Blogs > Fresh Ink

Barbara Lombardo writes about journalisml, local news and anything else that strikes her fancy. She is executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News, sister papers in the Digital First Media family. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Skidmore College earns A+ for getting word out in emergencies

Reporter Paul Post took this picture of police
responding to Monday's bomb scare on the
Skidmore College campus. 
No one was hurt, thank goodness, when Skidmore College faced a couple of recent safety threats — the Oct. 1 lockdown prompted by the presence of an accused rapist, who was apprehended, and Monday’s bomb scare, which, happily, turned up nothing and resulted in canceled morning classes. The police did their jobs well in both cases. And what is also worth noting is how well the school’s emergency notification system works. The college wasted not a second getting its warnings out, using texts, email, updates on, and notification via Facebook and Twitter, as well as alerting the region's media. The notification system worked. In addition, in both recent cases, Skidmore sent emails to parents after the emergencies were resolved.

I asked the college communications folks for more details, and Dan Forbush explained that Skidmore has the ability to send an emergency alert to students and employees simultaneously by phone (converting the typed message to voice), text, and email, and also deliver it instantly to their own home page, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. “When an emergency arises, Campus Safety uses e2campus to summon all the key people to a conference bridge, so that we’re able to constantly pool our information and determine essential messages to be transmitted, not only to students, faculty, and staff, but also to parents. It takes a lot of teamwork,” Forbush wrote. 

After incidents like these, the dean of students and campus safety director review what went well and what could have done better. “We always learn a few valuable lessons that help us confront the next emergency situation, whatever it may be,” Forbush said.

“It’s worth noting that in both of these recent incidents, students played key roles,” he added. “In the first, students spotted the intruder and immediately reported it to Campus Safety. In the second, it was a student who found the threatening note and brought to Campus Safety. We appreciate their vigilance and assistance.”

We appreciate the students’ vigilance, too, as well as the good work of the college and police.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election Night focuses on the Internet

It’s 1:30 a.m., way too late to be blogging for someone who’s been up since 6 a.m. and has to be back at this desk in seven hours. But we just wrapped up Election Night online coverage, and I wanted to tell you how proud I am of the way our staff turned around results for readers of and and followers on Twitter and Facebook.
A number of races were uncontested and several weakly contested – but some were hard-fought campaigns that could have gone either way till all the ballots were in. Keeping tabs on results kept reporters at their various campaign locations and the handful of editors at The Record and The Saratogian (Lisa Lewis, Chelsea Kruger, Paul Tackett, Lianne Kim and Karen Wallingford -- yes, you can count us on one hand) hopping from the time the polls closed till past midnight. We wanted to be able to tell you who won the local races, as well as what was happening nationally.
To be sure, it’s weird to publish print editions before the polls close. Even after a couple of election cycles with the deadline, I don’t like having a morning paper without last night’s results. But that did free us tonight to concentrate on being where most readers are: on the Internet.

As for the campaigns: I’d like to say kudos to all the candidates who cared enough about their community, state and country to run for office; and congratulations to those who won. I’m so glad the robo-calls and mailings will be on hold for a few months. And I’m glad to say that I picked some winners when I voted Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wind turbines are elegant harnesses of Mother Nature's energy

Two of the many wind turbines
visible from the road en route
to Hamilton, NY
The photo I took from the car this past weekend barely caught two of the more than a couple of dozen wind turbines that poke over the hills en route to Hamilton, N.Y.
I can’t speak to complaints that the turbines make noise or harm birds, both issues that should be addressed.

But for those who don’t like their looks, I beg to differ. The turbines are elegant testaments to meeting a need for power smartly and creatively. They are showing up en masse in more and more places, harnessing Mother Nature’s unbounded energy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Letchworth State Park: the peak of fall vacation

I'm tempted to call it gorge-ous. The views at Letchworth
State Part just after Columbus Day were spectacular.
Cleaning out the garage to make room for the cars before snow falls was a gratifying accomplishment on my vacation last week.

