Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The Freeman editorial board's endorsements will roll out on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

As with all of the editorials we and other newspapers publish, some will agree with the points of view, some will disagree. It's our hope that all will recognize the editorials as serious commentaries designed to make readers think.

Make no mistake, our editorial board -- in addition to me, the board members are Managing Editor Sam Daleo, Assistant Managing Editor Tony Adamis and Political Editor Hugh Reynolds -- carefully weighed the contests for which we are offering recommendations. We did not take the task lightly. All voices were heard. All decisions were made without rancor.

You may remember the election cycle a few years ago when we chose not to offer endorsements. There was a growing sense among many in the newspaper business that the public was wary that the opinions on editorial pages were overflowing on to the news pages. After the election that year, our mail was about split: Half of our readers were happy we stayed on the sidelines; they didn't care what we thought. The other half thought it was our duty as a newspaper to offer opinions on elections, just as we do on a variety of other subjects throughout the year.

It's unlikely I will be able convince those who are inclined to see conspiracies and plots in politics that our endorsements are really what I've just described them to be.

No matter. At the end of the day, each of you has the real power to walk into a voting booth and make a personal selection. Please, exercise your right and cast a ballot on Tuesday.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"If you're not with us, you're against us"

One of my young editors at the Taconic Press weekly group in Dutchess County is telling war stories of being verbally accosted as he walks through the streets of his town. Democrats and Republicans angrily blame his paper for giving the other side more favorable coverage.

It's for trying times like these that I invoke to reporters and editors the words of Hyman Roth from "The Godfather," "This is the business we've chosen."

Put another way, when it comes to politics and political campaigns, there's only one kind of "favorable coverage": the kind that favors your candidate. Any attempt at evenhandedness by the press is met with scorn by partisans who imagine negative nuances, and interpret story placement, length and other variables as sure signs of handiwork by the enemy.

It's always been that way, I suppose. But this year seems particularly harsh, not only in the rhetoric being tossed our way, but in the exchanges between the candidates and their supporters.

Politics has always been considered a blood sport, but some of the current campaigns are hemorrhaging.

To be fair to the candidates, most of the really nasty stuff comes from their posses. The question is, are they egged on with a wink and a nod by the people actually seeking the votes, or is it merely a reflection of society's anything goes atmosphere?

Here's the bad part: There's still over a week go to before Election Day. And in virtually every campaign in my memory around here, the last few days herald the mad dash, like the bulls running in Pamplona, with everyone looking for an edge as elbows and taunts fly. For newspapers, that means reporters and editors getting leaned on and mailboxes (e-mail and snail mail) overflowing with last-minute letters to the editor that are too late for publication and in any event offer little more than "so and so is a good person, so vote for him or her." It's also the time when somebody will float a real smear job in hopes of it getting in the paper at the 11th hour to damage the other side. Our editors (and advertising salespeople, for that matter) are particularly vigilant about preventing that.

If this is your cup of tea, enjoy. The rest of us will duck and count the days until the morning after the votes are counted.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


For decades, I've been reading quotes from George Vizvary, Ulster County Community College's soccer coach. He's the champ. Nobody says it better.

Take this comment from today's story about a 7-0 win over Bronx Community College.

Said Vizvary after his team played a lackluster first half:

"When you arrive on the field and see your opponent is not really the bullrider, but the rodeo clown, obviously you play a different game. They (his team) took it as fun the first half and they missed so many shots.

"Halftime was not a very nice scene. I told them I'd burn down their houses if they didn't get a couple of goals in the first 10 minutes (of the second half). They took it seriously."

Bravo, George. You're still the best.

Two for one

What atracts more newspaper readers, crime or religion?

Both, if you go by today's story about the guy who was convicted in Ulster County Court on a bunch of felony charges, among others, after several incidents, including one in which he entered a Dunkin' Donuts shop and said he was "Almighty God" and King of the United States."

As of 4 p.m. today, that story had been read a whopping 10,146 times on our Website. I think it's a Freeman record. The only other one I can recall that came close was the Art Garfunkel pot-bust story -- and it had worldwide attention after being picked up by The Associated Press.

Into the night

The Colorado Rockies won the National League pennant last night. This morning, actually, if you live on the East Coast, where the Rockies' four-game sweep ended at about 1:30 a.m.

Did you see it? Probably not. TV ratings for prior games were at record lows.

Imagine had the Mets been playing the Rockies instead of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Would New York baseball fans have stayed up until the wee hours to watch their heroes? Some, I suppose. But most have to get up for work or school. They might not even have caught the first pitch at about 10:30 Eastern time.

There's no perfect solution to post-season scheduling.

