Category Archives: media

When Black Friday Comes

I’m not a shopper, so the whole Black Friday thing makes me want to puke. But for deal hunters, Friday is the Super Bowl of buying and many wild-eyed shoppers will be clutching the gigantic Thursday Times Union.

Newspaper circulars remain an effective way to advertise, so Thursday’s five-pound edition must be a real money maker. The paper has taken to flogging the hell out of the Black Friday special edition, even heavily promoting its release as an “event.”

Marketing newspapers has never been harder, but I must say, five pounds of newspaper does sound attractive. That would get me through a lot of litter box changes.

By the way, if it’s Thanksgiving, that means it’s time for the best side dish ever invented, Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. I first shared the recipe in 2006, so this is an anniversary of sorts. And for those interested in history, it was posted just weeks before Albany Eye would crash and burn in a most spectacular manner. Good times!

Panic, Worry and Chaos

I do enjoy that Times Union newspaper.

One day it’s the overwrought prose of this week’s Joe Bruno profile, and the next, a story so bad it looks like it was written by a fifth grader.

Case in point, a hilarious story I read this morning titled Vehicle strikes Colonie tavern; apparent burn victim. Who could resist a story with such a puzzling headline?  Readers were rewarded with passages like this:

Steve Cheslow, a Times Union employee who was at the tavern, said he heard “a big boom.” One man was rolling on the ground. Everyone was concerned about the cook in the kitchen. There was panic, worry and chaos, and everyone was told to get out, he said.

You can read the whole thing here; I saved a PDF because this story won’t last long on the website before being cleaned up or deleted. On the up side, we are offered some interesting details:

“It just went ‘poof!'” said patron John Ashley, who was with his wife. He said he tried to get the man to safety. The fire happened during the popular karaoke night.

Well, no need to worry about the radio stations swiping this story and reading it on the air. For them it would need too much re-writing.

Special Comment

This election season would not be complete without the voice of Keith Olbermann.

Thanks to GQ magazine, we’ve been able to hear Olbermann’s views on Donald Trump — exclusively Donald Trump — in a series of web videos called The Closer with Keith Olbermann. This one below is not his most devastating takedown of Trump, but as a dog lover, it is my favorite:

I miss having Olbermann on TV. It may be that the settlement of his lawsuit with Current TV means he doesn’t need to work the sort of jobs he did before, and if so, bully for him. To say Olbermann’s relationship with management has never been great may be the understatement of the decade.

Either way, Olbermann’s unshackled commentaries on Trump are one of the good things to come out of this dismal election.

UPDATE: Another Trump reference surfaced this week in a NY Times story. He referred to Arsenio Hall as follows:

“Dead as a doornail,” was his assessment of Mr. Hall in a previously unreleased interview from two years ago. “Dead as dog meat.”

Some Mother’s Son

Facebook: it’s America’s favorite place for heaping ridicule on people — especially those accused of crimes. But when you combine that with the irresistible urge to make fun of someone different? Well, that’s when you truly get online magic.

All the local news outlets posted this story about Carlos Rodriguez, a Florida man arrested for attempted murder. This is not something that would normally get national exposure, if not for this: Mr. Rodriguez’s lost part of his skull in an automobile accident, leaving him with a profound deformity.

So what do we have here? News outlets posting a story with no local significance, just for the shock value of the mug shot. Then their audience has the opportunity to make cruel remarks about the man’s appearance.

That’s a sick and sad state of affairs.

Maybe before people write stupid shit about Carlos Rodriguez on Facebook they should consider that he is someone’s son or brother. He’s clearly a guy that’s had some trouble, things that most of us can’t even imagine. Empathy, anyone?

I’ve discussed here before how TV stations and newspapers don’t bother trying to moderate comments on their Facebook pages. And why should they? All those little clicks add up.

Click This

Baby Eaten by Snake!
Police Shoot Man in Dunkin Donuts!
Adorable Kitten Watches Olympics!

You’ve seen the sensational headlines your local TV station or newspaper post on social media. Local news has learned that Facebook and Twitter are a great way to drive traffic to their websites — and they do so in a way that’s quietly sneaky and subversive.

How’s that? They conveniently forget to tell you where things happened in the social media posts. You see, by omitting the dateline, a reader might think the eaten babies, donut eaters and kittens are right here in the Capital Region. And you click.

Then you’re somewhat disappointed to learn that the snake ate a baby in Florida. Yes, of course — that’s Florida for you.

I consider myself a savvy news consumer and they trick me with these posts all the time. Shame on me, but who can resist those headlines? I’m only human, so crazy stories, picture galleries, inane polls — sometimes I can’t help myself but to click.

