Thursday, April 30, 2009


I learned this week that I have leukemia.

They tell me it's not the most serious kind, but, hey, it's leukemia, so you'll excuse me for being less than cheerful.

That said, I'm optimistic, based on what I know so far.

I'll get the second opinion, undergo the chemo, lose all my hair and some of my weight, and hopefully emerge in about six months with a healthier bloodstream and a new look on life.

I don't expect to revisit my circumstance in this space beyond today's entry. Nor will I write about it in paper. But I am mentioning it this one time merely to make followers of the blog (you know who you are) aware of why I'm likely to go long periods without fresh commentaries.

At nearly 61 years of age, the next chapter of my life is about to unfold. You never can be sure what's around the next corner.

No need for prayers, but it's OK to keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pressing matters

Wonderful piece in today's Washington Post by columnist Dana Milbank.

It's about a congressional hearing and the newspaper business, and it says more about our elected representatives than it does about my industry.

Where have all the statesmen gone?

The blue seats

Yearn to sit in the high-priced seats at the new Yankee Stadium?

Tired of seeing so many of them empty as you watch the games on TV?

Expect to be able to afford them next year when the team no doubt will lower prices?

Don't hold your breath.

According to today's New York Times, the Yankees are planning a four percent increase in the price of premium seats next season.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


*My assistant has received some calls from readers who don't like the new crossword puzzle in the paper. I didn't know we had a new one. But, sure enough, I'm told by the editors that the longtime puzzle syndicated by Tribune Media Services was discontinued when the author retired. The syndicate has since been sending us a puzzle from the Los Angeles Times, which, according to the callers, is too California-centric. The editors will keep an eye on it, while at the same time checking on other options. If you do the puzzle and have an opinion, drop us a line to

*New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is already running for a third term with a barrage of TV commercials. In one he says New York is "the greatest in the world" in which to live. Not so fast, mayor. I'll agree with you that New York is the greatest city in the world. I'll also agree it's the greatest place to live if you have money or and/or you live in a particularly nice neighborhood. But, face it, for many, New York is expensive, cold, dangerous and uncomprising. In short, not the greatest place to live. (For the record, I grew up in the Bronx in a wonderful neighborhood in a simpler time. I wouldn't want to live in the old neighborhood today.)

*Memo to New York Mets' shortstop Jose Reyes: Is your uniform so uncomfortable that you can't wait to get to the clubhouse after a game before pulling your shirt out of your pants? It says here that's sloppy and disrespectful. By the way, doesn't the word "uniform" suggest everyone on the team dresses the same? Apparently not. Check out the many different ways baseball players set the length of their trousers. Me? I'm partial to the classic 1950s and '60s look with mid-ankle stirrups.

Monday, April 20, 2009


*I'm all for the U.S. to seeking better relationships with Cuba and Venezula. I also have no problems with photo-op handshakes between Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez. But Obama was snookered when Chavez strolled over to hand him his book. The president clearly was caught off-guard. Taking the book and immediately putting on the desk, rather than holding it for photogs, would have been the way to go.

*Several stickball-like scores have Yankee fans worried about their team. But if you take away the three routs promulgated by former ace pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, the team's record is 7-3. And 7-3 - .700 baseball - will win you a pennant. Of more concern is the way the ball is flying out of the new stadium - and how the diminished crowd noise has cut into the home field advantage.

*I hear four Republicans are jockeying for position in the race to replace retiring Ulster County Court Judge Mike Bruhn. Among them are former DA Don Williams and Mike Kavanagh Jr., the son of his mentor and predecessor. That should make for an interest dynamic.

*In reference to an earlier blog, other sports broadcasters to whom I'd listen before John Madden include: Marty Glickman, Tony Kubek, Jim Simpson, Charlie Jones and Al DeRogatis, to name a few. In fact, the latter - old timers will remember him from NFL Giants radio and later NBC TV - set the standard for football analysts.

*Amazing statistic of the weekend: The Freeman's editorial in support of same-sex marriage did not generate one comment, pro or con, to our Website. Heck, a newspaper could to an editorial in support of mom and apple pie and somebody would find a way to criticize it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The tea parties

Some thoughts about those "tea party" tax protests the other day:

1. There's nothing wrong with Americans gathering to express their outrage about government policies. We're fortunate to live in a country in which we have that right.

2. There's nothing wrong with the flames of these protests being fanned by Fox News Channel. Media history offers plenty of Citizen Kane-like precedents in which newspaper and broadcast (and now Internet) activists create movements, whipping up their audiences. (But in the wake of the "tea parties," Fox News really will have an even more difficult time insisting it is "fair and balanced.")

