Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's me again

So, where was I?

Oh, I was saying bye-bye after 43 years at the Freeman, ready for some rest and thinking about new challenges.

That was at the end of July.

But six weeks into my new life, a text message alerted me to the resignation of Jan Dewey, about a year after she had succeeded me as publisher.

It wasn't exactly news I wanted to hear. Not only had Jan been doing a wonderful job leading Kingston and our company's other New York properties, but I knew a phone call was likely to come.

It did, a couple of days later, and on Sept. 17 I was back at my old desk, the one behind which I sat for 25 years.

I'd say it was like riding a bike, except I never learned how to ride a bike. (That's a long story involving the rules at the Parkchester apartment complex where I spent my formative years.)

Be that as it may, the company asked me to grab the reins again while it seeks a new publisher. I'm rooting for the search to end sooner rather than later. After all, if you've experienced an employee's sense of uncertainty awaiting the arrival of a new boss, you'll understand why I hope ours don't have to wait long before there's clarity and stability in their professional lives. (This presumes, of course, there are such things as clarity and stability in today's newspaper environment.)

Am I also rooting for a quick hire so that I can return to "private" life? Who, me?

That said, one doesn't just towel off 43 years of sweat equity in six weeks. Or, to put it another way, I've been telling people that just as Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda boasts of bleeding Dodgers blue, I bleed Freeman blue. Whatever I can do to hold down the fort, that's what I will do. The Freeman is too important to me and the community for me to not answer (excuse another baseball analogy) a call to the bullpen.

I'm in the office a few days a week. I can get away with that because we're fortunate (as I was most of the time when I was publisher) to have excellent department heads. They work hard and they know what they're supposed to do. Yes, they can lean on me, but I'm not worried about them toppling me over.

I've been catching up with the managers and their staffs, learning about initiatives soon-to-be launched and orienting myself about those already on their feet.

It never gets dull at our shop. Indeed, it wasn't dull even when I was a rookie typing bowling scores in our former home at 3 Broadway.

I had intended to resume this blog after a reasonable period of inactivity following the conclusion of my Freeman career. I hardly expected the first entry to be about the start of another one.
Funny how these things happen.

For the time being, you know where to find me.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Closing the circle on a 43-year career

It was on Sept. 14, 1970, a Monday, that I walked into the Freeman building for the first time. We were at the foot of Broadway then. It was 43 years, 50 pounds and a lifetime of memorable experiences ago.

It will be on Aug. 2, 2013, a Friday, that I will exit the Freeman building for the last time. We’re on Hurley Avenue now.

Oh, the stories I could tell.

I’ve given considerable thought to what I might say in this “farewell “ blog. (Actually, “farewell” is not quite accurate, since the title of “publisher emeritus” will always be with me. And I do expect to maintain this blog as the spirit moves me.)

To be sure, when I began my career as the third person in a three-person sports department – learning the ropes and the Kingston area phone book by typing (on a typewriter) bowling scores – I hardly expected to be working at the Freeman for three years, much less 43.

But a variety of personal and professional developments – from marriage to fulfilling a local National Guard hitch to a pair of job promotions in the sports department – altered the road map. It also didn’t hurt that this New York City native came to like living “in the country.” After a while, the original goal of becoming a big-time sports columnist didn’t seem so important anymore.
So here I am, having been a sport writer, sports editor, editor, general manager and, for 25 years, publisher of the Freeman, before becoming publisher emeritus a year ago, to round out my career.
It’s been a roller coaster of a ride, as you might imagine. How could being a journalist in this community be anything but? I’ll save some of those aforementioned stories for another time … or for my book … or maybe I’ll just keep them to myself.

Instead, I’ll take on the foolish job of mentioning Freeman people who were particularly memorable, influential and important to me. This newspaper enjoyed extraordinary success during most of the years when I was publisher. It’s not false modesty, however, to admit the obvious: I didn’t do it alone.

No doubt I’ll forget someone’s name, so I apologize in advance.

