Friday, May 29, 2009

On my mind

*Aside from a handful of bloggers and a relatively small bunch of party insiders, most locals won't be interested in who's running for political office until mid-October, if then. Don't take my word for it. Try a Jay Leno stunt one day and ask some strangers to identify "famous" people like a mayor, congressman or state legislator. You'll be stunned by how many can't do it.

*Speaking of Leno, I thought he was great as a guest on David Letterman's old Late Night show. But when he beat out Letterman for "The Tonight Show," Leno became mostly unoriginal and safe. Letterman has it all over him in the creativity and edginess departments. So, too, does Conan O'Brien. I hope Conan doesn't go soft on us when he takes over "Tonight" on Monday.

*If you don't listen to this week's "Media Project" at 6 p.m. Sunday, you won't hear it in its usual replay slot at 3 p.m. Monday. That's because WAMC's fund drive begins bright and early on Monday morning. You can hear the program anytime next week and thereafter on the Web at As noted in a previous post, there's a special guest gracing this week's program. It's former top-rated Capital District TV anchor and "Media Project" regular Lydia Kulbida.

*The Freeman editorial board weighs in on Sonia Sotomayor on Sunday. We like the Supreme Court nominee, but it's not a love letter.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday ramble

*Longtime followers of "The Media Project" on WAMC Northeast Public Radio are in for a treat on the next program. And, no, it has nothing to do with the fact that it's my week to be on. You will, however, hear a familiar and popular voice from the past. (We're recording Thursday morning; I hope nothing changes between this writing and then.) Tune in at 6 p.m. Sunday or 3 p.m. Monday (or anytime thereafter on

*I'm told the governor's people are trying to salvage the Open Meetings Law he recently vetoed, despite near-unanimous approval in the Legislature. But it says here, a compromise won't retain the much-needed penalties (already minor) the original bill contained. Without teeth, it's easy for public officials to ignore a sunshine law.

*If somehow you haven't heard and you're heading to Canada anytime soon, beginning Monday, you need a passport or something more official than the proof of citizenship previously required to cross the border. Check it out here.

*It's been years since I followed the National Basketball Association closely.(When was the last year the Knicks made the playoff?) But the prospect of Kobe vs. LeBron (as in Lakers vs. Cavaliers) final caught my attention. Now, with Cleveland down 3-1 to Orlando and Los Angeles squared at two with Denver, it may be wait 'til next year. You think NBA Commissioner David Stern and his network TV partners aren't holding their breath?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tuesday checklist

*Seeing will be believing. The proof will be in the pudding. Whatever cliche applies, I'm willing to wait on that experimental closing to vehicular traffic of Broadway between 47th and 42nd streets in Manhattan in order to establish a pedestrian mall. But promises from city officials to the contrary, I don't see how it will accomplish anything other than a horror show for motorists stuck behind lines of cars, taxis, buses and trucks, all waiting to turn on to already narrow cross streets.

*Why do I think all those red caps for Major League Baseball players and umpires on Memorial Day had less to do with patriotism and more to do with merchandising?

*A couple of years ago, my wife and I were waiting for our flight at LAX when we saw a group of young women taking pictures of a couple seated in the waiting area. I had never seen them before, so we asked and learned that they were on a cable reality show about them and their sextuplets. Now I see photos of Jon and Kate Gosselin jumping off the pages of the tabloids and celebrity magazines, as well as on the evening gotcha TV half-hours, their marriage under stress, both said to have been cheated on each other, allegations they deny. I suspect the reality gig may have seen like a good idea at one time. No doubt there was lots of money to be made. But I wonder if in hindsight, Jon and Kate now think it was worth it.

*The Ulster County Townsman is closing this week. Coming on the heels of the others that have stopped printing over the last couple of months (many of which were owned by our parent company; the Townsman was not, nor was the now-defunct Ulster County Press), my prediction about the favorable long-term prospects of local weekly newspapers isn't looking very good.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

That's politics

*The American people, by a wide majority, repudiated the Republican Party in the last national election. The Bush-Cheney administration posted among the lowest favorability ratings in its closing year. And now Dick Cheney is omnipresent defending its failed policies, including its connection to torture. All of which begs the question, why do we care about what he has to say now? Cheney had his eight years on stage. Enjoy your retirement.

*Our editorial board doesn't keep score on these things, but best as I can tell, every time one of the Freeman's editorials is critical of Congressman Hinchey, his PR guy issues a critical letter to the editor over his name. The letters typically express his disagreement with the editorials and say, in effect, he's not surprised with the newspaper's faulty thinking ... consider the source. That would be the same source that does say good things about Hinchey from time to time, particularly at the end of his re-election campaigns, when the editorial board routinely supports him. Same newspaper, same editorial board, but apparently not the same faulty thinking. And no critical letters about those editorials, of course. Funny how that happens. (Yes, a new critical letter has arrived and will be published shortly.)

