Thursday, July 31, 2008

The trade

Certain baseball trades make so much sense, you wonder why they didn't occur sooner.

Such is the Ivan Rodriguez-Kyle Farnsworth swap between Detroit and the Yankees.

With catcher Jorge Posada hurt and Jose Molina only providing a one-dimensional need (excellent field, no hit), future Hall of Famer Rodriguez is a perfect fit (good field, good hit).

As for Farnsworth, while he's been a more reliable reliever this season (so much so, that some Yankees fans who wanted to give him away the last two years are now moaning about his departure), the Tigers need him more than the Yankees. The Bombers have put together a competent crew filled with veterans and youngsters. And manager Joe Girardi has juggled the bullpen much more efficiently than did his predecessor, Joe Torre.

So let's see: Tigers need bullpen help and have a good catcher to whom to turn on the roster (Brandon Inge). Yankees need catching help and have an adequate supply of good arms in the bullpen (Rivera, Ramirez, Marte, Veras, Giese, Robertson and more either returning from injuries or making their way up from the minors).

Rodriguez for Farnsworth. Good deal for both teams.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

L.A. state of mind

Here's all you have to know about the impact of a "moderate" earthquake on people who have lived in Los Angeles for more than 10 minutes:

* My son, Matt the TV writer, said it was no big deal, although the biggest temblor he'd experienced. His girlfriend, Jessica the TV-movie costumer, was out shopping. No problem there, either.

* My father-in-law, Lenny, slept through it. Never felt a thing. Neither did my brother-in-law, Ray.

* My sister-in-law, Louise, was at work, where all was OK. But she was anxious to get home to see how Hank, her beloved Bichon Frise pooch, handled it.

If they could carry a tune, they'd be singing along to Randy Newman:

From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day

I love L.A. (We love it)
I love L.A. (We love it)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


A frightening sight today at the Hudson Valley Mall:

Space has been cleared and a sign has been posted for a Halloween store!

Let's see, today is July 28.

Can Santa's arrival be far behind?

No competition

There's a saying in professional sports when a team keeps winning against easy opponents: You can only play the teams on your schedule.

So, no disrespect to Ingrid Narken, who won her fourth straight Ulster County women's golf championship by a whopping 31 strokes. It's not Ingrid's fault her competition wasn't in her class. She played three courses, posted three first-rate scores by any measurement, and won easily ... very easily.

You can't blame Ingrid that other similarly strong golfers chose not to enter the tournament. I can name at least six from Wiltwyck alone who would have made her work harder for the title. Unfortunately, none entered (one due to illness).

Again, Ingrid's rounds of 78, 74 and 80 would have been tough to beat against any local competition. But it would have been fun had there been some.

Monday, July 28, 2008

HDTV or not HDTV?

As I understand it, the primary reason for the switch to digital TV reception in February is to free band width for emergency services.

If I were the cynical type, I'd also think it's a drummed up way to help television manufacturers sell HDTVs, as well as for cable and satellite companies to upgrade their customers' services.

People who know me are surprised I wasn't first on line to buy an HDTV. After all, I purchased a VCR when they were going for $1,500. I have lots of TVs in my house, as well as cable reception, a satellite dish and Tivo (which I purchased long before DVRs became generically known). No, I'm not opposed to high-tech gadgets. (Don't ask how much I just spent on a universal remote control.)

But not only was I not first on line to buy a high-definition TV, I still don't own one. I just don't think they're worth it.

Is there a difference between HD and the digital picture I currently receive on satellite and cable? Yes, I concede the point. But is it worth a couple of thousand bucks to upgrade -- more if you are purchasing several HDTVs? Not as far as I'm concerned. Regular, old digital is just fine.

Yesterday at lunch, the restaurant's TV was tuned to an HD channel showing a baseball game videotaped pre-HD. Next time I looked up, the channel had been changed to a golf tournament in HD.

Yes, I could see the grains of sand in the traps. Yes, I could see the beads of sweat on the golfers. Yes, I could follow the flight of the drives better than before. No, I didn't want to get in my car and buy an HDTV.

