Saturday, January 31, 2015

Andy's Angles: Tamaqua Snow

I've been a Tamaqua defender for quite a while.  The center of town has several focal points-- a train station, a park, a gazebo, a fountain, some historic buildings...

Yes, it's a small coal town.  But it's clean, and very pretty on a snowy January morning.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX

Radio and TV talk show host Jim Rome had it right last week.  He said the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are two of the most unlikable teams to ever face off in a Super Bowl.

New England cheats.  Proven fact.  Not in dispute.

Seattle has some really nasty players.  Plus, head coach Pete Carroll presided over a corrupt and heavily penalized football program at Southern California.

We're not here to hear confessions.  We're here to pick a winner.  As always, the point spread varies.  I consider the game to be just about even.  Late lines have New England as a three point favorite.

I'd rather see Seattle win.  It's more of a vote against New England, rather than one for Seattle.  However, David Letterman said he had Russell Wilson on his show last year, and he couldn't have been nicer and more professional.

As I have preached in this space in the past, always pick the team with the better defense.  In this case, it's Seattle.

However, Seattle looked so bad in the NFC championship game, and New England looked so good in the AFC championship game, I'm going against my own rule.  New England wins, and makes it look easy.

I'll sleep through the game.  I really miss those 2 PM starts.  Remember my rule:  I don't care about the commercials.  However, I did preview a BMW ad with Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric.  Cute.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

StormWatch '15

Just some random thoughts on this stormy week...

Most forecasters had the storm forming closer to the east coast.  It actually blew up about ninety miles away from the expected location.  New York and Philadelphia were spared major blizzard conditions.  New England got hammered.

I was listening to KYW radio on my way back from a Monday assignment for Newswatch 16.  Philadelphia's mayor was sounding the alert.  I can't blame him.  Based on the forecast, it was the right thing to do.

Speaking of radio, KYW in Philadelphia and WCBS in New York did an outstanding job.  Radio is an outstanding medium in a storm.  Unfortunately, very few operators get that.

A National Weather Service forecaster in the New York metropolitan area apologized for a blown forecast.  Hey, he was only 90 miles off.  That's not bad.  The CBS TV overnight news got reaction from another meteorologist.  He said there was no need to apologize.  The second meteorologist brought up those "cones of probability" we see during hurricane season.  We make allowances for hurricanes to wobble.  Winter storms don't get that.

The National Weather Service is in the process of upgrading its computers, and therefore, its forecasting.  What took them so long?

I'll let in you on my way of thinking, which has served me well over the years.  I'm always wary of those forecasts that depend on a number of factors to come together to form a mega event.  For example,   a low has to come up with the coast, merge with another low, get a shot of cold air, suck in some moisture, have the jet stream steer it to the proper location...  You know where I'm going.  There are a lot of times, the scenarios are on the money.  But then again...

I'm not sure if the real problem was the blown forecast, or the endless media hype?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Snow Monkey

There are things meant for public consumption, and things meant for "inside the office" only.

We crossed a line Monday.

I occasionally, in the newsroom only, refer to myself as the Snow Monkey.  It all started during some fizzled snow storms.  I was out on the road, walking, dancing, and filling time during less than impressive snowfalls.

Joe Snedeker called me Snow Monkey on the air this week.  The secret was out.  I'm not angry.  There was no malicious intent.  It was all in fun.  Still, I cringed a bit anytime I heard it.

We're constantly looking for new and different ways to cover storms.  Ryan Leckey is a social media whiz, and he loves viewer contributions.  I've been strapping a thermometer to trees and light poles with a bungee cord to show you temperature variances.  I've been known to slide a hockey puck and soda bottle across ice glazed parking lots.  My old friend, Raegan Medgie used a hand held anemometer during Tuesday's New York City blizzard.  I have to get one of those.  An on-line search shows they're reasonably priced.

Storms can be dangerous business, and when the weather is severe, we stop monkeying around.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

First Person: Snowy Monday

I crawled in to bed after working the overnight shift Saturday night in to Sunday morning, but I didn't sleep well.  Snow troubles me.  I don't like driving in it.  I worry about family and friends who have to drive in it.  When I know I'll be morning "snow reporter," I fret over having enough to say and show.  This week was especially difficult.  There were predictions of a major, crippling storm.  Should I pack some essentials in case I have to stay at a hotel near the office?
As it turned out, the snowfall total predictions appeared to shrink by the hour.  The first flakes had just hit Lackawanna County when I was pulling in to the WNEP parking lot shortly after 2 AM yesterday.

