Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bad Photography Saturday: SCC

This weekend's theme is "irreplaceable."

Above is the Scranton Cultural Center, aka, The Masonic Temple.

Below are several paragraphs lifted from the SCC's web site.

The Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple is housed in one of the most glorious pieces of architecture to be found in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Originally built as the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral, the building is significant as an example of the work of Raymond M. Hood (1881-1934), a prominent architect of the 1920's and early 1930's, and as a unique example of Neo-Gothic architecture in Scranton.

Raymond Hood's productive career spanned from 1922, when he and a collaborator won the Chicago Tribune design competition, to his untimely death at 53 in 1934. Hood became a nationally prominent architect trained in the Beaux Arts tradition and proficient with historic styles. During those 12 years, Hood was the principle designer or primary collaborator in a number of high-profile progressive skyscraper designs, mainly in New York City, where he designed the Daily News Building and the McGraw-Hill Building in mid-town Manhattan, and was part of the team that designed Radio City Music Hall. His best known work being Rockefeller Center.

The Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral is located at 420 North Washington Avenue in downtown Scranton. The 1930 Temple-cathedral is a highly stylized Neo-Gothic and Romanesque pastiche executed by Hood. The design of the building was to be a monument to Masonry. Masonic lodges in Scranton for years felt the need for a suitable home or temple, and prior to the construction of this building they used an old armory. Bids for construction were taken in January, 1927.

The Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral was inaugurated on January 2, 1930 when the first meeting was held in the building. The rectangular plan building is clad in coursed ashlars of Indiana limestone supported by a structural steel framework. At approximately 180,000 square feet, the building houses 2 theatres, meeting rooms, a grand ballroom as well as numerous other rooms and areas.

Over time the Masonic Fraternity realized the need to utilize the facility in more non-traditional ways. A grass roots effort was launched to form a not-for-profit organization dedicated to both preserving the physical structure of the temple and providing an ongoing programming source for the community. This unique partnership of the community as well as the Masonic Fraternity has proven successful and beneficial to all parties.

Today the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple operates the facility as a regional performance and cultural hub. The Center serves as the residence for national tours of Broadway musicals and concerts and hosts many of the area’s top regional companies. It also has kept to its earliest purposes by continuing to serve as the center of Masonic activity in the region.

We have proudly hosted performances that range from Frank Sinatra to Rob Zombie. Our stage has been graced by Yul Brenner in The King and I, George Carlin, NSync and Britney Spears, Barry Manilow, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Doc Watson and Bela Fleck. And so many other entertainers it would take pages to include.

Today the Center is undergoing a several phased, multi-million dollar restoration. To date work has been done on many areas of the facility. In the mid 1990's new roofs were installed including a complete replacement of the copper roof system and gutters over the south end of the building. Lead paint and asbestos issues were addressed in the late 1990's. Since then all new electric services have been installed, air conditioning was incorporated into the theatre and ballroom. The grand ballroom received major restoration work to the walls and ceilings and the main lobbies are currently being restored. Our most recent renovation was the addition of the Raymond Hood Room in the Lower Level.

Future work will include restoration work to the theatre walls and ceiling, new stage lighting and sound reinforcement systems, replacement of the 75 year old stage floor, updated dressing rooms, installation of elevated, portable seating in our 4th floor theatre (Shopland Hall), and air conditioning of our 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor spaces.

I've been here for a variety of events-- Ernie Preate's election nights, Sister Adrian's holiday dinners, Washo and O'Brien beginning their terms as county commissioners...

If those walls could talk... 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Scrapple Friday

The person who invented wintergreen scented rubbing alcohol is a genius.

Where are the one dollar coins?  I still pick up pennies when I see them on the ground.

It's great that Interstate 81 paving has been taking place at night.  All the workers wear reflective clothing.  Even driving slowly, the workers can be difficult to spot.  Someone has to come up with something better.

I'm really tired of all the speculation over new Apple products.

I'd be happy if the Steelers win eight games this year.

Remember when $ 100 million PowerBall jackpots used to be a big deal?

FOX is charging $ 4 million for a 30 second Super Bowl commercial, and inventory is almost gone.

Fox Sports 1 and Al Jazeera America?  Meh.  Both are solid, but not exceptional.

I'm ready for fall, but I will admit summer has flown by.

