Monday, June 28, 2010

I've been meaning to tell you ...

*Gov. David Paterson's show of strength the last couple of months is a great advertisement for term limits. Paterson isn't a candidate for election to a full term (not because of term limits, which don't exist here, but a poor performance early in his tenure, which led to horrible poll numbers and his decision not to run). As a result, the governor has been holding the Legislature's feet to the fire during the protracted and contentious budget talks. And he's been doing what most legislators who face re-election are afraid to do: alienate special interests who don't want their sacred cows trimmed.

*The U.S. is out of the World Cup, which means interest in soccer in this country will diminish until the next World Cup, just as interest falls in between Olympic games in what Americans consider to be other minor sports - like skiing, figure skating, to name a couple. Big TV ratings and widespread water cooler talk about soccer have less to do with the game and more to do with waving the flag.

*Finally caught up to the docoumentary film "Smash His Camera" by Woodstock's Academy Award-winning director Leon Gast. It's a wonderful look at the king of the paparazzi Ron Galella. Check it out on HBO (next airing on July 14).

*Sorry to learn of the passing of one of Kingston's true characters, John Mazzuca. I best knew John - at least prior to his sandwich-making days at the old "Mr. Broadway" - as the color man for Kingston High School and Ulster County Community College basketball games on WKNY radio in the 1970s. John drove referees wild, criticizing them in ways print reporters wouldn't even attempt. He was less an announcer as he was a fan. I could be wrong, but I believe it was John who coined the name "U-Tri-C". He was an original. My condolences to his family and friends.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Here's the kind of thing that drives newspaper people nuts and reminds us it doesn't always pay to be nice guys.

Kingston native Billy Costello, a former world championship boxer, has cancer. You may have read about it today in a newspaper other than ours.

A few weeks ago, one of Costello's pals asked me if he could borrow some of our photos from the boxer's ring days. He wanted to them as part of a tribute planned in Costello's honor in light of the discovery of the illness. The buddy also suggested we do a story informing Costello's friends and fans of the ex-champ's condition.

Of course. I passed along the news to the sports editor, who provided the pal with the photos and then assigned a reporter to the story.

But Costello didn't want to talk to our reporter about the cancer. He was interested only in promoting a local boxing show he was organizing.

We discussed it among ourselves and decided that if Costello wanted his illness kept private, we'd respect his privacy. The subsequent story, for which Costello was interviewed, made no mention of his condition.

We did the right thing, in my view, even though we knew that in a small town, news like this tends to find its way on to the streets. Sure enough, there on the front page of the regional daily this morning was a picture of Costello, and in the sports section was a column in which the ex-champ talks about his cancer.

No doubt many in Kingston who read that story are wondering why it hasn't been in the Freeman. Now you know.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Ben Franklin Project

The Ben Franklin Project continues at the Freeman, as we count down to July 4, Independence Day.

What is The Ben Franklin Project? It's about technology available to everyone and how a newspaper can publish using it. Most importantly, it's about you, the readers, whose input is essential.

For more on The Ben Franklin Project, click here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Into the weekend

*Are you watching "Treme" on HBO? You should be. Great music, interesting character development, authentic post-Katrina New Orleans setting and tremendous acting - including by locals Melissa Leo and Steve Earle.

*I don't get too worked up over a sports event anymore, but I have to say, the big league debut of Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg was exceptionally impressive and great sports-TV theater by any measurement.

*Another sign that I'm no longer a kid: Driving 350 miles roundtrip in one day (as I did Thursday) is about 200 miles more than I have the energy to navigate.

*Freeman reporters are now tweeting. Find 'em (like Paul Kirby) and follow 'em for news alerts and interactivity with the newsroom. (Yes, I tweet, too, as does the prolific Ivan Lajara.)

*Run-up to the newsroom's new computer system continues, with training being scheduled and "go live" planned for the week of June 28. On the heels of that is our parent company's Ben Franklin Project, with a number of "crowd-sourcing" stories and other behind the scenes initiatives in the works for the edition of July 4, Independence Day.

*Did you know the our website is drawing about 150,000 unique visitors a month? Are newspapers dying? More people today read the Freeman on-line and in print than ever in its 139-year history.

*139 years! Is it too soon to start planning our gala 150th anniversary edition?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Service clubs

In many respects, service clubs are the backbone of a community.

Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary and others are comprised of volunteers who give back to their neighbors in the form of scholarships, labor and a variety of other worthwhile initiatives too many to mention.

Their fellowship is evident throughout the year, most visibly at their luncheon meetings, where they break bread, plan projects, tease each other and, often, listen to a guest speaker.

I was pleased to be the latter at Thursday's Kingston Kiwanis session at Skytop.

About 30 Kiwanians heard me talk about the newspaper business, our Digital First agenda and the Ben Franklin Project. They laughed at my jokes - if you've ever been a speaker or MC, you know how important that is - and they asked thoughtful questions.

Thanks to Kiwanians Joe Fay, Art Gould and the rest for their invitation. More importantly, thanks for all the good work you and other service clubs do.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Orvil's back

A pleasant surprise this morning to enter the WGHQ radio studio in Kingston and see the familiar face of long-time morning show host Orvil Norman.

Orvil has been out of action for three months tending to some physical woes. But while he says he's not yet at 100 percent, I'm here to report Orvil looked and sounded great - and he's lost 20 pounds, which I envy.

Also glad co-hosts Sue Wittig and Al Teetsel teed is up for me to again tout some of the exciting things happening at the Freeman as our "Digital First" era continues to unfold.

Didn't get to mention the Ben Franklin Project. But we'll have a lot more to write about that in the paper in the days ahead.

It's an upbeat message I'm touting these days, one I'll be bringing to the Kingston Kiwanis Club as its lunch-time speaker on Thursday.