*You think Cheney is overexposed on TV? He can't hold a candle to former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is everywhere. You don't suppose he's already running for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, do you?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday topics

*Given what's going on in Queens and Brooklyn, what some believed what the media's "out of proportion" coverage of swine flu doesn't seem so overblown anymore, does it? Remember: Wash your hands and cover your mouth when you cough.

*A story in today's New York Times about belt-tightening in and around Hollywood in a tough economy puts things in perspective if you know anything about that part of the world. The story cites increased lunch business at "no frills" Nate 'n Al's in Beverly Hills. No doubt this popular deli (it's one of my favorites) is "no frills" compared to a place like The Ivy, a big time celebrity hangout(which the Times says charges $25 for a burger, plus drinks, etc.). But try getting out of Nate 'n Al's with lunchtime tab of much less than 25 bucks a person (including drinks and tip). Cheaper? Yes. Cheap? Hardly. That's LA.

*I'm glad Tony Kornheiser is leaving Monday Night Football, voluntarily or otherwise. It wasn't his strong suit. But listen to him on talk radio, watch him on ESPN's "Pardon the Interuption," or, better yet, read one of his columns or books, and you'll find as clever, incisive, and funny a guy as is working today. I've followed his career since our paths crossed briefly in 1973. We were both covering a regional basketball tournament at Ulster County Community College. Kornheiser was following Farmingdale Ag and Tech for Newsday. I was on assignment for the Freeman. He went on to The New York Times and the Washington Post before radio and TV called. (Jason Alexander played him in a short-lived CBS-TV sitcom based on his life.) I remember him politely being impressed by the fact that I not only wrote for the paper, I also edited stories and pages. Look at us now! I like to think I "knew" him when.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday notes

*Want a reminder of how Barack Obama dazzled America during the presidential campaign? Get a copy of the video of his Sunday speech at Notre Dame. It was typically remarkable, under difficult, controversial circumstances.

*Save for one errant shot into a greenside pond Sunday, Michelle Wie was tremendous tee to green at the weekend's LPGA tournament in New Jersey. If that part of her game doesn't falter, and she finally learns how to tame her putter, Wie will be the Tiger Woods of women's golf.

*What I saw of the Farrah Fawcett documentary the other night was both uplifting and morbid. The best thing I can say about it is that it was her story, told by her and those close to her, not by tabloid types eager to exploit a celebrity's privacy for a buck.

*The phrase "walk-off" - as in "walk-off home run" - is relatively new to baseball parlance. Wikipedia credits San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Lowell Cohn as the first to use it two decades ago. Too bad he didn't patent it to earn residuals, so common have the words become in broadcasts and print. Yankees fans certainly can't get enough of "walk-offs" following three last-at-bat wins over the weekend. That said, it's the traditionalist in me that could do without the wild, jumping-up-and-down home plate celebrations that also have become common in baseball. I guess there's something endearing about watching high-priced baseball players behave like little boys in the playground. But I'd prefer big leaguers to save their most vociferous celebrations until they've won the World Series.

*Have those who think the media is too liberal been watching the relentless Nancy Pelosi coverage?

Friday, May 15, 2009

A day late

I may have written about this before. I know I've spoken in public about it.

It has to do with people seeing dark shadows where there are none. Specifically, it's about those who criticize individuals and institutions (like ours) about errors of omission or commision, and then tell you "the real reason" why those errors occurred.

Several female corrections officers at the Ulster County Jail have filed a federal sexual harassment suit. You can read the details in today's Freeman. Unfortunately, you could have read many of the same details yesterday in other newspapers. The Freeman is a day late on this story.


If you listen those who believe they know, it's because the Freeman is protecting the county executive. Or it's because the Freeman doesn't want to report critical news about the new jail now that it's under a Democratic administration. Or it's because the Freeman has decided it's not newsworthy.

No, no, no.

The Freeman is a day late on this story because of mistakes in judgment, in large part made because of a lack of resources in the newsroom Wednesday afternoon. Nothing more sinister than that.

Human error.

It happens ... not often, fortunately, but it happens (and not just to the Freeman, by the way, but to all news organizations large and small).

Reporter Paul Kirby did an excellent job catching us up today. The Freeman is not ignoring the story.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The fast lane

I was going about 70 mph on the Thruway late Tuesday afternoon. I was en route to a meeting in Albany when I was passed, as my father might have said, like I was standing still.

Before the SUV left me and others in the dust, I noticed the license plate: NY Assembly 109.

A short time later, a sedan with Jersey plates also passed, faster than I was going, but at a much slower speed than Assembly 109.

Several minutes thereafter, near Exit 21A, the Jersey guy had been pulled over by a trooper. Assembly 109 was nowhere to be seen.