Here goes:

Legendary sports editor Charlie Tiano hired me in 1970. I worked for and with him for six years until succeeding him when he retired. I learned more about the newspaper business and this area from him than anyone else. He was responsible for giving me a start in this business and I’m eternally grateful.

Dick Treat was my first publisher. Ralph Ingersoll II, Tom Geyer and Jim Plugh followed. Bob Saehloff preceded me as general manager. Plugh convinced me to take the editor’s job, even though I’d turned it down earlier. Then he promoted me to succeed him as publisher in 1987.

Editors Peter Barrecchia, Tom Geyer, Chazy Dowaliby and Rob Borsellino helped prepare me to move into their chair in 1983.

In the newsroom, where I spent 13 of my formative years, I won’t soon forget people with whom I worked like Tony Adamis, Sam Daleo, Jeremy Schiffres, Matt Spireng, Jed Horne, Hugh Reynolds, Ed Palladino, Mort Laffin, Steve Kane, Bruce Goldberg, Tobie Geertsema, Rekha Basu, Irwin Thomas, Paul Burton, Brian Hollander, Ron Rosner, Dorothy Narel, Joan Saehloff, Tom Wakeman, Edwina Henderson, Betsy Sandberg, Jean Dolan, Mary Chris Kuhr, Emily Spoljaric, Wade Burkhardt, Bonnie Langston, Sid Leavitt , Rick Remsnyder, Mikhail Horowitz, Cynthia Werthamer, David Grice, Mike Stribl, Pat Courtney, Rose Morris, Carol Schaff, Alan Carey, Bob Haines, Dan Chidester, Bill Madden, Pat Doxsey, Modele Clarke, Sheila Isenberg, Craig Gilbert, Neal Allen and Kent Allen, among many others (plus a couple of decades worth of reporters, photographers and editors who arrived after I inherited the front office).

I learned plenty from advertising people like Jack Martin, Bud Walker, Barbara Norton, John Greklek, Mike Matranga, Greg Appel, Tim Tergeoglou, Jon Powers (a former reporter), Harold Johnson, Carol Stahl, Penny Ducker and Cindy Jones.

First-rate production people Bill Studt, David Hyatt, Peter Chadik, Michele Sisco-Martin and Len Bovee made sure the computers worked, the newspaper was printed and the building was maintained.
Dan Jagunic, Tom Amato and David Fogden were a few of the guys in charge of getting the newspaper delivered, but only after supervisors like Vince Crantz, Walt Daw and Lee Hazleton led teams that packaged it in the mailroom.

Financial gurus Bob McClintock, Tony Sakellariou, Tom Cincotta and Bob Wachter did the heavy lifting on budgets and other money matters. Brenda Crantz and Crystal Subeh put the “human” in human resources.

And where would a publisher be without quality executive administrative assistants like Geraldine Wilson, Debbie Katz, Margret Amato and Joan Beesmer?

Many at the corporate and counsel level s believed in and advised me -- Bill Higginson, Dave Carr, Mike Tannler, Bob Jelenic, Jean Clifton, Mike Murray, John Collins, Jim Hall, David Ross, Michael Rybicki, John Paton, Jeff Bairstow and Tom Wiley.

A newspaper publisher needs other newspaper publishers for advice and commiseration. Among my company colleagues, I spent time schmoozing (a technical term) with Frank Gothie, Mike O’Sullivan, Karen Alvord, Frank McGivern, Ann Campanie, Shelley Meenan, Ed Condra, Kevin Walsh, Bill Murray, Kevin Haezebroeck, Paula Walsh, Matt DeRienzo, Jack Shores, Deb Shaw, Chris Chamberlain, Marc Romanow and Jim Williams.

It was also wonderful working with Diane Kennedy, who heads the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, which I had the honor of chairing in 1997-98.

All of these people and others whose names have slipped my 65-year-old mind – I didn’t even get into citing colleagues from the non-daily publications in Dutchess, Putnam and Columbia counties that I operated for several years while also publishing the Freeman – were tremendous teammates.

