Friday, February 26, 2010

Storm clouds

*There may come a day when we'll wish David Paterson was still governor of New York ... particularly when Andrew Cuomo displays his Eliot Spitzer steamroller side or when Rick Lazio demonstrates he isn't up to the task. But for now, it seems Paterson did everyone a favor by withdrawing from the race. Now we'll see is his official lame duck status makes matters better or worse with the renegate Legislature as the budget comes due.

*The memory fades as I get older, so I'm really hard-pressed to remember a winter storm anything like this week's. Other than a night without power in Woodstock and a couple of neighboring communities, the greater Kingston area has been like an oasis, with huge snow totals and widespread power outages missing us in favor of nearby locations to our east, south and west. One for the books, to be sure.

*Jay Leno returns to "The Tonight Show" next week, with NBC heralding guest appearances by several notable U.S. Olympians. But after two weeks of the network shoving the Olympics down our throats, do we want yet more fawning chit chat with people who soon will go back into relative obscurity for four years? Even people who love the Olympics have to be tired of these people by now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Now that's funny

ESPN wants to have it both ways.

ESPN wants to be funny and irreverent, then it punishes one of the few members of its broadcasting stable who actually is funny for being irreverent.

Readers of this blog may know how much I've admired the work of Tony Kornheiser, whose career in print and broadcast I've followed since our paths briefly crossed in 1973 when we were both covering a basketball tournament at Ulster County Community College, he for Newsday, I for the Freeman.

Sports fans hereabouts most likely know him from "Monday Night Football" and "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN, for which he's been a quality performer since giving up print, after years at Newsday, The Washington Post and The New York Times. There was even a brief-lived TV sitcom based on his life starring Jason Alexander of "Seinfeld" fame.

Many may not be aware Kornheiser's real strength as a broadcaster is on the radio. He's had several programs over the years based in Washington. At one time, he was on nationally on ESPN radio, which slapped him on the wrists for talking, humorously and irreverently, about others on ESPN. For the last year or so, he's been on ESPN 980 in the nation's capital with a rotating support crew and guests offering two hours sports, movies, politics, food, his life and whatever else strikes his fancy. I listen to the Podcast, which you can find here or on ITunes.

Here's what you need to know about Kornheiser's approach to himself and his program: The show's email address starts with the phrase "this show stinks".

During Kornheiser's program, he can view a bank of TV sets, the programs on which he often comments. His rants about Ann Curry, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on "The Today Show" are classic. And occasionally he'll look up and see Hannah Storm on ESPN.

Unlike the "Today" trio, Kornheiser (or Mr. Tony, as he calls himself) likes the broadcasting creds of Storm and has frequently spoken highly of her. But he doesn't always care for the way she dresses.

The self-deprecating Kornheiser will acknowledge that he's hardly the one who should be criticizing others' fashion, given his own wardrobe and his balding "orange" head. But it doesn't stop him. And everyone knows it's all in fun.

Everyone except the suits at ESPN, who last week indefinitely suspended Kornheiser from his "Pardon the Interruption" gig after he said Storm, among other things, looked "like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body."

The funny and irreverent Kornheiser was suspended for being funny and irreverent.

It says here the joke is on ESPN.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hits and misses

*Just when I thought we were catching up on the digital front - videos, social networks, etc. - along comes something called Chatroulette. Haven't heard of it? Same here, until it was on the front page of The New York Times Sunday Week in Review. The New York Times! Read all about it here before you give it a try.

*We have this on-going discussion at the paper about weather forecasting. Several big storms have been predicted this winter, only to fizzle out. It's enough to drive us (and readers) nuts. Another big storm is in today's forecast, and it's properly heralded and frequently updated on the front page of our Website. The thing is, the news story source is the National Weather Service. Another prediction elsewhere on the site (AccuWeather) calls for less snow (as does the Weather Channel). Which will be correct this time? Check back in 24 hours when we could have as much as a foot of wet snow on the ground ... or not.

*There was an Internet item floating around last week saying singer Gordon Lightfoot had died. Turned out to be false. What a relief: WKNY's playlist would have taken a big hit. The Kingston station seems to be the only place you can hear the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Seals and Crofts and Hall and Oates. I'm not saying that's a good thing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods said he's sorry. He pledged to try and work out the problems in his marriage. He said he's been in therapy and is going back for more. He said he'd probably return to play golf, but he didn't say when. Mostly he said he's sorry.