It was then time for the most entertaining part of the day, and we really should put it on the internet one of these days-- the morning brainstorming session.   Producer Thomas, photographer Jason and I kicked around places that would make interesting "live" locations.  I shot down the first two.  We settled on Tamaqua.  First, it's a pretty little town.  Second, we could set up very close to the busy Route 309/209 intersection.  There would be plenty to see.  The southern part of our coverage area was due to receive the most snow, and schools were already listed as closed for the day.

The ride was no picnic.  A 45 minute trip took 75.  We made it in one piece.

The equipment in the truck located the right satellite quickly.  Jason strung out the cable.  We fired up the camera, and we were on the air, ten times, for Newswatch 16 This Morning.

After the morning broadcast, photographer Corey relieved photographer Jason, and we traveled around the area, looking for interesting things to include in our noon report.  No problem.  We were shot, written, approved, edited, and video transmitted back to home base in plenty of time.

We were live at noon in Sugarloaf Township.  You got a live look at the roads, plus a feel for what the morning was like in lower Luzerne and Schuylkill Counties.

I made it home in time to sweep the sidewalk, warm up some left over Chinese food, and hit the bed, to do it all over again the next day.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Unfinished Monday

#Ballghazi:  Any other NFL team gets the benefit of the doubt, but not the New England Patriots.  They've cheated before and there's significant evidence to indicate they've done it again.  The nightmare NFL season continues.  The league has fumbled cases of domestic violence and child abuse.  Add Ballghazi to the list.  The Patriots are adamantly denying doing anything shady.  The jury is still out.

Kathleen Kane:  She might not have done something criminal, but it's clear she made some mistakes-- mistakes large enough to prompt major investigations and possibly criminal charges.  And the answer is to weaken the state's shield law for reporters?  What a mess! The shield law deserves a blog entry of its own one of these days.

Turn the Page:  By far, the most controversial phrase of President Obama's State of the Union address.  If you saw the speech, if you read the speech, you knew where he was going.  If you examine the line on its own, it looks like a problem.  Regardless of whether or not you feel we've turned the page, it was a questionable choice of words.  The president's speech writer could have come up with something better.  Advisers and/or the president should have red flagged it.

Snow:  The drought is over.  Let the panic begin.  I've always thought the "keep calm" stuff is over used, but it's applicable here.  The approaching storms look to be rather severe, especially if you live in eastern Pennsylvania.  Stay home if you can.  Be extra careful if you can't.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Andy's Angles: One More Harrisburg View

I know I've done some "classic" Harrisburg photos in the past, but I believe this is the first time in the blog's 10 year, two month history that I've had new Harrisburg shots.

Yesterday, it was the view from the east side.  Today, it's the south west.  I've always felt the addition on the east detracts from the view.  The true capitol shot comes from the west.  Governor Casey was not a fan of the addition, and he was the last to have his inauguration on the western steps.  Governor Ridge was the first to be inaugurated on the east side, and that's where inaugurations have been held ever since.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Andy's Angles: Capitol View

I'm not sure I could take a steady diet of Harrisburg news, but I do enjoy every visit there, personally and professionally.

It's a spectacular building, and the capitol complex is gorgeous.

After a Tuesday morning live shot, I looked back at the dome behind me and said to Newswatch 16 photographer Jason Wolf "there are some mornings this is a really cool job."

Friday, January 23, 2015


It is one of my major pet peeves-- lazy drivers who don't remove snow and ice from their cars.  The problem became even worse with the SUV revolution several years ago.  Note to SUV owners:  stores sell long handled snow brushes so you can reach every part of your SUV roof.  I know.  I have one.

The Pennsylvania Senate is currently debating a bill to force tractor trailer drivers to remove the snow from their rigs.  Below is a copy, cut and paste from the actual bill.

I see some problems here.

First, "reasonable efforts" is open to varied interpretation.

Second, the fines aren't high enough to encourage compliance.

Third, enforcement seems like a nightmare

Will truckers have to shovel off the roofs of their trailers?  Looks that way.  As someone who has behind many, it doesn't seem like a bad idea.  It's dangerous stuff, and there was a fatality a few years ago here in our area.  If memory serves, the irresponsible truck driver was never found.

It's something to think about as we head into a snowy stretch of winter.