But what I really loved about this vacation was the breathtaking fall foliage enjoyed from four vantage points not all that far from home: to and from the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.; an afternoon with fellow members of the Voorheesville High School Class of 1972 on George and Judy Klapp’s lovely homestead; an early evening on the gorgeous 60 acres of DZ Enterprise’s newest project in Galway, a place for parties, meetings and get-togethers amid ponds, trails and rolling hills; and, last but not least, a morning taking in the place that bills itself,
The Middle Falls has a railroad trestle in the distance and is a
stone's throw from the quaint Glen Iris Inn, which
offers this view if you're lucky enough to dine there.
immodestly but not too unreasonably, as “The Grand Canyon of the East” – Letchworth State Park, in western New York.

Letchworth is what I want to tell you about today.

One of Letchworth State Park's three waterfalls.
At its northernmost entrance is Mt. Morris, which accurately boasts about being “best town by a dam site.” It is home, after all, to the oldest dam of its type east of the Mississippi. Last week, as turkey vultures weaved overhead, the water was pretty much non-existent on the dammed side; my husband, Jim, who grew up in Mt. Morris, remembers how it was filled to overflowing when the valley flooded in 1972.

Several times a year we return to the town to visit my Jim’s father. But it had been years since we drove through Letchworth, long past the days of bringing the boys and even longer past searching for a place to neck. The park last week was a carpet of trees in bright yellow, orange, green and red, rising above the Genesee River and along the cliffs of three waterfalls. A bit past peak, it could hardly have been more beautiful – if you like that sort of scenery. I love it.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Grants available for literacy projects

There's money to be had for organizations that promote literacy, and I want to help give some of it to groups in this area.
The money comes from the New York Newspapers Foundation. I've had the honor of being a trustee for the past few years. We've funded a variety of projects, many that come from libraries and literacy organizations, and I'd love to see some applications from this region on the table.
Another round of funding is coming up, so I'm spreading the word in time for the Nov. 7 deadline.
Here's the press release with more details:
ALBANY >> The Trustees of the New York Newspapers Foundation are seeking applications for funding of projects that foster the development of literacy, with particular emphasis on innovative programs which involve networks of community organizations, and which can be replicated in other communities.
In general, grants are issued on a one-time basis and organizations are expected to seek ongoing support from alternate sources. Recent grants have supported community
wide reading projects, parent-child reading programs, and library projects designed to help recent immigrants to develop reading skills.
The New York Newspapers Foundation, a non-profit organization, was established in 1977 by the New York State Publishers Association (now the New York News Publishers Association). The purpose of the Foundation is to encourage the advancement of freedom of speech and of the press, study and scientific research in related fields, the promotion of education, and to assist those involved in all endeavors relating to the dissemination of information.
Organizations wishing to apply for grants from the New York Newspapers Foundation, and whose work is in keeping with the foundation’s goals, are encouraged to supply a brief statement (two pages maximum) describing their work and a project budget to: Diane Kennedy, New York Newspapers Foundation, 252 Hudson Ave., Albany, NY 12210. Application materials are available at
Requests should be submitted by Nov. 7.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Joan Watkin: a quiet person and expressive artist

Ray Watkin next to a self-portrait of his late wife Joan,
whose work was on display Sept. 12-14 at the
Universal Preservation Hall.
The times I would run into Joan Watkin, she was pretty quiet. I learned that she was a shy person, the perfect foil for her husband, Raymond.

But she most definitely expressed herself: through her art.

Joan was a talented artist, and I was glad to get to see some of her work on display this past weekend at the Universal Preservation Hall, the renovated former church at 25 Washington St.

You may recognize some of the portraits by the
late wife Joan Watkin, whose 
work was on display
Sept. 12-14 at the 
Universal Preservation Hall.
Joan passed away Aug. 19, 2013, a couple of months after her and Ray’s 50th wedding anniversary. She was a trained artist and worked as commercial artist for various places, including The Saratogian. Her passions were art and animal welfare.

Although I never really got to know Joan, I’ve had a special connection to her husband almost since moving to Saratoga Springs to become a newspaper reporter in June 1977. But it wasn’t because Raymond Watkin was mayor when I was covering the city beat. It’s because one year later he performed my marriage ceremony, a story for another day. He and Joan were guests at the wedding.