The Freeman is in excellent hands under the leadership of Jan Dewey, whom the parent company was smart enough to lure as publisher right around this time last year. It’s no surprise that Jan is a dynamic, insightful and creative publisher, just the right person to inject new ideas and energy as our newspaper reinvents itself in print and, more importantly, continues to blaze a trail in the digital world, the place where our industry’s future resides.

The Freeman has gone from “hot type” to “cold type” to digital publishing during my 43 years. We moved from a historic location on the Strand to a renovated supermarket uptown. We shifted from an afternoon newspaper to a morning newspaper. We expanded from six-days-a-week to seven. We added popular sections like Preview and Doorways (dropping others like Tempo and Channels). We made the product more colorful and, yes, we redesigned it several times. We launched a short-lived Spanish weekly, which I hope the company can revisit once economic conditions are more favorable. We won awards and we became embroiled in controversies, some due to excellent stepping-on-toes journalism, others due to our own missteps. We occasionally tested the patience of readers, most of whom have thankfully remained loyal because they are mindful of the importance of a local daily newspaper. We angered politicians (not necessarily a bad thing) and we frequently took advantage of the bully pulpit of our editorial page to raise the community’s consciousness on a variety of significant issues.

It’s fashionable to predict the death of newspapers, given the decline in paid circulation and print advertising revenue. But I’m confident newspapers aren’t going anywhere, even if print continues to dwindle and maybe even disappear.

Between print and digital, the Freeman now has more readers than at any time in its 142-year history. The digital platform and all it encompasses enables newspapers to do what they’ve never been able to do: offer immediacy and audio and video to complement the printed word. The industry and this newspaper seem to have rediscovered equilibrium and momentum in order to grow in this still young century.

I was diagnosed with leukemia in April 2009. I have been in remission since November 2011. Prognosis is good. But it is a disease that never really goes away. The time is right for me to bow out of the often stressful day-to-day newspaper environment. The corporate team at 21st Century Media (formerly Journal Register Company) has been more than understanding and kind in advance of my departure.

I’m not calling it retirement. There are tweets, blogs, stories and maybe even books to write. Could be I’ll find myself in front of a classroom or behind a radio microphone or both. Maybe my professional experiences will be of interest to others in the industry. I think they call it consulting.

Then again, my golf game needs plenty of attention. More importantly, granddaughter Elizabeth, 8, is in Connecticut and grandson Dylan, seven months, is in California. My sons David (and his wife Jennifer) and Matt (and his wife Jessica) will be seeing more of me.

So will my wife Eileen (like it or not!). We started dating a month after I joined the Freeman and were married just shy of a year before my first anniversary of employment. She’s not prepared to say it’s always been a walk in the park. But we’re going strong after all this time, having weathered child-raising (mostly by her, since I was also married to the job), to being a sounding board as I vented about the latest work-related problem, to my illness. Who can be sure what’s next, other than Eileen and I remaining together and Woodstock being our home?

Yes, it’s been quite a ride these last 43 years at the Freeman. Thanks for joining me for all or parts of it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Naming names

-- Tuesday's 5-4 ruling along ideological lines against the Voting Rights Act to the contrary, say this about the U.S. Supreme Court: It isn't predictable. Months ago it was Chief Justice Roberts tilting the balance in favor of Obamacare. A couple of weeks ago it was Justice Scalia in the dissent on DNA. Today Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Scalia were on the same side on gay marriage. Must be something in the water.

-- A-Rod gets chastised by the Yankees' general manager for exuberantly claiming he's finally ready to play some games. The Yankees like to control the message on injuries, you see, as is their right. But you suppose GM Brian Cashman would have told Derek Jeter to shut up if The Captain had done the same as A-Rod?

-- An estimated 13 million people watched Nik Wallenda do his tightrope thing over the Grand Canyon the other night. Imagine how many would have seen it had it not been on an obscure cable channel. But the key question remains, how many of those 13 million tuned in only to see if Wallenda would plunge to his death? No, it was more than that, says noted Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins.