1) A driver of a motor vehicle with a registered gross
13weight exceeding 48,000 pounds that is a truck tractor or
14combination being operated on a street or highway of this
15Commonwealth has an affirmative duty to make all reasonable
16efforts to remove all accumulated ice or snow from the motor
17vehicle, including the roof of the truck trailer or a vehicle
18in the combination.
19(2) A driver of a motor vehicle who violates this
1subsection may be stopped on a street or highway by a law
2enforcement officer if the law enforcement officer believes
3the accumulated ice or snow may pose a threat to persons or
5(3) A person who violates this subsection shall be
6subject to a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $75 for
7each offense regardless of whether any snow or ice is
8dislodged from the vehicle.
9(b) Dislodged or fallen snow or ice.--When snow or ice is
10dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another
11vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury,
12the operator of the vehicle from which the snow or ice is
13dislodged or falls shall be subject to a fine of not less than
14$200 nor more than [$1,000] $1,500 for each offense.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Person: Inauguration Day

It all started with a New Year's morning e-mail to the boss.  I put together a rough idea of what it would require to take Newswatch 16 This Morning to the January 20 inauguration of Governor Tom Wolf.

The goal:  maximum content, minimum disruption to the rest of the staff.  It really wasn't all that difficult.  There was an added bonus to hitting Harrisburg early:  getting one of our satellite trucks in good position for coverage the rest of the day and evening.

I wrote of a couple of preview pieces last week, but I didn't record them at first, in case changes were necessary.

I hit the office just before 11 Monday night, tweaked my pieces a bit, adding here, trimming there, and recorded the audio.  Photographer/editor Jason Wolf (no relation) put them together.  By then, ti was 1 AM and time to head south.  I took a news car.  Jason took one of the satellite trucks.  We made it to Harrisburg around 3.

I wish I had time to take more photos, but I always enter Harrisburg the same way:  Interstate 81 to the first on Interstate 83, right after the split.  I don't know if you've ever had the chance to witness it, but the view of the capitol from State Street is nothing short of spectacular.

The Inauguration Committee had maps of where we were supposed to go.  Jason got the truck in place.  I stopped to chat with a couple members of Capitol Police.  It just wanted to make sure we were in the right place, and it never hurts to make new friends.
Logistics is always a concern, especially at big events.  Assigned media parking was on Commonwealth Avenue, near the swearing in, on the east side of the building.  The satellite we needed to hit is in the western sky, and there was a massive building between truck and satellite. Not a good situation.  Jason found a gap in the building and trees that allowed us to send a signal into space.

We happened to get a parking space next to our sister station, WPMT 43, in Harrisburg.  There was help if we needed it, and vice versa.  Other than exchanging pleasantries, there wasn't much contact.  They smoothly did their thing.  We did ours.

One problem solved.  On to issue two.

I'm a fanatic about this.  If you're going to do a story in Harrisburg.  You must have the capitol dome behind you.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  It is THE defining shot.
Unfortunately, the assigned media parking area didn't offer the best views of the dome.  By plan, we got to Harrisburg extra early.  It gave us time to walk the block and do a site survey.  Jason noticed a driveway leading from The Forum.  We were close enough to the truck, but far enough away from the dome to have a pretty shot behind me.  There are times when "at a distance" is better than "up close."

From then on, it was a piece of cake.  We were live during each half hour of Newswatch 16 This Morning.  We left the truck in place for Scott Schaffer and photographer Lou Romeo.  Jason and I came back in the car I brought in.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday Scrapple

When did it become okay to make fun of someone else's religion?

Maybe I'd be more interested in the Academy Awards if I went to a movie once in a while.  I haven't been in a theater in more than two years.  Sorry, I just have no interest in what's coming out of Hollywood these days.

McDonald's is bringing back, for a limited time only, the triple cheeseburger.  Not for me these days.  I did have one many years ago and absolutely loved it.

I miss Craig Ferguson.  Love Letterman.  Hate the rebroadcasts.

I think I've finally gotten the hang of navigating the USA Today web site.

Flu season always frightens me.  This year, more than most.  It's because this year's vaccine is only about 25 per cent effective.  Yes, I got my flu shot back in August.

"Pardon the Interruption" and "Olbermann" are among the best television has to offer.  "The Big Bang Theory" is often more misses than hits these days.

Google has stopped selling Google Glass.  Remember the hype when it came on the market?    Fast fizzle.  I have to admit, I was intrigued.

It's almost a delight gassing up the car these days.  A former Shell executive told USA Today that $5 per gallon gas and fuel shortages are in our future.