Miley Cyrus' job is to get noticed.  Mission accomplished.  Can we move on?

Syria is a lot more complicated than one nation doing one bad thing.  But then again, just about every international situation is complicated.

I bought gas yesterday because I expect the price to jump when the missiles fly in Syria.

Wilkes-Barre Police is now getting out some information via social media.  It's about time.

It's nice to see the return of college football.

It's nice to see Penn State begin the season playing a non-cupcake.  Sorry, Akron.

It's nice to see Penn State and Syracuse compete again.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Year One

I've been a proud bicycle owner for exactly one year, and my only regret is not buying one sooner.

There's been a lot of progress in the last twelve months.  On my first trip, I tried too much, too soon, on a full stomach, on a broiling hot and humid summer afternoon.  I lost my l lunch.

Lessons were learned on that first day-- start slow and build momentum.  Eat after the ride, not before.

One year later, I can now breeze up the hills I used to walk up with the bike.  A few blocks became several, then one loop around town, then two, now, three, and I'm on my way to four.

I'm no Lance Armstrong.  The only performance enhancing drugs in my body are Diet Pepsi, a low dose aspirin and 5 Hour Energy.  I'm nowhere near keeping up with Joe Snedeker in the endurance category.

My expectations are realistic-- burn off a few calories and have a little fun.  It's been a good year.

During that first year, I've encountered drunks, deer, raccoons, opossum, cats, skunks, bunnies, and a pair of indiscreet lovers.

I'm amazed at how many people are doing laundry at 2:30 AM.  I've traveled through many dryer vapor clouds of Febreze and Bounce.  I return from trips better smelling than I left.

When I'm in my car, I've always careful around cyclists.  Now that it's my butt on the uncomfortable little seat, I'm even more aware that bikes need their space.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Power to Save

Yes, we practice what we preach.  WNEP recycles.

We're working on a new set for Coaches Corner on WNEP2, and we had a lot of left over furniture from our previous news set.  We'll re use some things we had in storage and team them with some new elements.  I saw the sketches, and it looks really nice.

I enjoyed seeing the old stuff back, like the return of a trusted and valued friend.  There were some good broadcasts behind that desk.

You'll see the project this week, just in time for the start of the high school football season.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Against the Grain

Here we go.  I will admit that there are times I really go against popular opinion, and today, both deal with baseball.

Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully will work again next year, his 65th calling Dodgers games.  Scully started when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn.  I admire his longevity.    I respect his popularity.  He's not one of my favorites.  Scully insists on working alone, even though people like the play-by-play/color man arrangement.  The good broadcasters can put their feelings aside when working national broadcasts.  Scully was NBC's main guy for years.  I take you back to the 1988 World Series between Oakland and Los Angeles.  It was clear Scully bled Dodger blue.  For the last year of the NBC baseball contract, Scully was teamed with Tom Seaver.  I like Seaver, and he always brought something to the table.  Scully barely let him speak.  I don't get Vin Scully, but to each, his own.

Strange to say, but I actually feel sorry for Alex Rodriguez.  Yes, there is considerable evidence he used performance enhancing drugs.  It got him kicked out of baseball for a year and a half.  The suspension is currently on appeal.  A-Rod is getting heat from the public and the media for simply choosing to fight back and defend himself.  Since when is that a crime in America?

Monday, August 26, 2013


I wonder how they feel now.

During the recent spell of shootings, Wilkes-Barre's mayor and Luzerne County's district attorney were fond of saying the shootings were "not random acts."  Translation:  the crime was bad guy vs bad guy and the rest of us law abiding citizens need not worry.

I used this space in the past to express my dismay.  The "not a random act" thing didn't do anything to make me feel better about crime in the area.  It didn't make me feel safe.  In a way, it made me angry, because if that's the best the elected types could come up with, we're all in big trouble.

Two children got shot in Wilkes-Barre Saturday afternoon.  It looks like the kids were caught in the crossfire between a couple of bad guys.  The fight was not a random act, but you see Mr. Mayor and Ms. District Attorney, people can get hurt in random acts.  Children.  Innocent children, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What's your excuse now?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bad Photography Sunday: Up Close Front Porch

Today, it's the Leahy Hall Linden Street entrance.