In the old days, all the games were in the afternoon, so most day laborers couldn't see them and school children would run home to view only an inning or two. (But at least the weekend games were during the day.) Then the games switched to prime time on the East, which meant West Coast fans might have trouble tuning in for the first few innings in their late afternoon.

But something else happened: The games became increasingly long. More commercials, deeper pitch counts, frequent pitching changes, among other things, stretched what should have been a 2 1/2 or 3-hour matches to nearly four hours.

Again, there's no perfect solution. But it just isn't right when a game that decides the National League pennant is seen by few fans and ends too late for it to be reported in the next day's papers. Commissioner Selig, please go back to the drawing board.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blog fiction

Someone who does what I've been doing for nearly 40 years does a lot of reading. Usually, it's as many newspapers I can devour in print or on-line, plus a variety of magazines. Recently, I've started looking at blogs. In fact, I made reference to blogs yesterday on WAMC radio when I was talking about the Ulster County DA's race.

As best as I can remember, I said political blogs are more prevalent this election cycle, and might impact some of the races. I said one of the blogs seems to be particularly popular.

Imagine my surprise this morning during my daily blog scan to read my comments incorrectly paraphrased on one of the sites. In fact, the blogger flat out reported I favorably mentioned his blog. No I didn't. I didn't mention any blog by name. But if you really want to know, I was thinking of the Kingst-onion, which I've found generally well-written and humorous.

You've heard the old saying, "Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers." Do yourself a favor and believe even less of what you read in some of the blogs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The DA candidates

We just completed an informative and sometimes edgy editorial board meeting with the three candidates for Ulster County district attorney.

We planned on a 90-minute session, but it lasted an extra 15 minutes. I'll save the details -- not only about their views, but about some particularly sharp exchanges between the three candidates -- for Hugh Reynolds' stories in Thursday's paper.

I will tell you this, just as I did the candidates at the end of the meeting: This is a qualified, experienced field. Any of the three would make a good district attorney. Our editorial board -- and you, the voters -- will give the nod to one of them. But it doesn't look like anyone can make a bad choice.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Guessing game

Sometimes it's sort of fun to read what others say about the Freeman, particularly when I know for a fact the writers don't have a clue.

It's been pointed out to me, for example, that contributors (anonymous, of course) to one local blog know for sure who our newspaper is going to endorse on the editorial page for Ulster County district attorney.

What's funny about that, of course, is that we haven't even talked about it yet. And we won't until our meetings with the candidates are concluded.

Yesterday we met with the Kingston mayoral contenders. Wednesday of next week the DA hopefuls will be in. Later in the month we'll talk to the Kingston City Court judge candidates. A couple of other sessions may be scheduled.

I have no idea what the others on our editorial board think about these contests. And I haven't given any thought to them, other than the 75 minutes we spent talking and listening to the mayoral candidates.

So, have a blast playing the guessing game. If enough names are thrown against the wall, somebody is bound to be correct. And, by all means, keep talking us up. I like it when people are interested in what we do.

But for all you political pundits and onlookers out there, remember this: If the publisher doesn't know who the Freeman is going to endorse, you don't, either.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Odds and ends

*We had Kingston's mayoral candidates in this morning for an editorial board meeting. It got testy between them at times. If Jim Sottile and Rich Cahill have many more of these faceoffs between now and Election Day, they may need someone in a striped shirt to sit between them.

*Ken Burns' 'The War' series on PBS was sobering. I've read about World War II and I've seen newsreel footage and Hollywood's depictions. But this documentary was different in effectively capturing the horror, patriotism and heroism on the front lines and at home. For those of us who weren't around during that trying time, the series tells us a lot about about our country, individually and collectively, from Pearl Harbor Day to VJ Day. Try to find this series in repeats or on DVD.

*Good news for Yankees fans who can't stay up late. Their first-round games against Cleveland begin at dusk. Even a four-hour marathon game will be over before Letterman and Leno.

*As an employer, all I can do is shake my head about the culture at Madison Square Garden, which lost a huge sexual harassment case this week. That what was happening there was allowed to occur -- and even seemed to be excused by Garden apologists -- only goes to show that you don't have to be among the sharpest knives in the drawer to be in positions of power.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Right person for the job

Not that they need my seal of approval, but I believe board members of Rondout Savings Bank made an excellent choice in naming Jim Davenport as the local financial institution's new president.

The Davenport family name has been respected in the community for a variety of public and private endeavors dating back decades. Jim is a solid citizen, a good family man and a fine businessman, who is held in high regard by everyone I knew. He's perfect for a local bank.

Congratulations to Jim Davenport and Rondout Savings.