-- A show of hands: How many of you think Paula Deen used the n-word only once? Just asking.

-- Kicking myself for missing Steve Martin at UPAC the other night. I'm told not only did Banjo Steve show up, but so did Funnyman Steve. If you were there, tell me if you liked the show.

-- Survived 54 holes of golf on Saturday. Glad I did it; had done it once before; might try it again next season. But I'm only up for 18 holes this weekend.

-- Interesting watching Assemblyman Cahill play defense.

-- Radio next week: 6 p.m. Sunday (repeat 3 p.m. Monday) on WAMC Media Project. 7:30 a.m. Tuesday on WGHQ Kingston Community Radio.I'll remind you on Twitter. Follow me @IraFusfeld.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Catching up

Since last I blogged, the notepad has been filling up. Here are some quick-hitters:

* Looking forward to a major redesign of the print edition of the Freeman. It will happen around mid-summer, followed a couple of months later by a new look to our website. Newspapers don't take format changes lightly, given how resistant readers typically are to change. Indeed, since we run the risk of aggravating readers every day with what content is and isn't in the paper, why go out of our way to upset the apple cart by the way we appear? The answer is that freshening one's appearance is a good thing, particularly if the makeover is an improvement. We switched to our current format about 15 years ago, if memory serves me. Some people took to it immediately, others scolded us, as in, "How dare you mess with our local paper!" No doubt we'll get that again. Nevertheless, it's time.

* Fascinated to see in the Freeman website's comment section the never-ending, generally respectful, back and forth between supporters of the Catskill Mountain Railroad and those who advocate a rail trail. That said, seems to me the posters long ago got their respective points across and aren't likely to change any minds by reciting the same arguments. Might be time to yell "jump ball!"

* I'm guessing Tim Tebow is more likely to succeed with the New England Patriots than he was with the New York Jets. Patriots' coach Bill Belichik runs a tighter ship than does the Jets' Rex Ryan. Belichik won't let the media sideshow overtake the team.

* Looking forward to the return of "Magic City" this weekend on Starz. And critics are saying "Ray Donovan" on Showtime will be like "The Sopranos" based in Hollywood.

* Speaking of Showtime, if you have access to it, make sure you see the Richard Pryor documentary currently airing.

* WAMC Northeast Public Radio is nearing the completion of another successful $1 million fund drive. If you haven't chipped in, please call 1-800-323-9262 or pledge here. By the way, Alan Chartock, Judy Patrick and I recorded this week's Media Project, but it didn't air because of the fund drive. You can listen to it here.

* In sports, you come to expect the unpredictable. But there was no way to anticipate that the Mets would beat the Yankees four straight games and then collapse on successive weekends against the Miami Marlins.

* Spent a couple of days on Cape Cod late last month and ate more lobster than I had the last couple of years. Hadn't been on the Cape since 1972. What took me so long?

* It's my 8-year-old granddaughter Elizabeth's dance recital Saturday in Connecticut. Always fun. Grandson Dylan, age 6 months, isn't dancing yet. But his parents had him in the swimming pool over the weekend in California.

* I'm supposed to play 54 holes of golf in one day later this month. Ten years ago, a bunch of us did that and survived. But I needed shoulder surgery a few months later. Coincidence?

* Sorry to learn of the passing of Jack Martin. Jack was my first advertising director after I became publisher and he had the unenviable task of tutoring someone (that would be me) who had made his bones in the newsroom, with little prior contact on the sales side. Jack was a very important player in one of the most successful periods in our newspaper's history. Condolences to his wife, Elaine, daughters Amy and Laura, and the rest of the family.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The sale of a newspaper

The company that owns the Freeman was sold earlier this month. You may have heard about it; it was in all the newspapers.

Indeed, the sale seemed to attract more public attention than previous times when Freeman ownership changed hands. (More on that history in a moment.)