The next TV sets I buy probably will be HD. By then, the prices will have come down and my current sets will be on their last legs. For now, the rest of you HDTV owners can enjoy the beads of sweat.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Weekend wrap

From the notepad:

* If the saga of sexual harassment allegations (now officially a lawsuit) in the Kingston Department of Public Works teaches public officials and owners of private sector businesses nothing else, it ought to be to take these things seriously. As soon as a complaint is made, investigate it thoroughly. Bring in an objective third party if necessary. But don't let it linger and hope it goes away. Inaction and/or coverup will wind up costing you, as Kingston (and its taxpayers) may find out.

* My recent Facebook blog drew the attention of a critic who had some interesting things to say. But his/her words won't see the light of day on this site, because the writer didn't have the courage to sign his/her name. Judging from the content, the post might have been from a current or ex-employee. That's OK. I enjoy a good debate. But not if I don't know who I'm debating.

* I promised my daughter-in-law, Jennifer, I'd find a way to get her into this blog. There, I've done it. Jennifer, David and granddaughter Elizabeth helped me celebrate a birthday last weekend. I expect to barbecue some of their present Saturday.

* Yankees-Red Sox this weekend at Fenway. Joba hardballing it for the Yankees tonight. I predict at least one brushback pitch will lead to a bench-clearing episode.

* The buzz is the Jets are thinking about taking Brett Favre off the Packers' hands. Don't do it. The Jets need a lot more than one aging QB to make a playoff run.

* Speaking of Facebook, a colleague warns me not to get hooked on its version of Scrabble. I may not have to worry about it: The Scrabble people are said to be suing Facebook for copyright infringement.

* Good news, I suppose: A local hospital purchased space on the bus stop shelter on Hurley Avenue about which I blogged not long ago. It's cheesy, but better than the original "Your Ad Here" solicitation that graced the site.

* The Freeman now subscribes to Accuweather for the map on the back page of the front section. I almost needed a map driving home the other night in the blinding rain. And I do mean blinding. Had I not known my way on Route 375, I would have pulled over, so intense was the storm I drove through. As it was, I almost missed a right turn I make every evening.

* Now that I've passed the baton to Tom Cincotta, our new publisher at Taconic Press in Millbrook and The Independent in Hillsdale, I have more time to hit the road with Freeman advertising reps when they visit their customers. Get your questions and complaints ready, I'm heading your way.

* Check out our front page Sunday for the winners of Ulster County's annual Business Awards. The panel of judges -- Ron Marquette, John Eickman, Don Katt, Ward Todd, Lance Matteson and me (an illness kept Steve Finkle away) -- had a series of difficult choices from a list of worthy nominees in each category. Bouquets will be delivered to honorees at a big dinner Oct. 21 at Wiltwyck Golf Club.

Stuff happens

Depending on your location, delivery of today's paper to subscribers and stores was delayed several hours due to a mechanical problem in our mailroom.

Vacuum pump out of order. Inserting machine hobbled. Mailroom employees hand-inserting flyers and sections into a big Friday paper. Labor-intensive. Time-consuming.

How come these things seem to happen on the days when we have more than one or two inserts?

Whatever, it's the definition of a circulation nightmare.

The good news? Outside my window this morning I'm hearing people driving up to the front of the building, getting out of their cars, dropping quarters into the news rack and buying the Freeman. It's safe to say they had to go out of their way to get here.

Who says people don't want to buy a daily newspaper anymore?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

14 percent!

Think the president's approval rating is bad? Take a look at the Congress.

The number currently being bandied about is 14 percent are OK with the work of Congress.

Fourteen percent!

Prevailing wisdom is that Democrats are going to widen their advantage in the next election. But with the Dems already in the majority of both houses, only 14 percent approve.

America seems primed for the kind of change in the White House that Barack Obama is offering.

Maybe many, many, many more fresh faces on Capitol Hill would be the way to go, too.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

That's show business

Sometimes I'm accused of taking the newspaper business too seriously. Have fun with it, I've been urged. Indeed, I've counseled the same to young editors, reporters and would-be journalists.

So, yes, I see the humor in talk show host Jay Leno showing up in disguise at the Television Critics Association's press conference with NBC executives in Los Angeles(a stunt similar to the one pulled days earlier by fellow talk show host Jimmy Kimmel at the ABC press conference).