I said earlier this is little more than a brick box, but if you look carefully, there are some nice features, like the steps and columns.

The University of Scranton wants to replace the dorms here with a building for its occupational and physical therapy programs.  It will be sad to see the old YWCA building come down.  If you look at the options, this one seems to make the most sense.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bad Photography Saturday: Up Close

A few weeks ago, the weekend theme was "from a distance."  I'm attempting the opposite this weekend-- familiar sites from up close and different angles.

Today, it's Elm Park United Methodist Church on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Scranton.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Money Friday

A few Dollar General/Family Dollar stores have been robbed recently, and that elicited some snickers.  How much money can be in a dollar store?  The answer is "a lot."  I'm an occasional shopper.  They're always busy.  I suspect they have a shoplifting problem.  It seems like anything worth more than two dollars is locked up, has an alarm attached to it, or you have to ask the clerk to get it for you.

Sears/KMart is reporting another bad quarter, although not as bad as last year at this time.  I was in a Sears Wednesday, and I do hit KMart from time to time.  They're not bad, but then again, they don't offer much to entice you to travel out of your way.  It's sad to see once solid retailers, like Sears, KMart, and Penney's lose their way.

President Obama has unveiled his plan to make a college education affordable.  It's tough to distill in a few sentences, and good luck to my professional brethren who have to do that today.  Anyway, Obama's plan calls for more federal aid co colleges and universities that provide a good value.  Funding for students will be tied to academic performance.  Colleges and universities will be encouraged to provide new types of education and new ways to pay for it.

Good luck.  Colleges and universities make great contributions to science, technology, and learning in general.  However, they are INSTITUTIONS, and many innovate policies and procedures at a glacial pace.  The Washington Post pointed out that many of the college tuition increases can be blamed on reductions in state aid, and the president has no control over that.

Somebody has to come up with realistic solutions.  Other countries are kicking our butts on the education front while we spend all our time arguing about a college football playoff.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Higher and Higher

President Obama is coming to Lackawanna College in Scranton tomorrow to talk about affordable higher education.

It's about time.

Newswatch 16's Sarah Buynovsky compared college costs, in the Scranton area, for a story that aired Friday night and Saturday morning.  The University of Scranton costs about $ 38,000 per year.  Marywood University comes in at about $ 29,000.


Of course, you want students to have the best faculty and facilities.  Most students get some form of aid.  Still, I don't know how students and their parents afford it.  I really don't.  You get the degree, plus years of debt in the process.  I was lucky that I went to school when the costs were relatively low.

Then, there is the state representative who declined an invitation to be at Lackawanna for the Obama visit.  He's upset the president isn't concentrating on the economy.  Isn't helping young people get an education, so they can get good jobs, and so they can be productive members of society a huge part of economic development?  What am I missing here?  Even if you disagree with Obama, he is the president.  It's good to have a friend in high places.  Someone is missing a golden opportunity, and I hope our area doesn't need presidential help down the road.

The cost of college is one of those problems where there are no easy answers.  Low interest rates on loans is a huge help.  There is no substitute for a quality education.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Family Tree

I get asked about the Palumbo's of Philadelphia on occasion.  They had a nightclub and restaurant there for a long time, as you can see from the marker above.  By the way, the picture was taken by old friend Phil Yacuboski of WBAL in Baltimore.

A lot of singers and comedians got there start at Palumbo's, including David Brenner, who was really big in the 70's.

No.  We're not related.

There's a Palumbo in the western part of the state who made his money in mining.  He gave a lot of money to colleges and universities in the Pittsburgh and Erie areas.  The name is up on a lot of buildings.  I'm not related to him, either.

I understand one of my cousins did a family tree research thing a while back and ran in to a few dead ends.  For some strange reason, I never had much of a desire to explore the distant past.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Follow Up Tuesday

This blog doesn't get a ton of hits every day, but it gets enough.  It's a number some bloggers would die for, and I thank WNEP for putting this project under its umbrella.

It's always a kick when readers respond to blog entries.

Someone got a laugh out of the close encounter with a drunk woman while I was on my bike.  Thank you for reading.  Hope you're feeling OK, and please keep in touch.

I received several good suggestions on the proposed renaming of the "What It's Like" entries.  There's been no final decision yet.