Maybe that was because the parent company was in bankruptcy for the second time in three years, prompting many in the public to expect us to go out of business as the latest casualty in what is often described as a dinosaur of an industry.

Maybe it was because there are more print, digital and broadcast outlets attempting to cover our community these days, some of which weren’t around to chronicle past sales.

Maybe it was because the sale coincided with negotiations with unions representing employees at our newspaper and others owned by the parent Journal Register Company. As typically occurs when unions (public and private sector) seek outside support in hopes of applying pressure on management, the unions expressed dissatisfaction about what they were facing at the bargaining table during talks with 21st CMH Acquisitions, soon-to-be new owner of Journal Register Company (and an affiliate of Alden Global Capital, the soon-to-be former owner).

I get it.

But here’s where I’m going to take on the persona of Father Time, as I’ve increasingly found myself doing over the last several years.

When you’ve worked at the same place for nearly 43 years, you get leather-skinned about the kinds of major business developments at your place of employment that you’ve experienced time and again in the past.

Put another way, while the sales of the Freeman’s parent companies and/or a resulting change in management are always unsettling for employees and a curiosity/concern for customers, it’s less so to the greybeards on the payroll.

I don’t mean to be cavalier about it. It’s a lot easier for me, someone who’s a lot closer to the end of a career than to a beginning or middle – and one who’s lived through it to tell the tale – to react with little more than raised eyebrows. No doubt the level of angst is elevated among my younger colleagues.

That said, before I tell you where I think the Freeman is and where it’s going, for some context, here’s a bit more on that aforementioned history, in abbreviated form.

The Rondout Daily Freeman was born in 1871. The owner -publisher was one Horatio Fowks. Over the next 20 years, what soon became the Kingston Daily Freeman was sold to S. D. Coykendall, then to Charles Marseilles, then back to Coykendall. The newspaper was losing money in 1891 when 25-year-old Jay Klock purchased it.

Klock ushered in what was considered the “modern era”, installing new presses, moving the operation into a building at the foot of Broadway (currently the home of Mariner’s Harbor restaurant) and making the kinds of improvements that saw its circulation grown from 3,000 to over 20,000.

After 45 years in charge, 70-year-old Klock died in 1936. For the next 30 years, the Freeman was run by his widow, Lucia.

(Yes, the Klocks were the namesakes of the Klock Foundation, which for decades has been a generous benefactor to a variety of worthy causes in the community.)

“Modern era No. 2” began in 1966 when the Freeman was purchased by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, two nationally known impresarios who’d made their fortunes producing TV game shows like “The Price is Right”, “I’ve Got a Secret”, “Match Game”, “To Tell the Truth” and “What’s My Line?”, among others.

The sale coincided with the onset of larger companies purchasing family-owned newspapers. Newspaper families made large sums of money and the companies immediately realized big profits and considerable influence. Today, it takes a bit of searching to find a daily newspaper that is still family-owned.

Goodson and Todman purchased what they were to call the Daily Freeman (Kingston was dropped from the flag) and other similar-sized newspapers in the Northeast. The Freeman now was part of a “chain,” albeit a small one, managed by noted journalist Ralph Ingersoll. (Ingersoll had invented a short-lived publication called PM in the late 1930s. Some look back on it today as USA Today decades before its time.)

Ingersoll’s son, Ralph II, later came on board to manage the Goodson-Todman properties, as well as a number of other newspapers that he purchased, all of which fell under the umbrella of Ingersoll Publications Company.

In 1989, Goodson (Todman had died several years before) ended his management agreement with Ingersoll and formed the Goodson Newspaper Group for the newspapers he wholly owned.
Goodson died three years later, but his newspaper company, inherited by his children, carried on until 1998, when it (including the Freeman) was sold to Journal Register Company.
Saddled with significant debt after a couple of huge acquisitions (including the Goodson deal), and faced with a severe downturn in the economy and the newspaper industry, Journal Register Company entered and quickly exited bankruptcy in 2009, with Alden as its new owner. Journal Register Company, still faced with huge debt, emerged from a late 2012 bankruptcy earlier this month, with yet another new owner (the aforementioned 21st CMH Acquisitions).

