Monday, August 24, 2009

The way I see it ...

*Like the Ryder Cup for male professional golfers, the Solheim Cup for the women pros offers an entertaining format that often provides memorable moments. But both are entirely too jingoistic for my taste. (If Tiger Woods ever wears a tattoo on his cheekbone, the way the U.S. women wore on theirs, you'll know the world is over as we know it.)

*We've reached a point in this country where a president or senator or congressman can look someone in the eye and declare, "The day after Monday is Tuesday," and ready-to-oppose-anything reactionaries will express disbelief, as in, "You're a liar!"

*It may have rained heavier than it did for about 30 minutes yesterday afternoon just before 6, but I can't remember when.

*I'm supposed to go to the new Yankee Stadium for the first time on Sunday. Yes, I'll stop at the ATM first if I want to eat.

*Happy to report the reaction has been quite favorable to the new Real Estate section we debuted Sunday. Realtors and associates: There's room for you in the Issue No. 2 and beyond. Give your Freeman sales representative a buzz.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thought patterns

*If Walter Cronkite was the face of CBS News for decades, Don Hewitt was the heart and soul. The creator of "60 Minutes," Hewitt was responsible for some of the best journalism in the history of the medium. First Cronkite, now Hewitt. And not to be maudlin, but Mike Wallace and Andy Rooney are way up in age, too. There may never be a broadcast team like them again.

*White-tablecloth dining in the heart of beautiful downtown Phoenicia? You bet. I finally made it to Riccardelli's last night for our annual summertime dinner with Stan and Shirley Fischler. Who would have guessed that fine dining was inside one of the nondescript buildings along Phoenicia's main drag? With Riccardelli's on one side of the street and the great Sweet Sue's pancake palace opposite it, those who like to eat are missing out on something if you haven't made the trip up Route 28.

*Had to chuckle today listening to some of the conversation on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." The panel was trying to figure out what happened to civility in America in light of the intense heat and nasty rhetoric surrounding the health care debate. You suppose cable yackers like Joe Scarborough and his more inflammatory brethren on both sides of the ideological aisle had anything to do with it?

*Is the "throw the bums out" movement picking up steam in Albany? Here's how the New York Daily News reported the latest poll.

Monday, August 17, 2009

From the weekend notepad

*I'm 50 pages into Bob Greene's non-fiction "Late Edition" - a loving look back at the newspaper business when it was at its peak. Greene, who went on to become a big time columnist in Chicago and now works for CNN, writes about his start in the mid-'60s at the "second paper" in Columbus, Ohio. Those of you who, like me, also launched newspaper careers around that time will be hooked on Greene's recollections from Page 1.

*I've been a baseball fan for over a half-century and never heard the term "pitcher's mound" described any other way than "the hill." And that wasn't often. Apparently I didn't get the memo from ESPN, whose voices have taken to call it "the bump." Why? Because ESPN seems determined to reinvent sports in its own image.

*Speaking of which - and I'm late on this - the way ESPN sanctioned its Sunday Night Baseball announcing crew to hijack a Yankees-Red Sox game by interviewing Luis Tiant for about two innings at the expense of what was going on the field was both horrible for fans and embarrassing for the network. This was no usual baseball chat by a former Yankees and Red Sox pitcher, but a glorified promo for an ESPN special on Tiant's return to his native Cuba. Yes, ESPN seems determined to reinvent sports in its own image.

*I'll give Tiger Woods this: After suffering what may have been his most humiliating defeat Sunday - blowing a big weekend lead in the final round of a major golf tournament, and then not stopping to talk to the CBS announcers - Woods spent about 10 minutes answering questions in the media room. He was calm, polite and well-spoken, as best as I can tell from my armchair viewing of The Golf Channel coverage. And you know, facing the press was probably the last place he'd rather be.

*I keep hearing and reading people calling it "Obama's health plan." No, it isn't. The president told Congress he wants health care reform. Then the ball was tossed into the courts of several Senate and House committees. Until a final bill emerges from Capitol Hill, it's not "Obama's health care plan." It's a "work-in-progress-at-the-president's-request health care plan."