A reader did a lot of work for me on the University of Scranton O'Hara Hall entry.  I learned the building you saw here on Sunday was built in 1922.  It was the headquarters of the Glen Alden Coal Company.  It's six stories and 45,000 square feet.  The U bought it in 1968 for $ 157,000.  Bell Telephone and a financial services company once had offices here.  I've seen the outside and I've been on the inside.  The University has done a really nice job in preserving history.
Feel free to e-mail any comments and suggestions.  Thank you for reading.   The blog is nearly nine years old, and putting it together every day has been great fun.

And, one final note.  The doctor who delivered me, Dr. Thomas F. Clauss, died yesterday.  Actually, Dr. Clauss took credit for delivering me.  It happened during a snow storm, and Dr. Clauss didn't make it to Mid Valley Hospital in Peckville in time.  The nurses, and my mom, did the hard work.  I will always remember Dr. Clauss for his slicked back hair, bow tie, and exceptional bedside manner.  Dr. Clauss was simply a nice man, and I never feared going to the doctor when he was around.  I frequently walk the dog past the building where his office once was, and I think of him every time.  My sympathy to his family, friends, and patients.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Last Call

When you work the all night and/or the early morning shift, alcohol is a part of your life.  No, not the use of, or the abuse of the beverage personally.  I'm talking about watching others imbibe.

I frequently have to avoid cars weaving all over the highway.  I've stepped over piles of vomit in mini mart parking lots.  I've taken those phone calls from people who swear they've seen UFO's.  I've heard the police calls due to alcohol fueled domestic violence situations.

Thursday morning was a first.

It was a day off, and I took my usual pre dawn bike ride through my little town.  I got a few blocks away from home when I noticed a woman sprawled out on a sidewalk.  She looked to be collecting some personal effects, including a cell phone.  Minding my own business is one of my basic rules of life, but I sensed something was wrong.  I rode over to the curb and asked the woman if she was okay.  She stumbled and slurred her way through a few sentences I couldn't understand.  I asked if there was anyone I could call for her.  More gibberish in response.  I rode away, and I didn't get far.  I noticed shoes in the street.  The woman was obviously drunk off her arse.  I thought there was a chance she could stumble into traffic or do a face plant on a concrete sidewalk.  She was a danger to herself.  I pulled out my cell phone and called the police communications center.  They dispatched the local police.  I waved when a police car drove up, and I told them what I just told you.

I couldn't watch the rest.  I saw police approach the woman and I rode away into the moonlight.  I assume the police got her home, somehow.

Is there a moral to the story?  Probably.  It's as simple as "know your limits," because you never know when you'll have to rely on a guy on a bicycle to call help for you in the middle of the night.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bad Photography Sunday: O'Hara Hall

This is O'Hara Hall, on the campus of the University of Scranton.  It's just across the street from the building I showed you yesterday.  Note the WNEP truck in the lower right of the photo.

If memory serves, a coal company used to have its offices here, before it got into the U's hands.

I tried doing some on-line research and ran in to a few dead ends.  First, the University of Scranton should place a little campus history on its web site.

Second, the Lackawanna Historical Society needs to have some research features on its web site.  I know it runs on grants and donations.  Money is tight.  Still, it would be nice.

This building has always been one of my favorites.  As I've said before, I'm all for reusing old buildings when feasible.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bad Photography Saturday: Hyland Hall

I'm not on the public relations staff payroll at the University of Scranton.  I just happened to have a few recent spare moments, with camera in hand.

This is one of the newer buildings on the U's campus.  It's Hyland Hall, at the intersection of Jefferson Ave and Linden St.  What makes this building a little different is it's dropped on to the lot at an angle, creating a little triangular plaza in the front.  One other building with a similar placement comes to mind-- the CanDo building in downtown Hazleton.

The University's book store used to be on the ground floor.  I used to sneak in from time to time because it had great prices on hardcover bestsellers.

The Bowman Building used to be here.  Its claim to fame was it used to be where WARM radio had its studios.  The Mighty 590 moved out around 1964.  The Bowman building was around for several years after that.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Best Line Ever

Jack Germond died the other day.  85.  He wrote about politics for decades, and was a tough, no nonsense kind of guy.

Germond smart enough to know show biz is part of the equation.  Appearances on TV meant recognition.  That translated into more newspapers picking up his syndicated column, and more readers.