3. As I understand it, the "tea party" reference is to the famed "Boston Tea Party" in 1773. But if I remember my high school history, the "Boston Tea Party" was sparked by cries of "taxation without representation." Today's "tea party" protesters couldn't hang on that assertion. Fact is, the taxes and spending they dislike were the products of elections, which produced their representatives. Unhappy with that they're doing? Continue to protest and get out the vote on Election Day. But don't declare, as more than one sign-carrier did, "I want a say!" You did have a say. Unfortunately for you, your side didn't prevail. Maybe next time it will.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

John Madden

John Madden announced his retirement from broadcasting today. His mark on NFL games was gigantic. How much? NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol claims Madden was "absolutely the best sports broadcaster who ever lived."

Whoa! Dick, come back to us. Madden was entertaining and informative. But "the best"? Not even close.

Off the top of my head, here's who I'd put ahead of Madden (in no particular order): Mel Allen, Vin Scully, Red Barber, Marv Albert, Curt Gowdy, Don Dunphy, Danny Gallivan, Foster Hewitt, Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Chris Schenkel, Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell, Bob Prince, Keith Jackson ... and I'm sure I've overlooked a half-dozen others.

Who would you put on the top of your list?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Midweek musings

*Following in the footsteps of his late father, who donated $1 million in honor of his late wife to help construct the shelter at the Ulster County SPCA, Ed Wiederspiel III wants to give away to a charitable organization the property on which sits his old furniture store on Route 28 in the town of Ulster. "I wanted to give something back to the community," he told our reporter Ariel Zangla. Wonderful gesture. Contact Realtor Tom Collins of Commercial Associates at 845-339-9100 if your organization has interest.

*Do you suppose clubhouse reporters Kim Jones on YES TV and Suzyn Waldman on CBS radio can conduct any post-game interview without asking a question that begins: "How frustrating is it ...?" Also, if so many of WFAN radio's Mike Francesa pronouncements warrant the qualifier "obviously," why does he need to say them in the first place?

*I see where Boston Red Sox ace Dice-K (if you know baseball, you're familiar with who I'm talking about) is on the disable list with arm problems. Couldn't have anything to do with him going all out in the waste-of-time pre-season World Baseball Classic, could it?

*My recent blog about the Freeman's fate struck a chord in our building. (Scroll down a couple of entries to read what I said.) I'm hearing more stories from our employees about customers, friends and relatives telling them (not asking them) the specific date on which we're supposedly closing. To borrow a phrase, no, it ain't so. We're here for the long run. But here's an aside for those who are genuinely worried about our future (not those who are spreading inaccurate rumors): Talk us up. Buy the Freeman at a newsstand. Order a home delivery subscription. Remind your business contacts to advertise - not as charity, but because their ads will produce more customers for them.

*Remember, 9:30 p.m., Sunday, Fox, "American Dad", written by Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday notepad

*In my mind, here's the operative question next time you get steamed about the potential loss of a government service due to budget constraints: What would you cut instead? You may have an answer, but it's likely to rile supporters of your alternative. The recession is painful. And it certainly isn't business as usual.

*The Masters golf tournament sure did make for excellent theater Sunday. But I could have done without the usual sanctification of the event and the golf course. By the way, is Augusta National the only club at which birds chirp, or just the only one at which microphones are strategically placed to pick up the pastoral noise?

*Interesting story in our paper today about a traffic accident involving an unnamed Ulster County sheriff's deputy. I hope the Sheriff's Department is forthcoming this afternoon when our reporter seeks answers to a host of unanswered questions.

*You may not know the name Harry Kalas. But if you're a sports fan, you know his voice. For years, Kalas has been the play-by-play man for baseball's Phillies. Fans elsewhere are likely more familiar with him as the narrator on National Football League films. Sadly, Kalas died this afternoon in the broadcast booth prior to a game in Washington. Phillies games and NFL films won't be the same without him.

*First shameless plug of the week: Must-see TV at 9:30 p.m. Sunday (April 19) on Fox. It's "American Dad" (from Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy" stable), this episode written by Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Taking the pulse

Several Freeman executives and I were on the phone today with people from our corporate office. It was a like many calls we've had over the years: "How's it going?" "How's the month look?" "What are some of the advertising and circulation initiatives are you working on?" That sort of thing.

During the course of the conversation, the parent company's Chapter 11 status came up. We told our higher-ups how often our employees hear about it on the streets of the Hudson Valley. Despite the fact that it's the parent corporation, not the Freeman, in bankruptcy court, many in the public believe we're in danger of closing.

The corporate team was stunned: "The Freeman isn't going away!"

No, it's not. And that's what we're telling anyone whose willing to listen.

The newspaper industry may have fallen on hard times. For sure, there's a sea change in the works, and publications large and small are trying to steer in the right direction. Larger newspapers like those in Seattle and Denver have closed. San Francisco's daily is said to be on the brink. So, too, amazingly, is the famed Boston Globe. Generally speaking, however, community newspapers like ours are managing to find their way, albeit for the time being (hopefully) suffering temporary revenue declines we believe are as much to blame on the sagging economy as anything else.