A bald, goateed Leno posed as a reporter to pepper questions at NBC executives regarding his future. (Several years ago, NBC and Leno announced he'd be leaving "The Tonight Show" in 2009 in favor of Conan O'Brien - who in turn will be replaced in the 12:30 a.m. time slot by Saugerties native Jimmy Fallon.) Now that the time is drawing near -- Leno's last "Tonight" will be May 29 -- Leno reportedly isn't so eager to leave. A bidding war for his services is likely. Thus, Leno asked NBC what's up. (How about a fifth hour of "The Today Show"?, Leno jabbed.)

Leno's stint as a "reporter" was good theater, got some laughs and lots of publicity, and he put a face on the big-money entertainment business. (NBC execs handled it well, by the way;I'm not certain if they were in on the gag.)

But at the end of the day, this was a press conference for the working stiffs in print, broadcast and on-line. I suppose a few of them, like me, take the business seriously. They couldn't have pleased to be part of a carnival side show.

Then again, so much of entertainment reporting these days seems like an extension of what the studio PR machines crank out. The Leno story wrote itself. For a reporter, that's a good day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jerome Holtzman

Jerome Holtzman has died at age 82. The name probably doesn't ring a bell unless you grew up reading sports pages in Chicago, or saw his byline in the old Sporting News.

But if you are a student of sports journalism, you know Holtzman as one of the giants, particularly when it came to covering big league baseball.

His 1974 book "No Cheering in the Press Box" is mandatory reading for those in our craft, even three-and-a-half decades after its publication.

Holtzman was from the old school. But his skills never grew old.

Moving forward

One of the things a newspaper publisher does each morning is read a row of statistics:

What time did the press start last night? When did it stop? What time did the last copy of the newspaper leave the building? When did the last delivery truck return?
How many copies did we print in each of our three editons? How much paper did we use? What percentage of it was waste (papers we threw away because of poor print quality)? How many inches of advertising did we sell? What were the number of paid advertising inserts in the paper?

And in recent years, the statistical chart includes 21st century calculations:

How many pages were viewed on our Website yesterday? How many unique visitors to the site did we attract? (Yes, even how many people read this blog?)

As I've stated here and elsewhere, despite the pervasive gloom and doom that has surrounded newspapers large and small in our industry -- what with declining paid print circulation and advertising lineage prompting cuts in expenses, often meaning staff reductions -- more people are reading newspapers like ours than ever in our history.

I'll say that again: More people read the Freeman each day in 2008 than at any time since the newspaper was launched in 1871.

So, the message to employees is, check any long faces at the door. Our newspaper isn't rolling over and dying. Similarly to the community, some members of which greet me as if I'm presiding over my own funeral, snap out of it! We're not going anywhere but forward. We are planning for growth.

If you're an advertiser and you don't have a presence on our Website, you're missing the boat. Your customers are already there in increasing numbers. Between print and on-line, the Freeman is your marketplace.

Long faces need not apply.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Artie Traum

Sorry to learn this afternoon of the death of musician Artie Traum of Woodstock.

I didn't know him personally, but I enjoyed his work. And I often heard good things about him from mutual acquaintances.

It's a cliche, but it's true: At age 65, Artie Traum was taken from us much too soon.

Not quite E-Z

I do a fair amount of driving along the New York State Thruway and I'm here to tell you what most already know: E-ZPass is a great invention.

Being able to breeze through toll plazas with relative ease -- without having to reach into your pockets seeking loose change, or opening your window to the elements -- has become one of life's simple pleasures. It almost makes you forget how much money you spend on tolls.

But am I the only one who gets frustrated when you have to come to a complete stop, even in an E-ZPass lane?

Yes, I'm talking about the Saugerties interchange, northbound. Typically, there's one lane open and it's for both E-ZPass and cash customers. Maybe that's why they make you stop. Maybe it's for the attendant's safety. I'm not saying they don't have a good reason. But in this case, the E-ZPass experience is not quite as easy. And it's the only Thruway interchange I've encountered the problem.

The least they could do would be to play Simon and Garfunkel's "Feeling Groovy" in the background. You know, "Slow down, you're movin' too fast ..."

Friday, July 18, 2008


Some months ago I read in a newspaper trade publication that it isn't a bad idea for journalists of my generation to learn what interests young people. Duh! Nothing new about that.