So it was a pleasure to see Joan’s work on display – a variety of media and a mix of self-portraits, portraits of many local people, landscapes, animals and more. My husband and I bought a couple of packs of notecards of her work to benefit the UPH. I think I’ll use some and save a few, just to enjoy. Her lovely artwork is a reminder that a quiet person may have quite a lot to say.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mio Posto chef moving to much larger Maestro's; an homage to city's fine chefs

Maestro's on Broadway will soon be getting a new chef,
as owner/chef Danny Petrosino is leaving his fine Mio Posto
on Putnam Street, trading an excellent eight-table
restaurant for a much larger challenge.
When a high school friend whom I haven’t seen in about 30 years came through town to meet for lunch, I had to pick one among the many terrific downtown restaurants — and chose well with Maestro’s at the Van Dam.
We lucked out with seats at the last open table for two on the porch, perched above Broadway and set back against the windows. We both enjoyed large chunks of lobster elegantly presented on long, thin platters with peas and greens. Perfect for a warm don’t-let-summer-end day. The homemade dark chocolate was a sweet ending with our French press coffee.

Maestro’s came to mind because this morning I caught Steve Barnes’ writeup in the Times Union about an upcoming switch in chefs involving another one of downtown Saratoga Springs’ finest and most intimate restaurants, Mio Posto.

Barbara Shrager Lombardo and
Pat Quinlan Atkinson -- adding our maiden names
as a nod to our roots as high school pals --
show off our lobster salads at Maestro's.
A member of the Maestro’s staff told me that Mio Posto chef-owner Danny Petrosino this fall is becoming executive chef of Maestro’s, whose owner-chef is taking a break from the business. Meanwhile, Barnes reports, Petrosino will be looking to sell his eight-table restaurant on Putnam Street. Petrosino has set the bar high for whomever ultimately takes over.

The number of excellent restaurants in this city is amazing. I was relieved to discover on Travers Day that Sperry’s hasn’t lost its panache despite losing chef Dale Miller; I’m a duck aficionado, and the breast was flawless. And visiting cousins during Travers Week were impressed by both the food and the warm reception offered at the Crown Grill.

Though the movement of chefs is inevitable, I hope that one of my favorites stays exactly where he is: Executive Chef Fabrizio Bazzani of Chianti Il Ristorante may have a low profile, but he has high standards in the kitchen. His consistently excellent, creative cooking keeps Chianti’s bustling year-round. I enjoy seeing him in the open kitchen, whether I’m trying his specials or sticking with my standbys.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Keep a good thing going

Barbara Lombardo, Charlie Kraebel
and Mike O'Sullivan, executive editor, city editor
and publisher of The Saratogian, The Record
and the Community News wore Pink Sheet shirts
to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Photo by Chris Brown.
Many years ago, when the only person I’d heard of having ALS was Lou Gehrig, the aide of a longtime local assemblyman came down with the disease.  This vivacious middle-aged man was helplessly bedridden, his mind sharp while his body quit on him. Over the years, every now and again I’d learn of someone losing a close friend or relative to ALS, including the fairly recent death of a friend’s sister-in-law.

Suddenly, ALS awareness has gone viral thanks to social media and the ice bucket challenge. In just three weeks and a day, the ALS Association has received $41.8 million in donations, including gifts from 739,275 first-time donors. During that same period last year, from July 29 to Aug. 21, it received $2.1 million.

The number of new donors is as astounding as the amount of money, when the ice bucket splash has dried up into old news. The key will be to keep giving.

“ALS was first found in 1869 by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease,” the website notes.

It’s taken 75 years for something -- the ice bucket challenge – to return ALS to the national spotlight.

ALS stands for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive degenerative disease that prevents the brain from telling the body’s muscles what to do.

I thought it was a great idea when I first heard of the challenge. But being a woos, when my friends Dennis and Debbie Murphy took the challenge and Dennis challenged me, my first thought was, “Couldn’t I just make a donation?” Then I decided to go for it. And when it turned out Publisher Mike O’Sullivan and City Editor Charlie Kraebel had been challenged as well, we agreed to don our Pink Sheet shirts and do it together. Mike’s son Kevin accepted (a little too gleefully, if you ask me) the task of dumping the ice water.

