Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Let me tell you about my first and only radio news director, Jerry Heller.
Jerry might have been the most frugal man I ever worked for.
When our WARM 590 newsroom black and white tiny television finally died, Jerry went shopping for another B&W model. It didn't work. They stopped making them. WARM was forced to go color.
When our news cars needed replacing, Jerry sought out the least expensive model on the market. I went nuts when Jerry told me what he had in mind. I wasn't getting in one of those shoe box sized cars. We compromised and got a slightly better model. Vinyl seats. No air conditioning. I will never forget them.
That stuff is amusing, but minor.
Jerry was perhaps the most kind and patient manager I ever worked for. We had a few knock down, drag out exchanges during my 10.5 years at WARM. He should have fired me at least a half a dozen times. He never did, and I will always be grateful.
I took an unusual path in to the WARM newsroom. I was the weekend overnight guy, playing the religion and public affairs shows, starting while I was a sophomore at Marywood. I was on the air at Marywood, and for some unknown reason, WARM's afternoon DJ, the great Tim Karlson, took an interest in me. Tim had me read news copy on tape and critiqued it. When he felt I was ready, Tim played the tapes for Jerry, and I started getting sent out on news assignments, with the occasional anchor shift.
As I have noted before, I took a heavy course load my first two years at college, plus I took classes every summer. It meant I had a lot of free time toward the end of my college days, allowing me to take on additional assignments at WARM.
When I anchored at night, Jerry occasionally used some of my copy the next morning. I would go over the scripts the next day, observing the changes Jerry made, and learning how to be a better writer. There were also little tips and tricks along the way-- allowing me to be smarter, faster and more efficient.
Jerry had a great news anchor style-- smooth, steady, dependable. He was the solid and reliable voice you wanted coming out of your radio every morning.
I've gone in to it here before. There was some tension between Jerry and myself when I left for WYOU in September of 1991. We bumped in to each other a couple of times before he retired. Cordial. Professional. Nothing special.
I should note that Jerry left WARM a few years after I did. I wasn't there at the time, and I don't know exactly how things played out, but I will say Jerry deserved better from the company. Jerry moved on to work on public affairs broadcasts for WVIA TV, and produced some great stuff. He knew Tropical Storm Agness as well as anyone.
Fast forward several years.
Jerry was diagnosed with Parkinson's and was involved in a severe crash early in 2019. He was in the intensive care unit of a Scranton hospital. A former coworker told me about it and suggested I stop by the hospital for a few minutes to say hello.
I hesitated, not sure of the reception I'd receive, if I would be welcome.
Jerry could not have been more kind. It hurt to see my old boss stuck in bed, suffering from Parkinson's, suffering even more from injuries caused by the crash. We had a nice talk about the old days, and the current times. The familiar voice was weak, but it was still there.
I thanked Jerry for all he did for me, adding that I could not have accomplished anything without his foundation. Typical Jerry. He said I would have been okay, even if we had not crossed paths. Jerry was wrong.
Jerry Heller died yesterday.
I like to think I carry a little bit of every person I ever worked with when I stand in front of a camera or behind a microphone. Yes, a little bit of many, many people-- and a lot of Jerry Heller.
Monday, March 30, 2020
Season four of "Brockmire" befan on IFC earlier this month, and I thought the first two episodes of the final season were awful. Long story short: Brockmire is now commissioner of baseball and it's set in 2030. However, some things happened at the end of the second episode. That, plus the "coming attractions" has me sticking around for a while. I was just about ready to give up. It's too bad, because the first three seasons were brilliant.
Peyton Manning has turned down a Monday Night Football job offer from ESPN. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the Worldwide Leader has such trouble attracting prime talent to the MNF booth. I won't argue that the NFL puts some of its worst games on Monday night, but it's still prime time television and a league showcase.
There has been talk ESPN will share the games with co-owned ABC, and that's not a bad thing. MNF could use some more eyeballs.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Saturday, March 28, 2020
To be honest with you, this is nothing really noteworthy-- a nice river, but an average shot. I was experimenting with different camera settings, so this could have been a better photograph.
I'm looking forward to some greenery on the river's banks.
Friday, March 27, 2020
The program actually started late in 1979, as special reports on the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The ratings were solid. ABC wanted to keep an 11:30 PM broadcast, and have the flexibility to cover other topics, so "Nightline" was born.
Ted Koppel had it for its first 25 years. He was the right guy at the right time. Koppel is great at live TV. His interviews were clear and concise. The man knows how to ask the right questions and get to the point.