There were frequent bookings on NBC News broadcasts, plus a weekly slot on The McLaughlin Group.  Germond's claim to fame there was the fantastic ability to get a point across with a minimum of words.  John McLaughlin would bluster about something for several minutes.  Germond would pierce McLaughlin's pomposity with a choice sentence.

It was on The McLaughlin Group that I heard one of the best lines ever, and it was delivered by Jack Germond.  It came at the tail end of a mind numbing discussion of aid for dairy farmers.  Germond said it was something no one cared about, and the only reason he drank milk was "because I can't put scotch on my corn flakes."

Jack Germond will be missed.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What It's Like

By the way, I'm looking for a catchier title for these "day in the life" blog entries.  If you have a good idea, feel free to pass it along.

Voltaire and many others have said "with great power comes great responsibility."  I am constantly aware of power and responsibility any time I pick up a microphone, stand before a camera, or sit at my keyboard.

Case in point:  Monday night and Tuesday morning at Walmart in Taylor, pictured above.  Some yutz planted a backpack inside the entrance of the store and ran away.  Keep in mind, the Boston Marathon bomb was a pressure cooker in a backpack.

The Scranton bomb squad was called in.  Walmart was closed for about three hours.  There wasn't anything hazardous in the backpack.  The store reopened around midnight Tuesday morning.

I walked in to the office at about 2:20 AM Tuesday.  Morning producer Thomas informed me my assignment would be to explain the Walmart story.  I paused for a moment.

Yes, people should know about a major disruption at a busy store that's part of America's largest retailer.  On the other hand, I feared making a big deal out of the backpack planting would encourage others to pull similar stunts.  You have to wonder how much Walmart lost in those three hours, how much it cost for the bomb squad to do its thing and search the site.

It's not an easy, black and white decision.  It seems like we argue the same points every spring, when several school districts are hit with bomb scares.  I cringe when those threats come in.  Parents need to know what's going on at their children's schools.  However, those who make threats feed off the publicity.

I tried to take the middle ground-- tell people what happened at Walmart, do it responsibly, and not make a joke out of it.  It wasn't funny.

Police have decent pictures of the guy who left the backpack and the car he used to get to and from the store.  There is no doubt he will be found.  He has a lot of explaining to do.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Former Governor Bill Scranton died late last month in California, and a memorial service will be held today in Scranton.

I met him a few times over the years.  It was always a kick.  He was the first big name politician I remember as a kid, and Scranton was unfailingly cordial.

Our last meeting was several years ago at Steamtown in Scranton.  Sen. Arlen Specter was having one of his famous made for TV events.  I don't even remember what it was about.  They never really made a lot of news, but it was nice that Specter remembered that the northeast is actually part of Pennsylvania, and he visited from time to time.

Scranton was among the assembled politicians, and movers and shakers.  We got into a conversation about his tie.  It was covered with olde English T's, the logo of the New York Times.  Scranton was on the board of directors.  At the time, WNEP was a New York Times property.  It was like talking to the boss. He was willing to listen. It's what separates the good public servants from the bad ones. The good ones use their ears more than their mouths.

Bill Scranton was arguably, the biggest name to ever call this area home.  Yet, he had a kindness and approachability.  He had money most of us could only dream about, but he had an everyman, nice guy quality.

William Scranton was 96.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What's Left?

Pete Rose, baseball's all time heat leader is banned from the game for gambling.  Rose didn't admit to what he did until he had a book to sell.

Baseball's all time home run champion Barry Bonds is suspected of steroid use, and he was charged with perjury.

One of baseball's biggest stars, Alex Rodriguez, has been suspended for using performance enhancing drugs.  He's appealing.  A dozen others gave up the fight.

Several NFL players were arrested over the off-season, including one, who is accused of criminal homicide.

Bicyclist Lance Armstrong, a Tour de France winner several times, has admitted to cheating.

Soccer fans riot.

Boxing has been a mess for years.

NBA stars regularly brawl.  Look up paternity records if you want a real shocker.

College football sees at least one major program sanctioned for violations every year.

Tennis is peppered with misbehaving brats.

Hockey and golf seem to be the cleanest sports of the bunch, but there are black marks even there.

