those, and high tailed it back to Moosic.  Our piece made its slot at noon.  It was a good story.

Now, there's something you need to know about the morning shift.  I don't have a specific beat.  I'm liable to be anywhere.  Sometimes, that means taking a story away from another reporter on the staff because I can get there earlier.  This day's victim was Nikki Krize.  As it turned out, there was much more damage than I could show in my short trip.  There was more than enough room for a second reporter, and as we say, Nikki "turned a nice package" for the afternoon and evening broadcasts.  We talked via phone Monday morning.  I let her know what I had, and mentioned the areas we didn't get a chance to visit.  Team player.  Nikki got it done.

Unfortunately, on these "hit and run" visits to places I rarely see, I didn't even have a spare moment to get my own camera out of the bag to take a few pictures.  Central Pennsylvania is really beautiful, especially in and around the Sunbury area.  There were boats on the water, people in the parks, and some great looking mountains.

I was also amazed to see how much the Shamokin Dam/Hummels Wharf area has taken off.  It was always busy when I was there many years ago.  It's really grown into a massive commercial/retail center.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More Medical Adventures

To get you up to speed, quickly, I'm in search of a new doctor because my current one is affiliating with a medical group that will force me to pay "out of network" insurance rates.

I picked a name off my insurance company's web site-- close to home, ample parking, etc., and I had my first visit one week ago.

Sin number one:  I was kept on ice for nearly a half hour in an empty waiting room.  There was no explanation or apology.  The office looked shoddy and sloppy.  The nurse/receptionist seemed uninspired and didn't bother to check to see if records from my previous doctor had been delivered.

Here's what really irked me.  There is no privacy!  I heard every word of every conversation the nurse/receptionist had, via telephone, with other doctors, patients, insurance companies, hospitals and pharmacies.  It was inexcusable.  Patients would be appalled if they knew their confidential information was being broadcast to the waiting room, and I won't stand for it.

I got the going over from the doctor.  Again, an uninspired performance.

I won't be going back, and the doctor will receive a letter from me, stating that her services are substandard and I will be going elsewhere.

The problem is, I still need an "elsewhere."

Monday, July 8, 2013


Okay, I've commented on dozens of local businesses in this space over the years.  I'm no hypocrite, so let me carefully comment on my own.

WNEP and its parent company, Local TV, LLC, were sold to the Chicago Tribune last week.  The federal government still has to approve the deal.  That should take at least a few months.

The combined company will have more than forty television stations, coast to coast.

There is always a fear of the unknown.  The last few months, while the station was "on the block" have not been pleasant.  I've been through this several times before.  It never gets easier.  I've worked for some great companies and managers over the last 32 years.  I've worked for some bad ones.  You know who you are.

Keen industry observers will know Local TV and Tribune shared a working relationship over the last six years.  We know them.  They know us.  Tribune wants to increase its presence in television, and that sounds like a good thing.  Because of that relationship, this has the potential to be one of the easiest and most transparent transfers in the history of broadcasting.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bad Photography Sunday: Elm Park

Above is one of Scranton's signature buildings-- Elm Park United Methodist Church.  The building fronts on Jefferson Avenue.  I shot this from the Linden Street side due to a more favorable sun angle.

A web search shows the building dates back to 1893.  It still looks to be in great shape.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Bad Photography Saturday: Stay or Go?

Scranton City Council is currently embroiled in one of its patented and oddly advised urinating contests with the University of Scranton.

The U wants to tear down this building at Jefferson and Linden, and put something bigger and better in its place.

The zoning board said sight lines for the proposed building weren't right.  The preservationists have their fingers in the pie.  Some council members are still annoyed the University is actually expanding and adding jobs while gobbling up some decrepit, albeit taxable properties.

Bottom line:  council put the brakes on the U's project.

There's some history here.  This building used to be the YWCA.  It dates back to 1907.

I'm all for preserving nice, old buildings.  Is this one really special?  Meh.  It's not a stunner, but it is part of the character of the neighborhood.

I would like to think the U and the powers that be can get this straightened out, but this is Scranton and things like that just don't happen here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Surreal Life

Television news is a strange way to make a living, and you can pretty much figure that out on your own.

