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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The unexpected side to localizing a big news story

On the morning of Friday, April 3, my brother called to tell me he'd just received a cell phone call from his daughter Leslie saying police evacuated the house she shares with other Binghamton University students because of a hostage situation and shooting going on next door. She and her housemates were OK; they were all at a diner out of harm's way. The incident hadn't even made the news yet. Could I find out anything more?

I called the Albany Associated Press bureau and Chris Carola, a former member of the Saratogian staff and a local resident, answered. The news was breaking right now; he didn't know anything more yet than we did. Could he have my niece's phone number? Sure. So long as she is safe and she doesn't mind a call, that's a good way to give the story a human voice, a local voice, with whatever bits of information and observations she might have.

Little did I realize that this initial contact would unleash a flood of calls to her and her family from local and national print, broadcast and online media. I'm not sure my sister-in-law has forgiven me. Googling my niece's name and Binghamton brings up 12,100 entries.

I was out of town Friday night when a college friend called my cell phone: "Hey, does your brother have a daughter in Binghamton?" "Yes, she's OK." "I know, I saw it on Yahoo."

On Sunday I was breaking a sweat at the Y when I noticed the Capital News 9 reporting promoting a story for after the break about a young Slingerlands woman who lived next door to the shooting in Binghamton. I realized the reporter was standing in front of my brother's house. I grabbed my cell phone. "Your house is on channel 9." "Thirteen, too," he replied. "I tried to tell them the story isn't about us."

After the break, I watched my niece talk about how she and her housemates evacuated in their pajamas (it was after 10 a.m., you can tell they were college students), what a nice neighborhood it was, and positive things about the community and the college. She didn't make it about her. It was well-edited, for my brother told me later they were there a very long time. Or maybe it just seemed like a long time.

The shootings were horrific. I am so grateful my loved one was never in danger. And I appreciate that she and my brother and sister-in-law were willing to be interviewed, over and over. People are hungry for information, so even a peripheral view from a next-door neighbor means something. Besides, it brings a story home to know that someone you might know lived right next door.


Blogger Tucker said...

"that's a good way for the story to give the story a human face"

Do you proofread your writing?

You're an editor, correct?

April 6, 2009 at 5:02 PM 
Blogger mikebmcnamara said...


I agree. See my comment for the previous blog. All kinds of quotes there also, but not a single """.
Is a blog a stream of consciousness type of writing? It is amazing!

April 6, 2009 at 6:50 PM 
Blogger shanghai dandy said...

You'd think that someone with the title Managing Editor, would not only have impeccable grammar and spelling but would also be somewhat eloquent. Not in this town.

I don't mean to be disrespectful, but how did you get your job? Nepotism? Maybe?

Maybe that's why your paper does such a piss-poor job of investigating corruption of all kinds!

I believe this town deserves better...

April 6, 2009 at 9:32 PM 
Blogger gerard hawthorne said...

Shanghi Dandy,

Why not come out from under your rock and step to the plate if you can do better. I guess you would first have to give your real name which is not happening. There are too many of your types that hide and take jabs at others.
I know you won't change! Taking a quote from you, "Not in this Town!"

April 7, 2009 at 7:22 AM 
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Riddle me this, Gerard: What's he or she supposed to do? Apply to JRC for the managing editor's position at the Saratogian? The best anyone could do is apply for a job down there. And that doesn't do any goddamn good because the captain of this sinking ship is seldom at the helm. So you can be an over-worked reporter, copy editor or photographer; make a less-than-livable wage and then watch when your work is desecrated by a managing editor who is simple making the motions for retirement.

Secondly, you're a real hoot jabbing anyone about their anonymity. I think most cyberspace lurkers could attest to this. How many times have you trolled onto local Web sites with your rancor? Shall I relate all those times you posted on my site without using your name? I think the word is hypocrite, but I could be mistaken.