No wonder we are a disenchanted society.  We looked to sports for an escape.  Those days are over.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Scrapple Monday

Only in Scranton will people complain about too many walking around downtown.

JCPenney stock took a big drop on Friday.  It's amazing how one of America's best know retailers got off the track so fast.

The amount of attention the NFL preseason receives is staggering.  Football really is America's game.

Retired NBC News correspondent John Palmer died last week-- a dignified, no nonsense kind of guy.  Those "hey, look at me" reporters that proliferate television these days should study Palmer's work to learn how to do things the right way.

I'm sick of sharks.

The Graham family is selling the Washington Post.  It truly is the end of an era.

The Washington Post sold for $ 250 million.  Tumblr sold for $ 1.1 billion.

Solely based on the involvement of James Spader, a new fall series on NBC, called "Blacklist" intrigues me.

New Jersey is talking about legalized sports betting.  It's only a matter of time.

Coal miners stamp:  long overdue.

I don't golf.  It amazes me how a golfer can be so great one weekend and so lousy the next.

It hasn't happened to me in a long time.  I got butt dialed the other afternoon.  When you work overnights, my afternoon is your middle of the night.  Luckily, my phone was turned off at the time.  I got a butt voice mail.  I thought I was on the butt do not call list.

It is a sad time in which we live.  Sports scandals get more attention than the scores.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bad Photography Sunday: From a Distance

Today, just another shot where I was playing with the big lens on my camera...

This is the Luzerne County Courthouse, as seen from the Stegmaier Building parking lot on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.

That's Holy Cross Hall on the campus of Kings College off to the left, with the WRKC 88.5 FM radio tower on top.

I really have to get back here on a clear day, during the fall foliage outbreak.  I'm sure the shot will be much better.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bad Photography Saturday: From a Distance

My big lens doesn't come out of my camera bag often.  I felt the urge to give it a workout during my recent vacation.  I knew there were a few spots off Suscon Road in Pittston Township where you can see the new Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport control tower from the east.

I took this photo not long after sunrise, so I needed to see it from the east to get a favorable sun angle.  Finding a place to get a clear shot wasn't easy, but I found one.

The tower always reminds me of one of those Olympic torches that volunteers carried around the country.

Friday, August 9, 2013


I'm starting a new feature today.  It's called PS, and it's meant to add a few additional thoughts to items already covered.  Yes, it's a lot like my old "Unfinished Business."

Today's topic is the horrible events of Monday evening in Ross Township, Monroe County, where three people were shot to death at a supervisors' meeting.

Every body that holds public meetings is now talking about increased security, and that's not a bad idea.

The alleged gunman in the Ross Township case began his shooting spree by firing from the outside, shooting through the windows.  Can we ring every building with police and security officers?  Hardly.

A lot of these townships don't have their own police departments.  They can barely fill potholes.  Hiring security will likely mean a tax increase, and add more to it if they want to purchase metal detectors and hire the people to run them.

On the other hand, what is the cost of a human life?  A little bit of security is better than none at all.

Security is not a magic wand.  If someone is intent on causing harm, and if they're prepared to give up their own life in the process, there's little you can do to stop it.

I've heard discussions centering around the township's relationship with the alleged gunman.  Some said he wasn't bothering anyone at his home.  He should have been left alone.  If that had happened, a few people would still be alive today.

On the other hand, what if he died up there, because of unsafe and unsanitary conditions?  The media would have been all over the powers that be for negligence.  Rules and ordinances are on the books for a reason.
Now, a few words about the media.

I watched as some of my brethren went on the air with rumors and hearsay.  I hope they can live with themselves.  However, the infractions were few and far between.  Most of what I saw and heard was accurate and responsible.
There were times I was very proud of my friends and competitors.  Usually, when you're at these mass media events, toes get stepped on.  Someone gets in someone else's way, accidentally or deliberately.  I didn't see any of that during my morning and early afternoon in Ross Township.

Some of the photographers at the media village that popped up in the park next to the municipal building pulled out giant trash bags to make sure we had a place to toss litter.  We left the park as clean as we found it.

Yes, I know that doesn't sound like much, but it does show the vast, vast majority of people who hold microphones and cameras are decent, responsible people.