Nobody here is taking anything for granted, that's for sure. This is hardly the time to be complacent. And we don't intend to be. Meanwhile, sooner than later, we expect the corporation to emerge from Chapter 11. Regardless of the timing and outcome of that matter, as our executives stated again today: "The Freeman isn't going away!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hypocrisy in Albany

David Paterson's chances of winning election to a full term as governor are slim and none.
That's according to New York Daily News columnist Bill Hammond.

Read his analysis here, and be sure to zero in on his view of the hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle regarding the state's horrible budget.

Obstructed view

I'm watching the first game at the new Yankee Stadium on the YES network the other night and something caught my eye: Primary shots of the field were partially obscured by the netting behind home plate.

It wasn't a big deal; I got used to it. But it struck me as odd, given all the care and money that went into building the stadium and its internal facilities, that viewers would get an obstructed picture.

That said, I figured I must have been the only one who noticed.


Apparently plenty of viewers weren't happy about it, including New York Daily News columnist Bob Raissman and his New York Post counterpart Phil Mushnick, the latter also correctly pointing out the distractions from the stadium's large billboards.

It's unlikely the advertisements will shrink in size, but with the criticism of its telecasts, I'll be shocked if the Yankees and YES don't come up with a Plan B that bypasses the netting.


It's not easy running a municipality. People are never satisfied. Public officials do their best for their community and all they get is grief. (Come to think of it, sounds like running a local newspaper, too.)

Anyway, my point here isn't so much to complain but to notify.

It's early spring and potholes will abound. Nobody's fault. But FYI, the potholes can't any be worse than those at the intersection of Hurley and Washington avenues in Kingston, where traffic was at a crawl this morning at about 8:15, particularly heading into the city, as motorists tried to save their front ends.

I'm not asking for favors, Mr. Mayor. But this is one of the gateways to Kingston. Seems like a good place to get a crew as soon as possible.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day

*I flipped on the TV in my office to see what the Mets were up to and immediately turned it off. It had nothing to do with the Mets, and everything to do with seeing they were playing in Cincinnati on a cold, raw, rainy afternoon. Even an armachair manager can see the players and spectators struggling in such lousy conditions. Already today there have been rainouts in Boston and Chicago. Which leads to the annual quesiton - expressed again last night by John Kruk on ESPN: With all the warm weather cities and domed stadiums, why do they insist on scheduling season-opening games in the Northeast and upper Midwest?

*Speaking of annual questions - mostly unanswered - why does the richest franchise in baseball, the one with the highest payroll and the new $1.5 billion stadium, still employ among the worst radio broadcast teams? Yes, I'm talking about John Stirling and Suzyn Waldman on the New York Yankees radio network.

*If you're a fan and a student of the Yankees, you'll want to pick up a copy of the team's annual Media Guide. (If it's not available at the stadium, you can order it on the team's Website.) I've been reading baseball media guides for three decades and this one rates tops. Except for one thing: On some of the pages, the words and numbers are so small, you'll need a magnifying glass to read it.

*Speaking of broadcasters, I understand that Bob Costas and Jim Kaat will be calling games on the Major League Baseball Network. Now there's a listen that will enhance a telecast.

*Gary Sheffield says it's been his dream to play for the Mets. Oh, sure it has. He's been on so many teams, that was one "dream" bound to come true.

*I'm not saying the Yankees are a better team without Alex Rodriguez. That would be ludicrous, given his numbers. But the Yankees are good enough to win without him, and it will be easier to root for them.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Footnote on shame

Longtime New York City public official Henry Stern's take on state government is worth your time.

Here's his guest column in today's New York Daily News.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Final shame, for now

Here's the fifth and final part of the New York Daily News series about state government.

Some of the other sidebars and editorials over the past few days weren't linked here, so be sure to go to the News' site and check them out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lou Saban

Lou Saban already had established himself as a football coaching legend - albeit one who hopped from job to job - by the time he landed at Army in 1979.

Prior to the season, Saban came to Kingston to speak to one of the service groups. The luncheon meetingtook place at what was once a restaurant and banquet facility on Route 28, just across from Potter Bros., where a motel and pizza parlor now stand.

Saban was here to drum up interest in the Army program and hopefully sell a few tickets to the games at West Point. I was the Freeman's sports editor in those days, so I assigned myself to the event and dutifully recorded his comments for a Sunday column.

After the speech, I walked out to the parking lot with Saban. I had a few questions of him to help fill in some blanks in my column. I asked the questions and he talked. And he talked. And he talked some more, just the two of us in a now-empty parking lot, long after his commitment to the service club and me had expired.

You have to understand, it wasn't often (and still isn't) that a major sports figure came to town. Some are more generous than others. Saban was a cut above that.

Put another way, Saban didn't have to give me the time of day. Instead, he gave me all the time I wanted.

Lou Saban died the other day at age 87. I'll always think highly of him.

More of the shame

Here's today's installment of the State of Shame series in the New York Daily News.

Compelling stuff.