To everyone else sick of this lackluster editor, all you can do is call for change. I'd say a lot of people are doing it with the purse, which is why JRC is out of business. There is a rumor floating around about the Saratogian being purchased by another local daily, and hopefully if it's true, they'll throw Babs a retirement party and set her toward the western horizon. In the meantime, keep up the criticism, so at least there's a record of this editor's woeful performance.

The saddest part is that this woman is teaching young journalists at SUNY Albany. I'm really hoping this is a volunteer service. I'd hate to think some of my tax dollars are going to pay her university salary.

April 10, 2009 at 11:36 AM 
Blogger gerard hawthorne said...


I know you are a legend! The blog you have is so superior to anything out there. How will I ever be able to show my face now that you have scorned me existence? I Know! I will continue to comment anytime I wish and if it's not printed so be it. I will also attach my name. Something you don't have the nads to do!
A Legend! A Legend in your own mind!

April 13, 2009 at 4:19 PM 
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


Here's are a couple of words to add to your preciously small vocabulary:

   /ˈhɪpəkrɪt/ [hip-uh-krit] –noun

1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, esp. one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

   /hɪˈpɒkrəsi/ [hi-pok-ruh-see] –noun, plural -sies.
1. a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.
2. a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.
3. an act or instance of hypocrisy.

Now, if we're talking about legends, the only thing that is legendary around here is your glaring hypocrisy. You rail out against anonymity, yet you throw some of your most brutal posts under assumed names(tell us all how you really feel about John Tighe, because the whole world really wants to know). You rail out against my blog, yet you seem to read it on a more than regular basis. And most of all, you accuse everyone else of being gutless, when you, yourself, is the king of lobbing rotten eggs from afar. The saddest part is that your intellect is so lacking you probably don't even realize the extent of your own hypocrisy or the fact that your posts read like they were written by a scorned kindergartener. Now that's something to put a name to!

With these pleasantries aside, would you kindly care to answer my questions? Probably not, as rational discussion is the other faculty you lack. And now you're trying to master sarcasm? Gerard, we all need to walk before we can run. What do you say you invest a little time in conversational writing before you take the next big leap. Or better yet, do everyone in this city a favor and unplug your computer; go back to the janitor's closet where you fit in best.

April 17, 2009 at 8:46 AM 
Blogger gerard hawthorne said...

Yes, I have gotten under Horatio's skin! Great! Now his pathetic little blog is reduced to peanuts and he is defending one of his main allies of trash writing and using assumed names. John Tighe is nothing to me or are you whoever you may be. Thanks for the kind words about me! This may effect my sleep for days now! You really should come out of hiding! It's not so bad!

April 19, 2009 at 5:29 PM 
Blogger shanghai dandy said...


What interest do you have in defending our dear inept editor, Blombo? Is it just a case of the feeble-minded looking out for their ilk?

And when have you ever contributed anything of value to any discussion anywhere? Seriously, give me one example you twit. Why are you so proud of posting your name (only when you feel like it apparently) on the internet anyway? Do you enjoy advertising your stupidity in a public place that much?

When I read something, I usually care more about the content of what is written than who wrote it - but thats just me.

Regardless of whether you agree with him, I think you have to give HA some credit for taking the time to write some thought provoking stuff in his blog. Clearly people read it, and some people even learn things from it.

I think it is not only OK for folks to post anonymously here, there and everywhere, I think it is GREAT. How else can you get a clue about what is really going on around here? Reading the newspaper?! And if anonymity allows more sunlight to be shed on some of the darker recesses of corruption and maleficence, then great! Truth is, challenging those in power is a dangerous thing (even in contemporary America), so the release of important information may be stifled without the shield of anonymity to protect the individual.

Here is a succinct explanation of what I am trying to explain to you and anyone else who has a problem with anonymous posting:

There are countless examples in history where important information is published/disseminated anonymously. Do you need any examples? I ask because you come across as an uneducated lout.