The events of Monday evening were not pleasant, and not easy to tell.  Competitors respecting each other, and the community they visit, goes a long way toward making the situation manageable.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Todd Pratt

It was my brush with greatness.  I've often told the story, but I think this is its first mention on the blog.  Apologies if you've heard it before.

Once upon a time, when I was working down the street in the early 90's, our sports director wanted to do an interview with Red Barons' catcher Todd Pratt.  The sports director didn't have time to leave the studio, so we sent a photographer and live truck operator to Lackwanna County Stadium.  Pratt would be at the ballpark.  Our sports guy would talk to him from the office.

I don't remember why I went along to the stadium, whether I was just bored and curious, or if that photographer and I had another assignment.

As always, something unforeseen popped up.  In order to hear the sports director at the office, Pratt had to wear one of those earpiece thingies reporters and anchors use.  Pratt had his mitt, shin guards, helmet, and I assume a supporter and cup.  No earpiece.  He borrowed mine.  Yes, a future major leaguer used my earpiece!

So, why am I repeating the story now?  It was revealed over the weekend that Pratt is being treated for head and neck cancer.  Pratt says he's doing well, and I'm happy to hear that.  He seemed like a really nice guy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What It's Like

It began with a text.  My phone alert went off just before 11 PM Monday.  Acting morning producer Mike sent me notice that there had been a triple homicide near Saylorsburg in Monroe County.  I should come in early.  I did.

At the office, Mike briefed me on what had happened, and he told me where to find the computer video file of what the evening crews had gathered at the scene.  I slammed together a few different stories, recorded my portion (the audio track to those in the biz), and handed them off to editor Bonnie.

Photographer Corey arrived.  He loaded up one of our satellite trucks, and we were off to Ross Township.  We found the location in plenty of time, and got ready for our first live report in the 4:30 AM news.

We were one of the first ones there yesterday morning.  As you can see from the photo above, several others followed on a foggy Pocono morning-- New York, Philadelphia, Allentown, CNN, FOX...

We broadcast the latest twice a half hour, throughout our morning broadcast.  There were additional updates during Good Morning America.  We even had a few seconds to put together a report for our sister station in Kansas City.

The location shifted at 9:00 AM.  We headed to the Monroe County Emergency Services Building in Snydersville for a late morning news conference.

Photographer Corey, pictured above, was in the editing section of our truck, putting together our report for Newswatch 16 at Noon.

As I've noted earlier, big stories are often reunion and friend making time.  I see people I worked with and against in the past.  There are new acquaintances on the job.  Even former WNEP reporter Kyle Schmoyer was there.
Kyle is doing really well, working for a national cable operation, and he says "hello."

There was a lot to do in Snydersville.  We met up with other members of the Newswatch 16 team who would cover the State Police news conference.
There was a huge amount of interest in the story.  The classroom at the Emergency Services Building was packed.
We carried the news conference live at the top of our noon broadcast.  I gave a quick recap at the end of Newswatch 16 at Noon, and my long day had come to an end.

I was happy that we got the latest information out in a timely manner all morning long.  We introduced you to many people who had a role in what happened Monday evening.   It was such a sad story-- people who want to make their community a better place killed or wounded.  The survivors will be mentally scarred for life.  It was a horrific scene.

As far as my job, I set the table for the rest of the team, and our coverage continued into the afternoon and evening.  A lot of people had a hand in the process.  You're only as strong as the weakest link in the chain, and on this day, there were no weak links.
Above, I'm conferring with our noon broadcast producer, Lindsey, as the clock ticks toward twelve.  My giant soda cup is empty, but note, there's refill material on the seat to the right.  It was taken by a photographer for WPVI, the ABC station in Philadelphia.

Plenty of co-workers offered kind words.  An e-mail from one of my favorite former bosses made my day.

Thank you, all.  It was a team effort.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I grew up on the TV game shows of the 60's and 70's.  Before you scoff, I have to tell you this.  They actually help make me smarter.

Password, Now You See It, and Pyramid helped me understand words and improve vocabulary.

Card Sharks and High Rollers were daily lessons in math and probability.

Split Second and Jeopardy were filled with history, science, and assorted other information.

Concentration was a memory and puzzle solving exercise.

Match Game, Tattletales, and The Price is Right were just plain fun.

Having built the foundation, I grabbed my e-reader when I stumbled across a note that a new book has been written about Bill Cullen, the greatest TV and radio game show host of all time.