When the history of television is written, there is no doubt "Nightline" will be listed as one of the gems.
Thursday, March 26, 2020
New Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tom Brady held a news conference via conference call. It was dignified.
He apparently felt unwanted and unloved in New England, according to many published reports. None of that showed in the news conference. Brady sidestepped the issue nicely and put considerable emphasis on his future as a Buccaneer.
I always admired Tom Brady's talent, even though I don't like the Patriots. I doubt I'll ever be a true Tom Brady fan, but the news conference, from the high road, showed a lot of class.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
The Scranton Times had an interesting editorial Sunday morning. Lackawanna County is making some changes at its Wyoming Avenue, Scranton office building, formerly The Globe. It's putting more services on the first floor so people don't have to go throughout the building, potentially spreading the coronavirus.
The Times wants the county to go a few steps beyond, like make the Globe something more attractive and functional. It does appear the conversion from department store to office building was done on the cheap. This was a Christmas time photo I took of the outside. The inside is considerably less attractive, and that's putting it mildly.
Below is a photo I took of the Penn Avenue side, which is even worse.
Full disclosure: I thought moving in to The Globe was a decent idea. No one was ever going to use that building and the county bit the bullet. The old county office building, on Adams Avenue is being converted into a mixed use building, including apartments.
Bottom line: this could have been done much better, but I don't think the taxpayers can afford a "do over."
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Some of you might remember me as an incredibly mediocre radio DJ 40 years ago.. It was great experience. The ad libbing and timing skills proved valuable as I advanced down the career trail.
It took me a while, years ago, to wrap my head around the fact that many of the songs I played new were now oldies.
And now, many of the artists I played are no longer with us. Kenny Rogers is the latest on the list.
I can't say I was a huge Kenny Rogers fan, but I did like "Just Dropped In." By the way, fantastic lyrics, written by Mickey Newburry. Rogers' tunes were catchy and endearing. Pop fans loved him. Country fans loved him. He was a true crossover artist and I respect that.
Kenny Rogers was 81.
Monday, March 23, 2020
Joe Biden picked up three more primary wins last week, including a big one in Illinois. Georgia was supposed to vote tomorrow, but the coronavirus has delayed that.
The bottom line is that Mr. Biden should start working on his acceptance speech I watched most of the recent CNN debate, and it appeared Bernie Sanders has lost some, maybe most, of his steam. The passion that set Sanders apart just wasn't there. He appeared to be following rather than leading.
Having said that, Sanders' wing of the party is still a force to be reckoned with and it will be fascinating to see how much influence he has at the convention, and in the Democratic party's platform.
I've been reading several stories on how the Bernie Bros plan to stay home on election day.
It's happened time and again. There are times when internal party strife is as big an issue as the opposition party.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
Saturday, March 21, 2020
The green sign is on top of the Citizens Bank building, and when the river is still, you get a lovely reflection.
Friday, March 20, 2020
It started me thinking about the CBS Saturday night line up of the mid 70's.
The night started with "All in the Family." It was followed by "MASH," then "Mary Tyler Moore," "Bob Newhart" and finally, "Carol Burnett." It cleaned up in the ratings and it was great stuff. You turned the dial to CBS and didn't have to get up to change the channel. On top of that, they were all very different programs, but that had one thing in common: they were funny.
Fred Silverman programmed CBS for part of the 70's. He died recently, and there are old interviews with him on YouTube. Listen to him talk about television. Part of his philosophy was to hire great content creators and let them run.
I doubt we'll ever see a line up like that again, especially on Saturdays-- a night now dedicated to reruns and sports.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
The days feature more daylight. The sun is a little stronger and the temperatures are a little warmer.
It seems spring allergy season arrived a little earlier than usual this year. I've been hearing a lot of coughing and sneezing. At least, I hope it's allergy related.
Enjoy spring while it's hear. Oppressive heat and humidity aren't that far away.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
So, if I owned an NFL team, would I sign him? No. I'm sure he wants a ton of money, and I would be reluctant to shell out the bucks for a 43 year old who is coming off an average season.
There would be one exception-- If my team needed a stunt to put butts in the seats. San Diego is moving in to a new stadium. The Raiders are moving in to a new city. I'm sure Brady's next team will see a boost in ticket sales, but think of everything else that could be done with that Brady money.
