Friday, July 27, 2012


I remember a cartoon I saw in Mad Magazine, maybe 50 years old.

In the first panel, a couple is driving along a highway when they see a sign saying, "Fallen Rock Zone". (Such warnings were common in the years before "netting" was installed to block loose rocks and boulders from tumbling across roadways.)

In the next couple of panels, the couple proceeds, frightened looks on their faces as they warily glance side to side, afraid of impending disaster. Then, finally, they get to the long-awaited "End of Fallen Rock Zone" sign. They're in the clear!

In the last panel, the car hits a deer. Boom!

I thought about the cartoon last night after our office in Kingston and my home in Woodstock escaped the severe storms that mostly passed to our south and east. This was after a day of dire warnings from meteorologists,state government and media of significant wind, torrential rain, frequent lightning, tree damage, power outages and life-threatening conditions.

Fact is, all of those things occurred in areas other than ours. This time we drew the long straw.

More storms (although less widespread) are forecast for later today and into the weekend. Maybe we won't be so lucky on this round.

The thing is, it's already been a long, hot summer. And in long, hot summers you get the kind of storms that emerged yesterday. That's not to discount their potential wrath, only to say, been there, done that.

What struck me about this round of severe weather was the way it was heralded in advance.

From the first TV forecast to which I awoke at 6 a.m. yesterday morning to those I read in a variety of places, including our newspaper's website, throughout the day, the message was clear: Beware! Danger!

Because we didn't get hit hard, there's a tendency to complain about the "Chicken Little Syndrome", maybe to the point that when the next warnings come, they'll be ignored.

But they're not alleging "Chicken Little" in the parts of Ulster, Dutchess and Orange counties were the sky did figuratively fall. Nor are they saying it in New York City, where a pedestrian was killed by falling debris.

Weather forecasting remains an imperfect science. But it's pretty darn accurate, and getting better all the time.

Had the path of yesterday's storm varied by a few miles, thousands of other people and homes would have been in jeopardy.

Those who did suffer from this storm couldn't say they weren't warned. Hopefully said warnings gave them time to tie down loose objects around their homes before they became flying objects. Hopefully residents and businesses established evacuation plans in case of a tornado. Hopefully folks had flashlights and extra water, etc., in case of power outages.

If you heeded the warnings, you were better suited to face the storm. And if you heeded the warnings and the storm didn't impact you, you didn't waste your time. Don't relax and think you're immune from the next one.

Forecasters, government and media have a responsibility to alert the public to impending severe weather. Yes, the vociferousness and repetitiveness of it can drive you nuts. But imagine what it would have been like if you weren't aware of the likelihood of severe weather.

If the red flags of "Stormageddon" prompted people to make life-saving preparations, the system worked and the battle cries were appropriate.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

From the sports pages

- The Yankees' acquisition of the once-great Ichiro fits a decades-old franchise pattern of bringing in late-season help for a pennant push. Johnny Mize, Cecil Fielder and Pudge Rodriguez are a few names that immediately come to mind dating back from the 1950s to the present. But make no mistake, while Ichiro could help the team and may even find the Fountain of Youth, he is a mere shadow of the superstar we've come to know. His last two seasons, this one included, have seen a significant decline in his offensive output. No shame there; the man is 38. But Yankees fans shouldn't be deluded into thinking this vintage Ichiro has found his way into pinstripes.

- With Ichiro joining senior citizens Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, Andy Pettite, Freddy Garcia, Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera, I'm looking for a statistic that might show if this Yankees roster has the highest average age in franchise history.

- Here's my current Final 4 in baseball: AL - Yankees vs. Angels. NL - Dodgers vs. Nationals.

- The New York Rangers picked up Rick Nash from Columbus for a modest price. Now fanatics are saying this is the final piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle. I say if anything bad happens to goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Nash could score 60 goals and the Blueshirts would still be bridesmaids.

- Being at an Olympics, as I was in 1980 at Lake Placid, is entirely different experience than watching them on TV for a variety of obvious reasons. Biggest for me is the network jingoism that smothers appreciation for athletic excellence if it hasn't been accomplished by an American. Not far behind is the disappearance of true amateurism.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The shootings in perspective

What a relief it was to pick up the Saturday editions of the Freeman and The New York Times.

There was the chilling news of the Colorado shootings, prominently displayed and sufficiently reported. And there was all the other news of the day, local and national, serious and light.

The horror of the shootings wasn't downplayed by any means. But it was reported in perspective. It was, by most accounts, the most important story of the day, but it wasn't the only story of the day.

Contrast that with the network evening news (CBS) of the night before, as well as the morning program the next day (NBC): Nothing but reports from Colorado.

Anything else going on? No, at least not according to these newscasts.

Our sister newspaper in Denver had page after page on the shootings. Properly so: It was decidedly a local story.