The more specific suggestion was that we establish accounts on Internet sites like Facebook and MySpace. For no particular reason, I chose the former.

So there I am with a Facebook page, surrounded by who knows how many people at least half my age. I sort of feel like the guy wearing a brown suit at a black-tie wedding.

I've been searching for people I know to add to my "friends" list. My youngest son and his younger cousin were easy. Both are in the "more than half my age" category. And then -- what d'ya know -- there was the husband of one of my wife's best friends ... and one of my son's college deans ... and just yesterday one of my former Freeman colleagues (a contemporary, no less), who still lives in the county. Who knows who'll turn up next?

I'm not sure what I've learned about the younger generation so far from Facebook, other than a lot of people are part of it and they seem to spend a considerable amount of time communicating with others via it.

As for me, I enjoy playing the movie trivia game.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Anti-beautification in Kingston

For a main thoroughfare in our fine city, Hurley Avenue isn't the worst street to look at.

Yes, there are commercial businesses on both sides (even the home of a daily newspaper of note). But the avenue is wide and the buildings are neatly appointed. It's not the Champs-Elysees, but it's OK.

That said, I've been meaning to tell you about this eyesore I noticed for the first time last week when driving to work. It's a bus stop shelter -- I don't have a real problem with that -- emblazoned with a sign in big letters soliciting billboard advertising -- something like, "YOUR AD HERE!"

Talk about tacky!

Then I noticed similar shelters and billboard come-ons elsewhere in the city.

Is this part of some kind of anti-beautification campaign?

Now, as someone whose company sells advertising to survive, I understand the need to generate revenue. And, I seem to recall reading quite some time ago that the city would benefit one way or the other from these shelters.

But after all the work people like the tireless Evy Larios have done dressing up Kingston, these street-level billboards are a slap in the face.

Friday, July 11, 2008

All-Star memories

With the Major League Baseball's All-Star Game coming up Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, you've been reading and hearing all sorts of recollections of past Midsummer Classics in the Bronx, including the last one played there in 1977.

I covered that game for the Freeman. I remember nothing about the game, who played in it or any of the accompanying festivities. It's a blur.

But this I recall like it was yesterday:

The day before the game, I drove to the Bronx in late morning, parked at the stadium, took the subway downtown and picked up my press credentials at the Sheraton on 57th Street. Then it was back to the stadium for the All-Star workouts. (In those days, there was no big deal on Monday ... no Home Run Derby, nothing but a standard baseball workout.)

About 50 reporters and columnists were standing around the batting cage on a hot July afternoon. We watched the players take their turns (that was as close to a home run contest as anybody would see). At some point, I heard a familiar voice behind me. Sure enough, it was comedian Robert Klein -- one of my favorites, then and now.

I did a double-take, which caught his attention. Who'd expect to see the popular comic actor among the working press at Yankee Stadium?

As if I knew Klein personally, which I didn't, my instinct was to blurt out, "What are you doing here?" He laughed and said he had been asked to write about the game for Sport magazine.

It was fun for this kid reporter to mingle with baseball's best players. But my brief interaction with "Child of the '50s Robert ("I can't stop me leg!") Klein still stands out most in my mind.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ahead of his time

Perhaps you caught this week's telecast of the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony for actor-director-producer Warren Beatty.

Beatty's body of work is quite exceptional on a number of levels.

One of my favorite films is "Reds", controversial in its depiction of Communist John Reed, the only American entombed in the Kremlin, and an epic by any cimematic measurement, regardless of your political point of view.

I saw "Reds" in 1981 at the old Mayfair Theater in the town of Ulster, and several times since on TV, but not recently. Which is why one of the clips they showed at AFI's Beatty tribute jumped out at me. It was of Beatty, as Reed, encountering Islamic extremists calling for a jihad against America.

Remember, the film was set in the first part of the last century, long before most of us knew enough to pay attention to the threat, and the film was released in 1981, 20 years before 9/11.

Beatty the visionary? It fits.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Source material

From Washington Post blogger Joel Achenbach:

Here's a piece from HuffPo by Bobby Kennedy Jr. and Brendan DeMelle titled "Unearthed: News of the Week the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report."

Their first example: The Supreme Court slashed the punitive damages in the Exxon Valdez case.