Is he the GOAT, Greatest of all Time? I'm leaning that way, but Tom Brady was in the middle of the perfect storm-- the right team, the right teammates, and the right coach, at the same time. I doubt he would have had the same success if he landed with the Jets or the Bears, or the Dolphins. He would have improved them, but six Super Bowls is a very long shot.
Tom Brady will always have the black mark of "Inflategate" against him, but you cannot dispute his winning record and all those Super Bowls.
As I write this, it appears Tom Brady is headed for Tampa Bay. He'll get a fat pay check. $30 million a year. The Buccaneers shouldn't clear out shelf space for the Vince Lombardi trophy just yet.
It just might be time to retire with dignity.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
It was part time, one day a week. Saturdays. I did 30 second hourly news updates between cartoons. I forgot how much they paid me, but I do recall it wasn't a lot. I didn't care. Restlessness at my radio job was setting in and it was time to see what else was out there. It was a foot in the door, and I will be forever grateful to news director Jim DePury, who gave me the chance.
Advice for newbies, in any field: Take whatever you're given, do it the best you can, and things will turn out great. I took those little updates very seriously, which led to assignment desk work, which led to reporting and anchoring. The station offered a full time job a few months after I started. I declined. They came back with another offer a year later, and I took it.
Even after 30 TV years, it's still fun. News fascinates me. It's a thrill getting up in the morning (or late at night) and learning things I didn't know the day before. The business has changed considerably. The basics haven't. Be fair. Be accurate. No one will ever complain if you make something too easy to understand. It's not about me. It's all about the story.
Thanks for watching and being exceptionally kind over the decades. Let's keep it going.
Monday, March 16, 2020
It looks like I was wrong. There is always the chance for a 180, but it looks like spring will arrive without that major storm.
I declared winter "over" by removing the knit hat, gloves, another cold weather gear from my work bag. I didn't use any of it this season, and the long underwear stayed in the drawer.
This is the second strange winter in a row, at least, where I live. The biggest snowfall of the 18-19 winter happened in November of 18. It was just a series of nuisance storms after that.
This year, it was much the same-- a few four inchers, maybe a little more.
I'm not complaining, even though I know snow fuels our winter economy. We have ski resorts and a lot of people who supplement their income by shoveling, plowing, and throwing snow.
On the other hand, it's dangerous. It disrupts travels, schools and assorted commerce.
And., we won't have to deal with it for seven more months.
Sunday, March 15, 2020
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Friday, March 13, 2020
Why can't they make shopping cart wheels more durable?
Nothing makes you appreciate sunshine more than a dreary, grey winter.
Tornadoes have always frightened me and always will.
Rams fans are going angrily insane over an alleged new logo that leaked on the internet over the weekend. I don't think it's that bad, even though it would be better suited for the Chargers.
I'm really tired of all the cheating Astros and "Where will Tom Brady go?" talk.
I'm not a fan of time changes, but I have a feeling they will always be with us. Legislatures around the country do plenty of yammering, but not much action.
This week's fire in Dunmore that killed four is a horrible tragedy, and if half of the rumors are true, it's even more sickening.
PennDOT really needs to do something about Interstate 81. The morning traffic near the hospital and business park in Plains Township is horrible, and the same goes for the area near the industrial park in Jenkins Township. The highway can't support all the traffic those businesses generate.
Some sports talk radio shows pivoted in to the news mode this week, and they did an outstanding job.
Politics is a funny game. Candidates go from the top to the bottom, and vice versa, with amazing speed.
Thursday, March 12, 2020
I have yet to see my first robin of 2020, and robin talk always sends me back to an afternoon at Marywood College in 1980.
Let me establish a bit of a foundation. I always hated late afternoon and evening classes, but there are times when there is no way around them. You have to be there when the classes are offered. I took every 8 AM class I could get my hands on. French was one of the exceptions. There were two semesters of French in my freshman year, both at the same times, two classes per week-- Monday and Thursday, 4 to 5:15 PM.
To say the least, this was not my best subject. It was a C for the first semester, in the fall. Things went down hill after that.
I struggled mightily in the second semester, and those classes were new and fresh experiences in terror.
There was one afternoon, right around this time of year. I was walking back to my car after a particularly brutal class, cutting across a big, grassy field. Depression and fear were my emotions of the day. I just wasn't getting it. Failure was a real possibility. The sun was setting. It was chilly, but you could tell that spring was near. I looked down and saw my first robin of the year.
The robin froze. So did I. We started at each other. He gave me a look that said "Everything is going to be okay." He went back to looking for worms. I went to my car and drove home to do some studying, and some worrying.