Anyway, whether you post your name or not, I think that interest from and engagement by the public can only be a good thing, and it should be encouraged. If only more people cared enough to get involved in substantive discussion about important and relevant issues, this town and this world would be a better place.

April 19, 2009 at 11:11 PM 
Blogger gerard hawthorne said...


My point is just that! An average mook like myself should be able to post what they want! You and your hero HA feel that only a select few should participate. Sorry, for the disagreement. it is obvious you are from a small group of one sided politicians who control a piece of malcontents. Too bad for you and the cronies you represent. I will not back down!
I am passionate about my family first but will continue to back the REC Center and work that will develop affordable housing in Saratoga. Get used to it.

April 20, 2009 at 9:06 PM 
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


First, it takes a lot more than a glorified janitor to get under my skin, son. I'm also glad you admit your a 'mook.' Shall we go to the dictionary?:

1  /muk/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [mook] –noun Slang. a contemptible, incompetent person.

And an average one at that. Doubt you looked that one up...

Second, as Shanghai has indicated, you prove your glaring incompetence every time you start typing. If you really think I established a blog based on the principle of free speech so that 'only a select few should participate,' you're more of a 'mook' than I ever gave you credit for. The reason your posts are often curbed on my site is that you seemingly can't write one that sticks to the topic or brings anything cogent to the discussion. Being the sporting moderator that I am, I even let the village idiot(yourself) a turn at the bully pulpit. But when he(you) decided instead to start screaming incoherent nonsense, I decided it was time to stop lending credence to such voices. And the blog reads much better because of it.

So, let's get back on point, shall we? What is a poster like Shanghai, or even myself, supposed to do about the rampant errors, piss-poor editorials and overall lacking package that is the Saratogian? Not all of us are in the government pension system, so we have to earn a living. And what they pay at the Saratogian sure as hell isn't a living.

But do indulge yourself. Continue prattling on about exclusive sects and how I'm the guy stifling free speech. Or how your "small group of one sided politicians who control a piece of malcontents" is the one that should be anointed leaders of this city, like they were for a very unfortunate chapter in Saratoga Springs history. Go ahead. Go for it. The minute you start typing, you'll just further my point about your blistering hypocrisy.


April 21, 2009 at 9:53 AM 
Blogger gerard hawthorne said...


You really are a legend in your own mind! I really don't post on your site that often. Sure I put things on there you did post and others you did not. That's quite fine that you need to stroke your ego but shouldn't you get over your loss in the election? You not only lost but were slapped down! It seems you are holding on to grudges that are very unhealthy. You lost! get over it! It seems you have this hate for the Saratogian. Is it you were fired from the paper perhaps? Maybe passed up on being hired? Whatever ! Get over it! Your blog is not thriving nor is your counterpart Disutopia. Life goes on! Go to Uncommon Grounds with your yuppie employees and sip coffee and make fun of the average at best mooks such as myself.

April 21, 2009 at 4:45 PM 
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


I'll give your dumb-ass a little hint: I didn't lose any election.

Also, if you could read -which I'm starting to think you can't -you would realize my issues with the Saratogian. They've been clearly outlined on my blog and in this comments thread. Unfortunately, you lack even the understanding to comprehend the words dribbling from your fingertips like a stream of rank diarrhea, so I'm really wasting my time here.

Now go home and get your f---ing shinebox, you mental midget.

April 21, 2009 at 10:00 PM 
Blogger Steve Shoe said...

Do any of you ever wonder why you waste the time arguing (this stopped being a discussion) back and forth OVER THE INTERNET? Just curious.

April 21, 2009 at 10:17 PM 
Blogger gerard hawthorne said...

Steve Shoe,

You are certainly right. I would love to sit and converse with this anonymous person who goes by the name of Horatio Alger but how do I do that? We don't know him! The election really did a number on him obviously with his name calling and attacks towards me. He does it quite often on his blog towards certain political people as well. He can't take defeat very well!

