Category Archives: media

What Goes Around

It’s November, so that means one thing: SWEEPS!

I watched a sweeps story the other night about kids and video games. Not kids playing video games, but kids watching videos other players made of their exploits in Minecraft.

We used to have stories about kids watching too much TV. Then we had stories about kids playing video games for too long. Now? Kids watching too many videos of people playing video games.

The story didn’t really explain the allure of the virtual world of Minecraft — and most adults probably wouldn’t get it anyway — but, of course, they had the obligatory interview with a child therapist. Dr. Frank Doberman (is that a great name, or what?) says he sees teens who he says, “can’t stop playing the game because they have this irrational belief that the only way they have social commerce is if they play the game.”

So, the blocky world of Minecraft joins the legion of dangerous things we’ve expected to ruin the youth of America. You know, comic books, TV, rock & roll, Dungeons and Dragons, things of that sort. Will it be Minecraft that finally rots the minds of our kids? We shall see.

If you really want to see the story, here you go:

On the Edge of Oblivion

A friend sent me an email.

Rob, I’m really surprised that you have nothing to say about the apparent demise of On the Edge. There hasn’t been new post there since August 27.

Really? This I have to see.

After some examination, it does appear that On the Edge, once one of the Times Union’s most popular blogs, is dead. Positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead. Most sincerely dead, even.

The busy blog went into a skid when Kristi Gustafson left in in 2014. Her successor tried like hell, but couldn’t quite capture the tart mix of style and opinion the readers loved — and others loved to hate.

What made On the Edge a real sh*tshow was the comment section, which provided a Greek chorus for Gustafson’s high-handed pronouncements. When she left, the mob fled.

This is a great example of the ephemeral nature of blogs, and testament to how one person’s unique voice can capture an audience.

Like the loss of Metroland, it’s a loss to the local media landscape. I didn’t like On the Edge — and why would I, because as a man, I certainly wasn’t the target demo — but you’ve got to admit, it was really good at what it did.


Back in the Albany Eye days, it was always fun to take a jab at Metroland. They were such an easy target.

Like a lot of media outlets, they took themselves very seriously and were rather thin-skinned. The coolest kid on the block never likes being told he’s not all that.

I think Paul Grondahl summed it up perfectly with one word in his story about the alt weekly’s  financial collapse and closure: Metroland was haughty.

Since we’re talking Albany Eye, I can’t resist sharing a few vintage bits about Metroland:

A Modest Proposal

Alt Weekly Blues

Tube Boob

Insert Here

Look, I don’t think there’s anything good about Metroland failing. No, their journalism wasn’t to my liking, but this leaves a hole in the media market, especially in terms of arts coverage. And any time jobs are lost at a small local business, that’s a bad thing.

Maybe someone will pick up the reins and Metroland will live on. Love it or hate it, Thursday won’t be the same without it.

At the Movies

I’ve been going to Albany’s Spectrum Theatre for more than 30 years. They’ve grown, but much is the same as the first time I went there: the hard-to-find indie films, the cool alternative vibe, the popcorn with real butter. But recently, I’ve noticed something new at the Spectrum: people who won’t shut the fu** up during the movie.

It seems that there’s an epidemic of talking at the Spectrum, and the culprits are almost always people who are over 60 year old.

It’s not a steady stream of chatter breaking the silence, but people making remarks about things happening during the film. For example, in a movie I saw over the weekend, it’s revealed that a character is having an affair. The man behind me said, out loud, “Well, that’s not good.”

Oh, really — that’s not good? Thank you for pointing that out because I thought it might be good that this character was discovered having an affair. I’m not sure I could understand the movie without your commentary, so I appreciate your help, you @#$% idiot.

You may think this sounds petty, but it went on throughout the movie. And lately, it happens every single time I go there.

I’ve occasionally resorted to being the guy who shushes movie goers, but why should that be necessary? Who are these people who act like they’re sitting at home on the couch instead of in a theatre? I’d like to know, because if I knew their names, maybe I’d feel less like strangling them.

The fact that it’s always older people is surprising, too. Maybe young people are too busy texting to talk to their neighbors. What should we do about movie talkers? I like this approach from acclaimed director, Richard Linklater

Oy Vey

Before my departure from TV world, I started to notice something in the newsroom: many of the young people working as reporters or producers were sort of ignorant.