I can't believe we've gone this far in to January without a major snow storm.  I'm not complaining.   Sunday's freezing rain storm was absolutely terrifying, and the pictures were amazing.

Can you think of a truly memorable State of the Union address?  Maybe Lyndon Johnson's first.  Maybe FDR's Four Freedoms.  Maybe Bush in 2002.

How many times do the New England Patriots have to be caught cheating before the NFL really drops the hammer?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Inauguration Day

I guess you could call this my second and half inauguration day.

Tom Wolf becomes Pennsylvania's 47th governor at noon today.

First, a little history.

My first Harrisburg inauguration was in January of 1987.  I was on the radio.  Scranton's Bob Casey was being sworn in, and a home town guy, finally making it to the big chair was major news.

I remember firing a question or two at the new governor, as he made his way up the capitol steps after the inauguration address.  The quote was not particularly memorable.  It was something like "I'm going to be governor for all Pennsylvanians" or something like that.

After filing a bunch of reports for the radio station, it was back to my hotel room for a little break and a huge challenge.

I had never been in a tuxedo before, and I was too embarrassed to ask the guy at the rental shop how everything goes together.  I watched Keith Martin on the WGAL's  6 PM news for clues.  He was live at the site of the inaugural ball, Founder's Hall in Hershey.  So, yes, I figured out how to wear a tux by watching a TV news anchor.

My next inauguration was 1995-- Tom Ridge.  This one was quite a bit different.  First, it was held on the other side of the capitol building.  I had moved from radio to TV.    My job on inauguration day was to do previews for the morning news and a report on the day's activities for the evening broadcasts.

I was under the gun and had to work fast.  The inauguration, speech, and parade started at noon.  I had to bang out a story and have a photographer edit it in the satellite truck before 2 PM.  The truck was destined to pack up and head to Hershey for the inaugural ball, and it had to be in place and cabled in to the building early.  I made my deadline.  Our evening anchor took care of the rest.  I got to kill the rest of the day and evening in a downtown hotel room.

Barring breaking news, I have a relatively easy job today-- just do some previews for Newswatch 16 This Morning, and set the table for Scott Schaffer's reports the rest of the day.

Regardless of how you feel about the choices voters have made over the years, inaugurations are stirring events, and I hope everybody get a a chance to witness one.  I've been exceptionally lucky.

Monday, January 19, 2015

From Heaven

I'm not cheap.  If there's something I need and want, I go out and get it.  I know I have too much clothing.  I collect pens and baseball caps.  I can do without most of that stuff.

On the other hand, it's nothing really extravagant.  There are a couple pet charities who always get a check.

The topic of today's blog is the penny.  One cent.

I've been running in to a rash of discarded pennies in mini mart parking lots.  Not just one at a time, but three, or four, or five, or six.

You know what?  I always pick them up.  At this time of year, they're usually encrusted with rock salt and assorted other crud.  It doesn't make a difference.  I still pick them up.

They don't go in a jar.  They do remain in my pocket, allowing me to offer exact change for my morning mini mart soda or occasional newspaper.

I know a penny doesn't go far, but the do add up, and it bothers me to see people throw away money.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Andy's Angles: Weathervanes and Cupolas

I've always been a big fan of Milford in Pike County.  It has that small town and historical fee.

The stone building on the left is the old county jail, now the sheriff's office.  A county annex building is on the right.

Both are on Broad Street/Route 209, right in the center of town.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Andy's Angles: Night and Day

I spent a day in Milford earlier this month.  This is the 4:00 AM view of the Pike County Courthouse.  The building isn't lit at night.  The candlepower you see here comes from a light provided by Newswatch 16.
The building is one of our area's gems.  There are plans to put an expansion on the left side of the photo.  I understand the need for more space and security, but even the best designed expansion will surely detract from this spectacular building.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Math Game

I think my favorite day of winter is the last day of winter, but today is on the short list of good days.

Meteorologists consider winter to be the months of December, January, and February.  That means winter is now half over!

Now, don't celebrate just yet.  When you look at the statistics, the daily highs and lows, we are about to enter the coldest two weeks of the year.

Still the days are getting longer.  You can feel the sun getting a wee bit stronger.

The longest, darkest, coldest month of the year is half over, and better days are ahead.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Scrapple 2015

A fellow blogger has adopted the "Scrapple" title of his potpourri.  No offense.  I got credit.