Yes, that was the abbreviated version of our history. It didn’t include the long line of CEOs, CFOs, VPs, publishers, department heads, etc., who have directly and indirectly influenced the Freeman over the years.

I’m guessing most of you who have read this far didn’t have any idea about how much was going on behind the scenes as long as your newspaper was delivered each day.

A statistic worth noting – and I offer it more to make a point about turnover than to pat myself on the back – is that my 25-year tenure as Freeman publisher was longer than anyone else in the newspaper’s history besides Jay and Lucia Klock. (You are likely aware that I stepped aside as publisher last August and took on the role of publisher emeritus. Jan Dewey now publishes the Freeman and Journal Register Company’s New York newspapers in Saratoga Springs, Troy and Oneida.)

So what’s the point? Oh, yes, the point.

Changes here aren’t new. The history above briefly describes the evolution in ownership. There were also many publishers and editors for whom I’ve worked since walking through the door as an idealistic 22-year-old in 1970: Dick Treat, Ralph Ingersoll II, Tom Geyer, Jim Plugh, Peter Barrecchia, Irwin Thomas, Charlie Tiano, Chazy Dowaliby, Rob Borsellino, Reg Gale, among others. And that roll call doesn’t cite the many corporate people to whom I have reported or the laundry list of adjustments and improvements we’ve made to the publication itself, not the least of which was becoming a 7-day morning paper instead of a 6-day afternoon paper.

Understandable internal and external anxiety aside, the sale of the Freeman’s parent company this month is business as usual for us. We have another new owner, new management, new procedures, and a reinforced commitment to digital publishing, which most observers agree is the future of our industry (and which Journal Register Company and its umbrella management group Digital First Media were spearheading long before many of our industry colleagues).

I’m betting on the Freeman being here long after I’m gone. In what form? If anybody in the newspaper business can tell you that for sure, they’re kidding themselves.

Who knows … maybe the parent company will be sold again. After all, it’s happened before.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pat Summerall and me

Here's my Pat Summerall story.

I'm old enough to remember No. 88 place-kicking for the New York Football Giants (as we called them). Summerall wasn't a soccer-style kicker; he employed the straight away approach common until about a decade later.

And like the rest of you, I remember Summerall broadcasting with Tom Brookshier and then John Madden on NFL games, with Tony Trabert on U.S. Open tennis, and with Ken Venturi on pro golf events.

But I best recall the correspondence we exchanged when I was a kid.

Summerall had retired from football and was breaking into announcing as the sports guy on WCBS radio in New York. This was around 1962, when I was 14 and a relatively new, but already rabid New York Rangers hockey fan.

Back then, the prevailing wisdom was that the Rangers were of interest only to the 15,925 who routinely filled the old Madison Square Garden. So you could only find them on TV once a week, Saturday nights on Channel 11, with Win Elliott at the mike. ("He's shilly-shallying the puck!") If the Rangers played an afternoon game, it would air via tape-delay in the evening.

Radio? Get this: WCBS broadcast the last six minutes of the first period, the last six minutes of the second period, then all of the third period. Hard to imagine today.

So I wrote Summerall a letter complaint. And he replied!

It matters little what he said -- something about sympathizing, but not being able to do anything about it.

What did impress this 14-year-old was that he answered. He opened my no doubt near-incomprehensible letter, read it and fashioned a reply.

You have to understand what it was like back then to open your mailbox in the lobby of your Bronx apartment building. You expected to retrieve your parents' bills. Instead you found a personal letter to you, with the CBS logo as the return address, and with a note actually signed by a big time sports guy, which Summerall definitely was in New York, long before he became a national TV star.

Summerall could do no wrong from then on.

In reading his obituaries this week, I was pleased to discover he was widely considered a good guy, in addition to being a great announcer. He battled substance abuse and emerged an even better man.
That was the Pat Summerall I "knew".