While Bill Cullen was clearly an intelligent man, his main skill was simply being a nice guy.  Viewers liked him.  Contestants trusted him.  Producers liked his broadcasting skills, and how he was able to move a game along.

I'll admit that not everyone will be interested in the subject matter, and the fact that I started reading the book seconds after I learned it existed is testament to my geek status.  But, I'm also "in" to the history of broadcasting, and Bill Cullen is one of the guys who helped build the business.

There were some unanswered questions, like how Cullen worked for competing game show producers at the same time.

Overall, there's a lot of new information here, and I devoured the book.

I liked Bill Cullen before.  I like him even more after reading the book.

Monday, August 5, 2013


I've always had mixed feelings about the Huber Breaker in Ashley.

I'm all for preserving history, when feasible.  However, the Huber represents a bad part of our history.  Coal mining companies raped and scarred the earth.  Workers were horribly mistreated.

I've often thought about the visitors and those passing through on Interstate 81, and the impression left by the hulking, rusting structure.  Do they marvel at what we once did?  Do they think they're in a backward, impoverished mine town?

On the other hand, anthracite is what put this area on the map.  We should remember the hard work of those who toiled in the mines and at places like the Huber.

It's time to face reality.  There will never be enough money to restore the Huber Breaker.  Not now.  Not ever.
They're working on a park and a memorial on the site, something, obviously, that will help us remember the Huber and the mines once the breaker is gone.  It seems appropriate, and a worthy project.
The memorial/park project has a long way to go.  At least, there's been a start and a lot of people are behind the project.  It will be an asset to the area.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Bad Photography Sunday: Next?

This weekend is dedicated to a couple Wilkes-Barre buildings, sadly, on the endangered list.

Yesterday, it was the Irem Temple on North Franklin Street.  Today, it's the old train station on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.  This is the side profile, what you see as you drive south on the boulevard. 

I love the different roof lines, leading up to the cupola.  As you can see, the site is overgrown.  The building, like the Irem Temple, has been vandalized.

The train station is in county hands.  There were plans to do something, but the county is broke.  There was a recent plan hatched by the Genetti Hotel people, and I hope it works.  You can't lose something like this.  Scranton receives a bit of an economic boost due to its association with trains.  There's no reason why Wilkes-Barre can't do the same thing.

As noted here recently, during a discussion of the Stegmaier renovation, the federal government doesn't have the money to throw around any more.  In a perfect world, it would be nice to see this fall under the National Park Service, and make it a sister site to Steamtown.  Could you imagine the popularity of excursions between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre?

Yes, I think big.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bad Photography Saturday: Next?

With the Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre gone, you have to wonder what other city treasures are on the endangered list.

Submitted for your approval:  the Irem Temple on North Franklin Street, a magnificent building if there ever was one.

It's currently in the hands of an arm of the Chamber of Commerce.  According to a Citizens Voice story several months ago, the Chamber was looking for gambling money to stabilize the building.

The signs of decay are already there, and a lot of people need to get their acts together in a hurry.
Fix it up and give it to Kings or Wilkes, or both.  How can you lose something like this?

Friday, August 2, 2013

It's Over

It's the end of my vacation, and it's as good a time as any to pop up a few more shots from the end of Wilkes-Barre's Hotel Sterling.

I took these around 6:30 AM on July 27.  It was a shower of bricks and roof, followed by a massive dust cloud.  I think I inhaled some history.

It was a nice week away from the office, but it's time to get back to work.  And, before I go, a quick look at what once was.  Let's not make the same mistakes.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

About the Cover

It's what can happen when the government actually helps, and not hurts a project.

The rotting old Stegmaier Building in Wilkes-Barre was falling apart when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

The federal government threw a bunch of money at it.  There was a renovation and expansion in the mid 1990's.  The building on Wilkes-Barre Boulevard is now home to a bunch of federal offices.
The days of free flowing government money are gone, and often, government involvement can really muck up a project.
At least, the Stegmaier was able to be adapted for another use.  The University of Scranton couldn't do that with its Leahy Hall, and it looks like that one will come down.  The Hotel Sterling sat and rotted too long.  It was too far gone to be saved, and government did not serve its citizens well on that project.

It's just nice to know there are a few wins out there among losses.