I've been postponing this blog entry for weeks, so apologies if some of the items are a little stale.

I can't blame Sony for pulling the plug on "The Interview" after threats from North Korea.  All had to take is one incident.  Would you send your kids to a cineplex playing it?  On the other hand, remember Will McAvoy's speech from the opening scene of "The Newsroom?"  "We didn't scare so easy."  A limited release seemed like a decent solution.

Green Christmases don't bother me.  There is so much to do, the last thing we need are travel issues.

People magazine named Kate Upton as its sexiest woman.  No complaints, but there are several others in her class.  How do you choose just one?

I think I ate my body weight in shrimp, cookies, and Chex Mix over the holidays.

Considering myself lucky because I don't have the overwhelming urge that I HAVE to do something New Year's Eve.

The Hollywood Reporter says movie attendance hit a 19 year low in 2014.  Simple way to remedy that:  Make better movies.

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo died two weeks ago.  82.  Great speaker.  Not ashamed to say he was a liberal.  When Cuomo has the chance to step up, he passed.  I have some issues with that.

I was 3 out of 4 in football predictions last weekend, missing only the Indianapolis win.  New England plays Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX February 1.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

First Person: Frein Hearing

The man who allegedly shot two state troopers in September, Eric Frein, had his preliminary hearing in Milford back on the 5th.  It was my job to set the table during Newswatch 16 This Morning, and then contribute something for our noon broadcast.

There's nothing like planning.  Photographer Corey and I left for Milford very early, so we could get a prime parking space for one of our satellite trucks.  Corey and I pulled in to town just before 4:00 a.m.  We were joined by two other photographers and two reporters as the actual hearing time approached.

Management gave us a great deal of freedom.  The photographers, Amanda Kelley, Jim Hamill and I decided among ourselves how we'd divide the story.  They would do the courtroom testimony.  Amanda would handle that for noon.  I'd concentrate on the scene outside the Pike County Courthouse.
The first element of the story was Frein's arrival.  This was my first up-close look at him, and I took the photo you see above.  They cleaned him up well.  He looks like your average 31 year old.  Yes, innocent until proven guilty, but you have to wonder how someone could get off the track so severely.

The rest of my noon story was a bizarre series of clips that reminded me one of those E! red carpet awards show arrivals, but sad and tragic  We had the prosecutors, the defense attorneys, the families, and the spectators all entering the courthouse.

Once all the video was collected, three photographers and I caucused inside the satellite truck.  Each told me what they had, and suggested elements to use.  I enjoyed the collaboration.  I banged out a script on my laptop and transmitted it back to the office for approval.  The green light came a few minutes later.  I recorded the audio.  Photographer Corey took the video from photographers Dan and Steve, and assembled the noon piece.  When Amanda arrived from the courtroom, we played it for her, so she would know how to introduce it.

The noon broadcast came and went flawlessly, and I was back in a car headed back to the office at 12:10.  Amanda, Jim, Steve, and Dan handled the rest of the day.

My day started at 1:30 a.m.  I walked out the door exactly 12 hours later.  There was a great deal of satisfaction with the team effort.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Christmas Wrap

Another holiday season has come and gone.

I detest fuss and bother, so the Christmas season can present a challenge.

This one was by the book for me.  I couldn't want for the season to end, and when I was over, I kicked myself for not doing more "Christmassy" things.

There was one exception.  I went to Marywood's tree lighting in early December, and I never fail to have a good time there.

Christmas fell on one of my days off, but I did drop by the office at 2 am to spend a couple of hours working on a project that needed attention.

New Year's Eve and Day were also days off.  I participated in my New Year's Morning tradition of going shopping.  Stores are empty, and a lot of the winter stuff goes on sale.  As I always say, if you buy winter stuff on New Year's Day in Scranton, you can use it for another six months.

Unfortunately, nothing really floated my boat, but I did enjoy getting out and shopping in a quiet atmosphere.

There was something that bothered me during the holiday season.

If you talk to the hard core news types, not the "I want to be on TV" people, you will learn that many of us were attracted to the business by the desire to help people, to do some good.

Usually, every holiday season, I do a story on some charity that needs help, or some individuals who have been helped by the kindness of others.  Stories like that usually spur donations.  It helps me feel good about what I do, and I enjoy trying to make my tiny corner of the planet a little better.    It's no one's fault, but I didn't get a chance to do any of those stories this year.  It was just the luck of the draw.  I was tied up on other things.  Thankfully, others on the staff had the opportunities I did not.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Championship Monday

Oregon plays Ohio State tonight for the college football national championship.

