Monday, December 31, 2007

Jim Thompson

Jim Thompson died today. He was a one-of-a-kind character who seemed to know everybody in Kingston and everything that was going on here.

A Kingston native, Jim was a radio newsman, advertising executive and politician, not necessarily in that order.

He was demanding and funny, thoughtful and edgy. He cared for the city in which he lived.

Jim also was a big man, to say the least. I used to kid him that if I owned a restaurant, I'd want him to read my commercials on the air. You'd immediately want to phone for a reservation after he made this week's specials sound like an inspirational experience.

Until recently, when his health worsened, Jim would phone often with tips and complaints. And I'd always hear from him when he wanted my reassurance that the Freeman was again going to co-sponsor the Boys and Girls Club's annual dinner.

We'll miss you, big guy.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Nothing personal

I see the editors are getting the predictable response from our paper's recent editorial on outgoing District Attorney Don Williams' role with Ulster County after he leaves office next week.

An editorial as sharply written as was that one is bound to stoke the flames. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, newspapers want their editorials to get a rise out of readers.

Naturally, some letter writers took us to task, others patted us on the back.

But those who saw the editorial as "a personal attack," or part of a supposed "grudge" the newspaper has against Williams are out to lunch.

Nobody here dislikes Don Williams. My personal interaction with him always has been favorable. We've had cordial conversations at the golf club, at a dinner at which we both were speakers, even at physical therapy when we were both recovering from surgeries.

Don Williams is a good guy and, from what I'm told by people who pay close attention, he did an overall respectable job as district attorney.

The Freeman hasn't always agreed with Williams on its editorial page. But that's the way it goes when you're in the public eye. You take the good with the bad. Best I can tell, Williams has handled the editorial board's occasional jabs better than many local officials have when they were under the gun. Maybe it has something to do with him being a career prosecutor.

I don't doubt Williams was unhappy with the paper's stance on his immediate life after the District Attorney's Office. But I'm betting he didn't take the criticism as a personal attack. He's been around the block long enough to know it wasn't.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas at the movies

There was a time not that long ago when those of us who don't celebrate Christmas would go to the movies on Christmas Day and find only a handful of others doing the same. Not anymore.

Yesterday, the Hudson Valley Mall theaters were busy. And the film I saw, "Charlie Wilson's War," drew a near-capacity audience.

A change in local demographics? Maybe. But it's been reported that nationwide, Christmas Day has evolved into one of the year's biggest days at movie theater box offices.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Missing in action

Our circulation director tells me the phones were ringing off the hook Sunday morning.

Late delivery complaints? Some, as usually is the case on bad weather days.

Most of the calls, however, were about something else: Subscribers thought they were missing advertising inserts usually in the Sunday paper because the total package was smaller than normal. "I didn't get the whole paper," they asserted, one after another. "And by the way, where's the Target ad?"

Same thing was happening in the stores, the circulation director said. People were going through stacks of papers looking for sections and inserts that weren't there, much to the consternation of employees who had to clean up the mess.

Interesting phenomenon. Annoying for our circulation clerks and shopkeepers. Frustrating for subscribers.

But there's a silver lining for us and our advertisers: Customers wanted to read the ads. They were afraid they didn't get them. They didn't believe us when we said they weren't scheduled.

Talk about brand loyalty and effective advertising vehicles. Imagine calling a radio or TV station asking why there aren't more commercials. Or calling the post office when you don't get enough junk mail.

If only businessmen who don't believe in the power of newspaper advertising had been answering our phones on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No can do

An acquaintance e-mailed the other day. He'd had a run-in with the law and hoped I'd keep his name out of the paper. I responded the same way I've done for more than two decades to dozens of people: No.

Long-ago established Freeman policy describes for reporters and editors the threshold for police matters. If the crime is on our list (and part of the public record on the police blotter), it will be reported. No exceptions, not even for Freeman employees and family members.

In a time when readers distrust the media more than ever, can you imagine what it would do to a newspaper's credibility if coverage (of lack thereof) of arrests was determined by who you are or know, not what you were alleged to have done?

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Mitchell Report

A show of hands, please. How many of you were surprised that Roger Clemens' name showed up in the Mitchell Report?

A show of hands, please. How many of you were surprised A-Rod's name didn't show up in the Mitchell Report?

Having said that, long before there were steroids in baseball, Clemens -- and Barry Bonds, too -- already had registered Hall of Fame careers.

The Mitchell Report was heavy on Yankees and Mets because the senator's primary sources were New York guys. Anyone out there who doesn't think the Mitchell's list of players wouldn't have been longer had more people elsewhere in the majors stepped forward to blow whistles?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On the road again

It's not quite the Bermuda Triangle, but Kingston to Hillsdale to Millbrook (with an occasional detour to Albany) has been my route the last few weeks and will be for at least through the end of the year.

The Freeman, The Independent, Taconic Press and WAMC's Media Project are on my radar (actually, my GPS). That means plenty of contemplative time on the Thruway, Taconic Parkway and Bulls Head Road. Only there's no luxury of too much contemplation, at least on the latter two, because I'm always mindful of deer darting in my path.

I was barely clipped by one a couple of years ago on the Taconic. Fortunately, no injuries to me, the car or the deer. But it sure did get my attention.

Now comes the snow and ice. Not nice.

As the sergeant used to say at the beginning of "Hill Street Blues," be careful out there.