Category Archives: News

For the Record

recordsThis comic somebody posted on Facebook really caught my attention.

I’ve told my kids about the days before iTunes, when you’d have to go to a store to buy music. Yes, there were even stores that sold nothing but vinyl records! Really, it’s true!
Making a special trip made music buying a ritual. From my house you could walk to Korvettes or to Record World at Roosevelt Field Mall.

Korvettes, while it had a smaller selection, always had the best price. Record World was more for connoisseurs — plus, going to the mall meant the compulsory visit to World Imports to see the groovy dayglo posters in the back and gawk at the bongs in the head shop.

Then you’d walk back home. Unseal the package, take out the inner sleeve — it always felt like a bonus when it was a printed inner sleeve — and put your new treasure on the turntable. Was there anything as good as that first perfectly pristine play of a new record?

Don’t get me wrong, I love that anything I want to hear is a click away. Everything is so easy now. Back then nothing was a click away.

FLASH Newspaper Website Publishes News

Most people would sooner stick their tongue in an electrical outlet than pay for news online. That’s why it’s so damn exciting that the Daily Gazette has dropped its paywall.

According to All Over Albany, it’s only temporary. Editor Judy Patrick told AOA that the Gazette is upgrading their paywall technology; no word on whether this upgrade will fix the “Free Gazette” trick long used by those in the know to access stories.

Anyway, I’ve noticed something odd while reading the Gazette online: it’s full of news. I keep scrolling down the page expecting to find fluffy, inconsequential content and all I see are freakin’ news stories.

Hey, Gazette! Where are the endless snapshot galleries from local events? Why no silly wire service stories about dogs? What’s this with burying the entertainment news?

The page is so full of news that it looks suspiciously like it was organized by an editor. WTF?

So, Gazette, I rarely give advice, but here’s some for you: have a look at the Times Union and learn a thing or two about what a newspaper website should look like. Then you might have something I’d pay for. Or not.

Let One Rip

When I heard that legendary local sportscaster Rip Rowan had died it left me melancholy. There goes another one, I thought.

Rowan was one of those old school guys who were in ample supply when I got into the TV business, before pretty faces became the norm, and street smarts meant more than a degree from Newhouse.

But as I pondered the passing of Rowan, I could not get this thought out of my head: how did he get the nickname, “Rip?”

Like a prayer answered, my question was addressed in today’s paper:

“Rowan had a mischievous streak, which included legendary on-set flatulence, according to McLoughlin. “He did it on purpose. It was murder,” he said.

Ha! Try that today and you won’t get a colorful nickname, you’ll be sent to visit HR — and likely receive a ticket to some sort of sensitivity training class.

R.I.P. Rip.

Oh, Deer

It’s a fascinating story: human bones discovered in the crawlspace of an old house — bones that may be tied to the disappearance of a woman more than 70 years ago. And on top of everything is a plot element that makes every tale more intriguing: Nazi Germany.

Yes, quite a story. Too bad it wasn’t true.

Could be human, right? From my collection of things I probably don’t need.

Area media this week went apesh*t over the macabre discovery of these “human remains” in East Greenbush – until it was revealed Thursday that they were deer bones, not human. Ooops.

Yes, the cops bear much of the responsibility here. They were the ones who declared the bones to be human. They also cited a 1938 document as a key bit of evidence, possibly linking the bones to the disappearance of a woman whose husband later returned to his native Germany. That document was a school report written by a 9th grader.

This leaves a few questions, like where is the healthy skepticism we count on from reporters and editors? Did no one bother to ask the police about the process for identifying bones? And seriously, a 9th grader’s school report? Really?

To their credit, the Times Union did a great job of tracking down details about the real German family who returned home before the war — but not before they swallowed the whole story, hook, line and sinker.

Oh, yes: one of the “clues” police found near the bones was woman’s shoe. Maybe someone could do a story on why a deer would be wearing a shoe. That would be more interesting.

One Dollar a Month

Under what sort of crazy business model do you give away your product and expect to make any money?

How about in local tv and radio.