Friday, August 14, 2009

50 maybe, but not 40

After all these years in the newspaper business, nearly the first half of them as a reporter and editor, I'd like to think I have a pretty good idea of what's news and what isn't. So why am I surprised by the inordinate amount of national and regional print and broadcasting coverage to the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Festival?

In my mind, landmark anniveraries go roughly like this: first, fifth, 10th, 25th, 50th and, for future generations, 100th.

Forty seems rather manufactured to me. Yet there you have it: special sections, documentaries, books and a feature film based on the original festival, all filling the air, burning newsprint and cleaning out book publishers' warehouses.

I live in Woodstock, the one where the festival wasn't, but the one where people to this day wander into the center of town looking for the festival site.

Yes, some of the shops have tried to capitalize on the tourist trade over the years with T-shirts and the like. WDST radio has some programming and giveaways planned the next couple of days. And, yes, there is a concert Saturday at the Bearsville Theater, as well as a weekend-long guitar festival in town. Neither will feature any of the original Woodstock Festival performers.

Generally speaking, however, I don't hear much talk about the 40th anniversary in Woodstock itself.

I thought The New York Times captured the spirit of the town in this piece the other day.

Freeman editors carried a couple of Woodstock Festival stories last weekend. Seemed about right to me for a quasi-milestone. I imagine the weekend crew will pick up a wire story or two over the next two days.

Beats me. I guess 40 has become the new 50.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's the big ID?

Our newspaper's publication of the name of an innocent driver involved in a fatal traffic accident has created a buzz on our Website. In response to one critic, Managing Editor Tony Adamis offered the following explanation:

"...The driver's identity would not be an issue if it had simply been
released in due course the first time around by the Sheriff's Office. We
would have reported her identity with the first story and most readers would
not have thought a second thing of it. That's because in fatal traffic
accidents of all stripes, we and most other news outlets that I know,
routinely report who died, who was injured, and who was operating the
vehicles, irrespective of charges or lack thereof. We do so because it is a
news event and detail is important to readers' relationship to the news and
their understanding of what happened in their community. Addresses are
published (so as to avoid) the smallest possibility of confusion of identity with
someone else of the same name. The publication of those details is routine
and had nothing to do with culpability attached to the people identified or
pushing any point related to the difficulty we had in getting them in this
case. If we're going to push a point ... we'll do it on the
editorial page.

"In this case, not only did the Sheriff's Office withhold the name of the
driver, but also withheld the cause of the death, which was judged a
suicide. That's an important detail regarding a death in a public place. It
also instantly explains how it is that the Sheriff's Office concluded the
driver was innocent of any infraction.

"Ironically, one of our reporters has been investigating a possible story
about the difficulty a community volunteer is having getting donations from
the community for a new program. The program? Raising the community's
awareness of the extent of the problem of suicide.

"I understand you do not agree. But this is the rationale that drove the
reporting and publication of the story."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Reform school

We've been doing a lot of writing about the need to reform state government. So have others.

Here's what The New York Times recommends today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Same old, same old

There's a letter to the editor in the queue from Sen. John Bonacic. No, he wasn't responding to my recent blog about him. It was about Sunday's editorial, in which our editorial board took struck a similar, bur expanded theme.

It was the usual stuff from Bonacic: The editorial writer never called him for a comment. The Senate made historic reforms this session. The newspaper is biased.

Senator, this state Legislature is the laughingstock of the nation. It has been roundly and fairly criticized by close observers from one end of New York to the other. Diverting attention won't work. The public is on to you people. Whether or not that will finally translate into wholesale changes the next election isn't likely, given the way the deck is stacked in favor of incumbents. But people who believe in good government - and count our editorial board in that number - sure hope so.

Anyway, Bonacic's letter will run in the paper within a week or so. (To answer the frequently asked question, those letters chosen for publication usually are printed within two weeks of arrival.) He's entitled to express his point of view and we're glad to give him the space.

Bonacic thinks we're biased. We are ... in our editorials pinpointing the failures of state government. If we were biased elsewhere, we would have thrown his letter in the trash.