I will admit that I do watch a little bit of college football.  It's a decent way to spend part of a Saturday afternoon.  I know the teams and the major players.

However, I don't feel good about it.  Show me a major college football program that hasn't been in trouble with the NCAA for something.

The "football first" mentality has gotten a lot of schools in hot water.  Yet, the abuses continue.

Michigan is paying Jim Harbaugh $35 million dollars, plus incentives and bonuses.  You wonder how many low income students could have been helped with that money.  I'm sure Michigan could have found a coach just as good for half the price.

Of course, some will argue a successful football program makes money.  It gives the school attention and prestige.

Forgive me for believing a school's one and only function should be educating students.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Dam

Yesterday, the reservoir.  Today, the dam that makes it possible.  I remember being here on a rainy morning, several years ago, when they thought the dam wouldn't hold.  It did.  It's still here, and apparently doing a good job of holding back the water.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Andy's Angles: The Resevoir

2014 ended on a frosty note, but much of December was warmer than normal.

Huntsville Reservoir, near Dallas in Luzerne County was ice-less when this photo was taken on new year's eve morning.

While December '14 was warm, it was also very cloudy.  It was great to see some sunshine on a winter day.

Friday, January 9, 2015


The NFL Divisional Playoffs are this weekend.  I'm picking Green Bay, Seattle, Denver and New England to make it to the final four.

I should add that I have no confidence in any of those selections, except for Seattle.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has a bad calf.  Cowboys QB Tony Romo has a nasty habit, which he has avoided recently, of making bad plays in big games.

Indianapolis has been unimpressive most weeks this year, but the team is capable of putting points on the board.  Peyton Manning has looked old some weeks.  I still think Denver is the better team.

New England appears to be a lock.  As a Pittsburgh fan, Baltimore scares me.

Several weeks ago, I told a friend it's going to be a New England/Seattle Super Bowl and I still believe that.

Turning the corner to baseball, the Writers' Association has selected Smolta, Ramirez, Johnson and Biggio for the Hall of Fame.  I'm okay with that.

Some are still pushing for steroid users to be elected by the hall, and I'm dead set against that.

The same goes for Pete Rose.  He should never be in "The Hall."  Rose bet on baseball, and he only confessed when there was a book to sell.  Not now.  Not ever.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Golden Opportunity

There are a lot of people out there under the mistaken conception that if they don't talk with us, we won't do a story.

Wrong, so wrong.

Case in point:  just before Christmas.  The Mall at Steamtown was losing two more stores.

The mall's general manager refused to allow us to come inside with a camera, and he claimed he had no formal notice the stores were closing.  Be that as it may.  We learned store workers knew the end was near a long time ago, and store management started whittling down the payroll, from about 50 to 25 at the end.

The camera thing is one for the lawyers.  The news media has the same rights as the public.  No more, but no less.  It's okay for you to pull out your smart phone and take pictures of your kid looking at the decorations.  I can't take pictures of a soon to be shuttered store.  Unfortunately, there wasn't the time to argue the point.  We got by with pictures from the mall's own web site.  Thank you, very much.  There's a way around everything.

Because the mall's manager refused to play, I placed a call to the mall's sales and marketing agent.  I asked about the vacancy rate.  He declined to offer a percentage.  I replied "I can report what I see, and I see this place 75 per cent empty."  He reluctantly said that figure was on the mark.  No other comment.

Then, there was a call to the home office of the two closing stores.  On hold for 10 minutes.  I was then told to e-mail in my inquiry.  I did'  No response by air time.

So, we spoke with disappointed shoppers outside-- people hoping to grab a Christmas gift, but who left empty handed.  They bashed the mall, and no one else was willing to step up and defend the place.

Mall management, store ownership, sales agent:  have it your way.  All you had to say was "We're working on filling the space."  "We love Scranton.  Unfortunately, the numbers weren't working for us, and we had to go."

You missed a golden opportunity to tell your customers that you cared.  Maybe, you never did and that's why you're now in a pickle.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

About the Cover: Gone

I hate to begin the year with a downer, but I chose the new defunct Marquee Cinemas for the first header of 2015.

There are lessons to be learned here.  There is room for bad luck, but for the most part, in the business world, you get what you deserve.  Grouping the movie theater and the mall complex of which it was a part...  Treat your customers with indifference, contempt for the media, failure to modernize and improve, failure to promote, and this is what you get.