Other newspapers had the essentials and perhaps a sidebar or two. That was plenty. If you were interested, you read the stories. If not, you turned the page.

That's one of the big problems with broadcast news: You can't turn the page. The network journalism was fine. It was respectful and mostly accurate (save for the ABC report tying the alleged shooter to the Tea Party). But it was too much (including the funereal music). There was other important news to report and it didn't get reported.

It wasn't the first time the networks have gone overboard and it won't be the last. It's part of their DNA.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Who knew?

- That Pyramid Company no longer runs the Hudson Valley Mall? I missed that one completely. It's been over a year since Edgewater Company took over.

- That RNN-TV is still on the air? OK, I'm being facetious. I know RNN is around. It's just that I stopped hearing about(and watching) RNN (formerly WTZA) when it shifted its home base to Westchester County and essentially abandoned local programming. But there is a half-hour devoted to "Kingston Now" and, lo and behold, I'm a guest at 11 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1. Jimmy Buff of WDST radio is the host.

- That Madison Square Garden honcho (and SUNY New Paltz grad) James Dolan doesn't always throw away money? I mean, among his recent overexpenditures were on guys like underachieving Eddy Curry, selfish Carmelo Anthony and aging Jason Kidd. And that's just recently with the Knicks, not counting what he unwisely spent on the Rangers over the years. Suddenly Mr. Spendthrift Dolan chose not to open the cash register for Jeremy Lin, a largely unproven player, but one with enormous popularity who could generate millions in ticket and apparel sales. Seems like the right basketball decision, which would make it unusual for Dolan.

- That this year's Ulster County Business Awards dinner will be the ninth such event? Seems like only yesterday that the first committee meeting convened. This year's presentations will be on Nov. 1 at Wiltwyck Golf Club. Not too late to nominate candidates in a variety of categories. Go to either or for details. But hurry, deadline for entries is drawing near.

- That "Episodes", the Matt LeBlanc sitcom on Showtime, would improve so much this season after a mediocre first year?

- That Imus himself has become the last reason to listen to "Imus in the Morning"? Once cutting edge, Imus' act is old and worn. But his WAMC-77 AM radio and Fox Business Network show is worth the time because of Bernard McGuirk, Warner Wolf and, especially, Rob Bartlett.

- That the Olympics start a week from Friday in London? Oh, you knew about it if you've been watching one of NBC's channels, which have been promoting and promoting and promoting the heck out of the coverage they'll provide (and for which NBC paid big bucks to secure). Other broadcasters will get around to mentioning the Olympics eventually. As we've seen often over the years, TV networks go overboard hyping events they're airing. Put another way, do you think NBC Sports people would be talking about the Tour de France if they didn't own the rights?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

No, I haven't retired

So, here's the thing: I haven't retired.

Yes, I've turned into the homestretch of my career at the Freeman. And, yes, after 25 years as publisher (and 42 years total at the newspaper), I've handed off the baton to our new publisher, Jan Dewey, longtime advertising executive at the Poughkeepsie Journal.

But as publisher emeritus, the highfalutin title to which I've ascended, I'm still finding my way to Hurley Avenue every morning. (After all these years, I can pretty much make the ride from Woodstock blindfolded ... but I won't.)

With a variety of specific projects on my agenda, plus the need to dispense as much of the decades worth of my institutional knowledge that Jan can handle, it likely will be at least a year before I log off here for good.

Which leads to the question many of my friends and colleagues have been too polite to ask: If you're not retiring, why aren't you publisher anymore?

Not to get too melodramatic, but there's a one-word answer: leukemia.

Now, don't get alarmed. It's been a little over three years since I was diagnosed with a form of the disease (I believe I blogged about it at the time), and it's been more than 18 months that I've been in remission. The prognosis, I'm assured, is good, and I long ago resumed all normal activities. But it's also an illness that never really goes away. In short, it's on my mind pretty much every day.

Combine that with what is an exciting, tumultuous, challenging, invigorating, stressful -- yes, all at once -- newspaper industry environment, and I began thinking, maybe it's time for me to ease up.

Which is the trial balloon I floated by a few Journal Register Company executives.

I'm not ready to hang 'em up, I said, but I sure would be open to a new arrangement that made sense to me and the company.

When I didn't hear back, I figured it didn't make sense to them.

Then, last month, a game plan was discussed. It didn't take long for me to sign on.

I'll still be involved with operations and management of the Freeman.

I'll be out and about in the community -- probably more so than in the years since my illness.

I'll still make public speaking appearances, if organizations want me.

I'll write more, definitely in this blog forum, perhaps in print, too.

I'll continue to be a regular on public radio.

But I'll also have a more free time and, fingers crossed, less stress.

I like the sound of that.