Let me gently note that this piece of News the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report happened to appear on the front page of The Washington Post.

Example No. 2 of News the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report: The White House is trying to block the publication of an EPA "road map" for future regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Fascinatin' stuff, but let us note that this story appeared in The Washington Post (many days before it appeared in HuffPo). The Huffo item links to a story originally published in The Wall Street Journal. (For more tension between EPA and other elements of the Bush Administration, see this recent front-page story in The Post.)

The concept of a regular feature on News the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report is a good one. But go ahead and scroll through this HuffPo column and what you'll see, again and again, are links to mainstream media sites, including The New York Times and The Boston Globe.

I have long been frustrated by the way some bloggers viciously deride the MSM even while relying day in and day out on the (expensive) news gathering of the self-same dreadful Fourth Estate. Talk about ungrateful! The irony gets ratcheted to a new level when the bloggers use that news and pretend that they've done the legwork themselves.

Achenbach's conclusion resonates in this little corner of the media universe.

Monday, July 7, 2008

And the winner is ...

Over the weekend, I randomonly clicked my way into the sleaziest program on television -- and that's saying something.

It's called TMZ, a televised version of the celebrity gossip-fueled Website.

A bunch of "reporters" sit around what appears to be a newsroom pitching stories to the boss, a smug looking guy sipping on a beverage and grinning with approval when an item interests him. Then we watch a video clip, typically of a "celebrity" (the definition of "celebrity" is kind of broad for this enterprise) being ambushed by one or more paparazzi outside a restaurant, or at an airport, or walking along the street or some other public place. The subjects are peppered with innocuous and/or personal questions, in hopes of getting a rise out of them or catching them in an inelegant moment. The smart ones keep their mouths shut and just keep moving. Others engage their inquistors, sometimes with a joke to try and make friends, sometimes with a middle finger -- just the image the photographers/videographers are seeking.

Describing this garbage program doesn't do it justice. But urging you to watch it only gives it more attention than it deserves.

Suffice it say, after seeing TMZ, you'll want to take a shower.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Identify yourselves

A Westchester County judge has ordered The Journal News of White Plains to turn over the identities of anonymous posters who may have slandered an ex-congressman on the newspaper's Web site.

Richard Ottinger and his wife have been involved in a legal dispute with neighbors and they claim they were falsely accused of fraud and bribery by anonymous posters. The Ottingers say they can't sue for defamation unless they know who they're suing, so The Journal News was subpoenaed to release the information.

"The anonymous blogger statements are harmful enough when viewed in isolation. Taken together, however, they create a mosaic by which the reading public will see these anonymous bloggers' statements as true facts," the Ottingers said in court papers, according to The Journal News.

The Journal News
tried to quash the subpoena, but ultimately said it would comply.

I'm sorry it came to that point for the newspaper. The Freeman also would have fought hard to protect the free speech of posters had we found ourselves in a similar plight. Except, it wouldn't have happened here because we don't allow anonymous posters to find their way on to our Web site.

You've read and heard me say this before: If you have an opinion, by all means share it. But don't hide behind the cloak of anonymity. That's the coward's way out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Boom times

A couple of people were having a heated discussion as a wandered by them yesterday.

Politics? Religion? The Supreme Court ruling on guns? The high price of gas?

Nothing so trivial, I regret to report.

No, they were arguing about the merits of Sunday night's fireworks display at Kingston's annual "It's Not Quite the Fourth of July But We're Going to Celebrate It Anyway" party on the Strand.

I'm not sure if this is the kind of verbal volleying that goes on elsewhere, but around these parts, the quality of a fireworks show, you'll excuse the expression, sets people off.

For years it was the annual big bang in Saugerties that dominated next-day critiques. Recently, in my experience, Kingston's rockets have ratcheted up the rhetoric.

I'm on record in an earlier blog as not being a fan of fireworks. It dates back to childhood when the weekly boomers off the Far Rockaway boardwalk competed for my attention with carnival games and Jerry's knishes. But that's another story.

I guess there's no harm in folks feeling so strongly about fireworks that they have to weigh in on the previous night's show the way a movie reviewer assesses a flick.

It all seems terribly unimportant to me. But, as Dennis Miller would say, I could be wrong.