The mall is now mostly empty, and Marquee closed this part of its chain.  I feel sorry for the people who worked there.  They deserve better.
It's amazing how there are more people living in downtown Scranton, and the mall/theater can't attract them around the corner to take in a movie and walk across the street to buy a pair of socks.
The mall is now 75 per cent vacant.  Predictions of a new anchor store coming, along with two other companies interested in leasing the theater space are still being tossed around.  Pardon me if I raise a skeptical eyebrow.
Scranton is now without a movie theater.  On the surface, it's not a big deal.  Cineplexes are just a very short drive away, in Dickson City and Moosic.  But, this is a symbol of something more-- the empty box office above, no clues, no ideas, no spirit, and what looks like a dark 2015.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Late, Later, Latest

I look at late night television a little differently than most people.  For the majority, it's the last thing they see before they go to sleep.  For me, it's the first thing I see when I get up.

Yes, it used to be CNN or Headline News upon awakening, but those networks no longer do news.  Headlines come from web sites.  I use the TV for a laugh.

Like most Americans, I was a Carson guy.  There was no other.  David Letterman's 12:30 AM NBC show was fresh and different, albeit a little rough around the edges.  Letterman wasn't the best interviewer back in the early days.

I could never warm to Jay Leno.  Competent.  Amusing.  But, he was missing something.  I switched to Letterman on CBS and stayed there.  The early years of Letterman on CBS were very good.  He made the most of the Ed Sullivan Theater and the surrounding neighborhood.  The show had energy.   Somewhere along the line, Letterman became a cranky old man.  It was fun in short bursts-- not for the long haul.  He just looked like he didn't want to be there.  Over the past few years, Letterman appears to have mellowed.  Maybe it's because he sees the "exit" sign ahead.  He appears to be having fun, taking chances again, a bit more relaxed.  He'll leave in May at the top of his game.

CBS put a 12:30 AM show on the air in 1995.  First, it was Tom Snyder, a delight.  Excellent interviewer and story teller.  Craig Kilborn followed.  Meh.  I watched because I was never a Conan guy, and Kilborn seemed to book the most pretty starlets and super models.

Kilborn stepped aside and Craig Ferguson walked in.  I was thrilled, having been a big fan since the Drew Carey Show days.  Ferguson was way out there, and it drove me away for a while.  Too bizarre, too many puppets.  He really broke the talk show mold.  I rediscovered the Late Late Show a couple of years ago.  Ferguson refined his act, but he was still out there.  It was the only show to have a gay robot skeleton and a fake horse as sidekicks.  You could tell if Ferguson liked a guest.  It wasn't an interview.  It was a conversation.  Craig Ferguson could have tightened it up and been a hit as Letterman's replacement, but the toothpaste was out of the tube.  There was no way, in the minds of many, including CBS, he could shake the "out there" persona.

That brings us to Christmas week.

Letterman's annual Christmas show, 12/19, was simply outstanding.  It was highlighted by the yearly Darlene Love performance, backed by a full orchestra.  In addition to the music, here's what made it work for me.  Paul Shaffer, the CBS Orchestra, and all the extras, looked like they were having the time of their lives.  It was fun.  It was Christmas.

The night before, Letterman's replacement, Stephen Colbert, did his last Colbert Report.  I always found The Colbert Report mildly amusing, and was never a regular viewer.  At the close of Olbermann 12/18, he did a plug for that night's Colbert finale, so I punched it in "on demand."  The opening segment was excellent.  The middle was weak.  The closing musical number, featuring a celebrity cast of hundreds, was outstanding.  It's available on-line.  Watch it.  Colbert will have to be himself, and not play a character, on CBS.  I think he'll hit it out of the park.

Craig Ferguson did his finale 12/19.  I thought it would be tough to top Colbert, but Ferguson did it.  Yes, I'm biased.  The show opened with a song that was new to me, Keep Banging On.  Wow!  It was part video clips, part lip synch, and it ended with Ferguson singing.  Again, it's on-line.  Watch it.  It was a great song and it fit the moment.  Outstanding message and performance.  The song was right off the top of the broadcast, a "cold open" as we say in the biz.  You didn't know what was going to happen, and watching Ferguson sing the second half was a huge surprise.