Sincere? That's for his wife to determine.

As for the rest of his heralded, choreographed statement before a select group of family and friends (but few members of the press - and none from the Golf Writers Association, which refused to be represented given the restricted, no-questions nature of the event), Tiger came across as the robotic, angry, controlling figure that has made him a force on the golf course and an unpleasant person off it.

Woods spent considerable time blaming the media for wrong reports and/or invasive coverage. He didn't acknowledge, naturally, that he could have short-circuited it by stepping before microphones and pads within 12 hours of Thanksgiving night episode that launched his downfall. He could have been in front of this story and he blew it. Nor did he point out the IDs of those few camera crews (read paparazzi) that followed his children.

Woods said nobody should blame his wife for his transgressions. Who was doing that? Certainly not the media, which correctly branded Woods' wife as a victim as a parade of women with whom Woods had cheated stepped forward.

At the end of the day, Tiger Woods doesn't owe the public much more than his skills on the golf course, for which he is admired and paid handsomely.

But based on what he said this morning, Tiger Woods didn't do much to regain our support as a person. He should ask for a mulligan.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mort Laffin

*Nice job by the Freeman's Mike Stribl today on the passing of our former colleague Mort Laffin. Other touching tributes are in the Poughkeepsie Journal and on this Hudson Valley sports Website. Mort had been a Freeman sports reporter for about a year when I arrived as No. 3 man in the department in 1970. We worked closely on many a basketball weeknight and football Saturday until he moved over the news side. He was a colleague, mentor and pal during our Freeman years. And as you can tell from the aforementioned stories, he was a beloved figure in the regional sports community. Condolences to his family.

*Lindsey Vonn won the gold medal in downhill skiing just days after a highly publicized surprise injury threatened to keep her out of the competition. Modern medicine or NBC hype? Speaking of NBC, every morning the Today Show has "exclusive" interviews with U.S. Olympians. How do they do it?

*Hope you've seen some of the videos accompanying stories on our Website. Particularly helpful is today's clip of the Kingston City Hall steps.

*The much-anticipated New York Times piece about Gov. Paterson turned out not to be about Gov. Paterson at all, but about his aide. That has led to more undeserved ridicule of the Times from those who were expecting the rumored blockbuster. Only the Times didn't start the rumors and never promised more than it delivered. If you think the story isn't much in of itself, that's fine. But don't compare it to what you incorrectly thought it was going to be.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


*I'm not interested in dissuading people from visiting early and often throughout the day, but it is interesting to track viewer patterns. Like many media Websites, ours seems to be most frequented during business hours - in other words, likely by people who are tapping in on their computers at work. Same goes with the timing of comments to our stories. Typically there is a flurry of responses early in the morning or early in the evening. Mostly, the back and forth goes on roughly between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Heaviest daily traffic generally is Monday through Friday. There's less activity on the weekends. If my theory is correct, I wonder if employers know about the at-work browsing?

*The most important race on NASCAR's schedule is the Daytona 500. It's become auto racing's Super Bowl, World Series and Kentucky Derby. So how is it that NASCAR officials can excuse a nearly three-hour delay during the race Sunday for pothole repairs on the Daytona oval? And how come the Daytona track reportedly hasn't been repaved since 1978? NASCAR ought to be ashamed.

*Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, whose seat apparently wasn't in danger, won't run for re-election. He cites the polarization of a Congress which is more interested in taking political sides than making policy. Bayh is the latest in a growing list to bemoan the dysfunctional condition of the federal government. (New Yorkers can nod knowingly, given the years of dysfunction in their state government.)

*Spring training baseball camps are opening this week. Normally, that's a reason to cheer, as the light at the end of winter's tunnel appears on the horizon. But last year's World Series went deep into November before the Yankees conquered the Phillies. For me, it seems like only yesterday. Put another way, it sure has been a short off-season.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rumor mill

Wonderful column by my radio colleague Rex Smith of the Albany Times Union on rumors, journalism and the realities of today's media world.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Videos and Olympics

*Check out the videos on the Daily Freeman Website. Mayor Sottile comments about the snow and a homicide in Kingston, and we have a brief clip of a bus fire in Midtown. Also go to the Life page for Ivan Lajara's video. We expect to be bringing you a steady digital flow of what we used to called "moving pictures" ("talkies" even) as we step lively to another platform. Put another, the Freeman is not just a newspaper company, but a multi-media company.

