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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.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The leaves are greener ... er, redder ... right here

The grass may be greener somewhere else, but the autumn leaves are reddest right here.
On Monday, catching up on a week’s worth of Saratogians after a vacation ooh-ing and ah-ing the changing leaves in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, I found this front page news: Saratoga National Historical Park has been named one of the top 10 most photogenic parks for fall foliage by the National Park Foundation.
Guess I didn’t have to travel 1,300 miles to see the yellows, golds and burnt oranges of autumn — and we definitely had to head back north for the bright reds.
Still, I recommend Skyline Drive and visits to the places we stopped: In Virginia, Charlottesville (home of Jefferson's Monticello home and the University of Virginia, which he founded as a little retirement project, plus wineries and a downtown pedestrian mall with lots of tempting restaurants) and Lexington (dubbed the "coolest" little town and home to Washington and Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute, where the museum dedicated to alum George C. Marshall explains the Marshall plan for a new generation and displays the Nobel Peace Prize for a man who earned it before receiving it).
Also, if you haven't been to Gettysburg, Pa., in a couple of years (or ever), the new museum is not only a great alternative to the driving tours on a rainy day, but it's a really cool, interactive way to learn about the Civil War, the people and the battles.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Elections, letters and apology for cartoon

I love election season.
It’s a juggling act, trying to report issues with context and depth on the news pages, trying to be the vehicle for candidates and their supporters to express their views, and trying to help readers make informed decisions on Nov. 3.
Reporter Andrew J. Bernstein is leading the way with news coverage of the city elections. He is also trying to report on the city budget, among many other things. And he is sitting in on the editorial endorsement interviews, along with me, Publisher Michael O’Sullivan, Assistant Managing Editor Betsy DeMars and Web Editor Stephen Shoemaker.We plan to publish endorsements the week leading up to the elections.
Who do we like so far? Can’t say. Don’t know. The interviews have only just begun.
Generally speaking, for elections at this level of government, the biggest factors are leadership, vision for the city and track record. Positions on particular issues are important, but rarely would a stance on one item or another be a make-or-break situation. What’s more important is to have council members who see the big picture and who can move the city forward despite its form of government.Who decides? It’s a consensus with a weighted vote: The publisher has final say.
Meanwhile, we’re glad to be getting lots of letters. As it says in the box on the printed opinion page, Oct. 21 is the last day to submit election-related letters for consideration. The purpose of the deadline is to try to get them all into print during that week leading up to the vote.
Now that I’m thinking about it, we can extend the deadline for online-only letters. We’ll firm that up and get back to you.
Speaking of online, the city stories have been generating some insightful comments as well as the regrettable rantings of ill-informed idiots.
My instruction to staff is to eliminate idiots’ access to the Web site, though some still seem to find a way around. Thank you to readers who report abuses for us to remove. Trying to monitor inappropriate comments while allowing a free flow of opinions continues to be a challenge at many newspapers, as I discovered last month at a meeting of editors from around the state.
Speaking of inappropriate, I wish to apologize for the political cartoon this week that trivialized the Holocaust and likened the Republican position on health care to supporting death camps.
The editorial cartoons are supposed to be provocative and satirical, but this was over-the-top offensive, and we should have rejected it. It has been the topic of discussion in the newsroom and, I believe, a lesson learned.