I’m not saying they weren’t smart, just poorly educated in certain areas. What areas? Oh, I don’t know — little things like history, politics, culture… the sort of things you learn by doing some reading.

We saw a good example of that this week at Chicago’s WGN-TV where they used a wildly inappropriate graphic with a story about Yom Kippur:


Who would use this painful reminder of the Holocaust to represent a story about Yom Kippur? Someone who’s clueless. More likely, several clueless people — from the graphic artist who found the image and prepared it for air to the producer(s) who’s supposed to review this stuff.

Rack it up as an honest mistake.

Nobody knows everything — and context is not something people learn in school

Let Him Jump

I was listening to my local talk radio station the other morning and the host was bitching about a huge traffic jam that tied up an area bridge. It seems someone was threatening to jump.

He called the man on the bridge an “attention grabber,” and said we should just  “let him jump.”

Well, don’t be shocked.

Talk radio shows are just that: shows. The host’s job is not to be moderate and thoughtful, it’s to stir you up. The more provocative the better — and appealing to the angry mob brings ratings. Angry mobs don’t talk people down, they scream, “Jump!”

But I’m not here to attack the talk radio host. Doing that would be like going to the circus and criticizing the clowns for — well, acting like clowns. That’s their job.

I’ve never had a suicide affect my family directly, but I’ve known people who killed themselves and seen what it does to those left behind. It’s tragic — and the pain and loss upends lives and lingers forever. I suppose that “let him jump” is one solution when someone is in crisis, but maybe it’s not the best solution.

Meanwhile, the angry drumbeat of talk radio rolls along. Deport all the immigrants. Throw the bums out. And let him jump.

Shoe Business

Wouldn’t it be great if there were voice activated toilet seats? You just could walk in and tell it to go up or down and never have to touch the damn thing.

seatWell, we don’t have them — so until that wonderful day arrives you should just do what most sensible people do: use your foot.

This leads to an interesting question: how dirty are your shoes from touching toilet seats?

“How dirty” stories used to be all the rage in TV news. I did promos for stories where we tested hotel rooms, household items and common objects you find in public, like doorknobs and water fountains. We’d swab the things and send the samples to a lab for analysis. Two weeks later? Instant sweeps story!

Anyway, way back in 2008, ABC News did a story about dirty shoes. The results? Your shoes are astoundingly dirty — maybe even the dirtiest things you own. I’m not trying to freak you out here, but you may be making a toilet seat dirtier by touching it with your filthy shoe.

Just something to think about. Meanwhile, I suppose in the future it will be odd to hear people calling out “up” and “down” in public restrooms.

A Tale of Two Headlines


June 11, 2015


July 9, 2015

Well, it took a month, but the Times Union finally figured out what other media outlets were reporting from practically day one: that the Dannemora escape was far from the first.

In today’s front page item, the paper blames Governor Cuomo for spreading the “first escape” story; one has to wonder who Cuomo is blaming.

Paul Grondahl writes, “Cuomo’s comments were picked up and repeated, including by local residents.” Yes it was picked up and repeated. Please refer to the photo at the top of this blog post.

Anyway, this makes it all OK:

The Matt and Sweat imbroglio, however, did not eclipse the level of subterfuge in the escape of George Leggins of Coxsackie, who broke away on July 31, 1915, from a farm outside Dannemora’s walls.

Anyone who can use imbroglio and subterfuge in the same sentence gets an A+ in my book.

Would You Rather Be First or Right?

The Dannemora prison escape has been a fascinating story, and Friday evening, with one escapee gunned down by police and the other on the run, it was a big news night.

There were many wild tales from the North Country woods, many of them brought to us by eager reporters on Twitter. Unfortunately, some of them were not exactly true, like this one from Time Warner Cable News reporter Geoff Redick.

Exciting? Yes. True? No.

But, Rob, Geoff Redick says right there that “TWO police sources” told him this story.

Oh, really — what police sources? To be so confident, it must have been two very high ranking people with direct knowledge of what’s going on — like officials from the command post.

Mr. Redick went on to tap this one out:

Later in the evening, this all turned out to be bunk. Whatever — stop distracting me with all those annoying facts!

TV news has always been obsessed with getting stories first, even if only by a few minutes. Social media has taken it to the next level; it used to be about who could get it on the air first, and now it’s who can tweet it first.

I’d say this is progress. There’s never been a faster way to get things wrong.