I finished the semester and waited for my grades to arrive in the mail. Yes, they were not computer delivered back in the day. French: D. I was thrilled. I passed.
As I have said here before, I should have failed, but the professor saw I was trying hard, and she cut me some slack. At least, that's what I like to think. It's probably because she didn't want to look at me for another semester.
As the years have passed, the lesson has never left me. If you see someone struggling with a task, go easy on them, if they are trying. It shows they care, and not everyone picks up something new right from the start.
By the way, the French professor is now the university's president. I told her the story, minus the dumb robin part, a few years ago
Sometimes, the best things you learn in college are not in the text books.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
There were serious fears that Sanders at the top of the ticket would hurt house and senate candidates. It seems the Democrats can deal with a Republican in the White House. Both houses in Republican hands is more than the Democrats can take. When they realized that, the big names and the big money started lining up behind Biden.
Locally, one of the signs appeared in a recent edition of the Times~Tribune. Senior citizens gave a local Democratic congressman an earful at some of the things being kicked around in the Democratic party in general and Bernie Sanders in particular--especially when it comes to health care. Senior citizens vote, and when they talk, politicians listen.
To be honest, I'm surprised Sanders made it that far. I thought the recent heart attack would gave voters cause for concern. Could a 78 year old with a bad heart stand the stresses of the White House? I marveled at his energy and enthusiasm. I didn't think it came across in his podium speeches, but in interviews, Sanders showed charm and humor. Sanders and his people need to be heard. It will be interesting to see what influence, if any, they have on the party's platform.
So, what analysis of Joe Biden's winning streak can be offered here? He's a known choice, a solid choice, a safe choice. He has the name and face recognition, and I think people generally like him. "Like" doesn't necessarily translate in to votes, but it doesn't hurt. It's amazing how his campaign went from disaster to presumptive nominee in a month. Biden has always been prone to gaffes. Some see that as part of his charm. Others think it is the potential for disaster.
Joe Biden's "nice guy" act plays well in some circles, but this will be a bruising and expensive campaign. It's just beginning.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
As a result, I rarely shave on my days off. I used to feel funny going out looking unkempt, but scruff is in, and it's been that way for a while. No one seems to care if I have a day's growth, or two, or three.
I've heard some people say they like the look. Believe me, it's for comfort, not to be hip and trendy.
I will admit that it does feel good to get rid of it after a few days.
Yes, I've tried a beard, especially in vacation. I can't stand the itch.
Monday, March 9, 2020
I saw the news as I looked at my phone over breakfast. It was 4:40 AM. The tornadoes hit about two hours prior.
I Googled "news radio Nashville" and found a station. The plea went out. "Alexa, play W***." She always listens. Alexa likes me. After five minutes of commercials, what did I hear? The syndicated overnight radio loon talking about Bigfoot, the end of the world, Martians and UFO's.
This was a time for radio to shine, but the lights were out. I hope the radio station got its act together for morning drive, but it was too late for me. I was gone, and I wasn't coming back. I have a feeling I wasn't the only one.
Yet another nail in the radio coffin.
Don't blame new media. Blame yourself.
And there's more. A station in Lamsdale is going out of business. Below is a release from management.
And while I'm piling on, I came across this paragraph on a radio industry web site. By the way, I do realize that phones and smart speakers perform radio functions. Still, it's tough to type through my tears.
Edison Research has released a teaser for their upcoming Infinite Dial study showing that the mean number of radios in the homes of Americans has dropped in half since 2008. In the upcoming Infinite Dial 2020, respondents averaged 1.5 radios per home with 32 percent saying they did not have a single radio,
Sunday, March 8, 2020
It worked. After snapping off a few, it was back to my desk with a clear head.
Saturday, March 7, 2020
This is a shot looking south on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre. The Luzerne County Courthouse is off to me right, King's College to the left.
I took this one with a high end point-and-shoot, not my better DSLR. The max shutter time on this camera is 15 seconds. I didn't have a tripod with me, so I placed the camera on the curb.
Friday, March 6, 2020
If I was running CBS, would I have signed off on the deal?
Romo does a nice job, and CBS didn't want to make a change in a Super Bowl year.
He has a decent record at predicting plays. John Madden and Dick Vermeil did the same thing in their early years as broadcasters, but it lessened every year they were off the field, and I expect the same thing to happen to Tony Romo.