Ferguson's last guest was Jay Leno.  It's where I thought the show fell short.  There's nothing like two millionaires complaining how tough it was to sit behind a desk and ask questions.  The final segment mixed Newhart, the Drew Carey Show, The Sopranos, and St. Elsewhere.  You really have to see it.  It puts the perfect period at the end of the sentence.

Good night, Geoff Peterson.  If you watched the finale, you know what I mean.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Enemy Camp

Was it something I said?

A few thoughts now that this Frein manhunt thing has come to an end, and his preliminary hearing is scheduled for today.

There is always a bit of friction between official types, especially police, and the media.

In fact, a reliable source tells me that police training videos teach officers that "the news media are not your friend."

That's true.

We're not the enemy, either.

We're just out to get reasonable questions answered.  That's all.

Frein was a special case.  I sensed officers' anger, fatigue, frustration, and even embarrassment over the long fight to catch this guy.  I cut them a lot of slack, but I also saw a lot of that animosity transferred over to the media.

I was told I couldn't put a truck in a parking lot because vehicles would be using the road in front.  When I politely questioned the validity of the statement, I got a version of "move because I said so."  When I asked for a suggestion, the reply was several miles outside of town.  My policy is to save the fights for the big ones.  We found a location close enough to see what was going on, but far enough away to be left alone.

Many teachable moments came out of the recent episode.  The State Police information machine wasn't what it should have been.  Some rumors flew out of control for a while.  I'm glad I never took the bait.  With broadcast, print, internet, and social media all over the place, it's easy for things to spin out of control.

It wasn't just police.  One school district was very good about reassuring parents and students that the kids were safe.  Another district, not so much.

With any luck, we won't have to go through anything like this for a very long time, and when it does happen, we'll all be better prepared to handle it.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Andy's Angles: Equal Time

Yesterday, a Steamtown steam engine.  Today, equal time for the diesels, and I thought I'd end this first weekend of the new year with my favorite.

This one gets moved around the lot a bit.  I found it close to the entrance.  It makes an impressive statement for park visitors.

If you look carefully, you can see a few streaks of white across the black front of the engine.  I took the picture as a snow squall was passing.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Andy's Angles: The First of 2015

I was riding around with my camera new year's eve morning, looking for something for the first Andy's Angles of 2015.

Steamtown and trains make me happy, so I wandered in to snap off a few to start the year.  This is the first one you see as you approach the entrance, so it's a good place to start the new year.

51 more to go.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The King

I was going to sister this entry beside one of the photo Top Ten's, but then I thought, no, Bob Reynolds deserves an entry of his own.

Bob retired at the end of 2014, and I don't think I've ever met anyone like him.  His passion for the job never waned.  Bob did twice the work of those half his age.  He covered his beat and came back with two stories, at least two stories, every day.

Bob knew how to find a story.  He listened to everyone who called the office.  He asked good, tough, and fair questions.  He knew his beat.

I hung the title "King of All Media" on Bob several years ago.  It was right after commissioner Frank Crossin killed his already "on life support" political career by shoving Bob over a chair at the close of a commissioners' meeting.  The commissioner had a problem talking about the investigation into his alleged drunk driving, and allegations of special treatment after he slammed his car into a light post in a toy store parking lot.  After the shove, Bob was on the other tv stations, plus newspapers and radio.  Hence, he became the King of All Media.  I called him that all the time.  He didn't mind the joke.

There's another Bob story I should tell here.  It's more evidence that there are stories everywhere you look.  It was a Thanksgiving afternoon in the late 90's.  Bob and a photographer were working in Wilkes-Barre.  I was manning the assignment desk.  We heard a kitchen grease fire in Wilkes-barre come over the scanner.  Remember, this was a kitchen fire on Thanksgiving.  Bob called me on the desk, asking permission to check it out.  I responded that it was only a kitchen fire and it was knocked down fast.  Bob's response "Hey, that's somebody's dinner."  I'm sure someone's incinerated turkey could have been news, but I passed.

Bob was never one for showing a lot of emotion and humor on the air, but he has it.  I appreciated it.  There were many days I needed it.

I was tickled to be asked to attend a surprise birthday party for Bob a couple of years ago.  It fell on one of my weekends off, so I gladly drove to White Haven for the celebration.  The fact the invitation said "no gifts, please" had nothing to do with it.

King, enjoy your retirement.  You will be missed.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


I hope the start of 2015 finds you happy and healthy-- and that continues for the rest of the year.

Relax.  Enjoy the day off.  Watch a little football.  Count your blessings.

It's back to work tomorrow.