At a time when newspapers are struggling to survive, broadcasters continue to chug along. No, they don’t make the kind of cash they once did, back in the heady days before cable and the internet, but TV has adjusted to the new economics. And just like in the past, they’re profitable. How? They have a product that people like — and advertisers know that TV and radio spots are still the most effective way to reach their customers.

I don’t expect free content. For example, I gladly shell out money for my digital subscription to the NY Times. In return I get more news than I can possibly read in a single day. So, how much would I be willing to pay for a paper like the Times Union? Compared to what the New York Times provides? I’d say it’s worth about $.25 a week.

One dollar a month may sound harsh, but if you don’t agree, take a hard look at what you get every day. A handful of local stories and… what? Goofy snapshot photo galleries? Blogs? I’m not going to pay for that stuff.

In short, if you want my money, you’d better start providing more content. A lot more.

Also Because We Don’t Want to Look Like Idiots

My former boss at WNYT, Tom Raponi, was in the news this week!

The TV station he runs, KTVU, is the one that made the ridiculous Asiana pilot name blunder. Now they’re trying to erase their mistake by forcing YouTube to remove the video of his anchors announcing the fake — and mildly racist — names of the flight crew. Raponi told TV Spy:

“The accidental mistake we made was insensitive and offensive. By now, most people have seen it. At this point, continuing to show the video is also insensitive and offensive, especially to the many in our Asian community who were offended. Consistent with our apology, we are carrying through on our responsibility to minimize the thoughtless repetition of the video by others.”

Thanks to Tom Raponi for protecting us from insensitive and offensive content — but it seems the horse is already far away from the barn:

What now? KTVU has fired everyone involved. This is too bad, because Raponi had been very happy with the station’s coverage — before all that falsely confirmed fake racist Asian name stuff. Oh, well. You try running a TV station.

Paging O. Henry

When you say O. Henry, most people think of the “The Gift of the Magi,” but my favorite short story by O. Henry, AKA William Sydney Porter, was always “The Cop and the Anthem.”

In that story, Soapy, a hapless hobo tramping around New York City, is desperate to be arrested so he can spend winter’s coldest days in jail. But Soapy isn’t even very good at breaking the law — and you can read the rest here.

A modern day Soapy had no such trouble in Troy this week; police arrested one Jamaine Makepeace who they say broke windows at the Rensselaer County Clerk’s office in a bid to be collared by the cops. Why? To go somewhere warm. According to a police spokesman:

“He told us he figured he would do enough damage to get a year in jail. He told us that he was tired of being on the streets and begging food from people.”

Mr. Makepeace got his wish and is currently being held in Rensselaer County Jail without bail.

Homelessness is complicated and nothing I say about it will be anything less than trite — but those who scoff at the idea of helping the most troubled among us should take note, even as you mock what President Obama had to say on Monday.

It’s a sad story, but at least this guy, like Soapy, will be safe and warm for a little while.

No Words

I had a very amusing blog post all set for today, but after seeing what happened in Connecticut, my trivial nonsense seems so pointless.

I don’t know if you pray, but if so please get to it. If you don’t, this might be a good day to start.

Grinch Season

Yes, it’s Grinch season, that time when unimaginative reporters overuse the Grinch metaphor. Experienced scribes know that a good story needs a bad guy, and this time of year labeling someone “Grinch” is a handy tag.

Grinch Robs Elderly Oakland Couple’s Home While They Slept

Grinch Destroys Christmas Decorations

Cops replace Sick Girl’s Christmas Lights Stolen by ‘Grinch’

Grinch Stealing Packages Off Porches in South Pasadena

Real-life Grinch Steals Salvation Army Kettle

Those are five examples. I could give you five-hundred.

The problem with this is that like many real-life stories, the Grinch tale is about something more complicated than simply an evildoer stealing all the Christmas stuff — but when you start in with all those other things, those inconvenient truths, you begin to lose what makes your story powerful: the bad guy.

A really good reporter will go out and build his case against his story’s antagonist. Maybe talk to the Grinch’s angry ex-landlord or interview his former spouse and disgruntled children. Make the Grinch looks like a real dirtbag. And then — the truth doesn’t much matter, does it?