Let me take you back to an early morning, long before sunrise, two weeks ago.  There was a newsroom conversation between assignment editor Amy, producer Lindsey, and I.  Two young women and a middle aged man.  Our topic was make up application and removal techniques, plus our favorite products.

It was one of those discussions that, hours after it was over, it felt strange.

Yes, men on television wear make up.  Now that we're high definition, it's more important than ever.  Even after all these years, I've never been totally comfortable with it, but when you take the gig, you have to know that it comes along with the territory.  Some of us are better at it than others, and I'm always open to advice and suggestions from others on the staff.

I'm lucky that there is always help around when I need it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day, Election Night

It seems a fitting topic on Independence Day-- a book review concerning a celebration of democracy.

One of the neat things about having an e-reader is once Barnes & Noble, or in my case, Amazon, learns what you like, there are suggestions aplenty.

I just finished Stephen Battaglio's "Election Night."  It documents how television covered presidential elections, going back to the mediums infancy in 1948.  It's a breezy read, filled with pictures, but there's enough meat to keep a political wonk and news junkie happy.

The book is broken down in to four year cycles, featuring the gimmick of the year-- from computers, to graphics, to exit polling and voter analysis, and the internet effect.

As you can guess from the peacock on the cover, the book is written from the NBC perspective.  I've always been a CBS guy.  Growing up, it was the gold standard.  Through You Tube, I learned NBC did a lot of good stuff over the years.  John Chancellor was vastly under rated.  David Brinkley was awesome.

Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert lost me.  Brokaw's "Nightly News" was the first to go fluffy.  Russert enjoyed bringing up something irrelevant in your past, only to say "gotcha" on "Meet the Press."  He worked for liberal politicians for years, and I thought it showed.  Brian Williams seems excessively wordy.

I love election nights-- working and watching.  It's the Super Bowl for those of us in TV news.  It's a bit of history.

Those inside and outside the business should get something out of "Election Night."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Something happened last week that didn't get a lot of attention.  It made me sad nonetheless.

CNN got rid of its radio division.

CNN Radio News took a major hit about a year ago when it lost its distribution deal.  It became an "internet only" service, and now that is gone.

To get you up to speed, I spent more than ten years in radio news, and I loved it.  It's a great medium.  I moved on when I noticed the industry beginning to slide.  It kept sliding after I left.  There's very little "live and local" radio news these days.

I always enjoyed a solid network product.  Growing up, WEJL 630 always had ABC Radio news, for five minutes, at the top of the hour-- everything you needed to know, in one small package.

FOX News started a radio operation several years ago.  An FM talk station carries the first couple minutes of a longer radio newscast on the hour.  It's about the best you can get these days.  Unfortunately, the signal isn't the greatest, and the station chooses to cut off the newscast after the first two minutes.  Pity.

It made so much sense for CNN to have a radio division.  It's one of THE news brands in the industry.  The news gathering infrastructure is there.  Find yourself some satellite channels and a distributor and you're good to go.  I don't know why CNN pulled the plug.

Times change.  It's a satellite and internet world.  You can get tons of audio news any time you want.  The only thing that's different is the delivery method.

Still, I can't help but feel there's a major need for radio news that's being ignored.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


On June 27, I showed you the damage from a Monday afternoon lightning strike at what used to be St. John's Church on Sanderson Street in Throop.

The building has been vacant since 2009.  The Diocese of Scranton decided to remove the damaged portion and button up the hole in the roof.
I would have liked to have used the same angle as I did with Monday afternoon's camera phone shot, but I was at St. John's early Thursday morning.  I would have been shooting right in to the sun.  That's why I'm in front and on the Charles Street side.

It's strange to look up and not see the steeple that used to tower above the neighborhood.

Monday, July 1, 2013

About the Cover

After a month of windmills, it's back to a cupola.

This month's offering is the Montour County Courthouse, on Mill Street, near the Susquehanna River, in Danville.

Under the "I did not know that" heading, and according to the book "County Courthouses of Pennsylvania," Montour is one of the few counties named for a woman.  The book says madam Montour was likely French, but was Indian by choice.

The courthouse dates back to 1871.  The courthouse, coupled with the setting-- a cluster of historic homes and buildings near the Susquehanna River, makes this one a central Pennsylvania gem.