Odds and ends:

* As long as I'm playing geezer, please note that I'm one of those baby boomers who ran home from school each day to watch "The Mickey Mouse Club", particularly to see the Mouseketeers, featuring Annette (who also was a part of one of my favorite serials, "Spin and Marty". Annette (we later learned her last name was Funicello) died last week at age 70. Many of us who grew up with her have been feeling a lot older since then.

* When Wolf Blitzer is on CNN, I'm changing the channel. Sorry, Wolf, I "exclusively" won't "stand by."

* Question I didn't hear asked in the wake of that recent Rutgers men's basketball brouhaha: Where were the beat reporters who covered Rutgers all that time when coach Mike Rice was abusing his players? You mean nobody knew what was going on? Reporters either covered-up, or didn't have their arms wrapped about the team about which they were supposed to know all the ins and outs. Either possibility is troubling.

* If you like "60 Minutes" on CBS and you're into sports, you'll also like "60 Minutes Sports" on Showtime. Same people, same format, same strong journalism.

* Here's what I know about Dr. Oz: Oprah made him famous and I get way too much junk email from him. Hey, doc, for my health, cut out the spam.

* Happy for the local guy, Jimmy Fallon of Saugerties, who'll be the next host of "The Tonight Show", replacing Jay Leno. Still bummed out that David Letterman, the best of the later-nighters post-Johnny Carson, wasn't selected instead of the decidedly bland Leno when Carson retired.


I haven't forgotten to write about the recent sale of the Freeman's parent company. I'll do that in this space next week.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Notes on a boarding pass

- If you watched Friday's "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO, you likely were impressed by the passion and irreverence of a former New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner named Charlie LeDuff, who talked about troubled times in the city of Detroit. I was in the audience for the program in Los Angeles (broadcast from the CBS Television City studio that's home to "The Price Is Right" game show). Unfamiliar with LeDuff going in, I deemed him the star of the show going out. Come to learn that LeDuff has a reputation for being quite a character in Detroit, the latest example being his being intoxicated and involved in a brawl after urinating in public on Sunday at a St. Patrick's Day Parade. I'm guessing it won't hurt his brand.

- Everybody has an airplane story. Here's my latest: Decided to fly to Los Angeles starting from Stewart in Newburgh. It's a short puddle jumper (propellers, no less) to Philadelphia, followed by a non-stop flight to LAX. My concern had been that the first flight would arrive too late for me to make the connection. No problem. The Philly plane was delayed three hours for maintenance (at one point it was supposed to be a 5-hour wait). That's three hours of quality time in the Philly airport - and I couldn't find a cheese steak. The return trip departed LAX on time Sunday, but was about a half-hour late landing in Philly (for reasons that weren't clear). That left us about a half-hour to exit the plane, run across a terminal to get a shuttle bus which had to go from one end of the airport to the other, then run through a second terminal to get on the Stewart flight. We missed it by six minutes. (You mean US Airways couldn't have waited, particularly when it knew it had passengers connecting from a flight that was late, but on the ground?) Since I had to be in the office for meetings on Monday morning, I was already thinking about renting a car to finish the trip, since I figured the limited number of flights would make it unlikely I'd get an instant rebooking. But, no, there was one last Stewart-bound puddle jumper in four hours. The tally for this trip, approximately 7 hours in the air each way, 7 hours on the ground in Philly (and one more prior to the first outbound flight at Stewart). The moral: Despite being farther away from home, it's back to flying non-stop in and out of JFK next time.

- Made it to a Los Angeles Kings hockey game. First time in the sparkling Staples Center. Great place.

- Celebrity sightings (large and small): Vince Vaughn, Matthew Perry, David Hartman, Jon Hamm, Franklin Ajaye, the cast of "Shake It Up" (a Disney show on which my daughter-in-law, Jessica Replansky, is the costume designer), Mario Lopez and Maria Menounous.

- Best "celebrity" (seen in the accompanying photo): my grandson, Dylan James Fusfeld.