Finally, some homework. You must watch  John Oliver’s commentary on the state of journalism — and pay particular attention to the Spotlight parody.

Don’t Die Like My Brother

Interesting story in the New York Times about the upcoming retirement of Garrison Keillor after his last Praire Home Companion show. I’ve listened for many years — even when it tried my patience — and I’ll miss Keillor.

The show’s future is uncertain. They’ve named mandolin virtuoso Chris Thiele to take over hosting duties, but that will account for just 13 new shows during the next year and the rest will be repeats of Keillor programs.

Then another public radio item caught my eye: WHYY in Philadelphia has dropped Car Talk from its schedule. The long-time public radio staple has been in “best of” mode since 2012, and co-host Tom Magliozzi died two years ago. I still listen and laugh and I’m sure it still makes money, but you can’t go on like that forever.

When you take away Car Talk and Prairie Home Companion, the list of big public radio shows is pretty short. When’s the last time they had a new show as popular as This American Life or Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me?

Maybe public radio doesn’t need a next big thing, but popular shows have great power to bring a lot of new listeners to the table. At a time when NPR and its affiliates are losing audience, they’re going to need something.

Somebody’s Been In Prison Too Long

A lot of us were fascinated by the escape from Dannemora, so the 150 page report on last year’s prison break is like a wonderful gift from Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.

The report is crammed with minute details about the incident, and much of it is served up by none other than escapee David Sweat. Matt took his side of the tale to the grave.

It’s also contains some funny things, like the instructions Sweat gave Joyce Mitchell about meeting them after they emerged on the other side of the wall:

“I told her you can leave the car running, shut your headlights and stuff off, and you’ll get out of the car, act like you’re talking on the phone, because everybody knows you’re not allowed to drive and talk on the phone…”

Yes, everybody knows you’re not allowed to drive and talk on the phone.

Anyway, I give the report two thumbs up!

Lot’s of people say that the Dannemora escape would make a good movie, and perhaps it would, but I think it needs someone to root for. Maybe we could write in a third escapee, someone forced to go along against his will, a character convicted of something less contemptible than the murderous Matt and Sweat. How about an  art thief? Then he could turn the tables on the evil pair —  and in the end get the girl. We’d glam her up a bit, of course. Hey, it’s Hollywood.

All Set

Chris K

Chris Kapostasy (Jansing) back when the WNYT news set — and the newscast — was in its prime.

So, somebody asked how long WNYT’s been using the same news set.

I was there when they debuted the current set, you know, the one with lots of wood and the faux control room in the background? It’s been there so long that I couldn’t even remember when it was new. I looked it up and the answer was surprising.

Here’s an article from the Times Union about the station installing the new set — in 1995!

That makes the set more than 20-years-old. If it were your kid, it would be in college — and at this rate, it might be witness to a third term with a Clinton in the White House.

After all these years, the set is looking shopworn, especially the background, which has clearly faded with time. If you watch closely you’ll glimpse the unmistakable white mop of hair belonging to Newt Gingrich, speaker of the House in 1995.

But the bigger question is this: what’s more important, the news set or the people sitting on it?

The answer is both, but not in equal proportion. You’re much better off having great anchors sitting on an old set than the other way around.

How long does a news set last? Let’s go back to the 1995 news story:

Neither Fenhagen nor the people over at Channel 13 would give even a ballpark figure as to what it costs to build a set, which usually has a lifespan of between five and 10 years.

Or twenty years.

Either way, it’s time for a change. You could get away with certain things before DTV and 50 inch screens. The old days of analog TV were much kinder to rough-looking news sets and wrinkly anchors.  Now, something that’s faded looks faded.

Gather Round the Hearth

We’ve been looking at a lot of houses lately and noticed something interesting: people like putting flat screen TV sets over the fireplace.

Not to be judgmental or anything — because I would never do that — but one thing goes through my head when I see this in a house: douchebag bad idea.

There are a couple of practical reasons not to mount the TV over the fireplace. The heat might not great for the TV, and ideally, a TV should be level with your eyes position so you don’t have to look up at it. That could be bad for your neck.

But there are less tangible reasons, too.

It used to be that the space over the fireplace was reserved for something special, like a piece of art or an antique that sits on the mantle. Let’s say you have a mounted moose head that you love. Where’s it going to go? Over the fireplace, of course. It sends a message about what you find important.

When you put the TV over the fireplace, it says that the most important thing in your life is the TV. And it makes your house look like a barroom.

So don’t be a douchebag silly: find somewhere else for the TV. I know the fireplace thing is popular right now, but just because it’s popular doesn’t make it right.