*NBC long ago ruined the Olympics by focusing mainly on U.S. athletes - to the exclusion of many worthwhile competitors from the rest of the world - and by tape-delaying events to build story lines, the completion of which would come just before the late news to cap primetime. The Olympics were special back in the black and white TV days of ABC and CBS. The Games were every four years then, Winter and Summer in the same calendar years. To be sure, they also were special because the world wasn't as connected. So seeing exotic and grainy images of athletes from other continents was truly unique. But times and marketing have changed. Now NBC promotes the Olympics by disguising commercials as news stories on the Nightly News and Today Show. Worse, Matt Lauer will signal an interview with a U.S. Olympian as "exclusive." Of course, it's exclusive. NBC is paying a pile of cash for the Olympics, while the other networks virtually ignore the Games, in part because they don't have access to video.

*Matt Lauer's "exclusive" this morning was an interview with someone named Lindsey Vonn, who was revealing an injury that might keep her out of the skiing competition. Until yesterday, I'd never heard of Lindsey Vonn. Then I saw a picture of her. On the ski slopes? No, in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. If she does compete in the Games, I hope she dresses warmer than she was when posing in the magazine.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Paterson, Francesa, Townsend

*Nobody knows what will become of Gov. David Paterson, particularly as a new round of rumors (all of which he's denying) make their way around the Capitol. But according to this story in New York Magazine, Paterson won't go down without a fight. Interesting stuff in this piece, particularly about how the New York Post allegedly has it in for him.

*I did watch all of the M*A*S*H finale that held the previous record for highest rated TV show in U.S. history. But I only watched a little of the record-breaking Super Bowl game. So I can't offer much other than Peyton Manning seemed mortal in the few minutes I caught. Anyway, I did listen to a Mike Francesa interview on WFAN with the usually enligthening Phil Simms to hear more about the game. Check that, I only listened to part of the interview, because, as usual, Francesa did most of the talking. I wanted Simms' opinion, not Francesa's. But that's been Francesa's M.O. for years: Guests come on his show and he dominates the conversation. It's what makes the program must-not-listen radio.

*I saw a clip of The Who's halftime performance. I know I'm the last to say this, but why was The Who selected to play at the Super Bowl? Put another way, what does this say about the National Football League's view of its demographics? At least there were no wardrobe malfunctions, a la Janet Jackson ... if you don't count a bit too much of Peter Townsend's belly.

Friday, February 5, 2010

We tweet you right

In case you haven't noticed, the Freeman is tweeting at And there's a Daily Freeman page on Facebook.

We may be a little late to the party, but we've arrived. (Thanks to shoves by Ivan Lajara, our he-knows-a-lot-more-about-digital-technology-than-most-of-us Life editor, and by the enlightened new management at our parent company, Journal Register Company, which is quickly trying to make up for lost time and emphasizing the new media (without ignoring the core print product).

In the weeks ahead, you'll see additional content and assorted bells and whistles (to use the low-tech term) on our Website.

We'll keep you posted as we progress.

Meantime, I can't help but telling you about how newspapers sometimes can't win, whether it's in print or on-line.

The comments section under our stories has been a popular feature since the day it was installed. The free flow back and forth is not always pretty, but it's certainly passionate and generates lots of interest.

The newspaper serves as a referee of sorts. Pretty much everything that's submitted is approved ... with several key exceptions: no libel, no improper language, no phony names (or no names at all) by those who register, and, hopefully, no gratuitous personal attacks.

The latter is toughest to determine, because the qualification line may be different depending on your sensibilities.

Which brings us to how a newspaper can't win.

Glancing at the comments today, I noticed one from a writer who claimed we'd censored his remarks. (They didn't get an OK, it turns out, because they were virtually incomprehensible.) A few posts later, we were chastised for allowing someone's remarks to be posted. How dare we?, was the gist of the complaint.

The newspaper OKs a post and it's blasted. It does not OK a post and it's blasted.

Welcome to our world.