April 22, 2009 at 6:55 AM 
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


My point, which despite Gerard's simplistic attempt to belittle my conversation, is that your paper is a train wreck under the leadership of its current editor. It has been for decades now. I've tried to provide a forum for the vast number of people who feel the same as I do, and it's been met with what I would term a glowing success: Nearly 140,000 unique visitors since counting started in 2007.

Naturally, the message has changed drastically since the days of pointing out a certain recalcitrant editor's poor managerial qualities. However, the continued failures of the Saratogian -or perhaps I should say successes of its staff in an environment of failure -prompt me to speak out whenever a lapdog like Gerard decides arbitrarily for the rest of us that the paper's piss-poor quality is adequate for a city of this size.

Now, ordinarily I'd relegate such pointed conversation to my blog. I'd be quite dismayed if the author of this one would look at the comments increasing and take it as a success; moreover, if people actually started logging on to this trite and meaningless site to observe my verbal lashing of a self-described "mook" who was one of THE worst offenders when it came trolling on the Saratogian's comment section. No, that would be counter productive.

But with that said, I don't mind taking a minute or three out of my morning to point out how dreadful of an editor the Saratogian has, and how her few fans lack the intellect to carry on a conversation, much less a civil one.

PS. Gerard, you're going to get Joe's dander up if you keep crawling up Bab's posterior like you've been doing lately. Of course, you need to otherwise she might not print that semi-legible drivel you send into the paper on a regular basis.

April 22, 2009 at 9:50 AM 
Blogger gerard hawthorne said...

I think this clown that goes by horatio should go back to his beloved dictionary and lookup hypocrisy again. For someone who claims to be sickened by this newspaper you sure are spending a great deal of time on here. What's the matter isn't your blog getting you enough attention? Your 140,000 hits on your blog are mostly by the same few people who do the same attacking of former mayor Keehn and Ron Kim. Now that everyone is sick of you and the select few you allow to write this crap the blog is not even getting posts anymore. I don't necessarily disagree that the saratogian needs work but your blog is no comparison to any paper, including this one. So get your dictionary out and look up egomaniac. Right next to the word is a picture of you!

April 22, 2009 at 4:42 PM 
Blogger gerard hawthorne said...


Good luck in the up coming election! Let's see if you can get as many votes as last time!

April 22, 2009 at 4:44 PM 
Blogger shanghai dandy said...

Steve is right as usual. You two should fight this out in person... IN A NO-HOLDS-BARRED CAGE MATCH!!!

If only there were an appropriate venue somewhere in town for such a showdown....

April 22, 2009 at 11:15 PM 
Blogger Horatio Alger said...


If I thought pummeling Gerard would beat an iota of sense into his thick head, I would have done it by now. But in this case, violence won't do either of us any good; even if it's a controlled in a cage. I shutter to think what he'd write while suffering post-concussion syndrome, and I really don't have the spare cash for bail.


Three things:

1. You obviously don't understand what "140,000 unique visitors since counting started in 2007" means, which is very pathetic. I'd ask how you managed to turn on your computer, but I really don't care.

2. I've never run for elected office because hacks like yourself have hijacked the political process with your lies and vitriol.

3. I'm thinking about a new post. Maybe one about how the city public housing authority's corrupt facilities manager presides over a violent drug den and does nothing to stop it.


April 23, 2009 at 11:15 PM 
Blogger gerard hawthorne said...

That would be awesome to have a cage match as long as you don't bring your purse that you are swinging around broadway. Or is it your manbag? I also invite you to go ahead do a post about this drug den you speak of! Please do!

April 24, 2009 at 12:17 PM 
Blogger uhknee said...

your last comment was a foul, low blow. Just what exactly are you suggesting about men with bags? Or men with purses? Now your only option is to challenge this person's manliness to get your point across? I am so glad you are defending the Saratogian... and that I will be resuming my classes at Skidmore in the fall.

May 28, 2009 at 12:31 PM 

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