I'm hoping that trooper simply didn't come along in time to see Assembly 109 zoom by and would have stopped given the chance. Everyone is treated equally, right?

By the way, Bob Reilly of the Capital District is the assemblyman from the 109th District. I couldn't tell who was behind the wheel of the SUV with the Assembly 109 plate. Whoever it was dodged a ticket.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The weekender

*Good for Aubrey Huff of the Baltimore Orioles. Not once, but twice after he slugged a home run off Joba Chamberlain Sunday, Huff mocked the Yankees' pitcher with fist pumps. Chamberlain's fist pumps after strikeouts are immature and unprofessional. I'm guessing players in clubhouses throughout both leagues cheered when Huff's fist pumps were shown on SportsCenter.

*Finally indulged in pizza from the Manchester, Conn., branch of the famed Frank Pepe's while celebrating my granddaughter Elizabeth's fourth birthday Saturday. Pepe's pizza place is one of the country's oldest and it's known from coast to coast. Now I can see why. It was terrific. Good news for New Yorkers: A Pepe's parlor soon will open in Yonkers. Another is planned for the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn.

*Also made a long-overdue stop Friday at the Everready Diner in Hyde Park. We had time only for a quick late-morning breakfast, but I vow to return for one of those classic diner dinners and some on-site baked goods that helped this place garner a segment on the Food Network's popular "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" program.

The new stadium

I haven't yet had a chance to visit the new Yankee Stadium. (My son, David, and I have tickets for Aug. 30). But I have discussed it a bit in an earlier blog based on what I've seen on TV. New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden, however, is the expert.

Check out his plea to George Steinbrenner in this column.

Paying for news

New York Times columnist Frank Rich understandably devoted his Sunday analysis on the American press' "suicide watch" to larger publications. I would have liked him to point out the more favorable prognosis for community newspapers with unique local content.

That said, Rich properly zeroes in on a key issue: Are people willing to pay for news.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Senator, where have you been?

Listened to Republican state Sen. Bill Larkin on Kingston Community Radio this morning as I was driving to Kingston for my monthly half-hour in the studio.

Larkin climbed on the soapbox for his usual mostly uninterrupted monologue. There were glimmers of sense in some of what he said about the state of Albany. But, as usual, Larkin lost me when he suggested state government's problems are all the other party's doing.

I believe I'm quoting him correctly when he said, "I've never been so ashamed of state government."

Senator, where have you been? Many New Yorkers have been ashamed of state government for decades. Democratic governor or Republican governor, Republican Senate majority or Democratic Senate majority (the Democrats historically dominate the Assembly), no matter. State government in New York stinks.

But now, with their voices muted and their ideas buried, stunned Senate Republicans like Larkin say they've finally caught a whiff of the stench.

Understand, I'm not necessarily opposed to the Senate platform. Some of it I like, some of it I don't. But please, spare me the blatant political finger-pointing. I'd like to think most of the public - including Larkin's listeners this morning - see right through it.

Monday, May 4, 2009

At the movies

*With apologies to Roger Ebert, here's a big thumbs up to "State of Play," the Russell Crowe thriller involving politics and newspapers. Lots of current strands run through it, including the financial climate of my industry and the shift to Internet "news" and blogs. And if you love the newspaper business, you'll want to sit through the closing credits, when you'll see the production process from computer to negative to plate to press to mailroom to delivery.

*Speaking of Roger Ebert, sadly he's lost his ability to speak, so he's no longer able to do his weekly review show, the granddaddy of the genre he launched decades ago with the late Gene Siskel. A subsequent version of the show, featuring Richard Roeper and a weekly guest host, held up well. But the producers decided to start anew, bringing in Ben Lyons and Josh Mankiewicz. It's unwatchable. Closest program to the old Siskel and Ebert is NBC's Saturday morning show "Reel Talk" with Jeffrey Lyons (Ben's dad) and Allison Bailes.

*I'm very late to the dance on this one, but I finally caught up with an original version of 1991's "The Commitments." It's about working class kids in Dublin and their attempt to form a band. It's a great story, well-performed. And if you like soul music, you must go out of your way find it on DVD.

*On the other hand, if there's a movie featuring Adam Sandler, I'll skip it. I've never been able to figure out his appeal.

*Finally, in the tradition of the shameless plugs I've offered for my son Matt's writing on TV's "American Dad," I also must point out that his fiance, Jessica Replansky (a Rhinebeck native, by the way), will be back on the costume design staff of the next "Sex in the City" movie. Jess has been a costume designer for the first "Sex in the City" movie (plus the cable series), as well as "The Devil Wore Prada," "Confessions of a Shopaholic" and TV's "Ugly Betty" and "Kath and Kim," among other projects.