The New York Post reports CBS would have balked if it was able to sign Peyton Manning. It didn't happen. CBS has Dan Fouts and Boomer Esiason on the payroll. I think it would have survived if Romo took the ESPN offer. No one chooses a football game based on who is in the booth.
ESPN is still looking for a magic Monday Night Football formula. The network is also plagued by some lousy games. There are some talented people out there. Why can't ESPN find them?
Thursday, March 5, 2020
Socialist Democrat Bernie Sanders' message isn't playing well in the south.
Joe Biden's campaign, dead two weeks ago, has new life. It's thanks to the moderates lining up behind him to freeze out Sanders. The conventional wisdom is that Biden is a bigger threat to President Trump. Remember that conventional wisdom four years ago had Hillary Clinton becoming the 45th POTUS.
Sanders and his supporters are a mighty force. If Biden does capture the nomination, can he reach out to them and mend the party? I'm not so sure. If they feel resentment at their guy getting hosed out of the nomination for a second time, I can see the Sanders people staying home in November. If Biden moves left to appease the Sanders supporters, it could make for an even more difficult time challenging President Trump.
As Chris Wallace said on FOX, you have to tap the brakes on the Biden resurgence. You can't overlook the fact that he didn't win California. That's an interesting fact for the primary. However, California will be very blue in November.
Michael Bloomberg got hammered Tuesday. So much for the case that you can buy the presidency. Bloomberg spent a half a billion dollars and has nothing to show for it. He was gone Wednesday morning.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren appeared to have early traction. It's disappeared. She came in third in her own state. Her candidacy appears to be hurting Sanders.
We had a dozen candidates just a few weeks ago. The field narrowed with amazing speed.
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
I was on my way to the gym the other morning to sweat out some of my frustration. That's when Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky" came on the car radio.
Suddenly, it was 1977 and I was a kid again. Everyone was young, happy, and healthy. My biggest worry was a math test and hitting a curve ball in a back yard wiffle ball game.
The song lasted for four minutes, and it was the most pleasant four minutes I've had in a very long time.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Understatement: there is a lot at stake here. Will candidates from the northeast do well in the south and west? How will Bernie Sanders' socialism appeal to southerners? Does Joe Biden, fresh off that win in South Carolina, really have all that strength with minorities? Will the moderates show their ability to move the Democratic party back to the center? Can Elizabeth Warren hang on? What will Michael Bloomberg do? I thought Pete Buttigieg would stay on until the Super Tuesday numbers were in, but he bailed after South Carolina. The same goes for Amy Klobuchar. Several organizations report those last two candidates had a talk with Barack Obama, who is apparently trying to sway his party away from Bernie Sanders.
I doubt all the results will be in for tomorrow's blog entry, but there is a chance. It's likely there will be a little analysis later in the week. I think it's safe to say results will be spread out across the board. Sanders and Biden will do well. We'll get our first look at how much support Michael Bloomberg has. It will be a fascinating night.
By the way, you know this is a big deal when ABC is blowing out three hours of prime time to cover it, plus NightLine, plus World News Now, plus ABC News Live.
Many of the cable network pundits are predicting a brokered convention. They yammered endlessly about the same thing when the Republicans had a huge field of candidates four years ago. It's a case of too much time to fill and not enough to say. The Democrats will settle on someone and it will happen long before the convention in Milwaukee this summer.
Monday, March 2, 2020
Oakland wins in spite of cheap ownership, lukewarm fan support, and a simply awful stadium. The team should have been moved to another city long ago.
Here is the latest development in the deterioration of a once proud franchise.
A's games will not be heard on radio in the Oakland area. Yes, the team couldn't find a radio partner for the upcoming season. The games will be streamed on the internet. If you live in the Oakland area, you get them for free. If you don't, it will cost you.
A handful of radio stations, outside the Oakland area, but still in northern California, will broadcast the internet feed.
Baseball on the radio is one of the joys of life, except if you have to endure John Sterling of the Yankees.
The A's disappearing from free radio is another nail in the coffin of a once decent franchise and another nail in the coffin of radio in general. If other teams smell that they can make money off the internet rather than radio, the dominoes will start to tumble.
Sunday, March 1, 2020
The Lincoln Memorial photo recently appeared on the social media pages of good friend and former coworker Dave Scarnato. Dave is now a photographer with WUSA in Washington, one of WNEP's new and many sister stations.
I asked Dave what kind of camera took such a nice photo. Dave said it was a camera phone. He went on to say it should become part of "Bad Photography Weekend," now known as "Andy's Angles."
David, here it is, and thank you.