It was a little cold and wet, but it was fun — and quick.
John Gray made a good point in his column this week when he admonished people whose videos didn't say a word about ALS and acted as if it was all just a joke about ice water. His lead was no joke: His mother died of ALS in their video. 

I think we did it OK in ours. I challenged Maura Pulver, the owner of Five Points Grocery, my corner store; Police Chief Greg Veitch; Marquita Rhodes, as incoming president of Soroptimist International of Saratoga County (or you may know her from the Albany Business Improvement District); and my son David.

I think I even beat Derek Jeter to taking the challenge, though I think he might have reached a few more people. You think?  

The challenge captured people’s attention, thanks to the power of social media. With or without the ice, let’s remember next year.

You can print out a form to donate, go to, or mail a check to The ALS Association Gift Processing Center, PO Box 6051, Albert Lea, MN 56007.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Clubhouse? Grandstand? Mysteries of Saratoga Race Course revealed

Saratogian Ad Director Barbara Fignar at an early breakfast
Friday at Saratoga Race Course, where you can watch horses
work out and enjoy a meal. You can just go right to rail or
sit in the boxes without eating, too.
The New York Racing Association has done a good job this season enhancing the track-goers’ experience at Saratoga Race Course, with such things as better TVs in the picnic areas and a friendly, helpful demeanor from name-tagged employees.

But understanding what’s what and how to get there is still something of a mystery, as I was reminded recently when talking to new newsroom staffers and first-time track visitors.
So here’s a quick primer.
When you go to the track you have two choices: Grandstand admission for $5, or clubhouse for $8 ($10 and $15 on Travers Day); kids 12 and younger are free.
Grandstand is basically general admission (and should be called that, for clarity’s sake). It gives you access to most everywhere on the grounds, from right up to the rail at the races, to half the seating areas, to the huge backyard with all the picnic tables and the paddock area where they saddle up the horses.
Clubhouse admission gets you up to the rail closer to the finish line, to about half the seating areas, and to the reserved dining just past the finish line.
Neither admission gives you a seat in the stands.
The long area of covered seats is actually divided into two areas, called the grandstand and the clubhouse. The difference: the grandstand section is accessible with grandstand/general admission and the sections are in the second half. Meanwhile, the clubhouse area is basically divided into two sections: the regular pull-down seats with sections in the first half of the alphabet and the “boxes” with five wooden chairs that are sold in advance for thousands or doled out as needed by NYRA to horse owners, politicians or celebrities. The dress code for the regular pull-down seats is casual, whether in the grandstand or clubhouse areas; the clubhouse boxes are where men and women are best-dressed by regulation. 
To get one of those seats, you purchase them well before the season begins through a NYRA lottery system or you buy from what’s available on a given day, as explained at
There are lots of benches around, and picnic tables, and people generally respect bench spaces that are informally reserved with a Pink Sheet or other newspaper. People also bring folding chairs.
I picked up a nice map of the grounds at the track information booth last weekend. For an out-of-town colleague coming to the track with her two kids for the first time next week, I recommend watching the horses circling and getting saddled in the paddock area, looking at the brightly colored jockey uniforms through the windows of the Jockey Silks Room, watching races from the grandstand, maybe catching a race at the rail if they can get up to the fence, and enjoying the musicians at the Gazebo Stage, where last Sunday Big Medicine was playing to an appreciate crowd when I wandered by.

Friday, August 15, 2014

5 Seconds of Summer coming to SPAC in 2015

5 Second of Summer coming to
Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Aug. 26 -- 2015!
My membership to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center brought me a surprising mailing this week: a chance to buy seats for the band 5 Seconds of Summer — for their Aug. 26, 2015 performance.
Yes, 2015.
The Australian pop-punk  boy-band (confession: I had to Google them) will be touring next summer. As a member, I have until Tuesday to order up to two inside seats (at $69.50 or $49.50, both limited to rear orchestra and center balcony) and up to two lawn tickets ($25).
Another confession: I think I’ll pass, even though I’m running the risk of getting shut out a year from now at a show that could be huge.
The only thing I book a year in advance are doctor’s appointments.